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

The next day, Michelle contacted Valerie on Facebook, asking about what had happened to her since Pat’s assassination of Karol Sargent. This was Valerie’s reply in a personal message:

Don’t worry, I’m OK. I managed to get out of China immediately after the killings. I got back home by burying my feelings and pretending to be one of those automatons. It was really hard to hide my grief over the Bolshivarians’ murder of my husband, but once I got back to the privacy of my Milwaukee home, I lay on my bed cried for what seemed hours.
We should meet. I can fly over to Toronto or Mississauga. I hate having to pretend to be one of those soulless carriers all the time. If I’m with you, I can relax, be myself, and cry on your shoulders over what happened in China.

Michelle let Peter read Valerie’s message.

“Well, what do you think?” she asked him. “Judging by what she said, does she seem to be still all human? She doesn’t seem compromised to me. Do you think this message could be pretence?”

“Well, I guess she’s being sincere,” he said. “I certainly want to believe she’s sincere. We need some real human company around here, and the only way we can get it is by taking a risk or two. We can have some cans of bug spray handy, just in case.”

“OK, I’ll tell her we can meet, say, in your home,” she said. “As soon as she’s in Toronto District, we’ll have a driver at the airport take her home.”

“The driver could be a carrier. He could turn her into one of them.”

Anyone out there during her trip could be a carrier, turning her into one of them. She could be a carrier right now, for all we know. If we really want to meet with her, it’s the chance we’ll have to take.”

“Yeah, OK,” he said. “Let’s hope for the best. Let’s hope that if she isn’t a carrier, that she can fake being one all the way here, and not get changed.”

Michelle replied to Valerie’s message with the plan, to which she agreed.

***********

Three days later, in the afternoon, Peter and Michelle heard his front doorbell ring.

“That must be her,” Michelle said.

They both rushed to get the door.

Valerie stood there with that eerie, soulless grin.

Peter and Michelle grinned back uneasily.

They all stood there stupidly for several seconds.

“May I come in?” Valerie asked, her grin unchanged, with no awkwardness in her expression at her hosts’ odd hesitating.

“Oh, yeah…uh, of course,” Peter said as he and Michelle stepped aside to let Valerie in. “Sorry.”

“What a nice place you have,” Valerie said as she went in and looked around. “So, this is how the rich live.”

Concealing his annoyance at her remark, he said, “I may be bourgeois by birth, Valerie, as is Michelle, but I assure you, that’s not where our sympathies lie. My mom and dad used to call me the Friedrich Engels of our family.” He closed the front door.

“I’m sure they did,” Valerie said with that same grin as she approached a chair to sit on in the living room. “I’ve just never seen such a posh place before.” She sat down. “My home with Pat in Milwaukee is nice, but not this nice.”

“Thanks,” Peter said as he and Michelle returned to the living room and sat on the sofa. “After seeing what life is like for so many in Venezuela, Angola, and here, too, in Regent Park, I feel guilty about having this ‘nice’ home.”

“I feel the same way about mine in Mississauga,” Michelle said. “With all the changes the Bolshivarians are making, especially now with President Price and Secretary of State Hammond gone, and with the Washington District government under Bolshivarian control, we can more quickly provide for all the poor of the world.”

“Yes, those changes will be coming fast now,” Valerie said, still grinning without a trace of personality.

Peter remembered the switchblade he had in one of his jeans’ back pockets, and the small can of bug spray in the other.

“Valerie,” Michelle said. “Would you like to relax? I mean…we can get you something to drink if you like. Some tea?”

“No, thanks. I’m fine,” grinning Valerie said.

“You said in your message that you want to relax and be yourself,” Peter said. “Feel free to do so here.”

“I am,” grinning Valerie said.

“You–you’re with friends,” Michelle said. “N-no need to pretend. Let yourself go.”

“Pretend?” Valerie asked, all those teeth still showing.

Desperate to end the tension, and gripping those weapons in his back pockets, Peter stood up and said, “You don’t need to pretend to be one of those Bolshivarian automatons!”

“Peter, easy,” Michelle said with a frown.

“I’m not pretending,” Valerie said as she rose from her chair. “But you have been, haven’t you?” Out of her fingers flew a swarm of those little dots of light.

Peter was quick on the draw with his can of bug spray. It hit the first six or seven of those tiny balls of light, making all of them drop on the carpet. Since Valerie hadn’t been a carrier for long, the lights hadn’t yet integrated with her body, so the bug spray wouldn’t kill her. Peter ran at her with the switchblade ready to stab. Valerie screamed.

Michelle looked away and covered her eyes. She didn’t want to see her boyfriend shed blood a second time.

A few seconds after Valerie’s body hit the floor, her blood staining the carpet, Peter and Michelle heard the doorbell ring again. Michelle ran over to answer the door.

“Yes?” she said to a male neighbour after opening the door.

He, too, had that all-too-familiar grin.

“I heard a scream,” he said, looking into the living room, though Michelle’s left shoulder was hiding Valerie’s body and blood from his sight. “Is everything OK?”

“Oh, yeah,” she said, trying her best to imitate that stupid-looking grin without showing any nervousness.

“We’re watching a horror movie on TV,” Peter said as he approached the door, hoping his body would help obscure not only the bloody body, but also the living room TV that hadn’t been turned on all that day.

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

That evening, Peter was in Michelle’s home, in the living room. They were watching CNN.

President Price was giving another press conference. Her secretary of state, a tall black man named Hammond, could be seen standing in the background.

“Over the past year, I’ve been giving some thought to the policies of our governments and corporations, both domestic and international,” she began. “This reevaluation has been provoked by what…happened…last year. We made great strides in overcoming so many of the ill effects of climate change–ending the wildfires, lowering sea levels, removing pollution in the air and oceans…”

“You liar,” Peter said. “The Bolshivarians did all that with technology we’re not even close to having. You’re still taking credit for their…”

“C’mon, Peter,” Michelle said. “Let’s listen.”

“Still, we’ve done our share of destructive things, too,” Price said. “The bombs we dropped on those three cities, a necessary sacrifice to draw out the aliens from their hiding places so we could exterminate them, nonetheless caused terrible destruction and loss of life.”

“Wow,” he said. “A frank admission of guilt from her.”

“And eerily lacking emotion,” Michelle said.

“To atone for what our governments and corporations are responsible for, we’ve decided to make some radical. sweeping changes in our domestic and foreign policies,” Price said.

“‘Radical and sweeping’,” Peter whispered. “Her favourite words again.”

“The wealth…of the heads of corporate governments…will be taken and shared…with the poor of the world,” Price said. She coughed and seemed to be gagging.

“Whoa!” Michelle said.

“That’s a Bolshivarian policy,” Peter said. “Not hers.”

“This money will fund social programs and education, will provide and guarantee employment for all, as well as universal housing and healthcare for everyone, including the poorest,” the president said amid more coughs and gagging. “All military operations in Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia will end…immediately.” She twitched a few times, as did Hammond. “All troops…are to come home…with no delay.”

Peter and Michelle watched and listened with their jaws practically touching the living room carpet.

“This is too good to be true,” she said.

“Exactly,” he said. “They aren’t making these decisions of their own accord. We know who’s really doing it.”

“The mechanical way Price is talking and looking at everyone proves it,” Michelle said. “Her expression is even more forced, more robot-like, than my mom’s was when she’d first become a carrier.”

“What we’re doing …is,” Price went on, wincing as if in extreme pain, “for…the greater…good…unh!

“Madame President, are you alright?” a reporter asked.

Hammond began squirming and fidgeting in pain, too. A confused noise of voices among the reporters was the only comment on his and Price’s behaviour.

After several more seconds of squirming and wincing, both of them let out screams of pain. The familiar red crack lines could be seen on their faces and hands.

“I knew it,” Peter said.

“So, when Bolshivarians take control of your mind, this is what happens when you try to regain control of yourself?” Michelle asked.

“Looks that way,” Peter said. “Masochistic agony.”

Hammond confirmed Michelle’s suspicions when he grunted, “Give me…liberty…or give me…DEATH!!!”

His and Price’s bodies both split into pieces, tearing their clothes and revealing their internal organs.

“I never thought I’d see the day when the president’s guts would be shown on TV,” Peter said.

“Or the brains…since JFK’s assassination, at least,” Michelle said.

The bodies exploded seconds later.

“The TV isn’t cutting to a commercial,” she said.

“There no longer seems to be any concern over censoring anything,” he said. “No secrets need to be kept from the public, it seems.”

Peter and Michelle looked at the faces of the reporters. No shock was seen on any of them.

