First appearance in ASIM Issue #44, July 2010
The rarefied air of Coprahaagendas swirled and separated into zones, like vinegar whisked into milk—an acrid miasma that puffed and seeped from the great building atop the hill.
There is only this one building in Coprahaagendas, but the singularity of this temple-high structure makes up for its loneness, not just by its prismatic colours that exceed our vision. The structure defies architecture. Figures and symbols cover it, as uncountable as they are unstill. They cling to, spring from, crawl over and maybe are every wall, ceiling, column, cupola, dome, grate, doorway, step and arch. Arms, wings, hooves, snouts, breasts, cunts and priapuses do everything imaginable, and more. Beings humanick and otherwise fuck and slaughter; lust and leer; look out and inwards, reach down and upwards—making and remaking this stupendous edifice into an evermore impossibility of unfathomability, to us.
Not that we would ever see this building, let alone Coprahaagendas. Our leaders have only just left Copenhagen.
In the great hall, up on the stage, the smiling pink fatty closed his eyes. With one hand, he shoved a shell into his floppy left ear, sighed, and opened his eyes so slowly that it looked like it took supreme effort—as though his gorgeously long lashes might have been made of heavitrium. They were only weighed down by reluctance. With another hand, he sniffed a water lily while he waved a mace with another hand. Finally, with his fourth hand, he lifted up a sun-polished discus so that its face, turned away from him, should make countless eyes blink.
Still, that was not enough, so he trumpeted.
And no one can trumpet like Ganesh.
“You will please be silencing,” he said in his normal tone—sweet, soft and rich as caramel.
So then, despite the desperate planning, the cajoling and officiousness, the promises to fill the hall with pomp for those who wouldn’t come down for anything less, that “You will please” ad hoc call to order ended up being the opening statement of this unprecedented assembly, one so important it is called merely “The Coprahaagendas Summit”.
Ganesh had been chosen to chair the meeting, as he was the only one who was both significant and unhated by all. He was also a stickler for responsibility, even having given himself the task of reading Robert’s Rules of Order. So although the meeting had no precedent to those assembled, he opened it almost in the manner to which we have become accustomed.
With a flourish of his trunk, he said: “I call the distinguished …”
Kuan Yin was first. She barely topped the podium, swaying like a graceful willow. “We are simply talking about the very life support system of this planet,” she said, but since there was no sound system, practically no one heard her. Tears sprang from her eyes. Her face blotched with the passion she felt, but she had not managed to memorize any other words, so she fled from the stage in a whirlwind of peach blossoms.
Next to speak was an old man. He took forever to get there. Hands gripping two arms as if they belonged to a walking frame, he was led through by a translucent young woman and a scruffy young man. Once the old man’s hands had been transferred to the podium, however, he leaned on one and picked the other up and pointed it as if it were a staff and he were Ruler of All.
Behind and to the side, Ganesh made silent patting-down motions with his trunk while trying to glare at the assembly, a bad choice.
“The time for hesitation is over,” the old man screamed. “Smite—”
“Bwahhh!” blared Ganesh, but though he trumpeted so loud he bruised the delicate inside of his trunk, he couldn’t shush the troublemakers, who must have been waiting just for this. The very walls reverberated mirth.
The young man and woman grabbed the old man’s elbows. “My pulpit,” he snarled, gripping the sides with hands that were stronger than they looked.
A blast-ray just missed him.
“Take his gun!” ordered Ganesh.
But Xenu is no evil intergalactic warlord for nothing. His hand flickered at the two hulking giants (blue- and red-faced respectively) coming for him, and faster than a blast, he had his hands full of their body parts and was stuffing them in his frog-wide metallicate mouth. Then, like any frog, he used his thumbs to push the flailing legs in.
A roar rent the outrage. “Who let Xenu come?” demanded Seth. He jumped forward, foam dripping from his long curved snout. His man’s arms stuck out awkwardly from his overmanly chest, his muscles ridiculously engorged. But it was his erect tail, high as a sacrificial flame, that really showed his rage.
