The Mind Game, by Norman Spinrad

The Mind Game, by Norman Spinrad

Postby admin » Sat Mar 19, 2016 6:20 am

THE MIND GAME
by Norman Spinrad
© 1980 by Norman Spinrad
Cover artwork © 1985 by Catherine Huerta

NOTICE: THIS WORK MAY BE PROTECTED BY COPYRIGHT

YOU ARE REQUIRED TO READ THE COPYRIGHT NOTICE AT THIS LINK BEFORE YOU READ THE FOLLOWING WORK, THAT IS AVAILABLE SOLELY FOR PRIVATE STUDY, SCHOLARSHIP OR RESEARCH PURSUANT TO 17 U.S.C. SECTION 107 AND 108. IN THE EVENT THAT THE LIBRARY DETERMINES THAT UNLAWFUL COPYING OF THIS WORK HAS OCCURRED, THE LIBRARY HAS THE RIGHT TO BLOCK THE I.P. ADDRESS AT WHICH THE UNLAWFUL COPYING APPEARED TO HAVE OCCURRED. THANK YOU FOR RESPECTING THE RIGHTS OF COPYRIGHT OWNERS.


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Table of Contents:

• Chapter 1
• Chapter 2
• Chapter 3
• Chapter 4
• Chapter 5
• Chapter 6
• Chapter 7
• Chapter 8
• Chapter 9
• Chapter 10
• Chapter 11
• Chapter 12
• Chapter 13
• Chapter 14
• Chapter 15
• Chapter 16
• Chapter 17
• Chapter 18
• Chapter 19
• Chapter 20
• Epilogue
• About the Author

"Why can't you learn to love Big Brother?"

-- The Mind Game, by Norman Spinrad
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Re: The Mind Game, by Norman Spinrad

Postby admin » Sat Mar 19, 2016 6:21 am

THE SOUL STEALERS

Annie came into the living room, ashen, shaken. "They've issued a life directive, Jack."

"Life directive? What the hell are you talking about?"

"If you don't begin processing and I continue living with you, they'll cut me off from Transformationalism. Totally."

Weller's composure shattered utterly. "That does it'" he shouted. "I absolutely, categorically, totally forbid you to see any of these maniacs again!"

"Jack! Stop it!" Annie screamed. "Don't you see that you're confirming everything they said?" Tears began to form in her eyes. "If you won't come for processing, I'm getting out of here this very minute!"

Then she slammed the door behind her, leaving Weller transfixed in the center of the living room, his body frozen in rage, his mind roaring with emotional white noise.

He stood there for long moments trying to force rationality back into his screaming brain, trying to break the shocked, stunned, raging stasis that held him in emotional and physical paralysis.

But before he could move, before he could get himself to the door, he heard the engine of her car start in the driveway. Then, with a roar, the metallic scream of a missed shift, and the howl of an engine revving toward redline, she was gone....

***

Order is the enemy of Chaos. But the enemy of Order is also the enemy of Chaos -- Gregor Markowitz


Chapter One

Sweat plastering the back of his shirt to the seat of his Triumph, eyes burning from San Fernando Valley smog, brain throbbing with dulled exhaustion, Jack Weller turned off the Ventura Freeway onto Moorpark. Another day, another ten minutes of Monkey Business in the can, another piece of my lifeline sold for a hundred dollars and my name flashed across the boob tube as the director of a peculiarly mindless kiddie show, he thought. But don't get me wrong, I love Hollywood.

Down Moorpark -- stations, Burger palaces, supermarkets, giant drugstores -- left, right, left, and onto the street where he lived. Endless anonymous ticky-tacky ranch houses inadequately veiled by trees and thick shrubbery. Oh, the towering feeling? He turned up the driveway and parked behind Annie's ancient red Porsche sitting in the open garage. Image, image, the price we pay for image! If a would-be up-and-coming young director or an aspiring actress wanted the comfort of a closed, air-conditioned car, it had to be a late-model Cadillac or at the very least a fancy Buick -- anything less said "poor," and that was the kiss of death. So two sports cars it was, acceptable image on the cheap.

Inside, Annie was waiting for him in the living room. lithe, blond and lovely in a flowering caftan but tired and empty around the eyes, poor baby. "Hi. babes," she said. A brief pro forma kiss with no juice in it.

"How did it go?" Weller asked, going to the bar and getting out the Martini fixings.

Annie sighed. "The usual," she said, "Next week Harry's lined up an audition for a part in a perfume commercial. And some writer client of his is working on an original screenplay which might have something for me in it if it ever gets sold. How's the monkey business?"

Weller poured two Martinis, handed her one, sat down on the couch beside her, and took a long cold swallow. "More fun than a barrel of producers," he said. "Our warm, wonderful father figure came in with a hangover, the kids were into playing practical jokes on each other today, and the damned chimp crapped on the set twice."

"But don't get me wrong, I love Hollywood," Annie chorused along with, him. They laughed and relaxed closer to each other.

The air-conditioner was beginning to cool him off, and the Martini was beginning to loosen a few of the knots in his gut. There are those who would say I've got it made, Weller reflected. A more or less steady five-hundred dollars a week directing a network show, even if it is kiddie stuff. Twenty grand of equity in a house, even if it is in the Valley. A beautiful wife who loves me, even if we do have our problems. One man's ceiling is another man's floor.

"What's for dinner?" Weller asked, feeling like any nine-to-fiver coming home to the little woman, and hating it.

"Chinese spareribs and corn on the cob," Annie said. "Pour me another, and I'll go take a look."

Weller's stomach sent pleasure messages to his grumbling brain. It was one of his favorites, and Annie's fixing it was always a little flash of the love between them that still seemed to survive despite her frustration with an acting career that was going nowhere and his frustration at clinging to the bottom rung of a long, long ladder, no closer to directing feature films or even prime-time segments than he had been two years ago. At least we haven't gotten to the point of taking it out on each other, he thought. pouring two more drinks. Not yet.

Annie went into the kitchen, and Weller sat back down on the couch, sipping his drink and contemplating the furniture. How he hated the wall-to-wall carpeting, the Danish-modern junk, the big color TV console, the Middle American-ness of it all! Five years, and he still couldn't think of this house as home, as something permanent. Home was a big, lavish place in the Hollywood Hills, with a swimming pool, a huge garden, and a sauna; home was where they were going to live when Annie was a star and he was a big-time feature-film director. The only thing that could he worse than the transient feeling of this house would be accepting this place, this life, as something they had arrived at, rather than a place along the road to the top. I'm only thirty-one, he thought, and Annie's only twenty-nine. We're not old enough to be stuck where we are.

"Come and git it'" Annie called from the kitchen. Weller tossed down the rest of his drink, his attention drawn from these heavy musings to the dinner-sized hole in his stomach, and he went into the dining room happy to be thinking of little else but ribs and corn.

***

By the time he had put away two butter-drenched cobs of corn and a plate of crackling sweet-and-sour spareribs, Weller was feeling more mellow, and he and Annie leaned toward each other across the table over coffee, looking into each other's eyes and beginning to feel cozy. They would probably make love before settling down in front of the tube tonight.

Despite everything -- a couple of brief bouts of experimental swinging, three desultory orgies, and a few sneaky side affairs along the way -- they could still please each other in bed. In fact, after the transitory thrill of unwrapping a fresh new body, Weller had found the other women he had had during their six-year marriage ultimately and rapidly boring compared to Annie. Annie had always told him that other men left her with the same feeling, and nothing in their life together had signaled to him that this was a kind lie. They had been totally faithful to each other for over two years now, having learned, if nothing else, that their sex lives together were not the source of their mutual nagging frustration, that bedtime adventures were no cure for lack of career satisfaction.

"Love you, lady," Weller said, reaching across the table and touching his palm to her cheek.

"We're lovely people," she said. They touched, and they eyed, and they kissed, and then they went into the living room, shucking clothes as they walked, and made love on the green velvet couch, dissolving away the tedium and frustration of the day, at least temporarily, into the mindless melding of bodies.

But inevitably after a time it had to be over, and they found themselves once more lying naked against each other on the couch, dully watching television.

For the Wellers, as for two hundred million others, the tube was an artificial release from boredom, from the need to chew over things that had been said to each other a thousand times before just to fill dead air. But for them it was also an instrument of self-flagellation. Weller watched the prime-time dramatic shows knowing that they were formula garbage, contemptuous of the directors who had made their secure careers in big-time TV and who no longer burned to do features. And yet each time a director's credit line appeared on the screen, it was a little knife in his gut. For the nobodies who directed these turkeys were still a long step up the ladder from Jack Weller and his Saturday morning monkey show, and he never saw a prime-time segment that he could admire, that he didn't know he could do better. And Annie compared the face and figure of every featured actress to herself, unable to understand why they were getting the work while she had to scramble and scheme just to get an occasional commercial or walk-on.

"Full shot, close-up, full shot, close-up," Weller muttered, seeing whatever it was only in terms of the formula blocking.

Weller wondered why he watched so much of the damned stuff -- there was certainly nothing to learn from it. But what had they done during those intermittent periods when they righteously swore off watching TV? Lots of movies, which made the envy even worse. Middling Hollywood hangouts which led to swinging which led back to middling Hollywood hangouts. Rounds of parties with people who were mostly worse off than they were, where they were objects of envy. Earnest heart-to-heart talks which petered out into dull staring contests which left them hating each other and blaming each other for the deadly boredom. What was missing from their life? It didn't take a shrink or a marriage counselor to figure it out for them. Success, that was what was missing, and there was no substitute for it.

"Look at her," Annie said. "She's walking through it like a zombie. Maybe I should shop around for a new agent --"

The ringing of the phone cut through the television trance. Annie got up and answered it.

"Hello, Bob --"

"The what --"

"It is?"

"I'll ask him, Hold on."

Standing by the phone table, Annie said: "It's Bob and Susan Shumway. They're going to the Transformationalist Celebrity Center tonight. Bob wants to know if we'd like to meet them there."

Bob Shumway was a fairly successful television writer. Bob and Susan and Jack and Annie had had a brief swinging number three years ago which had quickly faded out into a kind of distant friendship. Bob was something of a Hollywood trendie, always trying to be "where it was at," a great believer in going to the right parties and meeting the right people. Weller admired his style, though only in small doses.

"What's the Transformational Celebrity Center?" Weller asked. He had heard of Transformationalism, dimly. It was one of those consciousness-raising cults, like Arica, EST, or Scientology, of which he had a low and jaundiced opinion. Somehow it didn't seem like much of a Bob Shumway number.

"Bob says it's a kind of private club run by the Transformationalists. Free drinks. Very Beverly Hills."

"You want to go, Annie?"

She shrugged. "We don't have anything better to do."

"Let me talk to him," Weller said. He went to the phone. "Hi, Bob. What's happening?"

"Thought you might like to meet us at the Celebrity Center, babe. It's only been open a couple of months, but it's an interesting scene."

"Didn't know you were into guru games, Bob."

"Hey, you can just tune out the Transformationalist scam. Point is, Transformalionalism has mucho bread, and this center is designed to attract the Hollywood heavies."

"So?"

"So? So they've set up a groovy place, and they ply you with unlimited free booze. And such being the case, a lot of people are starting to hang out there. Contacts, boy! The movers and shapers. Beautiful people. Take a look. Might be the place to make the Big Connection. What do you say?"

"Just a minute, Bob." Weller looked at Annie. "Want to see if we can meet someone who can make us stars at this guru den?" he asked sardonically. "At least we can lap up the free booze," he added in a W. C. Fields voice.

"Sure," Annie said, much more earnestly. By the look in her eyes Weller could tell that she was already fantasizing a chance meeting with Joe Levine. Hope springs eternal, he thought, feeling just a little sad, a shade protective.

"Okay, Bob, we'll meet you at about eight thirty."

"Make it eight thirty sharp, and we'll meet you in the parking lot."

"Roger."

"Ten-four, babe. See you there."

***

The Santa Monica Mountains march east-west to the sea, a natural barrier between the suburbia of the San Fernando Valley to the north and the glitter and flash of Hollywood and Beverly Hills at their southern feet. From Mulholland Drive, running along the crest line, Weller could see the vast nightscape of Los Angeles spread below them, a brilliant carpet of light. Driving up over the ridgeline and down the defile of Beverly Glen Boulevard toward Beverly Hills, whipping around the curves in the open sports car with Annie's golden hair streaming in the fragrant night air, he lived for the moment in the Hollywood persona he longed to capture and hold. Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Malibu Canyon, Topanga, Laurel Canyon -- these hills were the habitat of those who had made it; this was where they belonged.

Out of the hills and onto the flat streets of downtown Beverly Hills, the streets largely empty of pedestrians even at this hour, the action taking place very privately, behind closed doors. Weller pulled into the parking lot of the Transformationalist Celebrity Center. There were about two dozen cars in the lot -- Jags, some older Porsches, a couple of Cadillacs, but also some of the cheaper sports cars, and even one VW van. Weller parked alongside Bob Shumway's vintage Aston-Martin. Bob and Susan were leaning against the car, Bob slightly paunchy in a cream-colored leisure suit, Susan dark and full-bodied in midnight-blue capris and a bare midriff red blouse.

"Hi." "Hi." Kiss, kiss.

"Been here often?" Annie asked as they walked out of the parking lot.

"A few times," Susan answered.

"It's only been open awhile," Bob said. "Just starting to catch on. The real heavies should just be starting to appear. The only free saloon in town."

By this time they had reached the entrance, a brown door in an otherwise featureless building front. A small bronze plaque identified it as "The Transformationalist Celebrity Center."

Immediately inside was a small blue-walled reception area. Facing them was another closed door with another bronze plaque. This one said:

Transform the transformers and transform the world. Transform the world and transform your own lives.

-- John B. Steinhardt


Beside the door was a small desk, and behind the desk was an intense-looking young man with a clipboard of papers and a ball-point pen.

"Good evening and welcome to the Transformationalist Celebrity Center," he said earnestly. "Please sign in." He handed Weller the clipboard and pen. The form on the clipboard had places for name, address, phone number, and whether or not he had visited the Celebrity Center before. Weller shot Bob Shumway a narrow look, thinking, here I go onto one more mailing list, filled out the form, and handed it to Annie.

After they had all filled out the form, the attendant held the door open for them, and they walked into a large room with a cream-colored ceiling, red flocked wallpaper, and a dark hardwood floor. A bar with a mirror behind it ran the length of one wall, and there was a small, low stage in the middle of the opposite wall. The rest of the room was filled with small cafe tables. On the far wall was a huge black and while photograph of a heavyset man in his fifties with long, thinning gray hair and a bushy gray moustache. There were thirty or forty people scattered about the place, a few of them silting at the bar. Anonymous soft music played, far in the background.

They took a table near the bar. Bob Shumway ran his eyes around the room. "Couple of TV producers, few actors, there's Eddie Berger from GAC, what's-his-name who writes half the cop shows in town, film critic from Los Angeles, nothing much. Looks like a slow night so far."

A waitress appeared, wearing a white blouse and black slacks, again with that intense look about the eyes. "What's your pleasure, folks? All refreshments are courtesy of Transformationalism. May you enjoy your evening and leave transformed." The little spiel reminded Weller of a living television commercial. The waitress took their orders and departed toward the bar.

"Weird," Weller said, cocking his head in her direction.

"Yeah," said Susan. "They remind me of the Salvation Army, all bright and clean and wide-eyed."

"But they run a good place," Bob said, perhaps a bit sharply. "So how are things with you kids?" he asked.

"Still got a contract for fourteen segments of Monkey Business a year." Weller said. "Annie's auditioning for a commercial next week...." He gave Annie a sympathetic look and gilded the lily a bit for her. "... and she's up for a major part."

"In an unsold script," Annie added somewhat wearily.

Bob shook his head. "Chimp shows. Agent's bullshit. What's wrong with you kids? You've got the talent, all you --"

"Bob!" Susan hissed. "Will you leave them alone? Bob forgets that if he hadn't gotten to Arnie Palucci in a drunken moment, he'd probably still be back writing cartoon shows."

"For Chrissakes, Susan, that's the whole point. It's not what you know --"

"IT'S WHO YOU KNOW," the other three chorused.

The waitress arrived with their drinks. She set them down with a little bowl of nuts and four copies of a lithographed brochure. On the cover was the same photograph that hung enlarged on the wall and the words, "TRANSFORMATIONALISM AND YOU!"

"Who is this guy?" Weller asked.

Bob lifted his glass and toasted the wall photograph. "Our host and benefactor, John B. Steinhardt," he said. "Guru of Transformationalism and proprietor in absentia of this noble saloon.

"Weird-looking duck," Weller opined.

"He used to be a science-fiction writer, I think," Susan said. She gave Bob a little false smile. "All writers are crazy."

"Hey, Bill, over here!" Bob had caught the eye of a balding, middle-aged man drinking at the bar. As he lurched over to their table, Bob whispered to Weller, "Bill Wallenstein, story editor on Harrison & Company, make the most of it, Jack baby."

Wallenstein sat down, none too steadily. 'This is Jack Weller," Bob said. "He's a director."

"Yeah? What's he directed?" the story editor said with a certain shit-faced belligerency.

"And this is Jack's wife, Anne Weller, she's an actress."

Wallenstein beamed a woozy smile at Annie. "Ah yes, I believe I know your work," he lied transparently. Annie gave him a sickly smile and pointedly began leafing through the brochure. A story editor on a TV series usually had about as much to do with hiring directors as the script girl and even less to say about casting. Which, however, did not always prevent them from using the old casting-couch come-on.

"So ... ah .... how's it coming, Bill?" Bob said, a shade uneasily.

"Ah, the usual," Wallenstein grunted. "We've got a backlog of a lousy two scripts, and Irv wants me to knock out two myself this month, in between rewriting the crap we've got. Say ... how about you doing one for us, Bob?"

"No way," Bob said. "I'm doing a TV movie, and I'm happily booked up."

"Lucky bastard," Wallenstein muttered. "Say, Mrs. Weller, maybe you'd like to come down to the studio and maybe 1 could introduce, you to Irv..."

Oh, brother! Annie didn't bother to look up; she continued reading the brochure.

"Mrs. Weller -- ?"

"Annie --?"

"Huh?" Annie finally looked up. "What ... ? Sorry...."

"I said maybe you'd like to come down to the studio and I could introduce you to my producer."

Annie smiled sweet-sour at him. "I'm tied up for the next few weeks, maybe I'll give you a call after that," she said, and pointedly went back to reading ''TRANSFORMATIONALISM AND YOU!"

"I'd be glad to come to the studio and meet your producer," Weller said, giving Wallenstein a somewhat toothy smile as he put a slightly fey lilt into his voice. "You wouldn't happen to be bi, would you?"

Wallenstein cringed woozily. Bob looked aghast. Susan tried to choke back giggles. Annie kept reading, ignoring the unseemly scene.

"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Transformationalist Celebrity Center." Mercifully on cue a tall, gray-haired, almost regal-looking woman had mounted the small stage and was speaking into a small throat mike slung around her neck. She carried herself like an actress, and her cold, unblinking green eyes dominated the room.

"Uh-oh," said Bob, "here comes the commercial. "

"For those of you who are here for the first time, let me tell you what this place is all about. Candidly, Transformationalism wants you!" She pointed at the center of the room (deliberately?), mimicking the famous Uncle Sam poster.

"And we want you to want Transformationalism! Transformationalism has centers throughout the United States and the Western world. As many as twenty million people have had some Transformational processing, but this is something new. John has decided that it's time to reach out directly to people like yourselves who mold public consciousness. Our goal is to transform the mass consciousness, to raise the total consciousness of the human race to ever-higher levels. You are in key positions to further this great cause, and we can transform you into happier, more successful, more highly conscious human beings...."

As the dull rap went on, Weller's attention began to wander. His eyes moved around the room, and way over at a corner table he thought he saw Marsha Henderson. He had known Marsha when he was in the children's programming department at CBS, they had gotten along well, and now she was a hotshot studio executive overseeing a whole stable of prime-time shows. Maybe she'd remember me, he thought. Maybe this evening won't be a total loss.

" -- to give you a real feel for what Transformationalism is about, our founder, the first Transformed man, the highest consciousness on the planet today, John B. Steinhardt."

The lights dimmed slightly, and a section of the wall behind the stage slid upward, revealing a giant-screen television set, a full five-by-seven job. A moment later the face of Steinhardt appeared on the screen, approximating the pose on the wall photograph and the brochures, but in full color. His complexion was ruddy like a Colonel Blimp, and his eyes were blue and somewhat watery. Looks a bit like a rummy, Weller thought.

"Hi, I'm John Steinhardt, and I've served my time in the entertainment racket too, written three hundred science fiction stories and a shelf of books as long as your arm, you probably never heard of. But that was many moons and many transformations ago. I remember what it was like to crank out wordage at peon wages, working like a maniac just to survive, never even having enough time to think about why the hell I could never get anywhere, why a so-called creative person had to run at top speed all the time just to keep from slipping backward like the Red Queen. Yes, friends, I know your problems, and your dreams and your frustrations all too well...."

Steinhardt spoke in a gravelly voice with the speed of a used-car salesman doing a thirty-second commercial, yet Weller found the performance instantly capturing his attention. Steinhardt didn't come off like the usual slick guru; he had the ability to project himself as one of the boys, to give this video-tape spot the immediacy of beery barroom rap.

"... The world moves so fast these days even those of us who fancy we're leading public consciousness can't keep up with the changes we're creating every day. Politics, media, the stock market, our own kids -- zip, zip, zip, everything transforms itself faster than we can follow it. You have to be a moron not to realize that none of the old rules describe reality anymore. But a lot of otherwise smart people fall into the contemporary trap of believing that somewhere, somehow, someone or something is going to give you a new set of rules and simple step-by-step instructions for putting Humpty Dumpty together again...."

The man had energy. Weller saw that most of the people in the room were paying attention, Bob nodding over his drink, even Annie, staring at the screen and toying unconsciously with the brochure. This good old boy sure could sell snake oil!

"... Synanon, Arica, est, old-time religion, the world is full of outfits that claim they can navigate you through all the whirlpools if you'll follow their instructions. Well, not Transformationalism, I kid you not, friends. Transformationalism faces the truth, and the truth is that the human race has evolved to the point where ongoing change has become permanent. There will never again be a set of roles or a fixed consciousness that will make sense out of the world for you, because the only thing that's certain is that anything that describes how reality works today will be obsolete tomorrow. ... "

Over in the corner Marsha Henderson was getting up and walking toward the ladies' room. Got to find some way of introducing myself before she leaves tonight, Weller thought.

". . . So I'm not trying to sell you rules or sets of perception or a static road map of reality but a series of processes designed to give you Transformational Consciousness, to free you from the trap of seeking permanent perceptions of anything, to evolve your minds into instruments capable of riding the change, transforming the world as the world transforms you. So take a look around, ask questions, see if you don't want to get involved in what's happening here. In the meantime the drinks are on me!"

Steinhardt saluted the room with his hand in the manner of your genial host; off went the TV set, up came the lights, and onto the stage came the woman who had introduced the taped speech. "Upstairs we have demonstrations and detailed literature for those of you who are interested. Any of our people here will be glad to assist you."

She left the stage, and the room was immediately transformed back into a bar. Drinks were ordered, people resumed their conversations, and over in the corner Marsha Henderson was standing beside her table talking to her party.

"Well, what did you think of that?" Bob Shumway asked.

He could sure move used cars," Weller muttered distractedly, looking over his shoulder at Marsha Henderson who looked as if she were preparing to make her exit. Can I just walk up to her and say, "Hi, you remember me, I'm Jack Weller... ?"

"He was kind of impressive, wasn't he?" Annie said.

"Good line of bullshit," Wallenstein woozed.

"Well, it made some sense to me. According to this brochure they claim they can make you as psychically together as he is, and he's sure got charisma. If they can really teach you to project like that...."

I could wander down the bar, maybe order a drink there, Weller thought. Then I casually turn, catch her eye. Say ... pardon me, you look familiar, aren't you ... ah ... er.... That would be subtle enough, it wouldn't seem too gross. I really don't have anything to lose.

"They say this organization is worth hundreds of millions," Bob said. "And lotsa tentacles."

'There's no business like the guru business."

Yeah, I'll do it! Weller decided. He turned his attention back to the table and started to rise. "Uh, if you'll excuse me, I'll be right back. I have to --"

"Hello, I'm Tanya Blaine. May I join you for a moment?" A well-built redhead, about twenty-five, wearing a white blouse and black slacks, had appeared beside Weller and was already pulling up a chair.

''I'm one of your hosts at the Celebrity Center," she said, "and I'd be happy to answer any of your questions about Transformationalism." Her voice was professionally friendly, yet also coldly insistent. and her eyes had a repellent rodential quality. Here was a beautiful woman who gave off no sexual vibrations at all.

Weller tried to ignore her and continue his move, but Annie spoke up immediately, and he couldn't walk out on her line. "Just what do you do to ... uh, process people?"

"We use many techniques," Tanya Blaine said. "Role reversal. Gaming it through. Block auditing. Meditative deconditioning. It's quite a complex technology, and we're developing more every day."

Marsha Henderson turned away from her party and began slowly walking toward the exit along the length of the bar.

"-- demonstrations of some of the techniques upstairs --"

"-- maybe later --"

Damn it! Weller thought, as Marsha Henderson disappeared through the door while Tanya Blaine and Annie continued to babble about Transformationalism. I've blown it. So near and yet so far, the story of my life.

"Well, it's been nice talking to you," Tanya Blaine said, finally getting up to leave. "If you want any further information, feel free to come upstairs. If you'll excuse me...."

"You're excused," Weller snarled in frustration. Tanya Blaine's composure cracked for just a flash at the tone of his voice; she gave him a puzzled look, shrugged, then departed.

"What the hell was that, Jack?" Annie said angrily. ''Why was it necessary to be rude to that woman?"

"I was rude? That woman barged in here and screwed everything up, and I'm rude?"

"What are you talking about, Jack? Screwed up what?" What's gotten into you?" Annie was looking at him as if he were nuts, and Weller suddenly felt very foolish, and he knew that he would feel even stupider having to explain it in front of Wallenstein. There was a long tense moment of eyeball-to-eyeball silence.

Fortunately Wallenstein, even through his booze haze, managed to pick up on the vibrations. "If you'll excuse me," he said, ''I've got to see a man about a turkey." And he lurched off in the general direction of the bar.

"Well?" Annie demanded.

"Yeah, Jack," Bob said. "What the hell was all that about?"

"Ah, I'm sorry," Weller said sheepishly. "I saw Marsha Henderson over there -- you know, the production executive -- and I used to be fairly friendly with her years ago when she was doing kiddie shows at CBS. I was about to go over and see if I couldn't subtly do myself some good when Little Miss Sunshine came along. Now Marsha's gone, and I've blown it."

"Gee, I'm sorry, Jack. I didn't know," Annie said.

"Of course you didn't," Weller said distantly. Their eyes met, clashed, looked away.

"At least you're learning, boy," Bob Shumway said. "You're learning. There'll be other chances, if you just put yourself in the way of them."

"Yeah," Weller said. "Yeah, you're right. Maybe this place does have its possibilities."

''Told you it did."

They sat around for another hour or so, having two more rounds of drinks and talking of the inconsequential. Bob Shumway spotted two more low-level producers, but Weller's energy, or his nerve, or both, were at too low a level for him to contemplate introducing himself, especially since these were people he didn't know.

They called it a night at about eleven, and the Wellers drove home largely in silence, Weller concentrating on his driving, thinking about his lost opportunity -- if a real opportunity it had been -- and Annie sitting quietly beside him, fingering the brochure she had taken from the table.

As they drove down Moorpark, past eerie empty Valley sidewalks, Annie finally spoke. "Maybe we ought to go back there soon."

"Yeah. I was thinking the same thing." There did definitely seem to be a goodly number of producers drifting through the Celebrity Center. No real heavyweights, maybe, but if we hung around the bar by ourselves, we might be able to strike up a conversation with someone who could put us onto some prime-time segment work. And that's certainly a step up from where we are.

"What did you think of it?"

"Seems like there are some useful people hanging out there," Weller said.

"I mean what they're doing there," Annie said. "Steinhardt. The processing."

Weller pulled up into their driveway and looked over at her quizzically. "Steinhardt? Transformationalism? I wasn't paying much attention to all that stuff. Why, were you?"

Annie seemed to draw into herself slightly. "Oh, not really. I looked through that brochure while that creep was trying to come on to me. Kind of interesting." She showed it to him as they left the car. "I brought it along, if you want to take a look at it," she said.

"Uh-huh," Weller mumbled, already thinking about tomorrow's shooting, another long, tiring, tedious, essentially pointless day of Monkey Business.

They got ready for bed quickly, and Weller began to drift off to sleep almost immediately thereafter, going through tomorrow's shooting sequence in his head. which for boredom certainly beat counting sheep. As he dropped off, Annie lay on her back beside him, staring at the ceiling and thinking her own private thoughts.
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Re: The Mind Game, by Norman Spinrad

Postby admin » Sat Mar 19, 2016 6:22 am

Chapter Two

Feeling tired but more emotionally up than he usually did returning home from work, Jack Weller closed the front door on the late May heat and sucked up the first cooling blast of the air conditioning.

For once the shooting had gone smooth as butter, and he had even gotten a little ahead of schedule. A nice dinner, and then later maybe we'll go to the Center and see what we shall see.

They had gone to the Center four times in the last three weeks, and while no hard contacts had yet been made, they had become familiar enough faces to talk casually with anyone there without seeming to come on too strongly. Weller hadn't seen Marsha Henderson again, but he had had a few brief and casual conversations with two prime-time producers and a director who was getting regular work on a cop series. He hadn't come on as an assignment-chaser to any of them, but at least now there were some potentially valuable people who knew who he was. And it seemed only a matter of time before some random talk drifted onto the subject of his directing career and from there to a "come see me at the studio." Maybe tonight would be the night.

He went into the living room to make a drink. Annie wasn't there. "Annie? I'm home!" he shouted in the general direction of the kitchen.

No answer.

"ANNIE?"

Nothing.

He went into the kitchen. No Annie. Nothing on the stove. She must be in the john, Weller thought. Then he noticed the note on the kitchen table, secured under the sugar bowl.

"Dear Jack," it said, ''I've gone to the L.A. Transformation Center, and I won't be home for dinner. There's some salmon salad and vegetables in the refrigerator for you. Be back about eight. Love, Annie."

"Goddamn it!" Weller snarled, crumpling up the note. What the hell is all this about? Reflexively, he looked in the refrigerator and saw a big mound of salmon salad on a platter, artfully surrounded by lettuce, tomato wedges, cucumbers, green onions, and endive. There was a small cruet of fresh salad dressing next to it. But his hunger had evaporated. What in blazes is she doing at the Los Angeles Transformation Center? Just what is the Los Angeles Transformation Center?

He closed the refrigerator door with an angry slam, stood there stupidly for a moment, then went into the bedroom, where, he remembered, Annie had been collecting a pile of Transformationalist literature on her night table over the past couple of weeks.

He had not been paying much attention to it at the time, but during their last two visits to the Celebrity Center, Annie had spent some time upstairs while he was making conversation at the bar and had come home with pamphlets and flyers stuffed into her pocketbook. They had gone upstairs together on their second visit to the center; the come-on hadn't impressed Weller much then, and he had paid no further attention to it. But come to think of it, Annie had seemed to be interested, now that he remembered it through hindsight's eyes.

They had been standing at the bar with an out-of-work production executive named Harry West. West had been standing on the unemployment line for a while, but he had produced four reasonably long-running series and had also done three or four television movies, so he seemed like a good guy to get to know. Sooner or later he would get another assignment, and when he did, having gotten friendly with him when he wasn't working could turn out to be a double advantage.

Unfortunately all West seemed interested in talking about was Transformationalism. "I've only had a few months of processing, but I can sense the changes in my consciousness already. They're really onto something, I tell you. I'd be in had shape without it."

"Really?" Annie said. "You really feel different?" At the time Weller, had assumed that Annie was just playing the game, that that look of earnest interest was part of the act.

"Well, when Dog Days got canceled, I found myself without regular work for the first time in years," West said. "The entire pattern of my life was fractured. Two weeks on the unemployment line and I was starting to panic without knowing why. Then I ended up here, went upstairs, and got talked into trying some processing -- gaming it through, role reversal, block-auditing, a little meditative deconditioning, just the basic stuff. After awhile I found my whole perspective changing. I was trying to cling to a previous pattern that had already been destroyed instead of riding the changes. That's where the panic was coming from. I was trying to cope with now in terms of then; my behavior reflexes were stuck in the previous reality."

"And now?" Annie asked.

"Now at least I'm riding the wavefront," West said. "I don't perceive myself as an out-of-work producer. I'm a creative individual with certain skills, certain contacts, a certain track record, all of which are intrinsic factors that I carry along with me as I evolve through the now. But I'm not trying to hold together an obsolete instantaneous personality, I'm open to my further personal evolution."

The Transformationalist jargon made West begin to seem like a brain-barble case, and it took a certain effort for Weller to refrain from pointing out that all this advanced consciousness hadn't gotten him another job. Fortunately Annie was carrying the ball, so he was able to just lay back and shut up.

''I've got a feel for what you're saying," she said, "but I'm not sure what you mean by 'instantaneous personality' or 'riding the changes' or any of that stuff."

West's eyes widened. ''You mean you kids' don't know anything about Transformationalism?" he said. There was something definitely unwholesome in his eager tone of voice as far as Weller was concerned.

"We've only been here twice," he said.

"Never been upstairs?" There was a bit of the school-yard pervert in West's expression now.

"Nope."

"Well, come on. You must let me show you."

"Okay," Annie said brightly, ''I'd like to." Weller caught her eye with his protesting vibrations. Annie looked back at him with that cool, determined set to her eyes that always meant it would be less hassle to do things her way than to follow his own instincts which were now telling him that this Harry West was a blown-out turkey. But Annie apparently still felt that he was worth humoring, and maybe she was right; certainly they had nothing to lose.

So they let West lead them up a flight of stairs near the stage to a cool blue hallway with five open doorways leading off it, and they took the quickie tour.

In the first room a guy was hooked up to a complicated looking brainwave-monitoring machine and a male Transformationalist was studying an oscilloscope as he read off a series of words. "Mother ... prick ... boss ... faggot ... communism ... Adolf Hitler ..."

"Block-auditing," West whispered. "Measures direct brainwave reaction to loaded words, locates areas of psychic blockage quickly and scientifically...."

They just peeked into the next room, which was given over to tables of literature, some of it free, and some of it for sale. In the third room, a female Transformationalist was engaged in what seemed like a very weird argument with a well- dressed middle-aged man in front of a small audience.

"... I won't do it, I don't like the taste," he said.

"You don't have to taste it if you take it all the way back in your throat," she said.

"It's too big. It'll choke me."

"If you haven't tried it, how do you know you won't like it?" she said.

"You're just saying that because you enjoy having it sucked."

Out in the hall a bewildered Weller turned to West. "What the hell was that?" he asked.

"The role-reversal game," West said. "She plays him, he plays her. I think they were role reversing a blow job." He grinned sheepishly. "They ran that on me once," he said.

"Jesus Christ!" Weller had to admit that it was funny, in a sardonic way, but it seemed to him that this kind of thing went too far, that there was a deliberately nasty element of humiliation in it, viciousness for its own sake.

But Annie burst into infuriating giggles. "Very interesting," she said in a mock German accent. Weller felt a surge of genuine anger toward her. A feminist she was not, but she was not above occasionally using the stance to irritate him with a gamester feminine superiority. It was as if this role-reversal game, was an outside sanction of the aspect of her personality that he found least pleasing, a wedge inserted into their solidarity as a couple, an unpleasant reminder that no male-female relationship was quite as unified as either mate would like it to seem. The fact that he took it more seriously than she did only added an extra edge of gall.

In the fourth room four people were being put through a standard psychodrama, apparently set in a Nazi concentration camp, with a man and a woman playing gas-oven victims and two men playing guards. Even more vicious, Weller thought, but a lot less closer to home.

