Duke De Mondo
Stresses stressing me – the sudden pressure exerted by unknown entities upon my easternmost testicle. The curious noises sweeping and darting about my arsehole – folks nearest eyeing me with yaps all skewed to one side, and me shaking the head, saying no, it’s just making funny noises, I didn’t go guff or anything. The fact that a woman across the way looks a bit like Maggie Gyllenhaal and I very much desire to court her – a desire forever thwarted by that far-too-interested inclination of the head she gave in response to some slanderous gabbling about psychoanalysis.
Panic! Thinking – Dear Christ in Heaven, I gave that self-same tilt of the bonce not five minutes ago. What’s that Jay-Z lyric about his mother tells him never to argue with idiots, for from a distance folks can’t tell the difference…
Sir Fleming gives a raise of the eyebrows upon approaching, his tester waddling behind. "Sorted?" says I.
“Sorted,” he echoes with a just-perceptible wince.
A sweep of the arm the tester gives then, gesturing toward a doorway beyond which two or three individuals of staggering beauty sit gazing doe-eyed at other like cherubs fawning about the frescos in a cathedral, mesmerised by their likenesses.
A person of indeterminable sex and nationality smiles at me as I pass. I offer a stilted approximation of such, careful not to reveal the sore lamentable state of my teeth, lest they set upon me here and now with flames and nunchaku and daggers, Sir Fleming left to watch aghast as they beat thon Devil’s pegs from out my screaming, squealing maw.
Up a narrow, ill-railed staircase the tester takes us, leading us to a screening room situated on the first floor. On the wall by the door hangs a framed movie poster replete with images of lovers embracing in triumph and foulest villainous bastards clawing the flesh from their bones in rage. The Story Of Book One, it says. “I was hoping it might be Cocktail,” says I.
“Or Battlefield Earth,” says Sir Fleming, sighing a vast, fathomless sigh.
Her fidgeting for the light switch proving fruitless, the tester shows us to the screening room, a horizonless hovel shrouded in robes of the pitchest, densest black. The black of the deep afore kissed by the light of Yahweh. The black of the dreams of risen Lazarus. The black of infinity.
“Take a seat,” she instructs, assuming that we know where there are seats to be taken.
Groping blind at the air, robbed of spatial awareness, knowing neither the size of the room nor the shape, my fingers presently brush the soft arm of a chair, sending signals then to the pole of my arse – “Come hither, ye cheeks, come hither…”
“It lasts about twenty minutes,” our guide instructs us, leaving us then, both of us terrified to speak for fear of the sundry other forms that may or may not be sat on seats to our left, to our right, afore or behind us. The ears scrab at the murmur of the darkness, sifting for tell-tale sighs or wheezes, coughs or sniffs.
“Might have the trailer for the new Rambo,” Sir Fleming whispers.
I nod, or at least assume myself to nod. In this impenetrable wash of black, a fella’s motions and gestures become as the orations of the deaf – one can never be wholly certain that what he’s doing corresponds entirely to what he thinks he’s doing.
Suddenly, the screen afore us blazes into life, charging the black with light, wringing from the colossal dark a much more manageable colossal murk. The vague shape of my hand conjured anew from nothingness fills me with calm, and whilst waiting for the picture to begin I spend a time flexing and relaxing my fingers ‘front my face, like a child discovering for the very first time the joy of a gargantuan fart in the hush of a chapel.
Images burn across the screen, a cryptic collage of narrative fragments divorced from order. The numbing darkness of yore is undercut by a new source of light, siphoning fear hitherto running rampant, dispelling nightmare visions of a boisterous Psychlo gang rape – an inevitable fate in such a room as this.
I look to my left. The outline of the Duke is perceptible, seemingly relaxing to the bout of on-coming flickery we are being dished. I, on the other hand, remain jittery as to the unknown spectres and agents potentially seated to our rear, the voiceless entities sharing our air; what if they, through chance or iniquity, are breathing in precise unison with us? How might we then detect the threat? And just what is that object standing mid-aisle, clicking and humming and titillating the floor?
Impending doom gives way to the film. A portrait of a tale, painted with streaks glissading through this tomb, catalepsy drones ushered out of hidden speakers. A man enjoys a birthday party, exchanging kisses with loved ones, wife brokering love petals animating his life. Surges back and forth in plot leave the story unclear – a music video without a song, forging a Lynch-like air of confusion, rasping ambiguity and diffidence, stretching TV movie colours over itself like a shabby condom pulled over a crooked cock.
The Duke mumbles something, words dissolving on the journey to my ears. I fear at any moment I will turn to him to be met with a face howling in venomous rapture, an accusatory finger aimed right at me, ala Donald Sutherland in the ‘78 Invasion of the Body Snatchers. To what intense glow of subliminal imagery have we thus far been subjected? Is that my spinal cord fraying at the edges, or just wind?
