‘The Targeter,’ a Surreal Novel, Chapter Fifteen

I look around at all of the water that surrounds me and is me, and just as I expected, some of it is concentrating, congealing, coagulating, swirling into the shape of my body so that I’m returning to my human form.

In fact, instead of seeing nothing but endless water in all directions, I’m beginning to see the front yard of my apartment building again. I look up and down, and I see the tree above me, the tree I saw that wise old man meditating under so peacefully, and I see myself seated under it, having finished peacefully meditating myself.

I look ahead and, just as I predicted!…my five followers have returned. Surely, they want to hear me tell them my new insights. Along with my enlightenment, I seem to have acquired clairvoyance into the future!

I’ve become a saint!

I see the five of them crouching before me in a semicircle. eager to learn the Way. They’re looking at me with loving, attentive, concerned eyes.

I hear an explosion from up in the sky, with a flashing light. Then I hear some machine gun fire.

Meh. I’ll ignore it. I have much more important things to do than worry about that right now.

“I will now teach you the Three Unities,” I begin in a slurred voice. (My ketamine high is still strong; I hope it won’t impair my ability to impart my message.) “These are the Unities of Space, Time, and Action.”

I see confusion on all five faces. Surely what I’m saying isn’t so abstract, is it? And my speech, as slurred as it is, isn’t so unclear that my words are unintelligible, is it?

Oh, wait: yeah, I’m in East Asia. These five people are Asians, and in all likelihood, none of them understands a word of English, or certainly not well enough to follow what I’m trying to say.

I’ll repeat what I just said, but in Mandarin. Surely I’m not too drunk and stoned to be able to speak intelligibly in Chinese, am I? I’ve lived on this island for many years, having achieved a reasonable level of fluency in the local language, so I’ll try again…

…After having said in Chinese what I said before in English, I see them still sneering at me, not seeming to understand a word I’m saying.

I close my eyes, open them, and try again.

Now I see myself in ancient Asian robes, as are all five of my followers, who look at me with smiles of love. We’re inside what seems to be a palace, all ornately designed like one of the old Chinese emperors’, with gold on the walls. Rapt, my five followers eagerly await to hear what I have to say.

In broken Chinese, I say again, “I teach you of the Three Unities, those of Space, Time, and Action. Mastering these ideas in meditation, you’ll gain wisdom, end all of your suffering, and lead the world in a quest for peace and justice.”

The five of them are looking at me with glowing eyes and toothy grins, hungrily digesting my message.

I continue, in the best Chinese my wasted ass can muster: “Everywhere within us and around us, up above, down below, behind us, in front of us, and to our left and right, is all one. The ego is an illusion. When we fully understand this, selfishness vanishes, replaced by selflessness and compassion for everyone and every living thing.”

I look in their eyes and listen to their responses. In my continuing drug trip, I can’t make out their every word, but can hear only distinct fragments of what they’re saying–words like “crazy,” “love,” and “talk.”

I think for a minute, trying to put these pieces together. I know! They said, “I’m crazy about his message! I love to hear him talk!” That’s it!

“All of time is in cycles of beginning, middle, and end,” I continue, looking in the eyes of my captive quintet of an audience. “But the only time that matters is NOW, for NOW is the only time that is real. The past and future are just mental constructs with no real meaning.”

I listen for their responses. “What’s he talking about?” I think one of them has said with a sneer. Did one of them just call me “crazy”? I think I just heard the words “on drugs.” Well, they’re right about that.

BOOM! Wow, I just heard another loud explosion, with a blinding flash of light. The machine gun fire is louder, too.

The golden palace walls just disappeared, and we’re all outside again, in front of my apartment, in our modern clothes.

I’ll just have to keep on trying to explain, and maybe my five listeners will understand. I must be as clear as I can with my ungrammatical Mandarin.

“All action, all phenomena in the world,” I resume, “are examples of yin and yang, of unified opposites.” I’m trying my best to get these ideas across with the limitations of my Chinese vocabulary. Maybe they can relate to what I’m saying by my comparing it to Taoist concepts. We’ll see.

I’m straining my ears, with all the noise of war around us, to make out their comments. I’m hearing only fragments. I hear “loves,” “hear,” “himself,” and “talk.” I need a moment to put it all together…”I love…to hear…him talk”…that’s it! How encouraging! I’m getting through to them! The golden palace walls have returned, as have our ancient clothes.

“We must see people…and the world,” I carry on, “in a way…that’s not too far to one extreme…or the other. Don’t over-idealize people and things, and don’t hate or be too rejecting…of them.”

Are they smiling at me…or sneering? It’s hard to see in the dark, when you’re high on K. The golden walls are gone.

“We must be open with each other,” I tell them. “To heal, we must express ourselves, in speech, writing, and art. We must also help others…to express themselves…by giving them our ears.”

They’re giving me their ears, but their sneering must mean I still haven’t made myself clear. It sure is hard to communicate when you’re stoned. We’re in our modern clothes again.

BOOM! Another, even louder, explosion has lit up the sky with an even brighter flash of light. I know! It must be the light of understanding coming to my followers, for I see we’re all flying in the air, about to spread the word of the Way.

Yes, we’ve flown out the windows of the golden palace, our flowing Asian robes fluttering in the night sky, as we travel long distances to spread the word.

What’s that noise? No, it can’t be more machine gun fire, not with the light of liberation glowing all around. That must have been fireworks and firecrackers: my followers and I are celebrating the coming of enlightenment to the world!

Analysis of ‘A Farewell to Kings’

A Farewell to Kings is the fifth studio album by Rush, released in 1977. The album demonstrates remarkable musical growth in the band, with their shifting away from their original, Led Zeppelin-inspired hard rock sound and into the realm of progressive rock.

To this musical end, the trio expanded from a basic guitar/bass/drums sound to one incorporating not only six- and twelve-string acoustic guitars, but also classical guitar (by Alex Lifeson). Furthermore, singer/bassist Geddy Lee adds a Minimoog, and both he and Lifeson play bass pedal synthesizers; this electronic sound would be further expanded to the use of more synthesizers by the 1980s, this being a dominant aspect of their music throughout that decade.

Drummer Neil Peart adds a wide array of percussion instruments on this album, including glockenspiel, tubular bells, Vibraslap (heard during Lifeson’s solo on “Closer to the Heart“), and Chinese temple blocks. These new musical colours, combined with Peart’s growth from his original Keith Moon-inspired aggressive drumming style to one of prog rock virtuosity, show the newer influence of the crackingly precise chops of Carl Palmer and Bill Bruford.

But just as newer musical ideas are being phased in, so are older ideas being phased out. As I said above, the hard rock sound, though still present to a large degree, is noticeably less here than on previous albums. And although Lee’s soaring head voice (with its grating vibrato) is as evident as ever here (in fact, on “Cygnus X-1,” he hits his highest note ever, a B-flat 5…or 6?), it won’t be long after this album (two albums later, specifically) that he will phase out the use of head voice and limit his highest notes generally to those within mixed voice, and focus on his lower, chest voice.

