Op. 24

 

FALSE PRETENCES

 

Long Prose

 

Copyright © 1982-2010 John O'Loughlin

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CONTENTS

 

Chapter One: Party Politics

Chapter Two: Some Background Information

Chapter Three: Shead's Revolutionary Invention

Chapter Four: A Rendezvous with Philomena

Chapter Five: Intellectual Intimacies

Chapter Six: Something Unexpected

Chapter Seven: Confrontation with Shead

Chapter Eight: Carnal Intimacies

Chapter Nine: An Accommodation with Susan

Chapter Ten: Some Foreground Information

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CHAPTER ONE: PARTY POLITICS

 

"Don't you object to people staring at your wife?" asked a voice behind me, causing me to start suddenly out of my daydream.  I turned round to see who my latest potential tormentor was, and discovered the pale, rather lean face of Major Ronald Saunders staring up at me from behind his dense whiskers.  He smiled defensively, as though to apologize for this sudden intrusion into my private world, and cast a veiled glance in the direction of Leslie Richardson, a glance I automatically followed, though only to the extent of acquiring the briefest of confirmations that someone evidently had eyes for Susan.  "He's been staring at her, on and off, all bloody evening!" the Major continued, ignoring my feigned indifference.  "You oughtn't to let her out of your sight, old man!"

     I gently shrugged my shoulders, as though to demonstrate indifference, then drank a little more of the sweet wine I held between clenched fingers in one of the thinnest glasses I had ever beheld.  What did it matter to me that someone was staring at her?  Let him, if that was all he wanted.  Voyeurism was all the rage nowadays, anyway.  And if he had more concrete objectives in mind, so what?  Let him satisfy them, though preferably on terms acceptable to myself!  I wasn't one to be offended by this show of interest in a woman with whom I had long ceased to be in love.  Indeed, if I thought it could increase his pleasure, I would have gone across to where Susan was standing, interrupted her conversation with the other women, and lifted-up her skirt, so that he could see what type and colour panties she was wearing.  Only I knew that at present, since I had watched her dress before coming along to this informal gathering, and knew exactly what she was 'up to' underneath her skirt.  It would have been nice to show those purple nylon panties with the frilly edgings to Dr Richardson and thereby enable him to flesh out, as it were, his growing appreciation of her physical anatomy.  Nicer still to be showing off the seductive curvature of her rump and hips, the enticing sexuality of her thighs, which the skirt she wore was discreetly hiding.  Then he could have made up his mind about her and taken whatever measures he thought necessary to extend his appreciation, with or without my knowledge and consent.

     "Too many people stare at other people's wives these days," Major Saunders went on, even though I had said not a word about his allegations and knew better than to spoil other people's fun.

     "Well," I said, growing slightly weary, "at least she's a rather pretty woman, so one can't entirely blame a handsome young man like Dr Richardson for taking an interest in her.  I'm not at all possessive myself."

     "Really?" the Major exclaimed, evidently feeling a degree of surprise was called for here.  "You wouldn't like another man to get her pregnant or give her the clap or whatever behind your damn back though, would you?"

     "Not particularly," I conceded.  "But, then, she'd have to put up with the consequences, not me."  No, that wasn't quite true, and I half-regretted having said it.  But even if she got the clap, as he put it in that colloquially military way of his, she wasn't likely to become pregnant, since she had regular recourse to the pill.  Besides, she knew that I had no desire to give her children, since I loathed them.  A child from her and we would part company.  I had made that fact perfectly clear to her some time ago.  Now she took it for granted and swore that she had no real desire for motherhood again anyway, since looking after a genius was more than enough work.  And if she needed any extra work, she could always write a new novel or take up full-time teaching again.  As for the clap ... no decent man would go near her if he suffered a dose of it, least of all Dr Richardson.  As usual Major Saunders was exaggerating, as they usually did in the army.  Possibly on account of celibacy, or something.  "Anyway," I added, after my reflective pause, "Susan's too possessive, where I'm concerned, to risk putting our relationship in jeopardy over someone else.  She's got a martyr streak in her - fidelity to me at the expense of more traditional responsibilities, including motherhood.  She needs the pride that comes from living with someone famous and moderately wealthy.  It appeals to her ego and sense of being a truly modern, or liberated, woman."

     "But don't you think that most women are possessive where we men are concerned?" Major Saunders rejoined, as he blew out the red-tipped match he had just used to light a cumbersome-looking cigar.

     "Oh definitely," I agreed.  "They can't help it, for we're sexual subjects to them and the sexual is ever a part of the sensual realm, the realm peculiar to female priorities.  Even the so-called liberated ones are possessive in that respect.  They need our bodies for their sexual fulfilment, and so they cling to us, metaphorically speaking as well as literally, like leeches.  My wife's just the same, even though she's resigned to not being a mother."

     Major Saunders momentarily concealed himself and part of me in a dense cloud of tobacco smoke, probably more out of a desire to hide his embarrassment from me than to savour the dubious aroma of his latest fat cigar.  I waited patiently for the air to clear, as from the onslaught of battle, before continuing the conversation, but he beat me to it.

     "You know, I just can't understand why you refuse to become a father," he confessed, blowing more smoke in my face.  He was doubtless envious of my freedom from parental responsibilities and troubles, I thought, and had determined to test my will, in consequence.

     "Frankly, I detest children," I informed him, almost hissing the words in my besieged condition.  "Especially young ones – for instance, babies and tiny tots.  They're far too raw, too natural and ... uncultured.  A man of genius, who cultivates the most artificial standards in his work, as in his life, can hardly be expected to abide with his very antithesis - a creature in which natural determinism predominates over free will to such an alarming extent ... that there seems to be very little of the latter in evidence.  Even my wife is at times too naturalistic for me, though, being an intelligent woman, she does at least possess a veneer, as it were, of culture over her sensuous nature.  Fortunately, however, she doesn't require children from me, since she had two of them by her first marriage and they're away at boarding school most of the time.  She pays for that, I might add, not me."

     I was lying slightly, but it didn't matter too much.  I knew, anyway, that Major Saunders had little interest in Susan's children by her previous marriage, only in her lack of them from her current one.  But that was simply because he couldn't understand why she tolerated me.  No doubt, his concern over Dr Richardson's behaviour this evening was a manifestation of jealousy on his part, born of fear, perhaps, that young Richardson would beat him to her affections?

     "Well, I think children are the very raison d'être of marriage," he opined, showing grim determination not to be side-tracked.  "Otherwise, why get married in the first place?"

     "For a variety of reasons," I declared, undeterred by the latest smoke screen he was puffing up, as though to intimidate me.  "Not least of all because one wants company and sex."

     "But sex without the goods?"  It was evidently his way of saying babies, and I just had to smile.

     "Certainly for a man of genius like myself," I immodestly reminded him, blushing faintly unbeknownst to anyone else, since it was not every day that one described oneself in such elevated terms and thereby sought to justify one's unusual position in life on the basis that one was as far removed from the common run as men like Sartre, Koestler, Dali, et al.  "I simply couldn't be responsible for putting something new into the world naturally - through coital means.  For me, only artificial creations count.  I want that known for the record.  I, Jason Crilly, absolutely refuse to be accredited the perpetrator of a natural creation!  My paintings are the only things to which I'll sign my name."

     "As formerly it was your books," Major Saunders reminded me.  "Whereas your wife would seem to have gravitated from natural creations, through her first marriage, to artificial ones, in the form of novels, with you."

     I nodded my aching head through the smoke and knocked back the remaining wine in my glass, before returning the slender item to the cabinet top from which I had initially plucked it.  Yes, Susan had taken to writing shortly after I had abandoned it in favour of painting.  There was still a considerable backlog of works for my agent to deal with, some of which, however, I knew would never be published in Britain.  I had other plans for them, to be sure!  But, at present, there was little possibility of their implementation.  At present, on the contrary, it was more expedient to live off the royalties and contracts accruing to the earliest and least controversial of my works.  At least that enabled me to dabble in painting, to give myself Mondrianesque airs as the exponent of a truly transcendental mode of abstraction.  People I knew now saw me as an artist, even though I had made my reputation from writing.  Major Saunders, for instance, knew little about my published works and still less about the unpublished ones.  I kept them to myself and to an intimate circle of kindred spirits.  Susan, of course, knew all about them, and so, too, did Robert Dunne, an inventor who also happened to be one of her close friends from college days.  Robert was Irish, like us, and not one to spill the beans about such matters.  He was over the other side of this rather large room now, engaged in animated conversation with both his girlfriend, Mary, and a fellow-inventor by name of Edmond Shead.  I had yet to make Shead's acquaintance, but I gleaned from Dunne that he and his colleague had recently completed work on a somewhat special machine which would completely revolutionize - his very words - our sexual behaviour.  A demonstration of this enigmatic device had been promised me, though when and where ... I had yet to learn.  Perhaps they would inform me this very evening?  But to return to Major Saunders ...

     "Of course, if, as you claim, she fulfilled herself as a mother before you ever met her," he went on, "then your position becomes a lot clearer, I might even say more reasonable, since your opposition to babies would then be less objectionable to her than would otherwise be the case ... had she never had any."  He was clearly losing ground and becoming progressively more muddled, partly, no doubt, as a result of all the sherry he had imbibed and was still imbibing, despite the obviously poor quality of the stuff.  I felt both pity and contempt for him at the same time, wondering when he would break off and leave me to my thoughts again.  Explaining and justifying oneself to people was a difficult enough task at the best of times, but virtually impossible when one was confronted by the very antithesis of a kindred spirit!  Yet being invited to a house where one endeavoured to explain or justify oneself to such people as him was simply a hazard of being famous and living in the provinces, where all one's neighbours knew who one was and somehow managed to keep a tag on one.  In the city I had known no-one and never been invited anywhere, nor, for that matter, had I ever invited anyone back to my address.  But Norfolk was an altogether different proposition from London, as I was constantly finding out.

     And yet, if I was to rid myself of the crippling depression to which I had succumbed whilst in London, compliments of the massive amount of ugliness there, I had need of the country.  Even had need of such people as were gathered together at Matthew Sharpe's house, ostensibly to celebrate his tenth wedding anniversary but, in reality, to boast of their respective sexual achievements, or lack of them, and pry further into one-another's private lives.  Obviously there was a limit to all that, but it was also a limit subject to periodic infringement, as Major Saunders had succeeded in reminding me!

     But then I did something I had never done before.  I left the Major standing in a fresh cloud of cigar smoke, while he babbled on unintelligibly about my wife, and proceeded as rapidly as I could towards the door, where I hoped I would discover some pretext for leaving early.  I hadn't got more than a dozen yards beyond the smoke screen, however, when I felt a hand on my arm and heard the suave voice of Dr Richardson informing me that he had recently had the pleasure of reading my wife's latest novel.  Could that be the principal reason behind his interest in her this evening, I wondered?  Anyway, I stood, halted in my negative tracks, whilst he congratulated Susan through me.  It was evident that he had been dying for an opportunity to buttonhole me like this and boast of his literary appreciations, but that the proximity of Major Saunders or, more likely, the Major's ugly-looking cigar had obliged him to keep his distance, as from a chemical weapon.

     "And what do you think of it?" he wanted to know, referring to the novel in question.

     "I really don't think anything of it," I bluntly replied, slightly offended by his bad breath, which had somehow escaped or overcome the pressure of booze.  "And for the simple reason that I haven't read it."

     Much to my disgust his mouth fell open, like he had just received a blow on the chin.  "Haven't read it?" he echoed, evidently shocked by my confession.

     "No, I never read her novels."

     I thought for a moment he was about to fall to the floor in a swoon, but he managed to remain on his feet, partly, I suspect, because he was still clinging to my arm.

     "But why ever not?" he gasped.

     "Because I've no interest whatsoever in my wife's novels, nor, for that matter, in anyone else's, since I stopped reading novels shortly before I stopped writing and took-up with painting instead.  For me, literature is a dead letter, unlikely ever to be resurrected.  Admittedly, I wrote something approximating to novels in the past, but that was only because I couldn't afford to do anything else.  They were a kind of extension of adolescent poetry into my late twenties, and by the time I reached early middle-age I had other ambitions, not the least of which was to do a little painting."

     It wouldn't have been fair on him for me to have spilled the beans about any additional ambitions, so I let the matter rest there in the hope that he would change the subject or just piss off.  But to my dismay he persisted in his old tack.

     "But doesn't your wife object to the fact that you take no interest in her work?" he painfully asked, tactfully omitting the word 'whatsoever'.

     "Not a bit," I assured him, casting Susan a brief glance in order to ascertain whether she happened to be overhearing us or speaking to someone else.  In point of fact, she could have been doing either, since someone else - Edmond Shead, it appeared - was speaking to the group in which she was standing and not specifically to her, thereby permitting her the possibility of an ear cocked in our direction.  "You see," I continued, "Susan understands that literature, as she writes it, isn't really my forte but, rather, something intensely objectionable to me which I grew out of quite some time ago.  Mind you, I never wrote in a conventional narrative fashion, since I had strong ideological inclinations and a corresponding desire to upgrade or, depending on your viewpoint, subvert literature along intensely philosophical lines.  Thus my novels were predominantly theoretical or speculative works, in the manner of Hermann Hesse or Arthur Koestler.  I never described the physical characteristics of my leading male characters in anything but the sketchiest sort of way; for it wasn't their appearance so much as their essence, their intellectual and spiritual worlds, which chiefly interested me.  Likewise it wasn't activity but passivity, in the contemplative sense, that formed the basis of my works, thereby making them more divine-orientated than would otherwise have been the case.  I loathe and despise the other, more traditional kinds of novels, which strike me as stemming from the Devil in their fixation on action and appearance.  They're passé, so far as I'm concerned, and only women of a comparatively unliberated disposition and the less-intelligent male authors still write them.  Unfortunately, Susan Crilly can't help showing more interest in these traditional literary ingredients, and that's why, much as I may admire her as a woman, I categorically avoid reading her novels!"

     Dr Richardson had gone quite pale with this confession from me, and looked as though he might puke at any moment.  He had ceased, however, to cling to my arm, and I now sensed that he was becoming resigned, not to say accustomed, to the bitter disillusionment I had so candidly and, some would say, callously inflicted upon him.  It was as if, psychologically speaking, he had already puked and was now experiencing that wave of cathartic relief which usually follows in its turbulent wake.

     "Well," he at length sighed, "I sincerely apologize for having bored you with the subject of your wife's work, which I had naively imagined would be of genuine interest to you.  As it happens, I don't read all that many novels myself these days, but I was intrigued by the familiarity of the name, since Mrs Crilly is one of my patients and one is always liable, as a doctor, to take an interest in one's patients' affairs - I mean, work."

     "Really?" I responded noncommittally, knowing full-well what the Freud-obsessed bastard really meant!  "But if you enjoyed the novel as much as you say you did, why not discuss it directly with Susan this very evening?"  I realized, by the sudden upward curve of his facial expression, that this was what the bugger had been wanting to do all along, and had probably only been waiting for a chance to intrude into her conversation or, at any rate, take over from someone else at the most opportune moment.  But although I would have preferred to drag Susan away from this anniversary gathering and get to bed, with or without her, nevertheless I wanted Dr Richardson to satisfy his social ambitions, if only for the benefit of my wife, who would appreciate some professional flattery.  It was as if, with the absence of any such flattery from me, I felt she was entitled to someone else's, and that, by personally introducing him to her, I would be to some extent compensating her for my habitual indifference.

     Thus, despite his superficial protests and last-minute show of modesty, I dragged him across to where Susan was standing, on the edge of the small group of rather bored conversationalists, and, as it were, thrust him upon her, thereby endeavouring to unburden myself of his company and find an excuse for breaking away from them all on my own.  I could tell that Susan wasn't particularly grateful to me for this, since she was growing tired of things herself.  But I somehow explained to her that, as I was feeling slightly queasy and felt I ought to leave, Dr Richardson would keep her company for the rest of the evening and, if necessary, escort her back to our house in due course.  She gave me a knowing, albeit fleetingly critical, look, and obediently resigned herself to the good doctor's bad breath.  For my part, I hastened to the door, brushing aside a last-minute attempt by Matthew Sharpe to detain me and assuring him, as best I could, that I had thoroughly enjoyed the evening.  A blatant lie, of course, but, then, what else could I have said in the circumstances?

 

 

CHAPTER TWO: SOME BACKGROUND INFORMATION

 

I came to Norwich in an endeavour to get over my solitary years in London.  My depression was so severe when I arrived here that I supposed it would take me at least three years to get rid of, even under the best possible conditions.  These conditions were not only environmental but, no less significantly, sexual, and it was because Susan lived in Norwich that I chose to move to this particular part of England.  She suggested we buy a detached house in the suburbs, and so we duly did, though not before we had scouted farther afield in the hope of finding somewhere cheaper.  Our house, modest by palatial standards, overlooked the River Wensum and stood in a pleasantly residential area not far from the outskirts of town.  Here one had the benefit of suburban peace and space, as well as easy access to Norwich itself.  To me, this seemed a big step on the road to recovery.  For I was convinced that living in one of the more built-up parts of north London for eight years had been the prime cause of my depression and that, by nature and temperament, I needed easy access to the country.  But, much as I had loathed London, I found Norwich even more loathsome at first, primarily because, in my perverse way, I had got used to a big city and discovered life in the provinces to be comparatively boring.  The only real consolation, however, was Susan herself, whom I leaned upon quite heavily during those early months - as much from gratitude that I actually had a woman at last ... as from disenchantment with Norfolk.

     I had married her shortly after leaving London, though not because I particularly believed in or wanted marriage ... so much as to prevent her from being snapped-up or distracted by anyone else.  I wasn't deeply in love with her now, nor, I suppose, had I ever really been so, but found her company agreeable and her body, well, as everything I had always hoped it would be, when I lay in bed alone in my shabby little room in Crouch End and thought about her, wondering if she would have forgotten me from our brief but momentous encounter some five years previously.  Other women hadn't made any great impression on me in the meantime, while my straightened circumstances ... coupled to my disdain of the intensely urban milieu in which I languished, a captive of poverty and neglect, weren't exactly conducive to romance.  Thus Susan was understandably surprised that I still had an interest in her when I eventually moved to Norwich, but, luckily for me, she wasn't averse to marrying anew and settling down, in relative tranquillity, with a self-proclaimed genius.

     Later, when she came to read my works, especially the best and most revolutionary of them, she knew who I was and had no doubt that she had done the right thing.  I told her that I had a mission to perform in the service of my ideological beliefs, and she vowed she would do what she could to help me perform it.  This she has done and continues to do, as I have already intimated in connection with her body.  I needed sex so badly, in coming to Norwich, that I damn-near made passionate love to her every day of the week for the first year or so.  I knew I had a backlog, so to speak, of missed sex to catch-up on, and was grateful that she was prepared to help me catch-up on it, even at extra and sometimes wearying cost to herself.  But I went to her under no doubts that the process of ridding myself of my crippling depression would be long and difficult, and I explained to her that much of what I did was done not because I particularly desired it, but because I had no alternative if I hoped to fully recover my mental health and be in a fit state-of-mind to address my future ideological responsibilities.

     Thus my daily love-making was not the obsession of a satyr or otherwise extremely lecherous individual ... so much as a kind of sensual penance or duty I had long been deprived of, but which I now had no option but to carry-out in the hope of a full recovery.  Likewise, my penchant for wine and cigars, though morally abhorrent to me, was upheld in a spirit of stoical perseverance, of paying the Devil his dues, so to speak, in an attempt to acquire a mild downward self-transcendence which would contribute towards my attainment of sensual gratification.  I usually hated the taste of the one or two cigars I daily smoked, but I persisted in smoking them if only to counteract the painful results of the excessive asceticism which my previous solitary lifestyle in north London had so cruelly inflicted upon me.  In the same spirit, I took regular walks in the country or, at any rate, along country lanes outside Norwich, sometimes with Susan but more often alone, and would soak-up what sensuality I could from the relatively close proximity of so much temperate plant life.  Occasionally, too, I would sunbathe either in one of the municipal parks or, preferably, in my back garden for an hour.  Tending the flowers there was another way of soaking-up sensuality, and although at first I found this activity rather obnoxious, my persistence in it gradually resulted in a degree of pleasure which, despite all the physical inconvenience, stemmed from the sure knowledge that here was another way of combating my depression, and therefore something well-worth performing in the interests of total recovery.  Add to this the fact of better meals and a slightly deeper, longer sleep - a consequence in part of Susan's reassuring company beside me at night - and one has the chief ingredients in my war against the past.