“The reporters don’t seem to prefer liberty over life, do they?” he said.

“No,” she said. “We know whose side they’re on.”

“Look, I’m glad Price and Hammond are gone,” he said, “But I’m not so glad about what’s replacing them.”

“If the Bolshivarians can get at the president,” she said. “They can get at anyone.”

“We’re gonna have to be extra careful if we want to keep control of our brains,” he said.

‘Will,’ a Surreal Horror Short Story

They’re trying to kill me. I know. Those pills they keep giving me…there’s some kind of drug in them that’s making me hallucinate, see things, hear things. It’s all to break me down, control me, weaken me.

Then, when I die, they can get at my will.

I’m getting old, and they no longer want to wait for me to die. I’m too much of a burden to take care of. Why did I become a father?

Oh, look. My eldest son, Gaines, is coming in my room. What’s he got for me this time? Another pill to make me high as a kite?

Hey…wait! What happened to his face? He has no nose or mouth! The holes are all walled off with skin! How can he breathe like that? What’s that in his hands?

“Here, Dad,” Gaines says, giving me a surgical mask. “You need to wear this from now on. It’s to protect you from germs, and to stop you from passing your own germs on to other people.”

His face moves around as if he has a mouth and jaws, and I can hear his words, muffled as the sound is; but there’s no mouth for the sounds to come out of!

“How can you talk without a mouth?” I ask him.

“Without a mouth?” he says. “What are you talking about? I’m wearing a mask, like this one.” He puts it on my face, saying, “Oh, wait, it must be that my mask has a beige, peach colour. You can’t see well without your glasses, so you think the mask is my skin. You must be imagining things again. You aren’t well. Poor Dad!”

Oh, this mask is uncomfortable on my face! I feel like I can’t breathe with this thing on.

“Mmmf…mmmf!” I moan with this mask against my mouth. I begin to rise from my pillow.

“Dad, relax,” he says, holding me back on my bed and stopping me from getting up. “You’re OK. Don’t be scared. Everything that Valsi and I are doing is for your own good.”

All the time, looking at just his two eyes–no nose, no mouth on that face–it’s creepy-looking.

Now my daughter, Valerie Antonia…Valsi, as we call her, is coming into the room. Oh, no! She doesn’t have a nose or mouth either! There’s no point in my saying it, though: they’ll just tell me she’s wearing a skin-coloured surgical mask, too. I can’t keep quiet, though.

“Mmmf…MMMF!” I’m mumbling in a panic.

“Dad, what are you so scared about?” she asks in her gravelly voice (she smokes too much), though now it’s also muffled, like Gaines’s. “We’re taking good care of you. You’ll be OK. Just trust us. We know what we’re doing.”

Again, I’m trying to rise from my bed, but Gaines is holding me down.

“There’s a nasty bug going around,” she says, getting a shot ready for me. “This vaccine should give you at least some protection from it.”

“Nnnn…NNNN!” I’m moaning in protest, fidgeting and trying to free myself from Gaines’s grasp. I know the drugs they give me make me hallucinate, and I can only imagine how much worse the hallucinations are going to be with that vaccine.

“Dad, it’s OK,” he tells me as he’s trying, with all his strength, to keep me still on the bed. “Stop…being so…paranoid. We’re trying…to help you.”

“I think his mental health is going as well as his physical health,” she says, bringing the needle up to my arm. It’s a few millimetres away from my skin.

“MMMM!” I’m screaming. “NNNN!”

Do I no longer have a mouth and nose? It feels that way.

Oww! I’m feeling the prick of the needle in my arm, only it stings worse than it normally would, like the sharp end of a knife.

Oh, no! I feel the drugs going in my blood.

O true apothecary! Thy drugs are quick.

Everything I see is getting blurry and dark. My energy is fading. I seem…to be floating…between wakefulness…and sleep…

Gaines and Valsi…can do anything…they want…to me now…

I’m seeing…what look like…the waves…of a dark ocean…undulating…all around me…My body is vibrating…with the high…of the drug…but it’s a…paranoid high…

My will…is being taken…from me…I must fight…against the effects…of this drug, with all my effort…with all my strength…I, Nate Ed Will, mustn’t let…my greedy son and daughter…kill me, at least not…without a fight!

I’ll lose…in this struggle–my death is…more than likely–but I will not…die through…a lack of trying…to stay alive! I’ll make…their murder and theft…of my money…and property…as difficult as I can!

Am I dreaming now,…or am I awake?

Are the bizarre images…I see before me…the hallucinations…of the drugs…they’ve given me,…is it just…a dream…or am I losing my mind?

I see…babies coming out…of my mouth? Am I…vomiting babies? Now I see…an oval stone, swaddled like a baby, flying out…of my mouth.

Wait…that needle…Valsi has in her hand…its prick felt…like the tip of a knife…when she stuck it…in my arm…It really is a knife!…I see a knife…in her hand…and now, she’s bringing it down…in a stabbing motion…to my crotch!

Blood is splashing…everywhere around me…an ocean of red…Something further off…is it a fish?…it’s swimming in the blood, swimming and jumping…up out of…and back into…the red. I can’t see it…clearly from here…all I know is…that it’s long and thin…at the top…and it has a beige…peach colour.

It’s coming closer…jumping in arcs…in and out of the red…and towards me. I’m beginning to see…it better now. Hey, wait a minute…that’s no fish…it’s a cock and balls…my cock and balls!

Valsi emasculated me!

Groping around…at my crotch area…I feel nothing…between my thighs. She really cut them off!

Why…would she do…such a thing…to her own father? What purpose…would such…a mutilation serve her? To hasten my death…so she…and her brother…can get their filthy hands…on my money? Or is it all…out of spite?

What did I do…to her…to deserve this?

It must have been…to get at my money. Of course, that’s what…all of this…has been about. My defiance is…slowing down my death…so they’re trying…to speed things up…by castrating me.

Ungrateful, unfilial monsters! That’s what they are.

Still, I’ll defy them…and try to stay alive…as long as I can.

Is this a mask…on my face…or have I lost…my mouth and nose? I’ve got…to find out.

My fingers…are moving all over…my lower face…I don’t feel…any cloth material on it…only skin. I don’t feel nostrils, either. Instead of…a bump…where my nose should be, I feel only…a rounded elevation…below my eyes…and where my mouth…should be.

No hole there! No lips, no teeth, no tongue? They removed…my mouth and my nose! How could they do that…by just putting a mask…on my face? I don’t believe in magic, but I’m…going crazy enough…to start…believing in it.

No mouth. No nose. No cock. No balls.

I’ve lost them all.

Have I lost…my mind, too?

Everything around me…is pitch black, not even…a darkness…with a faint…bit of light…so my eyes…can adjust…to the dark. I haven’t lost my eyes, too, have I?

I’m feeling around…my upper face…that round elevation…where my nose once was…is now just…sloping down smoothly…to my forehead…No depressions…where my eye sockets…are supposed to be.

I have no eyes!

I don’t…even feel…the hair…of my eyebrows.

My hand is…sliding all the way…up and down my face, and all I feel…is smooth skin…with an ovoid shape.

I no longer…have a face…I’ve lost it!

I don’t feel myself breathing, but I must be, since I can still…feel myself…to be alive. Even though my thinking…is that of…a madman, it’s still thinking. Therefore, like Descartes…I exist.

I hear footsteps approaching…yet stopping from…a noticeable distance. I still…have my ears, anyway.

“Dad?” Gaines’s voice is heard to say.

If I can breathe…without a mouth and nose, I suppose…I can still talk…without them, for such is…the bizarre world…I’m living in now. Still, regardless of whether…I can or cannot speak, I don’t wish…to talk to him…or Valsi, so I’m remaining quiet.

“Dad?” he says again. “Are you awake? Can you hear me?” He waits a few seconds…for a reply, which he doesn’t get, then says, “Well, anyway, because of your illness, neither Valsi nor I can get too close to you, so we’re going to leave you alone for a while. When the time comes to give you your next shot, or your pills, or anything else we need to do, we’ll have to use some kind of extension rods or something [I think he said that] to give you what you need, or to move you if we have to. Bye.”

I hear…his footsteps…and the closing…of my bedroom door. I’m all alone in here.

Or so it seems.

Could there be someone…or something…in here with me…all quiet…and ready to pounce on me…not caring about catching my illness…if I even have an illness?

I never really felt sick…until Gaines and Valsi…started harping…on and on…about how ‘sick’ I am. Then, after hearing…about my ‘illness’ enough times, I began…to believe in it. Funny how…all you have to do…is hear a lie…told over and over again, then you…start believing it.

