Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Parallel Universes

There is a spookiness in the night as the earth seems in mid-turn, not knowing for sure whether its axis is punched in properly.

Seems I made the mistake of not keeping on drinking this evening. As I awake this odd hour ,and am spooked a bit by some things that go bump in the night.
I have certainly been here before, many times.
Is it the moon or is it the balloon?
The balloon has always been a sign of love and romance to me. But the moon, as it waxes, brings thoughts of something else, another time which I tried to capture, long ago in a novel where a mad professor went over the hill.
What were the forces that blated him into "outer space"?
None of my readers could divine it.
So I'll offer you Chapter One of my old novel, LIGHT OVER NEWMARKET.
Best I can do on a spooky night. Hoo dat callin'?

The first hint of the change came in the form of a presence just behind my writing desk, where I was marking some student essays. I didn't believe in ghosts, and in any event, if this was a ghost it was hardly an original one: probably nothing more than a projection of my tired self, a doublegoer or doppelganger, as the Germans called such things (the Germans have a word for everything): a negative self image documented at least once by Percy Bysshe Shelley who saw one in his window one night and emptied two pistols into it. Then there was the fictional horror, the "Horla" of Guy de Maupassant, whose victim, terrified, tried to destroy by fire in a room room full of screaming servants. "Ghost, you are a cliché," I said out loud. "You have been identified, named and categorized. You should be ashamed of yourself." I turned around to face the thing that wasn't there only to see my wife standing before me, her face unusually sharp this evening and the curlers in her hair slicing into the light like surreal knives sticking out of a painting, hellish and disturbing and I screamed out loud seeing before me the image of Medusa.
Married to me for ten years, she was used to my fits and starts, the products of overstrain, and she was not upset by my startle and my scream. She merely smiled, and the face was again that of my wife, my pretty round-faced little girl, my comfort, hearth, home. I reached for her and drew her to me, happy for the hundreth time to be a professor of physics risen up from the slums, my father poor but never broken and my mother preoccupied with dirt and grime to the point where it finally engulfed her. I had, in my own quiet way, made it, though something seemed forever to be gaining on me. What? My children were sleeping soundly downstairs; my rambling Victorian house was making all those familiar house noises...And yet I knew that something alien, invisible and threatening lived in this house too, and the intimation was enough to convince me that I would never be the same comfortable side street citizen again.
For suddenly in my wife's face I saw an accomplice's face and in that accomplice's face the calm witness to a suicide, mine, a spiritual suicide she was helpless to prevent. If the devil did work in mysterious ways he was telling me in supernatural terms hard things I already knew and suppressed: there was the doctor's testimony to my enlarged liver; a mysterious growth where a man should have no growth at all; lungs packed full of cigarette smoke and the first sign of diabetes. At thirty-nine, I could not pass inspection as a suitable carcass in a Chicago packing house. "Your reflexes are good though," the doctor had breezed. How does it come to a man at the height of his success that death seems to gain on him more or less naturally, that the certainties and clear thoughts of young adulthood are mere illusions and that we are all bound for that great slaughterhouse in the sky?
Ragged Dick the Match Boy. Boy Wonder. The high school dropout, Dale Carnegie follower, correspondence school grinder moving from factory to university to airline piloting and finally a a drip to my whistle, a liverish feeling from the gin, a shortness of breath and hallucinations at night, my wife a Medusa, for God's sake, and those endless dreams, rooms with fiery curtains, rooms within rooms where entire families of gorgons waited to stare me into dry ice.
Professor's got a busted prick and spotty lungs. Something equally invisible and equally powerful was gaining on the doppelganger himself. Still, no joke when the head of the household is going mad.
A hero, a fucking classical hero. Same pattern. We keep playing ourselves back. Yet it is too presumptuous to call oneself a hero. Too derivative, too Canadian for that.
Prometheus? Rebellious scientist, fire stealer? Hardly. All of my physics was second hand a priori knowledge that any Sicilian high rise construction worker of Mexican stone mason possessed--notions as ancient as the arch, as old as the intuitive knowledge that the whole is greater than the part, stuff that philosophers belaboured and a child can explain.
No, there was no fire from the gods that I could be accused of stealing, just a squirrel-like gathering of knowledge. Publish your thesis, the professors had said, and I had refused. I knew how to write a razor-edged thesis. The sane and the sensible is good for a C. You have to go beyond mere common sense, you have to couple your mind with others to undertake that grand plagiarism which is knowledge. To undertake my thesis would have been to crib again the writings of Niels Bohr and Einstein and all the others who were so instrumental at building up the artificial intelligence rising about me, under my very hands as I worked the computers and chanced upon the ghost of George Boole who so long ago had divined all the possible ways a human being could think. And quantum mechanics, the real mechanics of the universe...the vast balling up of energy, of process, of purpose before the great quantum leap.
Whatever that meant. Was there really such a thing? I was certainly in love with it. Energy. Yes. They asked for mathematics and I gave them poetry. Yet my energy is balling up. Where is it going to blast me?
I am a man, an ordinary man, not noble, not brilliant, simply a man suddenly going mad in a world that has obviously become a madhouse. Note the workings of the spy agencies, their always getting things backwards, with horrible results on countries and populations. Imagine you are a god. Is it any wonder that after creating the world that you had disappeared?
Would it not have been best for you to disappear?
What can I tell my wife, here in front of me, bringing me a drink, touching my face, telling me that it's all right, that I have been working too hard--how can I tell her that this is already the end?