     Another ingredient, though one less frequently employed, was to take periodic holidays in the hottest possible countries, such as Greece, Spain, and Sicily, where I would soak-up as much sun as possible, and so lead a more intensively pagan existence than ever I could in England.  We had thought, previously, of moving to the Mediterranean for good, but I had decided that, for the time being at any rate, we would stay in England, as I would thereby be in closer touch with the art dealers and more accessible to my agent, not to mention to people connected with my political interests.  If the depression persisted or showed little signs of improving, I had decided that an entire winter spent in Greece or Sicily would be the best course.  But, at present, I was still optimistic that such improvements as had occurred would continue to occur, regardless of the climate, provided all the chief ingredients of my war on depression were maintained at approximately their usual obdurate level.  Despite my faith in the healing powers of the sun, Susan and the countryside still remained my best medicine!

     So much, then, for my pagan-oriented existence, which I considered only a temporary measure on the road to full recovery and, in consequence, no more than a stepping-stone to my future ambitions.  I came to Norfolk, however, with a strong transcendental bias, hating nature and everything that stemmed from it.  I haven't lost this bias even now, sixteen months since my arrival, and I know that, fundamentally, my opinion of nature will never change, even when and if I get well again.  I will always be a transcendentalist using nature for his own purposes, not an ignorant adherent of it complacently acquiescent in everything sensual!  I have recorded my thoughts about nature in the most progressive of my works, whether essayistic or novelistic, and I know that, objectively considered, such thoughts will never be refuted by me or withdrawn as errors.  To get to the truth, I had to live in the solitary hell I have described in my experience of north London, and forego all identification or association with nature.  I suffered terribly, but I did get to the truth, and that truth will remain, no matter what happens to me personally.  I may live like a pagan now, but there is no chance of my actually becoming one!  Whatever I do to get as much sensuality as possible into my life, I will always despise the sensual and live as an outsider in nature - at an evolutionary remove, so to speak, from those who have never lived in a giant city for any length of time.

     And this, of course, includes Susan, who is much more intrinsically fond of nature and the country in general than me.  One reason why I can't read her novels is that they pay tribute to nature in a way which I, with my urban background, find disgusting and positively sinful.  In this respect, I dare say she is merely voicing the heartfelt instincts of her gender.  But, being a man, I don't share them and never will.  I could have told Dr Richardson the other night that my wife takes as little interest in my paintings as I take in her writings, but I somehow didn't get round to it, possibly because of tiredness.  Of course, she occasionally says nice things about them, telling me how pretty the colour arrangements look.  But, fundamentally, she has no real appreciation or understanding of what I am doing.  And neither, for that matter, has anyone else, least of all Major Saunders, who nonetheless recently bought one of my works - as a gesture, I suspect, of neighbourly goodwill.  Yet painting is really passé now, no matter how abstract or transcendental one's canvases may appear, so I can't pretend I do it with any real enthusiasm or conviction.  I am no Mondrian or Kandinsky.  For the age of abstract painting is long over, having died shortly after them.  If one isn't a pioneer of new trends, using new technologies, one isn't in the front rank.  One may even be a boor or amateur play-acting at being a serious, professional artist.

     Well, I know that, whilst I may not be a pioneer of new artistic techniques, I am at least doing the best I can to fill-in time, as I overcome my illness, before I take measures to abandon art altogether and enter the political arena in obedience to my true destiny.  I have never thought, regardless of what others may have said, that painting was my life's vocation, to be continued into old age.  It was simply expedient for me to put one or two of my philosophical concepts into paint, while living with the certain knowledge that some day I would be ready and willing for higher things.  Besides, there is such a prodigious backlog of novels and other writings for my agent to wade through - assuming he is prepared to - that I would have been mad to carry on writing, thereby adding to the pile and virtually guaranteeing myself that my foremost works would not be published for at least another 8-10 years.  In point of fact, I stopped writing nearly two years ago, and shouldn't need to write anything else for at least another five years.  But, of course, I know I am not referring to all of my works when I say this, only to those which could be published here.  There are others ...

     But I digress slightly!  Suffice it to say that painting prevents me from being idle now.  It is also a further ingredient in my war on depression, since a step down from the intellect, as demanded by literary production, to the senses - principally the eyes.  By comparison with writing, it is quite relaxing to paint, so relaxing, in fact, that at times one feels positively moronic, like there is nothing in one's head because one is simply reduced to a pair of eyes with an appendage on the end of one's hand.  And my works, being more abstract than concrete, provide little food for thought, so simple is their overall appearance.  They are primarily designed for contemplation rather than reflection, as objects to be looked at rather than pondered over.  But that is perhaps a shortcoming which I intend to rectify, in some measure, over the coming months, as I grapple with the problem of outlining, in quasi-representational terms, the physical constituents of the Supermen and Superbeings of my conceptual projections in regard to a post-human millennial future.  Few people would be able to make any constructive suggestions to me here, for I shall be on entirely novel ground, as already explored in my writings or, at any rate, in the best and most progressive of them.

     I ought perhaps to add to the above statements, concerning these writings, that I attained to a maximum of truth in regard to human and subsequent (post-human) evolutionary stages which made it virtually inevitable that I should abandon writing for painting, where I could translate some of my ideas into visual images.  Having attained to the unadulterated truth in my writings, I couldn't very well indefinitely extend them, since the end or, rather, goal had been reached, and only embellishments or refinements could have been added.  For my writings progressed from dualism or, rather, humanism to transcendentalism, and so attained to a thematic climax beyond which no further progress was possible.  I had no option, therefore, but to switch to painting, in the hope that some of my evolutionary ideas could be clarified and better-illustrated through that medium.

      As yet, I have only concentrated on the simplest and most straightforward ideas - namely those which don't put too great a strain on my limited technical facility.  But I shall soon have to extend the subject-matter of my paintings to embrace my conceptions of the Supermen and Superbeings, as already mentioned.   By now I am tired of depicting Spiritual Globes and, in a still higher context, the Omega Point, or culmination of all spiritual convergence, as originally taught by Teilhard de Chardin, that in many ways most revolutionary of Catholic thinkers!  I must go back down the evolutionary ladder, as it were, to grapple with the millennial contexts of both old brains and new brains artificially supported and no-less artificially sustained.  Of course, no-one really knows what I am doing or what my intentions are.  They are much too stupid and naive here for that, and this applies as much to Dr Richardson as to Major Saunders or Matthew Sharpe or even Robert Dunne.  As to Edmond Shead, whose acquaintance I have yet to make ... despite his  presence at Sharpe's wedding anniversary the other night, I suspect he will be no more receptive or enthusiastic than the others about the future course of evolution, as envisaged by me.  That is what you get for living in a country which is fundamentally dedicated to thwarting evolutionary progress and maintaining allegiance to liberal humanism, come what may!  I write and speak much too frequently on the transcendent plane for their comfort, and am accordingly obliged to confess, in somewhat Nietzschean vein, that 'I am not the mouth for those ears'.  Even Susan, who is supposed to be Irish, takes umbrage at certain of my theories, which she regards as detrimental to traditional female norms.  But at least she is prepared to grant them some credence and to acknowledge their long-term plausibility.  At least she accepts that I speak the truth, not illusions or half-truths, like our friends and acquaintances.

     But if the unadulterated truth is unlikely to be published here, in Britain, it should at least see the light of day in Ireland when the time comes for me to return, as I am sure it will soon.  In the meantime, I must persevere with things as they stand here, and thus make an effort to take the general lack of appreciation of higher thought for granted, which makes pariahs out of freethinking intellectuals of a progressive stamp, like me.  The English are fundamentally a materialistic people and, consequently, one could hardly expect the idealistic truth of religious or psychological evolution to be championed by them!  Even the truth of political evolution is apparently beyond them, insofar as they remain chained to capitalism and thus oppose socialism or anything socialistically transcendent.  That is why only my humanistic literary works, stemming from my earliest years as a writer, have been published in England, while the transcendental ones languish on the shelf in my study, awaiting their rightful place when the time comes for radical change in Ireland.  There is also, however, an in-between literary realm transitional between humanism and transcendentalism which amounts to a significant proportion of my work and which, if it couldn't be published here, might well find some appreciation in America - that leading transitional civilization of the Western world.  For if America isn't exactly on the transcendent level of evolution, it is at least beyond humanism to an extent which makes it more receptive to what might be described as a bias for truth, and so to literary works reflecting a stronger penchant for truth than would be acceptable in England.  If 'Betwixt Truth and Illusion', my first volume of philosophy, is acceptable here, then I see no reason why 'A Bias for Truth', a more evolved volume, shouldn't be acceptable there, since it should appeal to a transitional civilization in containing approximately 75% truth (as opposed to merely 25% illusion).  However, 'The Unadulterated Truth', my latest volume of philosophy, I must reserve for the coming Ireland, which will, I hope, be entirely transcendental and accordingly able to endorse the strongest possible degree of literary truth.  I would be a fool to offer it to any London publishers!

     But there are serious drawbacks from being in this position, not the least of which is the tendency people have to identify one with one's published work.  "Ah, so you're the author of 'Betwixt Truth and Illusion'!" they exclaim, and, somewhat shamefacedly, I have to admit to the fact.  The worst part is when they begin to discuss it, asking me about specific parts of the book or giving me their own opinions on the subject-matter under surveillance.  Then I really have to grit my teeth and persevere with them in an attempt to avoid a show-down, to spill the beans about my best, i.e. unpublished, work, and thus to reveal my utter contempt for and indifference towards the humanistic material which they mistakenly imagine to be truly representative of my philosophical position.  To say: "I no longer believe a word of all this" about such material would be too cruel on them and would expose me, moreover, to a degree of incredulity, on their part, bordering on nihilism, since they would have difficulty in believing that I existed under false pretences, ostensibly as a liberal bourgeois like themselves but, in reality, as a transcendental revolutionary whose best and most progressive work still awaited its rightful publisher!  No, that would cause too many complications, including the necessity of my explaining to them exactly what I do believe in - assuming they could be expected to understand it!

     Indeed, there are more than a few occasions when I come dangerously close to giving the game away, as it were, with inquisitive strangers whose persistence in dwelling on my published works almost unhinges me and virtually compels me to defend myself from their inaccurate observations and callous accusations by refuting everything they say.  But somehow I manage to restrain the impulse to vindicate myself to them, even though at a considerable cost to my intellectual self-esteem.  One man even tried to point out the moral limitations of 'Betwixt Truth and Illusion' recently, accusing me of reactionary conservatism.  To be sure, I could have emphasized the moral limitations of that work far more cogently and stringently than ever he did!  Nevertheless I remained silent and swallowed his shallow criticisms as a matter of course.  If he knew who he had really been talking to he would probably have pissed in his pants, the silly sod!  But where most people here are concerned, it's the "Forgive-them-for-they-know-not-what-they-do" attitude one is obliged to endorse, if only because the whole truth would be beyond them.

     Thus, despite my numerous temptations for self-revelation, I have generally held my tongue and thereby refrained from giving the game away as to my real inclinations.  I am something of a wolf in sheep's clothing, though occasionally the clothing has shown signs of wear-and-tear which have come dangerously close to exposing the wolf!  Especially is this so of my neighbours and acquaintances - for example, Major Saunders and Dr Richardson, who have had more than a glimpse, in recent weeks, of my true self, and this after I have attempted to reassure them that, at heart, I am a perfectly docile middle-class citizen, with no revolutionary predilections whatsoever.

     Of course, I'm not entirely lying when I describe myself as middle class.  For I was born into a professional family, even though my father was a comparative failure whom I never saw anything of, while my mother was of working-class origin and didn't live with my father for very long.  But I have lived so long in intensively urban environments that my class instincts are somewhat ambivalent, and I often find myself thinking like a proletarian when I am expected to show middle-class sympathies.  This has happened quite frequently since I came to Norfolk, so that even my wife has had occasion to raise her brows when I refer to some middle-class habit or value with derisory contempt, and then in the company of people who could only be surprised, if not offended, by it.  With regard to appearances, however, they take me for a gentleman, since I don't particularly look or dress like a yob.  But the influence of lengthy confinement in a working-class area of north London persists in intruding into my conversation from time to time, so that, if well-intentioned, these respectable bourgeois folk are obliged to shake their capitalist heads and think something to the effect: "Poor fellow, he was really up against it there!", or: "Poor fellow, his class integrity certainly suffered in consequence of all that urban conditioning!", and so on, with accompanying sympathetic expressions thrown-in for good measure.

     A bourgeois isn't supposed to hate nature, but I do.  They explain this in terms of my long confinement in the city.  A bourgeois is supposed to have confidence in parliamentary democracy, but I speak disparagingly of it, likening it to a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.  They explain this in terms of my previous lengthy exposure to proletarian views.  A bourgeois is supposed to prefer classical music to rock or jazz, but I don't.  They explain this by saying that poverty prevented me from regularly attending classical concerts whilst I was in London.  A bourgeois is supposed to affirm the relevance of Christianity, especially in its Protestant manifestation, but I detest it and am all in favour of churches being replaced by meditation centres in which transcendentalism prevails.  They explain this by saying that my exposure to modern jazz had a detrimental influence on my morals, and so on - all rubbish, to be sure, but that is the only way they can excuse me to themselves and thus save face for having to deal with me either directly or through my wife.

     No, I am not middle class, in any strict sense of that term, and I doubt if I shall ever be, no matter how long I live in the country.  Rather, I am an amalgam of contradictory elements subject to fluctuation, depending on the environmental and/or social circumstances in which I happen to find myself at any given time.  When the time comes for me to throw myself into the battle for social revolution, then I dare say I shall do so with a clear conscience, irrespective of whatever efforts I am now making to lead a perfectly unassuming provincial existence.  If I lived above myself in London I'm now being obliged to live beneath myself in Norfolk, until eventually I may regain my psychic equilibrium and live on something approximating to my rightful level.  Exactly when that time will come, I don't presume to know.  But it will make a pleasant change from living in alien contexts, veering from one extreme to another as one strives to attain a balance.

     Tomorrow I shall be going to see what Shead's revolutionary invention is all about, but, in the meantime, something curious has happened.  I received a letter from a certain Philomena Hawkins - one of many dozens of letters I receive every week - referring to my latest publication in sympathetic and even flattering tones.  She writes that she couldn't quite believe that I was the person she had once known, albeit briefly and superficially, in London all those years ago.  For she had no idea what became of me since we last saw each other.  The fact that I had become a writer, and a philosophical one to boot, came as quite a shock to her; although it was an even greater shock for her to discover that I had based one of my principal characters in 'Crossed-Purpose' on her, and then in the context of romance.  Was she imagining things here, or had I really based Petula on her?  Could I please respond?

     Well, if respond I must then respond I did, informing her that she may well have conditioned the workings of my subconscious to some extent in the formation and subsequent development of the character in question, although I had no specific person in mind when it was drafted.  However, as Philomena had always charmed me whenever we chanced to meet in the past, I added that I should be glad for an opportunity to meet her as soon as possible, even given the fact of her London address, and hoped we could discuss 'Crossed-Purpose' in more detail thereafter.  The letter from me was duly posted and now I await, with a certain trepidation, her reply - assuming I get one.  Curiously I never once found out what Philomena's surname was, so I had no way of personally contacting her, even though I possessed the rudiments of a Finchley address.  It couldn't have been Hawkins at any rate, since that appears to be her marital name, if the 'Mrs' she put against her signature is anything to judge by.  She was a Catholic, I remember, and had bright-blue eyes - very Irish-looking really, though spoke with an upper-middle-class English accent.  I haven't of course mentioned any of this to Susan, but I expect I will be able to concoct some kind of plausible excuse for going down to London, if and when I receive a positive reply from Philomena.  There is always the art dealer and publisher alibi, as well, for reinforcement's sake, as the obligation of a loving son to visit his ailing mother from time to time.  But whether I shall be mixing business with pleasure ... is something that will depend on the impression Philomena makes on me, not to mention I on her.  Yet I am convinced that she wouldn't have gone to the trouble of writing to me in such flattering tones, if she didn't have some ulterior motive in mind - possibly romantic.  I'm not a complete fool and neither, so far as I can recall, is she.  In fact, she seemed very intelligent, a literary student and woman of musical taste, when I knew her.  More cultured than any other young woman I had ever known or currently know, including my wife.

 

 

CHAPTER THREE: SHEAD'S REVOLUTIONARY INVENTION

 

"I'm sorry we couldn't show you our little invention before now," remarked Edmond Shead as, with the conclusion of the introductory handshake, I followed his tall figure up the thickly-carpeted staircase of the rather affluent-looking detached house in which he lived, alone apart from a maid and a couple of small dogs, no more than a few hundred yards from myself.  By 'we' he was alluding to himself and Robert Dunne, who was also with us, not to Patrick Lyttleton, a complete stranger to me who had arrived just a few minutes before and was now standing at the top of the stairs, waiting, it seemed, for further guidance.  "But there were one or two last-minute hitches in getting it in proper working order."

     "I've all the patience in the world where other people's inventions are concerned," I averred, allowing myself the gregarious luxury of excessive understatement.  "Besides, I rather enjoyed the suspense from having to wait."

     We reached the first floor, suffered further introductions, and turned left along a narrow corridor before entering, at the far end of it, a room of about normal size though abnormal height - well over twenty feet.  I held my breath as I crossed the threshold into its brightly-lit interior, and expended it with a sigh of relief when I saw that nothing particularly unseemly was going on.  For other than a video recorder, some chairs, and a rather nondescript apparatus vaguely reminiscent of a dentist's chair, the room was completely empty and not the scene of sexual depravity or physical torture, as I had half-expected from the scant information already received from Robert Dunne on the subject of Shead's revolutionary machine.

     "Well, this is it!" my amiable host informed me, and not only me but, so it appeared, the little bald-headed man called Patrick Lyttleton also, since he had yet to be properly initiated into the room's secrets.

     We both stood a moment baffled by the apparatus before us, like two working-class schoolboys confronted by the interior of a car factory, and made not the slightest comment, nor could we have done so.  For Robert Dunne was quick to intrude with "Any guesses?", and since neither of us felt like making one, a puzzled and slightly embarrassing silence supervened, although I had a few private ideas in mind!

     "Perhaps you'll be in a better position to guess when it's set in motion," Shead kindly volunteered, and almost at once he pushed a button on the upper right-hand side of the contraption, where there was a panel of various-coloured buttons with terse, rather diminutive information plaques beneath.

     The START button immediately began a process that quickly threw me into convulsive laughter, an upshot which, brought about by the sudden confirmation of my suspicions, must have had a reciprocal effect upon Lyttleton.  For he soon began to snigger, despite whatever pretensions of seriousness to which he may have laid prior claims.  And why not, seeing that, once set in motion, the apparatus became sexually explicit, as a phallus-like object, hitherto concealed from view, thrust up into the air through a small aperture in what must have been a plastic seat and then rapidly withdrew, only to thrust up again in identical fashion a split second later, and so on, with piston-like regularity.

     "Why, you've created a fucking-machine!" I impulsively exclaimed, unable to restrain my language.  "That's a plastic cock you've just set in motion!"

     Patrick Lyttleton emphatically nodded his bald head in evident agreement and sniggered some more.

     "Too bloody right it is!" Shead admitted, a warm glow of pride suffusing his ordinarily pallid countenance.  "And that object up through which it thrusts is where young ladies position themselves throughout the duration of the, er, copulatory procedures.  The artificial phallus comes in a variety of sizes, so a woman can select whichever size she needs in order to satisfy her wants."  Here he pointed out a cabinet on the left-hand side of the machine in which some ten plastic substitutes were stored, ranging in length from 5-12 inches and in diameter from 1-3 inches.  There were even substitutes in the collection which had the appearance of being circumcised, and here Shead stressed that, whether for religious or cultural reasons, some women would prefer them to the plain, or uncircumcised, variety.  "After all, one has to cater to the widest possible taste," he added, casting Lyttleton a self-satisfied look.

