Following his spectacular suicide attempt with the pills, the razor sharp blade and the car engine, all this due to Beth taking their son Christopher and leaving him, Fat found himself locked up in the Orange County mental hospital. An armed cop had pushed him in a wheelchair from the cardiac intensive care ward through the underground corridor which connected with the psychiatric wing.
Fat had never been locked up before. From the forty-nine tablets of digitalis he had suffered several days of PAT arrhythmia, since his efforts had yielded maximum dig toxicity, listed on the scale as Three. Digitalis had been prescribed for him to counter an hereditary PAT arrhythmia, but nothing such as he experienced while dig toxic. It's ironic than an overdose of digitalis induces the very arrhythmia it is used to counteract. At one point, while Fat lay on his back gazing up at the cathode-tube screen over his head, a straight line showed; his heart had stopped beating. He continued to watch, and finally the trace dot resumed its wave-form. The mercies of God are infinite.
So in a weakened condition he arrived under armed guard at the psychiatric lock-up, where he soon found himself sitting in a corridor breathing vast amounts of cigarette smoke and shaking, both from fatigue and fear. That night he slept on a cot -- six cots to a room -- and discovered that his cot came equipped with leather manacles. The door had been propped open to the corridor so the psych techs could keep watch over the patients. Fat could see the commercial TV set, which remained on. Johnny Carson's guest turned out to be Sammy Davis, Jr. Fat lay watching, wondering how it felt to have one glass eye. At that point he had no insight into his situation. He understood that he had survived the dig toxicity; he understood that for all intents and purposes he was now under arrest for his suicide attempt; he had no idea what Beth had been doing during the time he lay in the cardiac intensive care ward. She had neither called nor come to visit him. Sherri had come first, then David. No one else knew. Fat particularly did not want Kevin to know because Kevin would show up and be cynical at his -- Fat's -- expense. And he wasn't in any condition to receive cynicism, even if it were well meant.
The chief cardiologist at the Orange County Medical Center had exhibited Fat to a whole group of student doctors from U.C. Irvine. OCMC was a teaching hospital. They all wanted to listen to a heart labouring under forty-nine tabs of high-grade digitalis.
Also, he had lost blood from the slash on his left wrist. What had saved his life initially emanated from a defect in the choke of his car; the choke hadn't opened properly as the engine warmed, and finally the engine had stalled. Fat had made his way unsteadily back into the house and lain down on his bed to die. The next morning he woke up, still alive, and had begun to vomit up the digitalis. That was the second thing which saved him. The third thing came in the form of all the paramedics in the world removing the glass and aluminum sliding door at the rear of Fat's house. Fat had phoned his pharmacy somewhere along the line to get a refill on his Librium prescription; he had taken thirty Librium just before taking the digitalis. The pharmacist had contacted the paramedics. A lot can be said for the infinite mercies of God, but the smarts of a good pharmacist, when you get down to it, is worth more.
After one night in the receiving ward of the psychiatric wing of the county medical hospital, Fat underwent his automatic evaluation. A whole host of well-dressed men and women confronted him; each held a clipboard and all of them scrutinized him intently.
Fat put on the trappings of sanity, as best he could. He did everything possible to convince them that he had regained his senses. As he spoke he realized that nobody believed him. He could have delivered his monolog in Swahili with equal effect. All he managed to do was abase himself and thereby divest himself of his last remnant of dignity. He had stripped away his self-respect by his own earnest efforts. Another Chinese fingertrap.
Fuck it, Fat said to himself finally, and ceased talking.
"Go outside," one of the psych techs said, "and we'll let you know our decision."
"I really have learned my lesson," Fat said as he rose and started out of the room. "Suicide represents the introjection of hostility which should better be directed outward at the person who has frustrated you. I had a lot of time to meditate during the intensive cardiac care unit or ward and I realized that years of self-abnegation and denial manifested itself in my destructive act. But what amazed me the most was the wisdom of my body, which knew not only to defend itself from my mind but specifically how to defend itself. I realize now that Yeats's statement, 'I am an immortal soul tied to the body of a dying animal' is diametrically opposite to the actual state of affairs vis-a-vis the human condition."
The psych tech said, "We'll talk to you outside after we've made our decision."
Fat said, "I miss my son."
No one looked at him.
"I thought Beth might hurt Christopher," Fat said. That was the only true statement he had made since entering the room. He had tried to kill himself not so much because Beth had left him but because with her living elsewhere he could not look after his little son.