A Farewell to Kings is an album that Rush were most pleased with: Lee has never found fault with it, and Peart said that the title track “seems to encapsulate everything that we want Rush to represent.” It’s one of my personal favourites of the band’s, if not the favourite–it’s the first of theirs that I’d heard as a little kid, not long after it was released. Apart from all the musical colours I described above, A Farewell to Kings is genuine art rock, not only with long songs divided into sections, but also with a more prominent use of odd time signatures and superb musicianship that had since become synonymous with Rush.

Here is a link to all the song lyrics on the album.

The cover, by Hugh Syme, shows a demolition site in the background as juxtaposed with, in the foreground, a king slumped on a throne and made to look like a marionette. The picture expresses some of the themes of the title track, and by extension, those of the rest of the songs on the album, as I’ll explain below.

Decades ago, I spotted the obvious theme of morality, but a much more important theme is idealism, particularly the idealizing of the past as against the disillusionment felt in the modern world. Also, there’s the theme of the danger of recklessly seeking to attain those ideals, leading to one’s self-destruction.

The title track begins softly, with Lifeson playing a classical guitar melody with one bar in 3/4, then three bars in 4/4 before returning to the 3/4 beginning, and playing the whole cycle all over again. He plays it a third time, but with the first two of the three 4/4 bars, replacing the third with a transitional bar in 5/4, then one in 4/4, to introduce a middle passage with Lee’s Minimoog and Peart’s glockenspiel.

The first theme returns with all three instruments, and with the 5/4 theme played three times. Though this gentle introductory tune includes a synthesizer, the classical guitar’s lute-like sound makes one think of a time hundreds of years ago. The music’s tranquility makes one imagine, correctly or incorrectly, that that old time was a better, more peaceful one.

A sharp contrast is heard when the electric guitar, bass, and drums come crashing in, suggesting the turmoil of the modern world, a sad decline from that (perceived) idyllic opening. We hear two bars of 4/4, then a switch to several bars of 7/4 before returning to 4/4.

Now, the lyrics come in, Lee singing what amounts to be a conservative’s complaint of “Whatever happened to the good old days?” (If one didn’t know any better, one might think of Archie and Edith Bunker singing “Those Were the Days” at the piano.)

Added to this conservative lament is the use of medieval imagery in Peart’s lyric (i.e., references to “castles,” all things “kingly,” and “nobles”). Let me just get this straight: a farewell to kings, that is, to feudalism, is a bad thing? Morality can be upheld only through the absolute power of a monarch, the ‘divine right’ of kings?

Such would be a very strange position for three young, long-haired rockers (who only the previous year sang of the pleasures of dope in “A Passage to Bangkok“) to take. Either Peart was being ironic, or he was being metaphorical in his references to kings and castles as an ideal, or the lyric is in the voice of a reactionary whose political ideals are in sharp contrast with those of the band.

I’d say that a hint to what Peart was really writing about, perhaps by way of a Freudian slip, is in the line “Ancient nobles showering their bitterness on youth.” Does this line not encapsulate what the whole lyric presents to the listener–grumpy old men griping about all these bad kids, with their long hair, loud rock music, and sex and drugs, only it’s expressed with all this medieval imagery, just to reinforce how “ancient” the complainers are?

One thing to remember about Rush, and about Peart in the 1970s in particular, was the influence of right-wing libertarianism, and of “the genius of Ayn Rand” in their reworking of her novella, Anthem, in their side-long suite, “2112” (not to mention their song of the same name as her book, and in the name of Rush’s record label). Surely, these three haters of ‘Big Brother government’ weren’t holding up the monarchy as a fitting alternative. And if the idealizing of monarchy is meant as a metaphor, then for what?

I want to give Rush credit here, and say that this song, however much Peart insisted would “encapsulate everything that [they wanted] Rush to represent,” is meant as an ironic presentation of the views of authoritarian conservatives “showering their bitterness on youth.”

In other words, Rush represents ironic tongue-in-cheek.

Sandwiched in between these verses is a tight instrumental section in alternating 4/4 and 2/4, with Lifeson doing a solo with a delightfully angular tone on his Gibson ES-355 over Lee’s Rickenbacker bass octaves in A, and Peart’s tight drumming. Lifeson stops soloing for a moment and plays an A-chord with Lee’s A octaves and Peart’s drumming of the 4/4 and 2/4 rhythm; then we have just 4/4 and a chord progression of A major, G major, and D major, over which Lifeson resumes soloing before a reprise of the “Cities full of hatred…” verse.

A final verse, to the same music as that of the reprised verse, ends with the hope for a world that’s “closer to the heart,” an allusion to the famous song that acts as a solution to the problem presented in the title track. More on that later, of course.

Though lyrically, “Xanadu” is inspired by Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s classic poem “Kubla Khan,” Peart’s idea originally came from the classic film Citizen Kane, in which the titular character (based in part on William Randolph Hearst) owns a mansion called Xanadu. Just as the title track yearns for an ideal morality in the feudal past (metaphorically, if not literally), so does “Xanadu” involve a quest for the ideal of eternal life.

As with the title track, “Xanadu” begins with birdsong (indeed, Messiaen would have loved it!). We also hear a low E played on the bass pedal synthesizer, along with Lifeson soloing with a volume pedal, and Peart playing the Chinese temple blocks, swiping the chimes, and tapping an E on the tubular bells.

Next, Lifeson plays–no longer with the volume pedal–a seven-note cycle of E–E (octave higher)–A–B–E-flat–A-flat–A, which then brings in the bass and drums. After this passage in 7/8, we return to 4/4, still in E major, with a riff including a whirlwind of notes starting on D, in the E-Mixolydian mode. Then, we’re back to 7/8 (Rush’s favourite odd time), with Lifeson quickly strumming chords of E-major, D-major, B-major, A-major, and G-major, but with an open high E string (he does a lot of this–playing E-shape barre chords, but with the high E-string open, without the barre–at various points in the song). Peart joins in with cowbells of different pitches, and Lee with the bass pedals set at a treble range. The bass and drums soon join Lifeson in this 7/8 passage.

The instrumental opening goes on for about five minutes before Lee finally begins singing, making allusions to Coleridge’s poem. “Drink[ing] the milk of Paradise” is what the speaker hopes will confer immortality onto him, though the milk, combined with honeydew, also suggests the use of narcotics (recall, in this connection, “A Passage to Bangkok,” as well as Coleridge’s own drug use).

The speaker seeks the ideal of eternal life, and hopes to find in Kubla Khan’s “pleasure dome” the ideal abode, paradise. But just as hoping for moral ideals in a romanticized past in “A Farewell to Kings” is foolish, so is the speaker’s hope for happiness in immortality in Xanadu foolish.

A thousand years pass, and the speaker has no hope of dying. He yearns for the end of the world, hoping to be destroyed with it, and thus to be freed of the “prison of the lost Xanadu.” Just as Charles Foster Kane can find no happiness or fulfillment in his wealth and power, the speaker, in his “bitter triumph,” cannot find any in honeydew and the milk of paradise.

Wealth, power, immortality, ideals…these don’t provide happiness. That’s what A Farewell to Kings is all about.

Now, “A Farewell to Kings” may have presented the problem of immorality (just as “Xanadu” explored the problem of immortality), but “Closer to the Heart” presents an attempt at finding solutions. Obviously, “the heart” is meant to indicate that we need a world of love as the solution, though as I’ll later argue, the solution as given isn’t adequate.