     I watched, fascinated, as the demonstration exhibit continued to thrust backwards and forwards into thin air, while my fellow guest, having regained a modicum of seriousness, questioned the chief inventor of the machine about possible variations in the rhythm pattern, as he politely phrased it.

     "Yes indeed!" Shead responded, with evident alacrity.  "This is where the button panel comes in.  For here ..." and at this point he pressed a button adjacent to the START one "... we have the means of imposing a quicker rhythm on the phallus."

     And, sure enough, the plastic dildo now began to thrust backwards and forwards through the hole in the seat twice as fast as before, to the intellectual relief and optical satisfaction of Lyttleton.  "Ah, that's really excellent!" he averred, simultaneously nodding his bald-headed approval.  "As she approaches orgasm, a woman would require a quicker thrust."

     "Indeed she would," Shead concurred knowledgeably.  "And by pressing this third button, she can increase the rate of thrust even more."

     This was perfectly true.  For now the artificial substitute was moving so fast through the air that I could scarcely see it, let alone keep up with its rhythmic progress.  Once again I had to laugh, though not without evoking a sympathetic response from all but one of the others, who were only too easily infected by my amusement.

     "Yes, it does take a bit of getting used to at first," Dunne opined, partly, no doubt, for my benefit, but also partly because he had been of the amused party and doubtless felt it was about time he contributed something constructive to our appreciation of the machine, if only for Shead's sake.   "You'll be even more surprised to see what's coming up," he added.

     "But please stand back first," his senior colleague advised us, and when we had done so he proceeded to press a fourth button on the panel, which immediately had the effect of precipitating what appeared to be an orgasm from the plastic phallus in the form of a thick spray of semi-opaque liquid which shot up into the air from a central spout in a succession of rapid jerks, before crashing down onto the seat and surrounding area of the floor.  Even Lyttleton had to laugh here, as well as clap his hands in obvious delight at what had just happened.  "This milky liquid, composed of various harmless chemicals, is designed to simulate sperm," Shead rather pedantically informed us, wiping some of it from his brow, "though the device can be fed actual deposits of sperm when used as a method of effecting pregnancies."

     "You mean it can be used to propagate children?" I incredulously exclaimed, hardly daring to believe my ears.

     "Oh yes!" the assistant inventor interposed with obvious relish.  "We didn't just intend it to function as a thrill machine, an artificial alternative to the male sex.  We also hoped that it would prove a viable substitute for impotent husbands; for those husbands, more especially, whose impotence, though not entirely preventing them from achieving orgasm, takes the form of an inadequately forceful discharge, in which sperm is deposited insufficiently far into the, er, vagina of his partner to be capable of effecting a pregnancy.  Thus for women whose husbands let them down in this way - and there must be literally millions of them - the solution is not to sue for divorce, still less resign oneself to going childless, but to purchase a device like this, into which a deposit of the husband's sperm can be placed for the subsequent attainment of an artificial insemination which is both pleasurable and efficacious, the fruitful outcome of which could only be a joyful pregnancy.  Thus our invention can not only save marriages, it can create lives!"

     "How extraordinary!" cried Lyttleton, and despite my initial misgivings I just had to agree with him.  Why, if one could make one's wife pregnant through artificial means, what was there to stop an intensely transcendent artist like myself from exploiting such a device to telling effect, even given the fact that I personally disliked babies?  I smiled to myself, visibly intrigued by the prospect.

     Meanwhile Lyttleton had gone closer to the machine and was now looking at the penile substitute with the air of an experienced connoisseur, painstakingly engaged in the arduous process of estimating the value of a masterpiece.  Shead, to facilitate his guest's assessment, had slowed the rhythm pattern of the thrusting mechanism down to bedrock level, as it were.  Dunne was wiping-up such of the ejaculated liquid as was accessible to his mop, whilst I, virtually hypnotized by the sexual revolution, stared in wonderment.  Could it be that men were about to be put out of business by this invention, I wondered?

     "And the great thing about it, from a woman's point of view, is that she can trigger off the artificially-induced orgasm to suit herself," Shead continued, taking over the reins of exposition from where Dunne had tactfully dropped them.  "She needn't fear a premature climax from her partner, as all too many women do, nor be obliged to masturbate after his climax has left her unmoved.  Simply by regulating the rhythm of the phallus, she can bring on her own orgasm as and when it suits her, independently, if needs be, of the artificial one.  And, believe me, this apparatus will always guarantee maximum satisfaction, not leave her frustrated or unrequited in consequence of impotence!  By stepping-up its rhythmic speed she'll be brought to an orgasm sooner or later, and can continue to experience as many natural orgasms as she needs, bearing in mind that, unlike a man, this lover won't grow tired or run out of juice, but can continue to function indefinitely, supplying her with as many artificial orgasms as she can take."

     "Ideal!" Lyttleton concluded, his connoisseur's air becoming steadily more pronounced.

     "And, of course, she can always change the size of the synthetic member to one that, well, provides her with the maximum of satisfaction and the minimum of frustration, if you follow me," interjected the mop-weary subordinate inventor, as he laid his soggy mop to one side.

     Lyttleton eagerly nodded his shiny head and put fingers to chin in response to the exigencies of fresh mental calculations.  "Hmm," he at length concluded, drawing out his musings with evident relish, "a device that absolutely guarantees a lady satisfaction, can be used for business as well as pleasure, is perfectly safe, since immune, amongst other things, to venereal diseases, has virtually infinite appetites, can be switched on-and-off at will, ejaculates more forcefully and, if I'm not mistaken, copiously than a natural organ, is comfortable to use, comes in a variety of colours, may be tailored to suit the individual requirements of the customer, and, what's more, puts no physical demands on her ... seems like a jolly good commercial proposition, if you ask me!"

     Shead was almost foaming at the mouth here, and I thought for a moment that he was on the point of kissing his important guest's hands when he opened it, instead, to inform him that there was an additional dimension to the apparatus which modesty alone had precluded him from imposing upon us - the dimension, namely, of a sound recording attached to the rear of the machine which could facilitate sexual abandonment by mimicking the real-life blandishments and physical struggles of a lover.  "One may choose here from a variety of alternative recordings," the senior inventor went on, pointing to the relevant box, "from the most coarsely reproachful to the most subtly endearing, and all to make the experience as life-like as possible.  Actually, we had intended to introduce you to this aspect of the total experience through a video, if you're satisfied with the, ah, introductory demonstration."

     "Very satisfied indeed!" Lyttleton declared, and I automatically concurred with him, though I was beginning to realize that I existed on a vastly different plane than my fellow guest in the inventors' eyes, and was becoming puzzled as to exactly what my station or function could possibly amount to here.  Nevertheless I silently accepted the chair offered me beside Lyttleton, while Shead drew up a chair behind us and Dunne busied himself with the video equipment, before switching off the lights.

     "The model in the video will be a stranger to both of you," Shead announced, with I knew not what clairvoyance, as the first splash of colour erupted onto the screen some five yards in front of us.  "But have no fear, she's a very attractive young lady."

     And, sure enough, that she was, being a medium-built brunette in her early twenties - long-haired, blue-eyed, slender-legged, and well-curved, amongst a variety of other significant statistics.  I could see that she was standing in this very room.  For part of the mechanical copulator or penetrator or whatever could be seen to her left, motionless like a posted sentry.  I waited impatiently for her to undress, which she was doing slowly and deliberately, almost as though she were engaged in a striptease act, removing her black mini-skirt with graceful nonchalance and then peeling off her skimpy vest in the same slow, calculated manner.  One could tell that she had thoroughly rehearsed her part in the interests of professional polish, since this video was evidently intended for advertising purposes.  The model obviously knew what was expected of her, doubtless because Shead had given her a thorough briefing, if not coaching, and so ensured that she undressed in the correct way, with feminine finesse coupled to excited longing for the machine.  Even Lyttleton was beginning to breathe more quickly and audibly as the brunette removed her even skimpier bra with scarcely-concealed impatience and exposed, in bending down to remove her panties, a pair of the most delightfully-pendulous breasts it had ever been my good fortune to behold.  Her stockings, suspenders, suspender belt, and high heels were not to be removed, however, evidently because they constituted no obstacle to the attainment of her coital desires.  And neither, it soon became apparent, did the mechanical copulator itself, since she had obviously been instructed in how to operate it and knew exactly what size she wanted, taking a large uncircumcised substitute from the side compartment.  Then, having lovingly caressed the chosen organ for the benefit of her libido, she inserted it into the thrusting device beneath the seat, and stood back to admire her handiwork.  At the same time a running commentary by Shead played-on in the background, or perhaps one should say foreground, since it was quite loud and thus precluded the necessity of either Shead or Dunne saying anything to substantiate the information being imparted to the viewer.  In this way, Lyttleton and I gleaned that the model's name was Trudi, that she was dying to re-experience the thrill Janko - evidently the name of the copulator - had previously given her, and that she had complete confidence her sexual needs would be fully satisfied.

     And in case one had any lingering doubts, now came the moment of truth, the revelation of guaranteed sexual satisfaction as, becoming suddenly respectful and coy, almost apprehensively so, Trudi climbed astride the plastic seat, leant back on the comfortably-padded one-prong back rest, fumbled under herself for the artificial lover, and, satisfied that everything was in proper alignment, excitedly pressed the START button on her right, which immediately brought a suppressed cry of pain to her lips as the lover in question thrust unfeelingly upwards into her tender flesh.

     I instinctively looked away from the screen at this point; for I am no sadist to take pleasure in another person's pain!  Next to me, Lyttleton coughed faintly in evident embarrassment at the spectacle before him, but gallantly said nothing.  The recorded commentary was still droning on, and now to the effect that the initial pain caused by the first few thrusts of the artificial phallus was as nothing compared with the intense pleasure which the smooth functioning of Janko would soon engender, as Trudi gradually stepped-up 'his' copulatory speed and simultaneously availed herself of the recording facilities to-hand - these being, in her case, a rather lusty male accompaniment to her mounting sexual abandonment which was a potent mixture of animal grunts and verbal teasings, including the rather deferential use of a variety of four-letter words.

     Well, I sat there both intrigued and revolted at once, and I am sure that Lyttleton was experiencing similarly ambivalent feelings to me, though he made no comment, which wasn't altogether surprising in view of the audio intensity of the sex recording in question!  Now I understood what Shead had meant when he said that modesty alone had precluded him from imposing this further dimension of the mechanical copulator upon us.  To be sure, it was hardly something for cultivated ears!  Anyway, regardless of its aesthetic shortcomings, the vocal accompaniment evidently succeeded in pandering to Trudi's sexual needs, since it lent the overall experience extra erotic potency, turning the machine into a near-life substitute for an actual man.  From the business angle there was even the possibility of playing-up this aspect of the total experience, of harping upon the advantages, from a woman's standpoint, of having a lusty audio accompaniment, a vital ingredient of sexual relations which had perhaps been lacking from her previous sex life?  Why, therefore, should not a woman whose human lovers had been verbally inhibited profit more from the total experience offered by Janko, who, by contrast, was capable of the most lustfully uninhibited blandishments?  What woman could possibly resist such an advantage?

     Yes, I was beginning to acquire a certain respect for Shead's ingenuity here, which was reinforced by the visual evidence of sexual satisfaction now so blatantly exhibited on screen, as Trudi, having in the meantime further stepped-up the speed of the mechanical copulator, opened her mouth wide and tilted her head back with the approach of orgasm.  Here, once again, Shead's commentary came to the fore just as the lustful blandishments reached a brutal climax and then suddenly faded into the background, like a passing train.  We had to be informed what Trudi's next move would be, lest there were any doubts on the matter.  And her next move, logically enough, was to push the orgasm button and precipitate an artificial ejaculation from the plastic thruster which was intended to synchronize with her own, more natural orgasm.  Her next move, needless to say, was timed to perfection.  For, as she pressed the required button, her mouth opened wider and her head was tossed from side to side in the ecstasy which engulfed her, obliging her to cry out in the throes of a pleasure crisis and hold on tighter to the seat for fear of falling off.  A 'forcefully copious orgasm' was the commentator's verdict here, and, to be sure, it was impossible not to believe him, given the optical and audible confirmation before us!

     With the termination of her passion, however, Trudi could do no more than stagger from the by-now quiescent machine and slump exhausted to the floor, opening her legs to the viewer in order, presumably, to assure him that she had both received and returned a climax at the same time.  And what a climax!  For there could be no denying that the milky liquid which now trickled from between her thighs had been generously offered and no less generously received!  One could also see, if in need of any reassurance, that the artificial phallus left no bruises or marks behind, so that it was indeed as safe and gentle to use as its inventors claimed.  And, finally, one could note the obvious relief occasioned by surfeited desire on the young model's beautiful face, her eyes closed in peace, her lips forming a complacent smile, one of her hands gently and absentmindedly caressing a breast.

     Yes, it was unquestionably an impressive propaganda campaign Shead and Dunne had devised between them, and now that the video had run its intensely erotic course, I had no option but to join Lyttleton in congratulating them both for the success of their achievement.  Lyttleton, it transpired, was more relieved than me that the machine was capable of such gratifying results, since it was from him that the warmest praise was duly elicited.  "A truly remarkable demonstration!" he opined, his voice trembling with a degree of suppressed embarrassment, now that the lights had been switched back on, and both Shead and Dunne were again revealed, the former still sitting behind us, the latter nonchalantly standing near the video recorder.  "One wonders how you managed it."

     "Yes, it was certainly a convincing performance," I added, without intending to sound ironical.

     "Well, as you could see, Trudi was the person who managed the most, since all we had to do was film her and tape the commentary," declared Dunne in what I could only suppose to be sympathetic understatement.  "But we can assure you that her feelings and responses were genuine, not feigned.  We've had a job to keep her away from the damn machine ever since!"

     Both Lyttleton and I sniggered at this comment, though I personally had some reservations as to its probable veracity.  Nevertheless Lyttleton's next response left me in no doubt whatsoever as to his role here, since it was directed solely at Shead.

     "I'll take up your offer of a patent on Janko and set about getting him into mass production during the next few months.  I can only be grateful that you've given me first option on buying him and, frankly, I've full confidence that he'll succeed.  It will, however, be necessary for me to have a few words with my younger brother, Thomas, about this.  But I don't think you'll need to look any farther afield for your manufacturer.  I'll have Janko on the market by next year at the latest.  In fact, I'll convert my old vibrator-producing factory into a place capable of turning out at least a hundred of these, ah, mechanical copulators a week, and I'm reasonably confident that the workforce will be prepared to modify their constructive skills along more autonomous channels, as soon as I can get the basic mechanical components of the apparatus designed and properly assembled, the dildo-like aspects of it in particular."

     Shead's face brightened appreciably, and he all but heaved a sigh of gratified relief.  He had evidently been uncertain as to whether Lyttleton could be persuaded to put the mechanical copulator into production, but now he was confident that the manufacturer meant business.  And business could only mean money, possibly lots of money, considering how sexually efficacious his invention was.  He would become rich and famous, and Dunne along with him.

     I listened to his gratified response to Lyttleton's assurances with some pleasure but couldn't help wondering, all the same, exactly what my role here was.  After all, it seemed unlikely that they would have invited me along just for the fun of it, especially in the company of such an important (from their point of view) guest as Lyttleton.  Could there be some ulterior motive involving my wife, I wondered?  To be sure, I couldn't discount the possibility that she secretly wanted a child by me and, realizing I had no intentions of giving her one through natural means, hoped that I could be induced to make her pregnant artificially, which is to say, through the medium of Janko, in whose plastic prick a deposit of my sperm would be lodged.  The idea certainly wasn't unfeasible, and I marvelled at my wife's imaginative ingenuity in conceiving of it - assuming she had.  But that was hardly likely to be the official reason for my presence here and, as soon as Shead had said his fawning piece, I tentatively inquired about my possible role in the proceedings, fearful of the worst but hoping for the best.

     "Ah, forgive me for keeping you in suspense all this time, Jason," he responded, becoming slightly flustered now that I had forced the issue upon him.  "I ought to have told you earlier, but I wanted to see what your response to our little invention would be, before suggesting the possibility of your becoming involved in our project, er, artistically."

     "Artistically?" I echoed, baffled.

     "Yes, you're a painter and photographer of merit, aren't you?"

     It was almost as though he needed reassuring and, immodestly, I nodded, admitting as much to him.

     "Well, with your valuable assistance, we feel that we shall be able to put our product across better, assuming you'd be prepared to photograph the apparatus from various angles and make several sketches of it.  A famous artist like you would automatically confer additional prestige on our invention, particularly if ..." He halted in his verbal tracks, unable, through embarrassment, to continue, though I had a hunch what the crafty bastard was driving at!  Nevertheless I refrained from comment on that score, partly out of respect for Susan, and contented myself, instead, with reminding him that I wasn't famous as an artist but only as a writer.  "Ah, yes, but you do possess considerable talent in regard to painting," he countered, seemingly unperturbed by my excuse, "and could only enhance your, shall we say, growing reputation as an artist by contributing to our project.  Mr Lyttleton, for one, will be prepared - will you not, sir? - to commission a number of paintings and sketches from you, as well as some photographs, over the coming months."

     "I most certainly will," the manufacturer replied, blushing under pressure of this unexpected reference to his future responsibilities.

     "Well," I said, after a cautious glance at my prospective patron, "I'll do what I can to satisfy your requirements, despite my dubious status as an artist.  I don't know who's been spreading rumours about me, but I'm certainly not the famous painter you might like to imagine."

     Robert Dunne coughed ironically, then apologized to me in person for any misinformation with which he may have supplied Shead out of a personal enthusiasm for my work.  "It wasn't that I attempted to hype you up in my colleague's eyes," he confessed, finding time to interpolate a mildly ingratiating smile into his apology, "but that I sincerely believe in your painterly talents, and am quite convinced you're the best man for the job.  Your transcendental bias would be admirably suited to the depiction and possible clarification of such a supernaturally artificial apparatus as our Janko."

     I nodded my aching head on a confirmatory impulse, but had my doubts all the same.  Time alone would tell, I realized.

 

 

CHAPTER FOUR: A RENDEZVOUS WITH PHILOMENA

 

It wasn't long before I got a reply from Philomena and was duly obliged to make excuses to my wife about having to go down to London for a couple of days, to attend to some outstanding business with my dealer.  As it happens, I would have had to make a trip down to London shortly in any case, since I wanted to arrange for an exhibition of my latest canvases in one of the more avant-garde galleries there.  So I was partly telling the truth to Susan when I informed her of my impending departure and did what I had to, in order to dissuade her from accompanying me.  Of course, I knew Susan well enough, by now, to realize that she wouldn't begrudge me a little additional sex on the side, if I could get it.  But one can never be too explicit or open about such matters with women, since it automatically offends their sexual vanity, making them assume you think greater satisfaction can be found elsewhere, in someone else's bed…. Which fact might be true, though they will never admit that another woman could give you more satisfaction than themselves.  Not Susan, at any rate!

     But if getting away from Norfolk for a while wasn't too difficult, then finding somewhere suitable to stay in London certainly was, since I needed a hotel not too far from Philomena's Finchley address.  Eventually I tracked one down, but not before I had exasperated myself in the process, namely because I can never abide a noisy front room, and was obliged to turn down at least four unsuitable offers.  The fifth, however, was in a small hotel in Muswell Hill, where I gratefully deposited the meagre contents of my zipper bag on the single bed of the only available rear room, which happened to be on the first floor, and prepared myself to meet Philomena, having already telephoned her and informed her of my arrival.  We had agreed to meet in a café round the corner from the hotel, to have lunch together, and then, assuming things were developing reasonably well, to return to her flat, which would be empty, since her husband was at work and therefore several miles away.  That would give me plenty of time, I figured, to grow better acquainted with her.