The introductory puzzlement progresses to something more compatible with words, a linear series of events, such as would follow Dolph Lundgren on a trip to Menarys.
The protagonist, jumping over clutches and avoiding slams, playing football, hurtling to and fro to wrench a ball from its spinning serenity, but then: a horribly debilitating accident. Upon taking possession of the ball, he is driven down to the ground, pummeled by fellow players, helmets cracking femurs and fibulas, a kneecapping homage to C Company, the glint of Johnny Adair shining through every spasm.
Hospital awaits. Broken legs, that’s the diagnosis. Terror and bewilderment, depression and self-loathing, all fissures pockmarking his existence. Feverish flashes of our hero’s beau come to console, only to be banished by dejection. Medical staff torture him, surgery teased in haunting melodies, unsettling ambiance fed through a reverse-catheter.
A sinister psychoanalyst arrives, news of “you’ll never walk again” still ringing in his ears. The beardy visitor, tall and ominous, recommends many years of psychoanalysis – the only course of action available in such an instance of trauma.
“But, doctor,” cries the fellow, “how will that cure my legs, my goddamn legs!”
“Cure?” bellows the shrink, with a smirk to his colleagues, “How naïve! Ha! There is no cure, don’t be so foolish.”
The psychoanalyst and his entourage proceed to taunt the patient’s naivety.
It’s not until he’s at his lowest – a nadir spotlighting suicide, heroin, and other escapes – that mercy sees fit to concede him a redemption. Waking up one morning, expecting to be met with maniacal surgeons, he finds a copy of Dianetics on his bed. Lounging supine, he examines said booklet. The marvels and revelations come quickly. Pages flicker in the light of his fingers, mesmerised eyes flex over the contents: memories in the head, retained and locked away, the awful truth about psychiatry, those damn pesky reactive minds.
Digested, the protagonist sets to work transforming theory into practice. Toes come into focus, dead appendages detached from life.
Tension – what could possibly happen here?
I momentarily glance at the Duke, him recoiling in disgust at such a vulgar close-up of toes.
Then it happens: the big toe ignites into motion, followed by swishes lashed by the others. Another second and the man is on his feet, sprinting around the hospital room, bounding onto chairs, then leaping onto the floor. The doctors are stunned, unable to comprehend that a mere book would cure this man’s broken legs, but there you have it. A final shot of the psychoanalyst, sulking, cantankerous to the bitter end, leaves us in no doubt as to the winner of this duel.
The credits gaze at us from the screen.
“I say we go burn the Freud Museum right this very instant!” I propose to the Duke.
Not listening, the Duke enquires, “Isn’t she coming back for us? What do we do?”
The guide has indeed failed to return, the screening room empty save for us. With a great lunge I flick the light-switch. Icons adorn the walls, held loftily by still-wet jissom, the smell smothering the room.
“Shall we leave?” says I.
“Aye,” the Duke mouths approvingly.
Duke De Mondo
The digital projector behind us murmurs contentedly, exuding curious tendrils of azure light that dance and whirl demented about the airways.
“What’d you make o’ that, at all?” Sir Fleming enquires.
“I dunno,” I say, scratching at the bum-fluff on my jaw, squinting a touch. “It’s all a bit… well it’s a bit self-serving, the whole thing, is it not?”
Thinking then – Christianity, Hinduism, Islam… Which of them isn’t self-serving? Their longing for justice (whatever their definition of such may be), their professed love (to lesser or greater extent) of the downtrodden and the weak and the beaten and bruised – it’s all self-serving, it’s all in pursuit of some personal gain to be garnered far side of a bullet in the eyehole or a topple off of a cliff or a battle with the minotaur or whatever.
Perhaps Scientology is just more honest?
Heads poking out the door of the screening room, scanning the stairways either side. “Where is she?” I ask. “Do they have a Rapture, these people? Has she been plucked from out the Earth by the thumb and forefinger of L. Ron? Has she been set upon by Psychlos?”
“Hubbard only knows,” Sir Fleming replies in hushed tones, his eyes narrowed, searching. “But I will stand in this darkness no more.”
Criticisms plucked out the broadsheets and the tabloids and the blogs, considered anew whilst clambering from one floor to the next.
“It’s absurd! Aliens! Fucking… fucking thetans!? It’s absurd!”
Maybe so, thinking, but none more at all than the idea of a virgin birth or of a woman turning to a pillar of salt or of a staff turning into a snake.
Thinking – It’s not really kidnap, though, is it? These people are adults. They can decide for themselves if they wanna whistle tarrah to the folks what raised them. Did not Christ himself bid his followers to leave her indoors indoors, to abandon mothers and fathers, to sling aside the progeny like a month-old wank-rag?
Says a man straddling the back of my brain – “Each epoch gets the religion it deserves!”
This is the crux of the matter.
