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THE DIVINE INVASION

Chapter 6

The girl Zina said, "I have something for you."

"A present?" He held out his hand, trustingly.

Only a child's toy. An information slate, such as every young person had. He felt keen disappointment.

"We made it for you," Zina said.

"Who is that?" He examined the slate. Self-governing factories turned out hundreds of thousands of such slates. Each slate contained common microcircuitry. "Mr. Plaudet gave me one of these already," he said. "They're plugged into the school."

"We make ours differently," Zina said. "Keep it. Tell Mr. Plaudet this is the one he gave you. He won't be able to distinguish them from each other. See? We even have the brand name on it." With her finger she traced the letters I.B.M.

"This one isn't really I.B.M.," he said.

"Definitely not. Turn it on."

He pressed the tab of the slate. On the slate, on the pale gray surface, a single word in illuminated red appeared.

VALIS

"That's your question for right now," Zina said. "To figure out what 'Valis' is. The slate is posing the problem for you at a class-one level ... which means it'll give you further clues, if you want them."

"Mother Goose," Emmanuel said.

On the slate the word VALIS disappeared. Now it read:

HEPHAISTOS

"Kyklopes," Emmanuel said instantly.

Zina laughed. "You're as fast as it is."

"What's it connected to? Not Big Noodle." He did not like Big Noodle.

"Maybe it'll tell you," Zina said.

The slate now read:

SHlVA

"Kyklopes," Emmanuel repeated. "It's a trick. This was built by the troop of Diana."

At once the girl's smile faded.

"I'm sorry," Emmanuel said. "I won't say it again out loud even one more time."

"Give me the slate back." She held out her hand.

Emmanuel said, "1 will give it back if it says for me to give it back. He pressed the tab.

NO

"All right," Zina said. "I'll let you keep it. But you don't know what it is; you don't understand it. The troop didn't build it. Press the tab."

Again he pressed the tab.

LONG BEFORE CREATION

"I --" Emmanuel faltered.

"It will come back to you," Zina said. "Through this. Use it. I don't think you should tell Elias either. He might not understand."

Emmanuel said nothing. This was a matter that he himself would decide. It was important not to let others make his choices for him. And, basically, he trusted Elias. Did he also trust Zina? He was not sure. He sensed the multitude of natures within her, the profusion of identities. Ultimately he would seek out the real one; he knew it was there, but the tricks obscured it. Who is it, he asked himself, who plays tricks like this? What being is the trickster? He pressed the tab.

DANCING

To that, he gave a nod of assent. Dancing certainly was the right answer; in his mind he could see her dancing, with all the troop, burning the grass beneath their feet, leaving it scorched, and the minds of men disoriented. You cannot disorient me, he said to himself. Even though you control time. Because I control time, too. Perhaps even more than you.

That night at dinner he discussed Valis with Elias Tate.

"Take me to see it," Emmanuel said.

"It's a very old movie," Elias said.

"But at least we could rent a cassette. From the library. What does 'Valis' mean?"

"Vast Active Living Intelligence System," Elias said. "The movie is mostly fiction. It was made by a rock singer in the latter part of the twentieth century. His name was Eric Lampton but he called himself Mother Goose. The film contained Mini's Synchronicity Music, which had considerable impact on all modern music to this day. Much of the information in the film is conveyed subliminally by the music. The setting is an alternate U.S.A. where a man named Ferris F. Fremount is president."

Emmanuel said, "But what is Valis?"

"An artificial satellite that projects a hologram that they take to be reality."

"Then it's a reality generator."

"Yes," Elias said.

"Is the reality genuine?"

"No; I said it's a hologram. It can make them see whatever it wants them to see. That's the whole point of the film. It's a study of the power of illusion."

Going to his room, Emmanuel picked up the slate that Zina had given him and pressed the tab.

"What are you doing?" Elias said, coming in behind him.

The slate showed one word:

NO

"That's plugged into the government," Elias said. "There's no point in using it. I knew Plaudet would give you one of those." He reached for it. "Give it to me."

"I want to keep it," Emmanuel said.

"Good grief; it says I.B.M. right on it! What do you expect it to tell you? The truth? When has the government ever told anyone the truth? They killed your mother and put your father into cryonic suspension. Let me have it, damn it."