Wait…was that a noise I heard?

Someone shuffling around in here?

Gaines and Valsi left. I heard them walk out, Gaines closing the door. Nobody should be…in here…but me.

Again…a shuffling sound!

Some agonizing silence…I hear…my accelerating heartbeat.

A grunt?

Silence.

Another shuffling sound.

Silence.

Another grunt!

Is there…an animal of some kind…in here?

A shuffle…and a grunt!

Oh! Did I…just feel an animal’s limb…a leg…or a tentacle…brush against…my upper left arm?

Two grunts!

Silence…for about twenty…excruciating seconds.

Uh! Something just brushed…against my right calf! It really felt…like a giant tentacle…or maybe a snake.

My God! A long, loud grunt!

What kind of animal…grunts and has…huge tentacles? What snake grunts? I wish I knew more…about zoology, or marine biology, so I could have…at least some kind of idea…what this thing is!

A tentacle…or a giant snake…just brushed against…my right shoulder!

Silence…for about ten seconds.

I’m shaking all over…sweat is soaking me.

Another grunt…almost as loud…as the last one.

Silence.

Oh! The tentacles…or giant snakes…are grabbing me…by the arms…and legs! I’m being pulled…off the bed!

“NNNN!” is my muffled, mouthless scream, then, “MMMF!”

As the monster…this giant octopus…or group of…giant sea-snakes…is carrying me away, I hear two…familiar voices. I’m fidgeting, trying to free myself.

“Dad, it’s OK,” Gaines says. “Don’t be scared.” Are the snakes…carrying him and Valsi off, too?

“We’re just carrying you to another room,” Valsi says. “We’re using extension rods because we can’t get too close to you. We’ll catch your disease if we do.”

These don’t feel…like any kind of rod…They’re giant snakes! Rubbery, slimy, and slithery!

If Gaines and Valsi…are being carried off…by the sea-snakes, too, aren’t they trying…to free themselves? They seem…willing to be taken…to their doom with me…or maybe…I’m wishing it.

Before, I saw the dark waves…of an ocean…all enveloping me. Now, I feel those waves, as if these giant, grunting sea-snakes…have pulled me…from the beach…and out into the sea. Have Gaines…and Valsi…been taken…into the sea…with me?

Am I breathing water? For all I know, I could have…grown gills, since I no longer…have nostrils.

Everything is…so black, wet, and wavy all around me.

At the moment…it’s…almost peaceful.

Wait!…I just bumped…my leg into…what feels like wood. Now I feel…hard wood…under my back, just over my head, tightly on…either side, and just below…my feet. A lid…just closed over me, though it feels like…it’s covering me…only up to…my neck.

“What’s going on?” I say in the muffled, slurred voice of someone drugged (How can I speak without a mouth?). “What are you…doing to me?”

“It’s for your own good, Dad,” Valsi says.

“This will keep your germs from getting out and infecting us,” Gaines says. “We have no other choice. Sorry, Dad. We have to do this.”

The open space…where my head is exposed…to the outside…is no more. I hear…a board put up…over that space, sealing it up. I move my head…up and hit against it, feeling the wood.

I try…moving around, but can move…only a few inches…if that…in all directions.

Am I in a coffin?

I feel myself…being lifted up…in this rectangular box. Not too long after…being carried somewhere, I’m lowered…far down until…I feel a thud…shaking me and the box.

I hear…what sounds like…shovels digging…into dirt…and the dropping…of the dirt…on the box I’m in. Bits of the dirt…go through…the cracks of the box…and hit me…on the collarbone…and shoulders.

I must be in a coffin.

I know…they’re killing me, but I feel…no urge to resist, to bang my fists…on the wood…and scream for help. Not only…do I lack…the strength and energy…to do so, but the drugs…they’ve put in me…have sapped me…of my will.

I just don’t seem…to care anymore.

I’ll just…let myself die.

They’ll take…all my money…and property. Oh, well…

I just don’t…have the fight…in me anymore.

Just let me die.

To be betrayed…by my own blood.

I worked all my life…to provide for those two…with the wife…that I lost…years ago.

As a professor…of English literature…and Greek myth…I made good money…I gave…Gaines and Valsi…an easy, comfortable life…

And this…is how they repay me!

The lack of love…pretending to be love…is what takes away…my will to live.

I can’t feel myself breathing…having no mouth or nose…but I don’t want to breathe…so it doesn’t matter…

I can’t move…in this coffin…but I don’t want to…

I see only endless black…but I don’t want to see…anything else…there’s nothing else to see…but black…

I feel the life…draining out of me…I am fading to black…I’m becoming the black…that is everywhere…outside of me…What’s within me…and without…are merging.

To be alone…with no love…

People around me…only talking…never listening…

I could have been…left in…a nursing home…and been loved more…than I am…by those…two…INGRATES!

They’ll take my money…and my property…and they’ll prosper…because in this world…the evil thrive…and the good…get no justice…

It’s fitting…that I’m buried…six feet under.

I’m in Hell.

The dirt…is filtering in…more plentifully now…I can feel…more pebbles…hitting my chest…and shoulders.

Wait…are the pebbles…getting bigger?

How are the bigger pebbles…able to slip…through the cracks? The slits…between wood planks…must be wider…than I assumed. After all, I cannot see anything.

Oh!…What was that thud? A rock?

Silence.

Uh!…Two more thuds?

Are they dropping rocks on this coffin?

I feel the rocks…shaking the coffin, cracking the wood!

The dirt…is falling through…more cracks, hitting me…on the stomach, legs,…and my face…rather, where my face…used to be.

More pounding rocks!

I feel the wood…of the coffin…caving in on me. Splintery wood…is stabbing into…my legs, arms, and chest. The weight…of the rocks…is pushing me down…further into Hell…into Tartarus.

Are the Hundred-Handed Ones…hurling rocks at me, burying me in them? It feels that way.

I feel the wood…pressing into…my faceless face, my chest, stomach, groin, arms, and legs.

I’m going to be crushed!

That Gaines…and Valsi…would want…to get rid of me…and get my money…is one thing,…but to be…this cruel about it?! I wasn’t…the most loving father…in the world, but surely…I never did anything…to have them…bear me…any ill will, did I?

The other profs…in the faculty…of humanities…were never friends…of mine, nor I…to them, but surely…my own kids…don’t outright…hate me!

Or do they?

Et tu…brutes?

I’m really…getting…squished…now.

I don’t know…how…much…longer…I…can…t–

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

Peter emailed a video to Michelle a week after their videoconference with Pat and Valerie. The video was dated three days before, and titled Assassination of Underground Bolshivarian Leader in China.

“Oh, please God, no,” she whispered before ever-so-reluctantly clicking PLAY on her phone.

Karol Sargent was seen in a small room chatting with several people, mostly Chinese. George was not there, but Michelle saw, in a far corner, a familiar face.

Pat’s.

She had no interest in what Karol had to say (it was mostly idle chatter, anyway); she was focused on whatever Pat was going to do. Though George was the one who did most of the public speaking, it was known by all the carriers and non-carrying sympathizers–including Peter and her–that it was Karol who wielded great influence behind the scenes in terms of policy decisions; so Pat’s presence in that room had great interest for her.

Pat’s face showed no hate or anger as he looked at Karol; he’d obviously learned how to bury his feelings deep down, so when he got up and walked towards Karol, he had a pleasant smile on his face, laughing at one of Karol’s jokes.

Then he pulled a pistol out of his jacket pocket.

He buried a bullet in Karol’s chest with a loud bang and a splash of blood.

The Bolshivarian dots of light flew out from the dying man as they did out of all of his carrier listeners, swarming around Pat as he fumbled a can of bug spray with his other hand. They entered him before he could aim it at them. The familiar cracks of red showed on his face.

“Oh, my God!” she said, then thought, Why would he do that, knowing it wouldn’t help our cause at all? Surely he knew they’d just kill him and use more repression on the rest of us. Then again…why would Karen and Tory have made their assassination attempts? Surely they knew it would have done them no good, either. Of course, they went mad with grief over the loss of their son, so they couldn’t think rationally. I guess Pat and Valerie were going crazy, too. We’ve all been losing it over the past few years, anyway.

The video abruptly ended amid the confusion and Pat’s body beginning to tear up. She saw a split second of exposed brain before it ended.

Her phone began to ring. It was Peter.

“Hello?” she said.

“Did you watch the video?”

“Yes,” she said. “Horrible.”

“You know what George is going to do, now, right?” he asked.