From a formal, structural perspective, the song’s lyrics (written by Peart, but inspired by a verse by Peter Talbot, a friend of the band’s) are cleverly written, with parallel structure from verse to verse. Examples of such parallelism include the rhyming last words of the third line of each verse (“reality,” “creativity,” “mentality,” and “destiny”); in the first line of each verse are references to different careers one could have (“men who hold high places,” “the blacksmith and the artist,” “philosophers and ploughmen,” and “captain”); the blacksmith would “forge,” and the artist use his “creativity,” ploughmen “sow” the philosophers’ “new mentality,” and the captain goes “sailing into [the] destiny” of “the chart” that “I will draw.” The most obvious parallelism is the repeat of the song’s title in the last line of each verse.

Now, this all makes for fine rhetoric, which again uses archaic diction, as in the album’s title track, the question song to which “Closer to the Heart” is the proposed answer. Here’s the problem: nothing in the song actually details how we are supposed to move towards a more loving world.

Matters start to get a little disturbing when we consider how the band that’s preaching how we must move “closer to the heart” was only the previous year touting the ‘philosophy’ of an embittered Russian bourgeois expat in the US, she who wrote of The Virtue of Selfishness, which espoused “rational egoism,” or as I would call it, rationalized selfishness.

In all fairness to Rush, and to Peart in particular, when they recorded these 1970s albums, they were young and naïve about the world. Their expertise was in music, not politics. Given the intense anti-communist propaganda of the Cold War, the kind that raised a hack writer like Rand to fame (seriously, I read Anthem when I was young and, being similarly naïve at the time, was more sympathetic to the story’s anti-socialist message, and even then, I was not impressed with her prose), it’s easy to see how Peart could have been seduced by her ideas, as so many have been. And to be even fairer to Peart, in the last decade of his life, he confessed that he’d renounced Rand (who, incidentally, was no libertarian, but rather an advocate for capitalist government) and begun calling himself a “bleeding-heart libertarian“…translation: a liberal. Indeed, it was the individualism of her message, not the pro-capitalist one, that he’d always liked, anyway.

As for those conservative politicians whose Rand influence has stayed with them, look over the past forty years of neoliberalism and ask yourself honestly if their politics have steered the world any “closer to the heart.” Tax cuts for the rich have resulted in their wealth ballooning to the point that they can essentially buy politicians and both American political parties, ensuring that the owners of the big corporations determine the direction the world goes in, which means more for them and less for the rest of us (all of this has given a new, bitter irony to Peart’s complaints of “the seeds that we let grow”). As I’ve explained in other posts, the “free market” dialectically leads to “corporatism,” or the capitalist government that Rand wanted, the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.

So, with the song’s championing of a more loving world, with its clever rhetoric and a lack of a concrete plan for realizing its goal, “Closer to the Heart” is another example of the album’s theme of idealism. Note that utopian thinking exists on the left and on the right. Everyone has his or her own notion of the ‘perfect world’: there are, for example, the Nazi ideals of Lebensraum and judenrein, though decent people would never espouse such horrors. “Free market” fundamentalists’ notion of unbridled capitalism, through the voodoo of the invisible hand, leading to happiness and harmony is another utopian fantasy: how does unchecked selfishness help the world? It’s easy to see how it results in unaccountable corporate tyranny, though. And leftism isn’t necessarily all idealistic: contrary to popular belief, Marxism is not, as I explained here, utopian socialism, but scientific, grounded in revolutionary theory.

Now, “Closer to the Heart” may have failed to provide a method for achieving the more loving society, but Lee’s lyric for “Cinderella Man” gives us something of an idea. Just as “Xanadu” was inspired (in part) by a classic old black-and-white movie, so was this one: namely, by Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, one of Lee’s favourites.

Longfellow Deeds (played by Gary Cooper) is dubbed the “Cinderella Man” by a newspaper reporter, named Louise “Babe” Bennett (played by Jean Arthur), because of his sudden rags-to-riches inheritance of his late uncle’s $20,000,000 fortune. He’s from a town called Mandrake Falls, and he goes to New York to get the money.

Since Deeds eventually decides to give all of the money to poor, starving farmers (the 1936 film is set during the Great Depression), powerful men scheme to get their hands on his money by having him declared insane, and therefore too mentally incompetent to be trusted with the responsibility of managing and dispensing with so huge a sum of money. His eccentric behavior, which includes suddenly punching men for no apparent reason, walking in the rain, and feeding a horse an excess of donuts, seems to confirm that he’s insane. In fact, a psychiatrist deems him to be a manic depressive. In the end, though, they “just couldn’t beat him.”

So, Lee’s lyric tells the plot of the film in an extremely abbreviated form. The proposed ideal moral solution to the problem of poverty is, essentially, a kind of charity, acts of generosity done of one’s free, individual will, as opposed to the workers’ revolutionary seizing control of the means of production, resulting in a state-planned economy providing free healthcare, education, housing, and full employment.

It’s interesting to note, in light of Rand’s influence on Peart, that Mr. Deeds Goes to Town is a film by Frank Capra, who also did It’s a Wonderful Life, another film about the value of Christian charity, and one despised by the likes of Rand, who have idiotically claimed it is a “communist” film. Capra, a kind of right-wing libertarian in his own right, didn’t even like FDR’s New Deal, which was meant to keep the Depression-era American working class from agitating for a socialist revolution. As I argued in my analysis of this latter film (link above), the notion that altruism of any kind can be airily called “communist” really only displays the mean-spiritedness of the “rational egoists.”

“Madrigal” is a simple love song, with a sweet melody that Lee plays on his Minimoog, and with Peart’s drums recorded in an echo room. Even this love song can be seen as a manifestation of the theme of ideals, for when one is in love, one idealizes the love object, ignoring his or her faults, and exaggerating his or her virtues, especially as a contrasting bulwark against this harsh world we live in, as expressed in Peart’s lyric. That the song is called madrigal is again, as with much of the diction of its lyric, an example of the use of archaic imagery (suggesting associations with courtly love poetry, which idealized the Lady as love object), reinforcing that sense of idealizing a distant past against our troubled modern world.

“Cygnus X-1 Book One: The Voyage” is, in contrast to the previous songs’ settings at different points in the past, a science fiction story about going “across the Milky Way” in a spaceship to reach a black hole “in the constellation of Cygnus.” It’s in four parts, the Prologue opening with an electronically-altered narration by Terry Brown, the producer of A Farewell to Kings and all the other Rush albums from their second, Fly by Night, up to Signals.

1 is very brief, with Lee singing of how entry “through the void” of the black hole leads one “to be destroyed,” or could it be a wormhole into either another part of the universe, or a door to a parallel one? Our protagonist dares to find out.

Lee begins playing broken-up segments of the bass line that, when Lifeson and Peart join in, will comprise a riff in 3/4, 7/8, 3/4, and 4/4. Soon after, a frantic riff comes in with chords of C-sharp minor, E minor, and G-sharp minor, which we’ll hear again at the climactic end of the song. A guitar line of G, A-flat, B, C, D, E-flat, F-sharp, and G leads into a riff in 11/8, 12/8, and 11/8, with chords in C minor, a passing chord of B minor to F-sharp major, E-flat minor, and a passing chord of D minor back to C minor. The Minimoog eventually comes in, largely doubling the chords.