"If this is taken from me," Emmanuel said, "they will give me another."

"I suppose so." Elias withdrew his hand. "But don't believe what it says."

"It says you're wrong about Valis," Emmanuel said.

"In what way?"

Emmanuel said, "It just said 'no.' It didn't say anything more." He pressed the tab again.

YOU

"What the hell does that mean?" Elias said, mystified.

"I don't know," Emmanuel said truthfully. He thought, I will keep using it.

And then he thought, It is tricking me. It dances along the path like a bobbing light, leading me and leading me, away, further, further, into the darkness. And then when the darkness is everywhere the bobbing light will wink out. I know you, he thought at the slate. I know how you work. I will not follow; you must come to me.

He pressed the tab.

FOLLOW ME

"Where no one ever returns," Emmanuel said.

***

After dinner he spent some time with the holoscope, studying Elias's most precious possession: the Bible expressed as layers at different depths within the hologram, each layer according to age. The total structure of Scripture formed, then, a three-dimensional cosmos that could be viewed from any angle and its contents read. According to the tilt of the axis of observation, differing messages could be extracted. Thus Scripture yielded up an infinitude of knowledge that ceaselessly changed. It became a wondrous work of art, beautiful to the eye, and incredible in its pulsations of color. Throughout it red and gold pulsed, with strands of blue.

The color symbolism was not arbitrary but extended back in time to the early medieval Romanesque paintings. Red always represented the Father. Blue the color of the Son. And gold, of course, that of the Holy Spirit. Green stood for the new life of the elect; violet the color of mourning; brown the color of endurance and suffering; white, the color of light; and, finally, black, the color of the Powers of Darkness, of death and sin.

All these colors could be found in the hologram formed by the Bible along the temporal axis. In conjunction with sections of text, complex messages formed, permutated, re-formed. Emmanuel never tired of gazing into the hologram; for him as well as Elias it was the master hologram, surpassing all others. The Christian-Islamic Church did not approve of transmuting the Bible into a color-coded hologram, and forbade the manufacture and sale. Hence Elias had constructed this hologram himself, without approval.

It was an open hologram. New information could be fed into it. Emmanuel wondered about that but he said nothing. He sensed a secret. Elias could not answer him, so he did not ask.

What he could do, however, was type out on the keyboard linked to the hologram a few crucial words of Scripture, whereupon the hologram would align itself from the vantage point of the citation, along all its spacial axes. Thus the entire text of the Bible would be focused in relationship to the typed-out information.

"What if I fed something new into it?" he had asked Elias one day.

Elias had said severely, "Never do that."

"But it's technically possible."

"It is not done."

About that the boy wondered often.

He knew, of course, why the Christian-Islamic Church did not allow the transmuting of the Bible into a color-coded hologram. If you learned how you could gradually tilt the temporal axis, the axis of true depth, until successive layers were superimposed and a vertical message -- a new message -- could be read out. In this way you entered into a dialogue with Scripture; it became alive. It became a sentient organism that was never twice the same. The Christian-Islamic Church, of course, wanted both the Bible and the Koran frozen forever. If Scripture escaped out from under the church its monopoly departed.

Superimposition was the critical factor. And this sophisticated superimposition could only be achieved in a hologram. And yet he knew that once, long ago, Scripture had been deciphered this way. Elias, when asked, was reticent about the matter. The boy let the topic drop.

There had been an acutely embarrassing incident at church the year before. Elias had taken the boy to Thursday morning mass. Since he had not been confirmed, Emmanuel could not receive the host; while the others in the congregation gathered at he rail Emmanuel remained bent in prayer. All at once, as the priest carried the chalice from person to person, dipping the wafers in the consecrated wine and saying, "The Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which was shed for thee --" all at once Emmanuel had stood up where he was in his pew and stated clearly and calmly:

"The blood is not there nor the body either."

The priest paused and looked to see who had spoken.

"You do not have the authority," Emmanuel said. And, upon saying that, he turned and walked out of the church. Elias found him in their car, listening to the radio.

"You can't do that," Elias had said as they drove home. "You can't tell them things like that. They'll open a file on you and that's what we don't want." He was furious.

"I saw," Emmanuel said. "It was a wafer and wine only."

"You mean the accidents. The external form. But the essence was --"

"There was no essence other than the visible appearance," Emmanuel answered. "The miracle did not occur because the priest was not a priest."

