April 2024

The Stranger Face of the Friend
Part One

Brian George

Mihai Criste, The Germ of Unconscience

I had overstayed my welcome at St. Peter’s Parochial High School. Its’ one virtue was its location in an ancient house, with many irrational crawl spaces. The smells of oiled wood and chalk dust were of more interest to me than my courses. Both teachers and classmates struck me as proof positive that the race did not evolve. Faith had pinned the intellects of some. Others had been locked in the cabinet of science. Of one thing I was sure: that the servants of Earth’s cybernetic reich had been planning to remove my neocortex. Better embalmers than they had tried! It was difficult to get each scrap without damaging the nose.

My supernatural weapons were in storage. A wind preceded the philosopher’s stone, whose energy had been hidden behind the two hands of a clock. My teachers were concerned about my psychological health. I did not dare to obey them; no, because whatever the consequences, a voice more frightening than any of theirs had also issued ultimatums. I observed myself from a corner of the Van Allen Radiation Belts. The voice spoke, and I did my best to perform the actions that it specified. There were times when I succeeded. There were others when this performance was only in my head.

“Drop your pencil on the floor,” the voice said, “whenever you see the headmaster coming. He is a recruiter for Opus Dei, an evil sect, and he will almost certainly criticize your hair. Insist that he lead by example, as did Christ. Leave no evidence behind should you choose to hang him from a cross.” Or, “Demand to know: If Mary had sex with the Holy Ghost, who is usually pictured as a dove, then why was Jesus born without a beak?” Had I not tried to behave? It was only by accident that I had broken such a large percentage of St. Peter’s rules. I left, with a strong push to the back from a secret board of judges, at the end of my sophomore year.

A revolt against causality had been launched. Ghosts pointing to the collapse of the third dimension congregated. No act of will could restore my freedom of association with the Double, who was then present only in the form of an abstract shadow, as a threat made in a language that I did not understand. This was a language that only the dead spoke, the stellar dead, not the makeshift versions. I was alive, in a manner of speaking, a bit more here, a bit less there, though not in the sense that the Ancients would have understood the concept, not in the sense that I would later come to use the word myself.

I did not yet know enough, of course, to call this abstract shape “my Double,” any more than I could pierce the psyche of a naked Siddha in a cremation ground, any more than I could grasp the instructions in the Egyptian Book of the Dead, however much they had been left specifically for me. I knew this Double only through his impact on my sanity, as a promise that I would get what I deserved. On the back of my head: cold breath. He was the sum of things unknown and abilities untapped. If this figure was close, his motives were obscure. I was not yet free to associate with him, only to go where his finger pointed. That freedom would come at the end of a long war. It would be necessary for a designated enemy to prepare the way for my breakthrough. The dream that we called waking consciousness was a joke, whose punchline had not yet arrived.


Victor Brauner, Oubli de la Mort, 1952

Current humans were just variations on the prototype of the object. They were person-shaped bundles of stimulus and response. They were designed to perform a set variety of functions. They were objects that could move, upon which corporations could hang the latest styles of clothing. Such humans were less real than the powers that consumed them, who were themselves only real in their own minds, by virtue of the shadows that lent to them their strength. Fate would orient the phallus of the wounded god. My socially-constructed self was a necessary evil. It was, as I would later come to understand, the contraction of an eight-armed sphere, the plaything projected by an earlier but still present state of omnipotence. Was I conscious? Not at all. Did my body not look much or anything like a sphere? These were no more than temporary setbacks, glitches in Enoch’s gematria, permutations in the occupational status of the One.

Instructions had been broadcast from a star, from the depths of the night sky: “Get out!” It was time for a change. Milkweed pods, sprouting from the junk of abandoned lots, broke open. My sail swelled. Bright with hope, I said goodbye to working-class South Worcester, a neighborhood of factories and railroad tracks. At the age of 15, I transferred to Doherty Memorial High. It was at the time a brand-new school, in the low, expansive style of architecture common during the 1970s. The complex of buildings was enormous, resembling more than a bit a shopping mall. The corridors were brightly lit and long, going off in all directions. Vast crowds migrated when the bell rang.

From my perch at the corner of the Van Allen Radiation Belts, which some might describe as the doorway of my homeroom, I observed the drifting of the ghost-like students through the complex. In their hunger, they migrated without knowing where they went. They saw without knowing what they saw. They heard without knowing what they heard. They felt without knowing what they felt. They consumed without knowing who or what they ate. By doing no more than shuffling from one foot to the other, they went in search of a symbol that existed before birth. They went in search of the key to industrial -strength sacrifice. They went in search of the loved bodies that they left on a crumbling shore. They went in search of the magnet of Mohenjo Daro. They went, without knowing more than the room number towards which they were turning. Such was the arcane path of their migration.

It is not that I believed that I was other than a ghost. I was, if anything, even more of a disembodied remnant than my classmates. Unlike
them, however, I could feel the breath of the emptiness that was waiting to engulf us, the emptiness that several ages ago had eaten our souls for lunch, even as we continued to be driven by our habits.


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Brian George is the author of two books of essays and four books of poetry. His book of essays Masks of Origin: Regression in the Service of Omnipotence has just been published by Untimely Books at
https://untimelybooks.com/book/masks-of-origin. He has recently reactivated his blog, also called Masks of Origin at https://masksoforigin.blogspot.com/. He is a graduate of the Massachusetts College of Art, an exhibited artist and former teacher. He often tells people first discovering his work that his goal is not so much to be read as to be reread, and then lived with.
For more of his writings in Scene4, check the Archives.

©2024 Brian George
©2024 Publication Scene4 Magazine





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