“You’re always angry at something,” said Astarte. But Seth paid no mind to this interjection from a goddess who was only half-risen-from-the-dead—she of less worth than a barley offering. Only Sita, the pallid former beauty who had also been married unhappily (but at least she wasn’t murdered like me, Astarte had always thought resentfully) and the blue hippo nodded. Astarte’s heart flooded with love for her newfound friends, but the three of them might as well have existed in another universe, so noticed were they in the tumult. Indeed, this first agreement in the summit missed being a historic moment, as it was never noted.
Ganesh pointed to Saraswati. “Did you not say to me that everyone says that Nostradamus predicted nine-eleven?”
“Almost,” she said. “The numbers are countless. This is why we must agree to my plan.”
“What is this ‘my plan” my lotus blossom?” rumbled Thoth beside her, baring his baboon’s teeth.
“Hoo hoo hoo,” piped Hanuman. “Their first fight!”
Up on stage, Ganesh had difficulty holding back his tears. He couldn’t keep his ears from flapping as he motioned to Ogiuwu, who had been standing at the foot of the stairs to the stage, smiling smugly.
Ogiuwu sauntered up sure as a death after treachery. His footsteps were naturally slippery and red—the spoor of this God of Death.
Even his voice is scary. “The clock is ticking,” he said.
“Good planets are hard to come by,” called Xenu.
A low wet sound of hmming and umming began. Ganesh, powerless spectator to countless kitchen arguments, rubbed his stomach in agony. From mixed agreement and disagreement flows digression, into the river of aggression where everything is lost— Anarchy threatened to flood the assembly, yet again.
A fixed grin on his elephant face, Ganesh waved his big head slowly, panning the crowd. The noise grew louder, the mixing of the deities more bodious.
Just when he thought he was defeated, he genuinely smiled and pointed to someone Ganesh recognised from the nametag pinned to the delegate’s lapel. During the pre-summit publicity and arrangements, they had corresponded. Ganesh had found him to be so dry and pedantic that the savvy pink god knew this being could dry up anything.
And, Ganesh, thought, to get this unprecedented Summit properly launched, plans made and agreements entered into, something important must happen to get past the introducing prattle from those who don’t count but who could make trouble. He had to steer the Summit past them, and into the flow of the discoverers of the EoN Crisis.
He had to get everyone to listen to Saraswati (whose very name means “flow”) and not just look at her, for though she is a goddess of learning, her beauty is apt to swamp her message, especially in the minds of those who do not value reason—and seeing that the assembled have an absence of reason to thank for their existence, how, Ganesh asked himself, can anyone defend reason? As Saraswati had said when she and Thoth announced their discovery and called it the Crisis of All Time, “We must fight this with collective reason. It is a dangerous tool, but the only one we have.”
Ganesh had agreed then, but now, up on stage, looking out at everyone who is anything—the movers and shakers—he thought it his greatest challenge, not to argue for reason, but to stop the sniggers when she and Thoth soon appeared together. Will they be listened to, or rudely gestured at? Will the severity of the crisis bring minds to thought, or will gossip and crudity take the fore? For Saraswati and Thoth are an item these days. Matched brain for brain, otherwise he sometimes baboon shaped and at other times an ibis where his head is, but a man everywhere it counts
All these worries flashed through Ganesh’s mind in the half-moment before the devil’s hooves flashed like patent leather. With one leap over two rows of beings as if they were only rocks, the devil clattered to a stop, just behind the podium. As if that weren’t enough, with a theatricality that simply brooked no inattention, he shot his long-nailed hands from two impeccably tailored cuffs.
“The pace and scale of the threat may now be outstripping even the most sobering previous predictions,” he said, impressing the assembled by his lack of notes for a statement with so many words. He gripped the podium and leaned forward, as professional as a preacher.
“If we don’t act now,” he said, dropping his voice to a whisper, “if we lose sight of our goal. If we don’t find the eye of Nostradamus. And destroy it. I repeat: If we don’t find that eye of doom, and all its tinctures, it will be irretrievably—”
He pointed to a clump of red-bearded giants having fun punching each other. “That means, for all of you un-studious ones. If we don’t do something at this summit, what we live on will be lost. We’ll starve to death. We’ll be destroyed.” He pointed his hand at the podium. “It—” Scratch! “Will—” Scraatch! “Be.” Sssscccrrrraaaaaatch!