Presently, he sat outside in the corridor, on a plastic and chrome couch, listening to a fat old woman tell how her husband had plotted to kill her by pumping poison gas under the door of her bedroom. Fat thought back over his life. He did not think about God, who he had seen. He did not say to himself, I am one of the few human beings who has actually seen God. Instead he thought back to Stephanie who had made him the little clay pot which he called Oh Ho because it seemed like a Chinese pot to him. He wondered if Stephanie had become a heroin addict by now or had been locked up in jail, as he was now locked up, or was dead, or married, or living in the snow in Washington like she had always talked about, the state of Washington, which she had never seen but dreamed about. Maybe all of those things or none of them. Maybe she had been crippled in an auto accident. He wondered what Stephanie would say to him if she could see him now, locked up, his wife and child gone, the choke on his car not working, his mind fried.
Were his mind not fried he probably would have thought about how lucky he was to be alive- -- not in the philosophical sense of lucky but in the statistical sense. Nobody survives forty-nine tabs of high grade pure digitalis. As a general rule, twice the prescribed dose of digitalis will off you. Fat's prescribed dose had been fixed at q.i.d.: four a day. He had swallowed 12.25 times his prescribed daily dose and survived. The infinite mercies of God make no sense whatsoever, in terms of practical considerations. In addition he had downed all his Librium, twenty Quide and sixty Apresoline, plus half a bottle of wine. All that remained of his medication was a bottle of Miles Nervine. Fat was technically dead.
Spiritually, he was dead, too.
Either he had seen God too soon or he had seen him too late. In any case, it had done him no good at all in terms of survival. Encountering the living God had not helped to equip him for the tasks of ordinary endurance, which ordinary men, not so favored, handle.
But it could also be pointed out -- and Kevin had done so -- that Fat had accomplished something else in addition to seeing God. Kevin had phoned him up one day in excitement, having in his possession another book by Mircea Eliade.
"Listen!" Kevin said. "You know what Eliade says about the dream-time of the Australian bushmen? He says that anthropologists are wrong in assuming that the dream-time is time in the past. Eliade says that it's another kind of time going on right now, which the bushmen break through and into, the age of the heroes and their deeds. Wait: I'll read you the part." An interval of silence. "Fuck," Kevin then said. "I can't find it. But the way they prepare for it is to undergo dreadful pain; it's their ritual of initiation. You were in a lot of pain when you had your experience; you had that impacted wisdom tooth and you were --" On the phone Kevin lowered his voice; he had been shouting. "You remember. Afraid about the authorities getting you."
"I was nuts," Fat had answered. "They weren't after me."
"But you thought they were and you were so scared you fucking couldn't sleep at night, night after night. And you underwent sensory deprivation."
"Well, I lay in bed unable to sleep."
"You started seeing colors, Floating colors." Kevin had begun to shout again in excitement; when his cynicism vanished he became manic. "That's described in The Tibetan Book of the Dead; that's the trip across to the next world. You were mentally dying! From stress and fear! That's how it's done -- reaching into the next reality! The dream-time!"
Right now Fat sat on the plastic and chrome couch mentally dying; in fact he was already mentally dead, and in the room he had left, the experts were deciding his fate, passing sentence and judgment on what remained of him. It is proper that technically qualified non- lunatics should sit in judgment on lunatics. How could things be otherwise?
"If they could just get across to the dream-time!" Kevin shouted. "That's the only real time; all the real events happen in the dream- time! The actions of the gods!"
Beside Fat the huge old lady held up a plastic pan; for hours she had been trying to throw up the Thorazine they had forced on her; she believed, she rasped at Fat, that the Thorazine had poison in it, by which her husband -- who had penetrated the top levels of the hospital staff under a variety of names -- intended to finish killing her.
"You found your way into the upper realm," Kevin declared. "Isn't that how you put it in your journal?"
48. Two realms there are, upper and lower. The upper derived from hyperuniverse I or Yang, Form I of Parmenides, is sentient and volitional. The lower realm, or Yin, Form II of Parmenides, is mechanical, driven by blind, efficient cause, deterministic and without intelligence, since it emanates from a dead source. In ancient times it was termed "astral determinism." We are trapped, by and large, in the lower realm, but are, through the sacraments, by means of the plasmate, extricated. Until astral determinism is broken, we are not even aware of it, so occluded are we. "The Empire never ended."