Having outgrown Christ and Buddha, having decided that the whole rich man / camel / eye of needle carry-on is all well and good when you’re a student, like, but fuck me… Having decided a bypass is needed that folks can get to Heaven without having to go anywhere near the townships of Revolution and Individual Accountability and Solidarity where thon hoary old Marxist Christ done spent his gap year blathering and braying, having reached these conclusions, it was surely inevitable that the West would spawn something like Scientology.
Scientology is the only religion that makes any sense whatsoever at this point in time.
The Bible is too dangerous a bugger of a thing for it suggests that the poor and the exiled and the disenfranchised are pissed the fuck off and are two cross-nails shy of wrenching the power back from the vicious bastards who built their empires ‘pon their shoulders. To Hell with the perversions the Churches are peddling – Christianity is a philosophy of rebellion and revolution.
For this reason, the West has grown ever more uncomfortable with it. Its preachers will divert attention to the two lines in the Bible that mention rim-jobs or tea bagging, they’ll pontificate endlessly on the texture of the Whore of Babylon’s hoo-hah, on the notes that maybe came from out those trumpets, anything at all that keeps folks from stumbling upon the message of those texts, that keeps them from questioning those IMAX screens at the end of every pew, those blood diamond crucifixes, those Aryan saviours, those chariots of friendly-fire.
What the rise of Evangelical Christianity represents is not a strengthening of belief in The Bible but a fear of it. Keep folks thinking about abortion and homosexuality and you’re keeping them from thinking about what Christ got up to in that temple.
For these reasons, aye, Scientology makes perfect sense. It’s a religion for the Pharaohs, not the fuckers who clean the Pharaohs’ stables or cook their haddock of an evening.
It’s about personal gain, it’s about money, it’s about power.
By cloaking itself in the colours of science, it appeals to a culture fed up with superstition, yet it retains enough of the reek of the mystical to play on nostalgia for those very same beliefs, and its own beliefs it has the good sense to hide till such times as folks are financially and mentally invested enough to approach without erupting in a thousand chards of delirious laugh-laugh.
It is genius.
“Maybe we should see what’s in there?” Sir Fleming suggests, startling me some, gesturing to the door up ahead.
I cough in the affirmative, saying then about I hope to fuck it’s a toilet. “The wild need for to dangle o’er the porcelain a time, I have. At the very least I hope there’s some machine that’ll rid me of the desire to shit by fixing what the aliens did or freeing me from stuff I heard one time before my ears had developed.”
Sir Fleming considers this. Then – “Dear God, maybe the Knowledge Machine is in there.”
A glance over the shoulder – shadows on the lower floor… footfalls. Sir Fleming tries the handle. It’s locked. “We best go back down,” I say, panicked some. “If they find us up here who knows what they’ll do.”
“Kill us, maybe.”
“Stone dead. To within an inch of our very lives…” Grimacing some then. “Christ, I really could do with a crap.”
We shimmy down the stairs, loading screens from Resident Evil commandeering the mind’s eye. Posters crawl up the walls, propaganda articles, sowers of seeds pulsating with self-help strength, gestating a rebirth for subjects coiled 'round outdated philosophies and theologies. The stench of Tony Robbins, of charlatan healers, sapphire remedies devised by scoundrels bewitched by the dollar – transitory pecuniary harvests belying a carnivorous rampage that casts the vulnerable into pits of poverty. Outward charisma masks the revolting truth: how an industry built upon the idea of helping people inevitably only aids the perpetrators in amassing vast fortunes.
As the table proffering copies of Dianetics ascends out of view, Scientology’s kinship with the gargoyles of self-help is clear. Monies crisscrossing hands seems the only way for mental satisfaction, for fulfillment, to attain a contented mind and live a life not weighed down by melancholy. All are equal…in the eyes of the market – a monstrous entity bolstered by parasitic agents like Hubbard’s child, polluting the public space with its injunction to cleanse the mind of ills that are probably not there, and if there are, certainly some shite about thetans isn’t the cure.
The soft carpet rolls underneath our feet as we slink down, one step after another. At the bottom, in this enclave locked out the back of the church, we try to recall by which door we entered.
“Was it this one?” asks the Duke standing beside a plain white door.
“Who knows,” I reply, looking around another corner, sighting stairs to the basement, where stands a table flanked by potted plants. “We might as well try it.”
Opening the door brings us once again into the main space. Random people in red t-shirts are wandering around, picking up documents from one desk and moving them to side panels inked in sparkling maxims. Even more copies of Dianetics are housed here. The book slumbers in stacks on the mantle, English editions ruffle up against Greek and Russian editions, with French and Italian loaded onto a lower shelf. The Duke and I squint to see the covers. Stickers announce that two million copies have been sold up to now. A girl with a distracted gait comes up to the stockpile, floats her hand over the books for a second, then slides one out, ambling back to the front of the church.