“I don’t even wanna think about it.”

“Well, we’ll have to. We’re going to have to lie low for at least a while, and keep away from the carriers as best we can. Imitate them if we meet any of them. Practice doing those stupid smiles before the mirror.”

“What about Valerie?”

“Probably controlled by the Bolshivarians by now.”

“I wanna contact her to be sure,” Michelle said. “Who knows? Maybe she got away from them in time.”

“Possible, but not probable. Contacting her will be risky.”

“I know, but I still wanna be sure. We need all the friends we can get.”

“I agree, but we’ll have to be super careful. These are dangerous times we’re living in.”

‘The Splitting,’ a Sci-Fi Horror Novel, Book IV, Chapter Four

Later that day, Peter shared the video of the China conference with Pat and Valerie. They replied by saying it would be best to share their feelings on Zoom, so they could express themselves more intuitively.

They arranged a meeting that evening, all four of them, including Michelle.

“So, how are things over there in Milwaukee with you?” Peter asked. “Where in Milwaukee is ‘over there’? Are you in an airport?”

“Yeah,” Pat said. “We’ve been through customs, and we’re waiting at our gate. So we have a little time now, though we’ll have to keep this short.”

“Where are you going?” Michelle asked. “I mean, this is so sudden. I thought you’d be so tired after the ride from the Kansas Districts to the Wisconsin ones, that you wouldn’t want to go anywhere after that. You both certainly look tired, without much energy. And how did you manage to arrange a flight so fast?”

“Oh, we know people who can set us up fast,” Valerie said. “Lots of money helps, too.”

“Also, they’re under Bolshivarian influence,” Pat said. “So their trust of us as sympathizers will help us get to where we’re going faster.”

“And where are you going?” Peter asked.

“Guess,” Valerie said.

“I have no idea,” Michelle said.

“China,” Pat said with a grin.

“You know where George and Karol are hiding?” Peter asked.

“Not yet, but we’ll find them soon enough,” Pat said. “Valerie and I want to try to dissuade them from going on with this terrible idea of controlling everyone’s minds.”

“OK, but I can’t imagine you changing their minds,” Peter said. “All those Bolshivarian deaths have made them pretty firm in their decision, to put it mildly.”

“We know,” Valerie said. “But we have to try. We don’t want a world with no free will.”

“As important as saving the world from people like Price is, it mustn’t come at the expense of making us all slaves,” Pat said.

“I couldn’t agree more, Pat,” Michelle said. “But what if you can’t change George’s or Karol’s minds?”

“Well…let’s just say we may have to resort to more…radical, sweeping measures,” Valerie said, shaping the fingers of her hand into a gun and pretending to shoot Pat in the head.

“Wait a minute,” Peter said. “I’m as unhappy about all of this as you are, but don’t do anything stu–“

“Sorry, guys,” Pat said hurriedly. “Time to board our plane. Bye.”

Pat and Valerie ended the session on their laptop, leaving Peter’s with a blank screen.

He and Michelle looked at each other with frowns.

“If they do what I think they’re going to do,” he said, “they’ll provoke even worse repressions on everybody.”

“Worse than that,” she said. “Pat and Valerie could fuck up our entire effort to save the world.”

‘The Splitting,’ a Sci-Fi Horror Novel, Book IV, Chapter Three

The next day, Peter called Marsha Tenenbaum. “Yes,” he said. “I want you to continue running MedicinaTech for the time being. I’ve got personal business I need to take care of, and it’s going to occupy my time for…well, quite a while. I’ll let you know when I can come back and take over…Sorry, I can’t go into that right now. I have to go now. Talk you to later…Bye.” He hung up and left for Mississauga.

When he arrived at the Mississauga Exposé building, he just barged past everybody in the lobby, past the receptionist who tried in vain to stop him and ask if he had an appointment, and rushed into an elevator.

Michelle said she was chairing a meeting today, Peter thought as the elevator went up to where he knew, from past trips there, all the heads of the newspaper worked. He got out of the elevator and went through the halls, looking through the glass walls to see which room she was in.

At the end of the hall, he found her. It was easier for him to find her by the look of confusion on her face than by her face itself. Utterly lacking experience, she could only look awkward there. He barged in.

“Michelle!” he shouted, interrupting a presentation that she looked bored watching.

“Peter!” she said with a smile, relieved to have an excuse to get out of the meeting. “Excuse me, everyone. Something’s come up. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

“That’s OK, Michelle,” the unruffled presenter said as she walked out of the room with Peter.

“They’re not mad at me for my little intrusion?” he asked.

“Of course not,” she said as they walked down the hall, him looking for an empty room with a computer. “They’re all emotionless carriers, like your staff. They can totally do that meeting without me.”

“I thought so,” he said as they walked into an unoccupied room. “I figured they could run everything without you, as my staff can without me. I mean, why would they want us running things when they know we don’t know how to do it?”

“Good question,” she said when he sat in front of a desktop computer and turned it on.

“And in a minute, I’ll give you my answer,” he said. “Occupying us with our parents’ businesses will distract us from watching what the Bolshivarians are planning. Check this out.” He found a recent video on YouTube: George Villiers-Joseph and Karol Sargent in China.

Michelle’s eyes almost popped out of her head. “Oh, my God,” she gasped. “They survived?

“Yes,” Peter said. “Someone got them out of South America just in time before the bombings and bug spraying. As you can see, this video is dated from last week, and it hasn’t been censored, like so many other videos and web pages that normally would have been taken off the net by now.”

“You mean, President Price and her people aren’t censoring the net anymore? Why?”

“Because they’re losing their power over the world.”

“Well, that’s good news,” she said, grinning. “Now the Bolshivarians can heal the Earth, and we can help the poor of the world.”

“True, and as we know from the news, these changes for the better are really being made. But at what cost?” he said. “Who are the Bolshivarians improving things for?”

“What do you mean?”

“Oh, come on, Michelle. You’ve seen those automatons working for you, as I’ve seen them working for me. Watch this.” He clicked PLAY.

George was chairing a meeting with Karl in a hiding place somewhere in China. The video panned across all the people in the audience, mostly Chinese with that all-too-familiar emotionless stare in their faces. George began to speak.

“As you all know,” he said, “the heightened danger to Bolshivarian life here, brought about by the nuclear holocausts and the genocidal extermination of so many of us, has necessitated a radical change in our strategy. No longer will Bolshivarian entry into human bodies give our carriers a choice to join us or die. We will simply take control of our hosts’ mental apparatus completely.”

“There you have it, Michelle,” Peter said. “Our worst fears realized.”

“Oh, no!” she said.

“All of you in our audience are carriers, your wills all under 100% Bolshivarian control, which also ensures that you understand my meaning without needing Chinese translation,” George said. “This use of mind control was a hard decision for us to make, but we’ve been given no choice. Too many Bolshivarian lives have been lost–deaths in the billions!–to allow us to take any more risks in the name of ‘liberty’.”

“Tory tried to warn us,” Peter said, pausing the video. “He told us not to trust George…and I put an axe in Tory’s head.”

“I can understand the Bolshivarians needing to protect themselves,” she said. “But…this can’t be.”

“In spite of all the good we’ve seen them do, including saving our own lives…twice…still, I’ve always had a nagging doubt in the back of my mind about them. Are they doing all this healing of the Earth for us, or for themselves?

“That sounds like Price’s propaganda.”

“I know, and you know I’ll never trust her or any of the ruling classes of the Earth, but this video spells it out, all in black and white, so to speak. You won’t like hearing this, Michelle, but those psychic communions we have with our ‘parents’–I don’t think they’re real.”

“They’re real, Peter!” she said in a voice of sobbing anger.

“I know how you feel, and I know how painful it is to–“

“They’re real!” she shouted, tears forming in her eyes.

“I’m sorry, but the Bolshivarians fabricated them with their technology.”

No!” she bawled. He held her as she wept.

“Let’s hear the rest of the video,” he said, then clicked PLAY.

“As for the non-carrying sympathizers of the world,” George said. “As long as you remain loyal to us, you need not fear having your free will taken from you. No more threats to Bolshivarian life, and you will be left alone. But if a non-carrier is to take any more Bolshivarian life, as Karen Finley did, and Tory Lee tried to, then we’ll have no choice but to take control of all sympathizers. Our safety, as the saviours of the Earth, has become paramount!”

Applause could be heard from all over the room, including Karol’s clapping hands.

Neither Peter nor Michelle clapped.