     I cannot pretend, however, that my return to north London was the unequivocal pleasure I had perversely imagined it would be, after almost two years' absence.  Rather, I was saddened by the memories of my previous life to which it gave rise, and hastened, in consequence, to seek what consolation I could in Philomena's company.  She entered the café ten minutes late, just as I was beginning to fear that she might have changed her mind and backed down at the last moment.  At first I didn't recognize her, but automatically responded to her recognition of me which, considering we hadn't laid eyes on each other for several years, was remarkably prompt.  I stood up, blushing perceptibly, like a schoolboy at the awkward age, and somewhat self-consciously shook hands with her, taking what comfort I could from the fact that embarrassment at this meeting wasn't solely confined to myself.  I scarcely knew what to say to her, so bewildered had I become with the sudden, poignant recognition of her outstanding beauty.  There were so few women in the world, especially this part of it, who could be described as outstandingly beautiful ... that it was both a shock and a strain to be actually meeting one, to have her sit before one at table and scan the menu for a suitable dish.  I could only marvel that her beauty had ripened with age.  For now, in her late twenties, she was even more attractive than she had been at twenty-three or twenty-four.  Admittedly, the same features were still there - the eyes still bright blue, the nose gracefully aquiline, the mouth delicately sensuous, the brow high and smooth, the cheeks firm, the chin unobtrusively angular, the hair fine, long, and black (though today pinned-up in a neat little bun), the nape slender, the ears exquisitely small and flat, the shoulders gently curved, the hands ever so finely chiselled, and so on - but they appeared, whether because of my relative unfamiliarity with them after so long or, indeed, because they had slightly changed in the meantime, to belong to another person, superior in quality to the Philomena I had once known.  Doubtless my imagination was partly responsible for this impression, but it was with some difficulty that I ceased to stare at her, like a star-struck adolescent, and ordered the lunch she had requested, which I unthinkingly also requested for myself.

     "So," she said, as the waitress went about her business, "this is the author of Petula Reed, is it?"  There was a characteristically mischievous sparkle in her eyes and a faintly reproachful tone to her voice, which had the effect of precipitating me into a fresh wave of embarrassment.

     "I hope you weren't offended by the fact that Petula came to a bad end in 'Crossed-Purpose'," I nervously responded.

     "Well, I wasn't exactly elated by it, Jason," declared Philomena with characteristic frankness.  "You seem to have given all the best roles to Susan."

     My discomfiture mounted with this reference to the novel's leading female character, who bore the same name as my wife, although she had been derived from a different source - one known only too well to Philomena.  "Yes," I admitted, "I was rather more biased in Rachel's, I mean, Susan's favour in those days."

     "And now?" Philomena asked, that mischievous sparkle in her eyes again.

     I gently shook my head.  "One falls in-and-out of love," I confessed, still feeling on edge.  "As one gets older one realizes that love isn't necessarily the chief criterion by which to evaluate another person's suitability to oneself.  One looks to other criteria - for instance, intellectual companionship, temperamental affinity, cultural predilections, professional status, ethnic suitability, and so on.  But, as a youth, it's the heart that governs the head, not vice versa."

     Philomena smiled sympathetically.  "So you're anxious not to fall in love again, is that it?"

     At which point our lunches were served, thereby saving me from further embarrassment.  For I would almost certainly have answered her point-blank in the affirmative.  As it was, we ate our respective portions of roast chicken mostly in silence, although Philomena, who was evidently less hungry, persisted in forcing a degree of conversation upon me.  In this way I learnt that Rachel, the young woman from whom the character of Susan had been drawn, was still friendly with Philomena and that, occasionally, the two of them would exchange visits.  I also learnt that Rachel was married with two children, and that Philomena herself had one, though he was away at boarding school, like, I decided to tell her, my wife's children.  She was of course surprised to learn that my wife's name was also Susan.

     "And you're not in love with her?" she boldly asked, as we reached the end of our meals almost simultaneously.

     "No," I replied.  "Nor was I ever, to any appreciable extent.  It was simply a marriage of convenience, because I desperately needed some company after moving away from London.  I suppose my first and greatest love was Rachel, who rather blunted the prospect of my ever falling deeply in love with anyone else.... Not that I particularly mind now, since, as one gets older, love becomes less passionate, in any case."

     Philomena offered me a tipped cigarette, which I uncharacteristically accepted, if only for her sake.  I despised cigarettes, but couldn't very well expect her to smoke cigars instead.  The fact that she had once, with what seemed like bohemian insouciance, rolled her own cigarettes was surprising enough to me, though it had largely been connected, I suspect, with the rather straitened circumstances of being a student.  Nowadays, however, she could afford to buy cigarettes, since she made a fairly tidy little sum as an author, freelance journalist, and part-time bookbinder.  In fact, bookbinding was, it seemed to me, the kind of occupation especially suited to a spiritually-inclined young woman like her, because it suggested a step up from crochet or knitting.  Not clothing for apparent purposes, but pages for essential ones.... I could understand Philomena's bias there.

     We smoked in silence awhile, and then Philomena asked me whether I enjoyed living in Norfolk, which struck me as a strange question to ask after her previous one.

     "Well, I prefer it to London," I replied.  "After all the years of solitude here, I'm sure I'd even prefer Hell, provided one wasn't alone there."

     "How many years, exactly, were you alone?"

     "Over nine."

     Philomena raised her brows and opened her mouth slightly in sympathetic horror, whilst I blushed to be reminded of it.  Blushed, too, for fear of being overheard by the other people in the café - no doubt, Londoners every damn one of them!  "Yes, I suffered a serious depression in consequence, the effects of which are still with me.  I could never have become resigned or acclimatized to an environment at such a far remove from my provincial conditioning and ancestral background.  I was always something of an outsider, isolated from my rightful environment.  Anyway, I hoped, in moving out of London, that I'd be able to go from one environmental extreme to another and so speed-up my recovery."

     "And did you?"

     "No, not quite.  Admittedly, my current environment signifies a step in the right direction.  But, as far as its negligible effects on my depression are concerned, not a sufficiently radical step, I'm afraid.  I wanted, if possible, to live in the country, but I only succeeded in living in a fairly residential suburb of Norwich.  There's still too much concrete, glass, and steel around for comfort."

     Philomena smiled faintly, and I thought I could detect a spark of relief in her eyes, like she needed to hear all this.  Was she withholding some important information or knowledge from me, I wondered?

     We ordered coffees, smoked another cigarette together, and then paid up and left.  I had imagined the journey to her Finchley flat would be conducted by bus or, possibly, taxi, but, to my gratified surprise, found myself stepping into a little Citroen 2cv6 which Philomena had parked nearby.

     "Do you like them?" she asked, referring to Citroens in general.

     "Hmm, I guess so," I replied, yanking the rather tight seat-belt into place and casting an interested glance over the dashboard panel.   "Once a freak, always a freak, don't you think?"

     "In some cases, Jason," she admitted, smiling ironically as we drove away.

 

 

CHAPTER FIVE: INTELLECTUAL INTIMACIES

 

We arrived at Philomena's address some ten minutes later and, once she had securely parked the car, entered the block and ascended the lift to her flat on the second floor.  She had four rooms in all, and I was introduced to the largest.  It was tastefully decorated in pale matt tones, with modern lightweight furniture, a warm full-sized carpet, a couple of small abstract paintings, and an admirably copious collection of books and discs all stacked in chronological order on shelves lining one of the walls.  No sooner had I found my bearings, as it were, than I was offered a chair and a glass of sherry, which I accepted with alacrity.

     She lit herself a cigarette and sat down opposite me in the other armchair, drawing up her legs so that her heels dug into the soft cushion material in front.  I hadn't noticed much about her clothing until then, but now saw that she was wearing dark stockings under a beige skirt, which was buttoned around a white blouse that, on account of its nylon fabrication, was fairly transparent.  She had removed her high heels and now assumed an appearance of restful abandon, as she savoured the aroma of her cigarette and eyed me with sympathetic curiosity.  I thought her even more beautiful like this than she had looked in the café, and couldn't resist conveying my impression to her.

     "You're not supposed to say such things to a married woman," she teasingly responded, allowing herself the luxury of a modest blush.  "Isn't Susan beautiful, then?"

     "Not as beautiful as you," I declared, taking pleasure in Philomena's scarcely-concealed delight at the fact.

     "I guess I ought to return the compliment in suitably modified terms by saying how clever you are, Jason, to be the author of such an interesting novel as 'Crossed-Purpose', not to mention the various parts of 'Betwixt Truth and Illusion'."

     "I'm afraid you do me a disservice by evaluating my cleverness on the basis of those works," I bluntly informed her, "since I've long since ceased to write like that, or, indeed, to write anything at all, having developed into a painter and photographer in the meantime."

     "Gosh, I am surprised to hear that!" cried Philomena, whose response was only to be expected.  "How did that come about, then?"

     I endeavoured to explain, filling her in about my subsequent post-humanistic writings and the inevitability of my having gravitated to art whilst I waited for both a full recovery from the depression which north London had so callously inflicted upon me and a chance to expand my professional interests in the direction of politics.  My best writings, I went on, were unlikely to be published in England, since they were too ideologically advanced to be acceptable within the framework of a liberal civilization rooted in royalism.  Only a pro-transcendental civilization could do proper justice to them, and it was my destiny, I felt, to help bring about such a civilization when the time was ripe.  As yet, there was no possibility of one being created, so I had no real option but to bide my time and persevere with my painting activities, whilst I recovered from depression.

     "Perhaps it wasn't so much London as England which is the chief cause of your depression," Philomena suggested, as she stubbed-out the butt of her cigarette and poured herself - I having declined - another glass of sherry.

     "Not entirely," I confessed, slightly amused, "though there's undoubtedly some truth in what you say, since England is a pretty depressing place for someone like me, who happened to be born in Ireland of Irish parents.... By the way, you're not English, are you?"

     Philomena shook her head.  "I was born in Ireland but raised in England, which is why I have an English accent."

     "Like me," I remarked, showing visible signs of relief.  "I always thought you were Irish, though I had no way of knowing for sure, not having discovered your surname."

     "Gill," she informed me, blushing at this reminder of her maiden name which, as I well knew, no longer applied.  "But my husband, being a Hawkins, is an Englishman, and a fairly typical one at that."

     "What, a conservative dickhead?" I conjectured, a shade maliciously.

     "If that's someone who's rather old-fashioned, capitalist, cynical, materialistic, stolid, monarchic, puritanical, muddleheaded, sports mad, pedantic, obsessed with keeping up appearances, and virtually incapable of taking criticism," Philomena responded, showing signs of impatience,  "then yes, I suppose he is!  Such Englishmen, you inevitably learn, are never at fault about anything, never in the wrong.  One is supposed, in the event of failing to congratulate them for their moral shortcomings, to take their stupidities for granted!"

     "A legacy, in part, of an imperialistic tradition and, in part, of an entrenched ethnicity," I opined, knowing exactly what she meant.  "And that's why, amongst other things, one is supposed to believe that parliamentary democracy is the best possible kind of democracy, beyond which one cannot progress.  For as soon as one begins to speak in favour of Social Democracy, of participatory rather than representative democracy, one is talking, according to such born capitalists, of socialism, about which nothing good should be said, since it implies the public ownership of the means of production, and in a country where the overwhelming ownership of business is in private hands, and is likely to remain so even under a Labour government, socialism can only be a dirty word.  A curious fact, really, but the people who boast, above all others, of being the freest in the world are, in reality, one of the most enslaved peoples, subjects of a constitutional monarchy, whose political and other traditions impede the progress of freedom like virtually nowhere else on earth.  They may talk about freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to write, and presumably publish or, rather, have published, what one likes, etc., but, in reality, a man whose thoughts were truly free, and thus geared to spiritual redemption, would never be encouraged to air them in monarchical England!  They'd reject his thoughts out-of-hand."

     "As, presumably, they've done where yours are concerned?" Philomena ruefully conjectured.

     "Yes, certainly with regard to my transcendental thoughts, which approximate the closest of all to ultimate truth.  Only my early work, which was conventionally humanistic, is acceptable to them, and then only because it doesn't expose the limitations of capitalist civilization to any appreciable extent.... But to hear some Englishmen talk, you'd think that civilization had reached an apotheosis, beyond which no further evolution was possible!  More's the pity that one can't get the truth across to them and thus save them from their seeming ignorance of the fact that the individualistic competitiveness to which they so eagerly subscribe is fundamentally barbarous.  Unfortunately they don't want to be saved from it, least of all by an Irishman, whose constant opposition to what they stand for is taken for granted and simply regarded as an ethnically-conditioned thorn-in-the-side which, deriving in some measure from the cloudier if not wetter climatic factors traditionally typifying Ireland, it is better to ignore than to heed, since neither animal can change its spots, nor, for that matter, its weather."

     "'Where ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise'," Philomena quoted from a memory evidently well-stocked with poets like Gray.

     "Don't believe it!" I retorted.  "Ignorance enslaves and binds one to the illusory.  Only truth can liberate and lead one towards bliss.  There's nothing blissful about ignorance.  All one can say is that the English live in a kind of fool's paradise which will be rudely interrupted in the not-too-distant future."

     "I take it you're alluding to the ever-growing influence of Europe and the inexorable advance towards greater European unity," said Philomena, putting down her sherry.

     "Partly to that, and partly to one or two other things besides," I admitted, preferring not to enlarge.  Instead, I got up from my armchair in order to take a closer look at her library, which was ranged against the opposite wall in six tiers of brightly-varnished wooden shelves.  There must have been at least 3000 books there, mostly novels and poetry, of which I had probably read several hundred in the heyday of my literary interests.  Nowadays, however, literature usually disgusted me, especially when English.  To read a bourgeois novel was beneath me, and even bourgeois/proletarian ones, as I liked to think of those which had a fairly proletarian subject-matter but had been published in traditional book formats, had long ceased to intrigue me.

     "How do you differentiate between them?" Philomena inquired of me, after I had told her as much.

     "Bourgeois novels are like this," I replied, pointing to a copy of Aldous Huxley's Point Counter Point.  "They are aligned with liberal humanism and appertain to the bourgeoisie.  Bourgeois/proletarian novels, on the other hand, are like that ..." here I drew her attention to her copy of Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer "... in which a generally more proletarian technique and subject-matter prevail.  The former tend to be mainly fictitious and narrative, whereas the latter are mainly factual and autobiographical.  As a rule, the former prevail in England and the latter in America."

     Philomena drew attention to my novel 'Crossed-Purpose' and said it must be bourgeois then, since embracing bourgeois characters and settings as well as avoiding the use of proletarian words, especially the principal four-letter ones.

     "Yes," I rather shamefacedly conceded.  "It is effectively a bourgeois or, at any rate, petty-bourgeois novel, which explains why, together with my other early works, it was published in England.  They'd be unlikely to publish my later, proletarian writings here though."

     "How d'you distinguish between your proletarian works and bourgeois/proletarian literature?" she not unreasonably wanted to know.

     "Precisely by the fact that whereas the latter is published separately or, rather, individually, as a novel, a volume of poems, a volume of essays, and so on, the former should be published collectively, as a collection of writings in which a novel or, at any rate, prose work, a collection of poems, short stories, etc., will share the same tape and/or compact disc and overall title.  I say 'should be published' advisably, since such an omega-oriented literary format would be out-of-place in the alpha-stemming humanistic civilization one finds in England and to some extent the West generally.  Even the Americans, with their transitional civilization, would be unable or unwilling to publish full-blown proletarian literature, as represented by collectivization on the formal level and by transcendentalism on the conceptual one.  That's why their literature is, at best, bourgeois/proletarian, whereas, at its best, mine is distinctly proletarian."

     "And therefore only likely to be published in a future revolutionary country?" Philomena conjectured doubtfully.

     "Yes, for a full-blown transcendental civilization will be exclusively omega-orientated and therefore not prepared to countenance independent publications of the individual, traditional literary genres which stem from the influence of the manifold roots of life, and consequently permeate the lower levels of human evolution.  Here, in England, I go under false pretences, since people take me for a bourgeois novelist on the strength of my published work.  Not knowing anything about my unpublished ones, nor about proletarian literature in general, they have no real option.  Fortunately, however, I know better, and although I'm obliged to placate the bastards to some extent - and so pretend to being something I'm not - I remain adamantly opposed to their standards and am simply waiting for the opportunity to reveal my true, higher self when the time is ripe."

     Philomena drew herself up closer to me, as though she needed my physical support.  It was an old habit of hers, I remembered, to stand as

close to me as possible.  "And does your collectivistic literature use many four-letter words?" she asked.

     "Not too many," I confessed, knowing full-well what she was especially alluding to, "partly because I have intellectual blood in my veins and am not therefore as partial to words like 'fuck' and 'cunt' as I might otherwise be, if I were less of a head and more of a body, so to speak.  There are undoubtedly more such words in Henry Miller's bourgeois/proletarian literature than ever there would be in my work.  But I don't claim to be the last word, as it were, in collectivized writings.  In reality, I'm only the first, a beginning which has yet to officially materialize on the world stage.  Even the so-called proletarian authors of the Soviet Union wrote in the bourgeois framework of a specific genre, and that was because Marxism-Leninism provided no real moral or spiritual dimension in which to develop a genuinely proletarian mode of writing.  Being tied to materialist values, they wrote in a context which reflected the infernal nature of materialism and, most especially, of dictatorial realism.  But having developed a spiritual reference-point, I'm able to transcend the separate genres in collectivized formats which, stored on computer disc, are the first truly and completely omega-oriented manifestations of proletarian literature.  That such a literature will develop further in the future, I have no doubt.  For, as I said, I don't include as many foreign words and phrases as would be compatible with a more evolved proletarian literature."

     "You mean, the use of foreign languages would correspond, on the verbal level, to a collectivization compatible with omega-orientated criteria?" Philomena suggested, having in the meantime caught hold of my hand.

     "Yes," I smilingly assured her, grateful for her ability to follow my reasoning, which wasn't to be found in many women - including, I might add, my wife.  "For just as the inclusion of various genres in a single volume reflects, on the formal level, a convergence to a literary omega point, so does the use of various languages reflect, on the verbal level, a similar tendency, in opposition to the individual language distinctions which stem, in a manner of speaking, from the alpha roots of life in the stars, and have constituted a source of racial conflict and misery for centuries past.  To only write in one's own tongue, with no foreign words and phrases, is equivalent to only writing as a novelist or a poet or a short-story writer or whatever, instead of as a collectivist.  One is then merely one of many separate nationalities writing in the interests of his own national language rather than aspiring towards a true, multilingual internationalism.  Now the finest bourgeois/proletarian authors invariably use foreign languages, and refer to them frequently.  Henry Miller, for example, uses French and German in his novels which, while not being particularly impressive, considering he doesn't use them all that often, is at least preferable to someone like Evelyn Waugh who, being a bourgeois novelist, eschews foreign words and phrases altogether, virtually on principle.  Admittedly, bourgeois authors often use Latin and Greek, which we also find, albeit to a lesser extent, in bourgeois/proletarian writings as well.  But no such classical tongues should be used in proletarian writings, since their transcendental bias would automatically exclude pagan associations and ingredients.  I, for instance, don't use Latin or Greek in my own higher writings, and wouldn't encourage their use in the future.  But I'd have nothing against the use of French, German, Spanish, Italian, modern Greek, and Russian, to name but a handful of foreign languages, in predominantly English writings, which could only profit from a more international approach, as pioneered by James Joyce in his own transitional novels."

     I was delighted to see copies of both Ulysses and Finnegans Wake on Philomena's bookshelves, and confessed to her that my previous admiration for Joyce's late work was largely founded on the extent of his anti-conservatism and anti-traditionalism, which I considered essential ingredients in the march of evolutionary progress.  I also commented favourably on the large volume of Pound's Cantos which graced her library, remarking that, as a bourgeois/proletarian poet, Pound had gone further than any of his contemporaries in developing a multilingual literature.  He had even used Asiatic and Middle Eastern languages in his mature poems, which, not surprisingly, few of his contemporaries could have been expected to appreciate or evaluate in their true light.  For it wasn't mere egocentricity or literary hype on his part, to switch from one language to another, but fidelity to spiritual progress in a lingual convergence to the literary omega point of a truly international poetry.  What Pound had done for poetry, someone else would do for the more evolved medium of collectivized literature, though with more radical and frequent cross-references between one language and another.

     "And what d'you think of Koestler?" Philomena asked, pointing out From Bricks to Babel, a selective anthology of his oeuvre.

