who do you want to be?

where do you want to be?

why?

Martial artist of the Mind -- Cheung Li the Wizard -- Professor Henri Kicken The Dark Stranger Hong Kong Wild Forests of Reykjavik, Iceland Tropical Paradise of North Australia The Dark Stranger
SON CARRIAD KNEW HE WAS BEING WATCHED THAT MORNING AS HE STOOD IN THE FINE SUN AND ADMIRED THE ROSES THAT BLOOMED IN HIS GARDEN NEAR HAMSTEAD HEATH, AND A ZEPPELIN DANCED ON THE WINDS ABOVE.

Call it doper's intuition or evolutionary paranoia but the geezer could always tell when he was being watched; the cold glare of surveillance pierced him like a drill. Up until now, however, the Earthlings had proved rather clueless in the arts of deep perception, the occasional Buddha or Jesus figure excepted, and Son Carriad had been reasonably free to let it all hang out. For thousands of human years he had wandered the lands and cities of Earth, watching, always passive, but stupendous enough from the human perspective to get himself (insert secret link here listing his god names) named as a couple of gods. However, as a Surveyor, he was stunned to find himself suddenly the surveyed. What a reversal! The Zeppelin was ostensibly a tourist ride, of the type that could be seen all over the capital these days, but Carriad knew this one was different. The brother had been merely feeding the sparrows with scraps of bread, enjoying the light of the sun on his face, and ready to take a ramble in the nearby park. But in that instant, as the wind rustled petals and feathers in the quiet yard, Son Carriad knew the game was up. It was time to get out.

Acting casually, as if nothing was wrong, he slowly tossed the rest of the bread to the birds. He risked a quick glance to his wristwatch; wondered what they would be doing on Mars now, how they would take this sudden and unexpected shock. What a scandal! Who had let the secret out... or were these Earthlings getting clever these days! After thousands of centuries of slumber, the Conspiracy was starting to emerge, like a lost treasure from the Vaults of the Deep, or the Hidden Ones of the Antarctic bursting like bubbles from the melting glaciers, shielding their eyes from the blinding sunshine of the surface. The world was throwing up all its secrets, and Mars was powerless to stop the rot. Where would it end, this strange Implosion, this merging of what should be kept apart?

Carriad tossed the final piece of bread to the sparrows and (careful not to look at the Zeppelin) ambled back in his house. From outside and even within (to the untrained observer at least, to all the pizza delivery men and visiting sales reps) his home was a Georgian terrace, a little modest but not too unappealing, nothing out of the ord. Wallpaper and carpets and toasters and stuff. Looks can deceive: the house was just a holographic ruse! If only the teenager delivering a biryani or mutton curry dish could see, with eyes beyond space, that the address was actually home to a Martian BraneStormer interplanetary cruiseship, a vehicle from another world. In through the backdoor lay a vast control room vaguely akin to that one on The Enterprise, computer consoles and podiums and pulsing gassy orbs, a handful of strange Martian animals (like jewelled reptiles, but warmblooded and smart), a couple of Martian underlings. They saluted Carriad as he entered (in the Martian style of course -- a quick flex of their facial muscles.) They had been sitting here in the heart of Hamstead for more than an English century now, just keeping a watch on the natives. Put it this way: HG Wells' invasion did actually happen, but not in the way he told it. The story and the mythology it generated was just another hologram, designed to mislead, and the Martians had never left. That was the truth behind the illusion, but the illusion was punctured, the illusion was starting to deflate.

<<Commence emergency evacuation procedures>> Son Carriad said, but in the Martian language this order filled just one curt syllable, so the impact was even more extreme. Remember: they had been sitting in this quiet neighbourhood for more than 130 years. And suddenly, one morning, they're ordered to flee! Imagine the shock!

<<Sir? >> inquired one of the underlings, who had personal responsibility in designing some of the Hollywood Martian stereotypes of the 1950s. All fake of course, just like the house! Carriad just snapped his fingers and said: <<We've been busted! Open surveillance channels, aerial sector 43A.>>

One of the monitors came to life and displayed a camera view of that Zeppelin lounging in the blue sky. Except this view was multi- dimensional, Branic, and the normal constraints of Earthling vision was removed. The inside of the Zeppelin became its outside, and the future was written all over the past. It was just a matter of perspective! The underlings and reptiles could see at once this was no ordinary Zeppelin, full of Chinese tourists. It was unmanned, and crudely fitted with (barely) functioning Martian technology. So the Earthlings had gotten their hands on Martian gear, and worked out how to use it, and were using it to spy on the ambassadors of Mars! What kind of cheek!