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

Here is Poem #5 from Diverging Paths, a book of poetry and prose by my Facebook friend, Jason Ryan Morton, whose work I’ve looked at many times before. As always, I’ll put the words of his poem in italics to distinguish them from mine. Here’s the poem:

My illusion of good, 
And my illusion of evil, 
Differ for the cause, 
I can’t believe I used to believe 
In these flaws, 

I want my sanity, 
My mind resentful of humanity, 
Returned to me, 
Behind the backdrop, 
Of falling profanity, 

Profane, 
In the domain, 
Of the choice of everything versus nothing,

And now, for my analysis.

This poem can be seen to represent the shift from what Melanie Klein called the paranoid-schizoid position to the depressive position. The first position is one of splitting our experience of others (our internal objects, the people we know and who inhabit our thoughts) into absolute good and absolute bad; the second position is one of reconciling the bad and good experienced in others, of allowing oneself to see in others a combination of good and bad.

Thus through psychological splitting, one sees an “illusion of good” and an “illusion of evil.” When one has achieved reparation, though, one finds the flaws of the previous, split thinking, so utterly wrong that one cannot believe one once believed the dichotomous thinking was true. The evolution, growth, and maturing of the personality requires an acknowledgement of the grey area in everyone, not just the ‘black’ or ‘white.’

When one splits objects into ‘black’ or ‘white,’ that splitting affects us internally. We try to project the bad parts, but we can’t, for they are a part of us. So, if “I want my sanity,” however “my mind [may be] resentful of humanity,” I must do this reconciling of the ‘black’ and ‘white’ into the grey that all of humanity really is. This is the only way my sanity will be “returned to me.”

“Behind the backdrop” is the unconscious mind, which is a repository of all the repressed hurt and trauma “of falling profanity,” all those hurtful words and verbal abuse that one has been subjected to all of one’s life. The splitting and projecting of the bad of others is a defence mechanism against such hurt.

But one cannot always go around seeking refuge in the illusions of splitting, which is “profane, in the domain,” an unspiritual place where illusion masquerades as truth, instead of the spiritual place of reconciled oneness, where contradictions are resolved, and the choppy fragmentation of splitting is replaced by a flowing of ups and downs.

“The choice of everything versus nothing,” caused by splitting, must be replaced by an embrace of everything and nothing, a confrontation with trauma in order to heal it; then one can have one’s sanity returned.

‘The Splitting,’ a Sci-Fi Horror Novel, Book IV, Chapter Two

Peter and Michelle were dropped off by the front doors of MedicinaTech in the Toronto District.

“OK, you two,” the driver said with what was by now an all-too-familiar lack of emotion. “Here’s where you wanted me to drop you off.”

“Yeah, OK, thanks,” Peter told him. He and Michelle got out of the car and walked over to the front doors of his parents’ business and government. It was the early afternoon, so all the staff, informed of his imminent arrival, were in the lobby waiting to welcome him back.

He and Michelle went in. The acting CEO walked up to greet him. She also had that look on her face that seemed to indicate a lack of human personality.

“Good afternoon and welcome back, Mr. Cobb-Hopkin,” she said as if having memorized a speech, putting out her hand to shake his. “I’m Marsha Tenenbaum, acting CEO–“

“Oh, uh, hi,” he said, not shaking her hand. “Look, I’m sorry, but we’ve had a long, crazy trip here, and we need to go rest for a bit, OK? We’ll talk later.” He and Michelle went off into a small meeting room to be alone. They closed the door behind them.

All the staff outside, instead of being shocked at how uncouth Peter was, just stood there like robots, with what seemed to be meaningless smiles on their faces.

“OK, Michelle,” he said after heaving a big sigh. “What the fuck is going on around here?”

“Around here?” she said. “Around everywhere.”

“Exactly,” he said. “All of that–getting out of Leavenworth, going on the bus ride all the way to the Canadian border, getting from there in another bus to Toronto, then that guy…that automaton!…driving us here. That was all much…too…easy!

“We’re escaped convicts,” she said. “We’re wanted…aren’t we?”

“Was there any kind of a manhunt…at all?

“I know. It doesn’t make any sense.”

“All Bolshivarian carriers getting us through everything, everywhere, with no difficulties?”

“I thought they were all killed with the bug spray drones,” she said. “I can understand if a few of them survived, and are in hiding, but…”

“And the testing was supposed to have wiped out all the remaining carriers, or at least almost all of them,” he said. “But they’re everywhere now.”

“Far too many, it seems. I never thought I’d be feeling uncomfortable about that.”

“With no recognizable human personalities, either. I thought the emotional numbing of the vaccines was bad. This emotional numbing we see now is much more extreme. I learned from my year in Leavenworth that the army grunts don’t get the vaccine…because they’re already brainwashed into obeying the dictates of the ruling class; that’s why they show more emotion than the general population, though only hate and anger.”

“Yeah, I learned that, too,” she said. “But this robot-like behaviour of the new carriers–it’s disturbing. They don’t seem to have a will of their own. I’ll bet Valerie and Pat, Wendy and Sid have been taken to their homes with the same ease. We should contact them on social media.”

“Yeah, I’ll do that right now,” Peter said, getting out his smartphone. “I’ll tell you another thing: no only are there all these new carriers, including guards who were nasty to us and hated the Bolshivarians right up ’til the switcheroo, but you never see these anti-Bolshivarian types splitting up into pieces.” He began typing up a message on Facebook, then tagged Valerie, Pat, Wendy, and Sid.

“This is really weird,” Michelle said.

“OK, I just tagged all four of them with this question: ‘Did you all get back home with disturbingly unbelievable ease, your drivers all acting like robots with seemingly no will of their own?'”

Within a few minutes, Valerie, Pat, Wendy, and Sid all ‘liked’ Peter’s post, and commented ‘Yes.’

Pat added to his comment by saying, “I’ve experienced exactly what you’re talking about here in Milwaukee. All human automatons, these new carriers. No difficulty at all getting home. Just as you said, Peter: ‘disturbingly unbelievable ease.’ This is too good to be true, let alone to be good.”

Valerie, Wendy, and Sid all ‘liked’ Pat’s comment.

Both Peter and Michelle looked at his phone with fearful faces.

“Michelle, are the Bolshivarians controlling people’s minds? What do you think?”

Wide-eyed, she couldn’t answer.

‘The Splitting,’ a Sci-Fi Horror Novel, Book IV, Chapter One

2033, Fort Leavenworth, ExxonMobil Correctional Facility

Peter sat on his bed in his cell with a permanent frown, his smartphone in his hands, searching for another video to watch.

Apart from trying to keep abreast of what had been going on in the world since his, Michelle’s, and the other sympathizers’ arrests, he was using the videos as distractions from everything he had to be miserable about. As distractions, though, the videos weren’t of much use, of course.

He tried to forget his and Michelle’s treason trials and convictions. Their protestations, as well as those of their defence attorneys, that the Bolshivarians were trying to help the world, fell on deaf ears. Their counter-accusation–that it was the armies of the world that were the real war criminals, having killed hundreds of thousands of people with the nuclear bombs dropped on Santiago, Lagos, and Jakarta, all to draw out the Bolshivarians so they could be sprayed with bug toxins, killing not only the aliens but millions of human carriers as well–also fell on deaf ears.

He heard the clanking of metal on the bars of his cell. He looked up from his phone to see Culig, one of the prison guards, giving him a tray of food.

“Here’s your breakfast, traitor,” Culig said as he put the tray through a horizontal rectangular hole in the bars. “I hope you choke to death on your bacon and eggs,” he added, a typical comment from him.

Neither Peter, nor Michelle, Wendy, Pat, Valerie, nor Sid were allowed even to eat in the prison cafeteria, for fear they’d sit together at a table and reminisce about old times in Venezuela or Angola. Part of their punishment was to be deprived of friendly company for the rest of their lives.

He took his tray from Culig, thanking him with a scowl. He took it back to the bed and sat back down.

I miss Michelle, he thought. I miss her touch.

He found a video of a crowd of people on the streets of Paris protesting the nuclear bombings of the previous year. His grasp of French was good enough to know that they were also sympathizing with the slain aliens, for he saw placards that had such messages as, Tuer les Bolsivariens, c’est aussi un crime de guerre! and Pas de guerre nucléaire!

He was struck by the huge range of emotions he saw in the protestors…he was struck by the fact that there even were protestors!

Didn’t all those vaccines dope all the spirit of resistance out of everybody? he wondered. I thought all the sympathizers were arrested. This protest is commemorating the first anniversary of the bombings. This video was taken only last week! Surely it’s going to be deleted any time now; I’m surprised it’s still up. How is all of this possible? We lost!