A small, pretty, dark-haired girl walked silently past Fat and the huge old woman, carrying her shoes. At breakfast time she had tried to smash a window using her shoes and then, having failed, knocked down a six-foot-high black technician. Now the girl had about her the presence of absolute calm.
"The Empire never ended," Fat quoted to himself. That one sentence appeared over and over again in his exegesis; it had become his tag line. Originally the sentence had been revealed to him in a great dream. In the dream he again was a child, searching dusty used- book stores for rare old science fiction magazines, in particular Astoundings. In the dream he had looked through countless tattered issues, stacks upon stacks, for the priceless serial entitled "The Empire Never Ended." If he could find it and read it he would know everything; that had been the burden of the dream.
Prior to that, during the interval in which he had experienced the two-world superimposition, he had seen not only California, USA, of the year 1974 but also ancient Rome, he had discerned within the superimposition a Gestalt shared by both space-time continua, their common element: a Black Iron Prison. This is what the dream referred to as "the Empire. " He knew it because, upon seeing the Black Iron Prison, he had recognized it. Everyone dwelt in it without realizing it. The Black Iron Prison was their world.
Who had built the prison -- and why -- he could not say. But he could discern one good thing: the prison lay under attack. An organization of Christians, not regular Christians such as those who attended church every Sunday and prayed, but secret early Christians wearing light gray-colored robes, had started an assault on the prison, and with success. The secret, early Christians were filled with joy.
Fat, in his madness, understood the reason for their joy. This time the early, secret, gray-robed Christians would get the prison, rather than the other way around. The deeds of the heroes, in the sacred dream-time .. .the only time, according to the bushmen, that was real.
Once, in a cheap science fiction novel, Fat had come across a perfect description of the Black Iron Prison but set in the far future. So if you superimposed the past (ancient Rome) over the present (California in the twentieth century) and super-imposed the far future world of The Android Cried Me a River over that, you got the Empire, the Black Iron Prison, as the supra or trans-temporal constant. Everyone who had ever lived was literally surrounded by the iron walls of the prison; they were all inside it and none of them knew it -- except for the gray-robed secret Christians.
That made the early, secret Christians supra or trans-temporal, too, which is to say present at all times, a situation which Fat could not fathom. How could they be early but in the present and the future? And if they existed in the present, why couldn't anyone see them. On the other hand, why couldn't anyone see the walls of the Black Iron Prison which enclosed everyone, including himself, on all sides? Why did these antithetical forces emerge into palpability only when the past, present and future somehow -- for whatever reason -- got superimposed?
Maybe in the bushmen's dream-time no time existed. But if no time existed, how could the early, secret Christians be scampering away in glee from the Black Iron Prison which they had just succeeded in blowing up? And how could they blow it up back in Rome circa 70 C.E., since no explosives existed in those days? And how, if no time passed in the dream-time, could the prison come to an end? It reminded Fat of the peculiar statement in Parsifal: "You see, my son, here time turns into space." During his religious experience in March of 1974, Fat had seen an augmentation of space: yards and yards of space, extending all the way to the stars; space opened up around him as if a confining box had been removed. He had felt like a tomcat which had been carried inside a box on a car drive, and then they'd reached their destination and he had been let out of the box, let free. And at night in sleep he had dreamed of a measureless void, yet a void which was alive. The void extended and drifted and seemed totally empty and yet it possessed personality. The void expressed delight in seeing Fat, who, in the dreams, had no body; he, like the boundless void, merely drifted, very slowly; and he could, in addition, hear a faint humming, like music. Apparently the void communicated through this echo, this humming.
"You of all people," the void communicated. "Out of everyone, it is you I love the most."
The void had been waiting to be reunited with Horselover Fat, of all the humans who had ever existed. Like its extension into space, the love in the void lay boundless; it and its love floated forever. Fat had never been so happy in all his life.
The psych tech walked up to him and said, "We are holding you for fourteen days."
"I can't go home?" Fat said.
"No, we feel you need treatment. You're not ready to go home yet."
"Read me my rights," Fat said, feeling numb and afraid.
"We can hold you fourteen days without a court hearing. After that with court approval we can, if we feel it's necessary, hold you another ninety days."
Fat knew that if he said anything, anything at all, they would hold him the ninety days. So he said nothing. When you are crazy you learn to keep quiet.