2, narrated by the protagonist, describes the flight on his ship, the Rocinante, which is named after the horse ridden by Don Quixote, a foolish idealist who, having read so many chivalric romances, fancies himself such a hero, a knight-errant in search of adventure. He’s an awkward fool, engaging in a task far beyond his abilities. The protagonist in the spaceship is similarly foolish and idealistic, engaging in a dangerous quest (though, in “Book Two: Hemispheres,” he enters–through a wormhole, presumably–the world of the Apollonian and Dionysian battle of the mind and heart, achieving the ideal of balance between the two).

Beginning this section is an upbeat chord progression of C major, F major, D major, and G major, musically suggesting the rosy optimism of the protagonist. Things don’t stay positive for long, though.

A repeat of the G, A-flat, B, C, D, E-flat, F-sharp, and G leads to a solo by Lifeson with the wah-wah pedal. Next is a quieter section suggesting the traveling of the Rocinante deep into space, with Lifeson playing octaves of C, A-flat, and B. Backed by Peart’s drumming, Lee comes in with his bass soon after, with fragments of his bass line from that frantic, climactic progression heard in the Prologue and soon to be heard again–notes of C-sharp, E and G-sharp…hearing this is a foreshadowing of the protagonist’s doom. Fittingly, the bass line does a bitonal clash with the guitar line, reinforcing the sense of tension building up to the climax. But just before that climax, there’s a louder section in E, in 4/8, 3/8, and 4/8.

3 has the Rocinante spinning out of control as it reaches the black hole, with that frantic chord progression fully developed in the form of C-sharp minor, E minor, G-sharp major, and G major, then C-sharp minor, E minor, and C minor, all in 6/8. The protagonist screams out that his “every nerve is torn apart.” (The tragedy of his self-destruction in his spaceship is paralleled by the farce of Don Quixote charging, on his horse, the windmills.)

The song ends with soft but eerie chords of C minor, E-flat minor, and E minor added ninth, then E minor again, but without the ninth. This fades out, suggesting the fading out of the protagonist’s life.

The protagonist thus goes through the whole Hegelian dialectic of being, nothingness, and in Book Two, the sublation of being and non-being, that of becoming, the balance between the two (as well as that between the Apollonian mind and the Dionysian heart), the achievement of the Hegelian ideal.

But this ideal isn’t to be reached until the next album. Instead, as far as A Farewell to Kings is concerned, our quixotic hero just destroyed himself, as does the drinker of the milk of paradise in the other long song ending Side One of this album. The first hero destroys his mind in madness, and the second destroys his body; the first erases the possibility of his non-existence, the second erases his existence…both heroes doing so in the foolish pursuit of unattainable ideals.

‘The Targeter,’ a Surreal Novel, Chapter Fourteen

I see a tiny, glowing white dot in the middle of the endless black all around me. I’m floating toward that dot of light, which is getting bigger.

Now that I’m close enough to it, I can see that the dot of white light is actually an exit from this void of infinite darkness. I’m approaching it, and instead of glowing light, I see those waves of the endless, universal sea.

I’ve re-entered that sea, and I’m swimming in it, breathing the water as if I had gills instead of nostrils. I feel a soothing peace vibrating all around me and in me.

I’m coming to understand the full extent of how all is one. Everything within and outside of me is one. Everywhere is an eternal here. I am connected to all around me.

All of time is one. The past, the present, and the future are merged in endless cycles. Only now is real: the past and future are just human constructs.

Everything that happens is unified. Opposites flow into and out of each other in dialectical waves. All people, and all of their actions, are a yin and yang mixture of good and evil, wisdom and folly, beauty and ugliness. My own nature and behaviour are equally such mixtures.

With this understanding of oneness also comes an understanding of the universal, eternal fluidity of everything within and without. This is why I see the waves of an ocean everywhere, undulating without end.

I can feel the feelings of other people flowing into me, and my feelings are flowing out to all of them, like water, to be felt by all the other people. As we all share each other’s feelings, I sense my alert, conscious awareness of every second, every wave flowing up and down all around me, soothing me, massaging my skin.

The dialectical relationship between all opposites, their essential unity, feels not only like the up-and-down movement of waves, but also like a continuum coiled into a circle, the extreme opposites meeting and flowing into each other.

I see a large serpent in the water; it’s coiled in a circle, biting its tail. Darker and lighter shades of green are moving along the body of the serpent, either darkening its scales or making them sparkle. These tints and shades of green are moving from the bitten tail, along the length of its coiled body, around to its biting head, then through to the bitten tail again. Those moving tints and shades are all the opposites of the world, eternally flowing into each other.

Seeing these flowing movements instills in my mind the truth that all things shift from good to bad, to good and to bad, and back to good again, around and around in cycles, forever and ever. This is why I should be patient when the bad times come, but I should also keep from being too attached to the evanescent good times.

So the world, just like all the people in it, including myself, should be seen in a middling way: neither too exciting, nor too rejecting. We must see everything and everyone as they truly are, not as we conceive of them in our fantasies and nightmares. We must refrain from exaggerating, seeing all as either too good or too bad.

Pain is healed by feeling it, by confronting it, as I did in that black hole. Pain must also be expressed, in the spoken or written word, in order to heal it. Another way to heal pain is to consider it not only through the Unity of Space, which includes the unity of Self and Other, but also through the Unity of Action, which reveals, through the dialectical relationship between opposites that I saw in that serpent biting its tail, how going overboard with extremes of pain, we can go past the extremes and achieve soothing. By contemplating not only our own suffering, but adding to it the suffering of others, others felt as ourselves, we achieve compassion and empathy, growing thus into better people.

In this way, by listening to others instead of just preaching to them, we self-soothe as well as soothe others. We self-soothe by contemplating not only our own ups and downs, but also those of other people; and in seeing the unity between up and down, good and bad, we know that the bad is never permanent.

In contemplating the Unity of Time, knowing that now is the only real time, and that endless cycles bring good and bad back again and again, we focus on the present instead of worrying about the future and ruminating over past failures. The endless cycles of good and bad phasing in and out of each other mean neither is permanent: don’t be attached to the good, and patiently wait for the bad to drift away.

Wait! Am I melting? Yes! My body is being absorbed into the infinite ocean! Atman is fusing with Brahman. My body is becoming one with the waters I’ve been swimming in! Oh, bliss! Oh, sweet nirvana! I have attained enlightenment, and as soon as my watery form concentrates, bringing me back to human form, I’ll be ready to teach the Way to any with ears to hear. Those five followers will come back, for sure!

Of course, this melting feeling of mine could just be part of my ketamine high.

Firs

A
tree
of life,
adorned
with fruit,
was denied
us when Adam
and Eve disobeyed
God.

A
man
named
Boniface
cut down a
tree to stop the
pagans worshiping
them.

A
tree
is put,
adorned
with lights,
in every home
to celebrate that
birth of the second
Adam.

A
fir is
felled,
for every
home, to put
cash in pockets,
not for the baby’s
sake.

A
fir may
point up to
heaven, but not
if it’s cut down. The
triangle has no Trinity if
hewn.

A
Xmas
tree has no
meaning in a
home where folks
just spend money and
not time with their loved
ones.