They drove in silence after that.

"Do you deny the miracle of transubstantiation?" Elias asked that night as he put the boy to bed.

"I deny that it took place today," Emmanuel said. "There in that place. I will not go there again."

"What I want," Elias said, "is for you to be as wise as a serpent and as innocent as a dove."

Emmanuel regarded him.

"They killed --"

"They have no power over me," Emmanuel said.

"They can destroy you. They can arrange another accident. Next year I'm required to put you in school. Fortunately because of your brain damage you won't have to go to a regular school. I'm counting on them to --" Elias hesitated.

Emmanuel finished, "-- Consign anything they see about me that is different to the brain damage."

"Right."

"Was the brain damage arranged?"

"I -- Perhaps."

"It seems useful." But, he thought, if only I knew my real name. "Why can't you say my name?" he said to Elias.

"Your mother did," Elias said obliquely.

"My mother is dead."

"You will say it yourself, eventually."

"I'm impatient." A strange thought came to him. "'Did she die because she said my name?"

"Maybe," Elias said.

"And that's why you won't say it? Because it would kill you if you did? And it wouldn't kill me."

"It is not a name in the usual sense. It is a command."

All these matters remained in his mind. A name that was not a name but a command. It made him think of Adam who named the animals. He wondered about that. Scripture said:

... and brought them unto the man to see what he would call them ...

"Did God not know what the man would call them?" he asked Elias one day.

"Only man has language," Elias explained. "Only man can give birth to language. Also --" He eyed the boy. "When man gave names to creatures he established his dominion over them."

What you name you control, Emmanuel realized. Hence no one is to speak my name because no one is to have -- or can have -- control over me. "God played a game with Adam, then," he said. "He wanted to see if the man knew their correct names. He was testing the man. God enjoys games."

"I'm not sure I know the answer to that," Elias said.

"I did not ask. I said."

"It is not something usually associated with God."

"Then the nature of God is known."

"His nature is not known."

Emmanuel said, "He enjoys games and play. It says in Scripture that he rested but I say that he played."

He wanted to feed that into the hologram of the Bible, as an addendum, but he knew that he should not. How would it alter the total hologram? he wondered. To add to the Torah that God enjoys joyful sport ... Strange, he thought, that I can't add that. Someone must add it; it has to be there, in Scripture. Someday.

***

He learned about pain and death from an ugly dying dog. It had been run over and lay by the side of the road, its chest crushed, bloody foam bubbling from its mouth. When he bent over it the dog gazed at him with glasslike eyes, eyes that already saw into the next world.

To understand what the dog was saying he put his hand on its stumpy tail. "Who mandated this death for you?" he asked the dog. "What have you done?"

"I did nothing," the dog replied.

"But this is a harsh death."

"Nonetheless," the dog told him, "I am blameless."

"Have you ever killed?"

"Oh yes. My jaws are designed to kill. I was constructed to kill smaller things."

"Do you kill for food or pleasure?"

"I kill out of joy," the dog told him. "It is a game; it is the game I play."

Emmanuel said, "I did not know about such games. Why do dogs kill and why do dogs die? Why are there such games?"

"These subtleties mean nothing to me," the dog told him. "I kill to kill; I die because I must. It is necessity, the rule that is the final rule. Don't you live and kill and die by that rule? Surely you do. You are a creature, too."

"I do what I wish."

"You lie to yourself," the dog said. "Only God does as he wishes."

"Then I must be God."

"If you are God, heal me."

"But you are under the law."

"You are not God."

"God willed the law, dog."

"You have said it, then, yourself; you have answered your own question. Now let me die."

When he told Elias about the dog who died, Elias said:

Go, stranger, and to Lacedaemon tell
That here, obeying her behests, we fell.

"That was for the Spartans who died at Thermopylae," Elias said.

"Why do you tell me that?" Emmanuel said.

Elias said:

Go tell the Spartans, thou that passeth by,
That here, obedient to their laws, we lie.

"You mean the dog," Emmanuel said.

"I mean the dog," Elias said.

"There is no difference between a dead dog in a ditch and the Spartans who died at Thermopylae." He understood. "None," he said. "I see."

"If you can understand why the Spartans died you can understand it all," Elias said.