Being crazy and getting caught at it, out in the open, turns out to be a way to wind up in jail. Fat now knew this. Besides having a county drunk tank, the County of Orange had a county lunatic tank. He was in it. He could stay in it for a long time. Meanwhile, back at home, Beth undoubtedly was taking everything she wanted from their house to the apartment she had rented -- she had refused to tell him where the apartment was; she wouldn't even tell him the city.
Actually, although Fat didn't know it at the time, due to his own folly he had allowed payment on his house to lapse, as well as on his car; he had not paid the electric bill nor the phone bill. Beth, distraught over Fat's mental and physical state, could not be expected to take on the crushing problems Fat had created. So when Fat got out of the hospital and returned home he found a notice of foreclosure, his car gone, the refrigerator leaking water, and when he tried to phone for help the phone was dreadfully silent. This had the effect of wiping out what little morale he had left, and he knew it was all his own fault. It was his karma.
Right now, Fat did not know these things. All he knew was that he had been thrown in the lock-up for a minimum of two weeks. Also, he had found out one other thing, from the other patients. The County of Orange would bill him for his stay in the lock-up. As a matter of fact his total bill, including that portion covering his time in the cardiac intensive care ward, came to over two thousand dollars. Fat had gone to the county hospital in the first place because he didn't have the money to be taken to a private hospital. So now he had learned something else about being crazy: not only does it get you locked up, but it costs you a lot of money. They can bill you for being crazy and if you don't pay or can't pay they can sue you, and if a court judgment is issued against you and you fail to comply, they can lock you up again, as being in contempt of court.
When you consider that Fat's original suicide attempt had emanated out of deep despair, the magic of his present situation, the glamor, somehow had departed. Beside him on the plastic and chrome couch the huge old lady continued to throw up her medication in the plastic basin provided by the hospital for such matters. The psych tech had taken hold of Fat by the arm to lead him to the ward where he would be confined during the two weeks ahead. They called it the North Ward. Unprotestingly, Fat accompanied the psych tech out of the receiving ward, across the hall and into the North Ward, where once again the door got locked behind him.
Fuck, Fat said to himself.
The psych tech escorted Fat to his room -- which had two beds in it instead of six cots -- and then took Fat to a small room to get a questionnaire filled out. "This'll only take a few minutes," the psych tech said.
In the small room stood a girl, a Mexican girl, heavy-set, with rough, dark skin and huge eyes, dark and peaceful eyes, eyes like pools of fire; Fat stopped dead in his tracks as he saw the girl's flaming, peaceful huge eyes. The girl held a magazine open on top of a TV set; she displayed a crude drawing printed on the page: a picture of the Peaceful Kingdom. The magazine, Fat realized, was the Watchtower. The girl, smiling at him, was a Jehovah's Witness.
The girl said in a gentle and moderated voice, to Fat and not to the psych tech, "Our Lord God has prepared for us a place to live where there will be no pain and no fear and see? The animals lie happily together, the lion and the lamb, as we shall be, all of us, friends who love one another, without suffering or death, forever and ever with our Lord Jehovah who loves us and will never abandon us, whatever we do."
"Debbie, please leave the lounge," the psych tech said.
Still smiling at Fat, the girl pointed to a cow and a lamb in the crude drawing. "All beasts, all men, all living creatures great and small will bask in the warmth of Jehovah's love, when the Kingdom arrives. You think it will be a long time, but Christ Jesus is with us today." Then, closing up the magazine, the girl still smiling but now silent, left the room.
"Sorry about that," the psych tech said to Fat.
"Gosh," Fat said, amazed.
"Did she upset you? I'm sorry about that. She's not supposed to have that literature; somebody must have smuggled it in to her."
Fat said, "I'll be okay." He realized it; it dazed him. "Let's get this information down," the psych tech said, seating himself with his clipboard and pen. "The date of your birth."
You fool, Fat thought. You fucking fool. God is here in your goddam mental hospital and you don't know it; you see it but you don't know it. You have been invaded and you don't even know it.
He felt joy.
He remembered entry 9 from his exegesis. He lived a long time ago but he is still alive. He is still alive, Fat thought. After all that's happened. After the pills, after the slashed wrist, after the car exhaust. After being locked up. He is still alive.
After a few days, the patient he liked best in the ward was Doug, a large, young, deteriorated hebephrenic who never put on street clothing but simply wore a hospital gown open at the back. The women in the ward washed, cut and brushed Doug's hair because he lacked the skills to do those things himself. Doug did not take his situation seriously, except when they all got wakened up for breakfast. Every day Doug greeted Fat with terror.
