St. Paul Mavrides
Excerpts from the Novel-in Progress

Chapter Four

I may not know Reality, but I know what I like

J.R. "Bob" Dobbs, Divine Secrets of Sales Lecture 13013

You can't say Dallas doesn't love you!

Nelie Connally to John Kennedy, seconds before the assassination, November 22, 1963

Stang and Dobbs had set up temporary headquarters for their collection of followers in an old Burger Chef on the west edge of things. It was bad ground. Lots of Dallas industry had left behind lots of bad chemistry. Add the BZ gas and nerve weapon residue from the End Time and it made a sweet stew. Just what "Bob" liked to eat for breakfast.

It took almost a whole day and a case of metal-piercing ammunition to reach the "Temple." Rooters and civilian militia had tied us up in Dealy Plaza for the better part of the afternoon, until Wellman had managed to put the X-ray laser back together. His talent for breaking equipment had almost cost us our lives several times that day.

We had always joked in the past about the shining, glass offices of downtown, about how the monstrous, multi-colored rectangles reflected the hellishly hot rays of Texas noon sun back and forth between their tinted finishes, each new refraction angle making the beams a little bit more coherent, a little bit stronger, until, at some unoccupied focal point where all the invisible beams intersected, twenty feet or so above the middle of State Street, there was a single, square-inch of space that had the surface temperature of a small star, able to vaporize anything moving across it. God help the pigeons that flew around down there.

We should have known better. The pigeons had long ago all been caught and eaten by the starving citizens of Dallas. The Men In Black warned us of the psychic violence the area seemed to exude and of its effect on organics. They told us that the mirrored angles of the banks and hotels compounded this urge to destruction, that the geometry of the downtown area was an illness itself planned long ago by now-dead Rebel architects, that this rationality-sapping phenomenon was strongest right around City Center. This effect was so intense in Fort Worth that the Xists didn't even bother trying to save it, just melted the place down to slag first thing off. They lent us their best left-brain filters, but it was still depressing. Wellman and I squabbled away the whole time, like some demented survivalist rewrite of "The Bickersons."

As for the rest of Dallas, "the city that shoots Presidents and shoots the people that shoot at Presidents", nothing remained. Block after block of ruins, stretching away for miles. Dead cars filled the streets and freeways, killed in their tracks when the first electro-magnetic pulse had reached them, frying out their generators. The horizon lay flat, broken only by the randomly placed skeleton of a lonely office tower.

Some Rapture. At least most of the Christians had been killed in the first ten minutes. They had asked for it and had got exactly what they deserved. When JHVH-1 turned out to despise these God-fearing, sycophantic maggots, every one of them was sent to their reward. Quickly. With pain. It hadn't done "The City of Love" any good.

We finally pulled up to Aftermath Central. "Victor" Street, indeed. Hah! You could still see the giant cement hamburger. A junk food god. It figured as much. The newsletter had promised a force-field and a mansion. You can't believe every thing you read. It didn't look like he had any 50,000 Bobzoids to command either.

Wellman stopped the tank and gave me a funny look. "All out for Bulldada Time-Control Laboratories."

We checked our handguns and hopped out onto the back `Parking Lot of the Gods.' That's what the faded sign said it was, anyway. The SubGenius Foundation that was being presented to the Bobbies didn't look so grand these days. I kicked in the service entrance door, an easy feat. The acid rain had eaten the hinges away awhile back. We walked past the large uncomfortable cages in which Ivan made everybody sleep. They had been used to store potatoes in more normal times. Now they appeared empty as we approached. I wasn't so sure. Invisibility was one of the first things a SubGenius learns to manifest. To think that this had been a food preparation area! I looked into the wooden boxes that served as the mating areas in their disgusting rituals, and recoiled. Invisible they might well be, but their mucous was strictly First Plane. The stains alone made me sick.

A multi-colored furball the size of a watermellon floated out from behind a broken deep-fryer. As we watched, it unfolded in thin layers until nothing but a pipe (now familiar) hung motionless before us at eye level.

"Cut the crap, Dobbs!" We were getting irritated at his moronic level of mysticism. Ever since The Retreat, "Bob" had been showing more and more signs of strain. We suffered a constant barrage of of sleazy magic tricks that those autistic aliens had taught him while he was off-planet being transformated.

The pipe had now turned orange and the smell of cheeseburgers permeated the gutted kitchen. Cheeseburgers! There hadn't been a cow alive for fifteen years! A ghostly background noise of grill hoods and Muzak faded in.

"May I help you?" Dobbs was speaking in Moe Howard's voice.

"Yes, I'll have large fries and a coke, asshole! Jesus, "Bob", give me some Slack! Where is Philo? We were supposed to trade him in for a shipment of the PILS, remember? Yesterday? It only almost got us killed when he didn't show! The Posse Comitatus didn't appreciate the deal falling through like that."

"Never mention Jesus in my Burger Chef."

"Dobbs, I get the feeling you're not `hearing me' as we used to say in California." Wellman's exasperation with our situation was growing by the second.

The fast food church had filled with bright blue water and little goldfish that all looked like "Bob", their miniature pipes trailing smoke as they schooled around us. Another hallucination. I was still able to breath. They always missed some detail. That was the problem with this inane religion. At least the aliens were methodical.


""Bob"! Calm down. It's OK. We don't need to know where Philo is. Who cares? Slack. Right?"


The water had changed into PILS! Mounds of them! We were waist deep in them! "Bob" had come through! Wellman was scooping them from the counters and shoving them into his mouth as fast as he could, washing them down with more PILS! The PAYOFF! Tens of thousands of the PILS! Even I was taken in by the sight! We could stop looking. We were set for Pre-Life!

The PILS disappeared, of course. In their place was Dobbs. What a clown.

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