A
fir cut
down won’t
end pagan ways
or bring back Eden.
Xmas shopping for its
own sake just moves cash
from poor pockets to richer
ones.

‘The Targeter,’ a Surreal Novel, Chapter Thirteen

I look up above my head and see the overhanging leaves of a tree. I look down and see I’m sitting on a bench; yes, those five people must have put me in the same place where that meditating man was.

Maybe they left me here, not out of disappointment in my potential, but rather because of that potential. By leaving me in the seat of the meditating wise man, they’re trying to inspire me to emulate him, to search for enlightenment as he had. Yes, that’s it!

I won’t disappoint those five people! I won’t move from here until I’ve attained enlightenment! (Actually, because of my ketamine high, I can’t move at all, but anyway…)

Ooh! Sudden gunfire from further off. A few explosions, flashes of light. That startled me.

Anyway, let’s see: to be a wise leader who will bring liberation, justice, and an end to the war, I must acquire knowledge of the true nature of the world. I must close my eyes, focus, and go beyond the limitations of my ego. I must also transcend feelings of desire and hate…

Beyond all the surface differences, there is oneness, but the differences must also be acknowledged–in the form of wavelike movements from one state to its opposite, and back and forth, and back and forth, over and over again…

I feel myself vibrating all over. My ketamine high has erased my sense of the boundary between me and not-me. Meditation is heightening my sense of unity with my surroundings…

Everything inside and outside feels…oceanic, all waves flowing into me, within me, and flowing out of me. The whole world, the whole universe, feels like an ocean with no boundaries or shores anywhere out there–just water. It’s a peaceful, soothing experience.

I’m making progress.

Along with this unity of all within and without, the unity of crests and troughs flowing into and out of each other, I feel my sense of relationships with others becoming more unified, too. As well as everything becoming more unified, everything feels more real, too.

Up until now, my perception of other people has been, on the one hand, an idealizing of others, a lusting and yearning for perfection in others, imaginary others; on the other hand, though, there’s been a perception of others as lowly and contemptible, a hating and rejecting of others, these also being imaginary people. I’ve felt my perception of others as being split in two, a hallucinatory halving into black and white.

Now, however, everyone seems more realistic, a grey in between the black and white, a sense that all people are a mix of good and bad. I feel I’m understanding humanity as it actually is, not as figments of my imagination.

As I watch the slowly-moving waves of that universal ocean, flowing gently before my mind’s eye, I also see a black hole growing there. First, it appeared as a tiny black dot, then it began growing and growing until now, it’s big enough for me to be sucked into it.

I’m scared.

Still, I know that I must confront this huge void. Its shape has changed from that of a large circle into that of a human silhouette about my size. I should talk to it. Will it answer my questions?

“Hello,” I say out loud.

I feel, instead of hear, its answer. Hello.

“Who are you?” I ask.

I’m every pain you have ever felt, I feel it say.

“What are those pains?”

You know what they are. You just don’t want to face them.

“Very well: how do I face them?”

Come inside me, it says, then it changes back into the giant hole, welcoming me in.

I float forward and enter the hole. Instead of seeing dark oceanic waves, I now see endless black.

“OK, I’m inside,” I say with impatience and fear. “Now what am I supposed to do?”

Talk to me, the voice says in my imagination. Talk.

“Talk about what?”

About any and every pain you’ve ever had in your whole life.

“Very well. I’ll start at the very beginning. Mother?”

Emerging from the centre of the void is an older woman in regal, Oriental clothes. I can’t quite make out her face. She must be my long-lost mother, the queen who died about a week after I was born.

I never knew her, but I saw plenty of pictures of her, so I’ll recognize her face when she comes close enough to me.

“Mother? Is that you? It’s your son, Sidney. Please come here and let me see you. Come and talk to me.”

She is coming closer, but I still can’t see her face clearly.

I grow anxious and impatient as she continues approaching.

Finally, she’s close enough for me to see her face.

“Queen Maya! My mother!” I shout in sobs.

I see her face, but she isn’t smiling, as my mother did in her pictures. This queen is scowling a familiar scowl.

My stepmother?

No, my mother!

There never was a stepmother.

There never was an ideal mother from which my stepmother represented a sad decline.

There never was an ideal world, a garden where she gave birth to me, an Eden from which our present world was a sad decline.

There are no ideal people, contrasted with contemptible people. There are only real people, a grey in between the imagined black and white. My ‘stepmother’ wasn’t all bad; my actual mother was far from all-good.

There is no heaven, no hell. Just life here on Earth, a mix of good and bad.

It hurts to know there’s no paradise to aspire to, yet it’s good to know the truth, not to be deceived by illusions. Knowing the truth is like an abrasion on the skin, but one can rub the hurt surface and soothe oneself.

I hear some more gunfire and explosions from further off, but they aren’t as loud or startling, so I can bear them better.

I’m making progress.

‘The Targeter,’ a Surreal Novel, Chapter Twelve

As I’m flying up high, I see myself passing by clouds that grey up the otherwise starry night sky. I must be flying sideways, because the ground so far down below me can be seen only through the far right corner of my right eye, and my left eye sees only the stars lighting up the black background. It’s if I were still lying on my side on the ground in front of my apartment.

Am I still?

No, that couldn’t be. My ketamine high is pushing me upwards.

I look to my right, which is down to the ground, and I see five Asians looking up at me: three young men and two young women who are obviously admiring my superhuman abilities as a great spiritual leader. I’ll go down and talk with them.

In front of them now, I see their five heads sideways, the tops of their heads to my left, and their bodies are seen through my right eye. I don’t think I’m reclining on the ground again; I think I’m hovering in the air in this sideways position, at eye-level with them.

I hear the five of them chatting about me. At first, I feel I’m not sure what they’re saying because I can make out only fragments of Chinese expressions.

I hear, “Poor man…sick…no doctors available…this terrible war…will die…” How can I put all of these fragments together to build meaning from them?

Oh, wait: this must be it: “We must come together to help the pitiful, poor man of the world. Everyone is sick, with no doctors available to help. Then there’s this terrible war, and everyone will die if we don’t do anything.”

That’s it! These five people want to help me organize and form an association of activists to transform society and help the world. They would help me end poverty, stop the wars, and heal the sick.

I can hear more chatting among them, more tiny fragments of Chinese phrases…did I just hear one of the two women say, “meditate”?…Yes! She wants our organization to practice meditation as a way to heal the emotional wounds of our alienating society!

Perhaps I can set an example, lead the way, by doing a little meditating myself, then these five can follow my lead. Just before I close my eyes to focus, I see the face of one of the three men. With my eyes closed, I see the silhouette of his head and shoulders…sideways, of course.

That sideways silhouette, with his head to my left and his shoulders to my right, turns clockwise until I see it properly right-side up. When the silhouette changes from a black shadow to a distinctive face again, though, I no longer see the face of that man.

I see the face of a demon, what looks like a Buddhist demon. I suddenly feel itchy all over. Am I scratching myself? I feel my itches appear, then disappear, but I can’t feel my fingers scratching myself.

I know: this is the demon, Itch. He doesn’t just cause literal, physical itches, but also the itches, the temptations, to do wrong: to lust after promiscuous women, to be selfish and fear death or pain rather than sacrifice oneself for the good of others.