"The TV lounge has devils in it," Doug always said, every morning. "I'm afraid to go in there. Can you feel it? I feel it even walking past it."
When they all made out their lunch-orders Doug wrote:
"I'm ordering swill," he told Fat.
Fat said, "I'm ordering dirt."
In the central office, which had glass walls and a locked door, the staff watched the patients and made notations. In Fat's case it got noted down that when the patients played cards (which took up half their time, since no therapy existed) Fat never joined in. The other patients played poker and blackjack, while Fat sat off by himself reading.
"Why don't you play cards?" Penny, a psych tech, asked him.
"Poker and blackjack are not card games but money games," Fat said, lowering his book. "Since we're not allowed to have any money on us, there's no point in playing."
"I think you should play cards," Penny said.
Fat knew that he had been ordered to play cards, so he and Debbie played kid's card games like "Fish." They played "Fish" for hours. The staff watched from their glass office and noted down what they saw.
One of the women had managed to retain possession of her Bible. For the thirty-five patients it was the only Bible. Debbie was not allowed to look at it. However, at one turn in the corridor -- they were locked out of their rooms during the day, so that they could not lie down and sleep -- the staff couldn't see what was happening. Fat sometimes turned their copy of the Bible, their communal copy, over to Debbie for a fast look at one of the psalms. The staff knew what they were doing and detested them for it, but by the time a tech got out of the office and down the corridor, Debbie had strolled on.
Mental inmates always move at one speed and one speed only. But some always move slowly and some always run. Debbie, being wide and solid, sailed along slowly, as did Doug. Fat, who always walked with Doug, matched his pace to his. Together they circled around and around the corridor, conversing. Conversations in mental hospitals resemble conversations in bus stations, because in a Greyhound Bus Station everyone is waiting, and in a mental hospital -- especially a county lock-up mental hospital -- everyone is waiting. They wait to get out.
Not much goes on in a mental ward, contrary to what mythic novels relate. Patients do not really overpower the staff, and the staff does not really murder the patients. Mostly people read or watch TV or just sit smoking or try to lie down on a couch and sleep, or drink coffee or play cards or walk, and three times a day trays of food are served. The passage of time is designated by the arrival of the food carts. At night visitors show up and they always smile. Patients in a mental hospital can never figure out why people from the outside smile. To me, it remains a mystery to this day.
Medication, which is always referred to as "meds," gets doled out at irregular intervals, from tiny paper cups. Everyone is given Thorazine plus something else. They do not tell you what you are getting and they watch to make sure you swallow the pills. Sometimes the meds nurses fuck up and bring the same tray of medication around twice. The patients always point out that they just took their meds ten minutes ago and the nurses give them the meds again anyhow. The mistake is never discovered until the end of the day, and the staff refuses to talk about it to the patients, all of whom now have twice as much Thorazine in their systems as they are supposed to have.
I have never met a mental patient, even the paranoid ones, who believed that double-dosing was a tactic to oversedate the ward deliberately. It is patently obvious that the nurses are dumb. The nurses have enough trouble figuring out which patient is which, and finding each patient's little paper cup. This is because a ward population constantly changes; new people arrive; old people get discharged. The real danger in a mental ward is that someone spaced out on PCP* will be admitted by mistake. The policy of many mental hospitals is to refuse PCP users and force the armed police to process them. The armed police constantly try to force the PCP users onto the unarmed mental hospital patients and staffs. Nobody wants to deal with a PCP user, for good reasons. The newspapers constantly relate how a PCP freak, locked up in a ward somewhere, bit off another person's nose or tore out his own eyes.
Fat was spared this. He did not even know such horrors existed. This came about through the wise planning of OCMC, which made sure that no PCP-head wound up in the North Ward. In point of fact, Fat owed his life to OCMC (as well as two thousand dollars), although his mind remained too fried for him to appreciate this.
When Beth read the itemized bill from OCMC, she could not believe the number of things they had done for her husband to keep him alive; the list ran to five pages. It even included oxygen. Fat did not know it, but the nurses at the Intensive cardiac care ward believed that he would die. They monitored him constantly. Every now and then, in the intensive cardiac care ward, an emergency warning siren sounded. It meant someone had lost vital signs. Fat, lying in his bed attached as he was to the video screen, felt as if he had been placed next to a switching yard for railroad trains; life support mechanisms constantly sounded their various noises.