“This truly is the idol,” observes the Duke.
“Ah yes…I feel blasphemous just by looking at the thing!”
“It’ll eat your very soul that will,” warns the Duke.
Just then a chap in a red t-shirt approaches us, his American twang already revealed through his eyes.
“Like the film?” he quizzes.
“Oh aye,” we answer.
“Which one did you watch?”
“Uh…American football, legs – dirty ol’ psychoanalysis huckster bastards!” spits the Duke.
“Yes…” The word oozes from his lips, they upturning into a smile, his bench-pressed chest heaving with poorly-concealed merriment.
“You lads want the test?” he throws at us.
“I’ve already had it…didn’t go too well,” I say, suppressing the tears. “This guy, however…”
We both look at the Duke.
At this, the prophet hurries off to get someone, a free body able to execute the test.
A video screen on the wall runs what looks like an infomercial, soft focus and blocky graphics the order of the day. More posters grace the wall, small icons dwell in the spaces between them. Glossy leaflets look up from tables. Cheap DVDs and CD-ROMs garnish an empty chair set against the wall. Had Paul been pushing his Christian wares these days this is surely the sort of tactics he would have got up to. Gaudy merchandise lining every corner of the holy place – holy places lining every corner of the high-street.
Yet, where Jesus and Co. had literary merit and artistic credentials to balance the inherent nonsense of it all, the Scientologists have only monotony for a shield. Glimmers of poetic merit don’t seem to burst forth from Dianetics. Despite many criticisms to be fired at the Bible — a conflation of historical fact and literature, the foremost — nevertheless, the passages and tales deserve a respect, even if this respect is fired only by admiration for the prose or recognition of the subsequent gems of writing indebted to it. Recall the touching scene in Crime and Punishment where tortured Raskolnikov has righteous Sonia read him the fable of Lazarus; now imagine the latter fable were one involving giant Psychlos beating Johnny Goodboy about the balls, calling him ‘craphead’ and such like – doesn’t have quite the same effect, I think you’ll agree.
Best thing Scientology’s gifted us, as far as aesthetic and artistic worth is concerned, would be Tom Cruise jumping across Shanghai skyscrapers in Mission Impossible III. Although, in retrospect, that was pretty damn cool, perhaps there’s something in this Scientology malarkey after all.
Duke De Mondo
“Sufferin’ fuck,” says I, “I’m stressin’ something wicked over this stress test. Where the blazes is that bastard?”
Sir Fleming surveys the area, nudging me then, guiding my line of sight towards a fella with yellow palms stood grinning a fart’s width away. “I hear you’re Irish,” he says to me.
“No. Up North.”
“Up North…” He looks at me like I just pissed a dozen emus. As if to say – there are other places? And people live in them?
“I was hopin’ I could perhaps get a stress test.”
He shrugs and says “Certainly” in an accent somewhere between New Jersey and the house at the end of our street.
Clamping the mits about the silver cylinders, observing his tinkering with the doohickey perched atween us — tapping too-long fingers off the side, glaring at the needle, stroking the chin — I find myself thinking of things I might be stressed about.
Family? No, as good a relationship with the kin as anyone could hope for.
Friends? I choose wisely…
The filth and the fumbling? Two times a week. Three if I’m bored. Seven if there’s a good update on YouPorn.
Money? I have next to none, but I don’t think it would be appropriate to say so in here. Like wanking beeswax o’er the Pope’s Sunday trousers. Like mounting the effigy by the altar for to shag a seraph in the ear. Like tickling a vicar’s willy mid-service. Like farting in the guru’s beard. Like-
“So,” says he. “Stress. What are you stressed about?”
The test takes about five minutes, during which time I learn only that I am indeed stressed about the things I said I was stressed about, for the needle gave a nigh-on-imperceptible quiver 'round about the time I said so, or at least it did after your man there got to fidgeting a bit with the article on the far-side.
“What does this mean?” I ask.
“It means you're stressed,” says he. “And this…” he holds aloft a copy of Dianetics, “will tell you why.”
Thinking – I know why. I just told you why. Ah well. Best just to push the bottom lip out a bit, do some nodding, say about I’m skint right now but I’m ever so interested so I am and I’d be a crazy, scabby, stinkin’ fuckin’ hoor if I was to bet against me stopping by to pick one up when I’m a touch more flush about the fivers and the tens.
For a time Sir Fleming and I stand gawking at the folks on the floor below, the folks with the scribbling and the big clocks and the air of solemn contemplation hung like shrouds about their bodies. “I.Q tests,” your man says in passing. “You’re welcome to take it if you want.”
Sir Fleming and I exchange a set of glances in the key of Damn The Test More I Want To Take, thanking him anyway, and promising to take news of L. Ron to the people of Ireland soon as they get the potatoes working again.
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