The fifth room was just a recruiter behind a desk laden with sign-up forms and charts explaining the cost of various processing package deals, and Weller managed to get them out of there fast.

The whole setup had seemed like just a reasonably slick con to Weller. He had naturally assumed that Annie, being an intelligent person like himself, had taken it the same way, that her approval of the blow-job role-reversal game had just been a superior female amusement of the kind he was used to, that her apparent interest in the psychodrama had been professional.

But now, sitting on the edge of their bed and leafing through all the Tnansformationalist literature she had brought home, he realized that he had been pigheadedly blind to what was going on, that he had taken old level-headed Annie too much for granted, which was an occasional nasty habit of his. It was always hard for him to realize that really different things could be going on inside her head when they were in the same situation together. Parties that he wanted to leave when she turned out to be in the process of making a connection, that single stupid orgy which had Olympianly amused him and disgusted her ...

And now this. Every time they had been at the Center, he had been so absorbed in hustling people that he had just assumed that she was attracted to the place for the same reason; he had been too inside his own head to notice the way this Transformationalist garbage had been capturing his own wife's attention.

Some director you are, Weller! he thought, scanning the stuff Annie had been reading right there in bed beside him. Some husband, with your head stuck up your own asshole while your wife was drifting off into a whole other trip! What was this stuff that was doing this to her?

"TRANSFORMATIONAUSM AND YOU!" the basic sales pitch, complete with a list of famous Transformationalists including a baseball player and a couple of minor actresses, but no one else Weller had ever heard of. A brochure on the Los Angeles Transformation Center, describing the processing that was available there. Something on a Transformational Desert Retreat. Little booklets on "BLOCK-AUDITING," "GAMING IT THROUGH," "ROLE-REVERSAL," and "MEDITATIVE DECONDITONING." A flyer pushing TRANSFORMATIONAL MAN, a science-fiction novel by Steinhardt, a $7.95 hardcover self-published by Transformationalism.

Weller disgustedly tossed the literature back onto the night table. I should've noticed, he thought. Goddamn, I should've noticed. He checked his watch. Five after six.

Might as well eat, he decided, going into the kitchen, taking the salad out of the refrigerator and sitting down at the kitchen table. As he picked at the food, he ran through the past week in his mind, and in retrospect, he realized that the signs had been there, if only be hadn't been too bloody self-involved to notice.

Last Wednesday, when Harry called Annie and told her she hadn't gotten that commercial part, there had been no tirade, no tears, no talk about looking for a new agent, just a dull acceptance of the inevitable. "Why am I even wasting my time going after commercials?" she had said. "Do we really need the money that badly? Am I really going to be discovered in some stupid perfume commercial? It's just playing out a tired old pattern, Jack, jumping at whatever dull crap I think might come my way. If I want to act in features, I should be going out for feature parts and stop kidding myself that the rest of it means anything."

That hadn't seemed like the usual old Annie, Weller thought. In the past that kind of attitude had been a signal of her boredom and frustration, foreshadowing things like a bout of swinging or an argument or a rap about going to New York and becoming a serious stage actress. But he had been too damned pissed off at how badly the shooting had gone that day to pay any real attention to it. And all the hamburgers she's been serving up lately, he thought. The Colonel Sanders Chicken. Annie cared about what she put on the table except when she was signaling dissatisfaction with him; and then the slovenly meals were deliberate gestures, at least on a subconscious level.

Weller's appetite deserted him again. The half-eaten cold supper became an affront to him. a chastisement, a symptom of what had been going on, unnoticed, under his very nose, for at least two weeks. He put the remains back into the refrigerator, went into the living room, thought about making himself a drink, decided against it, put on the news, and immediately ignored the drone of the television set, pacing around the living room, into the hall halfway to the bedroom, back to the living room again. Damn, damn, damn! Schmuck that you are, Weller!

The jargon that had crept into her vocabulary! Now, with the house echoing to her absence, he could see it. They were both forever grumbling about how much television they found themselves watching, but what had she said only two days ago ... ? "It keeps pumping out the same cultural matrix; the whole country sucking up the same static brain-freeze, including the people who create it." It was what they had both thought of the tube all along, so he hadn't noticed that the words came from somewhere else.

What had she said when her friend Sally came over to bitch about her old man's reaction to her consciousness-raising group? "Game it through, Sally. Get into his head. He's confronting a discontinuity." And that business about the new network guidelines. "You've got to ride the changes'" she had said, "not let them wash you over."

Oh, it's insidious stuff! Weller thought, perching for a moment on the arm of the couch. That Transformationalist jargon slides into what you're thinking about, and without realizing it, you start thinking in their terms, and then, you're thinking their thoughts, thank you Marshall McLuhan! No wonder I didn't pick up on what was happening. They add a little this and a little that to your vocabulary, and while you're not looking, it soaks into your brain.

Weller turned off the television set angrily, hyperaware, indeed almost paranoid now, about being caught and programmed by random, unnoticed word patterns. He spent the next forty-five minutes in silence, trying to clear his mind for the inevitable confrontation ahead.

Finally he heard the rumble of Annie's Porsche pulling into the driveway. Vibrating with tension, he met her at the door.

"Hi Jack," she said brightly, looking cool, casual, and relaxed.

"How was your day?"

"How was my day? Is that all you've got to say?"

She did a short take, a look of puzzlement. "Oh," she said, striding ahead of him into the living room, "you want to hear about my processing." She sprawled on the couch, kicked off her sandals, put her feet up on the coffee table. "Well, it was very interesting," she said. "They start you off on blockauditing, you know, they hook you up to a brainwave monitor, feed you key words, and map your brainwave reactions so they finally end up with what they call a 'psychomap' of --"

"Wait a minute. Wait a minute!" Weller shouted, standing in front of her listening to this goop, not knowing how to start, not even knowing precisely what it was that he wanted to start. "That's not what I want to know."

"Then what do you want to know?" she asked, looking up at him evenly. "What's the matter with you?"

Already feeling somewhat foolish and impotent, Weller hesitated, his body locked in tension, then collapsed onto the couch beside her. "What I want to know is why you went to the Transformation Center," he said slowly.

"To try some processing. They don't do it at the Celebrity Center."

Mentally Weller counted to ten as he studied Annie's calm, untroubled face. Game it through, he told himself sardonically. We're obviously not on the same wavelength, and it's at least as much my fault as hers. I can't let this alienation I feel escalate into a shooting match. But there was still that feeling of talking to a stranger as he said, with tense exaggerated patience: "What I want to know is why you wanted to try Transformationalist processing."

"Oh," Annie said. She thought quietly for long moments. "Well, as we both know, we don't exactly feel satisfied with our lives. We're still knocking on the same doors and getting the same wrong answers. So I figured, maybe it's not the world, maybe it's me. So why not give Transformationalism a try?" She looked at him, touched his cheek. "Oh, you're upset about dinner," she said. "I'm sorry. "

"Why did you just go off and do it?" Weller asked. "Why didn't we talk about it first?"

"It was a spontaneous decision," Annie said. "Besides, I've sensed that you're not too receptive to the whole idea. Am I wrong?"

"No," Weller said. "I think it's all an insidious crock of shit."

Annie nodded. ''That's what I thought. So I figured that if I went by myself and you saw it was doing me some good, then I could get you to try it."

"And you plan to continue?" Weller said unhappily.

''I've signed up for the four-week trial course," Annie replied.

"Oh shit!"

Annie reacted by drawing away from him, into a cool, annoyed, slightly superior shell, an attitude toward him that he had rarely experienced before from her. "I don't see why you're acting this way. I'm trying to do something to better myself. Just because you --"

"How much is this four-week course costing?" Weller blurted, and instantly wished he could take it back. It immediately put the whole thing on the tackiest possible level.

"For Chrissakes, Jack, it's only two hundred fifty dollars for eight sessions, which is a lot cheaper than the usual forty dollars for two sessions."

"Two hundred and fifty bucks! Forty dollars for two hours! For crying out --"

"This is certainly a new side to you, Jack Weller! I've never seen you as Uncle Scrooge before. Besides, it's my own money."

"Oh, now it's your money and my money, is it? What happened to our money? Besides, it's not that we can't afford it ... "

"Then what is it?"

"I don't like watching my wife being ripped off by a scam like Transformationalism." he said. "Can't you understand that?"

"Now you're going to forbid me to spend my own money for my own good? From Uncle Scrooge to Porky Pig!"

"Damn it, don't try to run that number on me. You know I wouldn't forbid you to do anything even if I could, which I can't. I'm just trying to tell you in my chauvinist way that I think you're being conned, that this whole thing smells."

A curtain of clear, impenetrable tranquility descended across Annie's face. "Why are we shouting at each other?" she said. "Let's --"

"I know, I know, let's game it through." They both laughed, fracturing the tension at least temporarily if somewhat artificially.

"Just listen to us," Annie said. "Listen to you. Don't you really think you might benefit from --"

"Please," Weller said, holding up his palm resignedly. "Peace. But please."

"Okay." Annie said. "For now let's be civilized and just agree to disagree." She snuggled up to him, kissed him lightly on the lips. "No need to get so serious about it anyway, is there?" she said.

***

"If you ask me, Jack -- and you are asking me -- you're taking it too seriously," Bob Shumway said, sipping at his drink. ''That's what women are like, is all."

They were sitting at the bar at the Celebrity Center, and for once Weller wasn't even noticing who was and who wasn't in the place. He felt spooky and strange discussing Annie with Bob. He had never been one to chew over his relationship with his wife with one of the boys, considering it a kind of treason to the primary loyalty in his life. But lately he had come more and more to feel the need to share his troubles with someone. particularly since Annie's growing obsession with Transformationalism was beginning to seem like the same kind of treason to the primary loyalty she owed him. So here I am, he thought, crying in my beer with Bob at the Celebrity Center while Annie is downtown being processed by the same people who run this place. It had a kind of awful symmetry to it.

"If you notice," Bob said, "it's women who tend to get involved in these mind games more than men. Est, Arica, Esalon, the ladies get involved in it first and drag the old man along for the ride. Why, you may ask?"

"Why, I may ask."

"Because while we're out working and home worrying about work, they've got all those empty hours to fill."

"That sounds like obsolete piggery to me," Weller said. "Besides, Annie isn't a bored housewife; she's got her career."

"Which at this stage consists mainly of sitting around waiting for her agent to call, right?" Bob said.

"Sorry. You can't sell me Annie as a victim of the bored hausfrau syndrome."

"Okay, then look at women's lib --"

"You can't sell me Annie as a women's libber either."

"Well, then," Bob said out of the side of his mouth, "would you like to buy a duck? Seriously, Jack, what I mean is that women have been cut loose from their old housewifely roles, and they're thrashing around trying to figure out how the world works now, so they try their consciousness-raising groups, this guru, that guru, Transformationalism, whatever. It's a phase, it'll pass, you're taking it too seriously. After all, what's Annie really doing? Going to the L.A. Transformation Center twice a week. Big deal. Believe me, better that than she should be hanging around with bull-dyke storm-trooper feminists; that I have lived through."

"It's not the lousy two nights a week at the Center," Weller said. "it's living full-time with the deathless words of John B. Steinhardt." Only last night it had even penetrated the bedroom....

Sexually, things bad been screwed up lately to begin with. Something had been keeping them from making love on nights that Annie went for processing. Weller could not bring himself to make an approach. It seemed to him that Annie was putting out totally turned-off vibes, as if what went on at the center was absorbing the same kind of energy that went into sex, or as if his attitude toward the processing made him an object of distaste. Of course, it could also be that his resentment drove the possibility of intimacy from his psyche, but whatever it was, never-on-Tuesdays-or-Thursdays was becoming an iron-clad role.

It was the first time in their marriage that their lovemaking had ritualized into pattern. Spontaneity was lacking, and when they did make love, Annie had trouble coming, or was punishing him by making it difficult, withholding her passion and moving her body from some deep inner distance. And Weller found himself having trouble lasting, or caring less and less about satisfying her. Sex had become an ambiguous battlefield.

Last night they had reached the pits. Weller found himself lying atop her, flesh moving on flesh in a strange, passionless silence, and all at once he perceived himself as a machine, pumping away on another machine to produce a mechanical response. On and on it went, in, out, in, out, like an oil-field pump doggedly working a dry well, and he felt an anger building within him, a trapped weariness not of the flesh.

Finally he got petulantly tired of waiting for her to come, he just didn't give a damn, and he let himself go in an orgasm that was a mere relief from sexual constipation, even an act of self-involved aggression. Then he rolled off her, and they lay side by side glaring at each other in the semidarkness.

Annie finally broke the awful silence. "Don't you think it's time we finally talked about this?" The very reasonableness of her voice made Weller sick inside. They had never gone into sexual postmortems before; they had never had to. Talking about it seemed to be a terrible confrontation with the possibility that something between them might be in mortal danger.

"We've really developed a block in the sexual area," Annie went on relentlessly. ''I've completed my psychomap, so I know where my blocks are. Creative commitment. Motherhood. Competitiveness. But my processor hasn't uncovered any blocks in the sexual area, so it's got to be something you're generating, Jack. I really think you should begin processing now. It's beginning to seem essential to our relationship."

"Listen to you!" Weller exploded. "Listen to how you're talking about us, like some goddamn Transformationalist textbook, like we were bugs under John Steinhardt's microscope! It's unreal, it's inhuman. Can't you see that it's this Transformationalism garbage that's causing the trouble in the first place?"

"Your reaction to Transformationalism is the problem," Annie said. "You're blocking on my Transformation. You feel threatened, left out, even jealous." Her calm, clinical voice spouting the damn jargon was totally, patronizingly, infuriating.

"How long is this crap going to continue?" Weller asked. "Aren't the four weeks up this Thursday?" After that, he hoped, things would get back to normal.

''I've signed up for the next six weeks at the regular rate," she told him.

"Jesus H. Christ!"

"I know you're blocking on this," she said in a tone of maddening sympathy, "but try to understand. I've completed my psychomap, so we know where my blocks are, but I've just started working on them with meditative deconditioning. If I had some disease, you wouldn't want me to stop going to the doctor as soon as it had been diagnosed. You'd want me to keep on till I was cured. Otherwise, what's the point?"

"What's the point indeed!" Weller snarled.

She laid her head on his bare chest, "Won't you give it a try?" she cooed softly. "Even without a brainwave monitor I can feel the block you have on my Transformation. A processor could map it in a single session. I'm transforming, Jack. I feel that: I'm near the takeoff point where transformation becomes permanent and ongoing. I don't want to look back and see you trapped in the same old instantaneous persona while I keep growing. It would break my heart. Don't you want to know why you're reacting this way to my Transformation? Don't you want to get rid of the block?"

Weller stroked her hair; feeling sad, feeling shut out, and yet at the same time determined not to be sucked in. Poor baby, he thought, what are they doing to you? "I want to get rid of this whole business," he said. "Can't you just forget about it? For me. For us."

"No, I can't," she said. "Not even for you. Not even if I wanted to. If only you'd try it. Jack, you'd see what I mean... "

"It's even screwing us up in bed," Weller told Bob Shumway softly.

Bob frowned sympathetically. "Have you tried putting your foot down?" he suggested.

"All the way to the floor."

"I mean making it a me-or-it proposition." Bob said.

A bubble of chill formed in Weller's gut. "I think maybe I"m afraid to do that," he said. "Besides, it's not the way I feel."

Bob's expression brightened artificially. He glanced around the room, bobbing his head at a couple of attractive women. "Well then, maybe a little fresh pussy," he said. "Make you feel livelier, and the smell of it on you just might put the old lady back on her toes."

Weller grimaced distastefully. ''I'm not into playing those games," he said.

Bob Shumway laughed brittlely. He looked down into the depths of his drink. "You do have a problem, boy," he said.

***

"-- no, Harry --"

"-- I don't care --"

"-- well, maybe I should look for a new agent --"

" -- all right, if you want to talk --"

"-- not till next Wednesday --"

Annie hung up the phone and walked back to the kitchen table where Weller was finishing up the remains of his big
Sunday brunch. "What was that?" he asked.

"Harry," Annie said. "The actress who was cast in a refrigerator commercial they're shooting Tuesday got appendicitis, and he got me the assignment to fill in."

"Great."

"Great?" Annie said, taking a sip of coffee. "I turned it down."

"What?"

"I had to. I've got a processing session on Tuesday, and I would've missed it. Besides, I've decided that there's no point in expending energy on something as meaningless as a commercial. "

Weller leaned back in his chair and stared at this strange creature his wife was becoming. "Don't you think this has gone far enough?" he said. "Now you're turning down a part because you don't want to miss a processing session and making up an artsy-fartsy rationalization. Don't you think you've lost your sense of proportion?"

''There's a rule that you're not supposed to miss a session unless you're sick," Annie said. "It would show a lack of commitment."

"What about your commitment to your career?" Weller snapped.

"To what?" Annie said. To making meaningless commercials? To doing walk-ons in stupid television segments? It's all ego, Jack. I'm beginning to understand that now. It's nothing. A maximized person has to have a sense of commitment to something beyond ego-feeding games, to something of absolute value. That's why they have the rule, and it makes sense."

"Annie, Annie," Weller sighed, "can't you see what's happening to you? I'm really getting worried."

"So am I. About us. I think we're in danger of drifting apart."

Hearing her voice his own formless dread sent a pang of fear through Weller. Through career frustrations, swinging, arguments, occasional bad sex, money problems, it had never come to this. Breaking up had never before been a possibility in their universe. However bad things had looked, the assumption had always been that they would work through it together. At the same time, having it out on the table gave him a certain hope. Maybe she was finally ready to face up to what was going on. "It hurts me to hear you say that," he said, "but I'm glad you're at least facing the problem."

"Game it through from my side," Annie said. ''I'm beginning to ride the wavefront. I'm working through my blocks, which means I'm changing, and I can't stop changing. I love you, and I look back and see you frozen in the same old static matrix. I'm moving, and you're standing still. How can we not drift apart? You've got to begin Transformational processing, Jack. You've got to open yourself up to the changes I've opened myself up to. Don't you see how your block on the subject is just a sign of how desperately you need processing? I don't want to have to travel on alone, but I've got to travel on. I don't want to lose you, I want you to share this with me."

Her voice was so tender, her face so sincere, and the thought of losing her to this thing put such an ache in his chest, that Weller made the effort to see it through her eyes. What if it were really true? What if her personality really were expanding and deepening and. he was fighting it out of some mingyness of the soul? What if it were his head that was screwed on crooked ...?

He wrenched his mind out of that mode, for that was exactly the kind of thinking they used against you. Doubt your own center and you were lost. For facts were facts, and the fact was that Transformationalism was doing real damage to Annie. If only their relationship were suffering, he might be able to persuade himself that it was some failing in himself, a lack of courage to dare the leap into the unknown. But here was Annie turning down a part, becoming indifferent to her career, maybe losing her agent. And none of that had anything to do with his head. Reality had to be dealt with and since she was incapable, he was elected.

"And if you had to choose between me and Transformationalism?" he said.

"Don't say that! You don't understand. It's not a matter of choice. I can't go back, I can't be the person I was any more than men can go back to being monkeys. You've got to come to me, there is no way on Earth I can go back to where you are. Don't fight it, Jack. Don't get left behind."

When Weller was ten, a group of his friends had gathered in the school yard to plan a childish shoplifting spree. His whole circle of close friends was in the group, and they all urged, indeed demanded, that he go along. But some moral stubbornness in Weller would not let him do it. They had called him chicken, faggot, ball-less wonder, everything boys can inflict on a kid whose courage is called into question. But Weller had stood his ground, and eventually they left him, alone and friendless in the empty school yard. They'll change their minds, he had thought, through gathering tears, but not really believing it. And eventually they had. After a few days they accepted him back into the group again.

But now Weller felt like that little boy standing alone in the school yard, knowing what was right and feeling forlornly abandoned for his goddamn virtue. It had passed then, and he told himself it would pass now, but a part of him didn't believe it. A part of him already felt that he might end up standing there forever, little boy lost in the empty school yard.

***

It had been a week since Weller had set foot inside the Transformationalist Celebrity Center. As Transformationalism's tendrils insinuated themselves deeper and deeper into the masonry of his marriage, the place had become an object of loathing to him. Indeed he had even begun to conceive a certain irrational dislike for the basically innocent Bob Shumway who just happened to have introduced them to the Celebrity Center.

But when Annie told him that her processor, Clyde Franker, was going to be there tonight and wanted to meet him, that was more than enough to make Weller willing to invade the enemy's ground. Face to face, no third-rate used-guru salesman can be a match for me, he thought, sitting at a table alone with Annie, nursing his drink and waiting for Franker to arrive. I'm a trained director and I'll show this prick up for the phony he is.

Annie sat there nervously, not touching her drink, looking sidewise at the entrance every few minutes. She hadn't really told him what this was about, only that Franker was interested in meeting him and that she felt it was important to her for him to agree. But that was all right with Weller; he didn't care what number the processor thought he was going to run, his adrenalin was flowing, and he was going to direct this little charade.

"Clyde! Over here!" Annie was waving at a tall, thin, grayhaired man in a tan suit who had just entered the room. He walked over to the table, nodded to Annie, handed Weller a somewhat moist palm.

"Hello, Mr. Weller," he said in a smooth bass voice, ''I'm Clyde Franker." His hair was barbered to the point of sculpture, his aging skin looked pink and scrubbed, and his blue eyes radiated insurance-salesman frankness. He looked like a television announcer to Weller, and in fact Weller wondered if he might not have seen him in a local commercial or two.

"Annie's told me quite a lot about you, Jack," Franker said.

"Has she?" Weller said, glancing at Annie, whose eyes were shifting nervously back and forth between Franker and himself.

"Indeed," Franker said. "As her meditative deconditioner, I would naturally learn something of her external environment, of which you, of course, are a major part."

"Of course," Weller said evenly.

"And Transformationalism seeks to deal with the whole person, not just the mind in isolation." Franker said. "So we must concern ourselves with the objective life of the member in addition to the subjective mental reality."

Weller had deliberately let Franker's hype ramble on, waiting for the processor to set himself up. Now, he thought, this nerd has gone just about exactly far enough. "It seems to me you've made a real mess out of Annie's objective life, Clyde," he said tersely. "You've fucked up her attitude toward her career, and you're on your way to fucking up our marriage."

"Jack!" Annie cried, a look almost of terror on her face. "Don't --"

But Franker cut her off with a raised palm, a cocking of his head, exhibiting a degree of control that Weller found frightening and infuriating. "Such is your perception, Jack," he said calmly. "But I hope we can alter that. First, because your attitude is seriously interfering with the progress of Annie's processing, and second, because we want to help you too."

Franker paused, as if waiting for a response, for the straight line.

Weller let him wait a good long time, breaking the rhythm. Finally he said, "You might as well make your pitch."

Franker hesitated, as if he had been thrown off-stride. But he recovered quickly. "Your attitude is not uncommon," he said. "We know what it is, and we know how to deal with it. Annie has achieved a significant degree of Transformational consciousness. You, without processing, are frozen in a lower evolutionary state. It's as if both of you had lived together as high-school graduates for years, and then suddenly Annie went to college and got an advanced degree. Surely you can see that that is an unstable situation. Annie's Transformation makes you feel insecure and threatened -- which is not paranoia but an accurate perception of reality -- and your lower state of consciousness acts as a drag on Annie's progress."

Franker paused, smiled ingenuously at Weller, got a fish-eyed stare back, then continued, trying to stare Weller down as he spoke. "Experiments have shown that for the first two years of life a human being and a chimpanzee can be raised as equal siblings. However, once the human begins to talk, to develop an inherently higher state of consciousness, such a relationship is no longer possible."

Weller hardened his stare. "Are you calling me an ape?" he said in deliberately threatening tones.

Franker broke eye contact and laughed. a canned sound, straight off a laugh track. "Quite the contrary," he said. "The difference between a human and an ape is intrinsic; an ape can never achieve human consciousness, so such a relationship is doomed. But it would be quite easy for you to evolve to Annie's level and thus make your marriage viable once more."

"All I need is a little Transformational processing, I suppose," Weller said.

Franker, beamed. "Exactly," he said. "What's more, we could put Annie's processing in what we call a 'holding state' until you catch up, which could be done in a month -- less if you cared to double up on your sessions. I'm sure Annie would be willing to make such a temporary sacrifice for the sake of your domestic harmony."

He turned to Annie and lowered his voice half an octave. "Wouldn't you, Annie?" he said, making it sound like a command.

"Uh ... if you think it's best, Clyde," Annie muttered. She was like another person, withdrawn, fearful, submissive.

Weller felt a rising wave of protectiveness toward her. He felt his gorge rising; he had had just about enough. "Are you finished?" he said. "Are you quite finished?" Franker started to say something, but Weller cut him off with voice and hand. "Don't bother," be said. ''I'm telling you. You are finished. You are quite finished. I'm warning you, there are recourses. In fact I've got half a mind to drag your ass out into the parking lot and --"

"Stop it, Jack! Stop it!" Annie cried. "You don't know what you're doing!"

"Shut up, Annie!" Weller said, surprising himself.

"Really, Mr. Weller," Franker said, "these juvenile threats --"

Weller half rose, his hands balled into fists. "Get away from us, " he said. "Get away from this table. Get out of our lives. Leave my wife alone, or I'll screw your goddamn head off!"

Franker cocked an eyebrow at Annie. ''This is worse than I thought," he said. "This will require environmental alteration."

"Clyde, please --"

"We'll discuss it at our next session, Annie." Franker said, rising.

He turned to stare at Weller with a cold, measured gaze. "Jack," he said, "you will neither believe nor understand this now, but you are a person gravely in need of our help. And you are going to get it. For a time you may think of us as your enemies, but that will pass. One day, you will be thankful. Try to bear that in mind."

"Clyde --"

"At our next session, Annie," Franker snapped, cracking his cool for the first and only time, then departing.

Across the table Annie leaned on her hands, on the verge of trembling. "Why did you have to do it?" she whispered. "Why did you have to do it?"

Warm and weak with the backwash of adrenalin, Weller said, "Because I love you."

"I love you too, Jack, but I think you've made a terrible mistake. For both of us."

"What are you talking about?"

A shiver went through her body. "I don't know," she said softly, "but you shouldn't have acted that way. I just hope to God I'm wrong...."

"Wrong about what?"

But she crawled into a totally uncommunicative shell and categorically refused to discuss it any further.

***

Weller sat in the living room glumly picking at a platter of cold cuts, waiting for Annie to get back from her processing session. For two days, ever since the confrontation with Franker, she had refused to do anything but make small talk, totally cutting off the subject of Transformationalism. It was a return to normalcy that seemed as abnormal to Weller as anything could be; a cold, unreal Disneyland simulacrum of their previous life together, as empty as wax-museum figures of themselves, as brittle as glass.

All during that ominous period Weller had endlessly contemplated forthrightly forbidding her to go to the Transformation Center, but he couldn't see how he could make it stick, and a part of him lacked the courage to disturb the artificial calm. This morning he had half decided to do it anyway, but Annie remained fast asleep until it was time for him to leave for work, as if anticipating the scene on an unconscious level and willfully cutting off the possibility.

So there he sat in the silent gloom, nibbling fitfully at his supper, waiting for some unnameable ax to fall.

Finally he heard the sound of Annie's Porsche rumbling into the driveway. Then a long, pregnant silence during which Weller stifled the impulse to meet her at the door; there was no point in putting more weight on this moment than it already had.

Then Annie walked into the living room, ashen, shaken, yet also projecting a manic determination. She walked across the room toward him like a zombie, without saying a word, and sat down on the edge of the couch beside him.

"Jesus, what's wrong?" Weller asked.

Annie looked down into her lap. "Clyde issued a life directive," she said in a tiny voice. "He gamed it through with Benson Allen himself, and they both made the decision."

"Life directive? What the hell are you talking about?"

Still not meeting his eyes, Annie said, "They've decided that it would be evolutionarily regressive for me to continue to live with you unless you begin processing immediately."

"What?" Weller hissed, barely containing the impulse to scream it in rage. "What the fuck are you talking about?"

Annie began picking at the cuticles of her right hand with the nails of her left. "If you don't begin processing and I continue living with you, they'll cut me off from Transformationalism. Totally. Disobeying a life directive would make me a regressive. They'd cut me off and it would be permanent -- it's policy set by Steinhardt himself."

Weller's composure shattered utterly. There were no words to express the enormity, the outrageousness, the monstrosity of what she was saying; indeed he could not even feel an emotion that seemed adequate to the situation. An anesthetic curtain descended over the rational centers of his mind. All he could feel, all he could express, was total, blind rage.

"That does it!" he shouted. "I absolutely, categorically, totally forbid you to see any of these maniacs again! I'm going to get me a baseball bat, and I'm going to break it over Clyde Franker's fucking skull! Then I'm going to take what's left and shove it up this Benson Allen's ass till he's shitting splinters!"

Annie leaped up off the couch like a startled deer. "Stop it, Jack, stop it, stop it, stop it!" she screamed. "Don't you see that you're just confirming everything they've said? You've got to go for processing! You've just got to!"

Weller bounded off the couch and roared into her reddened, contorted face, blood pounding in his temples. "Processing! I'll give them processing! I'll process them into dogmeat! I'll kick their nuts down their throats!"

"You're raving like an animal!"

"I'm raving like an animal? You're gibbering like a lunatic!" All semblance of Weller's restraint was gone; his true feelings were exploding through him in a volcano of relief. He sucked up his own rage, welcoming it, almost enjoying it.

"I can't give it up! I'm not going to!"

"THE FUCK YOU WONT!"

Tears began to form in Annie's eyes. Her face was an ugly mask of rage that only fed Weller's fury. "You're not going to tell me what to do with my life!" she screamed.

"I'm telling you, all right. I'm goddamn well telling you!"

"I won't listen to this, I won't take it!" Annie shouted, her hands balled into fists. "If you won't come in for processing, I'm getting out of here this very minute!"

"BULLSHIT!" Weller shouted. "RAVING LUNATIC BULLSHIT!"

"It's no bullshit, Jack," she shouted over her shoulder as she ran out of the living room toward the front door. "I mean it! It's real!" Opening the door, she said, suddenly more calmly, ''I'll talk to you in the morning when maybe you'll have come to your senses."

Then she slammed the door hard behind her, leaving Weller transfixed in the center of the living room, his body frozen in rage, his mind roaring with emotional white noise.

He stood there for long moments trying to force rationality back into his screaming brain, trying to break the shocked, stunned, raging stasis that held him in emotional and physical paralysis.

But before he could move, before he could get himself to the door, he heard the engine of her car start in the driveway. Then, with a roar, the metallic scream of a missed shift, and the howl of an engine revving toward redline, she was gone.

All at once there was nothing but the echo of the Porsche engine Dopplering away to nothingness in the night, and the ghosts of their shouting voices filling the living room, reverberating in Weller's throbbing skull.
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Re: The Mind Game, by Norman Spinrad

Postby admin » Sat Mar 19, 2016 6:24 am

Chapter Three

Taking long gulps from his third mug of instant coffee, Weller paced the house, red-eyed and sour-stomached, trying to figure out what the hell to do. He had been up till nearly three the night before doing likewise. Call the Celebrity Center? Go to the L.A. Transformation Center? Call the police? No course of action seemed viable. Calling the Transformationalists would be pointless. What could he tell the police, that he had had a fight with his wife and would they please find her? Even if they would try to track her down, which they wouldn't, even if they could find her, which they couldn't, they certainly couldn't arrest her, and even if they did, it would certainly only serve to turn Annie more against him.

He had finally knocked himself out with sleeping pills, gotten maybe four hours of fitful, sweaty sleep, then called the studio and told them he had a stomach virus, and was barfing his guts out, and couldn't come into work. They had screamed and moaned about the schedule, but obviously they couldn't expect to get work out of a director who was puking every fifteen minutes.

He had chosen the stomach-virus schtick because that particular bug usually lasted about twenty-four hours, and he just couldn't believe that this nightmare wouldn't be over before tomorrow morning. This wasn't real. Annie hadn't seriously left him; they had just had a fight, and her car would be pulling into the driveway any minute now.

In the meantime there was nothing to do but wait and go slowly crazy.

Through the living room, down the hall, into the mocking, empty bedroom, a shudder, and back down the hall into the living room again. Maybe this will turn out for the best, Weller told himself. Maybe when she calms down and comes home, realizing what insanity this Transformationalism crap led her to last night, she'll come to her senses and this whole mess will finally be over. Sure, a scene like that is just what it takes to --

The phone began to ring.

Weller pounced on it like a hungry hawk. "Hello!'"

"Jack? It's me." Annie's voice on the other end of the wire was leached of all nuance, any hint of emotion.

"Are you all right?"

"I'm fine."

"Where are you?'

"I can't tell you that."

"What?" Weller shouted, snapping right back into last night's screaming match. He quickly regained control; the worst possible thing he could do would be to pick up the fight where they had left off. "Never mind," he said, with some semblance of calm. "Just come home; all is forgiven."

"I can't come home, Jack." Annie's distant electronic voice said. ''I'm not coming home. You have to come to me."

"All right, all right. Where are you?"

"I can't tell you that."

"Jesus --" Again Weller caught himself, forced an icy calm. "You're not making sense, Annie," he said. "How can I come to you if I don't know where you are?"

''I'm going to work for Transformationalism," Annie said, "and I don't know where they're sending me. I won't be allowed to contact you again, except maybe for a letter under certain circumstances. But Benson Allen himself has assured me that we can be together again as soon as you've had enough processing to evolve to my level. A month or two, Jack, that's all. This isn't good-bye, just so long."

"Annie! Get a hold of yourself! You can't --"

"I can't talk any longer, Jack, I have to hang up. It's a whole new life for me now, doing work that really matters. The only thing I miss is you. I hope you'll join me soon... I love you, Jack, I do still love you."

"Annie --"

But the phone clicked loudly, and a moment later the dial tone was buzzing emptily in his ear.

Woodenly Weller hung up the receiver, forcing himself to think calmly, mechanically, logically. All his shouting, all his emotion, all his pleading had gotten him nowhere or worse than nowhere. I can't afford to kick and scream and throw things, he told himself. I've got to act. In order to be able to act, I've got to figure out what I can do.

The first step had to be to find Annie. Could the call be traced? No, not after she had hung up, and the phone company wouldn't do it for anyone but the police anyway. Is it time to call the cops?

Wait a minute!

"Benson Allen himself has assured me that we can be together again ..." she had said. Allen is the head of the Los Angeles Transformation Center. He'd damn well know where she was.

And I'll damn well get it out of him! Weller told himself. He felt the panic that he had been holding back receding, his artificial calm firming up into cold resolve. All I have to do is get it out of Allen. They can't seriously believe that they can get away with this kind of crap. All I have to do is call his bluff.

***

The Los Angeles Transformation Center was a small converted hotel in Hollywood, just south of Sunset Boulevard and just west of Cahuenga, not too far from several studios. A fading tan stucco building eight stories high with a dirty red- tiled roof; a brand of cheap hotel common to the area. In the Golden days of Hollywood it would have been in good repair and filled with bright, handsome young people slinging hash and waiting on tables while they tried to break into the movies. These days such places were inhabited by sleazy failed pornographers, down-at-the-heels hippies, homosexual hustlers, the flotsam and jetsam of seedy downtown Hollywood.

This was definitely not a location chosen to attract the elite, and from the outside the building had none of the tone and class of the Celebrity Center. A rather crudely lettered sign above the entrance was all that identified it as the "Los Angeles Transformation Center." And Weller had to park on the street, for the Center had no parking lot -- usually a sign of a second-rate operation in car-dependent Los Angeles.

Sleazo! Weller thought as he walked up the short flight of stairs and through the unlocked outer door.

He found himself in an open area that had been the hotel lobby. There were benches along three walls, the lime-green paint was beginning to peel and crack, and there was the inevitable giant photo of John B. Steinhardt hung high on the left-hand wall. There seemed to be no central air conditioning, for the lobby was hot and sticky. About a dozen people were sitting around the lobby -- mostly under forty, mostly tackily dressed, a lot of long hair and an unusual amount of bad skin for Southern California. Hollywood losers, Weller thought contemptuously.