I see Itch’s face more clearly now: apart from his horns, fangs, and red skin, he looks a lot like me.

He is flashing images of beautiful naked women dancing before me. What troubles me about this tempting sight is not some prudish attitude in me, but rather that images of idealized feminine beauty are a way I can escape from the real world that I must confront.

The king, my father, used to tempt me with nude, dancing women. He didn’t want me to see the real world, with its real, imperfect, suffering people, and now that I’ve renounced the privileges of the royal family, I shouldn’t be allowing myself to be tempted by fantasies here.

I hear more machine gun fire from not too far away. A few fireballs just exploded high in the air. A few fiery mushroom clouds, or so they look from here, are lighting up from the ground, too. I see a long line of fire, from my far left to my far right (I no longer seem to be floating sideways; I still seem to be right-side up), lighting up the horizon.

Itch is laughing the laugh of a maniacal villain as he looks at me, as if taunting me, challenging me to do something about the violence that is plaguing this island we’re living on.

A funny thing, though: I’m feeling no fear of pain or death, since firstly, I’m still peaking on my ketamine high and am therefore still dissociated from my body; and secondly, I still welcome death, since the hell of war that I see all around me seems to sum up life in general.

And now, Itch is trying to trouble me with guilt feelings over my having left the palace and renounced the family. The demon is flashing images of my wife, Jessie, and our son, Raoul, whom she’s holding in her arms. I hear her weeping, saying, “Sid, my husband, we miss you.”

I also see the king and my stepmother queen, both looking at me and frowning.

“What kind of a prince are you?” she hisses at me.

God, I hate her.

Since I know that this war has been caused to a great extent by my parents’ machinations–that is, their investments in weapons manufacturers and their war profiteering–I know that my abandoning of them is far from my conscience. My wife and son are living in luxury; they have little to complain about. The poor out here have much more to complain about.

I bring my hand down to the ground and touch it…at least, I see myself doing that, though I can’t feel either of my hands or the ground.

Itch is frowning; he and his temptations suddenly vanish.

I open my eyes and see, right-side up, those five people. (Did they sit me up on a chair or something?) They’re walking away from me, chattering away in Chinese. Again, I can make out only fragments of what they’re saying. I hear, “Give up…no hope…filthy man.”

Speaking of filth, the smell of vomit is gone. Someone must have cleaned it all up. I’m trying to make sense of what they just said.

Oh, I know! Those three men and two women, who at first thought I’d make a great spiritual and revolutionary leader, have given up on me because they think that I am not committed to our cause. After all, in opening my eyes, I showed my lack of concentration while meditating. A great spiritual leader would never show such a lack of concentration or discipline.

I must try harder to prove my worthiness to lead our movement. I’ll close my eyes again, keep them closed, and not stray from this place where I’m sitting (under the tree where I saw the meditating wise old man? It looks that way.); nor will I stray from my commitment to achieve spiritual enlightenment. With that enlightenment, I can lead a movement to end the war and help the poor!

I just hope my K-high won’t be too much of an obstacle to my efforts.

‘The Targeter,’ a Surreal Novel, Chapter Eleven

Wait a minute…no. I cannot have attained enlightenment. That would be far too easy, especially for a dope fiend like me.

I haven’t attained nirvana…I’m just really fucking high.

No, I’ll just have to work hard to attain it like everyone else, with discipline, like that old man meditating under the tree. That man I see over there…wait a minute. He’s gone! Oh, I wanted to ask him for guidance!

Oh, well. I’ll just have to look for him, or someone like him, to teach me how to gain that peace of mind I saw on his grinning face, that impressive grin I saw while hearing the bombs and gunfire all around me. I’ll float up and fly in the air in search of him, airborne by ketamine.

I’m flying as if lying on my side, as if reclining on the ground. Am I? I’m traveling high in the air, but I feel as if I’m not at all moving.

I see all these Asian faces looking at me in wonder and awe, amazed at my superhuman flying ability. I see a mix of wonder and worry, as if they think I’m having health problems. Am I? All I know is that I need to find that wise old man, or any wise old man, to guide me to enlightenment.

I see Asian gurus in robes advising me to use extreme discipline and self-denial. They tell me that I must learn to endure extreme pain and discomfort, including fasting.

One of them says to me, “The evil is inside of you, Sid! You must expel it! Vomit it out of your body!”

So I do.

My puke smells as awful as it looks, a pink ooze pouring out of my mouth and onto the stony ground that my head is using as a pillow. I hear voices in Chinese saying, “How disgusting! This foreigner needs a doctor.”

My stomach is empty…so empty. I need food…No! I must be disciplined and resist the urge for material comforts.

I’m getting dizzy. Everything around me is spinning. Apart from that, I feel nothing, as if I have no body.

I hear someone say in Chinese, “Is he dying?”

I’m scared.

Am I dying?

Hey! Was that an explosion in the sky? I thought I saw a huge fireball.

I hear machine gun fire. Since I don’t know where my body begins and ends, and I feel an ache in my…stomach?…I wonder if the bullets have hit me.

I feel a black hole growing in my centre. Is it a bullet hole? Is it my growing hunger? It hurts.

Am I going to throw up again? That puke stink is still all around me.

Wait…now I see only black all around me.

Am I dead? Have I become a huge black void? Is that what the black hole in my centre has grown into? A black everything?

Oh, my God…help me! Wait, I don’t believe in God.

I smell…food. Some kind of…rice pudding? Milk? I still see only black.

Something soft and mushy is going in my mouth…I think. Am I eating the rice pudding? I taste milk.

Hey, that feels better. Still, I’m really wasted. That smell of vomit is still nearby. I wish someone would clean it up.

The black void around me is gone. I’m floating in the air again, still on my side, as if I were lying on the ground.

I see groups of men in army uniforms. Some speak of liberation, some of revolution, others of “restoring order.” All of them are speaking in Chinese. Many are arguing.

Still floating in the air above, I look down and see all of these soldiers from a bird’s eye view. Some are anarchists, dressed all in black and carrying Molotov cocktails. They would overthrow the government immediately and replace it with the ideal world they want, or so I hear them shouting.

Some are wearing PLA uniforms, demanding loyalty to the Beijing government, their rifles pointed at the anarchists and the soldiers of the third group, who are in camouflage, their rifles also pointing at the anarchists and PLA men. This third group is shouting about wanting to restore order to the island.

Shots are fired. Molotov cocktails are thrown, breaking some windows in the neighbourhood buildings. I see a few more fireballs bursting in the night sky, breaking up the darkness.

Several of the men, one or two from each of the three groups, are lying on the streets and sidewalks by my apartment, bleeding. Those that aren’t dead are wailing and moaning in pain from their injuries.

I agree that revolutionary change must happen, to eliminate poverty and end this war; and I agree that some kind of restoration of order must come, so our lives can at least go back to normal. I don’t, however, want to see needless infighting among the revolutionaries, and I don’t want the restoration of order to be so repressive and violent.

These agitators, therefore, are not my kind of people. I’ll float away to some other part of town, one where I can hope to find either that wise old man, or some other guru, one not so extreme in his quest for nirvana, or some other revolutionaries to help me bring down this oppressive power structure we’re all forced to live under.

Buoyed by my ketamine high, I’m flying away from my home.