Then he Googled more information, that of independent bloggers. He found one, published just a few days before, titled, “How the Vax Got Vanquished.” The writer said, “I went about every day like a zombie, just doing my job without any feeling or interest. Then one day, someone touched my arm, a carrier of the aliens. I saw the little lights go out of his fingers and into my body. I was so numb from the effects of the vaccines I’d been made to take that I didn’t feel scared; if my body was to be torn to pieces, I just thought, ‘Oh, well…’ But instead, I felt that emotional numbness fading out of me. I started to feel something I hadn’t felt in years…emotions. Energy. Drive. Passion. And most importantly, joy! A touch of the aliens cured me! I’ve heard stories from many other people who’ve had the same experience.”

They’re still alive, Peter thought. They’re not all dead, after all. And the article is still online.

He searched for more information to explain all these odd developments. He found a YouTube video, again recently published, of a woman standing before the camera and saying the following:

“We all know of how governments around the world have been testing people to see if they’re carriers of the Bolshivarians. It has been assumed that, by now, they have all been found and, on exposure, been killed–that is, the human carriers are shot, and the Bolshivarians are exterminated with the bug spray toxins.

“This, however, is far from the truth, as I’ve been tested and allowed to pass, alongside many other carriers.” To prove her assertion, she let the tiny dots of light flow out of her fingers and towards the camera screen.

They’re alive, he thought with a smile. They’ve been hiding, but they’re coming back.

“You sympathizers out there in the world,” she went on, “I say this hoping you’ll hear my words before this video is removed from the internet: don’t lose hope. We have non-carrier sympathizers conducting the tests and allowing carriers to pass them undetected. We’ll all be free sooner than you think.”

He was so excited, he’d forgot about his breakfast, which was getting cold. He started shovelling it down.

After eating, his newfound happiness caused him to let go of the tension he’d been feeling up until this morning. His initial excitement thus gave way to a sense of peaceful contentment, making him want to lie on his bed and meditate on his new hopes. Within an hour, he fell asleep.

He’d been napping until lunchtime when that clanking metallic noise woke him up. “Here’s your lunch, traitor!” Culig snapped at him. Peter didn’t scowl at him this time when he took his tray, surprising and annoying Culig.

About two hours later, Culig returned.

“Peter, get up,” he said. “We’re transferring you.”

“What?” Peter said, rising to his feet. He never calls me by my name. No look of hate in his eyes, either. Not much emotion of any kind.

“Please hurry,” Culig said. “We don’t have much time.”

Peter put his smartphone in his pocket and approached the bars. Culig never says ‘please,’ either, he thought. This is truly weird.

Culig opened the cell door. “C’mon, we gotta go.”

“Nobody said anything about a transfer,” Peter said as he came out of his cell. “What’s going on?”

“Everything will be explained later,” Culig said as they walked through the hall and out of the cellblock area. “For now, let’s just focus on getting you out of here, and fast.”

Culig is never this…nice, Peter thought. He also seems a little robot-like. Just two hours ago, he was his usual mean self. And now…?

Peter was even further amazed at how smoothly he got through the whole prison complex, all the documentation and requisition forms reviewed and accepted without a hitch. And this was all for a transfer he’d never been told about until just now. He thought to look carefully at the faces of all the people cooperating to make this transfer so effortless.

They all had Culig’s newly-acquired automaton-like body language. Had they all acquired these same traits, just this afternoon? And who gave them these traits, all of a sudden?

Could it be? Peter wondered, remembering all he’d looked at on his smartphone that morning. Nah, don’t get your hopes up too high.

He was taken outside, to where a dark green truck was parked by the outer entrance gate.

“Get in,” Culig told him. “Good luck, where you’re going.”

“What?” Peter said, looking back at the guard and seeing no trace of sarcasm (or any other emotion, for that matter) on his face. He got in the truck.

Now he felt an even greater shock…but a pleasant one.

“Peter?” a familiar, female voice called out to him. The driver closed the back door of the truck, leaving everyone in there in almost total darkness.

“What?…Michelle?” he shouted, straining his eyes to find her face in the dark of the truck. When he spotted her, he ran over to where she was sitting. They hugged and kissed.

“What’s going on?” she asked. “You don’t think they’re taking us out to be killed or anything, do you?”

“I don’t know,” he said, sitting down beside her. “My guard, who’s never nice to me, seemed nicer just now.”

The truck started moving.

“I know,” she said. “My guard seemed nicer today, too.”

“Did their mannerisms seem a little…mechanical to you, and I mean ‘mechanical’ in a familiar way?” he asked.

She recalled her mother’s initial mannerisms when she’d just been made a carrier, then made a mental comparison to those of her guards. “Yeah, now that you mention it, they were,” she said.

“I noticed the same thing, Peter,” another familiar female voice said in the darkness, to which his eyes were only now adjusting. “But I don’t wanna get my hopes up.”

“Wendy Callaghan?” he asked. “Is that you?”

“Yes, it’s me,” she said in a cheerful voice.

“Wow!” he said, then went over to hug her. “So good to see you…well, sort of, in the dark…again! Any other familiar faces in here? My eyes are still just adjusting to the dark.” He squinted and looked around.

“Over here, Peter,” Pat called out. Peter could barely make out his and Valerie’s faces, then their waving hands.

“Oh, hi!” Peter said, waving back. “Is Sid here?”

“Oh?” Sid grunted, waking up from a nap. “Did someone call me?”

“Yeah, there’s Sid,” Peter said. “Hi!”

Sid strained his eyes to recognize Peter. “Oh, hi, Peter.”

“So, where are we being transferred to?” Michelle asked. “Anybody know?”

Every voice in the back of the truck said, “No.”

“You’d think they’d have told us,” Valerie said. “Why didn’t any of them say where we’re going?”

“That’s what’s kind of scary about all of this,” Pat said. “Were they all nice to us because today is our last…Oh, I don’t wanna say it.”

Suddenly, the truck stopped.

There was an uncomfortable silence of several seconds.

“We’re about to find out, I guess,” Wendy said.

The driver opened up the back of the truck. Blinding sunlight shone outside. “Everybody out,” he said.

They all came out slowly, with shaking legs. When their feet touched the gravelly ground, they looked around, with a hand over each pair of eyes to block the sun. Now they had to adjust their eyes to the light…but they were afraid of what they would see.

No wall to line up against.

No firing squad.

Just the local bus station.

“What the…?” Peter asked.

“There are people in the bus station, our contacts, who will take you where you want to go,” the driver said, in as monotone a voice as Culig and the other guards. “Go in there, and you’ll find them.”

“Where we want to go?” Sid asked.

“Yes,” the driver said. “You’re all free now. We arranged it. But beware of the manhunt that’s coming soon; we might not be able to stop that soon enough, though we plan to. The people in there will help you, and we’ll do what we can to slow the manhunt down, as I said. Anyway, goodbye, and good luck.” A few little dots of light flew out of his waving hand. He went back to the truck, got in, and drove away.

Peter and the others just stood there, stunned.

After a few seconds, Michelle said, “I guess we’ll go into the bus station, then.”

Analysis of ‘La Notte’

La Notte (‘The Night’) is a 1961 Italian film by Michelangelo Antonioni, written by him, Ennio Flaiano, and Tonino Guerra. It stars Marcello Mastroianni, Jeanne Moreau, and Monica Vitti. Filmed on location in Milan, it is about the disintegrating relationship of a man and his wife, as both of them are tempted into having extramarital affairs.

The second film of a trilogy (the first being L’Avventura, and the third being L’Eclisse), La Notte continues Antonioni’s abandoning of traditional plots in favour of visual composition. The film was acclaimed for its exploration of modernist themes of alienation; it received the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival, a first for an Italian film, and it also won the David di Donatello award for Best Director in 1961. It’s one of Stanley Kubrick‘s ten favourite films.

Here is a link to quotes, in English translation, from the film.

When the opening credits are showing, we see a shot of a building up close, one much taller than the other buildings of the city either in the background or in the reflection of the skyscraper’s windows. The camera is slowly moving downwards.

Since La Notte is about a married couple growing alienated from each other, and we know that the essence of alienation is an inability to communicate with and understand other people, then this descending camera shot of a skyscraper suggests the Tower of Babel, meant to reach up to heaven. But God (Elohim) says, “Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” (Genesis 11:7). And indeed, after the credits are finished showing, we see the beginning stages of the breakdown in communication between writer Giovanni Pontano (Mastroianni) and his frustrated wife, Lidia (Moreau).