A steel fence had been erected across the lobby, cordoning off the flight of stairs and the bank of two elevators that gave access to the rest of the building. Beside the only gate in the fence was a desk with a burly young man behind it, dressed in the informal Transformationalist uniform of white shirt and black pants and presiding over a clipboard, piles of Transformationalist literature, and a house telephone. Two other big bozos, similarly dressed, lurked by the elevators.

As far as Weller was concerned, the place reeked of sleaze and grease, but was not without an aura of tight security, which made him wonder whether it was really going to be so easy to bull his way through to Benson Allen. Certainly force was out of the question.

Weller approached the man behind the desk. He was about twenty-five, hawk-nosed, with short black hair, and a redneck-cop look around the eyes. "Yes, sir," he said with the cold politeness typical of the Los Angeles police. "May 1 help you?"

"I want to see Benson Allen," Weller said.

"Do you have an appointment?"

"Not exactly'"

"Not Exactly?"

"Mr. Allen may be expecting me. My name is Jack Weller." The man behind the desk looked through some papers. "No," be said, "there's nothing here. If you'll tell me what it's in reference to, I'll direct you to the proper official. Mr. Allen sees no one without an appointment."

"My business is with Allen, it's a private matter," Weller said. "He'd better see me."

The Transformationalist frowned. Something cold, hard and threatening seemed to exude from his unwavering eyes. "That's a regressive attitude," he said.

"I don't care what kind of attitude it is," Weller said. "Allen had better see me, and he had better see me now. Use that phone and tell him I'm here."

"Transformationalism does not respond to threats," the man behind the desk said somewhat loudly. The men by the elevators came to alert.

"Let me put it this way, Charlie," Weller said. "I know that Allen will want to see me, and I know he's going to be pissed off at you if you don't tell him I'm here." He paused, picked up a certain wavering of the Transformationalist's assurance, and then, off the top of his head said: "And John isn't going to like it either." And gave the seated man a disdainful stare of his own.

Surprisingly the man almost immediately broke off eye contact, and his whole demeanor seemed to change. He picked up the phone. "Benson Allen," he said. Pause. "Benson? This is the desk, There's a Jack Weller to see you. He doesn't have an appointment, but --" Another pause. Then he hung up the phone and looked up at Weller with respect, submissiveness, perhaps even a little fear.

I wish I knew what I just did so I could do it again, Weller thought as the Transformationalist at the desk signaled to one of the men at the elevators.

"Karl, show Mr. Weller to Benson Allen's office." Karl opened the gate for Weller and closed it behind him like a hotel doorman.

Whatever I did, it sure worked, Weller thought as he was led to the elevator. He began to feel a little more on top of things. Instinct, so far, had served him well.

The elevator went all the way up to the eighth floor. Here the hallways were paneled in walnut, there was dark blue plush carpeting on the floor, and the light came from modern fixtures set flush in the ceiling. Executive country, for sure -- a sharp contrast to the peon region below.

His escort opened a door at the end of the hall and closed it behind him with a flourish as Weller stepped inside.

Benson Allen's office had a rich patina of Peter Max hippie elegance. The ceiling was tented with emerald velvet. A huge Persian rug covered most of the floor. There were two big corner windows. There were large op-art paintings, all psychedelic swirls and zigzags of primary colors, festooning the peach-colored walls. There were two low white plush couches and three leather beanbag chairs. Allen's desk was a kidney-shaped swirl of loud paisley patterns. It was all too much, too much like a set, too unreal.

The man behind the desk wore a fancy paisley velvet shirt and white pants. Allen had very carefully styled shoulder-length blond hair, and soft, warm puppy-dog eyes set in a beachboy face gone ever so slightly to fat. He looked about thirty-two -- a rich, aging flower child. It was hardly what Weller had expected.

"Sit down, man," Allen said in a casual, all-too-mellow voice. "I knew you had to make it here."

Hesitantly Weller perched uncomfortably on the edge of a beanbag chair in front of the desk. "I'll bet you did," he said. "Where is my wife?"

"Everything's cool, Jack." Allen said pleasantly. "She's at one of our residential dorms. She's fine. No need for hostile vibes."

"Then if you'll just give me her address, I'll leave."

Allen leaned back in his chair. He smiled softly. "You know that's not in the program," he said.

"Surely you must know you can't get away with this," Weller snapped. I'm her husband. I'll ... I'll go to the police. I'll sue you.... I'll ...."

Allen laughed, an infuriatingly mellow sound. "We're a very heavy outfit," he said. "Man, you think we haven't had to deal with this trip before? You think we don't have lawyers telling us what's cool? You think we would do this kind of thing if we didn't know it was legal? Try to sue us, try the police, if you want to run that program. No bad vibes in that. Your old lady is an adult, and she left of her own free will."

"I'll go to the newspapers," Weller said. "I'll go to the district attorney. I'll have your whole organization investigated." But his words sounded futile, even to him.

Benson Allen looked at him sadly, almost sympathetically. "Be real, man," he said. "You can't threaten us. We're too heavy. We're too powerful. We're legally righteous. If you can get into this life situation instead of running paranoia scenarios, then we can rap about what can really be done."

"All right," Weller said. "For the moment I'll let you do the talking."

"Groovy," Allen said. He reached into a drawer, took out two manila folders, and laid them down on the desk top. Leafing through one of them, he said, "Anne Weller has had five weeks of processing. Her psychomap shows blockages in creative commitment and career satisfaction, which externally translates into dissatisfaction with an acting career that hasn't made it and probably wouldn't result in eptifying her consciousness even if it did." He put down the folder and smiled at Weller. "Good news for you, Jack." he said.

Weller looked at him blankly.

"Nothing in here about blocking on you, man," Allen said. "Most of these kind of cases show heavy marital dysfunction. But according to the psychomap a fully transformed and eptified Anne would still love you. The relationship would not dissolve. Other things being equal."

"So what the hell is all this about?" Weller said. "If that's what you believe in your vast wisdom, why won't you tell me where she is?"

Allen began leafing through the other folder. "Because according to your file --"

"My file?" Weller shouted. "You've got a goddamn dossier on me?"

"For sure," Allen said mildly. "We always start one when somebody signs up at the Celebrity Center. And of course we've added the data we've gotten from your wife's processing. We have to be into our members external environment if we're going to epitify their lives, don't we?"

"Of all the --"

"Now dig it," Allen said. more loudly, overriding Weller without cracking his facade of sympathetic cool. "Your file show's that you're a heavy regressive influence on Anne. You've got a very negative attitude toward Transformationalism which you've been laying on her. Your head is full of blocks. You've got a low career-satisfaction index, so we can predict that you would get down on her if her satisfaction index started to go up. And of course this factor comes down very heavily on the evolving state of her Transformational consciousness. In your present state it just bums you out. The relationship could only stabilize if you dragged her back down to your level."

Allen paused, leaned forward, gave Weller a warm, concerned look. "Or," he said, "if we brought you up to her level."

"Which brings us back to square one," Weller said.

"We never left it," Allen said. "You can dig that our first concern must be for Annie, our current member. We can't let you bring her down to your regressive level of consciousness. But we also care about you." Again he fingered Weller's dossier, probably for sheer effect.

"Jack, you've got heavy problems," he said. "Can't you see that? Your work is bumming you out, you can't find a way to change your karma, and you probably couldn't dig it even if you did. Game it through, man: what if your problem isn't with your luck but with your head?"

"What?"

"Get behind why you're afraid to try Transformational processing," Allen said. "Your blocked personality is what's afraid because it doesn't want to be transformed into something else, it's afraid of dying in a way. Man, it's the most common syndrome there is; your kind of hostility to processing almost always turns out to be a badly blocked personality matrix fighting to keep control of your head."

"What a crock of shit!" Weller said. "Because I don't want you people messing around with my mind, I'm crazy?"

"No," Allen said, "because you're crazy, you don't want us to process your mind. I mean, look at your scenario. You want to get back together with your wife. Now the only way that is going to happen is for you to agree to processing. Run whatever number you want, you're gonna find that out. So you've got everything to gain and nothing to lose, but you still fight it. Now is that really having your head on straight?"

"Nothing to lose? What about a little thing like money?" But that rang falsely to Weller even as he said it. I wouldn't spend a few hundred dollars to get Annie back? Can I kid myself that that's really the reason?

"Okay, man, if that's your cop out, I'm going to take it away from you," Allen said. ''I'll show you that you're your only enemy, in this scenario. I'll authorize a free introductory lesson and demonstration for you. It usually costs fifteen dollars, but you can be my guest."

Weller felt as if he were slogging through glue. Threats had proven useless, and now Allen was working on him, being so totally helpful, benign, and sympathetic that there was no way of coming on hostile without feeling like a nerd and an ingrate. But in the process he was not only closing off every possibility save his agreeing to be processed, but rolling out the red carpet to Room 101. Why don't I just play it their way? he asked himself. If it's not going to cost me any money, what's really stopping me?

He studied Allen's benign, assured, puppy-dog face, and he had the sudden urge to smash it with his fist. This son of a bitch thinks he has me trapped, he thought. He's sure he's in control. And that, Weller realized, was why he couldn't agree to processing. If Allen were able to dictate this first step, that was frightening. Weller finally had to admit that he was afraid of being processed by Transformationalism. Annie, after all, was an intelligent, perceptive, reasonably together person, and look what had happened to her once they got their hooks in. And that business about how he felt about his career had cut too close to the bone, had given him a taste of his own potential vulnerability.

"Well, what do you say?" Allen said. "You've got nothing to lose.

"The first shot is free, kid, is that it? The price only starts to go up once you're hooked."

Allen sighed. "That's really lame," he said.

"Is it?" Weller snarled.

"You really are resistant, Jack," Allen said, perhaps with a hint of petulance.

"You bet your ass I am!" Weller said. "In fact, that's exactly what you're betting. We'll see what the police really have to say about this! And the district attorney, too. How do I know you didn't really kidnap her? How do I know you didn't have a gun to her head when she called me?"

"Oh wow," Allen said, with a disdainful little laugh.

"Oh yeah?" Weller said. "Seems to me if I made such a charge, they'd at least have to investigate, and then they'd have to question Annie, and if you didn't produce her then, you'd be obstructing justice." It began to sound plausible to Weller himself.

"Oh man," Allen said softly, ·you've got to run it all the way up that blind alley, don't you? Maybe you'd feel better if you went ahead and gave it a try."

"Don't think I won't!"

"I can see you will," Allen said benignly. "That's cool. Maybe it's for the best. Just remember that there won't be any hard feelings. My offer will still be there when you're ready to take it. We want to straighten you out, Jack, and we will. We will."

Weller stood up. "Your last chance, Allen," he said, "If I walk out of here now, I go straight to the police."

Allen just smiled, opened his arms, and shrugged.

"Good-bye, Mr. Allen," Weller snarled, heading for the door.

"Not good-bye, Jack," Allen said. "Just ... later."

***

Steaming with rage and frustration, Weller slammed the phone receiver back onto its cradle. The police had given him the politely sympathetic stone wall, and now the district attorney's office had in effect told him to get lost. When it had come down to it, Weller bad been morally and psychically incapable of feeding either the police or the district attorney's office a cock-and-bull story about a kidnapping. It had sounded all very well as a threat in Benson Allen's office, but when he got the cool, authoritative desk sergeant on the phone, he found himself telling that impersonal voice the unvarnished truth. The thought of inflaming the Los Angeles police with a phony kidnapping charge was more than he could contemplate in a real-life situation.

"When did you last see your wife?"

"Last night."

"Did she give any indication that she was being held against her will?"

"No, but I have reason to believe she's been brainwashed...."

"Look, Mr. Weller, to tell you the truth, we get lots of calls like this these days. Not just about Transformationalism, either. Est, the Jesus Freaks, the Moonies, people get involved with them, and their wives or their husbands or their parents don't like it, so they call us. If you're talking about an underage minor, sometimes we can do something, consider them a runaway and at least try to track them down. But when it's an adult, it's just not our business. No crime has been committed. You don't have any evidence of a crime being committed, do you? Mail fraud? False advertising? Anything?"

"No, but --"

"Well then, I can't help you. I'm sorry."

"But this whole Transformationalist racket --"

"If you think you've got a consumer-fraud case against them, you can try the DA. Okay?"

Weller had hung up, feeling, in a curious way, as he had in Benson Allen's office. The police too had a procedure for cutting off your avenues of possibility, for forcing you to accept their interpretation of the situation, for controlling your possible responses. Any bureaucracy interfaced with the individual on its own terms, and there didn't seem to be any way to get it to accept your viewpoint on reality.

So he had tried the district attorney's office, and what he had gotten there was even worse. Yes, we have had many complaints of this sort against Transformationalism. Yes, we have looked into their operation. Three times in the last five years. No, we have never uncovered grounds for prosecution. No, we won't start another investigation. Why? Because we've already wasted tens of thousands of dollars of the taxpayers money investigating Transformationalism. Because getting involved in another investigation would be a political liability, Mr. Weller. Because we have no evidence of any illegal activity, and neither do you. Good-bye, Mr. Weller.

It seemed to Weller that there had been something else going on too, some strange undertone of uneasiness in the voice of the assistant DA, as if he were slightly afraid to even talk about the case, as if the line he was handing Weller had been the Word passed down from on high. Could Transformationalism have political connections at City Hall?

Well, maybe that's an angle to try, Weller thought, dialing the number of Johnny Blaisdell, a press agent he had had some dealings with. I've done Johnny a few favors, maybe he can do me one.

He got Blaisdell on the line, and laid out the whole story. Johnny started out interjecting questions, making little comments, like his usual bouncy self, but before Weller was more than half through, he was talking to dead silence on the other end of the line.

"So what do you want me to do, Jack?" Blaisdell asked dubiously when Weller had finished.

"Call up some of your press contacts. Have someone from the Times come and get my story. Maybe instigate a little good old-fashioned muckraking reporting."

"Oy," Blaisdell said, "I love you like a brother, Jack, but you don't know what you're asking. Better you should ask me to plant some gossip-column items on the sex lives of Mafia dons."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"It means," Blaisdell said, "that presswise Transformationalism is poison. Let a line about them appear in print, and they sue -- the paper, the writer, the writer's doctor's dog. It doesn't even matter if you can prove what you're saying, they just nibble you to death with court costs on nuisance suits. There isn't reporter in town who will go near them."

In the mid 1970s, the IRS hired a clerk-typist named Gerald Bennett Wolfe. What they didn't know was that he was a Scientology plant — code name "Silver.''

He broke into an attorney's office at IRS headquarters in Washington and copied government documents for months, with help from the Guardian's Office, the church's secretive intelligence arm.

The IRS had revoked Scientology's tax exemption some 10 years earlier, saying it was a commercial enterprise. Scientology fought back, withholding tax payments, unleashing its lawyers and using Silver to infiltrate the agency.

But his undercover mission backfired. On July 8, 1977, the FBI raided Scientology headquarters in Washington and L.A., seizing burglary tools, surveillance equipment and 48,000 documents.

In October 1979, Hubbard's wife, Mary Sue, who directed the Guardian's Office, and 10 other Scientologists were convicted on charges of conspiring to steal government documents or obstruct justice. Her husband, named an un­indicted co-conspirator, went into seclusion at his ranch near La Quinta, Calif.

***

By the late 1980s, the battle with the IRS had quieted from the wild days of break-ins and indictments. But Miscavige was no less intent on getting back the church's tax exemption, which he thought would legitimize Scientology.

The new strategy, according to Rathbun: Overwhelm the IRS. Force mistakes.

The church filed about 200 lawsuits against the IRS, seeking documents to prove IRS harassment and challenging the agency's refusal to grant tax exemptions to church entities.

Some 2,300 individual Scientologists also sued the agency, demanding tax deductions for their contributions.

"Before you knew it, these simple little cookie-cutter suits … became full-blown legal cases," Rathbun said.

Washington-based attorney William C. Walsh, who is now helping the church rebut the defectors claims, shepherded many of those cases. "We wanted to get to the bottom of what we felt was discrimination,'' he said. "And we got a lot of documents, evidence that proved it.''

"It's fair to say that when we started, there was a lot of distrust on both sides and suspicion,'' Walsh said. "We had to dispel that and prove who we were and what kind of people we were.''

Yingling teamed with Walsh, Miscavige and Rathbun on the case. She said the IRS investigation of Miscavige resulted in a file thicker than the FBI's file on Dr. Martin Luther King. "I mean it was insane,'' she said.

The church ratcheted up the pressure with a relentless campaign against the IRS.

Armed with IRS records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, Scientology's magazine, Freedom, featured stories on alleged IRS abuses: lavish retreats on the taxpayers' dime; setting quotas on audits of individual Scientologists; targeting small businesses for audits while politically connected corporations were overlooked.

Scientologists distributed the magazine on the front steps of the IRS building in Washington.

A group called the National Coalition of IRS Whistleblowers waged its own campaign. Unbeknownst to many, it was quietly created and financed by Scientology.

It was a grinding war, with Scientology willing to spend whatever it took to best the federal agency. "I didn't even think about money,'' Rathbun said. "We did whatever we needed to do.''

They also knew the other side was hurting. A memo obtained by the church said the Scientology lawsuits had tapped the IRS's litigation budget before the year was up.

The church used other documents it got from the IRS against the agency.

In one, the Department of Justice scolded the IRS for taking indefensible positions in court cases against Scientology. The department said it feared being "sucked down" with the IRS and tarnished.

Another memo documented a conference of 20 IRS officials in the 1970s. They were trying to figure out how to respond to a judge's ruling that Scientology met the agency's definition of a religion. The IRS' solution? They talked about changing the definition.

Rathbun calls it the "Final Solution" conference, a meeting that demonstrated the IRS bias against Scientology. "We used that (memo) I don't know how many times on them," he said.

By 1991, Miscavige had grown impatient with the legal tussle. He was confident he could personally persuade the IRS to bend. That October, he and Rathbun walked into IRS headquarters in Washington and asked to meet with IRS Commissioner Fred Goldberg. They had no appointment.

Goldberg, who did not respond to interview requests for this story, did not see them that day, but he met with them a week later.

Rathbun says that contrary to rumor, no bribes were paid, no extortion used. It was round-the-clock preparation and persistence — plus thousands of lawsuits, hard-hitting magazine articles and full-page ads in USA Today criticizing the IRS.

"That was enough," Rathbun said. "You didn't need blackmail."

He and Miscavige prepped incessantly for their meeting. "I'm sitting there with three banker's boxes of documents. He (Miscavige) has this 20-page speech to deliver to these guys. And for every sentence, I've got two folders'' of backup.

Miscavige presented the argument that Scientology is a bona fide religion — then offered an olive branch.

Rathbun recalls the gist of the leader's words to the IRS:

Look, we can just turn this off. This isn't the purpose of the church. We're just trying to defend ourselves. And this is the way we defend. We aggressively defend. If we can sit down and actually deal with the merits, get to what we feel we are actually entitled to, this all could be gone.

The two sides took a break.

Rathbun remembered: "Out in the hallway, Goldberg comes up to me because he sees I'm the right-hand guy. He goes: 'Does he mean it? We can really turn it off?'''

"And I said,'' turning his hand for effect, " 'Like a faucet.'''

The two sides started talks. Yingling said she warned church leaders to steel themselves, counseling that they answer every question, no matter how offensive.

Agents asked some doozies: about LSD initiation rituals, whether members were shot when they got out of line and about training terrorists in Mexico. "We answered everything,'' Yingling said, crediting Miscavige for insisting the church be open, honest and cooperative.

The back and forth lasted two years and resulted in this agreement: The church paid $12.5 million. The IRS dropped its criminal investigations. All pending cases were dropped.

On Oct. 8, 1993, some 10,000 church members gathered in the Los Angeles Sports Arena to celebrate the leader's announcement: The IRS had restored the church's tax exemption, legitimizing Scientology as a church, not a for-profit operation.

"The war is over," Miscavige told the crowd. "This means everything.''

-- Scientology: The Truth Rundown, by Joe Childs and Thomas C. Tobin


"You're kidding," Weller said. "You've got to be kidding."

"Har-har," Blaisdell said in a sepulchral voice.

"You can try...."

"Yeah, I can try," Blaisdell said. "But don't expect me to succeed. Like they say, don't call me, I'll call you. And Jack --?"

''Yes?"

"Be careful, man, be really careful," Blaisdell said, and hung up.

Weller collapsed onto the couch. That son of a bitch Allen was right, he thought. The police won't help, the district attorney won't do anything, and even the press won't go after them. He felt small, powerless, and isolated -- one man going up against a huge monolith of an organization without a friend or ally. Without even Annie to back him up.

But the other side of that sense of impotence was frustrated rage, and he flipped back into it almost immediately. Fuck you, Transformationalism! he thought. Fuck you, Benson Allen! Fuck you, John B. Steinhardt! You're not going to do this to me, not to Jack Weller, you don't!

He picked up the phone. There was still one more thing to try -- Wally Bruner, his lawyer. Wally was a sharp guy; maybe be could come up with a legal angle.

"Wally? Jack Weller. Look, I feel like I've told this story a million times already, so pardon me if I give it to you as quickly as possible."

"Shoot, Jack," Bruner said crisply. "You really sound upset."

"I am. To make it short, Annie has gotten involved with Transformationalism. They've got her brainwashed. They ordered her to leave me if I wouldn't join the club, and she did. I don't know where she is, I have no way of contacting her, they won't tell me, and the police and the district attorney have told me to get lost. What the hell do I do?"

There was a long silence on the other end of the line; Weller could all but hear the gears grinding in Wally's head. He'll think of something, he's got to.

"Well," Bruner finally said, "if the police won't get involved and the DA won't get involved, charges against Transformationalism are a legal dead end."

"There's nothing I can do?" Weller asked plaintively.

"I didn't say that, Jack. There is one thing we can try, but I warn you, it's heavy."

"What could be heavier than what's already going on?" Weller said. "Let me have it."

"Speaking as your lawyer," Bruner said, ''I'd advise you to file divorce proceedings against Annie on the grounds of abandonment."

"What?" Weller shouted. "That's crazy? I'm trying to get her back, and you tell me to divorce her?"

''I'm talking as your lawyer," Bruner said. "If you filed against Annie, sooner or later she'd have to appear in court or let the divorce go through uncontested. It's the only way I know of to force her to contact you."

"And then what?" Weller snapped. "I drag her into court against her will, and that's supposed to convince her to come home? That's crazy, Wally. She probably wouldn't even show up. And what would I have then -- a divorce I didn't want."

"I can only give you legal advice, Jack," Bruner said. ''I'm a lawyer, not a shrink."

Weller found himself folding up inside. He wanted to scream and run around the house breaking things. He wanted to go after Benson Allen with a sawed-off shotgun. He wanted to cry. And he knew that all of those impulses were just hallmarks of stupid, trapped, impotent frustration.

"Oh shit, Wally," he whispered, half sobbing, into the phone. Oh shit..."

There was dead silence on the other end of the line. Had his own lawyer hung up on him too? "Wally?" he demanded. "Wally?"

"Huh .... ? Oh sorry, Jack, I was thinking, trying to remember a name.... Bailor, yeah, that's it. Garry Bailor!"

Bruner's rising voice was a life preserver in a hopeless sea. "Who's Garry Bailor?" Weller asked hopefully. "What can he do?"

''I'm not sure what he can do," Brunner said, "but he is an expert in these matters, a deprogrammer, he calls himself. He works mostly with patients of kids who have been gobbled up by the Moonies or the Jesus Freaks, I think, puts their heads back together, so to speak. But I think he may have done some work with refugees from Transformationalism too. "

Weller rose off the couch on a wave of hope. Good Lord, he thought, there's an expert in fighting these bastards! A hired gun! Who would've thought it?

"That's beautiful, Wally," he said. "I love you. Can you set up a meeting?"

"I should warn you that this guy is no philanthropist. He'll cost you. It'll cost you a hundred bucks just to talk to him."

"Screw that," Weller said. "Can you arrange a meeting for tonight?"

"I think so," Bruner said. "You don't mind if I'm not there?"

"Huh? I guess not. But why --?"

"Let's just say that Bailor's operations walk a very thin legal line," Bruner said. "In fact, let's say that he walks both sides of it. As a lawyer there are certain things it's better for me not to know about. If that doesn't scare you off .....

"Hell, no!" Weller said. Bailor sounded like just what the situation called for, and as far as Weller was concerned, the dirtier he played the better. "Do it, Wally," he said, realizing that he was committed to going all the way, and feeling better about himself for it than he had all day. If there were anything that one man could do, he was going to do it, and to hell with legal niceties. Benson Allen, watch your ass!

***

The address that Bruner gave Weller for Garry Bailor turned out to be a seedy-looking apartment house in southeast Hollywood -- three stories of motel-like apartments around a grim looking concrete central court. According to directions, Weller arrived promptly at eight o'clock and rang the bell marked "Larry Jonas." He was buzzed into the building, climbed two flights of stairs, and knocked three times at the door to apartment 3C, feeling a bit dubious about all this hugger-mugger.

A wiry man in his late thirties answered the door. A thin, angular face, suspicious eyes like hooded ball bearings, and a strange, anachronistic military haircut, almost a crew, straight out of the 1950s. Again following Wally's bizarre instructions, Weller handed him a check for one hundred dollars and said, "I'm Jack Weller."

"Garry Bailor," the man said, pocketing the check. "Come on in."

Weller followed Bailor into a small living room furnished in standard Southern-California motel modern. There was no television set, no radio, and the only thing on the wall was an awful floral painting that obviously came with the apartment. No personal touches at all; the place looked totally unlived in.

"Sit down," Bailor said. "Have a beer. Included in the price."

Weller sat down on the slablike couch as Bailor disappeared into the kitchen and came back with two open cans of Coors. He handed Weller one can, took a swallow from the other, and sat down on the couch beside him.

"Okay, Mr. Weller," he said. "What's the mission?"

Weller was beginning to feel this was a mistake -- the phony name on the bell, the tacky apartment, the cans of beer, it all added up to a total effect that did not exactly inspire his confidence. "Do you ... uh, live here, Mr. Bailor?" he blurted.

"Hell, no, I don't live in this shithole," Bailor said. "But in my business you don't want clients or anyone else to know where you live. It's smart to keep your personal life in another drawer, so to speak. You can't help making enemies in this business, you know."

"Just what is your business?" Weller asked. "Wally didn't make that too clear.... "

''I'm a deprogrammer," Bailor said. "You won't find me in the Yellow Pages. There are a lot of people these days making money by programming people's minds. I make mine by eradicating that programming to order. The culties brainwash, and I debrainwash, you might say. It keeps the money in circulation."

Weller found Bailor's up-front mercenary attitude disquieting. It did not exactly inspire trust. "Uh ... what about your qualifications?" he asked. "Are you a trained psychiatrist?"

Bailor laughed contemptuously. ''There isn't a shrink in the country who can do what I do," he said. "Try to find one! My qualifications? My training? My man, reality was my training. I've been through them all. I've been a Scientology auditor, I've worked fur Esalon and Arica and EST, I've flunkied for all the scams. Each time I thought I was going to make my fortune, and each time I found out that the organization was making the real money and the lower-level people like myself were only marks of a slightly higher quality. So I found myself broke and with experience and training in the various mindfuck games. It was either this or set myself up in my own cult, which seems like an overcrowded field. There are too many outfits in the programming racket, but deprogramming is a sellers' market, in case you haven't noticed."

''That all sounds pretty cold-blooded ... ," Weller said.

"It's a cold-blooded business," Bailor said. He shrugged. His expression softened slightly; he seemed almost embarrassed. "Of course, there is another side to it." he said. "As a deprogrammer I sleep better at night knowing that I'm freeing people's minds instead of enslaving them. They take your bread, and you're hooked, I take your bread, do a job, and get out of your life. And the money is good enough so that I can do my untroubled sleeping between silk sheets. But you're not paying your money to hear my life justifications, Mr. Weller. What about your problem?"

Weller found Bailor's stark candor somehow a little more reassuring, though there was still a certain cynical edge to the scene that made him nervous. "Wally probably told you something about it," he began.

"Yeah," Bailor said. "Your wife got programmed by Transformationalism. What I gather, she got a life directive to leave you, and she split. Pretty standard stuff."

"Standard stuff?" Weller said.

"You think not?" Bailor said. "The Jesus Freaks, the Moonies, Scientology, Transformationalism, Nichiren Shoshu, they all run some variation on this 'life-directive' number. Hell, the Communist Party was doing it in the thirties. So relax, you're not alone; it isn't all a plot concocted specifically against you."

'"You've been successful in this kind of situation before?" Weller asked hopefully. "With Transformationalism?"

"A few times," Bailor said. "A lot easier with minors, my main business. There you can just have the parents snatch them, and then I kind of get inside the programming and destroy it from within. I mean, you name the cult, I know as much about it as the people working the scam."

Weller took a big slug of beer, feeling much better now. "So you think you can deprogram Annie?"

"I can deprogram anyone," Bailor said flatly. "Kids are a snap because you've got them in parental custody. With an adult it's trickier because holding them against their will is kidnapping. So we have several possible approaches in your case. I can pose as a friend and begin the deprogramming on the sly, or you could have your wife declared mentally incompetent and hold her that way, or if none of that works, I might be willing to risk the kidnapping charge and deprogram your wife against her will, trusting that she'll thank me later. For a substantial extra fee, of course."

I'd risk that if I had to, Weller thought. He felt quite confident now. This guy really seemed to know his stuff, his self- confidence was impressive, and the fact that he seemed cynical and hard as nails about it might be repulsive but also seemed like the kind of strength that was needed for the task.

"Okay, Mr. Bailor," he said. "As far as I'm concerned, you've sold me. You're hired. What do we do now?"

Bailor seemed to measure him with his eyes. "There's the mailer of my fee ..." he said.

"How much?"

Bailor looked at Weller speculatively over the top of his beer can. "Sounds like this is going to take a couple of weeks," he said. "Three grand for the complete deprogramming, fifteen hundred up front and fifteen hundred on successful completion."

"Jesus," Weller said, "that's a lot of money."

"So is what Transformationalism sucks out of its victims," Bailor said. "Someone who's really sucked in can be shelling out a grand a month to them. Besides, I'm in a high-risk business."

"You're really serious?"

"I can't afford not to be."

Weller sipped at his beer and thought about it. Bailor was the only hope he had, and he seemed like a total pro: cold, hard, confident, and competent. He didn't have much more than fifteen hundred in the bank, but he was making two thousand a month. It would be tight, but what was the alternative? It's like being hospitalized for a major illness, he told himself. You can't afford to do it, but you can't afford not to.

"All right," he said. ''You win. Three thousand it is. Now what?"

"Well, I'd go with the old-friend technique before we get into anything heavier. So what you do is invite me --"

A chill burst through Weller's balloon. "Didn't Wally tell you?" he said.

''Tell me what?"

"That Annie left me. That I don't know how to get in touch with her."

Bailor whistled, shook his head, and said, "Uh-oh. Bruner told me she had left you but not that they were holding her incommunicado. This does make life difficult."

"Oh shit," Weller said. "I thought you'd know how to handle it ..."

"I didn't say I couldn't," Bailor said. He took a drink of beer, contemplated the ceiling, then looked at Weller. ''This isn't standard," he said. "Transformationalism usually likes to keep a channel open so they can use the one they've got to rope in the frantic spouse. Pleading phone calls, tearful visits, the whole bit."

''They've told me that Annie can't communicate with me till I've been processed to her level," Weller told him.

Bailor frowned. "Heavy," he said. 'That's a new one on me. Hmmm ... how did you say your wife first came into contact with Transformationalism?"

"At their Celebrity Center in Beverly Hills."

"Ah!" Bailor said. ''This going after the elite is a new twist; none of the other cults have tried it yet. So it looks like you're getting special treatment. The chain-letter technique among you media types. Hook Jack Weller's wife, use her to convert Jack Weller, use Jack Weller to convert his producer, build up an ever-widening network in the media. So each link in the chain has personal importance to them, no mass-marketing techniques on this one! A lot like the way the Communists operated in the thirties...."

"Jesus," Weller whispered. "But ... but what do we do?"

Bailor put his feet up on the coffee table, finished his beer, put it down. ''They've called the game," he said. "You've got to go along with them, let them process you long enough for you to play a true convert credibly. Long enough so they'll let Annie get in touch with you. At which point I can take over."

A sour bubble of beer burst in the back of Weller's throat. Jesus Christ, he thought, back to square one again! But now, sitting in the tacky living room with his last possible hope, the narrowness of his choice was finally sinking in. Either I give up and admit that there's nothing I can do to stop these bastards from taking my wife away from me, or I play Bailor's game with them. Either I let them get away with it, or I fight them. Fuck it! he thought. So I blow another few hundred bucks -- it's gonna cost me three grand anyway -- and let the assholes run their stupid numbers on me. I should be a good enough actor to pull it off. What am I afraid of? What choice do I really have?

"Okay," he said. "If that's the way we have to play it, that's the way we have to play it."

Bailor eyed him narrowly. "Look," be said, "you'd better understand what you're getting into. These people aren't stupid, and they're going to know exactly where you're coming from. They're going to know why you're doing it, they won't believe in any instant change of heart. They're going to use all sorts of techniques on you, and they know what they're doing. They're going to know you're resisting and they're going to know you're trying to con them into believing that you're becoming a true convert against your will. You've got to convince them that they're converting you without actually being converted while they do their damndest to make it real. It's a heavy game you're getting into."

"I am a director, after all," Weller said. "I do know how to handle actors, which means I've got to know a few things about acting myself." Then, much more uncertainly: "You don't think I can handle it?"

Bailor thought about it for long moments. "Maybe you can," he finally said. "You being experienced in the acting game. And of course, you'll have a session every week with me. You tell me what numbers they're running, and I feed you the proper responses for a true convert. And, hopefully, erase any programming that might be taking hold in your mind."

He grinned at Weller. "You might say I'll be your director," he said. "That should be interesting."

Weller smiled wanly. "Ready when you are, C. B." he said.

"Uh ... now the matter of money...."

"I thought we had settled that," Weller said.

"That was before I found out we had to get to your wife before I could do my stuff," Bailor said. "Now there's more of my time involved ..."

"Don't you have any heart?" Weller snapped. "Are you a total mercenary?"

Bailor laughed. "Not a total mercenary," he said. "But I'm not in this racket for my health, either, believe me! Tell you what, though. You give me the fifteen hundred up front, and then you pay me a hundred a week until we get to Annie, and for that, you have my unlimited services. Could be worse, right? Cheaper than a shrink ..."

"I guess so," Weller admitted. He was depressed by the growing hole forming in his pocket, by the way Bailor rubbed his nose in the fact that he was hiring a money-grubbing professional, not a committed ally. But there was also a certain elation in the sense of dedication that came from the total commitment of whatever resources he had. At least I'm fucking well going to do something! he thought. He felt a strange new sense of vitality, almost as if he were getting the chance to direct that forever illusive first feature. How, he wondered, could such a good feeling come out of such rotten circumstances?

"When do we start?" he asked.

"You might as well call them now and set it up," Bailor said. "Then I'll brief you on how to handle your first session." He studied Weller, and for the first time Weller sensed a certain unpaid human concern. "You're sure you want to go through with this?" Bailor said. "You're sure your marriage is worth this much to you?"

Weller sighed. He took a slug of beer. "Yeah," he said. "I mean, how could I live with myself if I didn't? And to tell the truth, the fact that it scares me only makes me want to do it more. I mean. the fact that these bastards can do what they've done and then even have me thinking that maybe they're too heavy to fight ... That really makes my blood boil. You know what 1 mean?"

"Who could know better?" Bailor said dryly. "Believe me, Jack, I understand where you're coming from a lot better than you do."