<<Commence burrowing actions>> Carriad said, and for the first time in more than a century the BraneStormer was on the move. Not flying up, to safety, but digging down, to Mars. You see, the human belief that Mars is actually somewhere "up there" is another fallacy, a sympton of the hologram. From Son Carriad's perspective, the surface of Mars lay just under the surface of the Earth, like a deeper layer of the onion. The BraneStormer extended shovels and spinning drills, and began chewing itself down, past the bombshelters and subways, across the empty gulfs of interplanetary space. <<Estimated Martian arrival time>> the Underling said three point five minutes.>> And by the time the CIA and their European colleagues had scrambled to Hamstead, all they would find would be just a hole in the ground, a gap in the row. Another mystery for the sensationalist press.

But a bigger mystery awaited the media of Mars, and Carriad could see the headlines: EARTHLINGS SIEZE MARTIAN TECHNOLOGY! -- THE SKY IS CAVING IN! How was he going to explain this to his superiors? At that moment, Son Carriad knew the game was up. And there was nothing that anybody, anywhere, could do about it! The Great Illusion had been breached, and all the worlds were colliding together, violently, incomprehensibly. That which should be kept apart were imploding into one.

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SO IT CAME TO PASS THAT CROON left swinging London for the canals and teahouses of Amsterdam (one of his favourite cities, and not just because of the hash!) First port of call was a pothouse where he was greeted by a creature of dubious sex (perhaps a former eunuch of the Turks, with a glabrous face and a mouth so small you would have said he smiled only by moving his nose.)

The room Croon stole into was frightful thanks to the smuts from a pile of bones burning in a smouldering fire. In one corner a naked corpse was hanging by its feet, secreting a nettle-coloured liquid from its genitals into a mouth-shaped copper basin. Nice look Croon thought, and made for the staircase.

Upstairs there was a hashhouse and iceparlour filled with various imported riffraff (Ethopians, Somali refugees, terrorists.) The room looked like an apothecary's shop, filled with jars of clay, glass, tin, real Norwegian ice and copper. All were filled with substances which served to alter the aspect of their users: crones who wanted to feel young and beautiful, miscreants and homeboy thugs who wanted to contemplate the true nature of the Universe. There were rouges, emoliants, immoliants, asphodel roots, tarragon bark, and a substance made with stag marrow and water of honeysuckle that dissolved the ego. There were also plenty of bodyaltering substances. Tatoeba -- pastes to blond the hair, a mixture of green ilex, rye, white horehound, soda niter, alum, and yarrow; or to change the complexion there were compounds of stallion, bear, camel, snake, rabbit, whale, mare, bittern, doe, wildcat, and otter. Also an oil for the face made of styrax, lemon, pinenut, elm, lupin, vetch and chickpea, and a shelf of bladders with which strumpets could seem like virgins. Croon nodded his head appreciably towards this. For those desperate to ensnare a lover they had viper tongues, quail heads, asses' brains and asses, pilewort, badgers' paws, stones from an eagle's nest, hearts shaped in tallow thick with needles, and real saliva from Chucky Poong and other notables. I kid you not!

Croon was about to take a peep at that green ilex (and hopefully swab some kind of sample) when the eunuch cleared his/her throat, and said: <<May I be so bold, sir, as to enquire the nature of your visit? If you came here to get high, we have a special on nosebleed cocaine tonight. Or if you are in need of a facelift...>>

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<<Do you think I am in need of a facelift, eunuch?>> Croon said, really (and actually) offended. No joke!

<<Well...>> The Eunuch twiddled his cufflinks. <<It is an indeterminate face, if you don't mind me saying, me'Lord. I couldn't for the life of me determine where it is you originated from, if you pardon me saying, and all apologies. That swagger of yours, for example, seems deadon New Swinging London, which is why I am speaking this archaic style of English. But you could just as easily be a Chinese rebel leader, so I am not sure how I should react, so as to mould myself to you.>>

Croon thought for a minute that he had discovered his soulmate. What was this, some sort of mirror here? But whereas this dude was Eunuch, Croon was primebeef stud -- everybody knew that. So he said, in an imperious tone: <<My origins are irrelevant, Knave, so I command you to do my biddings. Take me to the chairman of this den. It is not a facelife I require, but a full body metamorphosis. I hear he is the world leader in this brand of magic.>>

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<<Of course, me'Lord>> the Eunuch said, and without further ado he was led up a small waiting ladder, to the Alchemist's Loft.