It is characteristic of the mentally ill to hate those who help them and love those who connive against them. Fat still loved Beth and he detested OCMC. This showed he belonged in the North Ward; I have no doubt of it. Beth knew when she took Christopher and left for parts unknown that Fat would try suicide; he'd tried it in Canada. In fact, Beth planned to move back in as soon as Fat offed himself. She told him so later. Also, she told him that it had infuriated her that he'd failed to kill himself. When he asked her why that had infuriated her, Beth said:
"You have once again shown your inability to do anything."
The distinction between sanity and insanity is narrower than the razor's edge, sharper than a hound's tooth, more agile than a mule deer. It is more elusive than the merest phantom. Perhaps it does not even exist; perhaps it is a phantom.
Ironically, Fat hadn't been tossed into the lock-up because he was crazy (although he was); the reason, technically, consisted of the danger to yourself law. Fat constituted a menace to his own well-being, a charge that could be brought against many people. At the time he lived in the North Ward a number of psychological tests were administered to him. He passed them, but on the other hand he had the good sense not to talk about God. Though he passed all the tests, Fat had faked them out. To while away the time he drew over and over again pictures of the German knights who Alexander Nevsky had lured onto the ice, lured to their deaths. Fat identified with the heavily-armored Teutonic knights with their slot-eyed masks and ox-horns projecting out on each side; he drew each knight carrying a huge shield and a naked sword; on the shield Fat wrote: "In hoc signo vinces," which he got from a pack of cigarettes. It means, "In this sign you shall conquer." The sign took the form of an iron cross. His love of God had turned to anger, an obscure anger. He had visions of Christopher racing across a grassy field, his little blue coat flapping behind him, Christopher running and running. No doubt this was Horselover Fat himself running, the child in him, anyhow. Running from something as obscure as his anger.
In addition he several times wrote:
Dico per spiritum sanctum. Haec veritas est. Mihi crede et mecum in aeternitate vivebis. Entry 28.
This meant, "I speak by means of the Holy Spirit. This is the truth. Believe me and you will live with me in eternity."
One day on a list of printed instructions posted on the wall of the corridor he wrote:
Ex Deo nascimur, in Jesu mortimur, per spiritum sanctum reviviscimus.
Doug asked him what it meant.
"'From God we are born,'" Fat translated, "'in Jesus we die, by the Holy Spirit we live again.'"
"You're going to be here ninety days," Doug said.
One time Fat found a posted notice that fascinated him. The notice stipulated what could not be done, in order of descending importance. Near the top of the list all parties oncerned were told:
NO ONE IS TO REMOVE ASHTRAYS FROM THE WARD.
And later down the list it stated:
FRONTAL LOBOTOMIES ARE NOT TO BE PERFORMED WITHOUT THE WRITTEN CONSENT OF THE PATIENT.
"That should read 'prefrontal,'" Doug said, and wrote in the "pre."
"How do you know that?" Fat said.
"There's two ways of knowing," Doug said. "Either knowledge arises through the sense organs and is called empirical knowledge, or it arises within your head and it's alled a priori." Doug wrote on the notice:
IF I BRING BACK THE ASHTRAYS, CAN I HAVE MY PREFRONTAL?
"You'll be here ninety days," Fat said.
Outside the building rain poured down. It had been raining since Fat arrived in the North Ward. If he stood on top of the washing machine in the laundry room, he could see out through a barred window to the parking lot. People parked their cars and then ran through the rain. Fat felt glad he was indoors in the ward.
Dr. Stone, who had charge of the ward, interviewed him one day.
"Did you ever try suicide before?" Dr. Stone asked him.
"No," Fat said, which of course wasn't true. At that moment he no longer remembered Canada. It was his impression that his life had begun two weeks ago when Beth walked out.
"I think," Dr. Stone said, "that when you tried to kill yourself you got in touch with reality for the first time."
"Maybe so," Fat said.
