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You start with Childe's What Happened in History, Clark's The First Half-Million Years

Dead end

They said you might get out. You had a chance. Out of this hellhole.

There's a secret. It's a game. That's what you think.

Books. Salvation. To know is to be able.

You start with Childe's What Happened in History, Clark's The First Half-Million Years. No one tells you what you're looking for. You spread your effort. Coomaraswamy's Treatise of Al-Jazari on Automata, Fernandez's Hypervirial Theorems, Gombrowicz's Ferdydurke, Eccles's Neurophysiological Basis of Mind.

You were born in a city. There are things you don't remember. Serving as the cornerstone of your faith is the tableau of an upside-down child absorbing blue from the San Francisco sky. It's a big deal. Getting out alive.

Nighttime. A room. On the desk: The Functional Ultrastructure of the Blood-Lymph Barrier; Abnormal Hypnotic Phenomena: A Survey of Nineteenth Century Cases; Theoretical Symposium on Intense Medium-Energy Sources of Strangeness. You pace the floor. An easy target with the lights on.

Every night, you fall asleep. It can't be helped. The visions are called dreams. You see your lost relations, who have infiltrated the carnivals, earning their way as ride operators, hat men, quay bosses. Squatting in obscure corners, after second changeover, Arbeit und Rhythmus tucked in their laps. Leaning on back walls, when they can, with The Morning of the Magicians, smelling the pages.

Convening in rented rooms, they compare research, praise each other's "elsewhereness." Smoking, noisy, conspicuous.

"How finds it, brother."

"Thank you. Quite well, I think. How do you find."

"As always."

"Any new statements for me, brother?"

"How 'bout this: 'Death is its own reward.' "

"Yes. Yes, excellent!"

"And this too: 'You will be not here.' "

"Oh, yes. That's almost chilling. Just appalling."

"Little story for you: Last week at the Tilt-A-Whirl, I overheard two unawares discussing pre-philosophy. They were standing in line. The first one was very upset, moving his hands about, gesturing and so on. At one point, he said, 'The world is round, Bob.' And the other answered, 'Why? Because five billion people believe it?'"

"That's very amusing. So some of them are beginning to rebel."

"Perhaps."

"Something I meant to ask you – did you ever search Wine, Women, and Song: Root Planting and Head-Hunting in Southeast Asia? It's by Edwin somebody."

"Never heard of it."

High-pitched ringing in your ear. At the desk, you sit. You are thinking. You think: There is time still. There is still time.

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