     "Quite a lot actually," I ventured to reply, overlooking the irony in her choice of book.  "Especially as regards that publication, which, although anthological, is probably the nearest we have yet come to full-blown collectivization on the bourgeois/proletarian level; though it usually happens that the bourgeois writer gets collectivized posthumously, in accordance, one might be forgiven for thinking, with the religious beliefs of Western civilization in regard to a posthumous afterlife.  Of course, I don't see eye-to-eye with him everywhere.  Yet, in spite of that, he strikes me as being a kind of forerunner of myself, a shift away from Marxist-Leninist materialism towards a transcendentalism with socialist overtones.  Yes, he was certainly an important influence on my own philosophical development - one of only a few such influences.  His best work would not be banned in a society dedicated to transcendental progress with a social dimension.  It might prove necessary to edit parts of his work in such a society, but there are certainly aspects of his mature writings which would appeal to a people for whom a purely materialistic interpretation of life proved unconvincing."

     "And what about Malcolm Muggeridge - doesn't he fit into a similar anti-materialist framework?" Philomena rejoined on a knowingly inquisitive note.

     "Yes, but on a Christian rather than a transcendental level, which, frankly, is of little relevance to the future," I averred.  "Muggeridge is simply the tail-end of humanistic civilization, whereas Koestler, being more transitional, points in the direction of a transcendental civilization.  Muggeridge is basically reactionary through and through, like his literary hero, Evelyn Waugh.  Yet that isn't really surprising, since, as already remarked, English civilization is essentially liberal and its writers likewise.  One gets the odd exception, of course.  But, then, they generally wrote abroad, having already forged an international reputation.  Aldous Huxley is an example of what I mean, a bourgeois who started out on humanistic lines and slowly gravitated, partly under American influence, towards a transitional or bourgeois/proletarian framework in which transcendental criteria came to predominate.  In this respect, his late works are ideologically superior to his early ones."

     "A truism surely, since a genuine artist should always develop spiritually from a lower to a higher level as his career advances," Philomena declared.

     "True, he should," I confirmed.  "But not all of them do, maybe because they aren't as genuine as at first appeared.  Take D.H. Lawrence, for example.  Can one say that his work improved as he went along?  Hardly!  Although, if one takes his own rather sensual standards for measure, one could argue that he extended them and became more radically neo-pagan as he went along.  But much as, from a bourgeois/proletarian angle, his technical approach to writing was admirably spontaneous, his philosophical bias left something to be desired, driving him in an increasingly reactionary direction.  One isn't going to set oneself on the road to salvation by following D.H. Lawrence's example, believe me!"

     Philomena smiled deferentially, though persisted in standing as close to me as possible.  She had no intention of letting go of my hand, either.  "Tell me something about your own approach to writing," she requested, following a short pause.  "I mean, did you write quickly or slowly, for instance?"

     "In general, I wrote quickly, and so conformed to post-humanistic spontaneity.  I didn't want my work to become bogged-down in preciosities or grammatical determinism, but preferred to keep things moving along as much as possible."

     "And did you sometimes split infinitives or end sentences with prepositions?" Philomena wanted to know, becoming more like a grammatical neurotic of the Virginia Woolf category by the minute.

     "More than that, I did all sorts of things upon which pedants and critics could only frown," I admitted boldly.  "But that was my literary prerogative as a creative writer, since the writer's business is to extend creative free-will at the expense of grammatical determinism, and the more he succeeds in doing so, within the context of his own age or stage of civilization, the greater his achievement and the nearer he stands to the apotheosis of creative freedom in the maximum literary abstraction.  As I told you, I was only a beginning where post-humanistic literature is concerned, so I didn't, alas, bring literature to its final liberation from grammatical fetters!  That day will eventually come, a day when transcendental civilization gets properly under way and a freer, higher type of literature is developed.  In the bourgeois and transitional civilizations, however, the degree of progressive freedom permissible and obtainable is inevitably limited by the integrity of those civilizations in a framework which is still tied to appearances, since stemming from the diabolic roots of life in fidelity to open-society criteria.  Even my early work displayed certain technical freedoms which the critics found objectionable and didn't hesitate to condemn.  They imagined that I was incapable of writing correctly, or that I had tried to and failed.  But the truth of the matter was that I had simply followed my bent as a creative artist, by extending creative freedom at the expense of grammatical determinism.  Not very far admittedly, since I was a lesser writer in those early days than I subsequently became, with my collectivized work.  At first, it was a struggle for me to bring myself to split infinitives.  But, eventually, I could do so without blushing or turning a hair - my literary conscience complacent.

     "However, not being artists themselves, the critics can only assess one's work according to conventional criteria," I continued, after a short pause.  "For they must have a predetermined scale-of-values with which to apply an assessment in the first place.  That scale of values, stemming all-too-often from school textbooks, is precisely what the artist should be in rebellion against.  So the critic is bound to misunderstand him and do his work a grave disservice in consequence.  As Baudelaire remarked somewhere: 'The world only goes around by misunderstanding'.  What could be truer than that?"

     "What indeed?" responded Philomena, who blushed more violently than was her custom, presumably because I had touched a tender spot in her psyche which had special reference to the relationship of the sexes and the female attitude to men.  Curiously, however, her blush had a seductive effect on me, for I automatically applied a warm kiss to her nearest cheek and then another, slightly more lingering one to her brow.  She looked at me with what seemed like horrified surprise for an instant, before relaxing into a sort of encouraging smile.  Her very close proximity to me had, it appeared, paid off, since she was now squeezing my hand more tightly, whilst allowing me to gently stroke her cheek.  Frankly, I had no desire to resist her any longer, having grown tired, in any case, of discussing my literature, which in any case no longer really applied to my life, and could only respond to her physical allurements in appropriately appreciative terms.

     "Jason, you quite surprise me!" she declared in an ironically reproachful manner.

     "I do?" I smiled, knowing full-well what the score was.  For she had obviously expected me to fall into her trap all along, even from the day she first wrote to me.  And I, grown weary of Susan, was just waiting for the opportunity to do so, mindful of her considerable beauty.  Only, it had been necessary to keep up pretences of indifference to sex for form's sake, because that way neither of us would unduly compromise the other.  Now, however, we both sought to dispose of such pretences as quickly as possible, like a butterfly escaping from its cocoon, in order to enter into a sexual freedom which would fully reveal us to each other physically.  She knew something about my mind and now I, in turn, wanted to discover exactly what kind of a body she had.  And so, purposefully, I undid the button on the waist of her skirt and helped myself to the buried treasures underneath.

 

 

CHAPTER SIX: SOMETHING UNEXPECTED

 

It would be futile to dwell on all the words which passed between us that afternoon ... after we had made love and I, anxious not to embarrass her husband, who would shortly be arriving back home from work, reluctantly resigned myself to a solitary evening at the hotel.  It was then, just before we departed, that Philomena revealed to me the real motive for her letter and subsequent invitation.  I couldn't have guessed beforehand, but it seemed a perfectly logical strategy on her part to keep me in suspense until the last moment, which is to say, until we had gone carnal together and she had evidently come to the conclusion that a more permanent relationship would not be out of the question.

     Now, as I sit in my train compartment on route to Norwich, everything falls into place, and I can only marvel at Philomena's audacity in seducing me on such mercenary terms.  I am glad, though, that I didn't wait around in my hotel room this morning for her intended visit in the company of Rachel, and am only sorry that I couldn't have left some kind of cogent excuse for my unscheduled departure.  As far as I am concerned, a couple of hours spent with Philomena is time well spent, especially if, as would more than likely have been the case, she had allowed me to undress her and slowly work my way over her tender flesh, taking pains to fulfil every last spasm of desire which the mutual chemistry of our two bodies engendered.  But with Rachel present - oh no! that would have been a completely different matter, and one that my past experiences could only caution me against pursuing.  For I had been deeply in love with her and had no desire to run the risk of resurrecting past misfortunes in a fresh outbreak of unrequited passion.  With Philomena, on the other hand, I felt relatively safe.  For, despite her considerable attractiveness, there was little risk of my becoming involved in a passionate love-affair with her.  But Rachel had been extremely dangerous from the romantic point-of-view and, for all I knew, could still be so!  If Philomena had wanted me to fall in love with Rachel all over again, then she was bound to be disappointed that I had made an escape while the going was good.... What, exactly, her reactions were, on discovering my absence from the hotel, I wouldn't like to guess.  Although I am pretty confident that Rachel would have been even more disappointed, given the magnitude of her past accomplishments.

     So now I am on my way home, fleeing from a potential threat to my spiritual integrity or, as it might alternatively be put, intellectual vanity.  I know, deep down, that a recrudescence of emotional love in my life, after all these barren years, would probably do me some good, bearing in mind my therapeutic need of whatever sensual stimulation I can get.  But I'm also mortally afraid of the consequences, afraid, above all, that I might be thrown off course as an artist, and thereupon diverted into channels not pertinent to my current or, indeed, previous artistic and literary preoccupations.  I still see myself as potentially a kind of ultimate messiah, and am therefore extremely wary of the dangers inherent in strong emotional attachments to another person.  Besides, I must also consider Susan and the possibly disruptive effects such attachments could have on our marriage, which, while far from ideal, is at least pleasantly tolerable.  I must even consider Philomena too, since it was she who induced me to go down to London, seduced me when I was there, reduced me to the unlikely status of an obedient sensual slave, and produced on me the extraordinary impression that she knew in advance I would accept her offer, even though I told her it would be necessary for me to have a serious think about it, as I am now attempting to do in this rather noisy compartment of a fast train to Norwich.  Probably she read how I felt about it in my face, and therefore didn't have to take my verbal reservations and hedgings too seriously.

     Well, the offer I am contemplating happens to be connected with the recent demise of her aged mother, who formally bequeathed to Philomena the estate she had inherited from her brother, some twenty-six years ago.  The maternal branch of Philomena's family line happens to be English, and rather wealthy at that.  Her mother was the daughter of a certain Colonel Blake, who acquired a quite extensive property in Gloucestershire just prior to the sudden outbreak, in August 1914, of World War One.  He was duly killed in action, so his only son, Gerald, inherited the property through primogeniture.  Like his father, Gerald also entered the army and, true to family tradition, was killed during the height of the desert campaign in North Africa during World War Two.  Surprisingly, he left no will.  But, as he was a bachelor at the time of his death, the Blake property duly found its way to his only sister, Margaret, who came over from Cork with her Irish husband to claim it.  Here, a few miles north of Huntley, in abundant space and peace, young Philomena Gill was raised.  For she was still merely an infant when her parents left Ireland, and accordingly knew next-to-nothing about the land of her birth.  She was sent, in due course, to boarding school, but returned to Blandon at the holidays, where she played with her younger sister, Daphne.  This arrangement continued virtually unbroken until Philomena left school and went up to university.  Whilst at college she met and married Nicholas Hawkins, preferring thereafter to live away from home for good.  Now, however, the death of her mother, who had outlived her father by several years, gave Philomena the opportunity to move out of her Finchley flat and return to Blandon, where a more privileged life surely awaited her.  And having lived in London for nearly eight years, Philomena was keen on the idea of doing so, not least of all because, like myself, she had found city life somewhat uncongenial.  But there was an obstacle in the way, and that was her husband, who wished to remain in London to continue in his chosen career as junior editor with a major West End publishers.  He liked his work, knew that he would be eligible for promotion to more responsible editorial duties in the near future, and had no desire to leave London - the city of his birth.

     Thus Philomena found herself faced with the decision of either selling the property, since her younger sister was now married to a South African millionaire and had no interest in returning to England to inherit it, or divorcing Nicholas Hawkins and finding a more suitable husband with whom to share it.  Partly for sentimental reasons and partly, too, because she genuinely wanted to live at Blandon, she had decided on the latter alternative.  And that is precisely where I come in, since she was hopeful that I could be induced to get a divorce and duly go and live with her in the country.  That is the real reason why I was invited to her flat and, to a certain extent, that is why I am now on my way back to Norwich, having opted to extricate myself from further complications or inducements in the interests of a little sober reflection and to recover some peace of mind.  My wife will doubtless be surprised to see me back so soon, for I had told her I would be away at least two days.  And my West End dealer will also be puzzled by my sudden volte-face, as communicated to him by telephone first thing this morning.  But I would have been in no fit state to discuss paintings today, what with Philomena's offer playing so heavily on my mind.  And what an offer!  For isn't a country house in spacious grounds just what I need to facilitate a quicker, more thorough recovery from my crippling depression?

     Yes, I had made it clear to Philomena, during lunch yesterday, that I wasn't completely satisfied with my current environment on the outskirts of Norwich, which is insufficiently rural for my needs.  Now I begin to understand the significance of the relief that came over her face, with the reception of this information.  For she must have been secretly hoping that my suburban existence would leave something to be desired, even granted that it signified an improvement, in my eyes, on the urban one to which I had grown so painfully accustomed in London.  No doubt, from that moment she was keener on the idea of inviting me back to her flat for the afternoon, more optimistic that her dreams would be fulfilled.  I had only to prove myself sexually competent ... for the way to be open for her to reveal her intentions to me, to put the proposition of rural co-habitation to me on the basis of my status as a self-supporting, independent artist.  There is nothing to stop me from moving to Gloucestershire with her except my marriage, though she thought I could dispose of that if I really wanted to, which is to say, if it suited my sensual needs to forsake Susan for the sake of more efficacious supplies of the pagan existence elsewhere.  Added to which, the prospect of Rachel's being introduced as a further incentive in this matter, and one has my current dilemma in a nutshell.  For I certainly wouldn't put it beyond Philomena to reintroduce Rachel to me solely for the purpose of enticing me to live with her - though where, exactly, Rachel would fit into the pattern, I can't as yet imagine!  Perhaps as a domestic functionary at Blandon, or someone who could be relied upon to pop in-and-out of it on a fairly regular basis?  I don't honestly know, and neither do I wish to speculate any further here, since I'm already confused enough with the option of moving there myself.  And how, I wonder, would I set about concocting a credible excuse for divorcing Susan, who has never gone out of her way to offend or betray me?  I shall have to consider that later, when I am in a better position to judge.

     But now that I'm on my way back to the little house in which I live, I feel a certain longing for Susan, even respect and sympathy towards her, which is doubtless partly derived from my recent infidelity.  In short, I would like to atone to her in some way, possibly by having it away with her as soon as I get indoors.  For she would be grateful, I feel confident, for a little sexual attention.  Women are usually grateful for that, since, whatever they may pretend to the contrary, it's basically what they live by, whereas we men are always aspiring after spiritual ambitions which generally leave them cold.  There is always the danger, in modern marriage, that the woman will be neglected in her vital needs to an extent which could never have happened in the - shall we say - more sensual past, and will rebel against her husband in consequence.  There are times, I have to admit, when I sense in Susan a longing for sex that my intellectual and artistic activities tend so often to deny her.  She is sitting near me, pretending to read a book or even to admire one of my paintings but, deep down, wishing she could drag me away from my cultural preoccupations awhile and have me gratify her sexual needs.  Sometimes, of course, I do gratify them - assuming I've satisfied my spiritual aspirations for the time being or have grown tired of work.  But often I refuse to sacrifice my world.  I exploit her cultural pretensions as a lady of good breeding, in order to remain firmly entrenched in it.  Consequently she has no option, short of complaining, but to play along with me, and this she usually does, because her vanity as a relatively liberated young woman apparently demands as much.

     Of course, I know full-well that, with my crippling depression, I still need as much sexual release as I can possibly get.  But my past habits, the fruit of prolonged solitude in north London, generally get the better of me, in spite of superficial appearances to the contrary, and thereby prevent me from leading the life of a compulsive lecher - assuming such a life would be acceptable to a person of Susan's sensitive disposition anyway (which, frankly, I incline to doubt!).  Nevertheless she persists in living with me, and I can only suppose that she derives a degree of compensatory satisfaction from my status as both a famous author - more famous, by far, than herself - and professional artist.  A paradox really, but that is generally the way of things in the modern world.  Women are increasingly becoming their own worst enemies these days.  They have their sexual needs as before, but persist in behaving more like men, so that the spiritual life begins to take priority.  In some marriages, however, the tension which arises between the basic physical needs of the wife and the spiritual ambitions of the husband is so great, that the marriage sooner or later snaps apart in divorce.  My own marriage can't be all that far from snapping, though I suppose I owe it to Susan's intellectual vanity more than anything else that we are still bound together, if only superficially so.  Perhaps also to the fact that when I do get around to having it off with her, I try my damnedest to satisfy her, as though to compensate her for all those times when I'm wholly indifferent to sex.  Then her pleas for clemency fall on deaf ears and I cause her to squirm and twist with fiendish delight.  I thrust up into her fissured sex like I want to rupture it, to pierce its undulating walls.  Sometimes I squeeze her breasts so hard that her milk squirts out of them onto my face.  She is afraid that my probing tongue will choke her and frantically turns her head from side to side in a vain attempt to escape it.  She wriggles desperately when I have her on her stomach and threaten to drive my fingers up her arse, probably because she fears they will become soiled with or stink of shit and that I will consequently contaminate her clothing or hair or something.  Even a hand thrust into her cunt is a threat of something or other to her - maybe a fear that it will get stuck there or that I will get urine on my fingers or cause her too much pain.

     Ah, poor Susan!  What haven't I inflicted upon you in the comparatively brief time we've been married!  To be sure, at heart we men are all sadists where you women are concerned, just as you women are all masochists where us men are concerned.  Your complaints and visible discomforts tend, instead of stopping us, to goad us on, to make us even more merciless towards you.  For just as a masochist obtains a limited degree of pleasure through the pain inflicted upon him by someone else, so the sadist obtains a limited degree of pleasure from inflicting pain on others.  And love-making, needless to say, involves the reciprocal relationship of masochism and sadism in mutually acceptable degrees.

     But pleasure obtained through pain is necessarily a negative emotion, is really a kind of tolerable or diluted pain.  Love-making isn't quite the undiluted pleasure it's superficially cracked-up to be!  There is pain at the heart of it all right, and that's why it is forever a feminine phenomenon, since women have a special capacity - one might almost say an appetite - for pain which men, except in exceptional circumstances, entirely lack.  Sex is therefore a kind of refined cruelty in which the woman's basic craving for pleasure-through-pain is satisfied by the antithetical disposition of the man to inflict the pain upon her for his own pleasure.

     The idea put forward by Lawrence Durrell that sadism in a man can lead to or be connected with homosexuality ... is basically false.  Rather, it's the inability of a man to inflict sexual pain on a woman which results in his being dubbed a fairy, and may or may not lead to homosexuality. 

     The Durrellian notion that the woman does not, within reason, want to be treated sadistically ... is completely untrue.  Naturally, there are limits to the acceptable extent of male sadism, beyond which it becomes overly Sadian and therefore quite unacceptable.  But the happiness, if one may so term it, of a woman ... is dependent on a degree of sadism in the male sex commensurate with sexual intercourse.  To be unwilling to inflict this necessary degree of pain on a woman is to become a fairy, and a fairy isn't necessarily a homosexual.  Rather, as a rule, are homosexuals to the manner born; people, in other words, whose predilection for their own sex is not founded on scruples of conscience in dealing with women, but follows as a matter of homosexual course.  A fairy, by contrast, can find himself going without sex altogether and be obliged, in his moral squeamishness, to make do with pornographic surrogates. 

     However, a fairy is the last thing that Susan could accuse me of being! and that is one of the reasons why we are still married.  She may protest and wriggle under pressure from my sexual assault, but she never categorically prohibits me from doing anything to her.  The way I see it, such protestations and wriggles are intended, above all else, to stimulate one's ardour, not to impede it.  The man who takes a woman at face value, in such matters, is making a grave mistake, in my honest opinion.  I learnt that lesson the hard way, and not least of all where Susan was concerned.

     On the day I first met her, in Hampstead, I managed to persuade her to come back to my bedsitter with me.  Her desires as a woman naturally fell in line with my persuasions, but her vanity as a well-bred young lady imposed the qualification that she would only visit my room as a friend.  I, like the inexperienced and naive young man I was, took it at face-value, and, although she dropped me one or two quite broad hints, whilst in my room, that sex wasn't completely out-of-the-question, I persisted in believing that a friend was all she really wanted to be.  When, therefore, the deadline for taking her back to Hampstead arrived (she had earlier contrived an alibi to the effect that she was due to meet someone at five o'clock later that afternoon), I had got no further than to show her some of my records, which, for obvious reasons, she wasn't particularly interested in seeing.  Her intellectual vanity had imposed the pretence of 'friendship only' upon me, and so, reluctantly, she was obliged to allow me to escort her to the bus stop.  Not surprisingly, that was the last I saw of her for a good many years, and I swore, thereafter, that I would never take a woman's word at face-value again!  For the most part I have kept to my pledge - as Susan would be able to attest.  Frankly, she would have few occasions in the recent past for regret!