Ivan's Creative Writing Home Page Back to Title Page


EA Monroe said...

Good night, Ivan! I think that same mad moon touched me tonight, too. I love the description of the wife when she spooked you. Made me jump, too. I'll be back tomorrow to read the chapter again.

Josie said...

Ivan, all I can say is omigosh. Really chased by demons...?

I went through a stage in my life where demons seemed to be lurking just past my peripheral vision. It didn't last long, but I know the feeling.


ivan said...

Ah, well.
One could sit all night and just be effed- up or try extend the problems into some uh, creative form. I am sure Josie does that with her painting.
But then in my case, I get excited by this process too, and then I have to drink to come down.
--I also do a lot of interviews with chickens, asking them about their egg-laying processes. I also talk to eggs. Which one of you mothers came first?
Being spooked is being on the cusp of producing something?
Not sure if that waxing moon out there is making my brain grow or whether it makes my poor shrunken grey matter t;urn to just mush

Its probably the excitement of having even more family come to visit me today. Hard to sleep.
Daughter might hate me for something I did in the past...And I did do it.
Ah well, Liz, as you said once somehere, you do not like the reformer or the reformed.

ivan said...

I used to get that feeling a lot.
Probably because I drank Tequila.
Friggin' stuff seems to make you hallucinate. Dark thoughts of murderers and wind-washed beaches.
And graves in Mexico.
Egad, what we alkies do to ourselves.
Occupational hazard, I suppose.

"I drink, therefore I am?"

"Bebido, ergo sum?"

Ah well. Here I am again in my day-cart, quoting bad Mass Latin, accompanied by orderlies in white coats.

"Ding Ding Ding Ding Ding here comes my wagon
"I can hear my keeper calling me.
Just like the nuts that fall
I'm a little cracked, that's all
Ding Ding Ding Ding Ding here comes my wagon.
My wagon
My twuck."


EA Monroe said...

Hey, Ivan. The wagon that roams our Hood ding dings Pop Goes The Weasel. It's an ice cream truck. ;-)

Remind me to tell you about The Goblin someday.

ivan said...

Hey, a man can always use some ice cream.

I think we all know that "challenged" joke,where the kid goes to put the ice cream in his mouth, misses and spears his forehead instead.
Ding Ding Ding.

Here come the men in the white coats!
"Stay away from my eyes,": he shouts, convincing them all that he is a normal person.

(I wrote my thesis on MAD).

There something in this chocolate milk!

ivan said...

p.s. to Liz,
I'd just betcha that the goblin story is a real hair-raiser.


JM said...


The banks of Whisky River teem with glowing eyes and unseen scurrying things. The dead of night is their habitat, neuroses their sustenance. Night terrors. Ugh.

ivan said...


ivan said...

I'm over my night terrors.
Like any self-respecting neurotic, I know all anxiety attacks are self-limiting.
Had to stay sober today, as more family came to visit.
Lord, how hard it is to get sober.
But no pain, no gain.
Ah, Whiskey River.
What the hell was last night all about?

ivan said...

Shiver me timbers and blow me down!
The scurvy knave!