"Yeah, maybe you do," Weller said. He paused, hesitated, then went to the phone and dialed the number of the Los Angeles Transformation Center.
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Re: The Mind Game, by Norman Spinrad

Postby admin » Sat Mar 19, 2016 8:09 am

Chapter Four

Weller walked into a beige room with about twenty folding chairs arranged in rows facing a large video playback unit at the front. A dozen people were already seated, mostly in uneasy isolation, waiting for the introductory lecture to begin. A few of them were middle-aged, a few well dressed, but mostly they were in their twenties and thirties and looked like either counterculture refugees or lonely people working dead-end jobs. Except for the fancy video equipment, the atmosphere was tacky and de-energized, and from what Weller had seen of the Los Angeles Transformation Center, only the executive country on the eighth floor escaped this aura of sleaze. Yet Benson Allen's opulent office, and the expensive video equipment, gave Weller the feeling that the dinginess and lack of flash here might be a carefully calculated effect.

He sat down in the middle of the room and waited. He had forced himself to go to work, slogged through a slow day's shooting like a zombie, grabbed a quick hamburger at a Denny's, and then driven here, feeling the nervous tension building in his gut. Now his nerves were twanging like piano wire. Benson Allen had been totally neutral on the phone when he set up the appointment, and this lack of any overt reaction at all to his quick turnabout made Weller more uptight than anything else could have. He wondered if that too might be a calculated effect, and, thinking that, began to wonder if he wasn't getting a wee bit paranoid.

Finally a blond young woman wearing the white blouse and black slacks that seemed to be an informal Transformationalist uniform entered the room and stood in front of the video console. "Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Los Angeles Transformation Center," she said. "You're all here to find out if Transformationalism is the answer for you." She smiled a plastic smile, but her eyes broadcasted a fanatic sincerity. "By the time we're finished tonight, you'll be able to judge for yourself, and I hope you'll all choose to join us in the greatest of all adventures: the exploration of the beyond within."

She paused, looked around the room as if counting the house or estimating their bank balances. "Tonight each of you is going to get the chance to actually try one of our processing techniques. You're going to meet Benson Allen, director of this Center, and one of the earliest Transformed men. But first you're going to see an initial orientation tape prepared by John B. Steinhardt himself at his headquarters at the Transformational Research Institute."

She pulled down the shades, doused the lights, and fiddled with the video console. After some multicolored static and a few protesting feedback screeches, the face of John B. Steinhardt appeared on the screen -- florid, mobile, and already talking.

"In the beginning," Steinhardt said, "there was nothing but a bunch of rocks orbiting balls of gas, as deterministic and invariant as a rigged slot machine in Vegas." Stock footage of planets and stars appeared on the screen, looking as if it had been clipped from 2001 or Destination Moon. Some more stock footage, this of lightning flashing above a primeval sea.

"Then in the seas of Earth a funny thing happened. Chemical compounds started combining with each other to form ever more complex molecules until finally one of these molecules developed the ability to form replicas of itself out of the surrounding organic minestrone. This was the DNA molecule, the gene, the virus, the beginning of life."

Back to Steinhardt's talking head, the big mobile mouth, the expressive eyes, the rubber features. "From the virus to the amoeba to the fish to the dinosaur to the monkey is a long, boring story I won't bother you with," Steinhardt said. "Because until man came on the scene, all these bugs and beasties were creatures responding directly to the environment, basically as predictable and invariant as those rocks circling the sun. If you could feed all the environmental data into a good enough computer, it could just about predict what every one of those creatures was going to do at any given moment. A great big cosmic pinball machine."

A series of quickly changing still shots cribbed from old encyclopedias: cavemen, horse barbarians, African natives, knights in armor, sailing ships, medieval cities, cowboys.

"But man had something new," Steinhardt's voice-over said. "A mind. Between the input of the environment and the output of response there was now psychic space. Inside that hairy skull were memories, internal processes, crazinesses, kinks, and uncertainties, so that no longer could a super computer predict the creature's behavior from a complete picture of the external environment. Good-bye, environmental determinism!"

Steinhardt's face appeared on the screen again. "But not exactly," he said. "As soon as he had a mind, man started changing the environment. He built tools and cities. He started jabbering and writing cheap novels. He invented politics and agriculture. Now there was a man-made environment, premodern culture. Man reprogrammed the environment, which in turn reprogrammed him into reprogramming the environment which was reprogramming him. What is called a direct-feedback relationship. From environmental determinism we evolved into cultural determinism. Language programmed our thought patterns. Religion programmed our moral patterns. Ideology programmed our perception of an official reality. And all of that programmed our behavior. Things were pretty damn stable because each individual was caught in a total cultural matrix which only changed very slowly because the individuals who could change it were pretty well programmed by it already."

More stills flashed across the screen: Chinese paintings, medieval tapestries, Japanese scrolls, Hindu temples, Aztec relics, Byzantine icons. "And that's what all human civilizations were like up till about last Tuesday on the cosmic time clock. Slow moving, stable, long lasting, catching those folks in a total cultural matrix that made them what they were, told them how to think, and determined their actions."

Back to Steinhardt's talking head again. "But from about 1945 on, that brain-freeze has been shattered. Radio, TV, H- bombs, computers, drugs -- human culture finally got to what I call the Transformation Point, where we started reprogramming the environment faster than it could reprogram us to deal with the changes. We're changing the total environment so fast that it's changing us faster than the cultural matrix can evolve to accommodate the changes. The situation has become permanently Transformational. So we've got people whose personalities were formed in the twenties, the thirties, the forties, the fifties, and the sixties, all trying to make sense out of each other and the seventies -- which no one is programmed for -- and not making it, because they're as different from each other, cultural matrixwise, as Ancient Chinese, Middle Ages serfs, Aztecs, and Classical Greeks."

A crazy montage of images flashed across the screen faster than Weller could make sense out of them. Hippies, FDR, helicopters, Donald Duck, the Pepsi Cola Girl, the Beatles, God knows what. Then Steinhardt reappeared, slowly dissolving into the picture out of the chaos.

"That's why you need Transformationalism," he said. "Your mind has to evolve to match this permanent situation of permanent change. You've got to get rid of that instantaneous personality that was frozen in a previous cultural matrix that no longer exists. You've got to learn to ride the changes as they come and change with them. Otherwise your kids will always seem like foreigners, you'll never be able to figure out that crazy boss of yours, and you'll stumble through life forever like a South Seas cannibal on Times Square. The future belongs to the Transformational Man. Anyone else is already a creature of the dead past. We've got the techniques, we've got the organization. we've got the knowledge to give each and every one of you the Transformational Consciousness to cope with a Transformational World. And all the other wise guys who are peddling enlightenment these days are just whistling "Dixie." Give us your mind, your time, and a few bucks, and we'll give you the world!"

Steinhardt saluted the screen with an almost silly grin, and then the tape ran out. After a few moments of hissing static the attendant turned off the video player and turned on the lights.

Weller blinked, dazzled by the sudden light and by what he had just experienced. Amateurish as the stock-footage cutting had been, the tape certainly had impact. What Steinhardt had said seemed to ring with an essential truth that set off harmonics of agreement in Weller's mind, that seemed to get to him on levels he didn't even know he had, though the details were already fading like the memory of a vivid dream or an acid trip.

Of course, that might be illusion, Weller thought. For Steinhardt had enormous raw media presence -- crude, rambling, unfocused, but enormous just the same. Star quality in the raw, as strong as Weller had ever seen it, a visceral onslaught that almost made logical argument totally irrelevant.

"Now that you've been introduced to the basis of Transformationalism by John himself," the attendant said "here to tell you more about it is Benson Allen, director of the Los Angeles Transformation Center."

Allen entered the room. wearing a white ice-cream suit and a red shirt. He walked to the front as the young woman faded away to one side. Theatrically dressed as he was, Hollywood handsome though he might be with his long, flowing blond hair, his presence was still muted and pale in contrast to the immediate memory of Steinhardt. Weller wondered if he realized this, and if so, how he would cope with it.

''Well, that's John," Allen said with a boyish little smile. ''I'm sure you're all a little knocked out, but man, not as knocked out as I was when I first met him. The only way I can try to tell you how much that dude changed my life is with my own little Transformational story."

Very good, Weller thought. Playing off it, not against it, and that's the only thing he can hope to do. At the same time it seemed to him that Allen was really sincere, that he really was in awe of Steinhardt. As well he might be!

"In the early sixties," Allen said, "I was a San Francisco hippie-dip, smoking lots of dope, reading lots of science fiction, and otherwise just goofing around. Then I picked up on a science fiction novel by John called Transformational Man. Deep stuff. We have it on sale downstairs for seven dollars and ninety-five cents, and I hope you will read it. In this novel John wrote about a small group of people who were really into what you just heard him talk about and who set out to teach it to the world and who called themselves Transformational Men."

Allen paused, gave his audience a strange, almost embarrassed puppy-dog grin and a little wry shrug. "Now I was loaded most of the time, and this was San Francisco when there was a new guru peddling a new world coming every month, and man, anything seemed possible," he said. "Dig, I knew Transformational Man was just a science fiction novel, but what John was saying about human consciousness in that story was heavy and deep and true, and it seemed to me that the processes he described in the book would really work. So I started writing letters about it to all the science fiction fanzines, and I went to science fiction conventions and crash pads and rapped about it, and soon I was a little guru myself. I started a little tribe, took some of the techniques from Transformational Man, and we began processing people. That was the beginning of Transformationalism."

He looked out over the room, letting it sink in, smiled, nodded. "Uh-huh," he said. "I started Transformationalism, not John. After a year or so we had maybe a hundred and fifty members and a little house in the Haight, and that seemed to be as far as it could go. And then one day John B. Steinhardt himself showed up like a psychedelic grizzly bear, showing everyone what a real Transformational personality was like."

Allen shook his head ruefully. "For sure, I didn't like it when he showed up. No one was going to accept me as the leader of anything with John around. John himself was absolutely knocked out at what I had made out of his novel. To him it had just been a good story."

Allen shook his head, as if really remembering those days with a mixture of awe and fading jealousy. To Weller it seemed either genuine or a magnificent performance. "But a head like John's doesn't stay bonged for long," Allen said. "It adapts instantly to the reality it finds itself in. He saw immediately that Transformationalism was the real thing. Dig -- I had been transformed by his novel, and be was put through his own transformation by seeing what his own story had created through me, and that convinced him Transformationalism was valid, pow! in a flash!"

Now Allen's eyes seemed to look off into some distant yonder; there was no more undercurrent of jealousy, just undiluted awe. "At that moment John had a tremendous vision of howTransformationalism could change the world, of how my little group could be transformed into what Transformationalism is today. So John took over leadership of Transformationalism from me and built it into what it is now."

Allen pulled a folding chair to him and sat down on it with the back of the chair to the audience and his arms folded across it, making the motion into what seemed to Weller like a gesture of fealty to the unseen presence of John B. Steinhardt.

"Dig it," he said. "John didn't rip off the leadership. He took it because he was the Man. If he had had to ask, which he didn't, I would've given it to him. I didn't feel ripped off, I was glad he had taken over, because I knew that this was a greater man than me, that he could do things with Transformationalism that I couldn't even dream about. Not only that, but with John running things, I knew I could become a more fully Transformed man than ever I could when I was the head honcho. I trusted him, I believed in him, I gave him what I had made, and he never let me down."

Allen hunched forward and gazed earnestly at the audience with that unblinking intensity that Weller was beginning to think of as the Transformationalist Stare. "That's my Transformational story," he said. "That's how much I believe in what we're doing! That's why I know that Transformationalism is the answer for you, too! That's why I'm so happy to see you here tonight. That's why I want so much for you to join us. Transformationalism is real!"

Weller studied Benson Allen's face, trying to catch some hint of deception, some sign of insincerity, and failing. He was all but convinced that Allen believed every word that he was saying, that his devotion to Steinhardt was honest and total. Steinhardt's sincerity, on the other hand, seemed like a fish of a different odor. It wasn't too hard for Weller to picture Steinhardt totally snowing the stone-out previous incarnation of Benson Allen. But clearly there was more depth to Transformationalism than he had supposed, if someone on Benson Allen's level could be a genuine true believer.

Allen rose from his chair, breaking the mood. "Now each of you is going to get the chance to try one of our processes," he said. "Some of you will try gaming it through, others will have a block-auditing session, and some will have a chance to do some role-reversal. Ms. Henderson here will read you your room assignments. Good luck, and I hope this will be the beginning of a new life for all of you."

Allen left the room and the attendant began reading off names and room numbers. "'Hilda Bernstein, room two-oh-three, Harry Adler, room two hundred...." Weller wondered whether the choice of who was going to get what kind of introductory processing was random, or whether they were trying to pick what had the best chance of hooking whom. Judging from the rest of the operation, he suspected the latter....

"Jack Weller, room four-oh-five ..."

Well at least it isn't Room 101, Weller thought. Or is it?

***

Room 405 was a small cubicle, bare and empty except for two white cushioned chairs and a white formica table between them. The walls were cream-yellow, and the light came from a harsh overhead fixture. It had the feel of a Gestapo interrogation cell, though the man waiting for him, about forty, with calm gray eyes and a bland characterless face, looked more like a supermarket clerk than a secret-police interrogator.

"Hello, Jack, I'm Don, your processor," he said in a that midwestern voice. "Have a seat. We're going to try a little role- reversal. First, to get us started, I'd just like you to tell me why you came here tonight."

Weller came to tense attention. Bailor had told him to assume that anything he said would get back to Benson Allen and that anyone he would be dealing with would have access to any information Transformationalism had on him. So he couldn't present a neutral persona; he had to present the reality of Jack Weller, who was here because he was forced to be in order to get into contact with his wife. At the same lime this was the opening act in his campaign to convince Transformationalism that he was becoming a genuine convert.

"My wife has joined Transformationalism," he said slowly, "and we've fought about it. In fact she's left me and refuses to even talk to me again until I've had some Transformational processing."

"And she was issued a life directive to that effect?" Don said.

Weller nodded. So Bailor was right, this guy had probably read the whole dossier. He really had to watch himself.

"So then, Jack, you're basically here against your will. Not because you're really interested in Transformationalism, but because you want to be reunited with your wife?"

This is the critical point, Weller realized. I can't deny it, but this is where I have to start laying in the background for a phony conversion. And I had better be subtle about it.

"Yeah," he said grudgingly. "I've got to admit that.... And also, I suppose, I've got some curiosity about what this business is all about. I mean, Annie and I were together for a long time, and I thought we knew each other pretty damn well. Now this Transformationalism thing has come between us. I guess I'd be pretty stupid if I didn't want to find out what it was that took my wife and made her into a stranger."

Don nodded. His face remained totally neutral, totally bland. This guy doesn't seem to have too much on the ball, Weller thought.

"And that's all?" Don asked.

"What do you mean?"

"Well, surely you must have some negative feelings about Transformationalism under the circumstances. Strong feelings."

"Sure I have some negative feelings," Weller said carefully. "Who wouldn't?"

"Would you like to talk about them?"

"What's the point?" Weller said uneasily. ''I'm pissed off that you've taken my wife away from me. I'm skeptical about any outfit that would do such a thing. I think you charge an awful lot of money. I think you might be phonies. Do I really have to tell you that?"

"It's useful to have those feelings voiced, that's all," Don said. "But now we'll really get down to what we're about tonight. Now we'll play role-reversal. Now I'll be Jack Weller and you'll be me."

"Huh?"

"It's really very simple," Don said. "You play the part of a Transformationalist processor interviewing Jack Weller, and I'll be Jack Weller reacting to the processor."

"But I don't have any idea of what a processor is supposed to do or say...."

"Of course you don't. That's the whole point. I get inside your skin and you get inside mine. That's why I asked you a few questions at the beginning. You can start by simply asking me the questions I just asked you and play it by ear from there. Don't worry, I'll be helping you along."

He paused, looked earnestly at Weller, and said, "Try to really get into it. Be merciless. Try to really experience yourself from the outside and react honestly to what you're hearing. And don't he afraid to say whatever you might imagine a processor would say to Jack Weller under the circumstances. Now let's begin. Jack Weller has just sat down, and you ask him why he's come here tonight. ... "

Weller found it hard to mask his contempt. This nebbish is going to play Actor's Studio games with me? "Hello Jack, I'm Don, your processor," Weller said, broadly parodying the man's own voice. "Have a seat. What we're going to do is try a little role-reversal. First, to get us started, I'd just like you to tell me why you came here tonight." Chew on that, you nerd!

"My wife has joined Transformationalism, and we've fought about it," the processor shot back in a fair imitation of Weller's voice. "She's been issued a life directive never to see me again until I've been processed. So I'm here to con you assholes into letting me see her."

What? Suddenly the silly little game took on new levels. Weller had the feeling that he had really been suckered into something, but be didn't know what. Well, if that's the way we're going to play it....

"What makes you think you can do that, Jack?" Weller said. "If we're smart enough to take your wife away from you, don't you think we're smart enough to know where you're coming from?" Jesus! he thought. Why did I say that?

"Because I think you people are stupid enough to think you're smart enough to use my own motivations to suck me in and convert me," Don said, plastering a sardonic smirk across his face.

Man, I've got to think this through better, Weller realized. This son of a bitch is seeing right through me! Wheels within wheels!

"Are you so sure you know your own motivations that well, Jack?" Weller said. There, that's better, let him do my work for me.

"What do you mean by that?" the processor said confusedly, and Weller sensed that he was off-balance both as "Weller" and as himself.

"You're a director," Weller said. "You think you know how to manipulate people. Don't you think this is something of a challenge to you, a high-stakes game? Is your head stronger than Transformationalism or is Transformationalism stronger than your head? Don't you think part of the reason you came here is to find out the answer to that one?"

Weller's head was aching with the convoluted tensions of this little exercise in mind-fuck. What he had said was carefully calculated, but even as he said it, he realized that it was also an essential truth. Moreover he was in some way enjoying this game; he felt himself filling with energy, he was really cooking. Try this number on a pro, will you?

"Maybe you're right,'" Don said. "One thing is sure, I'm not here because I think I really need Transformational processing. And your job is to convince me I do."

Old Don seemed to be walking right into it, Weller thought. Whether he knows it or not, he's letting me set up the character of "Weller" as a prideful shithead who can be led along into Transformationalism by his ego. Just the rationale I want them to have for the first step of my "conversion!"

"You flatter yourself," Weller said. ''Transformationalism has millions of converts. What makes you think it's so important for us to snare you?"

"Because I'm a challenge to you," Don said. "As a director I'm the kind of person it should be hardest for you people to get to. And I've come in here hostile and combative. I've got my own strong motivation for conning you into believing that I'm really becoming Transformed while I'm really just playacting. If Transformationalism can really get to me under those conditions, it'll really have proven something, won't it?"

Weller paused, studied the processor, and tried to fathom what was really going on. It seemed to him that Don was really throwing down Transformationalism's gauntlet. He was being told that Transformationalism knew exactly where he was coming from and didn't care. That they were so bloody self-confident that they could know his game and tell him their game and still be sure they would get to him in the end. On the other hand, he himself had at the very least collaborated in setting up that dynamic; it was the only credible motivation for Jack Weller that he could feed to them. Moreover, it was essentially true. Who the hell was conning whom?

"So you see all this is a game between Transformationalism and yourself?" he said, trying to draw out the answer. "The winner is the one with the stronger head?"

Don smiled at him. "It's the king of games, isn't it?" he said. '"The mind game. If I win, I get Annie back on my terms; if you win, you've got me as a willing convert."

"But if we win, you win too," Weller blurted. "After all, you get your wife back either way." Now why the hell did I say that? Weller wondered. Jeez, I must really be getting into this part!

"It depends on what you mean by winning," the processor said.

"But also on what you mean by losing, Jack," Weller found himself saying without quite knowing why. For sure he had gotten totally caught up in this game for its own sake. He had gotten caught up in playing the part of the processor to the point where he had been speaking off a processor's motivations, even when they ran contrary to his own. Technically, as an acting exercise, the number that had been run on him fascinated and impressed him. More pragmatically and less happily, it gave him new respect for the psychic cunning of Transformationalism.

Don leaned back, seemed to visibly pop out of character, and revert to his supermarket-clerk persona. "You're very good at this," he said.

Weller felt his body relaxing, though his mind continued to spin through the wheels within wheels. "So are you," he said.

"Has this little demonstration shown you that Transformationalism has something to teach you?"

For a moment it seemed as if they were back playing something like the role-reversal game again. He was going to say yes because he had too -- and perhaps incidentally because it was true -- and he knew that Don knew what he was going to say, and he knew where it was going to lead, and he knew that the processor knew that he knew.... Who was really seeing through whom?

"I've got to admit that it does," Weller said.

Don looked at him neutrally. "Do you think you'd like to sign up for the one-month course?" he said. "It's twice a week for only two hundred and fifty dollars...."

Weller groaned inwardly, then psychically collapsed toward the inevitable. The outcome of all this convoluted fencing had been preordained before he had even sat down, and they both knew it. Enough of this bullshit already!

Weller gave the processor the old Transformationalist Stare. "I think you've made me an offer I can't refuse," he said.

But he knew, and not without a certain twinge of self-loathing, that there was a considerable part of him that had been seduced by the role-reversal game, not forced by circumstance. The game itself was fascinating, no matter why he found himself playing it. It was as if he were exercising psychic muscles, an aspect of his talent, that hadn't been extended to the fullest for too long a time. He liked the feeling, he didn't want to lose it, and the fact that he was playing this acting game for keeps only added a keen existential edge to the contest.

Don had said it, speaking as "Weller" himself -- it was the king of games.
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Re: The Mind Game, by Norman Spinrad

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Chapter Five

"The same thing as the first session," Weller said, looking at Garry Bailor. "He just plugged me into the brainwave monitor and shot words and phrases at me for an hour, no pattern that I could figure out."

Bailor sat there on the couch beside him, rocking back and forth imperceptibly, encouraging Weller to go on only by his silence. Although Bailor just silently studied him like a bug under a microscope while Clark Burns, the block-auditing processor, droned on incessantly during the sessions, Weller was beginning to get the same feeling of tense boredom that he had experienced during his two block-auditing sessions. The lack of human feedback response was the same, and so was the feeling of two people in a room together locked into their own private universes.

Burns was a balding, colorless little middle-aged man, and that first night he had simply introduced himself, fitted an electrode band on Weller's head, plugged it into the brainwave monitor, sat down, and given his brief instructions as if he were reading them off an idiot card, as if he were merely an extension of the machine.

This is a brainwave monitor. It measures four channels of your brainwaves. I'll read you a series of words and phrases and note your brainwave responses on the chart. Since I'll be reading your brain's responses directly off my oscilloscope, you don't have to respond verbally, though you may do so if you wish. Are there any questions?"

The brainwave monitor was a gray console, about the size of a portable television set, on the table between Weller and Burns. Facing Burns was an oscillosocpe and a series of knobs and switches. All Weller could see now was the top of Burns's head, down to his eyes, peering at him over the featureless back of the machine. Burns had a clipboard and a ball-point pen poised to fill in the spaces on Weller's "psychomap." It all seemed cosmically silly somehow.

"No questions," Weller said, though he would have liked an explanation of the circuitry of the device. But he had the feeling that the brainwave monitor was as much a mysterious "black box" to Burns as it was to him, and he doubted that the processor would have explained anything technical to him even if he could.

"Good," the processor said. ''We'll begin. Try to clear your mind of any strong emotional thoughts so I can get a level reading...." Burns's eyes, looking strangely disembodied with the rest of his face hidden by the machine, glanced down at the scope. "Good enough," he said, and started reading from a form on his clipboard.

"Mother.... A pause, a glance at the scope, something jotted on the form. "Father...." Pause, glance, scribble. "Fuck .... Kill.... Shit.... "

It only took a few minutes of this brainless procedure for the process to seem interminable to Weller and infuriatingly boring. "A large dog is barking on your lawn .... Cock.... One hundred thousand dollars.... Heil Hitler...."

Just the eyes above the console, glancing at him, the scope, the form, and back again, in a regular, mechanical rhythm, and the flat voice mouthing random words -- sometimes obscene, sometimes meaningless, sometimes downright silly. After awhile Weller began to feel that they were both just extensions of the machine, lumps of flesh plugged passively into the electronic circuitry. At first this feeling was infuriating, then it became somewhat frightening, but finally it just helped him melt into the mindlessness of the whole process.

"Wife.... oral sex.... middle age.... gum disease...."

Weller felt his mind drifting in a sea of total boredom. The words and phrases that kept coming at him had just enough intermittent momentary meaning to prevent his mind from floating off into any extended reverie about anything outside this cosmically boring situation, to interrupt any coherent train of independent thought that might be starting to form. He tried to keep himself alert by looking for some kind of pattern in the words Burns was reading, but although most of them were loaded with emotional connotations in the heavy areas of sex, death, love, fear, success, age, and money, they seemed to jump back and forth; there seemed to be no pattern, no trend, no line of development.

"Transformationalism.... Cunt.... Sigmund Freud...."

For a while Weller tried giving verbal responses, as if it were some classical Freudian word-association game.

"Toothache Pain...."

"Jackhammer...."

"Bank loan...."

"Feature film...."

"Syphilis...."

"Orgasm...."

But Burns didn't respond at all. Just the eyes looking at him, looking at the form, a word or phrase, a glance at the scope, back to the form, flick, speak, flick, flick. Flick, speak, flick, flick. He soon gave up on talking back to the process and simply endured the boredom of what was going on like a good soldier.

".... four score and seven.... black leather underwear.... you're fired.... pregnant.... the phone is being disconnected....

"It seemed to go on for a century," Weller told Bailor, "just like Tuesday. And afterward he just told me that the session was over and he would see me next week."

Bailor continued to study Weller with his cold ball-bearing eyes. "Well?" Weller demanded. He was beginning to get thoroughly pissed off with robotic nonresponses in general.

"There had to be some trends in the words he was using," Bailor suddenly said sharply. "That's the way it works."

"I told you there weren't any," Weller snapped irritably.

Bailor drummed his fingers annoyingly on the coffee table. "Maybe you're not catching it. Though it could be too early. Nobody seems to know what the brainwave monitor really does, or even if it does anything. But the whole point of the process is programming through boredom."

"Huh?"

Bailor stood up suddenly and began pacing in small circles, snapping off his words like strings of firecrackers. "Whether they really map areas of resistance in the mind doesn't matter," he said, "because that's just a front for the programming. Bored out of your mind, weren't you? Literally. The only input you get is those random words, but you're getting that continually, so you can't concentrate on anything else either. Creates a suggestible state. Boredom is a powerful hypnotic device, especially when it's being used to focus your attention on a single controlled input. Get it?"

"Yeah ... " Weller said slowly. "I'm beginning to see what you mean."

Bailor suddenly stopped pacing, stood directly above Weller, pointed a finger at him, and quizzed him like an irate schoolteacher. "So think! There had to be a pattern --"

"I told you --"

"Hold!" Bailor snapped, cutting him off. He began to pace again. "Forget the simple first order sequence. If they're programming you, the goal has to be to affect your attitude toward Transformationalism, probably through your sense of self-esteem. The words in between would be just so much static, designed to distract your conscious attention from what they're planting subliminally."

He paused halfway across the room and looked back at Weller. "Now think -- just the words relating to Transformationalism and self-esteem, blocking the other stuff out of the sequence. Any pattern there?"

Weller looked at Bailor blankly. What does this guy think I am, a fucking computer? he thought. But, obediently, he strained his mind, trying to remember some pattern, something from the second session. "Processing.... hemlock.... home .... cunnilingus .... garbage.... grace.... baby .... Red China....high school .... helplessness.... beer saloon .... Steinhardt.... elephant.... power.... grandfather...." Was that it? Was there really something there, or was Bailor just making him paranoid?

"Processing, home, grace, Steinhardt, power, grandfather," he muttered. "Do you think that's a meaningful sequence? I think I remember that right, with the other words taken out. Or am I just creating a pattern where none exists?"

"If there's a pattern in your head, there's a pattern in your head," Bailor said. He sat down on the couch, studied Weller. "Do you notice any change in your attitude toward Transformationalism?"

"Yeah. In addition to everything else, it's starting to bore the piss out of me."

Bailor frowned at him disapprovingly. "This isn't funny," he said. "You've got to keep your mind alert during processing. If you let yourself drift, that's when you start to pick up programming."

"Jesus Christ," Weller said, "I'm not in a paranoid enough situation, you've got to get me picking patterns out of endless strings of random words?" He had a terrible vision of a world in which everything had an ominous subliminal meaning -- random bits of conversation, radio commercials, the sequence of parked cars, every third word in newspaper headlines.

"Don't worry about picking out patterns," Bailor said. "The important thing is just to be aware of the possibility and not let any programming take hold. You've got to assume that these people are out to capture your mind, and paranoia is therefore your best ally. It's an accurate perception of your reality."

"My God...."

"Don't worry," Bailor said much more softly. ''You're doing okay. You don't have to concentrate on all this consciously. What we've discussed tonight will stay with you. Kind of a 'clearing program' I've put in your head to help filter out whatever your processor will be trying to plant. Just slay alert, stay skeptical, and let what I've planted work."

"Shit...." Weller muttered tiredly. The whole thing was turning into an insane nightmare -- the processing sessions, the absence of Annie, this dingy dump, and a guy telling him that he was being counterprogrammed to counteract the Transformationalist programming, that paranoia was an accurate description of reality. And yet the block-auditing had gotten to Annie. And Bailor was an expert. If the whole thing were insane, the insanity was not in his mind or in Bailor's but in the life situation itself.

"Is this all real, Garry?" he asked quietly. "Secret patterns? Programming? Counterprogramming?"

"Welcome to modern reality," Bailor said dryly. "Yeah, it's real. It's all around you. Transformationalism. TV news. Advertising. Political propaganda. Movies. Books. Magazines. We're swimming in a sea of mind-programming. Everything has programming hidden in it, especially when the content seems to be random. Even the language itself programs our heads. It's always been like that -- the difference now is that there are people out there like Steinhardt who know it and know how to use it. Aside from the money why do you think I'm in this racket? Because I don't like the situation any better than yon do."

Weller looked at Bailor speculatively. For what he had said was strangely like the line Steinhardt himself had spouted on the orientation tape: free the mind from the total matrix of cultural programming. In Steinhardt's case that seemed to boil down to substituting new programming of your own. And wasn't that what Bailor was really doing too? Could you really deprogram the mind by using programming techniques? Or was that like lifting yourself by your own bootstraps?

Now Bailor seemed to be studying him. "Something wrong, Jack?" he asked sympathetically.

"Nothing," Weller sighed. What was the point in creating more paranoia in this paranoid situation?

"Okay," Bailor said, "so go home and get some rest." Bailor smiled at him quite warmly, clapped him on the thigh.

"Okay, Garry," Weller said, getting up and walking toward the door. "So long. See you next week."

"Jack?"

Weller turned to look at Bailor, who stood in front of the couch, waiting expectantly for something. "What is it?" he asked.

Bailor shrugged, gave him a slightly embarrassed grin, held out his right palm. "You owe me another hundred dollars," he said.

***

"All right now, let's get this damned shot in the can so we can go home," Weller said, mopping sweat from his brow with the back of his hand. He checked his watch: almost seven o'clock. Shit!

The big processing session, the terminal session, was at eight tonight. Bailor had told him that the four-week course was designed to make the mark feel bad about himself, to make him feel that some unformed question was gnawing at him and that Transformationalism was the answer. Well, the four weeks were up tonight, and they were going to ask him to sign up for meditative deconditioning at a fat forty dollars a session, the linking of the hook into the baited brain. And he was going to tell them it was quid pro quo time, enough was enough; they had to tell him where Annie was.

He had to make tonight's session, but this shot had to be finished today because this week's shooting was already nearly half a day behind. They'd have to shoot till eight tomorrow anyway to wrap up this week's segment in time to keep a gaping hole from forming in the air schedule. There had already been five blown takes, each one lousier than the last, so this one had goddamn better well be it!

Weller checked out the setup one more time. Hal Leer, who played Daddy Carson, was sitting in the big overstuffed chair on the basic living room set, looking pissed off at Weller and thirsting for his long-delayed first drink of the day. Barry Greenfield, the obnoxious little brat who played Timmy Carson, was waiting at the right of the set to make his entrance, shuffling back and forth as if he had to pee. Beside him hunkered Scuffles the chimp, looking mean and morose in his white ballerina outfit, while Lindstrom, the trainer, whispered whatever it was you whispered to a temperamental ape into the creature's ear. It was really such a simple shot -- Timmy enters from the right into an establishing shot, delivers his line, cuing Scuffles, who pirouettes into the shot with the pie, the camera moves with him as he dances toward Daddy, and pow, right in the kisser!

Such a simple shot, but first the ape had dropped the pie, then Timmy blew his line, then Scuffles pissed in the middle of the take, then Leer blew his line, then the goddamn chimp had ground the pie into the top of Leer's head, screeching and baring its yellow teeth. Tempers were getting hot. Leer had been his usual hung-over, temperamental self all week, and Weller, with random patterns of block-auditing words and phrases whirling through his brain when be wasn't thinking about Annie, had had no patience for Leer's crap and had told him so on several occasions. The last take, with Leer red-faced and screaming with pie ground into his hair, hadn't helped matters. Barry the Brat was already whining about how hungry he was and had to have candy bars shoved into his face after every take to shut him up, and the loathsome Scuffles was, well, behaving like an ape.

".... transcendence.... blood.... nightmares .... steak tartare....orgasm.... virgin.... urine.... masturbation.... God.... changes...." Yeah, that was the sequence that kept running over and over again through his memory. It seemed to be the kind of programming Bailor had warned him about, and he had been alert to it, but he still couldn't keep it from repeating in his conscious mind, grinding its way into the deeper levels. And there were other sequences like that, dozens of them these past four weeks, that he couldn't keep out of his head, as if someone were murmuring them over and over again in his ear.

Bailor would analyze the sequences that stuck in his head, but he couldn't analyze them to death. The interpretations of the program only served to make him remember the sequences, and maybe the sequences were even picking up meaning from the so-called deprogramming. To think of Annie was to think of Bailor saying, ''This one's building up Annie as a goddess in your mind," was to hear murmuring over and over again, "love ... Cadillac ... Annie ... 747 ... Athens.... springtime...."

It seemed to be getting more obvious as the block-auditing progressed, but it was also getting heavier -- such a crude but powerful form of brainwashing that even being able to watch it work didn't stop it dead in its tracks. My God, if I had never met Bailor, if I had staggered into this like an ignorant schmuck....

"Jack? Jack?"

"Huh? What?" Weller blinked back into reality. The cameraman was looking at him with barely contained exasperation. "I was telling you I was ready to get this damned shot over with," he said.

"Oh yeah, sure," Weller said. Damn it, he had been spacing out into running block-auditing sequences again when he had to concentrate on getting this damned day's shooting finished. Screw up your marriage and then screw up your job, is that it, Weller? Hold on, he told himself, maybe this whole thing will be over tonight.

And it was already seven-ten.

"All right," Weller shouted. "Lights ... sound...."

On came the shooting lights. and the cameraman hunkered back down behind his camera, shaking his head and moving his lips in a silent mutter. Snap! went the clapboard.

"Monkey Business, scene thirty-four A, take six!"

"Speed," said the chief sound man.

"Action," Weller called, dully and mechanically.

Barry the Brat minced onto the set from the right. "Look, Dad, Scuffles has taken up ballet, too!"

The trainer grunted "go" at Scuffles, and the chimpanzee. after a nerve-shattering hesitation, toe-danced toward Leer in its tutu, balancing the pie over its head on the palm of its hand. Leer rose from his chair to marvel at this piece of monkey business, but as he did, Scuffles lurched suddenly closer and dropped the pie in the crotch of his pants.

"Motherfucker!" Leer screamed as Scuffles gave him a ripe raspberry, and Barry the Brat covered his ears in wounded mock innocence.

"Cut!" Weller shouted. He stared at the mess on the set without saying anything else for a long moment. The trainer was recovering control of the ape, but Barry the Brat was trying to taunt it into some new outrage, and Leer was snarling at the wardrobe people who were mopping at the pie-encrusted front of his pants. Weller looked at his watch, seven-twenty. There just wasn't time to get the set in order, change Leer's pants, do another take, and get to the Transformation Center by eight. And no guarantee that the next take would work, either.

"All right, that's a print," Weller finally shouted. "We'll have to use that take."