"What I am going to give you," Dr. Stone said, opening a black suitcase on his small cluttered desk, "we term the Bach remedies." He pronounced it batch. "These organic remedies are distilled from certain flowers which grow in Wales. Dr. Bach wandered through the fields and pastures of Wales experiencing every negative mental state that exists. With each state that he experienced he gently held one flower after another. The proper flower trembled in the cup of Dr. Bach's hand and he then developed unique methods of acquiring an essence in elixir form of each flower and combinations of flowers which I have prepared in a rum base." He put three bottles together on the desk, found a larger, empty bottle, and poured the contents of the three into it. "Take six drops a day," Dr. Stone said. "There is no way the Bach remedies can hurt you. They are not toxic chemicals. They will remove your sense of helplessness and fear and inability to act. My diagnosis is that those are the three areas you have blocks: fear, helplessness and an inability to act. What you should have done instead of trying to kill yourself would have been, take your son away from your wife -- it's the law in California that a minor child must remain with his father until there is a court order to the contrary. And then you should have lightly struck your wife with a rolled-up newspaper or a phonebook."
"Thank you," Fat said, accepting the bottle. He could see that Dr. Stone was totally crazy, but in a good way. Dr. Stone was the first person at the North Ward, outside the patients, who had talked to him as if he were human.
"You have much anger in you," Dr. Stone said. "I am lending you a copy of the Tao Te Ching. Have you ever read Lao Tzu?"
"No," Fat admitted.
"Let me read you this part here," Dr. Stone said. He read aloud.
"Its upper part is not dazzling;
Its lower part is not obscure.
Dimly visible, it cannot be named
And returns to that which is without substance.
This is called the shape that has no shape,
The image that is without substance.
This is called indistinct and shadowy.
Go up to it and you will not see its head;
Follow behind it and you will not see its rear."
Hearing this, Fat remembered entries 1 and 2 from his journal. He quoted them, from memory, to Dr. Stone.
1. One Mind there is; but under it two principles contend.
2. The Mind lets in the light, then the dark; in interaction; so time is generated. At the end Mind awards victory to the light; time ceases and the Mind is complete.
"But," Dr. Stone said, "if Mind awards victory to the light, and the dark disappears, then reality will disappear, since reality is a compound of Yang and Yin equally."
"Yang is Form I of Parmenides," Fat said. "Yin is Form II. Parmenides argued that Form II does not in fact exist. Only Form I exists. Parmenides believed in a monistic world. People imagine that both forms exist, but they are wrong. Aristotle relates that Parmenides equates Form I with 'that which is' and Form II with 'that which is not.' Thus people are deluded."
Eying him, Dr. Stone said, "What's your source?"
"Edward Hussey," Fat said.
"He's at Oxford," Dr. Stone said. "I attended Oxford. In my opinion Hussey has no peer."
"You're right," Fat said.
"What else can you tell me?" Dr. Stone said.
Fat said, "Time does not exist. This is the great secret known to Apollonius of Tyana, Paul of Tarsus, Simon Magus, Paracelsus, Boehme and Bruno. The universe is contracting into a unitary entity which is completing itself. Decay and disorder are seen by us in reverse, as increasing. Entry 18 of my exegesis reads: 'Real time ceased in 70 C.E. with the fall of the Temple of Jerusalem. It began again in 1974. The intervening period was a perfect spurious interpolation aping the Creation of the Mind.'"
"Interpolated by whom?" Dr. Stone asked.
"The Black Iron Prison, which is an expression of the Empire. What has been --" Fat had started to say, "What has been revealed to me." He rechose his words. "What has been most important in my discoveries is this: 'The Empire never ended.' "
Leaning against his desk, Dr. Stone folded his arms, rocked forward and back and studied Fat, waiting to hear more.
"That's all I know," Fat said, becoming belatedly cautious.
"I'm very interested in what you're saying," Dr. Stone said.
Fat realized that one of two possibilities existed and only two; either Dr. Stone was totally insane -- not just insane but totally so -- or else in an artful, professional fashion he had gotten Fat to talk; he had drawn Fat out and now knew that Fat was totally insane. Which meant that Fat could look forward to a court appearance and ninety days.
This is a mournful discovery.
1) Those who agree with you are insane.
2) Those who do not agree with you are in power.
Those were the twin realizations which now percolated through Fat's head. He decided to go for broke, to tell Dr. Stone the most fantastic entry in his exegesis.
"Entry number twenty-four," Fat said. " 'In dormant seed form, as living information, the plasmate slumbered in the buried library of codices at Chenoboskion until --'"
"What is 'Chenoboskion'?" Dr. Stone interrupted.