     However, as all this wicked reflection flooded through my head, I was getting nearer home and so drawing closer to my masochistic companion, who was bound, I felt, to be surprised by my early return.  It had just gone eleven-thirty, so she would have ample time to cook me something good for lunch, as well, if needs be, as open her sexy legs to my sadistic assault.  I pushed open the front gate and hurried over the intervening space to our dark-green door, which I swiftly unlocked.  Once inside, I gently deposited my zipper bag on the floor and changed into my slippers.  Then I walked along the corridor, looked into each of the downstairs rooms, and discovered not a trace of my wife.  Suddenly it occurred to me that she might be upstairs.  So upstairs I went, hoping to find her there.  And I was not disappointed, since I could hear some laughter, alternating with what sounded like sobbing, coming from our bedroom at the rear of the house.  I was about to cry out: "What's all that noise about, then?" when a particularly loud shriek brought me to a sudden halt, and obliged me to cast a suspicious, puzzled look at the door from behind which it had come.  Was it Susan's habit to make such high-pitched noises by herself, I asked myself?  And, of course, I knew the answer to that question - which bordered on the rhetorical - could only be negative.  I realized there and then that someone or something was causing her to behave in such a fashion, and so I caught my breath and ascended the rest of the stairs as quietly as possible, anxious to discover just who or what it could be, but becoming ever more convinced, the nearer I got to our bedroom door, that there was only one possible explanation.

     Sure enough, as I put my suspicious eye to the keyhole and peered-in through its upper aperture, I found all the evidence I needed, as Leslie Richardson's head quickly became recognizable in a context of what could only have been oral sex taking place at the foot of our bed.  I nearly choked on my held breath as the moment of painful truth dawned upon me, but, fortunately, just managed to prevent myself making any give-away noises by drawing my strained eye away from the draughty keyhole and sliding to a sitting posture against the adjacent wall.  So that was it!  My premature return had brought me the revelation of Susan's adultery and obliged me to modify my sexual perspective of her at the very time when I was considering how best to atone to her for my own sexual infidelity of the day before!  I was a cuckold and dupe of my own egotistical complacency.  I had obviously underestimated Dr Richardson's interest in her, as well, needless to say, as her interest in him!  She must have called him out on false pretences, the crafty bitch, making it appear like an ordinary visit from the doctor but, in reality, preparing herself for the type of examination that only a lover could apply.  Unless I was seriously mistaken, and this was indeed Dr Richardson's customary way of dealing with his younger and more attractive female patients, I could draw no other inference from the noises which were still emanating from behind our bedroom door, nor doubt the horrified evidence of my eye, which was now aching from the effect of a kind of spiritual blow received at first-hand.  The only surprising thing was that they hadn't heard me come in, although, what with the noise being generated in their sexual obsession with each-other's private parts, even that became somehow understandable.

     Yet if ever one needed confirmation that the man's role was fundamentally sadistic and the woman's masochistic, here it was, in all its impassioned exhibitionism!  I could hardly bear to listen any longer, so unequivocally brutal were the doctor's carnal assaults upon my wife's most erogenous zones.  To take another look through the keyhole would have been the act of a masochist, and I was already beginning to feel like one from where I sat or, rather, lay, slumped against the wall.  But a sudden piercing shriek and tirade of prohibitory abuse from Susan which sounded like: "Don't you dare, you dirty brute!" nevertheless induced me to risk further humiliation, which I of course received as soon as I became aware of what had happened - namely, that Dr Richardson had manoeuvred Susan's legs into a position from which he could lie between them as he probed her gaping sex with thrusting tongue and mischievous fingers.  With her legs pinned right back and her rump kind of up in the air, Richardson had her completely at his mercy, and it was this that had led to her protestations ... as he manipulated her with an ardour worthy of a Roman patrician or full-blooded satyr!

     To be sure, I had never done anything even remotely like that to Susan, nor had I ever seen the cheeks of her crack pulled so immodestly far apart and betraying such cavernous depths of succulent flesh in and around what Dr Richardson would probably have called her vestibule.  She might almost have been on the verge of delivering a baby, so radical was the impression being created.  But I had no desire to dwell on that scene and, with a slight revulsion in my stomach, coupled to a mounting giddiness in my head, I backed away from the keyhole, tiptoed along the corridor, carefully descended the stairs, and, arriving back down in the entrance hall, leaned against the nearest wall for physical support.  For obvious reasons I couldn't stay in the house and neither could I intrude upon their love-making in the manner of an outraged husband, bearing in mind my own recent infidelity, not to mention the nervous state to which I had been reduced in consequence of my voyeuristic curiosity.  There was nothing for it but to pass the rest of the day somewhere in Norwich,  then return home again in the evening, by which time Dr Richardson would hopefully have left and thereby returned to more conventional duties.  I could pretend to having just arrived from the station, since that would be a lot easier to live with than the pretence of not knowing she had Richardson for a lover or, rather, sexual torturer.  And if she inquired about my business in London, I could pretend again, though not without a certain satisfaction derived from the sure knowledge that my relations with Philomena were entirely my own affair, not to be shared with anyone else!

     And so, with ironic resignation, I changed out of my slippers, ran a solicitous hand over my jacket, briefly regarded my distraught face in the hall mirror, and, picking up my luggage again, quietly made for the front door.  A divorce, I reckoned, would be easier for me to impose upon her now than before - even without an intrusive showdown!

 

 

CHAPTER SEVEN: CONFRONTATION WITH SHEAD

 

During the following days, life for me more or less returned to normal, although my carnal relations with Susan were somewhat less pleasurable than before.  She suspected little from my London trip, and, for good reason, I pretended that nothing untoward had happened during my temporary absence from home.  I gleaned, however, that she was intending to visit the good doctor soon in order to have a pregnancy test, and did my best not to betray any suspicions concerning the likelihood of Richardson being directly responsible, later if not now, for any pregnancy which might arise.  No doubt, her conscience had been troubling her to some extent, and this was but a concessionary manoeuvre, on her part, to allay it where I was concerned.  A surprise really, for I made no reciprocal gesture as regards Philomena.  All I said was that business in the metropolis had worked out quite smoothly, which wasn't altogether untrue.  I could only wonder, however, what sort of pregnancy test Dr Richardson would give her, when she eventually got round to visiting his surgery!

     But I had other things on my mind now, and they included my work for Shead and Lyttleton in painting the mechanical copulator from a variety of angles over the coming weeks.  Susan, of course, knew more about this machine than she was prepared to admit, but I was obliged, all the same, to explain it to her and thereby satisfy her ostensible curiosity.  Whether she would be profiting from this further absence from home each day which my work with the machine entailed, I didn't know.  Nor, in a sense, did I really care, since what Dr Richardson got up to with my wife was his own affair, or ought to be, and not something about which I need cause myself unnecessary angst.  I would have enough trouble, over the next few days, concocting a plausible excuse for going down to London again, when, in reality, I would be meeting Philomena in Cambridge, where she would have driven from London with intent to drive me across to her Gloucestershire property, in order that I could look it over and decide whether or not I wanted to live there.  This much I have understood from a new letter from Philomena, which, naturally enough, I treated with the utmost confidentiality.  She has suggested we make the trip a couple of weeks from now, which doesn't really give me that much time in which to manoeuvre, and seems rather too close to my last business engagement for comfort.  But I guess I had better go along with her suggestion, since I secretly relish the prospect of seeing her again, not to mention getting away from my wife.  Fortunately, I never allow Susan to go through my mail, which, considering the bulk of it, she would have a tough enough job doing anyway, so there should be no difficulty in replying to Philomena in order to finalize things.  No difficulty in replying to her anyway, since she didn't allude to my premature departure from London last week, which I can only put down to consummate tact on her part.  Perhaps she prefers not to jeopardize her prospects of success by dragging Rachel into it?  After all, I would almost certainly refuse her invitation, if I knew for sure that Rachel was going to be present somewhere along the line as well.  Basta!  Let's change the subject.

     The mechanical copulator is becoming paramount in my concerns.  I sit in front of it today with my painting equipment, which includes a small easel on which I have balanced, like a blackboard, my latest canvas, paid for, I should add, by the magnanimous pocket of Lyttleton, my bourgeois patron.  I sit in front of the machine, I say, and study it with due regard to its mechanical complexity, not the least eye-catching aspect of which is the smooth, regular functioning of the plastic phallus.  Were I a Balla, I would attempt to paint it in futuristic motion.  But as, by nature, I'm a classicist of abstract predilection, I can only produce a rather static impression which, to say the least, hardly does proper justice to the dynamics of the thing.  But even this motionless reproduction appears to suit Shead - provided, however, that I do full justice to the dimensions of the phallus, and even exaggerate them a little for the sake of artistic effect.  A little fanciful Expressionism isn't beyond plausibility here, and I get the impression, as I proceed with my task, that Shead doesn't mind whether I paint his brainchild blue, red, green, purple, or orange, so long as it looks sexually appetizing from a prospective client's point-of-view.  Neither does he seem to mind whether I paint the machine from above or from the side, so long as I emphasize its principal assets to telling effect.  I am beginning to like the work, although I must confess to finding it more difficult than my customary abstract creations.  Modern Realism has never exactly been my forte.  I would rather remain a non-figurative idealist any day!

     From time to time Shead comes up from his workshop downstairs to see how I am faring and have a little informal conversation with me.  He is apparently working on another invention right now, which he teasingly and rather coyly describes as complementary to this one, but he still finds time to admire his old handiwork and even to question me about my own.  Dunne I see less of, but that suits me fine, since I know him well enough by now and have already given him a verbal introduction to my theories, both aesthetic and otherwise.  Lyttleton keeps to his factory, where he evidently has his hands full converting the existing vibrator-producing machinery into the necessary productive constituents for a device like this.  He is hardly one to be envied, however, and neither, for that matter, is Shead, who knows next-to-nothing about higher thought, and whose concept of the novel is woefully obsolete.  He is even prepared to consider Camus a major novelist, the dolt, and this despite the fact that only one of that dilettante's handful of novels is longer than 150 pages!  Not surprisingly, his opinion of Sartre is less than flattering.  Doesn't even consider Nausea a novel, since it made him puke the first time he attempted reading it, back in his undergraduate days.  I shudder to think what his opinion of some of my literary works would be!

     But I don't mind discussing aspects of my work, both literary and painterly, with him, particularly as, like all blockheads, he is a relatively good listener.  The subject of God isn't one that he, like most Englishmen, has any constructive ideas about, but, despite his obvious embarrassment whenever I broach it, he appears to take a kind of perverse interest in listening to what I have to say - more out of politeness, I shouldn't wonder, than anything else.  It's as though my revelations are secretly shocking to him, a tree of forbidden knowledge which an Englishman, with his allegiance to the reigning monarch in a state-hegemonic system, should beware of sampling, lest he ends up a subversive malcontent in the company of people like me.  Take this afternoon, for instance.  We had been discussing painterly technique with regard to the advantages of acrylic over oil, when, like a born-again schizophrenic, he suddenly switches the conversation to theology and asks me, point-blank, whether I believed in God, and this after I had already told him, a couple of days ago, that I most certainly don't.

     "No," I reply, "since, for me, God is in the making, not an already-existent fact."

     "But surely the Creator exists?" he retorts, shaping to start a spiritual battle.

     "Oh yes," I half-lyingly concede, not taking my eyes from the canvas on which I am applying a large dollop of blue paint to the over-large phallus I sketched-in this morning.  "But, you see, the Creator and the Holy Spirit are diametrically antithetical, and consequently appertain to the beginning and end of time.  We start out with the Creator and we end-up with God ... conceived as transcendent spirit.... No, forgive me, I'm lying.  We start out with the Big Bang which sent billions of stars flying out in every direction from the one giant star at the root of the Galaxy - as, indeed, of every galaxy - and slowly progress towards the universal establishment of God as pure spirit."

     Shead looks puzzled and scratches his balding head in a confirmatory gesture of the fact.  He has drawn up a seat beside me and sits himself down on it, with obvious intent to get to the bottom of the mystery.  "What's the difference between the Big Bang and the Creator?" he wants to know in an almost insolently sceptical tone-of-voice.

     "The difference between objective reality conceived externally and subjective ideality derived from that reality but conceived internally," I blandly reply.  "The Big Bang, which must have occurred literally millions of times throughout the Universe, gave rise to the Galaxy, in which there's a large governing star and millions of smaller revolving stars, such as the sun."

     "I agree," he says, with rational relish.

     "Well," I say, "that governing star is precisely what it is, whereas the Creator is an abstraction from it and only pertains to the subconscious mind, from which we, at a higher stage of our evolution, are slowly evolving away, in the process of expanding the superconscious part of our psyche.  Consequently, although the Creator was a psychic reality for people at a lower stage of evolution, it cannot be so for those like myself who, in this day and age, are too superconsciously evolved, as it were, to be much under the sway of subconscious conditioning.  Thus I regard the Creator as an idealistic content - or archetype, to coin a Jungian term - of the subconscious mind which, because of psychic progress, no longer exists as a reality for me."

     "Hence your atheism?" Shead responds.

     "To an extent," I concede, "although that would be only a negative atheism and I'm essentially a positive atheist, as I shall attempt to explain in a minute.  The probability, however, that the Creator is an abstraction from the central star of the Galaxy ... cannot easily be refuted, even if it can be proved, as I'm sure it can, that those who so abstracted this deity, formerly in the guise of Jehovah, had no inkling of the existence of such a star.  For by contending that someone or something created the sun, as well as this and other such planets, one would be referring back, willy-nilly, to the big star from which, with the initial explosion of gases, all or most of the smaller ones may be presumed to have emerged."  I pause for breath, waiting for the probable intrusion of Shead's objections to my thesis, but when it doesn't come, continue, still painting: "Now to abstract the Creator from the governing star of the Galaxy is to abstract from the largest and most powerful star there, which lords it over all the weaker ones.  Thus the Creator really corresponds to an arch-devil, being more powerful even than the petty devil which was abstracted from the sun and which exists as a theological opponent, in the guise of Satan, to the Jehovahesque Creator."

     "The Fall of Lucifer," Shead pedantically remarks, and I nod my head, pleased to find that he can connect the emergence of our sun from the giant one at the centre of the Galaxy with the fall of Lucifer and his angels - other smaller stars - from Heaven, as it is somewhat euphemistically called in Old Testament scripture.  "And yet why, if the Creator is or, rather, was really equivalent to an arch-devil, did people persist in regarding Him as God?" asks Shead, not altogether unreasonably in the circumstances.

     "Primarily because, during the lower stages of evolution, it isn't love and peace which people tend to equate with the concept of God, but force and power, so that God becomes a term covering what a more enlightened mind would regard as a sort of arch-devil.  And, knowing this, such a mind won't admit this Creator-God is deserving of recognition as a Supreme Being, much less as supreme being, even if He's patently a Primal Being, given to primal doing, so to speak, but will contend, instead, that the Supreme Being, given, by contrast, to a condition of supreme being in blissful pure spirit, has yet to be created or, more correctly, attained to in the Universe, so that God in any ultimate, superior sense doesn't yet exist."

     "Then what does?" asks Shead, with a worried look on his face.

     "The stars and planets for one thing," I reply, still painting the artificial phallus for Lyttleton's commercial benefit, "and an evolutionary struggle taking place on life-sustaining planets, like the earth, to progress towards this condition of spiritual supremacy in a future Beyond, set in space.  The Creator and the Devil are abstractions from cosmic phenomena and, consequently, they don't exist as realities but only as idealistic contents of the subconscious mind, which, as I said, is slowly being outgrown.  So one's atheism is partly a response to the outgrowing of subconscious idealism and partly a response to the knowledge that, properly so-considered, God doesn't yet exist in the Universe.  We, for one, haven't put Him or, rather, it there, and neither, so far as I'm aware, has anyone else - from whichever hypothetical life-sustaining planet elsewhere in the Universe.  Indeed, even if another people, so to speak, had already evolved to the millennial stage of post-human evolution, and were accordingly on the point of attaining to transcendence, the pure spirit that emerged from them wouldn't be God, but merely a spiritual globe en route to definitive unity.  Which is to say, one of potentially millions of similar globes which would have to merge into one another, through a process of heavenly convergence, in order to establish an ultimate spiritual globe, the sum-product of all convergences from whichever part of the Universe, before God, as complete antithesis to the diabolic inception of evolution in the stars, would actually exist as such.  What began in a fall from the Manifold must culminate in a rise towards the One - that's the infallible logic of evolution!"

     "Phew, this is becoming rather complicated!" Shead confesses, and I can see that his poor Englishman's head is unaccustomed to flying at this philosophical height.  Nevertheless, being something of a masochist, he persists in questioning me about the presumed emergence in the Universe at some future time of transcendent spirit, which he assumes, in rather Huxleyian vein, will emerge from man.  Once again, I have to disappoint him, so in a rather petulant manner he then asks me: "Then from whom or what will it emerge?"

     "From the Superbeings at the climax to the upper phase of the post-human millennium," I reply, and continue with the application of blue paint to my canvas.  "The Superbeings being the new-brain successors of the Supermen, and constituting the highest possible life form prior to transcendence."

     "And what, exactly, are the Supermen?" he wants to know, puzzled anew.

     "Human brains artificially supported and sustained in collectivized contexts," I tell him, although I'm tired of repeating myself to different people on this subject, and am no longer capable, in consequence, of taking any great pride in my knowledge.  "The Supermen would constitute a life form superior to men, whereas the Superbeings, who would be even more collectivized and entirely free from subconscious influence, would, in due course, constitute a life form superior to them - a life form diametrically antithetical to trees, whose myriad sensual leaves are supported and sustained by natural means.  It's only then, with the development of the superbeingful stage of evolution, so to speak, that the world would be at its closest approximation to the transcendent Beyond.  For the post-visionary consciousness of the Superbeings would indeed be similar, albeit weaker, to the transcendent consciousness of the Spiritual Globes, which should emerge from these new-brain collectivizations at the culmination-point, as it were, of their Transcendental Meditation."

     Shead was staring at me open-mouthed, as though I was a lunatic, and, to be sure, I could only regret having embarked upon such a futuristic exposition in the first place.  As usual, I had to face the Nietzschean fact that I was 'not the mouth for those ears', since the process of attempting to explain the Millennium in post-human terms to people like Shead ... was equivalent to casting pearls before swine - bourgeois swine who were limited in their concept of or willingness to accept higher degrees of truth.  Hence the fact that I had an immense backlog of unpublished typescripts.  For the truth would never emerge from the tail-end, as it were, of humanistic civilization, least of all one rooted in power, but had to be reserved for a country capable, with the requisite prompting, of building towards a transcendental civilization as a matter of historical necessity.  Such a country, as I well knew, wasn't Britain, with its brutish traditions!  However, for all his reservations, Shead was at least making an attempt to fathom the implications of what I had just said, even though they contradicted his belief that man could literally attain to God.  "So man is but a link in an evolutionary chain which stretches from the stars to the ultimate oneness of definitive divinity?" he at length remarks, his tone-of-voice betraying some considerable disappointment in the fact.

     "That is approximately correct," I say.  "And the most that man can do is to evolve towards the post-human millennium on the sure foundations of a transcendental civilization - the ultimate civilization, which will supersede the moribund Christian one.  As men, we can never cultivate spirit to any radical extent, since we have too many sensual obligations to honour in respect of our bodies.  But the Supermen of the first stage of the post-human millennium will be in a better position to expand spirit than ourselves, since their brains would be artificially supported and sustained.  They'll exist in an evolutionary context antithetical to apes, man's ancestral forerunners, and will spend much of their time experiencing upward self-transcending visionary spirituality ... as encouraged by synthetic hallucinogens.  But with the advent of the next evolutionary leap, brought about by the technocratic leadership's development of an even more advanced technology, the Superbeings engineered out of them will emerge as participants in spiritual communism, the true communism, or, better, communalism, of the post-human millennium - antithetical, in every sense, to the sensual communism of the plants, with especial reference to trees."