"WHAT?" Leer howled. "You're going to use that? A chimpanzee dropping a pie in my pants?"

"I thought it turned out funnier than the script," Weller said. "Your reaction was beautiful, Hal. It saved the take. Your expletive can be deleted from the sound track."

Leer brushed away the wardrobe people and came toward Weller. "What's the matter with you, Weller?" he said when he had reached confidential earshot. "You seem to give even less of a damn than usual lately. You can't turn in footage like that."

"Since when did you consider Monkey Business a serious artistic show, Hal," Weller asked.

"Artistic? Are you kidding? Forget what an idiot I look like in that shot, you can't give them a pie in the crotch on a kiddie show. Network continuity will never pass that."

"Then that'll be their problem later," Weller told him. ''They can always tell me to reshoot it, but in the meantime we'll have this segment in the can on schedule tomorrow. Or would you rather stick around here another hour or two to get the damned thing right?"

"Boy, do I love television," Leer sighed, and then took off in the direction of the nearest bar.

Weller checked his watch again. Another five minutes gone! Not even time enough to grab a hamburger on the way to the Center. Just what I need, to face tonight with a head full of Monkey Business and an empty stomach!

***

Weller arrived at his processing room on time, but Clark Burns wasn't there. Instead he was greeted by a slim, dark-haired woman in her late thirties, with hard piercing eyes and angular face that would have been attractive if it weren't such a mask of ice.

"Who are you? Where's Burns?"

"My name is Sylvia Paoluzzi," she said, barricaded behind the brain wave monitor. "'I'm a meditative deconditioner. Please sit down, Jack. I've got good news for you."

Weller lowered himself into the hot seat. Good news? Are they finally going to let me get in touch with Annie?

"We've completed your psychomap," Sylvia Paoluzzi said, "That's why I'm here instead of Clark. Tonight we're going to introduce you to meditative deconditioning."

Weller was caught off balance. "Look," he said, "before we get into any of that, I want to talk about my wife."

"Your wife?" She looked genuinely puzzled. She glanced through some papers on her clipboard, then looked up at Weller with new comprehension. "Oh," she said. "I see."

''I'm glad you see," Weller said irritably. "'This is the last session of my four-week course, and I was promised I could see my wife when I had been processed."

"Been processed?" Sylvia Paoluzzi said. "You mean you think you've been processed?" Her tone was not so much sarcastic as incredulous.

''I've been plugged into this damned machine two nights a week for a month," Weller snapped. "What the hell would you call it, Miss Paoluzzi?"

"Sylvia," she said with synthetic geniality. "And what I would call it is psychomapping. Meditative deconditioning is the first step in real processing, and that's what we're going to begin tonight."

"What the hell are you talking about?" Weller said. ''I've spent two hundred and fifty dollars for these eight sessions, and now you tell me it's nothing, that I haven't even begun processing?"

Sylvia looked at him with a hard, unwavering gaze. "We're arguing over words," she said. "Of course, four weeks of block-auditing isn't nothing; it's an absolutely essential preparation fur meditative deconditioning."

"Well, what about seeing my wife?"

"That's not my province," Sylvia said. "Meditative deconditioning is. You have a scheduled meeting with a life counselor after this session, and you can discuss your life situation problem with him. Now you have already paid fur this first deconditioning session, so shall we begin? We've already wasted the first five minutes."

Weller studied the woman barricaded behind the brainwave monitor, behind the stonewall of her refusal to discuss anything beyond the procedure she was impatient to begin. Could she really not discuss Annie or was that just part of the game? Either way he knew that he was going to have to get through this session before he got to confront the life counselor, whatever that was.

"Okay," Weller said resignedly, "you win."

''Very good," Sylvia said crisply. "Now as you know, the purpose of block-auditing is to prepare a psychomap of your areas of psychic blockage. It's basically a diagnostic technique. It tells us what areas we now have to work on with meditative deconditioning, which is a treatment, in medical terms, or a process, as we like to call it. Now do you see what I mean about your processing having not yet begun?"

Weller nodded. First they screw up your mind undercover of their so-called diagnosis, then they sell you the cure for the mess they've made of your head. No wonder there's a special low price for block-auditing! It's the come-on; they suck you in with it and then sell you "meditative deconditioning" at forty bucks a session! Very cute.

"Well now," Sylvia said, "meditative deconditioning is in a sense the reverse of block-auditing. Now that we know in what psychic areas your brainwave plot deviates from the optimum pattern, we concentrate on eliminating those blocks."

She fitted the electrode band onto Weller's bead, plugged it into the brainwave monitor, and sat down behind the machine again. "Even an untransformed mind functions at optimum at certain times," she said. "During sucoessful lovemaking, during creative work, in a relaxed meditative state, and so forth. Just as the brainwave monitor detects blocks by variations in your brainwaves, it can also identify optimum mental states. A fully Transformed mind remains in an optimum state in any life situation, independent of the external environment. The ultimate purpose of meditative deconditioning is to eliminate all blocks, to reach this optimum state, to give you what we call a 'fully eptified consciousness.' Do you follow all this?"

"I think so," Weller said. The theory made sense, assuming that the brainwave monitor did what they said it did. But block-auditing used the same rationale to cover some heavy brain-washing games, and he wondered what numbers they ran under cover of this "meditative deconditioning." Well, I'm about to find out, he thought warily.

L. Ron Hubbard, writing in a science fiction magazine in the 1940's, first advanced the extravagant false claims that various physical and mental illnesses could be cured by auditing. He played a major part in developing Scientology. Thereafter, commencing in the early 1950's numerous Scientology [**3] books and pamphlets were written explaining how various illnesses can be and had been cured through auditing. These materials were widely distributed. Hubbard, who wrote much of the material, is a facile, prolific author and his quackery flourished throughout the United States and in various parts of the world. He was supported by other pamphleteers and adherents who also promoted the practice of Scientology and touted its alleged benefits.

Hubbard and his fellow Scientologists developed the notion of using an E-meter to aid auditing. Substantial fees were charged for the meter and for auditing sessions using the meter. They repeatedly and explicitly represented that such auditing effectuated cures of many physical and mental illnesses. An individual processed with the aid of the E-meter was said to reach the intended goal of "clear" and was led to believe there was reliable scientific proof that once cleared many, indeed most illnesses would automatically be cured. Auditing was guaranteed to be successful. All this was and is false -- in short, a fraud. Contrary to representations made, there is absolutely no scientific or medical basis in fact for the claimed cures attributed [**4] to E-meter auditing.

***

[T]he Church and others who base their use upon religious belief will be allowed to continue auditing practices upon specified conditions which allow the Food and Drug Administration as little discretion as possible to interfere in future activities of the religion. Pursuant to 21 U.S.C. 334 (d), upon the findings and conclusions contained in this Memorandum Opinion, relief in the following form shall be set out in an implementing order:

All E-meters are condemned together with all writings seized. The Government shall have its costs.

The device and writings condemned shall be returned to the owners, upon execution of an appropriate bond, to be destroyed or brought into compliance with the Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act. [**20] An E-meter shall be deemed to comply with the Act if and only if it is used, sold or distributed upon specified conditions.

The device may be used or sold or distributed only for use in bona fide religious counseling. No user, purchaser or distributee (other than the Founding Church of Scientology or an ordained practicing minister of the Church) shall be considered engaged in bona fide religious counseling unless and until such user, purchaser or distributee has filed an affidavit with the Secretary of the Food and Drug Administration stating the basis on which a claim of bona fide religious counseling is made, together with an undertaking to comply with all conditions of the judgment so long as the E-meter is used.

The device should bear a prominent, clearly visible notice warning that any person using it for auditing or counseling of any kind is forbidden by law to represent that there is any medical or scientific basis for believing or asserting that the device is useful in the diagnosis, treatment or prevention of any disease. It should be noted in the warning that the device has been condemned by a United States District Court for misrepresentation and misbranding under [**21] the Food and Drug laws, that use is permitted only as part of religious activity, and that the E-meter is not medically or scientifically capable of improving the health or bodily functions of anyone.

Each user, purchaser, and distributee of the E-meter shall sign a written statement that he has read such warning and understands its contents and such statements shall be preserved.

Any and all literature which refers to the E-meter or to auditing, including advertisements, distributed directly or indirectly by the seller or distributor of the E-meter or by anyone utilizing or promoting the use of the E-meter, should bear a prominent notice printed in or permanently affixed to each item or such literature, stating that the device known as a Hubbard Electrometer, or E-meter, used in auditing, has been condemned by [*365] a United States District Court on the grounds that the literature of Dianetics and Scientology contains false and misleading claims of a medical or scientific nature and that the E-meter has no proven usefulness in the diagnosis, treatment or prevention of any disease, nor is it medically or scientifically capable of improving any bodily function. Where the notice [**22] is printed in or affixed to literature, it should appear either on the outside front cover or on the title page in letters no smaller than 11-point type.

The E-meter should not be sold to any person or used in any counseling of any person except pursuant to a written contract, signed by the purchaser or counselee, which includes, among other things, a prominent notification as specified immediately above.

The effect of this judgment will be to eliminate the E-meter as far as further secular use by Scientologists or others is concerned. E-meter auditing will be permitted only in a religious setting subject to placing explicit warning disclaimers on the meter itself and on all labeling.

-- United States of America vs. An Article or Device "Hubbard Electrometer" or "Hubbard E-Meter," etc., Founding Church of Scientology


"Excellent," Sylvia said. "What I do is give you a series of 'life scenarios' keyed to blocks on your psychomap, imaginary situations designed to concentrate your consciousness on specific areas of blockage. You meditate on the scenarios as I give them to you and attempt to reach a calm, meditative, eptified slate of brainwave activity in your blocked areas. Once you have succeeded, the block will be gone, and once all the blocks have been processed away, you'll have reached a fully eptified state of consciousness, able to function optimally in any life situation."

"Question," Weller said, raising his hand sardonically, like a schoolboy. "Just what are the areas of blockage on my psychomap?"

"Your relationship to your wife. Your attitude toward changing your consciousness. Your creative functioning. Your difficulty with identifying with anything beyond your own egoistic ambition."

"I see," said Weller. Brother, do I see! They're zeroing in on why I'm here and my resistance to Transformationalism. Not to mention my dissatisfaction with my nowhere career. This sounds like it's going to get very heavy.

"One more question," Weller said. "Just what am I supposed to do? How do I make my brainwaves calm in fantasy situations designed to make me uptight?"

Sylvia glanced impatiently at her watch. "I can't really answer that," she said. '"You must develop your own technique. Continued confrontation with your blocks will force your mind to learn how to eptify itself in negative life scenarios. It's like learning to ride a bicycle, a feel thing ... Please, Mr. Weller, may we begin now?"

Weller shrugged. "I guess I'm as ready as I'm going to be," he said.

Sylvia fiddled with the controls of the brainwave monitor. "All right," she said. "Here's your first scenario. Your wife has told you that she's signed a contract to play a starring role in a major film that's going to be shot in Spain. She'll be gone for four months, during which you must remain in Los Angeles to work on your childrens' television show."

"Jesus," Weller whispered. The dirty bastards had really keyed into his most shameful fear! How many times had he listened to Annie's end of a phone conversation with her agent, fearing just such a moment? A few times such a role had appeared to be a remote possibility for a while, and during those periods the question had run through Weller's mind over and over again: what's going to happen to me? What's going to happen to us? How could a star stay married to a failure? And just thinking that way made him loathe his own smallness of soul. He couldn't tolerate the idea of Annie being more successful than himself, and he couldn't stand the shame of his own true feeling.

Sylvia's hard, cold eyes peered at him over the brainwave monitor. "Now try to control that reaction," she said. "Hold the thought in your mind but try to erase your negative feelings about it."

"How am I supposed to do that?" Weller snarled.

"Try to imagine the best possible way of facing the situation," Sylvia suggested. "Try to imagine where your mind would have to be to do that and put it there."

Despite himself Weller found himself trying to play the game. All right, Annie, congratulations, you've got your break. I dig your happiness, I'm proud of your success. Yeah, and if you can do it, it proves that I can do it, doesn't it? And if you become a star, you'll have power, and you can use it to help my career. What's so terrible about that? Wouldn't I do the same thing for you? Couldn't you accept it from me? Only stupid male chauvinist ego makes me feel that there's something wrong with that, that a real man doesn't ride his wife's coattails, that a real woman couldn't respect a man who did. What good does that do anyone? It cuts us off from half the possibilities of helping each other along through life....

Aw, what a pack of shit all this is! Weller thought, looking across the monitor at Sylvia and wanting to knock the machine off the table and stomp it to bits.

Sylvia looked up from the scope. "Not bad for a first try," she said. "There actually was some change in the readings for a while. Let's try another one."

She paused, then read off a sheet of paper on her clipboard. "You've gotten the chance to direct a major film. But only because the male star is a homosexual who is strongly attracted to you. And his production company is making the film, so he's also your boss. And he's telling you how to direct. And he doesn't know what he's talking about. If you do things his way, the film will be a failure. If you fight him for creative control, he can fire you."

"What the hell is this?" Weller shouted.

"It's a life scenario," Sylvia said evenly.

"It's a piece of slime!"

"It's not beyond the realm of possibility, is it?" Sylvia said slyly. "Is that how you would cope with it? By throwing a temper tantrum? Do you walk away from all of your creative problems?" All the while she was studying the oscilloscope, where Weller could picture his damned brainwaves jumping all over the place, He glared at her. She did not look up at him.

"Try," she said. "Imagine yourself riding with the change, adapting your creative powers to the situation, overriding your emotions, using yourself at optimum, eptifying the situation."

Weller closed his eyes and tried to disengage his mind from the anger that was coursing through him. All right, we'll play your little game. That's all it is, after all, a silly mind game. It couldn't happen, Weller? The fuck it couldn't! If it were a female star, you'd tease her pussy throughout the whole shooting. You'd lock into that sexual energy and twist it around yourself, you'd use it to get what you wanted like a fisherman playing a marlin on light tackle. And you'd ball her, if that was what it ended up taking, wouldn't you? Annie or no Annie. Or don't you have what it takes? Because that is what creativity is all about -- turning yourself into your own instrument and doing it with utter ruthlessness. Transmuting whatever lousy raw material you're stuck with into what you want... "

But a faggot.... Weller felt his flesh crawling. He'd never let himself be violated like that. Yet he also felt a flash of shame, for a part of him was saying, maybe you would, maybe you should. Because if you were in deadly earnest about your creative commitment, you had to detach yourself from your own personality, you had to let yourself burn, you had to be a monomaniac....

"Very good," Sylvia said, looking up from the scope. "Very good indeed. You're an excellent subject." Weller became aware of the fact that be was sweating. His body was vibrating with fatigue, but it was a triumphant, almost sensual sort of fatigue. He felt very much as he did during those rare peak moments when he was really cooking on the set, when he could feel the camera, the actors, the very film moving behind the lens, as extensions of his own being. It felt something very much like creativity itself.

"Quite a little game you've got here," he admitted grudgingly, half hating himself for responding to it the way he had. This was not at all like a block-auditing. It didn't make him feel confused and scattered; it actually did seem to focus his consciousness. to put him more fully inside his own mind. Jesus, he thought warily, I could get to like this. I had better watch my ass!

Sylvia's eyes seemed to smile for the first time, though her full expression remained enigmatically hidden behind the brainwave monitor. She glanced at her watch.

"We have time for one more," she said. "This time you're a crippled beggar in ancient Jerusalem, a man of no faith, no belief in anything beyond himself. Jesus has just touched your lame leg and commanded you to rise. You get up, and your body is whole and healthy. You look into His eyes, and you are confronted with a clearly transcendent being, a creature superior to you in every way who loves you and has made you whole. Your skepticism is no longer tenable because your own body proves the reality. You worship him, you are transfigured and transformed."

Weller regarded Sylvia sourly, suddenly brought down from that energetic creative state. This was just a little too transparent. Superior being, huh? Transfigured and ... transformed, huh? My skepticism is no longer tenable, huh? Jesus B. Steinhardt, huh?

''This one is just a little too silly for me," he said.

"Is it?" Sylvia said evenly. "That's funny, you're reacting very strongly to it. It really makes you uptight."

Oh, come on ..."

"Come on yourself, Jack. You're really blocking. Are you so afraid of such a concept that you don't even dare fantasize about it? Does the concept of a man who is greater than you terrify you that much? Is your mind so rigid you won't even try?"

"Oh, all right," Weller said. I've put up my resistance, he thought, so maybe this is an opportunity to plant the sort of thing they're looking for. If I can show that I'm wavering, that somewhere a tiny part of me wants to worship John B. Christ....

He tried to imagine that he was looking up at a Jesus who had just healed him, that he believed, that he worshiped.... But it was impossible to even think about it with a straight face. Maybe I should try what they're really after, he thought.

Okay, I'm sitting in a room with John B. Steinhardt. Annie and I have been reunited and I've got a fat contract to do a feature film, all through the good offices and wisdom of Steinhardt, who has helped me despite my own worthless self. Wouldn't I love him? Wouldn't I think he was hot shit? Wouldn't I just sit there grinning like an ape and basking in the munificent wonderfulness of his being?

Weller tried to hold this ludicrous concept in his mind, to impress it upon his brain deeply enough to affect the brainwave traces Sylvia was studying while trying to discern how he was doing by reading her expression from the top half of her face. Talk about Method Acting! he thought. Am I getting through? Good old wonderful John, who has given me wealth, success, my wife back, a Tranformed mind in a healthy body, sweet breath and clean white teeth.... Ah, shit!

"How am I doing?" he finally said when he could take it no longer.

"About as well as could be expected at this point, Sylvia said, looking up at him with unreadable eyes. She checked her watch. "I'm afraid our time is up, she said. You see the life counselor now, Mr. Rohrer in room two-oh-six. About signing up for meditative deconditioning. And you did want to talk to someone about seeing your wife...?"

''Yeah," Weller said. blinking himself back into hard reality, remembering what it was that had brought him here in the first place. He tried to recapture the determination to force an immediate showdown that he had carried with him into the center tonight, but it seemed very difficult to connect with that mundane reality at the moment. For something new and unforeseen had happened. Sure, the last scenario had been an obvious brain lavage, but the other two.... They had turned him on, gotten his mind moving along new parameters. This goddamn process really worked! As advertised. And now, despite himself, he felt an unwholesome fascination toward it.

"I'll be seeing you next week, won't I?" Sylvia said with a knowing little smile. "Mr. Rohrer will handle the details of scheduling."

"I guess so," Weller muttered. Now he realized that there never had been any chance that they were going to let him see Annie at this stage. After this one session it was clear that everything up till this point had been low-level stuff designed to lead him into meditative deconditioning, had only been the baiting of the hook. Because this stuff really seemed to work the way it was intended. They had won round one. They had gotten him interested in the game for its own sake. He sensed that some positive change in his life might come out of this meditative deconditioning thing.

He shuddered. If that power were really there, what other, deeper, more subtle, and less benign changes could this process unfold in what he had once supposed was his immutable soul?

***

Rohrer was a pasty-faced little man in his forties, and his office was little more than a cubicle; his persona was that of a paper shuffler, a low-level functionary who just filled out forms. He listened to Weller's opening demands to see Annie with a bureaucratic weariness that no amount of verbiage could penetrate, letting Weller go on till he simply ran out of steam.

"Really, Mr. Weller," he finally said, "my job is to arrange your meditative deconditioning, not discuss life directives which are a matter of policy set at a much higher level. Besides, from what's in your file it's perfectly obvious that you're not going to be allowed to see her until you've been processed to her level. So shall we get down to what we're here for, eh?"

"I'm not signing up for any meditative deconditioning until I see my wife," Weller insisted, but with little internal conviction.

"And you're not going to see your wife until you've had meditative deconditioning," Rohrer said, "We seem to be at an impasse."

"So we do," Weller said wearily.

Rohrer stared out into space for a moment. Then a lightbulb seemed to come on in his bead so transparently that Weller was sure it was some kind of act. "I almost forgot," he said, reaching into a desk drawer. He pulled out a white envelope and placed it on the desk top with his palm over it. "This may make a difference," he said.

"What is it?"

"It's an authorized communication from your wife," Rohrer said. "My directive is to give it to you after you've signed up for meditative deconditioning."

Weller leaped half out of his chair and reached for the envelope. Rohrer looked startled, but slickly and quickly slipped the envelope back in the drawer. "Give me that or I'll --"

"You'll what?" Robrer said. ''Violence will be entirely counterproductive from your point of view. You don't imagine you can overpower me and get out of this building with the letter do you? And to what end?"

Weller slumped back into his chair. The wormy little bastard was right. They really had him. They knew he would have to see the letter. Of course, he could sign up for the course, get the letter, and then refuse to pay them ...

"Shall we get on with it?" Rohrer said.

"All right," Weller sighed. "Let's discuss my meditative deconditioning. How long is it going to take me to reach the level where you'll let me see my wife?"

"That depends...."

"On what?" Weller snapped.

"On how well you respond. On how many sessions a week you have."

"Goddamn it, can't you give me a straight answer? How many sessions is it going to take me to be processed to Annie's level?"

"The usual range would be twenty to thirty sessions," Rohrer said. "On the other hand, your wife will he continuing her processing in the meantime, so how long it takes you to catch up will also be a function of how rapidly you take the necessary processing."

Good God! Weller thought. Thirty sessions at forty bucks each is twelve hundred dollars! At two sessions a week, that's fifteen weeks, and another fifteen hundred dollars!

"Do you realize what you're saying, man?" he said. "Twelve hundred dollars! Fifteen weeks before I get to see Annie! Money aside, don't you people have any heart?" The future spread out before Weller in an endless bankrupt headache throb.

"It's not as bad as all that," Rohrer said blandly. "You seem to assume that we're limiting you to two meditative deconditioning sessions a week. If the time factor concerns you, I'd suggest you sign up for the crash course."

"Crash course?"

Rohrer nodded. "You can have a session every night in the week if you want to," he said. "That way, the whole process would only take about a month. In fact it's our experience that people who take the crash course finish the process in fewer sessions. You get into it more deeply that way. You might achieve fully eptified consciousness in as little as twenty sessions in as little as three weeks. Possibly at a savings of four hundred dollars."

Weller did some fast mental calculations. Seven sessions a week would cost him two hundred and eighty dollars, plus another hundred for Bailor. He was making five hundred dollars a week, so that would leave him four hundred and eighty a month to meet the mortgage payment and live on. He should be able to squeeze through. And he would save almost fifteen hundred dollars in the long run.

More to the point, he might be able to handle this situation for another four weeks, but fifteen weeks more was unthinkable. There was no way he could endure that!

"And at the end of the month I can see Annie?" he asked plaintively.

"I have no authority to tell you that one way or the other," Rohrer said.

"Oh, for God's sake..."

Rohrer leaned across the desk and seemed to crack his bureaucratic persona with a man-to-man smile that seemed totally bureaucratic in itself. "Well then, just between you and me, off the record, you understand," he said. "it's been my experience that in a case like this the life directive would usually be rescinded once you complete meditative deconditioning. Does that help?"

Weller nodded. He sighed. There was Annie's letter locked away from him in the desk drawer. I have to have that. There's no way I'm going to leave here without it and only one way I'm going to get it. He thought of tonight's session, the strange mixture of crude brainwashing and ... and something else, something that had held an almost morbid fascination for him at a deep, deep level. Who are you kidding? he thought. You knew you were going to sign up before you came in here, before you even knew about the letter. This little fencing match was just a sham from word one. Get it over with, and get that letter!

"All right," he said. "I guess you've sold me the crash course." Like a man struggling in quicksand, every move he made just seemed to suck him in deeper.

***

Weller rushed out of the Transformation Center with the still-sealed envelope burning in his hand. He had resisted the impulse to tear it open the moment Rohrer handed it over; whatever was in it, reading it in this place would be more than he could bear.

He ran the two blocks to his car, got in, and tore open the envelope. Inside were two sheets of Transformationalism, Inc. letterhead covered with perfect electric typewriting. Annie could not type worth a damn. Son of a bitch! It meant that someone had read what she had written, passed it, and retyped it -- if Annie had really written the damn thing at all.

His hands trembling slightly, Weller began to read:

Dear Jack:

How are you, love? I know you must be feeling better because I wouldn't be allowed to write this letter unless your processors knew they had put you through some meaningful transformations.

I've been going through some heavy transformations myself. I'm feeling better and stronger and more myself every day and the only block was missing you and worrying about you being left behind.

But now I've been told that you're on your way home to me, and it's given me the strength to go on and endure the waiting with a happy heart.

Knowing you, I know that you must still be confused and uncertain. You started your processing out of love for me, not because you thought you really needed it; we all know that. But by now you must see that something inside you has drawn you to Transformationalism for its own sake. I was enough to get you started, but now you're not sure why you're going on.

I hope it isn't making you doubt your love for me. I hope you're not thinking you're somehow betraying our love by continuing for your own "selfish" reasons. I also hope that you're not hiding your real reasons from yourself out of some guilty, twisted loyalty to me.

Because there is no selfishness here. When two people love each other, they both want each other to be the best possible persons they can. What enhances your self enhances us, and so enhances me. I had to leave you for a time because you didn't understand that in relation to me. Now, love, you must be feeling what I felt. So no blame, no guilt. What you do for you, you do for us.

So take care, love, feel free, do what you have to do for you, knowing that I understand you're doing it for us. Take heart in knowing, as I do, that we'll be back together soon -- enhanced, fulfilled, eptified, a better you, a better me, a better us.

Much love,
Annie

Carefully, mechanically, Weller folded the letter and slipped it back in the envelope. The signature in ball-point pen at the bottom of the letter had unquestionably been authentic. So whether Annie had written the letter herself or not, she had definitely at least read it and at least to that extent collaborated in its writing.

But in another way it seemed like a Transformationalist document, another carefully calculated piece of brainwashing, even if every word had come straight from her heart. The timing was too perfect, what the letter had said was too close to what he had been feeling. It was all too perfectly crafted to psychologically reinforce the tentative decision he had just made for it to be just a random personal letter from his wife.

Wearily he started the engine and put the car into gear. The letter that had seemed to be so much before he had read it now had proven to be nothing at all. Nothing was changed; he knew no more than before. Except, perhaps, that even his own motives might not be what they seemed, maybe he couldn't entirely trust himself either.
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Re: The Mind Game, by Norman Spinrad

Postby admin » Sat Mar 19, 2016 8:18 am

Chapter Six

Hal Leer, red-eyed and ashen-faced even with the benefit of the best possible makeup, lurched around on rubbery knees in the center of the set while Barry the Brat and Scuffles, wearing matching Little League unifoms and baseball gloves, tossed the ball gently back and forth to each other -- left, right, left, right.

Weller, standing behind the rolling camera, watched the take with bleary, hostile boredom. Stupid brainless garbage! he thought. Like life in prison without possibility of parole, like life without Annie, like night after night of meditative deconditioning, the same brain-bonging routine over and over again. Start a segment on Monday, be half a day's shooting behind by Wednesday, work like a maniac on Thursday and Friday to catch up, accepting any crap that was halfway usable as a print, wrap it up on Friday half-dead on his feet. And for what? So he could begin at the top of the cycle again on Monday morning. So he could collect his lousy five hundred dollars and pay out three hundred eighty dollars of it to Bailor and the Transformationalists. So he could keep going in order to keep living. He felt like a creaky robot, badly in need of oil, on an accelerating treadmill to nowhere.

Only during his sessions with Sylvia did he feel really alert, and that was a state of heightened awareness almost too convoluted to bear. Bailor's so-called counterprogramming only seemed to crank up his paranoia a turn of the screw tighter. Knowing what was going on only made it worse....

"They're ping-ponging your head," Bailor had told him. "They feed you scenarios keyed into your fears and guilts and dissatisfactions designed to drop your self-esteem through the floor, and then they hit you with a superman fantasy that lets you feel like the king of the hill. They move your sense of self-worth from your life as you've lived it into the whack-off fantasies of the life scenarios. Soon you want to be that Jack Weller, not the nerd sleepwalking around in the real world. The classic cult program."

"So what do I do?"

"Give 'em what they're looking for," Bailor had said. "Stop asking about Annie. Talk about your work problems. Throw in a few questions about Transformationalism here and there. But do it grudgingly and slowly -- you've got to convince them that you're coming around against great internal resistance."

"But how do I keep it from becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy? I mean, what's the difference between meditative deconditioning and what you're telling me to do? You're giving me a goddamn life scenario too!"

"You know what scenarios to watch out for. The true believer stuff. The seeker-after-higher-consciousness stuff. So when they run one of those on you, play your game, not theirs. Concentrate on something different, something that will put your mind in the so-called epitifed state of consciousness they're looking for, but with different content. Like if they run a number about dedicating yourself to the church, think about shooting the last scene of a successful movie. Get it?"

"You mean run my own life scenario on top of theirs? I'm glad you're not suggesting anything too complicated ... "

So the meditative-deconditioning sessions had become games within games within games. Run his own scenarios within Sylvia's scenarios, split himself in half, or was it in thirds? It was gelling to the point where he looked forward to certain life scenarios -- the creative fantasies, the scenarios where he and Annie were reunited -- as the only moments when he could bring himself together, let himself experience the totality of Jack Weller and feel good inside his own skin. Everything else was a paranoiac acting exercise or sleepwalking. He had reached the final irony -- he only felt real, authentically himself, during unreal fantasy situations! If only he could reverse fantasy and reality, if only he could live out the life scenario of Jack Weller, the committed creator, if only....

Oh, my God! Weller suddenly realized that he had been tripping out into his own head games on the set again, and this time right in the middle of a take! How long had Scuffles and the Brat been tossing that baseball back and forth? Well screw it, they can just cut away as much of this lead-in as they want to. He brought his right hand up and dropped It sharply, cuing Hal Leer.

Leer seemed to give Weller a look of pure poison before he delivered the line. "Here, let the old man have it. Let's see if Scuffles can hit the old curve ball."

The Brat tossed the baseball to Leer and went down into a catcher's squat as Scuffles picked up the bat and took a right-handed hitters position, thumping the bat on an imaginary home plate and ad-libbing ape grunts.

Leer went into a woozy, ludicrous double-pumping pitcher's windup, then brought his arm forward with the pitch. But at the moment of release, he seemed to get tripped up in his own stupid feet, and he stumbled forward, half falling down.

The ball hit Scuffles right on top of the head, a perfect beaner.

The ape screamed in feral outrage, bared its yellow teeth, and shambled across the set toward Leer with blood in its eyes. Leer snarled and balled his hands into fists.

"Cut!" Weller screamed. "Stop that goddamn chimp!" He dashed forward as Scuffles leaped at Leer, who sidestepped clumsily and hit the chimp a glancing, ineffectual blow on the shoulder as Scuffles, chittering, slammed into his left side and knocked him on his ass.

Then the trainer and two grips grabbed the howling ape from behind, pinned its arms behind its back, and dragged it, screeching and kicking, away from Leer.

Weller reached Leer, took him by the hands, and tried to help him to his feet, but Leer angrily pulled away from him. "Get your filthy hands off me, you imbecile!" he shouted.

At the right of the set the grips were still holding onto Scuffles while the ape struggled and gibbered, and the trainer tried to calm him with soft sounds in his ear. Barry the Brat stood nearby, taunting the chimp by pretending to throw a phantom baseball at its head.

Weller exploded in a fit of blind rage. "Cut that shit out, you little bastard, or I'll break both of your arms!"

"Up yours!" the Brat screamed and stomped off toward his dressing room.

Weller stood there confronting a red-faced Leer. Aside from the gibberings of Scuffles, there was dead silence on the set. Cameramen, grips, and sound men were staring at Weller as if he were a maniac.

"Weller, you are without a doubt the --"

"Shut up, you goddamn drunken sot!" Weller shouted in Leer's face. "You show up drunk or hung over on this set again and I'll have your ass canned!"

The intake of breath from the crew was all but audible. Still red-faced with anger, Leer spoke in clipped, tightly controlled tones. "You'll have me canned, will you, Weller? You'll have me canned? We'll just see about that. We'll see who gets fired after this little exhibition."

Weller took a deep breath, then took half a dozen quick steps backward, the director commanding the set. "We will break for lunch now," he announced loudly. "After which we will continue today's shooting, and we will get it right. I hope all of you have got that straight."

The crew continued to stare at him with unconcealed, silent hostility. "Scuffles is through for today," the trainer said. "I only hope that's the worst of it."

'"Then we'll shoot around him this afternoon," Weller said grimly. "And tomorrow he had better be ready."

"Or what?" the trainer snarled.

"Or else," Weller shot hack at him, and stalked off in the general direction of the commissary, unable to bear looking at the mess on the set a moment longer -- the glowering Leer. the contemptuous sullen eyes of the crew, the stinking goddamn gibbering ape.

That does it! he thought. I can't take another week of this! I've got to get out of here. I can't stand it any more. I'm going to quit this fucking job. I'm going to quit Friday. I can't bring back Annie, I can't get my head out of this quagmire, there's only one thing I can do to try to make my life endurable, and that's get rid of this miserable cretinous insanity. Enough is enough! I've had it! I'll sell my car, I'll take a second mortgage, I'll dig goddamn ditches, but 1 can't take any more of this.

***

By the time he had reached the Transformation Center, Weller's energy level was about an inch off the floor. and his will was drained dry. After he had choked down a hamburger at the commissary and returned to the set, the idea of quitting his job had become just another unreal life scenario.

Sell the car? Maybe he could get two grand, but how long would that last at three hundred and eighty dollars a week for processing and Bailor, not to mention mortgage payments and minor matters like utilities and eating? And if he walked out on his contract, no one would ever hire him again; he'd be broke, unemployable, and wheelless, which in Los Angeles was like having three broken legs. A second mortgage on the house? Fat chance, if he couldn't even show a bank enough income to carry the first one! Dig ditches? Sure. Wash dishes? Right. The town was just full of shit jobs that would pay an out-of-work director four hundred dollars a week.

So he had slogged through the afternoon's shooting in even more of a trance than usual. The crew was sullen, silent, and agonizingly slow, as if they were punishing him for the morning's outburst, as if they wanted nothing more than to get his ass off the set. Leer came back with booze on his breath, but Weller dared not openly notice it; as it was, the necessary conversation was conducted in grunts and snarls, and shooting was hopelessly behind already. Barry the Brat he could at least intimidate into working with implied threats of violence; he at least had enough authority left as an adult for that. But throughout the endless afternoon a slow funeral gong seemed to be beating in his bead; he felt dead inside, and indeed cultivating that anesthesia of mindless zombiebood was the only way that getting through the day seemed possible.

He slunk into the Transformation Center, took the elevator to the third floor, walked into the processing room, and dropped his bone-weary body into the chair in front of the brainwave monitor like a sack of potatoes. Even cold, clinical Sylvia was able to feel his trapped, defeated, exhausted mood.

"Are you all right, Jack?" she said, with You look awful! written silently across her face.

"No," Weller said sullenly.

"Would you like to see a life counselor?"

"No," Weller said. Yet another brand of mind game was hardly what his present mood called for.

"Do you feel you'd like to cancel tonight's session?"

"No," Weller said automatically. Did I drag my ass here for nothing tonight, you nerd? Besides, tripping out into a harmless scenario or two might be some kind of relief from the awfulness of reality.

Sylvia snapped back into her robotic persona. She fitted the electrode band on his bead and plugged him into the console. "Well then," she said brightly, turning on the machine, "maybe tonight's session will do you some good."

"Maybe it will," Weller said, half surprising himself with the sincerity he beard in his own voice. "I could do with forgetting about what's happened today."

Sylvia favored him with a tiny smile. "That's the right attitude," she said. "Move along the time track with the changes. What's past is memory, don't let it become a block."

Weller nodded. A tiny ray of light pierced his clouds. For the first time today he felt as if he had accomplished something, a little piece of role playing that had advanced him some infinitesimal distance toward Annie. If that were what it was. He tried to force his tired mind further toward full alertness sensing that he had set the stage for a session that might go a long way toward convincing them that he was moving swiftly toward true conversion. You were zero as a director today, Weller, let's see if you can at least act.