You who pass by, a moment pause;
We, here, obey the Spartan laws.

"Is there no couplet for the dog?" Emmanuel asked.

Elias said:

Passer, this enter in your tog:
As Spartan was, so, too, the dog.

"Thank you," Emmanuel said.

"What was the last thing the dog said?" Elias said.

"The dog said, 'Now let me die.'"

Elias said:

Lasciatemi morire!
E chi volete voi che mi conforte
In cosi dura sorte,
In cosi gran martire?

"What is that?" Emmanuel said.

"The most beautiful piece of music written before Bach," Elias said. "Monteverdi's madrigal 'Lamento D' Arianna.' Thus:

Let me die!
And who do you think can comfort me
in my harsh misfortune,
in such grievous torment?

"Then the dog's death is high art," Emmanuel said. "The highest art of the world. Or at least celebrated, recorded, in and by high art. Am I to see nobility in an old ugly dying dog with a crushed chest?"

"If you believe Monteverdi, yes," Elias said. "And those who revere Monteverdi."

"Is there more to the lament?"

"Yes, but it does not apply. Theseus has left Ariadne; it is unrequited love."

"Which is more awesome?" Emmanuel said. "A dying dog in a ditch or Ariadne spurned?"

Elias said, "Ariadne imagines her torment, but the dog's is real."

"Then the dog's torment is worse," Emmanuel said. "It is the greater tragedy." He understood. And, strangely, he felt content. It was a good universe in which an ugly dying dog was of more worth than a classic figure from ancient Greece. He felt the tilted balance right itself, the scales that weighed it all. He felt the honesty of the universe, and his confusion left him. But, more important, the dog understood its own death. After all, the dog would never hear Monteverdi's music or read the couplet on the stone column at Thermopylae. High art was for those who saw death rather than lived death. For the dying creature a cup of water was more important.

"Your mother detested certain art forms," Elias said. "In particular she loathed Linda Fox."

"Play me some Linda Fox," Emmanuel said.

Elias put an audio cassette into the tape transport, and he and Emmanuel listened.

Flow not so fast, ye fountains,
What

"Enough," Emmanuel said. "Shut it off." He put his hands over his ears. "It's dreadful." He shuddered.

"What's wrong?" Elias put his arm around the boy and lifted him up to hold him. "I've never seen you so upset."

"He listened to that while my mother was dying!" Emmanuel stared into Elias's bearded face.

I remember, Emmanuel said to himself. I am beginning to remember who I am.

Elias said, "What is it?" He held the boy tight.

It is happening, Emmanuel realized. At last. That was the first of the signal that I -- I myself -- prepared. Knowing it would eventually fire.

The two of them gazed into each other's faces. Neither the boy nor the man spoke. Trembling, Emmanuel clung to the old bearded man; he did not let himself fall.

"Do not fear," Elias said.

"Elijah," Emmanuel said. "You are Elijah who comes first. Before the great and terrible day."

Elias, holding the boy and rocking him gently, said, "You have nothing to fear on that day."

"But he does," Emmanuel said. "The Adversary whom we hate. His time has come. I fear for him, knowing as I do, now, what is ahead."

"Listen," Elias said quietly.

How you have fallen from heaven, bright morning star,
felled to the earth, sprawling helpless across the nations!
You thought in your own mind,
I will scale the heavens;
I will set my throne high above the stars of God,
I will sit on the mountain where the gods meet
in the far recesses of the north.
I will rise high above the cloud-banks
and make myself like the Most High.
Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol,
to the depths of the abyss.
Those who see you will stare at you,
they will look at you and ponder ...

"You see?" Elias said. "He is here. This is his place, this little world. He made it his fortress two thousand years ago, and set up a prison for the people as he did in Egypt. For two thousand years the people have been crying and there was no response, no aid. He has them all. And thinks he is safe."

Emmanuel, clutching the old man, began to cry.

"Still afraid?" Elias said.

Emmanuel said. "I cry with them. I cry with my mother. I cry with the dying dog who did not cry. I cry for them. And for Belial who fell, the bright morning star. Fell from heaven and began it all."

And, he thought, I cry for myself. I am my mother; I am the dying dog and the suffering people, and I, he thought, am that bright morning star, too ... even Belial; I am that and what it has become.

The old man held him fast.

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