‘The Targeter,’ a Surreal Novel, Chapter Ten

Having just snorted my second line of K, I’m feeling an urge to go outside, as foolish an idea as that is. I felt no numbness from the last line; maybe I won’t feel numb from this one. We’ll find out.

I get up and stagger to the door.

My sparkling, dazzling ecstasy high is so powerful that I want to share my love with the world.

I walk out of my apartment. Did I close and lock the door? Who cares? It’s the world I must take care of, not myself!

I plod my way down the stairs, almost stumbling and falling a few times. It’s a good thing I’m holding onto the hand rail. I get to the ground floor, then begin staggering towards the front door.

I’m outside.

Not just outside my apartment building.

I’m…outside…my…body…

Am I floating?

Am I up in the air?

Am I one with my surroundings?

It sure feels that way.

I see that old man sitting under the tree with his eyes closed and his toothy grin. He looks so peaceful, with the sound of bombs and gunfire all around us.

I want to be him so badly.

A fuzzy, wave-like feeling is permeating my whole body, or this whole, vague presence where I am, be it in or outside of my body. There’s no sense of where I physically begin and end. Is there a boundary between that old man and me? There doesn’t seem to be.

I see him sideways, as if I’m lying on my side on the ground. Am I? I didn’t feel myself fall.

Everything…everything…feels fuzzy, wavy, vibrating…

I am that old man!

I am the great, wise one! Or at least, I’m going to be him.

I am Sid Arthur Gordimer, spiritual leader of the people! I will lead us all to enlightenment! Follow me, my disciples!

I am prince of the realm of Sakia, and I renounce my throne-to-be!

No, Father, I will not be the next king! You and that horrible stepmother of mine, the queen, can argue with me and yell at me all you want! I won’t continue the regal family line! I am leaving home, in search of enlightenment, and salvation for my impoverished people, those you have impoverished, Father, through your neglect!

I don’t want my inheritance, not one gold coin of it. Give it all to my wife, Jessie, and to our son, Raoul. When he comes of age, he can inherit your throne, if he wishes to have it!

As for me, I am leaving the palace! I am seeking liberation for myself and for all of our starving, oppressed people! When I attain my goal, I aim to be reclining on my side on the ground (as I am now?), in a state of perfect bliss and peace, with all of my followers standing and sitting around me, gazing on me in love.

Perhaps I’m already there, floating up to heaven, at the gates of nirvana-like perfection. It looks that way, with all these Asian faces looking at me (Indeed, I hear Chinese whispers of…is it…”Crazy foreigner”?…”On drugs”?…”needs a doctor”? I’m not sure; the voices aren’t clear.)

Nirvana isn’t to be actively sought out, anyway…is it? We already are there…we just need to wake up and recognize it, don’t we?…the Buddha-nature already within, the Atman that is already at one with Brahman. I feel no dividing line between my body and all that’s around me. I must have already attained enlightenment.

Haven’t I?

‘The Targeter,’ a Surreal Novel, Chapter Nine

I hear a loud boom and repeated gunfire outside.

How’s the war going out there? I wonder. Is the fighting getting closer?

I get up from the coffee table and walk to my right over to the front window. I push aside the curtains and look outside.

With the booming of more explosions, I see a few fireballs lighting up the night sky. Comparing their size to those I saw earlier tonight, before I started drinking and getting stoned, that is, I realize they’re noticeably bigger balls of fire now.

The rattling of machine gun fire is louder than before, too. The war is coming closer to home, for sure.

My ketamine high is starting to come down, but it’s still strong enough to keep me feeling that illusion of safety. I’ll snort another line in a few minutes.

The second half of that ecstasy pill is starting to kick in. I’m feeling that delicious sparkling, tingling sensation again. I’m feeling love…love for all of humanity, a wish to help everyone out there who is suffering and in need, though I’m not dumb or stoned enough to go outside and into the danger.

After seeing another few fireballs flashing in the sky, I look down at the sidewalks, road, and front area of my apartment. I’m on the second floor, so everything is easy to see; I can see quite a lot of detail down there, in spite of how disorienting my high is, and how dark it is out there.

I see a homeless old man, or so he seems by how filthy dirty he looks, and how he is lying on the sidewalk in front of my apartment. Greying and balding, he must be in his sixties at least. He is facing me, with his mouth wide open in a yawn; I notice a few missing teeth.

Poor guy, I think, with this love drug in me drawing out my compassion. He’s out there with no protection from the bombs or bullets. I should give him a snort of my Special K.

My eyes drift to the right, where I see what must be another homeless man, younger but just as filthy as the first. He’s walking over to the first one; perhaps they’re friends. This second one has gaping holes in his shirt and pants, and I can make out what must be boils all over his skin. His hideousness can only inspire pity.

There’s no way he’s gonna get medical care for his skin condition, I reason. Even with universal free healthcare here on this island, what with all the war wounded, he won’t be given anywhere near priority in the hospitals.

I hear another explosion and some machine gun fire. It must be getting really close, for during this last rattling of bullets, I just saw the chest of what appears to be a third homeless man burst open in a huge splash of red. He’s now lying on the sidewalk, motionless and lifeless to the left of the first derelict.

I’ll bet he has no family to grieve for him, I think as I see a pool of blood growing in an oval around his body. The other two homeless men, still in the exact same place, don’t seem to notice the blood getting on their clothes and shoes. I see a soldier running by–the one who shot him? Is he wearing a PLA uniform? I think it is.

I heave a big sigh, then look over to a bench on the left side of the front area of my apartment. There’s a tree with overhanging leafy branches over the bench, and after I squint my eyes and look more carefully there, I see an old man sitting there crosslegged with his eyes closed and a smile on his face.

Is it even possible to sit like that and meditate amidst all that mayhem? I wonder, then go back and sit at my coffee table.

I close my eyes.

I open my eyes, and instead of seeing my small apartment all around me, I see my parents’ mansion. Instead of wearing a T-shirt and shorts, I’m in a black Armani suit with a white shirt and dark purple tie. I’m looking out the front window on the second floor, looking out on the front lawn over to the front gates of our estate.

“What’s out there?” I ask, looking back at my father.

“You don’t need to know,” he, wearing the regal attire of an Oriental king, says with a frown of disapproval towards my, to him, excessive curiosity.

“But if I am to rule these people, I need to get to know them,” I say. Now I am dressed in similar, Asian clothing. Instead of a modern mansion, I see the elaborate interior design of an Oriental palace. Instead of the gates outside, I see palace walls at the far end of the front lawn as I look back through the window.

“You don’t need to see the filthy dirty masses to rule them,” my stepmother, dressed in modern clothing but no less a queen, says to me coldly. “If you went out there, you might catch their diseases. I forbid you to go out there.”

“I still want to see them, and I’m going,” I say. She tries to stop me, but I just walk past her. I pay no attention to her shouting as I leave the room, go down the stairs, and walk towards the front door. I’m in the black suit again, and the palace has returned to being the modern mansion.

I hear my father call out to the servants to make sure I have a retinue of followers to protect my “inviolable” self from the “riff-raff” outside. When such followers walk by me, I brush them aside.

“I want to be alone,” I snap at them.