He turned his red eyes on Ogiuwu. “Too late, even for the strongest.” The little devil had not met this god before, but that hadn’t stopped this devil knowing about Ogiuwu and this god’s growing strength. For years, the devil’s dearest hope had been that Ogiuwu would live long, suffering fate worse than death. O, this devil might be little, but his heart is big and jealous.
“Even you!” he pointed. “The great Ogiuwu. You’ll cause as much quaking as the feathers from a dead hen’s egghole.”
Ganesh was astounded. He had never guessed the depths in the foppish little fiend. But the devil worked the miracle. The assembled had watched him, spellbound, and remained silent after he leapt down with a stylish flick of his tail.
Ganesh took control again. “The summit is finally tracking!” he cried, and couldn’t help dancing a few steps. His stomach jiggled so happily, you’d think it had just received a ball of ghee-and-coconut offerings.
Ganesh felt a little giddy, but calmed his tone. “I predict,” he said, looking as down to business as his pinkness could, “that history will be made. Coprahaagendas, we will be coming to agreement and save our world.”
“So you are a seer now?” quipped Hanuman, who was slapped so hard for his wit, the monkey god spent the rest of the summit practicing his arts of thievery.
As meets like this are meant to do, committees formed and met. But the assembly wasn’t formed of delegates other than in name. Each attendee was an individual, representing the self. Each self shared the common fear that brought this unprecedented meeting into being but each had a private interest to feed, not to mention a curiosity to slake. Few had met many if any others in the panoply, and there were many hopes that others might not live through the cataclysm to come—a fate that each hoped to have the strength to survive, but none held the certainty.
So each had come to this assembly, not necessarily believing the pushy invitation “The time for hesitation is over,” but enough alarmed by this possibility that the frightened outnumbered the morbidly curious.
There were only three committees expected to actually do any work. The plan was that they would come up with three proposals, hopefully the same, but close enough that a quick meeting of their chairs would then sort out the differences. The proposal would be presented to the Summit. There would be instant concordance, and the plan would be immediately implemented. The only problem that Ganesh, Saraswati and Thoth had fretted over was the delegation of responsibilities. There are so many jealous gods.
One of the problems that occurred instantly when the delegates sat around their tables was that Coprahaagendas has no laid-on food. The air whirred. There was a constant flitting off from the place. Angels, gods, goddesses—practically everyone breathed snatched offerings, wiping their lips of blood, sweat, butter and chicken. This annoyed other delegates trying to work, and made the three chairs of the most important committees angry. Each chair tried to hold that unconstructive emotion in, but it made them testy in their duties.
So Saraswati pretended not to see the foppish devil raise his finger while she explained the need to think laterally to solve this most dire threat to the world in history.
“I say,” he said, and jumped onto the table, swishing a clump of papers from her hand. “You’re all talk. If this is such a clear and present danger,” he said, smoothing his moustache, “why don’t we just take them out with extreme prejudice. Isn’t that what you call it? And neutralize the threat?”
The tortoise opened one eye, and shut it so eloquently that Saraswati felt grateful.
“We would have,” she said.
“You?” someone laughed.
“What’d the devil say?” boomed someone.
The devil stood up on his hind legs. “That someone should have damned well crushed ‘em!”
“Tell me where!” Thor stomped forward. “I’ll grind their bones.”
“No bread,” screamed Hanuman, leaping from shoulders to heads.
In another room, Ganesh was having the same problem. And in another, Thoth was wishing he could crawl back amongst the dead.
The truth, which they were having difficulty getting across, was that the Institute and all associated had proved as impossible for them to find as Coprahaagendas is to mortals. They couldn’t even find the banks that must get those vast riches. Every purchase made of FutureSeize is impossible to trace. The route dissolves into the air of the internet as surely as the smoke from a sacrifice grows invisible, even though the blood leaves stains.