Clocks. Waterclocks, sandclocks, solarclocks propped against the walls, but especially mechanical clocks arrayed on various shelves and chests, clocks moved by the slow descent of weights and counterweights, by wheels that bit into other wheels, as those bit into still others, until the last wheel nipped the two unequal blades of a vertical staff, causing it to make two half-revolutions in opposing directions, its indecent wiggle moving, as balance, a horizontal bar fixed at its upper extremity. Spring clocks, too, where a fluted conoid played out a chain drawn by the circular movement of a little barrel that devoured it link by link.

Some of the clocks concealed their works behind rusted ornament and corroded chasing, displaying only the slow movement of their hands; but the majority exhibited their gnashing hardware, and recalled those dances of Death where the only living things are grinning skeletons that shake the scythe of Time.

"YOU'RE not actually saying>> Willem was reading Pavel's bio over morning tea biscuits, guarana flakes in them to help preserve stamina. Pavel was born in the Ukraine in 1992 and moved Dutchward with his parents when the EC came. In Rotterdam he fell into EC habits like crack cocaine and nosebleed dancefloor. The story about him being a school dropout was true and there were documents to prove it. He had acne as well. When he was 16 he started using Glam facewash to dry out his zits. It was reasonably successful so he kept using it, two times a day for three years.

"The rest is still highly confidential>> Mr Wagenaar said. So confidential, Willem noticed, that Pavel hadn't said a word all morning. "In August this year our client took a daytrip to France where he contracted an especially bad case of sunburn. He returned home, applied Glam facewash as every other night and went to sleep. When he woke up half the skin on his face had peeled away. The skin underneath... well, you can see for yourself.>>

"The specialists have diagnosed a complete melanin mutation," Mr Brugmans said. "As you may well know melanin darkens the skin in a range from white to jet black. For the first time in recorded history, in a mutation somehow linked to your product, our client's melanin has turned chlorophyllic green.>>

"Our skincare range is a simple variation on a recipe which has been around for decades>> Willem said. "Suitably cosmopolitanised, naturally. It has never caused a mutation before.>>

"That's why we want to have fun with it," Mr Kroon said. "Glam makes the world's first Green Man. We'll make a fucking mint!>>

"Of course," Mr Wagenaar said, "there will be dividends enough for Glam to share.>>


WILLEM'S wife was Lisa and she was Israeli. This may puzzle readers who've developed a preconception (in turn founded on stereotype) that Willem is a racist. Willem is not a racist, he is simply obsessed with the ideal of racial integration. The fact this is a racist ideal in early 21st century society is irrelevant. Willem would willingly orientalise his eyes if he felt that would homogenise the global gene pool. Lisa is not a Dutch convert and Willem is not a tryhard Zionist, but when they are together he yearns for some kind of middle ground where everywhere is here, a metaphysical Anne Frank kind of rapprochement.

Occasionally, usually in bed, they achieve it.

"I can only stay an hour or two>> Willem said from the middle of a delicate cunnilingus position. "I've got to stay back all night working on this new promotion.>>

"Oh Christ," Lisa trying desperately not to revert to Hebrew, "an hour or two with you is all it takes." She wrapped her Mediterranean thighs tight around his golden head, his tongue their temporary axis. "Oh God," she said, "I'm exploding!>>

Getting redressed for work Willem dropped as casually as he could, "Fucking hell. I met a green man today.>>

JUMP TO: SECTION CASSIUS CROON (c)opyright Crunch Millennia 1996-2003.

Maps

Interactive photographic map of the entire world!

Interactive photographic map of the entire world!

Photo Albums

The sights and other aspects of Korea
Korean Sights -- The Sights of Korea The World of Flowers
The World of Flowers The Temples of Asia
The Temples of Asia Faces of Asia
FaceOff -- The Faces of Asia Great Cities of the World
Great Cities of the World Viking Horns
Vikings Horns -- The Warriors of Iceland BlurStream -- Human Movement
BlurStream -- Human Movement Singapore -- January 2003
Singapore -- January 2003

Photo Diary

A Day In The Life -- A Photo Diary Of My Entire Life
A Photo Diary of Every Day of My Life
A Day In The Life -- October 24 2003
Photo Diary -- October 24 2003

Fiction

The 70s Never Died, It Just Smells That Way
The 70s Never Died, It Just Smells That Way Terrorism in the 00s -- EgyptAir
EgyptAir America disintegrates in the sands of the Middle East -- Israel with it!
Greek Start a Holy War!
Start a Holy War

Reviews

Life of Pi -- A Review by Robert Sullivan
The Life of Pi
CASSIUS CROON and other characters copyright Rob Sullivan 1996- 2004.