"Oh, the Gnostic library." Dr. Stone nodded. "Found and read in 1945 but never published. 'Living information'?" His eyes fixed themselves in intent scrutiny of Fat. "'Living information,'" he echoed. And then he said, "The Logos."
"Yes," Dr. Stone said. "The Logos would be living information, capable of replicating."
"Replicating not through information," Fat said, "in information, but as information. This is what Jesus meant when he spoke elliptically of the 'mustard seed' which, he said, 'would grow into a tree large enough for birds to roost in.'"
"There is no mustard tree," Dr. Stone agreed. "So Jesus could not have meant that literally. That fits with the so-called 'secrecy' theme of Mark; that he didn't want outsiders to know the truth. And you know?"
"Jesus foresaw not only his own death but that of all --" Fat hesitated. "Homoplasmates. That's a human being to which the plasmate had crossbonded. Interspecies symbiosis. As living information the plasmate travels up the optic nerve of a human to the pineal body. It uses the human brain as a female host --"
Dr. Stone grunted and squeezed himself violently.
"-- in which to replicate itself into its active form," Fat said. "The Hermetic alchemists knew of it in theory from ancient texts but could not duplicate it, since they could not locate the dormant buried plasmate."
"But you're saying the plasmate -- the Logos -- was dug up at Nag Hammadi!"
"Yes, when the codices were read."
"You're sure it wasn't in dormant seed form at Qumran? In Cave Five?"
"Well," Fat said, uncertainly.
"Where did the plasmate originally come from?"
After a pause Fat said, "From another star system."
"You wish to identify that star system?"
"Sirius," Fat said.
"Then you believe that the Dogon People of the western Sudan are the source of Christianity."
"They use the fish sign," Fat said. "For Nommo, the benign twin."
"Who would be Form I or Yang."
"Right," Fat said.
"And Yurugu is Form II. But you believe that Form II doesn't exist."
"Nommo had to slay her," Fat said.
"That's what the Japanese myth stipulates, in a sense," Dr. Stone said. "Their cosmogonical myth. The female twin dies giving birth to fire; then she descends under the ground. The male twin goes after her to restore her but finds her decomposing and giving birth to monsters. She pursues him and he seals her up under the ground."
Amazed, Fat said, "She's decomposing and yet she's still giving birth?"
"Only to monsters," Dr. Stone said.
About this time two new propositions entered Fat's mind, due to this particular conversation.
1) Some of those in power are insane.
2) And they are right.
By "right" read "in touch with reality." Fat had reverted back to his most dismal insight, that the universe and the Mind behind it which governed it are both totally irrational. He wondered if he should mention this to Dr. Stone, who seemed to understand Fat better than anyone else during all Fat's life.
"Dr. Stone," he said, "there's something I want to ask you. I want your professional opinion."
"Could the universe possibly be irrational?"
"You mean not guided by a mind. I suggest you turn to Xenophanes."
"Sure," Fat said. "Xenophanes of Colophon. 'One god there is, in no way like mortal creatures either in bodily form or in the thought of his mind. The whole of him sees, the whole of him thinks, the whole of him hears. He stays always motionless in the same place; it is not right --'"
"'Fitting,' " Dr. Stone corrected. "'It is not fitting that he should move about now this way, now that.' And the important part, Fragment 25. 'But, effortlessly, he wields all things by the thought of his mind.'"
"But he could be irrational," Fat said.
"How would we know?"
"The whole universe would be irrational."
Dr. Stone said, "Compared with what?"
That, Fat hadn't thought of. But as soon as he thought of it he realized that it did not tear down his fear; it increased it. If the whole universe were irrational, because it was directed by an irrational -- that is to say, insane -- mind, whole species could come into existence, live and perish and never guess, precisely for the reason that Stone had just given.
"The Logos isn't rational," Fat decided out loud. "What I call the plasmate. Buried as information in the codices at Nag Hammadi. Which is back with us now, creating new homoplasmates. The Romans, the Empire, killed all the original ones."
"But you say real time ceased in 70 A.D. when the Romans destroyed the Temple. Therefore these are still Roman times; the Romans are still here. This is roughly --" Dr. Stone calculated. "About 100 A.D."
Fat realized, then, that this explained his double exposure, the superimposition he had seen of ancient Rome and California 1974. Dr. Stone had solved it for him.
The psychiatrist in charge of treating him for his lunacy had ratified it. Now Fat would never depart from faith in his encounter with God. Dr. Stone had nailed it down.
* Also known as Angel Dust.