O, if killing had been easy, they would have done it. Not the three of them, to be sure, but Ram, for instance, had been let into the knowledge early, and had been disconsolate when he had learned that he could not just do it.
Thus, this conference, for which the edifice had been built, something that should be recognised as the achievement that it is. For this building is made of contributions from every delegate, offspring created for the purpose. The idea (a gem thought of by some god of war) was that if all the living Otherworldies are to meet in one place for the first time in history, each delegate must feel protected by an army of faithful minions. So each delegate sent the minions on the moment agreed upon (another unprecedented agreement) and the building that sometimes looks like a temple in Southern India and at other times, like a writhing Parthanon, and at all times quite like the new Scottish Parliament, exists as a shining example of cooperation, on the hilltop of Coprahaagendas, a hill appointed for that purpose.
– 2 –
But what, you might ask, is this great threat?
Saraswati and Thoth had been playing on that other otherworldly world, the internet, when one of them (they were too much in love to remember who) found it—the source of the EoN Crisis.
The news was in an online newspaper sponsored by the Global Institute for Future Certainty. It seems that a team from the Institute opened up a wall in the ruins of a church in Galinoxy, “a region that has in history, times been rule by Goth, German, Frank, and Cossack.” In those ruins, they found a small box once sealed in bands of iron. They opened the box and found what only one man in the team ever truly thought they would, though the others doubted.
“The team leader, who for obvious reason, must remain anonymus, is found the stoled piece of the great Knower of the Future—Nostradamus. There are many falsenesses about his body. He was not standing up. But his body was dig in the French Revolt and beary again. Our team set out to find the parts that peoples thoughted to be so value, they were take from his box.”
The article was short, as are all the news stories in the newspaper of the Global Institute for Global Certainty, but the text was large and illustrated by many small pictures full of drama and colours.
The gist of this article, and all the others in the newspaper—was that the team found a reliquary in a sealed glass bottle. Unlike other reliquaries—gruesome sentimental keepsakes all—this piece in a bottle is the very source of the greatest power in the world. This is the Eye that Can See the Future, the right eye of Nostradamus, an eye reputed to be twice the size of any normal man’s, but Nostradamus was never any normal man.
By the time Saraswati and Thoth had read the articles four times, and looked at all the pictures just as much, and picked out to read yet one more time, every article that talked about the special offer of FutureSeize™and “how, for this short time only, you can obtain your own piece of the future, for you and your family, forever”; they were rolling on the floor locked in embrace, stinking of jasmine and jism, wet fur and fear.
After a cooling drink, they resumed their studies.
Of course, they didn’t believe that the offer was for a short time only. But as Saraswati pointed out to Thoth, who had never known housekeeping: “This Institute is not quite Ghandian, as it must fund itself to continue to do good works. But it is undoubtedly subsidising this great gift.”
“Not to the masses,” said Thoth, who’d been raised to higher consciousness by his current love.
Saraswati rolled her beautiful eyes. “I am so happy that you see this. However, remember our stays in Mumbai and New York—where we posed as a tourist and her pet?” She stroked his coat. “How many times have we pondered distribution.”
Thoth somersaulted away and clutched his knees. “Only few mortals can ever share the good.”
Saraswati sidled over to him. “I am thinking it is a natural law of physics.” She closed her eyes and chanted, “Take for yourself your future.” This was a rallying cry in many of the special offers. Other consciousness-raising reminders related to the state of corruption, secrecy, and selfishness common to government, officials, and “the people who control power”.
“So this?” Thoth pointed to the screen.
Saraswati started. Sometimes she thought Thoth too analytical.
“This special offer,” said the god who had watched the pyramids go up. “Even if the tincture is affordable at a reduced eight times $89. 95, it will be bought by how many, can we estimate?”
Saraswati licked her lips. She loves big numbers.
“And used at the suggested dose,” interrupted Thoth, who was rewarded by a little crease between Saraswati’s silken brows.
“Two, point three five nine billion for the first quarter,” said Thoth in a rush, looking at Saraswati uneasily. She smiled. “Approx,” he added.
When Saraswati and Thoth looked back on this little discovery session filled with fearful love, they called it the Calm Before the Full Cataclysm Realisation (dubbed by the EoN Crisis Steering Committee, the CalBeFuCatR).