"All right now, ready for your first scenario?" Sylvia said. "Your wife has just had a baby boy. She's gotten an offer to do an important supporting role in a movie. In order for her to accept, you must stay home all day for three months to take care of the baby. She'll be making good money, so that won't be a problem, and you've decided to make the sacrifice for her sake."

Weller could all but feel his brainwaves going wild. This was one that he and Annie had gone through a dozen times, and it was why they had made the cold-blooded decision not to have children, at least not now, not until they had both made it, not until it wouldn't interfere with Annie's chances to advance her career. The idea that he might stay home to take care of a baby had never even been discussed; it was unthinkable.

But here was the sacrifice-for-Annie motif again, and with a vengeance. He had to give them what they were looking for, tonight of all nights, when the attitude he had walked in with had already established a lot of credibility for his making the "major breakthrough" in his processing that they were watching for.

And, he realized, Bailor's advice would work like a charm here; all he had to do was apply a little reverse English in his mind.

So he imagined the exact opposite of the scenario Sylvia had given him. Annie had had a baby boy, and he was working on a feature film while she stayed home to take care of the child. Every evening he came home from a successful day's shooting to a wife mellowed by motherhood. As the boy grew, so did his film, his reputation, his creative powers, his feeling of at last being on top of the Hollywood heap. And Annie was content, because she knew that once the finished film was released to critical acclaim and socko box-office figures, he would be in a position to give her career a boost up, just as the baby was ready for a daytime nurse, just as they reached the point where they could afford it. It would be all they had wanted, all they had dreamed about, and now it was happening....

Sylvia looked up from the scope and wrote something on the form on her clipboard. For a moment Weller got a glimpse of her full face, and he thought he saw the ghost of a satisfied smile -- smug, perhaps, but satisfied. Only then did his control waver and a wave of sadness break over him. For after all, what he had constructed in his mind was a fantasy within a fantasy, an ironic negative image of the true reality -- no Annie, no child, no feature film, just the awful aloneness and the endless grinding days of Monkey Business spiraling down, down, down....

"Very good," Sylvia said. "I think we're really making progress in that area."

Weller smiled a wan eat-shit smile. It was the first time she had actually betrayed a reaction, and she was eating it up. It was possible to fool the bastards. At least in this one thing he wasn't a total failure.

"Let's see if we can keep it up," Sylvia said, and Weller felt even more strongly that his processing was entering a new phase, that they were buying his act, that Bailor's strategy was working.

"Now then," Sylvia said, "you've been asked to direct some commercials for a presidential candidate. The candidate is a true man of the people, so the political and economic establishment are all against him, and his campaign is financed strictly by the dimes and dollars of poor people, and every dollar counts. He's offered to pay you a small salary, but the man is so sincere, so dedicated, such an underdog, and so obviously what the country needs that you can't accept even that. Because you know that people all over the country would be missing meals to pay your salary. So you tell him that you're honored to work for him, but you can't accept any payment. It's got to be your own personal sacrifice for the cause."

Oh brother! Weller thought. John B. Steinhardt for President? Our Peerless Leader in the White House off the nickels and dimes of the poor? It symbolized the whole Transformationalist setup. The poor schmuck so dedicated to the cause that he wants to work for nothing is exactly the kind of follower the bastard wants. And exactly the kind of schmuck I've got to convince them I'm becoming.

So he imagined that a long-forgotten great aunt had died and left him five million dollars. He was going to finance his own film with part of the money. He had gotten a great script written by one of the top writers in Hollywood, and every agent in town was calling to push the greatest stars alive for parts in his movie. He was having trouble deciding between Paul Newman and Robert Redford for the male lead -- they were both so pathetically desperate for the part -- but he had already cast Annie as the female lead. And now he was walking into the office of Morris Fender, producer of Monkey Business, and he had the latest awful script rolled up into a tight cone in his hand, and he was going to tell Fender exactly where he could stick it. Then he was going to buy Scuffles the chimp and sell him to a dogfood factory....

"It's quite surprising, Jack," Sylvia said. ''You're doing very well tonight, though you came here in a very deenergized mood."

"Yeah, well maybe when you don't want to think too much about what's going on in your life situation, it's easier to get your head behind alternate life scenarios," Weller said truthfully.

"When you can accept your current life situation with the same optimized consciousness you achieve during the scenarios, you'll find that starting to improve too," Sylvia said. "After all, that is the ultimate goal of meditative deconditioning."

"Do you really think I'm getting there?" Weller asked in as humble a tone as he could muster.

"You're progressing, Jack, you're progressing."

"I really wish all this was helping my life situation more," Weller said, continuing to string her along.

"When you've achieved a fully eptified consciousness, you'll find that the Transformation will automatically improve your interaction with the external environment."

"I hope so," Weller said quietly.

"Shall we get on with your processing?" Sylvia said. Weller could sense a certain edge of impatience. He had run this little number just about far enough. I've eptified the current situation, he thought sardonically.

"Sure," he said, with what he hoped was just the right tone of subtle, subdued enthusiasm.

"All right now, you've reached the end of your current contract for the show you're working on, and the producer has told you that it's been canceled. You're out of work, you have no immediate offers, and all you have to live on is what savings you've accumulated, enough to keep you going for a couple of months."

Sylvia's words knocked the psychic wind right out of Weller, flung him right back into the bottomless pit of Monkey Business -- today's fiasco, Leer's threats, the hostile eyes of a crew whose respect he had lost, the futility and frustration dragging on and on forever, the funeral gong peeling in his head.

Good God, do they know? But that was sheer paranoia, that was impossible.... or was it? How long was their reach?

Sylvia looked up from the oscilloscope, frowning. "You're blocking very heavily," she said disapprovingly.

Get a hold of yourself, Weller, get a hold of yourself! Don't blow this too! Desperately, he tried to come up with a counterscenario that would move those readings toward optimum, but he came up dry. His mind was clogged with memory images of today's shooting, and nothing could drive them out.

"Let me help you," Sylvia said. "You're obviously fixating on the negative aspects of this scenario, and that's very regressive. I'm surprised at you. Look at the other side, ride with the change, try to fix your consciousness on the positive aspects. They're there, reach for them...."

With an audible sigh Weller closed his eyes and gave up trying to play the countergame Bailor had taught him. It just wouldn't work in this situation. This scenario was too close to reality. Too close? It was reality, or only an inch away. It was how he had felt this morning, when he was determined to quit the goddamn show. All those feelings came rushing back. Quit the damn job! Dig ditches! Get rid of it! This life scenario was him. It's where you want to be, Weller, admit it to yourself. Use this process to learn something for once.

He let himself float down into the center of the scenario, playing the meditative-deconditioning game in earnest for the first time. Reach for the positive aspects? Well for one thing, Weller, you hate every bloody minute on the Monkey Business set. And it's not taking you anywhere near where you really want to be. It's making you hate the act of directing itself, isn't it? It's ruining you for anything better. Every day on that set is an extended act of cowardice that chips away at the Jack Weller you want to be.

Anger began to wash over Weller's despair. Cowardice? Isn't that it? You don't have the balls to quit! You were ready to do it this morning, but you lost your courage over a greasy commissary hamburger. You want out, but you don't have the balls to do it yourself.

Reach for the positive aspect? If the show were canceled I'd be out of there, that's the goddamn positive aspect! I'd be broke, I'd have to do God-knows-what to keep up this processing -- do porn, maybe -- but I'd be free. Free from Barry the Brat! Free from Leer! Free from directing a fucking ape!

A blast of energy went through Weller as he imagined life without Monkey Business. His mind soared like an uncaged bird. I'd get off my butt, find my own center again, do work that mattered or nothing at all, the way I always promised myself I would. I'd have one hell of a huge monkey off my back!

"Very good," Sylvia said. "You found it, didn't you? See, you can do it."

Weller opened his eyes. He blinked. The life scenario was run and over, but that wonderful energetic feeling remained. He felt great. He felt better than at any time since Annie had left him, since God-knows-how-long before Annie had left him.

I don't want to lose this feeling, he thought. I won't lose it. This one was my life. I won't let this slip away. I was right the first time! Quit the fucking job!

"Jeez," he said, "something happened there, it really did." What he was putting out synched perfectly with the act he was supposed to be putting on, but it was also him; his act was synched into his true self for the first time in longer than he could remember.

Sylvia smiled at him. "You appear to believe you've made a Transformational breakthrough," she said. "And I think you may be right."

"If this is Transformational Consciousness, it's okay, it's sure okay," Weller said, feeding her the line, conscious of projecting the desired effect, but at the same time feeling his current instantaneous personality resonating with the truth of what he was saying. Is it really true? he wondered. Can this stuff really work for me if I let it?

***

Entering his semi-darkened living room, thick with dust, cluttered with old pizza cartons, stacks of unread newspapers, and unwashed sticky glasses, Weller felt a jarring discontinuity between what he felt like inside and the midden that his external life had become. He hurried to the phone and dialed the emergency exchange number that Garry Bailor had given him. A metallic female voice answered on the fourth ring. "Garry Bailor's exchange. May I help you?"

"This is Jack Weller. I have to talk to Mr. Bailor immediately. Will you please give him the message?"

"Will you please give me the number you're calling from."

Weller gave her his number, hung up the phone, and waited nervously. More of Bailor's security paranoia. He wouldn't give out his home number, afraid that someone might find out where he lived from the exchange digits, even though the number was unlisted. The only way to contact him without a scheduled appointment was to call the exchange and hope he'd call back. And Weller couldn't wait. He had to talk to Bailor now.

When he left the Transformational Center, he had known he was going to quit his job tomorrow, but on the drive home he had began to distrust his own head. The center of his being vibrated with the rightness of the decision he had made. Contemplating life without Monkey Business felt wonderful.

But where and when had he made that decision? During a processing session at the center! How could he completely trust this wonderful feeling? The move seemed to be his, he had made it once before today, but how could he be sure he was in control even of what seemed like his essential center? He was the focus of conflicting fields of psychic energy that bombarded him with programming and counterprogramming on every level. Could he really be a creature of his own free will, or was what he felt just the interlace between conflicting programs? He had been through too much to believe with total confidence in the existence of an untouched core of free will at the center of all that psychic determinism. Is the me who thinks he's his own man really his own man?

He desperately needed some external anchor, and Bailor was the only person in the world who could understand the nature of the problem, who could give him an outside observer's viewpoint on his own inner workings.

Finally the phone rang. Weller snatched it up before the first ring of the bell had died. "Garry?"

"Yeah, Jack. What is it?"

''I've just come from the Center. I've had quite an experience. I think I'm going to quit my job tomorrow."

"What? What in blazes did they run on you to make you do that?"

"It's my own decision," Weller said. "At least I think it is.... I mean, that's why I called you. There was a life scenario, but...."

"You sound spaced," Bailor said. "Give me the whole story sequentially, from this morning on." Even over the phone, Weller could sense Bailor's skeptical, analytical, merciless attention. It helped him organize his own confusion. Bailor was like a psychic computer: feed him all the data, and he would organize it logically and extract the pattern, the implied conclusion. Weller poured the whole story into the phone, in cold, logical, clipped chronological order, feeding in the data without attempting to analyze it.

When he had finished, there was a long silence on the other end of the phone. Weller could all but hear the relays clicking.

Finally, Bailor spoke. "They've gotten to you," he said flatly.

"What do you mean, they've gotten to me?"

'"You've been programmed," Bailor said. "Can't you see it? You're about to make a real life decision on the basis of something that happened to you during a processing session. Isn't it obvious?"

"But why would they want me to quit my job?" Weller asked defensively. "That doesn't make sense," wondering just what it was he felt compelled to defend.

"But they don't even know about that, now do they?" Bailor said sarcastically.

"Then what are you talking about?" Weller said, feeling some nameless dread cracking his well-being like ivy crumbling a stone wall.

"Before you got into this, you would never have quit your job, would you?"

"No...." Weller said grudgingly, beginning to see where Bailor was going.

"So your head has been changed during processing," Bailor snapped. "By processing!"

Woodenly Weller peered silently into the mouthpiece. Was it true? Could such a feeling of rightness be false? An illusion? Something that had taken control of him?

"That's called programming, isn't it, Jack," Bailor said. "Something in your mind has been altered."

"You could be right ...", Weller admitted. "But isn't learning the same essential process?" he said more strongly. "Learning something about myself and then acting on it."

"Will you cut the shit?" Bailor said in exasperation. "Look at the damn content of the reprogramming, will you? Can't you see what's happened?"

"You tell me," Weller snapped irritably. "That's what I'm paying you for."

"That's right, buster," Bailor said coldly. "So listen and get your money's worth. You're now ready to abandon about all that's left of your previous life and leap into some etherealized ego-trip pipe dream. Are you stupid? Don't you see what that adds up to as a mind set from the Transformationalists' point of view?"

"Oh shit," Weller said, feeling like a schmuck but also feeling as if he had just been robbed of something he was learning to treasure.

''That's right, Jack. Suggestibility. Ready to follow a program that was accidentally implanted. Ripe for the picking when they throw the real thing at you."

Bailor's tone of voice changed, became distantly sardonic. "Of course, you could look on the bright side. At least your act is working. If I can keep you from picking up programming like this well enough to make sure it stays an act until they buy it, we're gonna get there."

Weller could see it now, be could see the whole infernal thing. And yet wasn't it possible to make the right decision for the wrong reason? Couldn't his own best interest coincide with the head space they had brainwashed him into? Maybe quitting his job was the right thing to do even if he had been brainwashed into believing it. Wasn't blindly opposing anything that happened to float through his mind during processing a perverse form of mind control too? Bailor's brand of brainwashing?

"But that doesn't mean I shouldn't quit, does it?" he said. "I've always hated that damned job."

There was a pause at the other end of the line, and when Bailor spoke again, his voice was like a razor. "Right. Quit your job. Then where do you think you're going to get the money to continue processing, huh?"

Bailor paused again, and once more his voice changed now, it was sinuous and coaxing. "Now that we're really getting somewhere, you don't want to throw it all away for some silly whim you've gotten into your head. Are you forgetting why you got yourself into this in the first place? You've got to hold on, man. You've got to keep making money. When we've gotten Annie back and deprogrammed, then quit your job, if that's still your thing. But doing it now would be totally self-destructive."

Bailor's words were like a bucket of ice water in Weller's face. Of course he was right. Pragmatically right. Totally right. Inescapably right. Heroic gestures were something he simply just couldn't afford now, and Bailor had effectively rubbed his nose in it. He had to keep working because Transformationalism wasn't on credit cards. And neither, he thought angrily, is Bailor.

"And, of course, you also have a financial interest in my keeping my job, don't you, Garry!''' he snapped.

"You get what you pay for," Bailor said diffidently. "You knew that when you hired me."

"So I did."

"Well, Jack, are you going to stick it out, or has it been nice knowing you? My dinner is ready."

"You know damn well I have no choice," Weller said wearily.

Bailor's tone lightened immediately, became friendly in a mode that Weller now perceived as hacked out of plastic. "No hard feelings then, Jack. This is a heavy game, and feelings get upset, and tempers get tight. See you on Saturday, right?"

"Yeah, Garry," Weller grunted. "No hard feelings."

But when he hung up the phone, he found himself hating Bailor. Not only because Bailor had let the mask slip and bluntly reminded him that he was just a paid mercenary who would be with him just as long as the money held out. But for raining on his parade, for taking away something vague that he had always wanted, that had been just within his grasp. For leaving him with this sullen, angry feeling of having been robbed of the first bit of something good that had drifted into his life since ... since Annie had left. For this undefined but quite real sense of loss.

***

Fittingly it was raining the next morning when Weller drove to work, a leaden Southern California downpour that matched his mood perfectly. He parked the Triumph in his regular space just in front of the sound stage, but by the time he had dashed inside, his clothes were already damp and a lock of hair was plastered to his forehead.

Perfect, he thought, just bloody perfect, as he wiped the wet hair off his face with the back of his hand and walked past stacks of old scenery toward today's shooting set.

Then he saw that the set was empty.

The flat of the kitchen set was set up, the furniture, the props, the cameras, sound equipment, and lights. But no crew. No actors. No Scuffles. No trainer. Just the dead, empty set, tiny and forlorn, dwarfed by the shadowy gray vault of the sound stage, like a section of a bombed-out abandoned city, moldering in the cavernous graveyard silence of the huge empty building.

Then Weller saw that the set was not quite empty. A short, balding man emerged from the shadow of a stack of flats and walked toward him, his footsteps echoing hollowly in the silence. It was Morris Fender, the producer of Monkey Business.

With his heart sinking toward his rubbery knees, Weller walked toward Fender, and they met alongside the main camera. Fender looked at Weller with utter disdain on his tanned, wrinkled face; his lips were clenched in tightly controlled anger, and behind his air-force-style glasses his eyes were hard as marbles.

"I'll make this short, but it won't he sweet, Weller," he said. "You've ruined our goddamn chimpanzee. The trainer is threatening to sue the studio. Leer refuses to work with you again, and Barry's mother doesn't want the kid around your foul mouth. The stuff you've been turning in for the past few weeks has been garbage, and it's been late. Ordinarily I'd fire you."

Weller stood there awash in Fender's anger and disgust, unable to react, unable to even feel what was happening. Bong, bong, bong, went a deep-throated ball in his head.

"The good news," Fender said, "is that I don't have a show left to fire you from. It'd take weeks to get another chimp ready for the part. Three of your last segments can't be aired without extensive reshooting. So Monkey Business has been canceled. You're a lucky man, Weller."

"Lucky ... ?" Weller muttered inanely. Lucky?

Fender nodded. "This way you haven't been officially fired. Your credit list won't have 'this bastard was fired' in big red letters, since the show you would've been fired from has been canceled. But don't expect to ever work for this studio again. Don't expect to work on a show on the same network. Don't expect to work for any producer I've ever talked to."

Weller could say nothing. His brain felt like frozen mud. I'll quit, I won't quit, I'll quit, I won't quit -- and now this! Elation? A sense of freedom? He felt as if he had been hit over the head with a baseball bat.

"Now take anything you've got here and get off this lot," Fender said. He turned, shook his head to himself, and walked off toward the exit.

Only long after Fender had disappeared into the shadows did Weller begin to react to what had happened, and the first thing he felt was anger. At himself. How many times have I wanted to tell that creep to get stuffed? he thought. How many times have I rehearsed my parting shot to that little bastard in my mind? And now what do you do, Weller? Do you punch him out? Do you tell him what you think of him and his lousy show?

No, you stand there stupidly like a lox. You don't say a damn thing as he fires you. You take it like a clumsy servant being dismissed by the lord of the manor.

"Fuck you, Fender!" he shouted Into the emptiness. "Fuck you, you wormy little bastard!" It only made him feel even more foolish and futile.

Woodenly he collected his few things and walked outside to his car. The cloudburst had subsided and water was steaming off the hood above the still-warm engine. The sky remained gray and threatening.

Weller leaned up against the side of the car, not caring that the wet metal was soaking his already-damp pants. What am I going to do now? he wondered. Now that the life scenario had become reality, there was no sense of freedom, no surge of energy and determination. Under the ominous gray sky what it boiled down to was that Transformationalism had cost him both his wife and his job. What was next, the house and the car? His sanity?

He felt empty, husked, drained. How was he going to keep going? And what was he supposed to keep going for?

The only meaningful thing left in his life was the wan hope of someday, somehow being reunited with Annie, and even that was vaguing out into an abstraction as it receded further and further into the future, became more and more ... divorced ... from his day to day reality.

And in a week or two he would no longer be able to pay for his processing, and then even the hazy hope of seeing Annie again would be gone.

He got into the car and started the engine. Through the seat of his pants the throaty rumble infused his body with a faint artificial vitality. At least that! he thought. They've got to let me see Annie now. Why shouldn't they? There's no money left; they've sucked me dry.

He released the emergency brake, slammed the car into gear, and roared toward the gate trailing a rooster tail of foam. I'll go see Benson Allen, he decided. I'll wheedle, I'll threaten, I'll beg if I have to, but this thing has got to end now, today. It will end, one way or the other, he realized bleakly. I just don't have the money to go on.

As he drove through the studio gate, the skies opened up again, and a fusillade of hard rain spattered off the hood like machine-gun bullets, momentarily obscuring the windshield behind an impenetrable veil of water.
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Re: The Mind Game, by Norman Spinrad

Postby admin » Sat Mar 19, 2016 8:19 am

Chapter Seven

Getting into Benson Allen's office proved to be easier than Weller had anticipated. He got by the desk by asking to see Rohrer, the life counselor, and Rohrer quickly got him in to see Allen once Weller made it clear that the problem concerned his inability to pay for any more processing. Perhaps his disheveled state and the confused bewilderment he was more or less projecting had something to do with it too. Bureaucrats like to get rid of messy-looking maniacs as quickly as possible, he thought, as he entered Allen's office, and if they can't pass the buck down, they do their best to pass it up.

But whatever the reason, here he was, and he knew that he had to keep himself under tight control and do the best and most important piece of acting of his life.

Allen was sitting on one of the white plush couches, eating some concoction of nuts, fruits, and yoghurt with a spoon. In his white shirt and pressed blue jeans he looked strangely out of place in the Hollywood-elegant office, as if he were the hippie houseboy of the absent owner.

Weller found his perception of the man strangely altered. Sitting there surrounded by the Persian rug, the big paintings, the garishly lavish furniture, Allen didn't seem like the all-powerful head of the Los Angeles Transformation Center but like some blond beachboy type who had lucked into something way beyond his depth. I can handle this guy, Weller thought. I really think I can handle this guy. From the pit of his current hopeless position, he round himself drawing energy, an irrational sense of his own power and competence. He had hit the bottom, there was nothing left to lose, and now he was going to turn the corner, because the only way out was up.

"Sit down, man," Allen said. "Have some of this stuff. Give you energy." Without waiting for an answer, he filled another bowl from the tureen on the teak table in front of the couch and handed it to Weller as he sat down.

Allen watched Weller silently until he had tasted the goop and nodded a pro forma approval. Let us break bread together? Weller thought. Is this another gambit?

"So you've got a problem," Allen said. 'Tell me about it. I'll do what I can."

"It's pretty simple," Weller said. "I've lost my job and don't have the money to pay for any more processing. So you've got to let me see Annie now. I don't have the money to go on, and I don't imagine you're giving any scholarships."

Allen nodded, ate another mouthful. "That's right," he said, "no free rides. Too bad, because you would've completed your meditative deconditioning in another couple of weeks. They tell me you've been really cooking lately."

"Well then, why can't you bend a little and let me see Annie now?" Weller said cautiously, not wanting to fracture what seemed like the down-home atmosphere at this point.

Allen studied Weller speculatively. "You really want to go on with your processing, Jack?" he said slowly. "I mean, other things being equal?"

It seemed like a non sequitur, but Weller could sense the question's importance, as if Allen were on the edge of relenting, as if all he needed now was to see into Weller and be satisfied that what processing he had already had had taken hold. This was proving much easier than Weller had anticipated. But don't overplay it now, he told himself. Don't overact. Stay convincing.

"I guess so ... ," Weller said with deliberate uncertainty. Then more firmly, "Sure. I've got to admit that I'm learning things about myself. Sure I was forced into it, but, well, maybe it was the right thing for me...." He frowned sadly. "But what's the point?" he said. ''I'm tapped out. I'm broke. And frankly I don't have any immediate prospects. So...."

Allen gazed unblinkingly into his eyes, the old Transformationalist Stare. Weller stared back, focusing his eyes on a point in front of Allen's nose, so that Allen's face became a featureless blur, psychologically neutralizing the power of his unwavering gaze, giving Weller more than an even hand in the staring contest. Whatever was going on, it certainly wasn't the confrontation that Weller had anticipated.

It was Allen who finally looked away, shrugged, and then spoke. "Shit man, if it were my decision, I'd say okay, you can see your wife. I just don't get those hostile vibes off you now and you've had some bad karma, so what the hell..."

Weller went up, then down. "But ... ?" he said. "There is a but ...", Allen was saying no softly, he was being friendly about it. What turn was the game taking now?

Allen grimaced. He shrugged. He nodded. He seemed genuinely embarrassed, even nervous. "Thing is, it's now up to the Monitors," he said.

"Who?"

"Look, Jack, what I can tell you is that your old lady is now working for us, in a position with a security lid on it, which means all her life directives now come directly from the Monitors. Out of my hands. All I can do is present your case. But you'd have to pass a Monitor life analysis to see her, and without even completing your meditative deconditioning...." Allen threw up his hands.

"Who the hell are the Monitors?" Weller snapped, losing some of his control. This was like trying to pick up a mound of jello with your fingers.

"I can't get into that," Allen said, and now he really did seem nervous, perhaps even a little frightened.

I've had just about enough of this shit, Weller thought. Enough cute little games. I can't take much more.

"So what you're telling me," he said coldly, "is that I can't see Annie now because I can't pass something called a Monitor life analysis. And you can't even tell me who or what the Monitors are."

Allen nodded. He seemed unwilling to meet Weller's eyes. He seemed really put down, somehow. And he was suddenly looking like much smaller potatoes inside Transformationalism. Who the hell were the Monitors? Why did the head of the Transformation Center himself seem to be afraid to even talk about them? Weller studied Allen for a moment, and it seemed to him that Allen's altitude toward the Monitors might be some kind of hole card.

"So what am I supposed to do now?" Weller said plaintively, reaching for Allen's sympathy, setting him up. ''I'm broke, I've got no job. I can't continue my processing...." He put a slight edge into his voice. "And now the head of the Los Angeles Transformation Center tells me he'd like to help, but it's all in the hands of the mysterious Monitors, and he's powerless.

"I didn't say I was powerless, man," Allen said, with a slight whine in his voice.

"Didn't you?" Weller said with open contempt.

Allen looked up with what seemed like a genuine defensive expression on his face. He put down his bowl. His face creased with thought. "Look," he said, "maybe I can help you. Yeah...."

Allen seemed to recover some of his energy and authority. "How would you like to work for us?" he said.

"Huh? First you tell me I can't even see my wife, now you tell me you want to make me a processor?"

Allen laughed. "Not as a processor," he said. "In your own line of work."

"As a director?" Weller asked incredulously.

"Like that," Allen said. He got up, walked across the room, and stood behind his enormous sweep of paisley-painted desk. The geometry of the situation was abruptly transformed from whatever it had been into some kind of crazy job interview, and Allen had suddenly seized a more powerful persona -- the producer barricaded behind his impress-the- peasants furniture. Intentional or not, Weller had to admire at least the blocking, on a technical level.

"Transformationalism is into a lot of things that I never even thought about when I started it," Allen said. He shook his head somewhat ruefully, or so it seemed. "Getting like some damn conglomerate; we own a lot of things that don't seem to have anything to do with anything. Harry Lazlo, our secretary-treasurer runs all that shit. He used to be a literary agent, and now he wants to play Hollywood wheeler-dealer."

Allen sat down behind his desk. He shrugged. "Not my scene at all," he said. "But Harry's always been on this show- business trip. He likes hanging out with show people, and he's moving us heavily into media. We're doing commercials, and we're producing internal training and educational films, and if I know Harry, his wet dream is to get into movies and TV. We sure have the bread to let him do it. He's hiring a lot of people -- crew, directors, who knows -- and I don't think many of them are really pros like you. Think you might be interested?"

Weller got up and took a seat immediately in front of the desk. "Are you serious?" he said.

"Sure. I could call him this afternoon and make an appointment for you. Harry would probably dig you." Allen leaned back in his chair, steepled his hands. "Not only that, but full-time paid employees of Transformationalism get free unlimited processing," he said. "Like a fringe benefit. And to get beyond the lowest levels in the media end, you'll have to go through Monitor life analysis anyway."

Weller stared at Allen, trying to let the whole thing sink in. Transformational production companies? Commercials? Even feature films? "Let me get this straight," he said. "If I go to work for Transformationalism, I get free processing, and you let me see Annie?"

Allen nodded. "Once the Monitors have approved you for a permanent position," he said. "I mean, if you're both working for the movement, why should we keep you apart?"

Weller sat there quietly, trying to be logical, trying to evaluate, while everything inside of him told him that he had no choice, that in his present circumstances this was a god send. A job with what sounded like a bunch of well-heeled amateurs, where he could rise swiftly to a position of creative control. Free processing -- no more money down the rathole. A clear path to Annie guaranteed. It sounded to good to be true.

And that, of course, was the kicker. I walked in here canned, broke, and desperate, and now they hit me with an offer I really can't refuse. The alternative is no Annie, no processing, no job, and no hope. Jesus Christ, I wish I could talk to Bailor right now. What's going on here?

"Well, what do you say?" Allen asked, moving his right hand over the top of the desk toward the telephone. "You don't have anything to lose by rapping with Harry, do you?"

I don't have anything left to lose at all, Weller thought. And you know it. What would Bailor --?

Screw that! he thought. I'm sick of being told what to do as if 1 were a brain-damage case, and maybe I've been trusting Bailor too much anyway. If I can't make a decision like this without that bastard holding my hand, I might as well hang it up.

"How can I say no?" he said.

Allen smiled. "Yeah, you'd be crazy if you did," he said. "It would be heavily regressive, even without the processing you've had. I'll call you tonight and confirm the appointment." Had there been a subtle edge of threat in Allen's voice? Or was that just more paranoia?

Weller left Allen's office wondering if he had been conned again, if this whole thing had been a setup, even down to Allen's uneasiness at the mention of the Monitors, whatever they were. Or was what he had so far experienced just the tip of the Transformationalist iceberg?

***

The address that Benson Allen had given Weller turned out to be one of the sleek glass towers on the western end of Sunset Strip. Weller parked his car in the underground garage, picked up a parking validation ticket, and walked around front to the lobby. Allen had told him to look for Lazlo's office under "Utopia Industries, Inc." According to the building directory Utopia Industries, Inc. had three full floors. In addition to Lazlo's office the sublistings included about a dozen companies -- Colby Publications, radio station KRUR, the Narcon Foundation, Sunrise Books, the Delta Agency, Changes Productions, Carmel Properties, the Regency Corporation, United Data Control, Farside Group, Inc.

MR. LeCHER: Okay. You've got Scientology front groups: Apple Schools, Narcanon, ASI, Citizens' Commission for Human Rights, CCHR, Gerus Society, and the Safe Environment Fund. These are all front groups for Scientology?

MS. PETERSON: Yes.

MR. LeCHER: Are these used to get new recruits or to gain respectability for the organization?

MS. PETERSON: Yeah. Basically, the purpose of the groups is to — the stated purpose is to — so that Scientology becomes indispensable to the community. In other words, an Apple School would be set up and you will have non-staff members set up the school, however, these are dedicated Scientologists and they're usually hand-picked....

MR. LeCHER: Are you going to tell me about Narcanon?

MS. PETERSON: Narcanon is a rehabilitation drug program which is run by Scientology. My experience with it was that it was not very successful. I really don't know about any of the other — all these groups are set up and there's various programs in the Guardian's Office on how to set them up.

Also, part of the training received while you're in the Guardian's Office is that if you're asked by anyone if the Guardian's Office runs these schools, you're to tell them, "No." You're to say that you're involved with or that you help out or that they use the technology of Scientology. However, you're never to tell, outside of the Guardian's Office, that you are, in fact, running it or that the money goes into the Church of Scientology from these groups.

-- Testimony of Janie Peterson, City of Clearwater Commission Hearings Re: The Church of Scientology


Weller stared at the directory in amazement for long moments. He recognized several of the companies apparently controlled by Utopia Industries: a magazine chain, a publishing house, a radio station, a narcotics-rehabilitation outfit, a PR agency. None of them was a flagship company in its field, but all of them were solid second-line outfits, and together they made up quite a corporate empire. Not to mention the companies with which he was not familiar. If all this were really owned by Transformationalism, its tentacles were really pervasive. and its net worth must be well in excess of one hundred million dollars! In that league producing feature films was no idle fantasy.

Lazlo's office was on the fifteenth floor, within the overall headquarters of Utopia Industries, and the elevator deposited Weller in a large and lavish -- if neutrally bland -- reception area. Walnut veneer paneling, matching modern furniture, deep-pile blue carpeting, half a dozen huge but unobstrusive abstract oil paintings, a big salt-water fish tank, and a sleek Hollywood receptionist shining with well-varnished asexual handsomeness.

Weller gave his name to the receptionist and waited while she buzzed Lazlo's secretary, soaking up the sense of corporate power, all very Hollywood establishment, impressively anonymous in its eradication of personality with expensive showroom decor. It looked like a movie set of a plush corporate headquarters- - like most such corporate country in Los Angeles, it mimicked the cinematic version of itself.

Another woman appeared through a door in the paneled inner wall, this one older and wearing a tweed pants suit. "Mr. Weller? Mr. Lazlo win see you now."

Weller followed her through the door and down a long hall. She opened a door at the end of the hall for him and closed it softly behind him as he stepped inside.

Harry Lazlo's office occupied a corner of the building, and. two big picture windows overlooked the Hollywood Hills and the grand smoggy sweep of lowland Los Angeles. There were brown leather couches and chairs, a wall lined with expensivel. bound books that looked as if they were glued in place, and about half a dozen large signed photographs of minor celebrities, none of whom was John B. Steinhardt. The desk was a great stark cube of mahogany, and the man behind it wore a powder-blue suit with a white shirt and a wide black tie. He was balding, with short gray hair above his ears, an Acapulco tan, and lightly tinted Italian glasses. He was even smoking a trim dark brown cigar -- the perfect image of the successful Hollywood entrepreneur.

"Ah, yes, Mr. Weller, do sit down, Benson's told me all about you," Lazlo said in a throaty New York voice but lightly overlaid with Los Angeles smoothie.

He rose as Weller approached the desk and offered him a pudgy hand, with a massive gold signet ring on the third finger, which Weller was constrained to shake as he sat down. The smell of Canoe wafted across the desk, mingled with a rich Havana aroma.

"Uh ... pleased to meet you," Weller said.

''I've had your credits checked out," Lazlo said. "Not a hell of a lot, really, except for Monkey Business, which I understand has just been canceled."

Weller's reaction must have shown on his face, for Lazlo laughed, and waved his cigar grandly. "Don't worry," he said. "I know the whole story. And I also have had some acquaintance with that schmuck-and-a-half, Morris Fender. Forget about it. We don't want our creative people wasting their time with drek like that, not when there's real work they can be doing for us."

Weller found himself warming to Lazlo, despite the heavy veneer of Hollywood phoniness, or perhaps because of it. He didn't seem like some Transformationalist creep; at worst he was a Hollywood creep, a type Weller felt more or less at home with.

"Tell me, Jack, can you handle a camera?" Lazlo asked.

"A camera?" Weller said dubiously. He had done some camera work years ago, but he had supposed that Allen had made it clear that he was a director, not a cameraman. "Yeah, I can handle a camera, but I'm a director, Mr. Lazlo."

"Sure, sure," Lazlo said. "All things in time." He puffed explosively on his cigar. "Look, maybe I should first tell you something about our operation," he said. "What Transformationalism has got coming out of its ears is money. One of the things I want to do with that money is move us into major league TV-films, commercials, the whole schmear. What we've got in that area right now is Changes Productions, which mainly makes TV commercials, which are mainly local station stuff fed to us by Delta, which is our advertising agency. Now what you are thinking right now is, hey, this guy is insulting me, talking about hiring me to work on lousy commercials when I've got network TV credits, right?"

"Well ... yeah, right," Weller said. Lazlo had indeed been reading his mind. Even from a Saturday-morning kiddie show, local commercials were a long step down.

Lazlo laughed. "Now, do I look like a guy who's mainly interested in making commercials?" he said. "Of course not! We're also making some internal films and some contract industrial stuff, but that's not where I'm mainly interested in going either. No, in a few years, I see Changes Productions getting into series television production, feature films, firstline stuff. We could be the next Universal. Why not? We've got the capital, and we've got the connections." He frowned. "But you want me to tell you what we don't got? What we don't got is the talent."

"I don't understand," Weller said. "If you've got the money, this town is full of film people who are looking for work. All you have to do is go down to the Beverly Hills unemployment office and take your pick."