     Shead looks dumbfounded.  "You mean to tell me that the Millennium, as you conceive it, will be a religious and not a political phenomenon?" he stammers, aghast.

     "Absolutely," I reply, briefly mixing some fresh paint for my aesthetic masterpiece.  "That religious context is the maximizing of spiritual expansion, through hypermeditation, in a phase of evolutionary progress leading to transcendence, and so to the attainment, by the Superbeings, of Spiritual Globes, which will converge, in due course, to the Omega Point - the ultimate Spiritual Globe.  Unless one has a transcendent dimension to one's thinking, one doesn't understand the Millennium.  And neither, needless to say, does one understand communism.  With a purely Marxist or, more correctly, Marxist-Leninist slant, one will simply project materialist values onto the Millennium and thereby distort one's conception of it from the truth of spiritual expansion, which, in any case, will remain unknown to one.  One will look upon the Millennium as a kind of equalitarian consumer society, in which people live in a glorified 'Land of Cockayne'.  But that would be well short of the truth of spiritual expansion, and it's my intention, as an intellectual leader, to make sure that such truth at least takes root in one country, over the coming decades, so that it will be protected from reactionary conservatism and eventually spread farther afield, establishing, in due course of time, a transcendental civilization."

     "Hmm, very interesting!" Shead concedes, nodding thoughtfully.  "And also very puzzling and thought-provoking at the same time!"  He draws-in a deep breath and reflects on his puzzlement awhile, thereby allowing me to continue with my painting in peace.  I had more or less completed the phallus by now and was about to apply some red to the seat of the contraption, which I hoped would appear convincingly comfortable, not to say comfortably convincing.  I knew Shead would have some loose ends in his materialistic head from the intellectual sketch I had just given him concerning the nature of ultimate divinity and the path of human destiny, but I could hardly be expected to fill-in all the details at one sitting, so to speak.  If he wanted to study the matter in greater detail, he would have to consult my unpublished typescript, 'The Unadulterated Truth', which was much more thorough than ever an ad hoc verbal explanation could hope to be.  But he would at least now possess an outline of the truth of evolution, as I conceived of it, and could therefore consider himself relatively privileged.  Not many people acquired such an outline from my lips - least of all if English!"

     Having scratched his head for I knew not what reason, Shead then asks: "How long do you expect this transcendental civilization to last?"

     "Possibly 2-3 centuries," I say, having already rehearsed the part in my imagination.  "Beginning in one country and spreading throughout the world, a civilization in which people come together to meditate rather than to pray.  It will lead directly to the post-human millennium."

     "And so to the triumph of the visionary supermen?" Shead suggests, as he leans back in his chair.

     "Yes, as a precondition of the hypermeditation of the Superbeings in the second phase of the millennium in question, the ultimate earthly spirituality prior to transcendence - the necessary prelude, in a word, to the spiritual bliss of the heavenly Beyond."

     "Amazing the way you've worked all this out by yourself," Shead concludes, chuckling deferentially.

     I blush at his flattery, but make no comment, preferring to mix some fresh paint on my rather stale palette.  Shead isn't the first person to tell me this, and I doubt that he'll be the last either.  But if I seem, at present, to have overcome his scepticism, I shouldn't forget that, as an Englishman, his aren't really the ears for my mouth.  I would do better to impart the Truth to someone who was in a position to really profit from it, to set about its consolidation in his own country.  I long for the time when I can return to Ireland, a potential saviour of my country.  Yet everything must await its appointed hour, even given the unsatisfactory nature, from a revolutionary standpoint, of the quasi-bourgeois lifestyle circumstances are now obliging me to lead in Norwich.  Perhaps if I move-in with Philomena I shall feel less frustrated, in the months ahead, about the playing-for-time which both international and personal factors force upon me?  I cannot reveal myself to my chosen people prematurely, but neither need I expect an indefinite wait, and Philomena's company should at least stimulate me and prepare me for my inevitable return to full mental health in the not-too-distant future.  Still, I'm fairly resigned, despite the inconvenience, to continuing in my painterly tracks a while longer.  I'm not, by nature, a one-track mind.  Rather, I see myself as an eclectic, changing from profession to profession as I evolve, building bridges from one vocation to another in a kind of collective or universal spirit not too dissimilar from the ideal propounded by Aldous Huxley in respect of the need to integrate education.

     Yes, I always used to write eclectically, touching upon a variety of subjects from religion to politics, science to art, and sex to sociology.  Then, partly through force of circumstances, I became a painter and photographer, again with intent to embracing diverse subject-matter.  If in the future I become a politician, I will likewise concern myself with a variety of issues, partly in response, no doubt, to my temperament.  Whether I shall thereafter become something else, say a guru or a world teacher, remains to be seen.  But I needn't consider this eclecticism a misfortune.  On the contrary, it's essential to the age, particularly to a post-humanistic age, in which separative barriers should be broken down as people build professional bridges to one another in pursuance of a variety of integrated vocations.

     The old rigid compartmentalization of disciplines and vocations is increasingly becoming a thing of the past, reflecting a diabolic inclination incompatible with transcendental criteria.  For what began in the Manifold must culminate in the One, in response to a convergence of spirit towards the Omega Point.  Doubtless Shead was puzzled by my contention that the Universe didn't begin with a single Big Bang but with many Big Bangs, each one forming the rudiments of a separate galaxy, since his stance would seem to be uncritically drawn from monotheistic tradition.  But, then again, what pertains to the Diabolic Alpha cannot issue from omega-oriented criteria or behave in a divine way, even though divinizing the diabolic, or omegarizing the Alpha, so to speak, is a virtual precondition of completely breaking with it, in a transcendental age.  We, in the West, like to pretend otherwise these days, but that is only because our superconsciously-biased psyches prefer to be flattered with mystical illusions.  Hence our preference for Einstein over Newton - a preference which, traditionally, has not been shared in the Marxist-Leninist East, where pseudo-Newtonian notions of force and mass were apt to prevail, in deference to scientific objectivity.  There, in accordance with scientific communism, it was, and in some countries continues to be, the primal reality of cosmic naturalism that was acknowledged, not the ultimate reality of superconscious idealism.  I, however, do recognize such a reality, and it is my hope that my fellow countrymen will duly come to recognize it in preference to subconscious naturalism.  Then they will have no need of religious fundamentalism, which keeps so many of them grovelling, in humiliating subjection, before the diabolic archetypes of the subconscious mind - victims of a rural past!

     Such archetypes must be superseded by a divine-oriented consciousness which recognizes only religious transcendentalism, in the truest sense of that term, and thus the truth of spiritual expansion in a world which is contracting materially, a world which is no longer taken at face-value but reinterpreted, in accordance with the dictates of scientific subjectivity, along quasi-mystical lines, including those relating to curved space.  The priests have every right, as men of religion, to fear Marxism-Leninism, with its scientific objectivity, but they would be hard-pressed to justify opposition to an ideology dedicated not to the reduction of life to the lowest-common-scientific denominator, but to the expansion of spirit towards a post-human millennium in an exclusively omega-oriented context of religious transcendentalism.  To oppose this is simply to oppose spiritual progress in the interests, presumably, of personal privilege and power - in short, to be on the wrong side of history.  Rest assured that a spiritual liberator would not be merciful towards alpha-stemming anachronisms!  Such a liberator, scorning humanistic criteria, would be the true saviour of his country, the figure chosen by destiny to divide the chaff from the wheat, as he proceeds with the establishment of his kingdom on earth - the 'Kingdom of (omega) Heaven'.

     I cease pondering these invigorating thoughts and glance up from my canvas, anxious to verify that I'm still doing aesthetic justice to the penetrative aspect of Shead's mechanical copulator.  The red I have used on the pictorial seat, on the other hand, is slightly brighter than the actual plastic of the seat itself but, in a way, that is aesthetically advantageous, since it shows off both the seat and the artificial phallus to good effect.  I wonder to myself what Philomena would make of the machine if she saw it, which of course she hasn't.... Although I did briefly refer to it during the latter stages of our conversation the other week, at a time when only natural sex seemed to interest her.  The prospect of sitting astride Shead's contraption with the biggest possible plastic phallus thrusting backwards and forwards inside her sex would be bound to intrigue her, considering that she is no idiot but a highly intelligent young woman for whom artificial criteria would less constitute a blasphemy or perversion than ... suggest the exhilarating possibility of liberation, if only temporarily, from the tyranny of natural determinism.  For Philomena excels most women in the degree to which free will predominates over natural determinism, being something of a major artist in her own right.  She would be perfectly capable of asking me to bugger her for a change - quite unlike Rachel, who was - and probably still is - too bourgeois, at heart, to be greatly taken by anti-natural and/or transcendental options - like, I should add, my intensely suburban wife.  A bourgeois, it goes without saying, lives too close to nature to be capable of overcoming or subverting it to any radical extent.  I understand why they oppose transcendental criteria, but that doesn't mean to say I need sympathize with them.  Evolution has scant regard for those who are simply the victims, and hence mouthpieces, of a naturalistic environment.  It is a struggle, after all, from nature to supernature.  The latter bias will prevail in the end!

     I look up from my painting and turn to face Shead, as if to reassure him that I haven't forgotten about his presence here.  But, to my baffled surprise, I find his chair empty and no sign of him anywhere.  He must have crept away whilst I was engrossed in thought, a moment ago, and returned to his workshop, the crafty old devil!  Just as well really, since his presence beside me was becoming tiresome.  Now I can really get on with my work in peace - without interrogative distractions.

 

 

CHAPTER EIGHT: CARNAL INTIMACIES

 

As it happened, Susan took my excuse about having to go back down to London on urgent business without adverse comment, though I could tell that some suspicions had been aroused.  Nevertheless she would now have an opportunity to call in Dr Richardson again and that, no doubt, was more important to her than anything I might be doing.  Accordingly she waved me a generous goodbye, the hypocritical bitch, when the day finally came for me to set out for my new rendezvous with Philomena, and I, instead of going to the station as before, caught a coach to Cambridge from Norwich town centre.  It was a change for me to be going anywhere by road, and I quite enjoyed the trip.

     However, more enjoyable by far was the sight of Philomena who, having been informed in advance of my time of arrival, was waiting at the coach depot when we finally pulled into Cambridge later that morning.  I kissed her eagerly on the cheeks, and, hand-in-hand, the pair of us hurried across to where her car was parked, not far away.  We were so glad to be in each-other's company again that we could scarcely contain our excitement, nor smother our impatience to kiss more passionately, as we drove back through town in something of a hurry to the hotel where she had booked a room the previous night.  But once we got indoors, and had safely shut the world out, we were at last free to admire each other as much as we liked.  I held her tightly to my chest, then stood back to inspect her clothes, which were primarily comprised of a pink nylon blouse, a black silk miniskirt, and a pair of medium-dark nylons.  She looked absolutely ravishing in this attire, especially since she had her long dark hair hanging loosely down her back and was wearing a pair of the sexiest black velvet high-heels I had ever seen.  Carried away by my exuberance, I felt obliged to tell her so.

     "Now do me the favour of hitching-up your skirt, so that I can see what you're wearing underneath," I bluntly demanded of her.

     She cast me a faintly disapproving look but, nonetheless, graciously complied, and I soon discovered that she was wearing pink panties and matching suspenders under her skirt.  Instinctively I knelt down in front of her and kissed the rims of her stockings, kissed the clips of her suspenders, and last but hardly least that part of her panties which covered her mound of dark pubic hair.  Then, returning to my feet, I ran a hand between her thighs and up along the groove of her crotch, which was enticingly warm.  She giggled coyly, but had time to kiss and caress me in turn.  I was fast approaching the boil and just had to have her there and then, before we set out for Gloucestershire.  But I wanted her with all her clothes on, including panties, and made the appropriate advances to assure myself a path of admittance to her vaginal chamber, pulling them down slightly so that I could force my by-now rampant member up between the gap in their legs, and thus enter her without undue difficulty.

     She was evidently surprised by my peremptory tactics and made some feeble protests, both verbally and physically, but I stuck to my bent and got it up inside her, forcing her back against the nearest wall and holding her legs astride my body in the process.  The thrill of taking her like this was so keen that I shot my bolt even before I had got properly under way, but I persisted in shafting her even then, and obliged her to repay my generosity in due course - handsomely, as it turned out.  Exhausted, we slumped to the floor.  But I still had enough strength in me to drag her away from the wall, lift her legs back over her chest, and go down on her, tongue first, much the way Dr Richardson had done with my unsuspecting wife a couple of weeks previously.  Her panties were now rather damp, but I took a distinct pleasure in making them even damper by forcing the bulk of their material up between the lips of her sex, so that they soaked-up her juices.  Her wriggling, at this point had the effect of rekindling my passion and, ignoring her half-hearted protests, I applied myself anew to the cleft of her silken trench, causing her to wriggle afresh.  Then, growing tired of this game, I lifted her up off the floor, grabbed her breasts from behind, and fell back with her onto the room's single bed, obliging her to open her legs as wide as possible.  Detaching one of my hands from her breasts, which had always been small, I thrust it up into her inviting flesh, turned her over onto her stomach, and thrust it up still further, until my fingers all but disappeared behind her panties.  She squirmed in ecstatic pleasure and so aroused me ... that I pumped what was left of my erection into her all over again, even though it had gone slightly limp in the meantime.  Now I could fuck her and squeeze her breasts at the same time - a stratagem which could only enhance our mutual pleasure.

     But by now I was completely spent and could only keep up my carnal assault on her sex for a short time, before I had to give up and call it a day.  Nevertheless I managed to turn her back over and force a hand into her quivering flesh anew, squeezing her clitoris between thumb and forefinger in such a way that she soon became freshly engulfed by a wave of orgasmic pleasure.  Then I kissed her lingeringly on the mouth as our tongues met in a final bout of sensuous passion, a fitting dénouement to a thrilling romance, and, satisfied that I had come off best, rolled across to the opposite side of the bed.  Clothes were decidedly dishevelled but still approximately in place - my own included.  She wanted to know why I had to do it to her with all her clothes on, and I replied that it was more civilized than without them.  She laughed, but conceded me the benefit of the doubt.  "And do you ravish Susan in such a paradoxically fetishistic fashion?" she asked.

     I blushed slightly, wondering why she should put that question to me, and answered to the effect that occasionally I did.  "But I rarely enjoy sex with her these days," I added, much to Philomena's evident relief.

     We smoked in peace a few minutes, gazing up at the cream-coloured ceiling of the little room.  Philomena had just about returned to normal by now and looked very relaxed - a fact that didn't altogether surprise me, considering that I had probably given her one of the most highly cathartic sexual experiences of her entire life.

     "Well, you're certainly a very pretty lady," I at length said, breaking the silence.  "And a very sweet-smelling one, too, if your perfume is anything to judge by.  I think I'm going to enjoy living with you."

     Philomena raised ironic brows.  "Even before you've seen the house?" she queried, stubbing out the dog-end of her smouldering cigarette in a nearby glass ashtray.

     I smiled at my precocity.  "I'm beginning to feel that the house is a mere formality," I nonchalantly averred.  "The really important thing is having someone as beautiful as you to play with, when the fancy takes me or you succeed in seducing me."

     Philomena saw fit to smile graciously with this compliment, and drew herself closer to me, so that our bodies were in contact again.  I lifted her skirt up and spent a moment looking at her nylons and panties, her suspenders and suspender belt, the latter of which was just visible beneath the waist of her skirt.  "Why do you think we wear clothes?" I asked, turning my attention to her blouse and the outline of her bra beneath.

     "Why do you think?" she responded, a mischievous glint in her eyes.

     "Not just to keep ourselves warm," I replied, smiling, "since today isn't particularly cold.  Also, and sometimes primarily, to overcome nature to some extent.  The savage is naked, or mostly so, whereas the civilized man wears clothes.  He prefers his appearance to be more artificial than natural, and the nobler he is, the more artificial he wishes to appear.  Even a scorching sun can't tempt him to walk around half-naked.  He prefers a thin vest or shirt to a bare chest; full-length jeans or trousers to shorts; shoes or sneakers to sandals.  He isn't prepared to adopt a quasi-pagan appearance - except, of course, when he goes on holiday and strips off for a swim or sunbathe at the seaside."

     "Not everyone does that these days," said Philomena.

     "True," I agreed.  "Yet quite a few people still do.  They live at the tail-end, as it were, of humanistic civilization, but invest in a little undiluted paganism for a few weeks every year, partly for the sake of respecting their human integrity and partly because such an investment is permissible within the open-society context of the civilization in question, torn, as it is, not only between conservatism and radicalism but, to a limited extent, between paganism and transcendentalism."

     I bent over Philomena's prostrate body and began to gently sniff various parts of her clothes, inhaling the fragrance of her smooth flesh in the process.

     "Would such an investment therefore be impermissible within the closed-society context of a transcendental civilization?" she asked, proudly tolerant of my nasal inquisitiveness.

     "Probably," I admitted laconically, and looked up from her body in order to reflect a moment.  "Yes, people wouldn't be encouraged to go around nude or half-nude at the seaside or wherever in a full-blown transcendental civilization, for the simple reason that there'd be no place for nudism in a post-humanistic context."

     "No place whatsoever, Jason?" she asked half-incredulously, her bright-blue eyes directly focused on my own rather less bright ones.

     I resolutely shook my head.  "Man is capable of being transmuted from one lifestyle or attitude to another and higher one as evolution proceeds," was my confident reply.  "The typical bourgeois attitude, on the other hand, is to adopt a kind of humanistic fixity, the implications of which tend to suggest that man can only be what he is by nature, not be remodelled into something higher."

     "A kind of philosophical Rampionism," Philomena observed, reminding me of the 'all-round' attitude to life advocated by the character Rampion in Huxley's Point Counter Point, and one probably shared, at the time, by the author himself.

     "Quite," I concurred, nodding briefly.  "An attitude which has also been expressed autobiographically by Stephen Spender, who apparently shares it.  But what can you expect?  The English are fundamentally all alike, especially the so-called intelligentsia.  They can only relate to humanism, whether primarily in terms of radicalism, conservatism, or a paradoxical - and therefore strictly liberal - combination of the two."

     "And so remain stuck in a bourgeois rut," Philomena remarked, as she began to stroke my hair.

     "Ah, the English!" I exclaimed, getting caught-up in my old obsessive Anglophobia again.  "Have you noticed how they almost invariably tend to look at what you're wearing when passing you in the street, rather than at your face, or before looking at your face?"

     Philomena thought she had, though admitted that it was slightly different for a woman, since men tended more often than not to look at a woman's face, arms, legs, and whatever else they could see of her body in preference to her clothes.

     "And yet when an Irishman passes you in the street," I continued, ignoring her point of view, "you usually find that it's your face he's primarily interested in, as though he wanted to probe your soul, your character, your mind.  That just about epitomizes the difference between the two peoples - the one hooked on phenomenal appearances because, by nature, materialistic, and the other given to noumenal essences because, by nurture, spiritualistic.  The English are only interested in your clothes to see how well off or - unforgivable sin - badly off you are, whereas the Irish tend to treat appearances with relative indifference, if not disdain.  Indeed, is not our inclination to often go about in old, worn-out clothes ample proof of our contempt for appearances, a reflection, as it were, of our bias for things of the spirit?  What Englishman, unless he's a down-and-out or labourer, can bear going about in old clothes?  The English are generally a smart-looking people, but behind their flash or posh appearances ... their souls are virtually non-existent - certainly less than thriving!  They are mostly phenomenal appearances, and one could accordingly describe them as fundamentally a female and fashion-conscious people.  Women, too, are mostly on the surface, especially in England."

     "Yet I'm evidently an exception, is that it?" Philomena rejoined half-humorously.