They threw themselves into the work of reading all the news from the Institute. Each article in the Institute’s FORWARD SEIZED CHRONICLES not only illustrates the value of the Eye, but proves how valuable the tinctures taken from it are.
The couple’s suspicions about the side-effects to people taking this drug were only displayed to each other in that perfect state of communication that is current love. So they spent several weeks alternating reading, worrying privately and reassuring each other aloud, and rolling sweatily over Saraswati’s petal-strewn marble floor.
The clincher was the day Thoth ventured off the Institute’s site, hitting first, the headline “Nostradamus and Gurus leaving the body”—about the Guru Osho, and his relationship with Nostradamus. In an advanced state, “Oshocould be seen with his eyes fixed in the middle of his brow.” And Osho predicted he would “dissolve into the body” of his followers after death. Furthermore, those predictions of Nostradamus were noted (chapter and verse!) yet the teachings of the Vedas, the Mahabharata and Ramayana, and even the most common New Age Book of the Dead—all ignored. Instead, the guru declared: “Government will always fail as long as its root to the cunning, political mind remains uncut.”
“Listen to this,” Thoth said, breaking into Saraswati’s study of some problem. His throat convulsed, so he could only point.
Only that morning Saraswati had been telling Thoth of the time Lord Krishna changed the time of sunset to give Arjuna a no-risk opportunity to kill Jayadratha. And Thoth had fed her in turn, some delicious bit of treachery he remembered between, who was it?—not that the story mattered. They called these incidents “soup”, made as they are from what they’d labelled in a lovers’ brainstorm: “The Essence of Power”.
Now Saraswati shrugged one shoulder. She slid over to look at whatever Thoth … and instantly forgave him for breaking her train of thought. A moment later, they were both crying with laughter.
Yet a moment after, Saraswati wiped her face. “He is not too ignorant for followers. That lie!”
Thoth tried to compose himself, but couldn’t. “He says, therefore.” He straightened his back and dropped his eyes, taking up the guru’s pose of knees out, legs folded, hands upended on knees. Without the guru’s robe, Thoth looked so tempting that Saraswati’s laughter would have rung with delight and fun.
Not now. “He expects his followers to believe that he posseses some magic scythe! That with a sweeping statement, he cuts down what is, and ever has been?”
Toth sighed. “I only told you to see the dimples in your cheeks.”
He stretched himself out on the floor and licked the deep curved base of Saraswati’s back. “Don’t trouble your mind with such … mmm, nonsense. This so-called guru knows no history.”
Her buttocks twitched. “Nor any present, in any world!”
Toth slid away, not just wounded that she did not respond to him, but peeved that she sweated about a man. He sat up with his back to her, and stared at nothing. “Perhaps,” he said, bored with this silly guru and his ignorance-spreading. “Perhaps to followers, to say is to know.” He felt a bit soiled saying something so stupidly vaccuous, but his scorned tongue needed the pleasure of annoyment.
She was silent. Thoth hoped she was trying to find a way to end this and get back to making love. Always a generous lover, he planned to say yes to anything she said, and then take her divine feet into his hands.
“To his followers, to say is to know,” she repeated. “If they are buying!” She grabbed Thoth’s coat so hard that she made a bald spot on his back. “See there on the screen? He too, is selling.”
“Whoever buys this tincture,” one said, “has no need for us,” the other finished, putting in stony terms what they both had airily worried might be true.
… and their hands found each other, and their eyes saw each other, through the mirrors of their tears.
“Throw away your false beliefs!” cry the ads. This call to action sits next to those other calls, irresistible to the mortal:
“Lose 5 to 15 inches in one day”
“Cut Down 3 lbs of belly fat EVERY WEEK! … In fact it worked so well I lost 8 stubborn pounds of fat in 3 short weeks!”
“Regrow your own crown.”
“With this secret of successful lovers, you can have so many, you can watch them fight.”