Lazlo sighed. He chewed on the end of his cigar. "If only it were that simple," he said. "But it's not. You see, I can't hire anyone who hasn't at least gone through meditative deconditioning, and I can't give anyone a permanent appointment until they've passed a Monitor life analysis. Which narrows things down considerably. I've got to hire Transformational talent. Now there are millions of people who are into Transformationalism, but how many of them do you think are screen writers, actors, cameramen, or directors?"

"Not many," Weller ventured.

"Not many," Lazlo said. "So I end up hiring just about anyone the Monitors will pass who can do anything around film production. Loxes you wouldn't believe. It's a son of a bitch getting together a pool of people who could handle anything more than what we're doing now, and that's what's been holding us back. Which is why a guy like you, with real network credits, even if it is a monkey show, I was ready to hire sight unseen before you walked in the door."

"I see," Weller said. "Or do I? Why do you make it so hard for yourself?"

"Me?" Lazlo exclaimed. '"You think this mishigass is my idea?"

'"You'rethe secretary-treasurer of Transfurmalionalism, aren't you? You're the head honcho of Utopia Industries ..."

''That I am," LazIo said. "But I'll tell you what I'm not, and that is John Steinhardt or Fred Torrez."

"I don't understand."

"Money matters, I run," Lazlo said. "John has no head for business, and he knows it. I was his agent, you know, and even in those days it was disaster to let him get his hands on a checkbook even. Without me he'd still be broke, and Transformationalism Inc. would still be operating out of a storefront in San Francisco. So I run the business end, period. I made this company what it is."

Lazlo puffed on his cigar, shrugged his shoulders. "But the bullshit, the processing, the personnel, that's John's baby. Aside from the economic end, he keeps control of everything, and he sets policy. And he only wants dedicated Transformationalists working on what our media companies put out. I'm stuck with it. And of course, you can see his point. Media molds consciousness, and molding consciousness is to Transformalionalism as fried chicken is to Colonel Sanders, so you've got to have the right cooks in the media kitchen. The USIA doesn't hire Communists, and you won't find John Wayne working in Russian movies."

"And the'Monitors ... ?" Weller asked. "I keep hearing about these Monitors."

Lazlo waved his cigar, as if brushing away the importance of the Monitors. "Auditors," he said. "Boys from the home office. They just keep an eye out to see that everyone is doing things John's way. You know, like the guys from network continuity."

"But they have to clear everyone you hire ..."

"Yeah, yeah, it can get to be a pain in the ass sometimes," Lazlo said. "Like you, for instance. Now I know damn well you're probably a better director than anyone we've got now, but the directive is that nobody works as a director until they've completed meditative deconditioning and passed a Monitor life analysis. So all I can offer you is a provisional appointment as a cameraman at two hundred a week...

"Cameraman?" Weller exclaimed. "A lousy two hundred dollars a week? Now you are insulting me. That's not even scale." If this son of a bitch thinks he's going to hire me as a cameraman for a stinking two hundred a week....

"Take it easy, take it easy'" Lazlo said. "Believe me, once you complete your meditative deconditioning and pass the life analysis, you'll get a permanent appointment as a director. Absolutely. My word of honor. As for the salary -- when you figure in the free unlimited processing, that doesn't look so bad either."

"I don't know ..." Weller said uncertainly. But, of course, he did know. Two hundred a week was two hundred dollars a week more than nothing, and the unlimited free processing made it come out to more than he had been netting out Monkey Business at the end. But cameraman on some schlocky amateur commercial unit? Jesus....

Lazlo stuck his cigar in his mouth and looked squarely at Weller as he bit off his words around it. "Look, it depends on what you think of yourself," he said. ''I've told you what we've got, and I've told you the kind of people we've got working for us now. If you don't think you can rise to the top in a setup like this faster than hot shit through a tin horn, then I don't want you working for us either. You're not the man I thought 1 was looking for."

"When you put it that way...." Weller said. They did have money, and Lazlo did seem like a man who really was determined to have his production company move on to bigger and better things, and he certainly was right about the situation. If I can't become the main man in an operation like this, I ought to look for another line of work.

"How long will it take me to stop being a cameraman and start being a director?" he asked.

"A few weeks at most," Lazlo said. "You think I want to waste a real talent longer than I have to, things being what they are?"

"Okay." Weller said. "you've got yourself a cameraman."

Lazlo grinned. He stood up and once again shook Weller's hand. "Welcome to the family," he said. "You're not going to regret it. Couple of years, and we'll both be up there collecting our Oscars together."

Lazlo sat down. "Okay," he said, "now I've got to get back to work. My secretary will call you tomorrow and give you the details. Your producer will be Sara English, pretty okay, all things considered. Good luck."

And that was it. Weller left Lazlo's office bouncing on the balls of his feet. Hot damn! he thought. I've got a job! A job with a-future! I'll be the best damn cameraman they ever saw. And once they let me direct, I'll show them who's going to do their first feature! Energy flowed through him, he was riding the wavefront of destiny, he could hardly wait to begin.

Only when he had reached the garage and realized that the other thing he could hardly wait to do was go home and celebrate his good fortune with Annie, did he remember that there was no Annie waiting for him. That he had not even thought of her once during the whole interview with Lazlo. That even the features of her face were becoming slightly hazy in his mind's eye.

What changes I've gone through, he thought uneasily as be climbed into the familiar Triumph. And what changes are yet to come?
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Re: The Mind Game, by Norman Spinrad

Postby admin » Sat Mar 19, 2016 8:21 am

Chapter Eight

Changes Productions turned out to be an old, converted porn-printing plant in the nether reaches of the San Fernando Valley, an area of trailer camps, small industry, junkyards, and used-car lots steaming in saturation smog. Weller parked his car with a certain sinking sensation in his stomach and walked in through the street entrance. He found himself in a tiny reception area facing a glassed-in booth containing a switchboard operator and a heavy, hard-faced man wearing a white shirt and black trousers. He gave his name to this bozo, who checked it against a list, and handed him an ID card sealed in plastic.

"Keep this with you at all times," be was told. "You need it to get in. I'll get someone to take you inside."

Weller waited uncomfortably in the unfurnished reception area which had all the inviting charm of a prison cell. This was already not quite what be had expected. There was something not merely tacky but greasy about the face that Changes Productions showed to the world, a strange combination of porn factory and cut-rate military-industrial complex, lightyears from the Hollywood veneer of Harry Lazlo's office.

With a loud buzz the steel door at the other end of the cubicle opened, and a short fat woman in her twenties stood there, holding the door open for him. "I'm Arlene Harris," she said, "Sara English's assistant. Come with me, and I'll take you to the set."

Weller followed her inside, directly into a large hangarlike space divided up into offices, storerooms, and cubicles by raw plywood partitions. At the other end of this maze a series of six large, totally enclosed boxlike rooms had been constructed under the high factory ceiling, like outsized dressing rooms in a real studio sound stage. "These are our sound stages," Arlene Harris said proudly, "We have six of them -- three for video and three for film. We also have two editing rooms and two sound-mixing stages." Weller was not impressed; the whole operation looked amateurish, and the waste of space seemed tremendous.

Arlene Harris opened the door to one of the sound stages and led him inside. Weller groaned inwardly, for the shooting lights were on, and the crew inside was in the middle of a take. He would have crucified anyone who barged into a shoot like that.

A young man and woman costumed in army-surplus hippie gear and caked with scrounge makeup were lying on a messy bed. The girl was nodding out, and the boy was in the process of shooting himself up with a dirty-looking needle. Behind them was a flat of a dingy bedroom wall filthied with miscellaneous graffiti. A single video camera was shooting the scene under harsh rudimentary lighting that gave no dramatic shadows or undertones. A red-bearded young man in his thirties stood by the camera, apparently directing. A script girl and two male grips stood nearby, all young, all wearing jeans and work shirts.

Against one wall stood a striking redheaded woman in a tight tan pants suit that tantalizingly displayed her superb upright breasts and erect dancer's carriage. Across the room a dark-haired balding man in black pants and a black turtleneck stood with arms folded, watching with a lidded, self-contained detachment.

"Okay," the director said, "cut. Let's get ready for the close-up." The actors sat up, and the cameraman began to reposition for the next shot, but no one bothered to kill the shooting lights. Kill those damn lights! Weller wanted to shout.

Arlene led Weller up to the redhead. "Sara, this is Jack Weller."

The redhead turned to regard Weller with big green eyes that went straight to his groin. She was in her early thirties, and quite beautiful, though there was something strangely cold even in the sexual vibrations that seemed to surround her. "Welcome aboard," she said. ''I'm Sara English." Their eyes met and something flashed between them; Weller felt the stirrings of long suppressed treasonous desires. She smiled at him. "Let's go outside and talk while they're setting up. Arlene, you keep an eye on things here."

She led him out of the sound stage, with the man in the black turtleneck tracking them all the way with cold eyes like radar antennae. Once outside she leaned up against the wall of the soundstage, thrusting the nipples of her unfettered breasts against the fabric of her jacket, a posture that seemed both deliberately enticing and coldly commanding.

"We're shooting a spot for Narcon in there," she said. "That's our narcotics-rehabilitation program, pretty important to the movement. It gets us a lot of state and federal funding." She paused and flipped through some papers on her clipboard. "I generally oversee all the shooting," she said. "All our kids are dedicated, high-consciousness people, but we're kind of short of technical expertise." She gave him a smile that would melt glass. ''I'm looking forward to working with you," she said. "Someone like you will have an opportunity to provide a great service to the movement. I'll show you around first, and then we'll pick a spot for you. You might as well get into it right away."

Weller followed at her heels as she took him on the quickie tour of the various sound stages, saying little, trying to ignore her powerful physical presence, trying to soak up and evaluate the situation. What he saw was pretty impressive on an activity level but quite appalling on a professional level. In addition to the Narcon spot, they were presently shooting commercials for Sunrise Books and a housing subdivision being put up by Carmel Properties, outfits which he recognized as being owned by Transformationalism through Utopia Industries. But they were also doing stuff for a savings and loan in East Los Angeles, a line of vegetable choppers, and a health-food company, all of which seemed to have nothing to do with Transformationalism.

This struck Weller as odd, because the level of what was being done was the pits, from what he could see. No one seemed to have the faintest idea of how to really use lighting effectively. The actors were stiffs. He saw three blown takes in the space of ten minutes, one because the damn camera ran out of film in the middle of the take. A boom mike nearly beaned one of the actors. A director tried to take the same sequence three times before he realized that a line of dialogue was missing from the script.

Why would anyone hire these jerks unless they had to, unless they were owned by Transformationalism?

"Well, what do you think?" Sara asked him as they stood outside the health-foods-commercial set. Should I tell her? Weller wondered. Should I really tell her? But she was looking at him so warmly, and her eyes were so bright and confident, that telling the truth seemed like a stupid, pointless cruelty.

"Uh ... you certainly seem very busy," he said.

Sara nodded. "We've got more work than we can handle" she said. "It comes in from everywhere. Our advertising agency uses us exclusively, and of course there's Narcon and Sunrise and all the other movement businesses, not to mention Transformationalists in outside companies who are under life directive to give us their business. TV commercials hit the public in a particularly open state, so we don't like to turn anything down. Every commercial is another chance to get the message through to hundreds of thousands of people."

"The message?"

Sara looked at him peculiarly. "'The Transformational message," she said. "You don't think we're doing this just for the money, do you?"

"Uh ... of course not."

"Well now, let's see, where can we fit you in?" Sara said, thumbing through the papers on her clipboard. "Hmmm ... We could use a new cameraman on the Sunrise commercial. Harrison just isn't working out. How does that sound?"

"Good as anything," Weller said. "But I don't want to come in with had vibes ..."

"Bad vibes?"

"Taking someone's job."

Again Sara gave him that peculiar look. "Harrison won't object," she said. "Why should he? If you can optimize the shooting over him, he'll be glad to see you take over. He's as dedicated to the movement as you or I."

"If you say so," Weller said. I've got a lot to learn about this setup, he thought. Maybe almost as much as these nerds have to learn about getting decent footage in the can.

***

"Come on people, get in sync, eptify yourselves, let's feel that wavefront moving through us all together now, and get this right."

Georgie Prinz, the so-called director, was hunched over in front of the set, trying to inspire the author of Land of Milk and Honey with Transformationalist jargon while Weller peered blearily through the viewfinder on the camera, waiting irritably for them to try to get their shit together one more time. The shooting day had been an infinity of contemptuous boredom, and Weller had spent most of his endless waiting time praying for it to be over.

As a Transformational lesson in humility, starting him as a cameraman was a dismal failure. Compared to this mess, Monkey Business was Citizen Kane, and he was Orson Welles. The best that could be said about the crew was that they knew their equipment well enough to turn it on and off and more or less point it in the right direction. The author, Deke Clayton, was an ex-junkie who bad been cured by Narcon and written a book about it which was published by Sunrise Books, just to keep it all in the Transformationalist family. He had a wooden nervous, uptight bearing, and spoke with a bug-brained manic fervor.

Georgie Prinz's idea of camera direction was to tell Weller "close-up" or "medium shot" as if he knew what he was talking about and then give him a lecture about the "energy dynamics" of the shot in gobbledygook about "wave forms" and "rhythms" and "transformations" like some kind of Junior Steinhardt on speed.

What should've taken an hour or two to shoot was taking all day, and to compound the agony, all these turkeys were so intensely sincere that it made his teeth ache.

"Roll 'em!"

"Sound okay ... I mean speed!"

"Milk and Honey, scene two, take five."

"Action, people, sync those vibes!"

Weller focused a medium shot on Clayton, a somewhat skeletal figure in a blue suit, with short-cropped hair, steel-rimmed glasses, a burned-out complexion, and eyes that glowed with such unnatural health that they seemed to be in the wrong face. Clayton had his left palm planted on his book as he spoke, as if he were swearing on the Bible.

"I was ... the lowest junkie in creation," he stammered loudly, straining his memory to recall every other word in the script. "But a miracle called Narcon ... restored ... saved me from the ... pit, and I lived to tell the world about it..."

Weller found it difficult to imagine what idiot had conceived this commercial. An author talking about his own book was pure death, even if it were Norman Mailer or Gore Vidal, and this character could hardly remember the stupid script.

This thing wouldn't sell any books, and Sunrise Books was a Transformationalist company. Why were they screwing themselves this way? Just to put a testimonial to Narcon on the air? But they were already shooting an up-front Narcon commercial. It didn't make sense.

"... to find out how a junkie like ... I was ... could be standing here holding a book ... he was able to write himself ... and how anyone can find ... his own Land of Milk and Honey."

"Cut!" said Georgie Prinz. "Okay, I think we've used up whatever positive forces we had in us today, so we'll call it a wrap."

Weller turned off the camera, got it ready for storage, and slunk toward the exit, hoping to escape without having to talk to anyone. What was there to say?

But Prinz caught up to him before he made it to the door. "Hey, how about it?" he said enthusiastically. "You could really feel the energy, couldn't you?" He was a thin, slightly round-shouldered guy in his late twenties, with stringy hair, intense eyes, and a frantic conversational tone; yet somehow there was also something of the puppy dog in him which aroused in Weller a certain gentle hypocrisy.

''Yeah, there's really ... uh ... spirit here," Weller said, and kept walking.

"Bet you don't see so many eptified consciousnesses working together on network shows, huh?"

"Different kind of scene ..."

Prinz grinned at him. "And you haven't really synced in yet," he said. "Wait till you really get behind the second level stuff. We're not just making commercials, we're really transforming, we're really getting into it."

"Uh-huh," Weller said wearily. "It seems that way to me already."

He reached the sound-stage door and stepped through, with Prinz still yipping at his heels like an earnest puppy. The balding man in the black turtleneck was waiting outside, eyes like ball bearings in a bloodless face.

"A word with Mr. Weller, Georgie," he said in a firm, flat voice.

"Sure Owen." Prinz said, his voice instantly subdued, and without another word he loped off toward the front of the building, disappearing into the warren of plywood partitions.

''I'm Owen Karel," the creepy character said, staring at Weller as if that were supposed to mean something to him. Weller cocked an inquisitive eyebrow.

"I'm the Monitor representative."

"Oh." So this was one of the Monitors. What did he want? It didn't figure to be anything pleasant.

"I've made an appointment for you to begin life analysis," Karel said. "Saturday at the Center."

"Is that an order?"

Karel grimaced slightly, "You may consider it a life directive, yes," he said. "I hope it will go smoothly. We've been requested to expedite matters by Harry Lazlo's office, but that doesn't mean we'll be any less thorough."

"Of course not," Weller said. There was something positively reptilian about this guy, and he had the kind of face you instinctively wanted to punch.

''I'm glad we understand each other," Karel said. "Lazlo is very enthusiastic about you, but I want it understood that the Monitors have the last word on permanent appointments. There are some rather questionable items in your dossier, so rest assured, we'll be monitoring you closely."

''I'm sure you're just doing your job," Weller said, inching away from him.

"That's the correct attitude," Karel said. "But then, you'd know that, wouldn't you?"

"If you say so," Weller said. "Ah, is there anything else? I've had a tiring day ..."

"That will be all for now," Karel said solemnly.

"Well then, see you around ..."

"You will," Karel said, then turned and walked off, leaving Weller standing there in the cold wake of his passage. Brother! If this character were typical of the Monitors, he could see why they made even Benson Allen nervous. It was going to be some pleasure working around here. For a mad moment he felt a twinge of nostalgia for the good old days of Monkey Business.

***

"It's a screwed-up mess, really, it's incredible," Weller said, pacing around Garry Bailor's tacky living room, feeling tiredly superior, an emotion which gave him little satisfaction. "I've worked four different shoots now, and nobody seems to really know what they're doing. But they think they do. Oh brother, do they think they do!"

Bailor looked up at him from the couch, over the top of a can of beer. "Why does that surprise you?" he said. "You just told me that only Sara English has any real experience, and that was porn."

Jesus, Weller thought, is this guy really that dense? "But they keep getting assignments," he snapped. "They're booked solid for the next month. How can they keep getting work off the crap they turn out?"

"You told me that Transformationalism owns at least a dozen companies through fronts, including an advertising agency which funnels assignments to Changes." Bailor said. He shrugged. "One hand feeds the other..."

Weller collapsed onto the couch beside Bailor. "Obviously," he said. "But it's not all in-house work. They're doing stuff for all kinds of companies that don't seem to have anything to do with Transformationalism. Hell, they're even going to do some political spots for a mayoral candidate upstate. And it's all the same -- technically horrible and loaded down with not-very-subtle Transformationalist propaganda. How the fuck do they get away with it?"

The more he learned, the less sense it made. Every script seemed to be written on two levels. If it were a vegetable chopper commercial, the machine "transformed kitchen chores into creative cooking art." Ticky-tacky houses in a crummy development were "at the leading edge of Los Angeles's expansion into the twenty-first century." Lawrence Savings and Loan "transformed your money into the instrument of a better tomorrow." You could "eptify your bodily functions and cleanse your mind of metabolic blockages" with Walden Health Foods. If they were selling a laxative, they'd probably say that you could "ride the changes out your asshole."

What were they doing with all this? Bombarding the public with a few key Transformationalist terms over and over again so that when old John Q. came across Transformationalism itself, it would seem familiar and have positive connotations? It reminded Weller of the "sublimfual advertising" paranoia of the 1950s, when people were convinced that their television sets were sneaking secret messages into their subconscious minds. Was Transformationalism actually doing that?

For that matter where did the scripts come from? He had yet to see a writer, and a few times he had seen Owen Karel handing bound scripts to Sara. Were the Monitors making this stuff up?

If this game were only being played with companies owned by Transformationalism, he could understand it. But banks? Political candidates? Restaurants? Why were they continuing to shell out good money for bad commercials loaded with subliminal Transformationalist crap?

Bailor took a sip of beer. "Maybe they have their hooks into everyone they're making commercials for," he suggested.

Weller snorted: "Banks?" he said. "Used-car lots? Kitchenware companies? An aerospace outfit? Man, if they own everything that they are making commercials for...."

"They wouldn't have to own all their clients," Bailor said. "All they'd need would be Transformationalists in key places. An account executive ... a vice-president ... a sales manager ..."

"A political candidate?"

Bailor looked at him peculiarly and shrugged.

"You're making me paranoid," Weller said. "Do you know something I don't?"

Bailor grimaced. "That kind of stuff I don't want to know," he said. "In my line of work it's very unhealthy. As long as I just take a few followers away from these outfits, I'm merely an annoyance. They tolerate my existence. But if I start getting into their corporate involvements, if they think I'm becoming a threat to them on an organizational level...." He shuddered. "Jack, if you find out anything like that, be sure not to tell me. Let's keep this strictly on a one-to-one deprogramming level, okay?"

"Thanks a lot," Weller grunted. Bailor's see-no-evil attitude frightened him more than anything else had. The son of a bitch knows more about Transformationalism than I do, and he doesn't want to know any more. What should that tell me? And with "Monitor life analysis" starting tomorrow, too, whatever that is....

"Do you mind if we talk about the Monitors, Garry?" he said sardonically. "Or is that subject taboo too?"

''I'll tell you what I know," Bailor said. "But I'll be honest with you. I've never worked with anyone that's been this far in before, not someone who's working for them and dealing with the inner organization."

"Inner organization?"

"That's what the Monitors seem to be," Bailor said. "A kind of Transformationalist secret police, under Steinhardt's direct control. It's a big, complicated organization with lots of fronts, and it would seem that Steinhardt uses the Monitors to make sure the accounting stays honest, to make sure everyone who works for the movement toes the line. As I understand it, a directive from Fred Torrez, who runs the Monitors for Steinhardt, can even overrule the heavies like Allen and Lazlo. That's about all I know."

"And all you want to know," Weller said bitterly.

"You got it. I don't mess around with people like that because I don't want them messing around with me."

"Marvelous," Weller snapped. "Fucking marvelous!"

Bailor looked at him coldly. "You didn't ask my advice when you decided to go to work for them, now did you?" he said.

"And what would you have told me?" Weller snapped. ''To stay unemployed? That you'd put my bill on the cuff?"

Bailor shrugged. "Maybe that you should rethink the question of whether or not all this is worth it to you," he said.

"It's a little late for that, isn't it?" Weller said. "Now what about this damned life analysis thing?"

Bailor took a long pull of beer. He squirmed on the couch. He looked really uncomfortable, "I don't think it's another process," he said. "More like a security check. I suppose what you can expect is some pretty heavy but straightforward interrogation."

"Bright lights and rubber hoses?"' Weller said. Jesus, all this was getting positively unreal. What have I gotten myself into? Bailor doesn't even want to know. Do I? Can I really handle this?

He looked at Bailor and tried very hard to suppress the hostility he felt toward the cowardly bastard. Bailor was beginning to look sleazy. weak, and not exactly a man to lean on should the going get rough. Yet there was no one else he could ask, no one else to talk to about it.

"Do you really think I'm in too deep?" he asked. "Are you saying I should pull out of this thing now, while I can?"

Bailor leaned hack and spoke softly and slowly. "You're about through with meditative deconditioning, and we seem to have pulled that much off," he said. "If you keep playing the same part, you'll probably get through life analysis too. And after that we should be home free to Annie.... Of course, it is your decision ..."

"Yeah, but what would you do in my place?"

Bailor laughed humorlessly. "I wouldn't get my ass into your position in the first place." he said. "But there is another factor. You're working for them. The Monitors have already ordered a life analysis. You know things about their operation that are not exactly public knowledge...."

A chill went through Weller. "What are you saying?"

"I guess I'm saying that it wouldn't be so easy for you to pull out now," Bailor said. "Probably nothing earthshaking, but they wouldn't like it. So if you're going to have to go through that shit anyway, you might as well go ahead for a few more weeks till you get to Annie so at least what you'll have to go through will be worth it."

"What are you talking about?" Weller hissed. "What's going to happen to me?"

"Probably just some pressure," Bailor said cavalierly. "Phone calls at all hours. Ominous letters from the Monitors. Threats. Stuff like that. Why do you think I rent this dump and make it impossible for anyone to get my home phone number?"

"Now you tell me?" Weller said. His stomach felt as if it were filled with ice. Suddenly he felt small and powerless and Bailor seemed to be talking to him across an immense and isolating distance.

"Hey, don't freak out," Bailor said. "It's not as if they were going to plant bombs in your car or send hit men after you." He frowned. "A least I've never heard of them going that far..."

After the within suit was filed on August 2, 1982, Defendant Armstrong was the subject of harassment, including being followed and surveilled by individuals who admitted employment by Plaintiff; being assaulted by one of these individuals; being struck bodily by a car driven by one of these individuals; having two attempts made by said individuals apparently to involve Defendant Armstrong in a freeway automobile accident; having said individuals come onto Defendant Armstrong's property, spy in his windows, create disturbances, and upset his neighbors.

-- Memorandum of Intended Decision (Breckenridge Decision)


"That's comforting," Weller said wanly. "That's very comforting."

Bailor seemed to be thinking some private thoughts, and from the look on his face they weren't too reassuring.

"Are yon thinking of bugging out on me, Garry," Weller asked sharply.

Bailor snapped out of his reverie. He smiled a horrid plastic smile. ''Take it easy, Jack," he said. "We'll come through it okay."

"Sure we will," Weller said sourly. It's us against them, he thought, regarding Bailor narrowly. Only them keeps getting bigger and us keeps gelling smaller. He remembered the old joke about the Lone Ranger and Tonto surrounded by a horde of hostile Indians. The Lone Ranger turns to Tonto, and he says, "Well, it looks like we've had it, Tonto." And Tonto looks at the Lone Ranger, and he says: "What do you mean we, white man?"

***

Weller took the elevator up to the seventh floor of the Transformation Center in the grip of a strange psychic flatness compounded of ennui, boredom, and a growing sense of superiority to the Transformationalist milieu in which he had become immersed. He couldn't even work up much of a healthy sense of paranoia about the imminent opening round of Monitor life analysis.

Working as a cameraman for Changes Productions was even more tedious and creatively non-involving than directing Monkey Business. Being a cameraman meant standing around waiting interminably for the next shot to be set up under the best of circumstances, whereas directing even the worst schlock meant attention to business at all times. Indeed the director was the guy who kept the cameraman standing around waiting for him to get his shit together, as Weller soon rediscovered when the roles were reversed.

And when the directors were as incompetent as the amateurs he was being forced to work under, the cameraman spent his whole day in a state of impatient, contemptuous boredom. Further, when the mind behind the viewfinder was that of a director, it took to second-guessing every take of every shot in advance, setting it up, instructing the actors, and shooting it over and over again mentally before the actual director on the set did it his way, and of course, nine times out of ten, the Changes Production directors did it wrong, extracting footage far inferior to what Weller was shooting inside his own head. So even the advance second guessing soon became a tedious mental ritual, a mind game that ran automatically in his head, programmed by boredom, edged by contempt.

What gave the tedium a lunatic piano-wire tension was that Weller knew he was the only person in the building who felt that way; he was surrounded by enthusiasm and dedication and people who were ecstatically convinced they were doing work of cosmic significance.

Georgie Prinz turned out to be a former dope dealer who had been in processing for two years and who lived and breathed Transformationalism twenty-four hours a day. The other two directors he had worked with were an aging pornographer filled with guilt for what he had been and a one-time New Left media freak who was now convinced that Transformationalism was the true Revolution and that the commercials he was shooting were the highest form of media guerilla warfare. Between them, Georgie Prinz, Max Silver, and Shano Moore put out enough rhetoric and useless energy to light Pasadena, but without the skill and talent to focus it, it just kept the actors and crew in a perpetual state of ideological fervor and working confusion.

When he saw Sara English, he felt that he could cut the sexual vibes with a knife, but if it were anything beyond his own horniness and her background as a one-time porno starlet, she had yet to acknowledge it with a word or gesture. So far it was just one more turn of the screw.

Weller found himself locked inside his own skull, bored, angered, confronted with his own horniness, and alienated on his mountaintop of professional disdain.

Even the meditative deconditioning sessions were losing their bite as Weller sensed the process drawing to a conclusion. Now that he was locked inside his own mind all day, double thinking his way through the life scenarios became just another automatic mind game. He knew exactly what Sylvia was looking for, and feeding it to her was as easy and mechanical as giving the directors the stupid shots they were calling for.

From the speed with which the scenarios were coming and Sylvia's attitude, he could tell that he was giving her optimized readings on the brainwave monitor almost as fast as the words came out of her mouth. Worship and trust for the Great Man? Just adjust the focus a hair. Self-sacrificing dedication to the Cause? Zoom in for a medium close-up, please. His mind was becoming as precise a mechanical instrument as his camera. It couldn't be long before he was officially declared an "optimized consciousness." The process was almost over, and that was all that kept him going. Even Annie was no more than a faceless abstraction shimmering in the distance across a desert of dull gray boredom.

So now it was time to confront Monitor life analysis, the last barrier. Satisfy these bastards, he told himself as he entered the room, and the whole horrible game would be over.

Once again he was in a small cubicle like the meditative deconditioning room, but this time the man behind the desk didn't even have a brainwave monitor in front of him, just a fat manila envelope and a ballpoint pen. The Monitor himself was a wiry, streetwise-looking Chicano in his late twenties, with short black hair and hard, uncompromising eyes.

''I'm Gomez, I'll be doing your life analysis," he said in a thick emotionless voice. "Sit down, Mr. Weller."

Automatically Weller sat down. That voice sounded as if it were used to giving orders and just as used to having them obeyed.

"Understand what this is up front, so we won't get locked into personalities," Gomez said, scanning some material in the folder as he spoke. "My job is to evaluate your life -- not just your consciousness, but how you live, what you're likely to do, where you're really at, the whole picture. Processing is for you, but this is for the movement. If you're going to be one of the people presenting Transformationalism to the world, Transformationalism has to be sure of you. Dead sure. And the movement has to come first, not your personal feelings. Got that?"

"I understand," Weller said.

"Good." Gomez looked up and his heavy lips creased in a faint smile. "Because you're gonna think I'm a pretty mean hombre before this is over. You may hate my guts. You may think I've got it in for you personally. None of that is true. I'm serving the movement as I've been directed to, and your directive is to cooperate totally. We're both working for the same thing, even if it doesn't always seem that way. Got that?"

Weller nodded, somewhat stormed by this belligerent assault, this seemingly deliberate provocation to paranoia. He hated Gomez already, and he wondered whether that was not precisely what he was being programmed to feel.

"Okay," Gomez said, "let's get moving." He paused and fingered the folder. "I hope you're not surprised to hear that this is your dossier, and that we have pretty complete data on the obvious stuff. So we won't waste time on a lot of trivial things we already know. Up front, Weller, what kind of lames do you think we are? Who do yon think you're kidding?"

"What?"

"Okay, let's get rid of that one right now. Your wife gets a life directive to split because of your hostility to the movement, and you run in here and do an apeshit act, and then suddenly you join Transformationalism and bullshit your way into working for Changes. You think the Monitors are that stupid? You think we've never seen this number run before? You're here to con us into letting you see your wife. Don't call me an asshole by denying it, man!"

Weller reeled, totally unprepared for Gomez's instant, contemptuous, and sure insight into the true nature of the game. Watch it! he told himself. This is a new bad game, and this guy is sharp. But it seemed to him that if they had let him come this far, the game was still on, and this must be a tactic. He wants me to react. What kind of reaction would the convert Jack Weller have? Anger is too obvious....

Instead, Weller slumped in his chair and issued a mournful sigh. "How can I deny that that's what brought me to Transformationalism," he said. "But don't you have enough faith in the movement to believe that it could've Transformed me, even against my will? Don't insult my intelligence. The movement wouldn't have had anything to do with me if you didn't think that were possible."

Gomez's face became neutrally blank. "Explain," he said evenly. It seemed like an encouraging sign.

"Explain what?" Weller said, "That meditative deconditioning showed me where I was coming from? That the guy who came in here to get his wife back had his face rubbed in his own smallness? That Transformationalism gave me the balls to quit a lousy job that was turning me into a zombie? That I finally want to do something meaningful with my life?"

"'Yeah," Gomez said. "You've got to convince me that what you just said is true. That's what your life analysis is all about. It ends when I'm convinced you're telling the truth or when I'm convinced you're lying. So convince me."

"How am I supposed to do that?"

"Don't worry about that," Gomez said with a feral smile, "It's my job to get it out of you. You just answer the questions. Now, what do you think of Changes Productions?"

"Uh ... it's a pretty impressive outfit ..." Weller said cautiously "Pretty high energy people ... and it seems to have a lot of potential...."

"Don't hand me that bullshit, Weller!" Gomez roared. ''I'm a Monitor, not one of your dingbat co-workers! We don't wear rose-colored shades! The truth, Weller, not patronizing crap!"

Once again Weller was stunned and disoriented by Gomez's blunt and contemptuous honesty. None of his previous experiences with Transformationalism had prepared him for this. He couldn't game it through, he couldn't come up with the correct response to program. He was left with only an edited version of the truth.

"Okay, so professionally speaking, it's a mess. A lot of rank amateurs who have no idea of what they're doing." Weller paused, made his voice soft and plaintive. "But I meant what I said about potential. The work you've got lined up, the facilities, the capital...."

"We'd really have something if we had the right people in the creative end?"

"Yes."

"Such as yourself?" Gomez said sardonically.

"Such as myself," Weller shot back automatically. Then, backing it up softly: "Harry Lazlo knows where it's at."

"Harry Lazlo ..." Gomez muttered peculiarly under his breath. Then, louder: "Harry Lazlo knows where Harry Lazlo is at. John knows where Transformationalism is at. Never forget that, Weller. You talk about you being the right kind of person for the creative end -- but what do you conceive the creative end to be?"

"Huh?"

"Huh?" Gomez mimicked. "Not whatever Lazlo told you. What do you think the movement really wants to do with Changes Productions? Why are we into something like that? And no superficial bullshit, please!"

Once more Weller couldn't guess what the right response was supposed to be; once more he chose a guarded version of what he imagined was the truth. "Aside from making money, it would seem that the idea is to get the Transformational message on the tube, to plant the terminology and some of the feeling in the public consciousness when people think they're watching something else. 'Subliminal advertising' they used to call it."

Gomez smiled faintly; for once he seemed to be pleased. "Very good, Weller. The true goal is to promote Transformationalism, and everything else is a means to that end. Thank God you didn't try to hand me any bullshit about Art. So the question is, if you were in a creative position, could you really optimize yourself behind those parameters?"

"I think so," Weller said. For once the right answer seemed obvious.

But not to Gomez. "Come on Weller, don't jive me," he said. "You're an ambitious professional director. You expect me to believe that you'd be functioning at optimum churning out Transformationalist propaganda?"

Lord, but this guy is disorienting! Weller thought. I've got to steer this into an area he knows nothing about. "But it's not overt propaganda," he said. "It's subliminal stuff sneaked into commercials for other things, eventually fiction films and TV episodes. Just underlying ideology, right?"

"So?"

"So what do you think doing episodic TV is like?"

Gomez looked at him perplexedly. I've finally got this guy out of his league, Weller thought. Time for a highfalutin' snow job!.

"You think there isn't an underlying ideology in network TV?" he said cynically, "You think a rash of cop shows, for example, doesn't have anything to do with subtle government pressure? Creative artists always have to work within ideological parameters. Look at the paintings that were produced during the Middle Ages and tell me they had nothing to do with Catholic ideology. Look at Socialist Realism. As long as you're free to do the best work you can within the parameters you're given, you really can't expect anything more."

Gomez leaned back. He fingered the dossier. "Now that is a nice fancy answer," he said. "I'm not sure whether it's bullshit or not, but it sure is nice and fancy." He hunched forward and glared at Weller. "If I were a commissar, I'd want to know whether you were really a dedicated Communist, though, now wouldn't I? If I were a Jesuit, I'd have to know whether you were a sincere Catholic, or just a heretic determined to get along."

"Would you?" Weller said. "Or from your point of view, wouldn't it be the end product that counted?"

"It depends, doesn't it?" Gomez said. '"The Communist Party might be satisfied with your work, but the Church wants your soul."

"And which way do you see Transformationalism?" Weller asked.