Subtle associations in moments in the film with key moments in the primeval Biblical narrative can be found afterwards, too, though largely in reverse order to that of the early chapters of Genesis. I’ll return to these other associations soon enough.

Giovanni and Lidia enter a hospital where their good friend, fellow writer Tommaso Garani (played by Bernhard Wicki), is a seriously ill, dying patient in need of morphine to ease his pain. In this pitiful state, Tommaso personifies the Pontanos’ ailing marriage.

Before the couple go into his room, they’re accosted by a pretty but emotionally unstable young woman who complains of the telephone in her room not working (symbolic of already failing communication). She will later make sexual advances on Giovanni after Lidia has left the hospital in tears over the wretched state Tommaso is in. There is a clear link between seeing their dying friend and this young woman, for temptations to adultery are among the things that are slowly tearing this marriage apart.

The theme of stifled communication is developed in Giovanni’s repeated self-deprecatory remarks about his fading abilities as a writer. The ability to use language is crucial to a writer, of course, but also key to having healthy relationships, especially in a marriage. Language is a central part of Lacan‘s Symbolic Order, brought into being through the prohibition of Oedipal indulgence via the Nom, or Non! du père, and bringing the child out of his narcissistic, dyadic relationship with mother and into the world of society, culture, and shared customs. Giovanni’s indulgence with pretty girls like this wild woman in the hospital, and later with Valentina Gherardini (Vitti), is a regression to a self-centred, childish state, a retreat from society (coupled with his fading ability to write, to use language) that will wreak havoc with his marriage.

The funny thing with Lidia, as far as Giovanni’s temptations with both women are concerned, is that she isn’t jealous. She’s just disgusted with him. It’s a clear sign that the love has died in their marriage. This is why we see her walking off from him, going off alone so many times.

First, she has to go off alone at the hospital, after empathizing with the pain of Tommaso, the personification of her marriage to Giovanni. Then, at the promotion of his new book, La Stagione (“The Season”), she walks off again. Finally, at the Gherardinis’ party, she’s often alone.

She’s sometimes tempted by other men, directly or indirectly, as Giovanni is by young women. During her walk-off from his book promotion, after which he goes home surprised to find her not there (and turns off a recording of an English lesson, the translation of English vocabulary into Italian; his turning off of the recording is symbolically another indication of the ending of language, and therefore, of communication), she encounters some people and things that can at least symbolize, or be associated with, thoughts of her being with other men.

At one point, Giovanni lies down and naps for a bit. Lidia walks along a sidewalk with short stone posts that are phallic in shape; she touches one or two of them, and passes by an old woman who would seem to be a reflection on her own aging…and fear of further aging.

Later, having been driven around in a cab (her riding with a male driver other than her husband suggestive of an adultery fantasy), she encounters a gang of boys, two of whom get into a fistfight. Though she naturally abhors the sight of violence, and promptly stops the fight, one suspects that she–being a woman raised in a traditional society–would find two virile young men fighting to be erotically stimulating, at least on an unconscious level.

After that, she sees rockets being fired into the sky. The sight strongly suggests ejaculating phalli. Such images of virility, something that seems conspicuously lacking in mild-mannered Giovanni, suggests the root of her problems with him: he seems impotent (an at least psychological inadequacy, if not a physical one), and only able to get it up with young women. In fact, even with the wild woman in the hospital, he doesn’t seem to be aroused.

Early during her walk, she comes to the run-down buildings of some poor people and finds a child crying. Though she, as a bourgeois, is not of the poor child’s class, she nonetheless sympathizes; and her wish to comfort the child suggests her frustration at never getting to be a mother. Indeed, we know of no sons or daughters from the Pontanos.

Giovanni wakes from his nap in an agitated state, suggesting he’s just dreamt what she experienced alone outside. It’s another example, as I’ve noted in Blowup and The Passenger, of Antonioni verging on, though not quite lapsing into, the surreal, the borderline between reality and dream, or fantasy. In any case, Giovanni’s worst nightmare is being realized: she’s falling out of love with him and having adulterous thoughts of her own.

She telephones him and has him pick her up in a place where they used to live, a reminiscence of a happier time when they were still in love. In response to his worries, she says it’s “nothing”…as in Much Ado About…When he arrives, he notes a train track now covered in vegetation; he remembers when the train was once used. Back in the time when they’d lived there, their love was going places, like that train. Now, their love goes nowhere…like that train.

When they get home, she takes a bath. The scene is interesting in that it was originally censored for giving us one or two brief flashes of Moreau’s breasts. (Other scenes in the film, such as the wild woman’s seduction of Giovanni, including her undressing after their kiss, as well as his and Lidia’s rolling around in the dirt kissing at the end, and one of two ladies walking together saying ‘whore’–or ‘tart,’ depending on the translation–at the Gherardinis’ party, were also censored.) Giovanni shows no sexual interest in his naked wife, adding to her frustrations.

Night is approaching, their marriage’s ‘dark night of the soul,’ so to speak, and Lidia doesn’t want to sit around at home. They’ll go to the Gherardinis’ party, but first to a night club. She shows herself off to him in a new black dress, but he shows minimal interest, disappointing her once again.

At the night club, they watch a striptease/equilibrist perform while balancing a wine glass. The juxtaposition of Giovanni and Lidia watching a woman being undressed (by her husband?) with her balancing of a glass half-filled with wine, which she later drinks, vaguely suggests Genesis 9:20-22, when Noah got drunk and naked in his tent, and Ham saw him. Ham thus is cursed.

The shame in the scene in the film, though, is in how the erotic dancing does nothing to inspire passion in Giovanni, a passion that he could direct at Lidia. As he says to her, “I no longer have inspirations, only recollections.” She is thus once again frustrated. Their marriage is cursed.

They arrive at the Gherardinis’ party, where the lady of the house (played by costume designer Gitt Magrini, who incidentally also played Jeanne’s mother in Last Tango in Paris) greets them.

Her husband is a curious sort: he would seem to be a socialist’s fantasy of what a boss ought to be like. Mr. Gherardini (played by Vincenzo Corbella) speaks of not being interested in making profits, but rather producing things to be remembered. He imagines that Giovanni writes out of necessity. He also offers Giovanni a job, to write the history of Gherardini’s company. Giovanni probably won’t accept the job offer: after all, as a bourgeois with a servant in his home, Giovanni would seem out of place working for a ‘socialist.’

Still, he might consider taking the job after all…if he can get closer to the Gherardinis’ pretty daughter, Valentina. Giovanni Pontano’s philandering with young women suggests that his surname is a pun on puttana, or more aptly, ‘puttano,’ a male whore.

He begins his pursuit of Valentina by playing a game she’s devised, that of sliding her compact across a floor of checkered tiles with the aim of it landing on one specified tile, to win points. By participating in this game, Giovanni is demonstrating what a ‘playa‘ he is.

He is so careless and foolish that just after the end of their game, he kisses her…and Lidia sees him do it! This is shortly after she’s learned, from having telephoned the hospital, that Tommaso has just died. She isn’t jealous of her husband with Valentina because she knows her marriage is dead.

Soon after, it starts to rain. This heavy rain can be compared to the forty days and forty nights of rain of the Great Flood. Now, the placement of the rain in the time sequence of the film is one of the few instances that don’t coordinate with the reversed time sequence I mentioned above about the major events of the early chapters of Genesis. Still, the Biblical parallels are enough to make my point about Giovanni’s and Lidia’s marriage: it’s going backward, not progressing.

The cause of the wickedness of the world leading up to the Great Flood, as described in Genesis 6:1-4, was the sons of God mating with the daughters of men, a forbidden mixture of the human and divine worlds that brought chaos to God’s ordered creation. The ‘sons of God’ of La Notte are Giovanni and Roberto (played by Giorgio Negro), who show a sexual interest in, respectively, Valentina and Lidia, the ‘daughters of men’; and the former pair pursues the latter pair before, during, and after the rain, which doesn’t quite correspond with the reverse order of the analogous events in the Bible. Still, I say the correspondences are close enough.

At first, many of the guests at the party use the rain to elevate their hilarity and fun–a number of people jump in the swimming pool, reinforcing the association with the Flood; ultimately, however, the rain causes certain crucial guests to split up and go their own ways, a breaking up of the universal socializing and communicating that is the essence of the Symbolic. Giovanni and Valentina become a dyad, and so do Lidia and Roberto.