Suddenly, I find myself outside the palace walls. I’m in my Oriental robes again. On the sides of the streets, I see destitute Chinese and Indians begging, sitting on the ground with bowls in front of them.

To see such abject poverty makes me feel ashamed to be dressed so well among them. As I continue walking, I look down at myself and see the black suit on me again. I hear gunfire and bombs exploding. I look in front of myself and see a homeless Indian man lying on the ground. He must be in his seventies, with his long, wiry white hair.

He looks hungry and in pain. I toss a few gold coins in the bowl he has lying by his head. He says something to me in his Hindustani dialect–“Thank you,” I assume. I notice that, as he’s speaking, half of his teeth are missing. He also has only a loincloth to cover his nakedness.

I continue my walk and see another homeless Indian, a younger one, but one with boils all over his semi-naked body. He, too, is wearing only a loincloth.

Are there no doctors to care for him? I wonder, giving him a few gold coins, too. I’m back in my Asian robes.

I notice the sharp smell of smoke in front of me. Is it a marijuana cigarette burning? It sure smells like that, but instead I see the burning body of a dead, homeless Indian. No gold coins will help him, or his family, since I see no one near him to grieve for him.

I hear a bomb explode and some gunfire not too far away. I look up at the sky and see fiery mushroom clouds turning all the blue to orange. I heave a sigh, feel my heart sinking, and turn around to return home.

My father has taken too little care of this, and he’ll continue to care too little, I think as I’m walking back to the palace.

As I’m going, though, I pass by an old man sitting under a tree in a park. Crosslegged, he has his eyes closed, and has a wide smile on his face. He’s at peace amidst this turmoil!

My body feels as if it’s glowing in a radiant fire. I’m sparkling and tingling all over. I feel the warmth and light of love permeating my body and shining all over me!

This meditating man has inspired me! His example has shown me what I must do: go out into the world and help humanity through spirituality and mysticism!

My father will never, ever use any of his wealth to help the poor or to end these wars, I think as I begin walking faster back home. Sakia’s influence over all of the politically powerful in our kingdom has ensured that the wealthy will never be taxed. But if I can reach the people spiritually, then inspire them to revolution, we can together solve the problem of the poor.

I see the walls and entrance to the palace. The gates open…as my eyes do.

I look around and see my humble living room again.

I hear the explosions and gunfire outside. A few flashes of light brighten the night sky past my window with those explosions.

I am definitely coming down from my K high. I’m starting to feel less safe, though the glow of universal love is at its most brilliant right now.

This ecstasy is powerful, I think.

I want to go out there and spread love, however dangerous it is outside.

I look down at my lines of ketamine.

A snort of one of them will be my armour.

I pick up my straw.

The K-hole isn’t anything more than illusory safety, I think as I bend down to snort the line. But if I die out there, I die. We’re all going to die, anyway. Why keep living in this shitty world?

‘The Targeter,’ a Surreal Novel, Chapter Eight

I turn my stoned, half-closed eyes to my left and see, over on the wall by my kitchen area, a poster of Mira Asule in a string bikini. She’s a pornographic model whose pictures I’ve worshipped and enjoyed looking at online over the years.

Recently, I’ve tried to resist looking at such pictures and video, not so much out of a wish to strengthen myself morally as out of a wish to avoid getting yet another virus on my laptop. The last thing I am is a saint.

Since the Indian music has ended, I get up and put on some electronic dance music. I sit back down at my coffee table. I look down on it, with its lines of ketamine not yet snorted, my glass of bourbon, my ecstasy pills (including the half-pill I haven’t taken yet), and my marijuana. My ecstasy high is wearing off, so I swallow that other half-pill with a gulp of Jim Beam.

“The last thing I am is a saint,” I whisper.

A loud bomb blows up not so far away outside. I feel the room shake. The gunfire outside is louder, nearer. Thankfully, my ketamine high is still strong enough to give me that illusory feeling of protection, so I don’t need to take another snort just yet.

We’re all going to die in that war outside, anyway; I’d might as well die happy.

After all, I’m no saint.

I close my eyes and continue my reverie.

I’m inside that mansion, in a room where a party is going on. I’m with male friends, including my cousin David, and loud electronic music is playing. Half-naked strippers are dancing around us. David has one in front of him with only a red thong on, while the one in front of me–Mira Asule–is gloriously naked from head to toe and grinning at me as if hoping I’ll choose her to be my wife…instead of the woman my parents–the king and queen–want me to marry.

“Enjoy this while you can,” I hear the voice of my father say as if it were the voice of a god from up in the heavens. “For tomorrow, you will marry Jessie Dara, the pretty daughter of one of my business partners.”

Now the room of the mansion looks like one in an Oriental palace. Mira, instead of being naked, is in an Indian getup, with darker skin and a red dot on her forehead. She’s dancing to Indian, rather than electronic, music now.

I pick up some gold coins and jewels and toss them her way. Then I pick up a large goblet of wine and drink a big gulp from it.

I look back up at Mira and see her lovely, skinny nakedness again, as she originally was, with peach-white skin, wavy brown hair, and those hypnotic brown eyes of hers. She’s bent over, legs spread out wide and exposing all of her anatomical secrets to me; she’s grinning at me upside-down from between her legs. I take an indulgent look at all of her, then look down at my glass of Jim Beam and Coke, and the lines of ketamine.

The Indian music has switched back to electronic music, the Oriental palace is the mansion again, and instead of gold and jewels, I have plain old paper money. I pick up a few hundred dollar bills and give them to her.

“Thank you, Sid,” she says with a giggle when taking the money, and then she rubs her sugary breasts against my face. I look down at the table, and instead of seeing ketamine, I see lines of cocaine. I’m tempted to snort a line, but I resist.

I look up. Instead of seeing Mira’s pretty, smiling face, I see that of my bride, Jessie. We kiss, and I hear, instead of pounding electronic music (or Indian music, for that matter), the applause of wedding guests out in the grassy backyard of the mansion. I also hear Mendelssohn’s Wedding March: I’d rather hear the electronica again.

Among the guests I can see my father grinning from ear to ear; he’s obviously so glad he’s kept me from going outside our home and seeing the world, but I still have an itch to know how the less fortunate out there live. My stepmother, the queen, is standing beside my father, smirking at me with what looks as if she has suspicious thoughts in her head. Is she reinforcing his wish to keep me locked up in our prison of a palace?

Yes, instead of the mansion and its backyard of green grass, I see the inside of our regal palace again. The whole family is in our royal finery again, including Jessie, who is no longer wearing a modern bridal gown and veil–she’s in colourful, resplendent, luxurious clothing. She also has a baby in her arms–our son, Raoul.

“Are you ready to take on the crown, my son?” Father asks me. Instead of answering, I look out the window to my right and at the outer castle wall, wondering what is beyond it.

“Sid?” Jessie asks me.

“Sidney Arthur Gordimer!” my stepmother shouts at me. “Your father, the king, just asked you a question!”

“What?” I say, looking back at him.

“Answer him!” the queen shouts.

I open my eyes and see my humble living room again, with the drugs and my drink on the coffee table, the poster of Mira on the wall, and the electronic music pounding away on my CD player.

I’m no saint, I think. I’m no king, either.

I hear the bombs and gunfire outside.

“And I’m sure as shit no prince,” I say. “I’m a goner.”