Gomez laughed. ''What a question to ask a poor simple boy from the barrio," he said. He got up. "We'll have another session in two days. Same time, same room." Clutching the dossier, he walked toward the door. He paused, extracted a white envelope from the folder, came back, handed it to Weller.

"Oh yeah," he said, "this is for you." Then be was gone. Knowing what it was going to be, Weller tore open the envelope. Inside, perfectly typed on Transformalionalist letterhead, was another letter from Annie. Or her ghost-writer.

Dear Jack:

So you're working for Transformationalism! I can't tell you how much that means to me. I can't tell you how happy it's made me. But you must know. I know you do.

Now that you're working for the movement, and now that you're in life analysis, I'm allowed to tell you that I'm working for the movement too, and in a very important project. God, how different it is from the old days! Every moment has meaning. I feel like a different person. No, not like a different person, like the real me, the me I always wanted to be. I'm dying to tell you all about it, and once you've passed your life analysis, I'll be able to tell you, not in a letter, but in the flesh. In a few short weeks we'll be together again, they've promised me. And what we'll have to share!

Until then, work well, love, think of me, and eptify yourself behind this brief period of waiting. Remember that we'll be together again before you know it.

Love,
Annie

Mechanically Weller folded the letter, put it back in the envelope, and stuffed it in a pocket. Only then was he brought up short by his own lack of any really deep reaction. Is it because it really told me nothing? he wondered. Because of the jargon? Because he wasn't even sure that Annie had actually written it? Because it seemed so impersonal, so abstract, so ... so Transformational?

Why did the words on paper conjure up neither an image of her face nor the sound of her voice nor the aura of her presence ...? Why did the letter remain an abstraction? Can it be that it's Annie that's becoming an abstraction to me? he asked himself. Like an old soldier, is the Annie I remember just fading away?

Or is it that this room just seems so empty without Gomez in it? Now that he thought about it, Weller realized that there had been so much electricity sparking between himself and Gomez during the life-analysis session that the letter from Annie had been like an afterthought. Face it, Weller, a bringdown.

For he had definitely contacted a whole new level here, a hint of vast, unplumbed depths within the Transformationalist scam. There had been more brutal honesty, more gut-level intellectual depth, more sheer psychic power in those few minutes with Gomez than in his entire previous experience with the movement. The Monitor had been really impressive, somewhat infuriating, and slightly terrifying. And he had definitely gotten off on the confrontation. There was dread here, but there was also a fascination twisted around it.

Whatever it had been, Weller found that it still held the focus of his attention, even in the face of this letter from Annie. Annie seemed so long ago and far away now, and the life analysis session, even in retrospect, seemed so hyperreal, so immediate.

Jesus, Weller thought, I kind of enjoyed that. I'm almost looking forward to the next one! Somehow Gomez had fed a hunger he hadn't even known he'd had. A hunger he still couldn't name.
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Re: The Mind Game, by Norman Spinrad

Postby admin » Sat Mar 19, 2016 9:02 am

Chapter Nine

Owen Karel had been on the set for at least half an hour now, and although Weller knew that the Monitor had other things to watch on this shoot, he felt the continual pressure of those cold hard eyes on the back of his neck, For he knew they were extensions of Gomez; in their last session Gomez had made it clear that the verbal fencing was only half of the life-analysis process.

"Not to make you paranoid, Weller," he had said, "but you do realize that trying to con me would be futile? I get actual life-situation reports on you from Karel, and by the time this is over, I'll have integrated what you do with what you say. What's significant is not absolute consistency -- no one expects that -- but what the patterns of inconsistency reveal. Patterns of patterns, and you have to be really Transformed to read that. So there's no point in you trying to figure out what I'm looking for and putting on a little act."

So Weller knew that he was being watched like a bug under a microscope, and every time he saw Karel, he pictured the Monitor representative writing mental notes on him in a phantom dossier. But he couldn't figure out how Karel could learm anything significant from watching him stand quietly behind a camera. He wondered if the paranoia cut both ways, if the Monitor's cold eyes read significance into the way he stood, the expression on his face, the clothes he wore.

This commercial, now, seemed to be a straightforward pitch for Transformationalism itself. The set was a typical suburban living room, and four actors played a typical suburban family. Dad in a dark business suit. Mom in women's lib fatigues. Sonny in long-haired hippie gear. Sis in a Jesus Freak persona with an unsubtle wooden cross around her neck. According to the shooting script they preached their respective ideologies at each other in the first twenty seconds. Then a voice-over made a twenty-second pitch for Transformationalism as the bridge which transcended conflicting life-styles. Cut to the same family, now discoursing sweetly together, all harmony and light. In Transformationalist jargon, of course,

Georgie Prinz had shot the final sequence yesterday, and except for the inevitable technical foul-ups, it had gone pretty smoothly, since the actors were all dedicated to the cause and therefore had little trouble spouting Transformationalism at each other with total conviction. But this morning Georgie was trying to get the opening sequence on tape, and in take after take he just couldn't find the handle.

The problem was partly technical. Shooting a scene in which four characters gibber at each other all at once at cross- purposes was very hard to do realistically under the best of circumstances. The director had to get the actors to cross- interrupt each other in a way that sounded realistic. It helped if the actors were professionally competent, which these were not, and it helped if the director knew enough to keep them from reacting to each other's lines as cues. Neither being the case, poor Georgie just kept trying the same thing over and over again and kept getting stuff that even he could see was totally stilted and dead.

Weller wondered if the presence of Karel was exacerbating the situation. Georgie kept glancing surreptitiously at the Monitor, as if he realized he was fucking up and believed that Karel knew it too. Weller also wondered if Karel was knowledgeable enough to recognize incompetent directing when he saw it, or whether he just liked to make people nervous.

"Okay, let's try it one more time, and then we'll break for lunch." Georgie said, returning to his position beside the camera. "Please, people, ah ... try to be spontaneous ... er ... stay inside your own heads. Let me hear you all at once." He paused, cocked an inquisitive eyebrow at Weller. Weller nodded back indicating that he was ready. Oh boy, was he ready!

Lights ... roll 'em ..."

"Transformationalism is the Bridge, scene two, take twelve."

"Speed."

Georgie hesitated, and Weller peering through his viewfinder, could imagine him nibbling his lower lip and sneaking a look at Owen Karel. "Action!"

"-- grow up and think about a real job --"

"-- getting fed up with your chauvinist attitude --"

"-- don't know why I stay around this uptight house --"

"-- accept the love of Christ as the answer to --"

Pure blind awful! Weller thought. They were still spouting bits of dialogue sequentially, straight from the script, politely cuing each other. Instead of sounding like a babbling argument, it sounded like the silliest sort of chopped-up stage dialogue.

"Cut!" Georgie shouted. Weller turned off the camera and stared at him. Georgie gave a nervous little shrug and finally seemed about to ask Weller something when he was stopped short by something he saw across the sound stage.

Weller turned to look. Karel had quietly disappeared, which he had a habit of doing, and Sara English, enticing in a short red dress, was walking across the sound stage toward them, accompanied by Shano Moore, dressed in his inevitable jeans and army shirt. How much had she seen? Was Georgie going to get a chewing out? Might there soon be a crying need for a new director on this turkey ...?

But Georgie didn't seem worried. ''Take an hour for lunch," he called out. And sure enough Sara didn't even mention what was going on on the set.

"Come have lunch with us, Georgie," she said. She turned to Weller and gave him a long, hot smile. "Why don't you come along too, Jack?" she said casually. But she was looking straight into his eyes, pouring out the vibes, and Weller imagined he had heard something carefully casual in her voice. Did she want to get to know him personally, was he reading the vibes right? On the other hand, she was inviting him to lunch with two directors. Was there something significant in that? A signal of some subtle alteration in his status, foreshadowing an imminent change?

Or is it just wishful thinking and horniness? Weller wondered nervously. Am I starting to read significance into everything?

That was as good a definition of paranoia as any.

***

The significant lunch with Sara English and the two directors turned out to be nothing more ceremonious than hamburgers at a nearby coffee shop. Weller sat on one side of the booth with Shano Moore, Georgie and Sara on the other. Sara still hadn't said anything to Georgie about this morning's futile work by the time they had ordered, and Weller toyed with the idea of saying something himself.

But he damn well knew how he would have reacted to some friendly little tips on directing from his cameraman, and he didn't know how Sara would react to his pulling rank and credits, so he held his peace. He had the uneasy conviction that not even Sara had any idea of how lousy the whole operation was, and that she would take any negative criticism as an attack on Transformationalism and report it to Gomez through Karel. Gomez seemed to have no illusions about what was going on, but he was judging Weller according to unknown parameters, and anything might be some kind of hidden life analysis test.

"Georgie tells me you've done a lot of directing, Jack," Shano said as their orders arrived. "How come you're just doing camera work?"

Weller nodded at Sara, tossing the question to her. "Jack has to wait for Monitor clearance," she said. "He hasn't reached a high enough level yet."

Shano nodded. "I can dig it," he said. "A guy needs a lot of processing to get his talent behind serving the movement, especially when his trip is as authoritarian as directing."

A lobotomy would help, Weller thought sourly. "What do you mean by that?" he said instead.

"Man, I come from the same place," Shano said. "I mean, a director is like a general, right, and the crew and actors are his army, and he gives like orders. He gets to feeling like whatever he's shooting is his thing."

"Ah, a believer in the auteur theory," Weller said lightly. Shano looked at him blankly. Apparently he had never heard of the auteur theory, and neither had Sara or Georgie.

"That's not where I'm coming from," Georgie said. "We're all soldiers of Transformationalism, like doing our optimum thing for the movement."

"For sure!" Shano said. ''That's the transformation you've got to go through. Same thing in the old Revolution. Guys who were into creating their own stuff had to get a lot of bullshit about art out of their heads before they could get behind the idea that they were serving the cause, not their own egos, before they could get behind taking political direction. You wouldn't believe the shit that went on! That's what I dig about Transformationalism -- we transform consciousness first, before we put someone in that position. Otherwise you get all kinds of crap from creative people whose egos keep them from really serving the movement."

"You sound like Mao Tse-tung," Weller said dryly.

"You dig Mao?" Shano asked brightly.

"I haven't read the book, but I've seen the movie," Weller drawled.

There was a moment of silence during which Sara leaned forward on her elbows and seemed to be studying Weller intently over her cheeseburger. Have I put my foot in my mouth? be wondered. Do I lose brownie points for being a smartass? But it was Shano who seemed to have said the wrong thing.

"You've still got some of that political programming in your head, Shano," Sara said, all the while looking at Weller as if this was for his benefit. "We don't want people suppressing their creativity for the sake of the movement; we want our people in a state of eptified creative consciousness while they're working on getting the message across. Otherwise the product is low-level stuff with no life to it." She gave Weller a stunning smile that went straight to his crotch, and under the table her foot brushed accidentally against his calf. "What do you think, Jack?" she said.

I think this is an awful lot of highfalutin' bullshit over a bunch of crummy commercials, Weller thought. But be smiled back at her, and said, "Transformationalism optimizes consciousness, so you can hardly expect the product to get the message across if the people making it aren't turned on creatively." How's that for party-line bullshit? But he couldn't help throwing in a zinger. "Of course, just as talent is no substitute for dedication, dedication is no substitute for talent."

"But processing releases the talent in everyone," Georgie insisted.

"It can't release what isn't there."

"That sounds like an elitist remark," Shano said self-righteously.

"Aren't we an elite?" Weller replied, looking straight at Sara. "Can you set out to transform the world and not consider yourself an elite?"

Sara's eyes flashed something at him. "I never thought of it that way," she said.

"That's bullshit," Shano said. "Transformationalism is open to everyone. The whole idea is to transform the total consciousness of all the people."

But Sara wasn't paying any attention to Shano. Something was vibrating in the air between her and Weller. An instant later he felt her calf against his and knew it was real. Was this a game, or was she really attracted to him? With her flesh touching his, at the moment he didn't give a damn. She was sucking up what he was saying, and she was giving him an unambiguous sexual signal, and it gave him a heightened sense of his own being much like what he felt when he was directing well, and he would bloody well ride it and let them cope with him for a change.

"Transformationalism is no democracy," he said. "Any more than a shooting set is. If we believe we can improve the consciousness of the public, and we're trying to sell that to them, and being Machiavellian about it in the bargain, then we're functioning as an elite, whether we have the balls to admit it to ourselves or not."

"I never thought of it that way before," Sara said, rubbing her leg against Weller's.

"Maybe you should be a Monitor ...," Shano muttered.

"What did you mean by that?" Sara snapped, suddenly removing her leg from contact with Weller's flesh.

"I dunno," Shano mumbled. "It just came out."

Abruptly Weller felt angered, frustrated, yet above it all. Perhaps it was the withdrawal of Sara's sexual attention, but now they all seemed like characters in a film he was directing. He knew their motivations and where their reactions were coming from, but he himself was the unmoved mover. Some perverse and perhaps cruel impulse made him want to push them just a wee bit further. He had been manipulated and evaluated for so long that it gave him a long-lost sense of power to play director, to keep things stirred up.

"I can see where Shano's coming from" he said. "I mean, that is where the Monitors are at, isn't it? They do function as an elite, and they're not exactly shy about it. And they're functioning as an elite in relation to us, now aren't they?"

Sara flushed. "The Monitors perform a necessary function," she said tightly. But her eyes did not exactly portray total conviction. Of course not! Weller thought. She's supposed to be the head honcho, and there's old Karel peering constantly over her shoulder and overruling her whenever he feels like it.

"Exactly, Sara," Weller said evenly. "And their necessary function is to guide us with superior insight. They're Transformationalism's elite, the level above us."

"I never thought of the Monitors as superior beings," Sara said indignantly.

"Really?" Weller oozed. ''They're closer to John. He chooses them, trains them, and puts them in the position they're in. If you don't regard them as higher consciousnesses, why obey them? Just because you're afraid of them?"

"I'm not afraid of Owen Karel," Sara insisted, with zero conviction.

They were all looking at Weller very peculiarly now, and he wasn't quite sure just what it was he was doing. But whatever it was, it had sure hit a nerve!

"Hey, man," Shano said nervously, "What kind of game are you playing? Why are you running this number?"

''I'm not running any number," Weller said sweetly. ''I'm just being sincere. I respect the superior consciousness of the Monitors." He paused, lowered his voice an octave. "What's the matter? Don't you?"

"Maybe you should be a Monitor," Georgie said, and in his eyes was the clearly written thought, maybe you are. So that's it! Weller thought, laughing inwardly. They're seeing Monitors under their beds. I've really succeeded in making them paranoid!

He gave a throaty, ambiguous chuckle. "Should I be called upon to serve ...," he said slyly.

Sara looked sideways at Weller. What was that look in her eyes? Admiration? Lust? A new kind of respect? Or was it fear? Weller had a flash of insight into what it must be like to be a dedicated Transformationalist, an insider like Sara, wielding power over those below you but always looking over your shoulder and wondering. Fearing the Monitors, resenting them, but prevented by your very belief from even admitting it to yourself.

"I think it's time to get back to work," Sara said uneasily. Weller wondered if she would dare report this little conversation to the Monitors.

He wondered if she dared not to.

***

Ceremoniously Sylvia unplugged the headband jack from the brainwave monitor, slowly took the electrode band off Weller's head, and placed it on the table between them. Weller could anticipate her words before she said them, for Garry Bailor had called the shot two days ago. "Congratulations, Jack, you've completed your meditative deconditioning."

It had been the only positive thing about his last meeting with Bailor. "They're not making any money off you now," Bailor had said, "so they have no reason to prolong it. And from what you tell me about this life-analysis thing, it seems to be mainly a matter of trying to determine whether or not the programming has really taken hold."

"So now what?"

"Now you've got to get past this Gomez character," Bailor said.

"How am I supposed to do that?" Weller asked. "He's ten times sharper than any of the other bozos I've had to deal with. He's getting reports on me from Karel, from Sara English, from God-knows-who-else, and I can't even figure out what the right answers are supposed to be."

Bailor seemed to shrink backward across the couch away from him, coolly distancing himself from the whole damn situation.

"I told you, I don't know a damn thing about what goes on at this level," he said. '"You're in deeper than anyone I've ever worked with."

"That's a big fucking help!" Weller said angrily.

Bailor shrugged. "Seems to me you're the expert at this point, not me. The number you ran on them in the restaurant, giving them a little paranoia about maybe you being a Monitor, was something I never would've thought of, and professionally speaking, I think it was probably brilliant. It should make whatever reports they turn in on you as bland and nonforthcoming as they can get away with. But dealing with Monitor interrogation techniques...."

He seemed to cringe, and inch even further away from Weller, as if Weller had some loathsome disease. "I don't know anything about it, and I don't want to know anything about it. To tell you the truth, this is getting a little heavy for me."

"Really?" Weller snarled. "And what about me?"

''You're the guy with the motivation, I'm just a hired gun," Bailor said coldly. "This is, your life, but to me it's just another job. I can't afford to get in too deep. I walk a thin line as it is."

A cold fear insinuated itself into Weller's anger. "Are you saying you're going to bug out on me, Bailor?" he said. "You want to give me my fifteen hundred dollars back?"

"I didn't say that," Bailor said quietly. "I just mean there's a line I won't cross. I'm not going to do anything to get the Monitors interested in me." He smiled falsely. "Look, this stage of the game is your trip, not mine. It's an acting problem. Gomez is your audience, and you know what part you have to play for him. You're the film director, you know this stuff. Maybe what you've got to use is, what do they call it, Method Acting. If you don't know enough to fool this guy by presenting the surfaces you think he wants to see, then internalize the part; don't act, be.

"Thank you Lee Strasberg," Weller had muttered, and he had left soon thereafter; disappointed, pissed off, a little worried about the depth of Bailor's commitment and the real extent of his expertise.

But now he had to admit that Bailor, for all his deficiencies and apparent cowardice, was basically right. What else was there to do? Hadn't that been what he had been doing since he went to work for Changes Productions? Hadn't his performance reached a certain peak in the coffee shop?

He had played Jack-Weller-the-convert so well that he had gotten real converts to wondering if be might be a Monitor. And it hadn't been a piece of calculated surface acting; it had come bubbling up out of him unbidden. He had really synced into the part, operating at optimum consciousness. And somehow, at least temporarily, it had given him the power.

Maybe I should ride with it, he thought, looking across the brainwave monitor at the smiling Sylvia. I seem to have convinced her and her damned machine.

"Well, how about that," Weller said genially. ''I've made it."

''Well, of course, there are further levels, further processes," Sylvia said. "But now that you're in Monitor life analysis, they'll decide what you go on to next, when you're ready for it."

"Tell me," Weller said with crafted spontaneity, "have you ever processed a Monitor?"

"A Monitor?" Sylvia said, her face screwing up into an expression of uneasy surprise, almost of outraged propriety.

"Sure. I mean, someone has to give the Monitors their meditative deconditioning, right?"

Sylvia seemed to relax slightly. "Oh," she said, "you mean have I ever processed someone who later became a Monitor? Yes, a few times. But you surely don't suppose that actual Monitors receive processing on my level!"

"Well, who does give Monitors the processing that makes them Monitors?"

"Er ... ah ... the Monitors themselves, I suppose ... maybe even John ... I don't really know...." She seemed really shook. "Why are you asking me all these questions about the Monitors?" she said more sharply.

Weller shrugged diffidently. "I guess because I think they're fascinating people," he said. He rose, suddenly took her hand, and shook it. Sylvia's hand was limp and unresponsive, and she was eyeing him most peculiarly. "Don't you think they're fascinating people?" he said, with smarmy sincerity. "Don't you admire their heightened awareness?"

Sylvia could find nothing to say to that.

"Well, I've got to go to my life-analysis session now, Weller said breezily. '"It's been nice working with you."

And he left her standing there, wooden-faced, having suddenly been dismissed by him, thinking God-knows-what. I've really found something that keeps these nerds off-balance, Weller thought buoyantly, as he took the elevator to the seventh floor of the Center.

If only it could work on Gomez. But why couldn't it? Somehow fascination with the Monitors had become a piece of the part he was playing, one of those little schticks that appear from nowhere and give a performance unexpected depth. Why not keep it? Maybe even Gomez isn't immune to flattery.

When he entered room 703, Gomez tracked him with his eyes as he walked to his chair with a very strange expression on his face, as if Weller were some exotic and rarely seen animal. He sat there studying Weller silently for long moments while Weller gave him the old Transformationalist Stare back.

'"You're full of surprises. aren't you, Weller?" he finally said.

"Am I?"

"Come off it, Weller. What was that number you ran on Sara English and her flunkies?"

"What number?" Weller asked innocently.

Gomez shook his head sourly. "What number? You've got them half convinced you're a Monitor, and you ask me what number?"

Weller shrugged. "I'm not responsible for what goes on in other people's heads," he said.

"Cut this shit out!" Gomez snarled. "Stop jacking me off! I've got the reports. What was all that crap about the Monitors?"

Weller shrugged. In for a dime, in for a dollar, he decided. "All I remember saying is that I thought the Monitors were an elite because they had a higher level of Transformational consciousness," he said blandly.

Gomez pursed his lips and rolled his eyes briefly toward the ceiling. "You expressed an awful lot of enthusiasm for Monitor discipline," he said.

"What's wrong with that?"

"Motherfucker!" Gomez hissed under his breath. Then, in clipped, controlled tones: "You know damn well what the general attitude is toward the Monitors inside the movement. They're afraid of us. They resent us. Nobody accepts Monitor discipline with enthusiasm."

"I do," Weller insisted.

Gomez groaned. "All right," he said, "we'll play your little game. Suppose you explain your loving devotion to the Monitors."

It seemed to Weller that Gomez really was off-balance, that he had never heard anything like this before, that he couldn't have gamed this one out beforehand. It seemed that he had at least temporarily gained the initiative, that he was finally confronting his interrogator on a more or less equal footing. You're sharp, he thought, but you're no superman, Gomez.

"I'll be honest with you," Weller said, at least half truthfully. "Until I ran into you. there wasn't anyone in the movement who impressed me as a superior type, someone with as much or more on the ball as me. But I can't outthink you, and I can't figure out what you're thinking, and I've got to respect that. It fascinates me. It proves to me that my consciousness really can be improved by processing because frankly, I don't think you were born with a better brain than mine."

"That's a fancy brand of manteca you've got there," Gomez said sardonically. But his voice had no real edge to it, and Weller sensed a certain fascination with what he was saying behind those hard eyes. How could Gomez not be intrigued? In his own mind he had to believe that what Weller was saying was true, yet it was also the grossest form of fawning flattery. Gomez knew both aspects, and the personal paradox had to make him feel pretty damn ambivalent.

''I'm a hard case," Weller said, boring in. "You've as much as admitted it yourself. When I lock horns with a harder case, I've got to be impressed. Or don't you think you're as good as I do?"

"Cute, Weller, very cute," Gomez leaned back and drummed his fingers on the dossier in front of him. "'As long as we're whispering sweet nothings to each other, I've got to admit that you're a hard one to figure out too. Your motivations for joining Transformationalism were transparently hostile. Yet all the reports come out clean. A competent processor says you've successfully completed meditative deconditioning. You feed me all the right responses...." He shook his head ruefully.

"But ...?, Weller said.

"But I don't trust you, Weller. I don't trust you at all. I can't find any reason to declare you a regressive, but I can't certify you either."

"Sounds like you don't have enough faith in what you're working for," Weller said. "Sounds like maybe you're not sure that Transformational processing works."

"Oh, bullshit!" Gomez snapped irritably. Then suddenly he became more reflective; his eyes became more inward- directed, his voice softer.

"I'll level with you," he said. 'There's no question that in general, Transformatiomal processing does work. In general. But you're a so-called creative type, and we've found that most people like you have a very strong resistance to the idea of being processed. People who work with their minds are afraid of losing their talent if they let someone play with their heads.

"Besides," he said more. sharply, "you're a director. You know acting. You're into creating fictions. In short, you're a professional bullshitter. And I get the feeling you're playing some kind of game with me right now."

Jesus, have I outsmarted myself? Weller wondered. Have I gone too far? Or would he have the same suspicions about me no matter what I did? At least this way it's out in the open....

"But if I am sincere, I'd be saying the same things, wouldn't I?" he said, "The reports would read the same."

"So they would," Gomez said slowly.

"And you do have to reach a decision.... And Harry Lazlo is anxious for me to start directing...."

"I don't have to answer to no Harry Lazlo!" Gomez snapped.

"But you do have to answer to someone, you do have to decide," Weller said. "In a court of law I'd be innocent unless proven guilty.... "

"This isn't a court of law, Weller," Gomez said. "No one passes a Monitor life analysis until we're certain. Period."

My God, what have I done? Weller thought. He had a vision of being trapped in this room forever, chewing over the same material with Gomez again and again, locked in a permanent stalemated life analysis. "We've reached an impasse?" he said dully.

Gomez laughed. His demeanor brightened, and once again he seemed impenetrable and on top of things. "Well, well, well," he said mockingly, "it's still possible for our little Monitor lover to underestimate us, is it? No, Weller, we haven't reached an impasse. We have our ways. We'll get at the truth, never fear."

"I'm glad to hear that," Waller said, putting as much sincerity in his voice as the sudden sinking sensation in his stomach would allow.

"Are you, Weller? Are you really?"

"I know where I'm coming from, and I want to convince you. What do I have to be afraid of?"

Gomez laughed again. "What indeed?" he said. "Well, we'll soon see.

"What's going to happen now?"

Gomez gave him the Transformationalist Stare, and this time Weller had neither the energy nor the will to resist. He found himself looking across the desk into those hard, unwavering eyes -- transfixed, and more than a little frightened.

"We have several interesting alternatives," Gomez said. "The choice will have to be made on a higher policy level. You can consider that a compliment."

"If you say so," Weller said. What have I gotten myself into now? he wondered nervously. How have I outsmarted myself this time?

***

Weller had been waiting for the Monitors to drop the other shoe for three days, so when a gofer told him that Sara English wanted to see him in her office, he leaped immediately to the nonspecific paranoid conclusion.

It was a pretext, Karel would be there, and he would ... what? As he made his way through the maze of plywood partitions toward Sara's office, Weller tried to imagine what the Monitors were going to spring on him and came up totally dry. Rubber hoses? Sodium pentothal? He couldn't even come up with a paranoid fantasy that would hold up as an image in his mind long enough to even focus his dread on a specific fear.

And when he reached the office, Karel wasn't there and neither was Sara -- only Arlene Harris, Sara's pudgy assistant, shuffling some papers on the untidy desk and hanging up the phone. I must be really going nuts, Weller thought. I've got to stop jumping at shadows.

"Where's Sara?" he asked. "I was told she wanted to see me."

"Oh yes," Arlene said. "She said something about that. I think she's on Shano's set. I'll go get her; you wait here."

She left, and Weller found himself sitting alone on a folding chair beside the desk, idly scrutinizing the office. It wasn't much -- just the desk, the two chairs, a small Xerox machine, and some plywood filing cabinets. On the desk were a phone, some reels of video tape, an old styrofoam coffee cup, assorted scripts, clipboards, and piles of paper. Nervously Weller found his fingers sorting randomly through the papers on the desk. Then something on one of the documents he was fingering happened to catch his eye. There were three sheets of paper held together with a paper clip, and what had caught his eye was the word "CONFIDENTIAL" stamped in red on the top oft he first sheet. Naturally he couldn't resist picking it up and reading it.

Below the red "CONFIDENTIAL" the words "MASTER CONTACT SHEET" were typed in black capital letters. The rest of the sheets were covered with company names, phone numbers, and the names of people, arranged in corresponding columns.

There must have been a hundred or more entries. Weller recognized the names of some of the companies Changes Productions was doing commercials for; in fact it looked like they were all there. But there were scores of other companies listed too -- two major studios, a very large hank, a supermarket chain, a local TV station, a chain of restaurants, a network office, two magazine publishers, dozens of really major companies, and dozens more entries that Weller didn't recognize. It looked like a random listing of important and not-so-important businesses with no discernible pattern. Companies, phone numbers, and, apparently, a key contact at each.

Contact? Wait a minute! Master contact sheet? Confidential? Good God, Weller thought, can this be what I think it is? It had to be! A master list of Transformationalist contacts at over a hundred companies! Hadn't Sara or someone said that they had their people planted all over the place? Wasn't that how Changes Productions was able to get so many assignments despite the lousy product they churned out? Sure, someone would have to have a list of the Transformationalists at the companies the movement didn't control, and this had to he it....

But this.... This! This list was enormous! A network of over a hundred key people that the movement could call on in Los Angeles alone. Secret Transformationalist agents everywhere, throwing work to Changes Productions -- and what else? What else?

Was this just a compilation of the movement's wishful thinking, or were all these people really under life directives to follow Transformationalist orders? Did Transformationalism really have this kind of power?

A bubble of fear was beginning to form in Weller's gut. This was Mafia-level stuff, this was really major, this --

His heart skipped a beat as he heard footsteps approaching. Quickly he picked up a pile of scripts and slid the Master Contact Sheet under them. If they caught me looking at that thing..., he shuddered. That list was potential dynamite. If the information got out, all those people would lose their jobs. The movement would stand to lose millions, and there would be a major public scandal. He didn't want to think about how far they would go to protect its confidentiality. It might just be all the way. He wished he had never seen the damned thing, he wished be didn't even know about it....

Sara walked into the office, smiled at him warmly, and sat down behind the desk. "Congratulations," she said, positively beaming.

"Huh?"

"Haven't you been told yet?"

''Told what?"

"Starting next Monday, I'm allowed to let you direct."

"What?" Weller goggled at her, dumbfounded. After the last session with Gomez how the hell was that possible? No way I could've passed life analysis, he thought. What's going on here? What number are they running now?

''The word just came down from Owen Karel," Sara said, looking at Weller peculiarly. "What's the matter, Jack, aren't you pleased? You look really strange."

"Uh ... yeah, well, I'm really surprised. I mean no one's told me that I've been passed by the Monitors, and in fact I don't see how I could have been...."

Sara frowned. "Come to think of it, Karel didn't mention anything about that. That's weird. That's really weird."

"It sure is," Weller said. "I mean, just between you and me, I've been led to believe that my Monitor is having a lot of trouble making up his mind about me. He even told me he was going to consult at higher policy levels. Do you think ...?" Could this have been the doing of Harry Lazlo?

"Higher policy levels?" Sara said, eyeing Weller very narrowly. Was that fear in her eyes, or what? "That must mean Torrez," she said, almost hissing the name. "Only Torrez himself could overrule the policy against letting someone who hasn't passed life analysis direct."

She leaned forward across the desk, and now she looked not only confused but ... turned on. "Look, Jack," she said uncertainly, "maybe this is as good a time as any ... I mean" ... She paused, seemed to be gathering resolution. "I'm attracted to you," she said, "I mean I'd really like to ball you. And now maybe there isn't any life directive against it ... do you know?"

"What? WHAT?"

Sara ran a point of pink tongue over her lips. "Does it really surprise you that much?" she said.

"Yes ... no ... " Weller felt a surge of heat in his loins, but at the same time there was a twinge of loathing in his gut. "What are you talking about, a life directive against it?"

"I've passed life analysis and you haven't," Sara said matter-of-factly. "So, of course, I'm under life directive not to go to bed with you. But I'm not sure whether this changes things or not. Can't you tell me?"

"Can't I tell you?" Weller said weakly. Pow! Bam! Zam! It was all coming so quickly, They're letting me direct. Sara wants to ball me. There's a fucking life directive against it! And she wants me to tell her what's coming off?

Sara looked at him with naked sexual hunger, but at the same time there was an edge of paranoia to it, a nervous look that gave Weller the feeling he had some kind of power over her. But for the life of him, he couldn't figure out how or why. "Look, Jack, I know I shouldn't be asking this," she said, "and I know you probably won't answer, but.... Oh hell, are you or aren't you?"

Weller could not help coming out with the line. "Only my hairdresser knows for sure."

"You're toying with me," Sara pouted.

"I'm toying with you? Jesus Christ, what are you talking about?"

"All right, if you want to be that way about it.... They give me a real director, but they tell me I can't use him to direct because he hasn't passed life analysis. He turns me on, but I'm under life directives not to go to bed with him. Now they tell me you can direct, but they don't tell me whether you've passed life analysis, so I don't know whether we can get it on or not. They leave it deliberately vague."

Sara sighed. "What am I supposed to think? You've already got me talking about things I shouldn't be talking about. I've put myself in your hands. Can't you tell me? Are you one or not?"

Finally Weller realized what she was asking. Am I or am I not a Monitor? Good God! Part of him wanted to go on with the charade, part of him reveled in the sense of sinister power that her paranoia was giving him, and he understood all too well what kind of pleasure you got from really being a Monitor.

His body told him that, yes, he wanted to go to bed with her, he had been without a woman too long, without sexual release or even desire, without the warmth of a body against his in the night. And beyond that, what she was saying now took courage, at least in her own head. It was a risk she was taking, and she was taking it for him. It was a moment of human honesty in an endless miasma of mind games.

But yet another part of him was totally repelled by the thought of touching someone who would wait for permission from the Monitors before acting out her own feelings. He knew now that he would never ball Sara, not even with someone else's dick. There was too much pity in the way, and too much contempt.

"No," he said, ''I'm not a Monitor."

Sara studied him quietly for a long moment. Then she got up, bent over him, and then kissed him on the mouth, long, lingering, and tongue deep. Weller found his body responding like a man dying of thirst, but his heart was a solid block of ice, and his stomach writhed with disgust.

They parted and looked at each other, eyeball to eyeball. "I believe you," she said. ''I'm going to ask Karel if it's all right. ... If that's okay with you."

Weller was torn, and he felt trapped. He was horny as hell, and she was massively attractive. But the thought of having her now, after asking the permission of the Monitors, was totally loathsome to him. At the same time part of him wanted to grudge-fuck her brains out; he wanted to fuck her silly became they wouldn't let him, because he wasn't about to put up with that kind of shit. And beyond all that, there was the part he was supposed to be playing: that Jack Weller would ask permission like a good little boy.

Weller could only nod foolishly. "Ask the bastards for their blessing," he muttered under his breath.

"What?"

He sensed that the moment of honest reality had long since passed. There was a part to play, and he had to do it. "I said I'd ask Gomez too," he said. "I'm seeing him tonight." Boy, will I ask the son of a bitch!

She smiled at him, and once again he felt a small flash of human contact, sad and forlorn, "Doesn't this get to you, Sara?" he said, "Don't you feel a little silly having to ask permission?" He started to rise from his chair. "What do you say we just do it right here right now across this desk and to hell with life directives?"

Sara jumped back about two feet. "I've got to get back to the set now,'" she said, making for the door. "Be patient, Jack, they know what they're doing...."

Then she was gone, leaving him sitting limply on the chair, his body twanging with ultraviolet rage.

Too fucking much! he thought, drumming his fingers nervously on the stack of scripts piled on the desk. What's going on? Why are they going to let me direct? A bright flash of paranoid poison went through his mind -- could Sara be part of it too? Could this whole number have been some test dreamed up by Gomez? The coincidence of the timing smelled awfully fishy. Could anything be mere coincidence around here?

"Shit!" he snarled, picking up the stack of scripts and slamming them back down on the desk.

Then his eyes fell on the Master Contact Sheet which he had accidentally uncovered.

Oh really? He thought slowly. Oh really? He picked up the sheaf of papers, fingered them speculatively. He got up and peered out the doorway. No one in sight.

Well, why the hell not? he thought. I've seen this damned thing. Whatever danger that puts me in, I'm in already. He went over to the Xerox machine, turned it on, then paused and thought again. This list was potential dynamite to the movement. It could be one hell of a weapon. What do I have to lose? he decided. If I don't have to use it, no one will ever know. But if I do have to use it, then for a change I'll have them by the balls!

Quickly he copied the Master Contact Sheet, slipped the original back under the pile of scripts, folded the copies, and stuffed them into his pants pockets. They want to play Gestapo games, I'll give them Gestapo games! he thought.

Push me too far, you motherfuckers, and you'll find out I can play the game like a Monitor too.
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