These two dyads, metaphorical mirrors looking into each others’ eyes and reflecting each others’ egoism, are experiencing what Lacan called the Imaginary. The desire one member of each dyad has for the other is a wish to be at one with the ideal-I that is experienced in the reflected faces of their metaphorical mirrors. The one desires to be the desire of the other, or to be recognized by the other. Giovanni wants the youth and vitality of Valentina, since he’s losing his own virility with age. Lidia hopes to be a sexy, desirable woman for Roberto, since she cannot be such a woman for her husband.

So both husband and wife have regressed from engagement with the Other (society in general, mingling with many people instead of just focusing on one) to engagement with the other (just one other person, making a dyad with him or her, a transference of the mother/son or father/daughter, Oedipal pairing). These narcissistic duos, reflecting each other like mirrors, are a regression from the adult world of the Symbolic to the infantile Imaginary, and thus constitute a breaking down of communication.

Now, it isn’t so easy to regress into the secondary narcissism of the revisited Imaginary without the danger of lapsing into the terrifying chaos of the Real, which is what the Deluge-like rainfall symbolizes. Narcissism is a defence against psychological fragmentation, a falling-apart of the self and a psychotic break with reality.

Lidia is in Roberto’s car during the heavy rainfall; they are in ‘Noah’s ark,’ so to speak. We see them through the car windows, chatting with and smiling at each other, enjoying one another’s company; but we don’t hear a word they’re saying. Inside the car is the narcissistic dyad of the Imaginary; outside the car, out in the rain–like the forty days and forty nights of rain that killed everyone on Earth–is the traumatic, undifferentiated horror of the Real, what cannot be symbolized with language.

This scene in the film reminds me of what Slavoj Zižek once said about the inside and outside of a car as it relates symbolically to the Real. In Looking Awry, he commented on a passage in Robert Heinlein‘s Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag. A couple are in a car driving home, but are told under no circumstances, no matter what they see, to open the windows of their car. They witness, during their drive, a child hit by a car, and naturally feel the urge to roll down a window, just a bit, to tell a patrolman about the accident. Instead of seeing all that they’ve seen through the closed windows, though, they see through the opening “Nothing but a grey and formless mist, pulsing slowly as if with inchoate life.” (Zižek, page 14)

So what is this “grey and formless mist, pulsing slowly as if with inchoate life,” Zižek asks, “if not the Lacanian real, the pulsing of the presymbolic substance in its abhorrent vitality? But what is crucial for us here is the place from which this real erupts: the very borderline separating the outside from the inside, materialized in this case by the windowpane…To those sitting inside a car, outside reality appears slightly distant, the other side of a barrier or screen materialized by the glass. We perceive external reality, the world outside the car, as ‘another reality,’ another mode of reality, not immediately continuous with the reality inside the car. The proof of this discontinuity is the uneasy feeling that overwhelms us when we suddenly roll down the windowpane and allow external reality to strike us with the proximity of its material presence…But when we are safely inside the car, behind the closed windows, the external objects are, so to speak, transposed into another mode. They appear to be fundamentally ‘unreal,’ as if their reality has been suspended, put in parenthesis–in short, they appear as a kind of cinematic reality projected onto the screen of the windowpane. It is precisely this phenomenological experience of the barrier separating inside from outside, this feeling that the outside is ultimately ‘fictional,’ that produces the horrifying effect of the final scene in Heinlein’s novel. It is as if, for a moment, the ‘projection’ of the outside reality had stopped working, as if, for a moment, we had been confronted with the formless grey, with the emptiness of the screen…” (Zižek, pages 14-15)

In La Notte, however, it isn’t seeing out from the inside, from the narcissistic veil of illusion out onto the harsh reality of outside, but the other way around. From the Real that is outside, one looks inside to see two people experiencing the illusion. It is just like Noah’s family and the pairs of animals, experiencing the comfort of the illusion of life, as opposed to the chaos and destruction of the Flood going on outside, killing everyone and every land animal, a return to the tohu-wa-bohu of primordial Chaos. Accordingly, Lidia can enjoy the feeling of being courted by Robert; but when they park the car and get out, and he continues his pursuit of her, she snaps out of it and realizes she cannot cheat on her husband. She has had a taste of the Real, standing out in the rain for a moment, and her narcissistic illusions have been shattered.

She cannot cheat on Giovanni, even though she knows he hasn’t been faithful to her; this is partly because of the patriarchal double standard that indulges a husband’s affairs, but not a wife’s. Also, she cannot cheat on him simply because she’s much more responsible and adult than he is. We’ve seen her smile and watch the jazz band play up close, admiring these attractive, talented men. She has gotten in the car with Roberto. But she never fully acts on her temptations as Giovanni does. She won’t even kiss Roberto.

When Giovanni and Valentina are alone in the house, she plays a tape recording she’s made of what seems affectedly poetic TV dialogue; she feels embarrassed about it, for she asks him to promise not to make fun of her for having recorded it. After playing it, he wants to hear it again, but when she rewinds it, she also erases it, considering the recording to be “drivel.” Once again, La Notte shows how the removal of language and communication vitiates relationships.

When Lidia and Roberto return, she and Giovanni have to confront each other’s temptations to adultery. Giovanni is offended at something Roberto says to him with challenging eyes, that in democracy we “take things as they come”; it would seem more reasonable to assume he’s more annoyed at Roberto being alone with his wife (i.e., free to take her as she comes) than at what he has said. As mentioned above, though, Lidia denies any feelings of jealousy over her husband’s interest in Valentina, even though he’s made no attempt to hide that interest.

Instead, she feels as if she wants to die, for she knows she doesn’t love Giovanni anymore. Like Tommaso, her marriage is dead. The Cain of her husband’s concupiscence has made her no longer able…or, Abel?…to love him anymore. Giovanni, his eyes wandering in the land of Nod, knowing those other than his wife, has murdered her love, just as Cain killed his brother.

The morning has come, and it’s time to leave the party. Giovanni and Lidia decide to walk through Mr. Gherardini’s golf course. She finally tells Giovanni about Tommaso’s death; he’s annoyed that she didn’t mention it earlier, but he was playing (i.e., the game with Valentina with her compact slid across the checkered tiles–trying to seduce her). With the mention of Tommaso’s death comes her final confrontation with Giovanni about the end of her love for him…and vice versa.

She reads him an impassioned love letter she’s had in her purse. Though he’s visibly moved by the letter’s contents, he has forgotten that he, in fact, wrote it long ago, back when he still truly loved her. His obliviousness to what he wrote proves his love, too, has died–how his ineptitude with language has ruined their relationship.

He won’t accept this painful truth, though, so he makes unwanted sexual advances on her. They’ve been sitting by a group of trees, him rolling on top of her in the dirt. This moment is comparable to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

His pitiful attempt at lovemaking reminds us of St. Augustine‘s interpretation of original sin, coming from concupiscence, or involuntary desire, which has been plaguing their marriage from the beginning. His uncontrolled arousal was directed at women other than Lidia; this same involuntary arousal was no longer directed at her, so when he tries to make love with her there, it’s fake, and she knows it (i.e., she knows he hasn’t got an erection–he’s impotent). He’d wished, in his love letter, for his love for her to be immortal, but not even his memory of the letter was immortal. Small wonder she, too, has looked outside their marriage for love.

His attempt at lovemaking is so fake that it should be obvious even to him that his love for her died long ago. He knows, as if from eating the…here, bitter…fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, that their love is dead. Only his narcissism would push him to hide his shame by pretending to feel desire for her, paradoxically related to the shame that made Adam and Eve want to hide their genital arousal by covering it with fig leaf aprons.

They roll in the dirt of his concupiscence, for Giovanni, like Adam, is dust, and like their marriage, to dust shall he return. From the Tower of Babel of the opening credits, to the…Edenic?…ending of the film, their marriage has gone backwards, not forwards.

This ‘Edenic’ ending is not a return to the lost paradise, for Giovanni and Lidia remain in their fallen state; they know their love is dead–they aren’t the naïve, unknowing naked pair before having eaten the forbidden fruit. Fully clothed, they’re like Adam and Eve only after God has clothed them in animal skins.

Now, it isn’t that sex per se is dirty, as Augustine conceived it; it’s that desire isn’t controlled–it’s misdirected. Sex itself didn’t bring about the Fall of Man; God told Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply. Childless Giovanni and Lidia were never fruitful. Desire brought about the fall of, respectively, both the naked and the clothed couples of the Bible and La Notte. The Buddhists agree that it’s desire that is the root of human suffering, and the Pontanos’ misdirected desire has been causing their suffering throughout the dark night of their marriage.

Slavoj Zižek, Looking Awry: An Introduction to Jacques Lacan through Popular Culture, OCTOBER Books, London, 1991