The irresistible appeal of the tincture taken from the eye of Nostradamus is explained in many different ways, such as this advertorial in a popular online current affairs magazine centred around the lives of celebrities:
“Put only one drop of FutureSeize™ in both eyes per day, and you can not only see the future, but enjoy it. Do you see yourself dead in five years from cancer? Celebrate! Get that loan tomorrow, quit your job, and sale around the world. Or take that lover you know you want. Or if your on a budget, plan well and you could happily give your neighbors what coming to them. Make your life your own. You can finally use your money yourself. Waste nothing on false hopes and silly prayers. Who will help you if you no help youself? You only have one life. Live it NOW. But act quick, or this special offer will be …”
The Saraswati-Thoth team networked widely, spreading the knowledge of the threat. To make their knowledge understood by all, they had to dumb it down, first trying to explain their discovery of the Eye of Nostradamus in terms that didn’t necessarily accept the power of the eye, but stressed the lack of necessity for truth, if belief sustains its popularity.
This concept was too hard to put across. So the two next tried flattery, using the most modern concepts as if everyone were up-to-date. But meme failed, too.
No one was the least bit frightened. Saraswati and Thoth were only laughed at. Finally, they had to sink to a slogan they hated, as both live above clichés.
“A plague is coming to us” worked when they matched it with “Our end is nigh.”
Ganesh was their first believer. He instantly understood that if people could see their fate, they would not waste their time offering any bribes to gods or otherwise to save them from inevitability.
With his supreme perception, he saw a future of starved immortals wandering, not able to leave their world but doomed to die in it. Eat or be eaten? With his supreme strength, he cut off his speculative vision, but he couldn’t help patting his stomach and shuddering.
Ganesh thought of the Summit, and was the principle organiser. If the firmament awarded an honour for a supreme effort made for the Otherworldly Commons, Ganesh should receive it.
There isn’t, however. Not only that, but if an effort fails, should anyone receive honour for trying? That is a question worthy of Ganesh, though he has not had the mindspace to fit it in.
The Coprahaagendas Summit ended in general discord. Most delegates, it seems, just came to see the others. Some viewed each break in the proceedings as a chance for a bit of light rape and murder. There was no sense of urgency amongst the bulk of delegates, because they could not imagine a world in which the sacrifices to them stop. There was one point in the discussions, Ganesh is pained to remember, when the Summit almost reached something—a point of no return.
That was on the third day, back in the big hall, when the old man started raving again. “Smite them!” he kept saying.
He meant the whole mortal population. A clean sweep.
Saraswati bustled up to the podium. “We do not have that luxury. Focus, please!”
The old man’s son raised his hand meekly. “Perhaps He could remake them.”
Ganesh lost his temper. He made the mistake of stamping his feet, which jiggled his stomach and made his fat pink trunk slop back and forth.
Hanuman led the laughter. “Cleanliness is next to godliness,” he said, always the sneaky one. “Any god who doesn’t consider destruction isn’t serious.” And with that, he stole a pin from Kuan Yin’s coif and gambolled out the great doorway, down and out of Coprahaagendas.
Today, above and around us, many of the Otherworldly quake. The tables have been turned by a mere mortal, or a band of them. The problem is, the idea of targeted destruction is not something that can be contemplated, not unless the target is, as the old man wants, all of us. And he is gaining some ground amongst the short-sighted who fear but do not see.
Even the tax departments of our most feared governments can’t find the Institute, nor anyone associated with it. The coffers and storehouses of FutureSeize™ are as hid, to high and low, as the Greatest Secret in the Universe.
The question, therefore, is a moral one. If every one of us in the humaworld pitches in, it wouldn’t take much to save the Others’ world. Just resist, if you can, that offer. Lose your belly fat instead.
But perhaps action to solve this Crisis must be led by those of us with vision, so this is a call to architects. That World-Heritage-worthy building on the hill in Coprahaagendas is admittedly designed by amateurs and is a work in progress, but dooming those amateurs to death could lead to the death of their offspring that constitute that building (where these innocents live and play, in expectation of another Summit) and the death of the offspring’s offspring—first undermining and then causing the destruction and elimination of this singular Built Structure—this Grade A Listable Wonder of the Otherworld.