     "Yes, and a very beautiful exception moreover, not just a bookworm with an ugly face!" I declared, smiling in turn.  "But most women are intrinsically superficial.  Not many of them have studied such works as Ulysses or Finnegans Wake, like you.... Incidentally, Joyce would never have got Ulysses published in this country, had it not been published elsewhere first.  The English are always reluctant to publish works by intelligent Irishmen of a certain stamp, especially when Catholic, like Joyce, and more so when also of a predominantly Gaelic pedigree, like myself, because, apart from the obvious ideological incompatibility between power and truth, they don't like having their own cultural stupidity shown-up or being criticized for their past and, indeed, current behaviour in Ireland, the division of the island being, in no small part, a legacy of their imperial past.  Consequently they prefer to reject such authors, and continue to do so almost as a matter of political necessity.  But once someone else has taken-up their work, someone who happens to be sympathetic towards Ireland or who may have a grudge against the English, then their work - and Ulysses is a typical example - gradually gains a foothold elsewhere and, as its reputation grows, so the English are obliged to come to terms with and publish it in due course.  For by then they have little choice, since the developing international reputation of the work compels them to submit to its publication, else make damn fools of themselves by banning it.  Once the Americans, in particular, take the lead, then the English have little option but to follow suit, since America is ever the boss, both financially and culturally."

     Philomena smiled sympathetically and squeezed my hand.  "You must feel rather hard-done-by, where their reactionary attitude to your best and most progressive writings is concerned," she commented.  "Having to keep your revolutionary works to yourself, because they could never be properly appreciated or fully endorsed here in what is, by your standards, a fundamentally reactionary, not to say philistine, society."

     "One gets used to that fact," I admitted, finding it easier not to feel too sorry for myself in the circumstances of what had earlier taken place between us.  "But it won't last for ever, believe me!  One day things will change."

     I had raged enough by now and could tell that Philomena, notwithstanding her polite attentiveness, had had enough of it, too.  Now I desired only to relax and forget about the future.  I had almost forgotten the real reason for my being with her, so morosely engrossed had I become in other matters.  Now, however, the recollection of our prospective trip to Gloucestershire dawned on me and, almost simultaneously, the recollection that, contrary to appearances, we had earlier made love.

     "Well," I said, as soon as I had got over the shock, "are you going to be in a fit state-of-mind to drive me to your country house?"

     Philomena couldn't prevent herself blushing with this remark, but smilingly replied: "Provided you don't put any further physical or mental demands on me this morning, Jason."

     "Then you've got nothing to worry about," I responded and, together, we struggled to our feet and began preparing ourselves for the journey ahead.  Before we went down to her car, however, I made sure that Philomena got another kiss, as though to reassure her of my romantic allegiance, and even placed a hand against the nylon-covered bulge of her crotch to verify whether the dampness still reigned there.  Frankly it did, and she had no option but to smile.

 

 

CHAPTER NINE: AN ACCOMMODATION WITH SUSAN

 

I liked Philomena's house from the moment I set eyes on it, especially since it was surrounded by neatly-kept parkland on all sides.  Neither over-large nor over-pretentious, her property was nevertheless sufficiently spacious to warrant the appellation aristocratic.  As yet, Philomena hadn't had time to rearrange the interior according to her tastes, nor to get rid of a number of her late-mother's antique possessions.  But she had assured me that my domestic preferences would also be honoured, should I decide to move-in with her.

     Frankly it was highly unlikely that I would refuse, considering how well we got on together.  Besides, I genuinely needed such a house and environment through which to step-up my war on depression, the single most vexing inheritance from my solitary exile in London.  She had of course known this in advance, and was accordingly not at all surprised when I assented to her proposal and promised to obtain a divorce from Susan.  She would simultaneously arrange to divorce her husband on grounds of incompatibility and marry me instead, since I had already asked her, somewhat prematurely, to be my wife and, smiling, she had spontaneously consented, offering me another opportunity to kiss and fondle her, as before.  We would be married, once the legal formalities had been attended to, in London and then return to our country house to ... well, not exactly start a family, but continue with our respective artistic interests, since Philomena had no real interest in becoming a parent all over again.  She was essentially too sophisticated a woman to be content with raising children, and I, for my part, was too radical an artist to be interested in inflicting babies upon her.  We would remain companions to each other, though companions, needless to say, who also had regular sex together.

     My wife was naturally upset when I informed her of my intentions and requested a divorce.  For she hadn't anticipated such a drastic turn-of-events, even if she had surmised that my 'business in London', as she thought of it, wasn't strictly confined to artistic or literary matters.  The tears that came into her eyes, with the onslaught of my revelations, had the effect of slightly softening my heart towards her, and induced me to ask whether, in parting, there was anything I could do for her, anything at all, no matter how difficult.  She had evidently not expected this and was touched by my generosity of spirit.  Yes, there was something I could do for her but ... and here she tactfully hesitated a moment ... it would involve the use of Shead's latest invention.

     I might have guessed!  The mechanical copulator was bound to enter into our affairs sooner or later.  But how, I wondered, given that we were about to separate?  "After all," I remarked, "I can't very well give you an artificially-induced pregnancy, knowing the child would be deprived of a father."

     "No, it isn't quite like that," she countered, blushing stop-signals at me.  "You see, I've been seeing Dr Richardson recently and ..."

     Ah yes, of course!  How could I forget?  Yet how, on the other hand, could I confess to knowing all about it?  Tactfully I feigned ignorance and, adopting as serious a tone as I could muster, bid her explain herself, which, to my ostensible consternation, she duly did, though not without an understandable degree of embarrassment in the process.  For it wasn't simply as a patient that she had been seeing Dr Richardson, she informed me, but as his mistress and, well, she would continue to see him in this more pleasurable capacity for the foreseeable future.  "But if you're genuine in what you say about being prepared to do anything for me, Jason," she added, almost as an afterthought, "then please grant me physical access to the mechanical copulator, so that I may acquire an artificially-induced pregnancy through a deposit of your sperm."

     I was shot through with multiple misgivings.  "But who will assume paternity of the child once you've had it?" I impulsively protested.

     "Richardson will," Susan blandly informed me.  "He'll think it's his.  For I'll pretend he made me pregnant.  I told you a few weeks ago that I was intending to have a pregnancy test from him, and so I am - though not before you've actually made me pregnant yourself or, rather, through the intermediate channel of the Shead contraption."

     "But what if he refuses to countenance the child, and demands you have an abortion?" I objected.

     Susan shook her head.  "Frankly he's too deeply in love with me to demand any such thing, having already proposed marriage to me," she confessed.

     "He what?"

     "A couple of weeks ago, while you were away in London."

     I blushed violently, but managed to play dumb.

     So Susan continued: "But I had to disappoint him at the time because of my loyalty to you, a loyalty, however, which you now appear determined to break.  Well, if that's how it is, and you're really set on obtaining a divorce, why shouldn't I respond to Dr Richardson's next proposal in the affirmative, thereby fulfilling his paternal ambitions?  Once I tell him that you're about to divorce me over the affair, he'll almost certainly renew his proposal of marriage more ardently, not break off our affair from fear of upsetting or incommoding you.  So, you see, a baby from you, which is something I've always wanted, could easily be attributed to him when the pregnancy becomes apparent."

     I was still starkly incredulous.  "But surely he'd be suspicious?" I suggested.

     "Hardly," she replied confidently.  "For I have already told him that you refuse, on principle, to give me a baby and could not, under any circumstances, be induced to change your mind.  Now he, on the contrary, would be only too willing to oblige, bearing in mind his ardent love for me.  He knows, moreover, that I really want one, which is an additional factor in his desiring to marry me and, as it were, deliver me from what he sees as your implacable selfishness.  So if I told him I was pregnant, he would hardly be in a position to blame it on you.  Admittedly, he might be a shade surprised that I had become pregnant after having assured him that my contraception was in order.  But he would almost certainly accept the paternity of the child when it arrived - one white baby looking pretty much like another anyway."

     I was as astounded by my wife's ingenuity as by her audacity, and could only admire her, despite my persisting qualms, both moral and practical.  "Well," I said, after a brave attempt at reflection had foundered under pressure from her intensive gaze, "if you sincerely want a child from me, I suppose I shall just have to grant you one."

     "Thank goodness for that, darling!" Susan declared, becoming visibly relieved, and it seemed for a moment that we were almost on kissing terms again, despite the reality of an impending divorce.

     "So long as I don't have to hear or endure the baby, I can't see that my giving you one through the medium of the, er, mechanical copulator really infringes my moral code," I conceded.  "If Richardson can be relied upon to play the part of a caring father - and I'm sure he's capable of being such a thing - then good fucking luck to you!  I hope you'll both be very happy."

     "I'm sure we will," Susan rejoined, smiling reassuringly through eyes and mouth.  "This divorce proposal would seem to have come as a sort of blessing-in-disguise," she continued, "since I knew you would never consent to fatherhood yourself, even with the prospect of my achieving a pregnancy through artificial means."

     I blushed even more violently than the previous time and feebly made to deny the accusation, but I knew, deep down, that she was right.  Even the mechanical copulator, acceptable though it was from my point of view, would sooner or later have led to a real, live, screaming baby which I simply couldn't have tolerated, no matter how hard my wife tried to keep it from interfering in our relationship.  I hadn't fully appreciated this fact until now, but Susan's intuition had cut through whatever false pretences I may have entertained on the subject.  If our impending divorce now struck her as a kind of blessing-in-disguise, then I could only marvel at her previous loyalty to me ... in spite of my intransigence where children were concerned, an intransigence partly acquired during my solitary years in London, where I had constantly suffered from ill-bred kids playing and screeching in the adjoining alley, and partly stemming from fidelity to my artificial lifestyle as a transcendental artist, not to mention the fact that I had been an 'only child' who never knew his father and felt distinctly unattracted to the prospect of fatherhood within a regular family context -  the underlying reason, in all probability, for my subsequent transcendental pretensions as an intensely artificial artist! 

     However that may be, the country or, rather, suburbs of Norwich had not had time to counter the overriding effect of my urban conditioning, for I was still radically transcendental, even though determined to regress to a less artificial, and possibly more natural, lifestyle in order to finally defeat my depression.  Such a regression was only likely to happen, however, in the type of environment that Philomena's country house now promised me, and that was why I had jumped at the opportunity to move there with her as soon as possible.  Personal expedience had seemingly got the better of ideological vanity and professional pride.  For life in a quasi-aristocratic milieu, much as I generally loathed aristocratic criteria, would be a strong dose of natural medicine - stronger, by far, than anything I had swallowed to-date.  Besides, the move would allow me to break connections with certain rather tedious people, like Major Saunders and Dr Richardson, as well as free me from Susan's somewhat bourgeois standards.  I would doubtless have to make the acquaintance of one or two new neighbours in due course, but they might well prove more interesting or, at any rate, less boring than my current ones.  Whether they would understand and appreciate my religious theories, however, was bound to be a dubious matter, even more dubious than where the estimable likes of Robert Dunne and Edward Shead were concerned!  My Dalian, not to say Koestlerian, aversion to children would certainly surprise them, though not knowing how long I'd be remaining in the country, I couldn't be sure that the rural environment might not eventually produce a change of heart in me which, if it failed to lead to Philomena's becoming pregnant naturally, that is to say, through coitus, might at least result in the acquirement of a mechanical copulation for the express purpose of inducing an artificial pregnancy.... Which thought, logically enough, brought me back to Susan.

     "So when would you like me to, er, introduce you to Janko?" I politely asked.

     "Janko?" she repeated doubtfully.

     "Yes, the name of the world's first mechanical copulator."

     "Oh, well ..." she was evidently unsure of her bearings, but opted for the most ingratiating tack "... as soon as it's convenient to yourself."

     I was on the verge of feeling my balls at this point but thought better of it, in view of the sensitivity of the issue.  So I said: "Then you'd better arrange to accompany me to Shead's house one day next week, if possible without arousing the old bastard's suspicions.  I'll take care of my part of the bargain in advance ... no, on second thoughts, while you're there.  You need only take off your clothes, expose yourself to me in as seductive a come-on pose as possible, and I'll, er, provide Janko with the necessary quantity of sperm, taking special care not to waste any of it in the process of transferring it from my hand or whatever to his plastic pudenda.  Once he's set up, you can offer yourself to his tireless lust with the aid, if desirable, of the biggest plastic circumcised appendage he possesses.  I wish you every success in the matter."

     "Thanks awfully," Susan responded, unable to suppress a degree of humour at my expense.  "As long as this Janko functions properly, I shouldn't have anything to worry about."

     "No," I agreed, and might have added 'but Dr Richardson will', had not discretion prevented me.  I simply smiled reassuringly and left Susan to her knitting, relieved to have got everything off my chest at last.

 

 

CHAPTER TEN: SOME FOREGROUND INFORMATION

 

I have been living with Philomena over a year now and, frankly, the time has quite simply flown by.  I can hardly believe it.  Can hardly believe, either, that my depression is on the retreat, and so fast that I'm now almost back to normal.  But I owe that to more than just a change of environment, and to more, even, than Philomena herself, who has never denied me marital comforts.  I owe it, above all, to the presence here of Rachel, with whom I was once madly in love and whom I'm now madly in love with all over again!  Rachel, you may recall, was someone I was mortally afraid of ever seeing again, since I feared the consequences of a recrudescence of sexual love on my spiritual life.  Well, despite her initial assurances, Philomena trapped me into seeing her, and did so under the remarkably false pretence of employing her as a chambermaid!

     Yes, a frigging chambermaid was what Rachel appeared to be when I first clapped eyes on her, ostensibly cleaning our bedroom carpet on her hands and knees, and I could scarcely believe them.  But, of course, that was just a pretext for Rachel being present in the house on a regular basis, since I soon learnt that her real motive for being there was to seduce me afresh and enslave me to her physical charms.  And, believe me, she succeeded in her intentions, even though I feebly protested to Philomena and threatened, with what insincerity I cannot imagine, to divorce her.  But I was trapped, and she knew it!  I was in no position to divorce her after having just secured a divorce from Susan, since, even with a separation, I would then be alone, totally alone, without a house to return to and with no friends to whom I could turn.  I'd had enough of that kind of unsettled life in London and felt no desire to resurrect it, especially as I was still determined to overcome its depressing legacy with Philomena's help.  And she was even more determined to help me, which is why, paradoxically, she employed Rachel in the aforementioned menial position.

     I have already recorded, for the reader's moral benefit, that Philomena was an exceptional woman, and, by god, she has given me ample proof of that fact in the intervening time!  Knowing that I would be unable to fall in love with her, she contrived to force love upon me through Rachel, and all for the sake of my mental health.  Curiously, her selfless strategy worked.  For love is what did develop between Rachel and myself as a consequence of her residence in our house, a love such as I had never expected to experience again - admittedly, not as passionate as before (for that was mainly youthful), but sufficiently powerful, all the same, to render me a willing accomplice of Rachel's allures and - dare I say it? - regular fornicator.  Now, after a year of true love, I know Rachel's sex even better than my current wife's, having been in-and-out of it so many times ... that I've lost count, not to say weight as well!  Although Philomena does her best to ensure that I'm well-fed and sufficiently fit (I take plenty of gardening exercise) to be able to continue in the, by-now, well-worn tracks of my extramarital predilections without putting undue strain on our marriage.

     Ah, Philomena, what an angel you are!  You even prefer a vibrator to my penis, these days, and have ordered one of Shead's, or perhaps I should say Lyttleton's, mechanical copulators for future use; which of course means that I shall be free to dedicate most of my sexual energies to Rachel, whose compliant body holds an irresistible charm for me.  With you, on the other hand, I have to be transcendental, and that I mostly am, even though your arsehole suffers an occasional itch.  You're the most sophisticated woman in the world, and I, the foremost literary and painterly genius of my generation, am adequately served by you, my beloved wife.  You even know what genius is, and admit that, despite your cultural sophistication, you've been unable to attain it.  You've told me that no man is born a genius, since genius is at the furthest possible human remove from nature, human or otherwise, being the product of the most intense nurture.  One can only become a genius, and then after years of painstaking struggle with one's thoughts and techniques, which may result in one's being out front, a creative leader, a man apart, a purveyor of the most artificial criteria - virtually a god!  That is genius, Philomena, and even you have to admit defeat where such a Promethean isolation in creative precocity is concerned.

     Yes, genius is the most artificial of attainments, and you admit that, as a woman, you're unlikely to surpass me in artificial or indeed transcendental accomplishments, since a woman’s place is not above and ahead of a man in sensibility but, as a rule, slightly beneath and behind him, even in the late-twentieth century, when the boot, if I may resort to such a crude metaphor, is usually on the other - and sensual - foot!  You may strive after creative equality, but you're unlikely to attain it.  What you will be able to do, however, is put a break on my progressive zeal, hold me back when I threaten to demolish my human integrity through too idealistic a lifestyle, or heal me when I have become the victim of adverse environmental circumstances.  This you are doing, Philomena, and not least of all via the medium of Rachel, who is the complete antithesis of a genius and yet, for that very reason, the impious solution to my long-standing problems!  Yes, without Rachel, I would not now be as well as I am, nor nearly so prone to penile tumescence.  I have found worldly salvation in the enemy camp, and gladly regress to naturalistic criteria.  I'm already more than half-way on the road to becoming a politician.

     Occasionally I get a letter from Susan, telling me what is going on in her life, and in this way I have learnt that her marriage to Dr Richardson - for she did in fact consent to his subsequent daft proposal - is working out as well as could be expected, since she has recently become pregnant again - this time through him.  However, the original baby, who appears to have been a boy, seems to have pleased the good doctor, who is convinced of its paternity, never for a moment imagining that anyone else - least of all I - could be partly responsible for it.  They have called this boy Janko, apparently after the mechanical copulator, though Dr Richardson still knows next-to-nothing about the contraption and would be the last person on earth to suppose that his son was really the product of a mechanical copulation.  Good, that is how things should be, and I have informed Susan of my approval, taking pains to send her a bouquet of artificial flowers for her second pregnancy.  I only hope that, when the next child is delivered, Dr Richardson won't note too striking a distinction with the first one!  That would certainly arouse more than he had bargained for!

     As to Shead, the crafty old sod seems to have done nicely out of his invention, for it is now big business, selling not only in England - the land of sexual perversion par excellence - but abroad as well.  The Americans are especially keen on it, though a shade rumpled that an Englishman actually got to the idea ahead of them.  Being ultra-libertarian, they prefer to be first in the field of new inventions, and usually are, though Shead, I've since learned, is partly of American extraction, which might explain something.  Only an American, or part-American, could have cold-bloodedly come up with a contraption like that, even if Dunne also played a part, albeit minor, in its final realization, principally, it seems, with regard to the thrusting mechanism.  And Lyttleton, with his Anglo-Saxon flair for business, has successfully capitalized on it, becoming an overnight millionaire.  He paid me quite handsomely, I should add, for my artistic contributions to the machine's commercial welfare, which helped to boost sales among his more aesthetically sensitive customers, not all of whom are bluestockings or feminists, by any means.  There is even a chance that one of my quasi-Expressionist paintings will get into the Tate some day - a thing that would certainly be good for business.  I can just imagine women staring at the over-large blue penetrator (as Shead prefers to officially call it) on view, and wondering to themselves whether they oughtn't to buy a mechanical copulator in the interests of enhanced sexual satisfaction.  After all, time can't be reversed!

     Fortunately for me, however, depression can, and compliments of Rachel, who is as ravishingly blonde as Philomena is dark, I'm now well on the road, as already remarked, to a total recovery.  Another year of Rachel's domestic services and I shall be back to normal, capable, thereafter, of taking an active role in Ireland's future political salvation.  Curiously I can still paint in an avant-garde manner, doing aesthetic justice to my earlier intellectual and literary formulations, but I feel that, with each passing day, I become less of a genius and more of a genial romantic in the grip of his genitals.  Soon I shall probably cease being a genius altogether.  For the combined efforts of the two women, coupled to the rural environment in which I languish, a willing captive to their wiles, will preclude me from leading an artificial lifestyle and oblige me to return to full health, like a well-groomed animal.  And that is precisely what a genius never has!

     Perhaps I was wrong to play for personal comfort at the expense of impersonal inspiration?  Now my artistic conscience nags me and condemns me for having wimped-out of the burden of genius in the interests of mental health.  But have I?  Time alone will tell!

 

    

LONDON 1982 (Revised 1983-2010)

 

 

FALSE PRETENCES 

 

 

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