Novus Homo by Thomas Iverson
Feb. 18th, 18- Saw Gerard at Le Palais Des Cobayes today. He said he was looking for me since Tuesday. Since this is only place he has seen me (and indeed, the only place I deign to patronize since the incident of that drunken veteran), I merely nodded my assent to his lies. He was smoking one of his foul cheroots and wearing a filthy bowler hat. It reminded me of London. He said he met a man "just to my tastes," whatever that means. "A man of great ability, one who rises above the mere glamour of appearances and sees truly the state of man's existence." Rubbish. Probably another table-tipper who convinced Gerard that his lamented mother still loves him beyond the grave or somesuch. He insisted that I meet this gentleman within the week, and offered to introduce me to him. I humoured him and said that I would consider it. "I am a busy man, Gerard. I will try to allow time in my schedule," I said. He seemed greatly pleased by this and reinforced the notion that this man was worthy of my total attention. With his pudgy hands, he clapped and ordered me another bottle of absinthe; for himself, a bottle of cheap champagne. "This concoction," he muttered amicably as he surveyed my green glass, "will surely lead to your demise. God didn't intend for man to drink the fruits of wormwood!" I retorted, "God didn't intend for man to wear bowler hats." "Heh. Clever Roland! You are a man for this century! Indeed! Bowler hats," he chuckled in his diseased way, "are not for mankind." He threw his hat to a group of urchins loping along the avenue outside. The looked at it in amazement, fought over it, and finally damaged it enough that they all got a portion. This amused Gerard immensely. What a boor. Then Marie & company arrived, and things brightened slightly. Giscard asked about Xavier, which reminded me of my business for this week. I must talk to Xavier about the opium. Feb. 21st Gerard cornered me again at the cafe. In order to silence his hyperactive ramblings, I agreed to meet this gentleman, the "Bonhomme Gris", later this week. "Sunday, then. Appropriate for a meeting of men of the spiritual bent like ourselves, eh Roland? Heh Heh." I would agree that Gerard's spiritualism was bent: swords blunted into plowshares and such. He was happy to believe in demons, angels, devils, gods, charms, curses, rituals, seances, faeries, necromancy, whatever would allow him to shift the blame for his own banality and uselessness to a higher (or lower) power. I progressed beyond that stage in my childhood; fifteen years later it is far easier to see the hand of Man in Earth's miseries than a god's. He offered me some of his "most excellent" snuff, which I declined. I insinuated that I would try some cocaine, if he had some. Sniffing it is far better than injecting it. He looked positively aghast. "Don't touch the stuff, myself. Tobacco is enough for this philosopher." I assume he went and got some cocaine for himself after he left the cafe; he asked me where I got my supply. Cesar had imitated that I was a fool last week; it was necessary to send Gerard to him to see what a true fool was. At least Cesar may get some money out of it. I merely get absinthe from my encounters with Gerard. Absinthe is the most noble of liquors, but it pales in relation to opium, and absinthe does not buy opium. Thank God I found Xavier today! He had a trollop scrubbing his feet with her hair when I arrived at his apartment. She was naked, pale, and shaking. He was denying her the poppy-induced bliss she had become accustomed to. "Lotus-eater," he laughed, "Lotus-eater! It is good to see you, Roland! I understand that cafe-life has been acceptable for you?" We talked as old acquaintances do, with little depth but many smiles. I do not mind Xavier. He knows why I see him, and doesn't require any wilted witticisms or false friendliness to intrude upon our business. "You Englishmen are rather extreme, non? How do you say it? In for a penny, in for a pound?" I laid my money (and the obligatory pornography) on the table. "I'm in for this much, Xavier. And you have the phraseology correct." He smiled and opened the ragged paper. "Oh. Those thighs, oh!" I knew he was merely trying to make the poor wench at his feet suffer more by ignoring her. I do not mind Xavier. He knows when to put the iron in the fire, and when to brand the heifer. Feb. 24th Met the Grey Gentleman today. Gerard was right, which shows that Mother Nature does care for her dumb animals. The Bonhomme is almost indescribable; seemingly old, but obviously not yet middle-aged. His cosmopolitan objets d'art and library rivals my own. Indeed, he is much more familiar with Black Africa than I am, though I think I have the better of him regarding the Orient. After a quarter hour of listening to us banter, Gerard excused himself and used the W.C. He had a rim of white powder around his pug nose; sometimes I feel like I do the devil's business better than Old Scratch could himself. The Grey Gentleman noticed it, too, but neither of us said a word about it. This is the first person I have met in Paris who approaches James ("the Unjust", from my London youth) in the area of meaningful conversation. I hope this one, however, does not place a gun to his temples. We talked for a good portion of the afternoon, then he showed me his "idol factory;" a gloomy loft perfect for artistic pursuits. Gerard then excused himself again (the painting of "Mad-Donna Eating Child: Pietamissimo" may have affected his digestion). In the interim, the Bonhomme invited me to dinner with him later in the evening. It was not spoken that Gerard would not be attending. Gerard reappeared and, with an ashen face, declared that he had to leave us immediately; we gave our regrets and saw him to the foyer. He grumbled something about being sorry and seeing us later. We grinned and pretended to care. With the excess fat cut off of our membership, the conversations turned to meatier topics. The Grey Gentleman's knowledge of philosophy (both natural and metaphysical) was magnificent. Such candor, wit, and understanding are not to be found in this (or any other) generation. The politicians may wave their banners of "progress" and "advancement," but not one sous any government has spent has contributed more to the earth than one phrase mentioned to me by the Bonhomme. "The difficulty of experiences are that they are merely shades of freshness." He well understands the jaded thoughts which crawl and scuttle in my head! After a brief repast, in which he proved that while he is a master of the contemplative arts, he needs tutelage in the gastronomic sciences (I, of course, cooked), we again began to fathom the depths of human experience. "Did not," he questioned, "Jesus say himself, 'Ye must be born again.'? Is this not the great obstacle of man? We must live this abhorred life day after day, twilight after twilight. We find a vice pleasing to our senses, and it decays in value as surely as our flesh does. Our ennui amplifies itself and deadens our eyes, our ears, our palates, our nerves, our souls until every fibre of our being chants a low dirge; 'End this. End this charade. End this puppet-show. End this parade of shadows. END THIS.' That is our only option. Or is it? Why must every day be a grinding millstone of boredom and same-ness? Our memories are shackles! Chains, forged by the infernal Creator to bind us in our shrouds of clay. What wonders we would own if every rainbow, every meal, every orgasm, was as lustrous and perfect as our first experiences!" I apologize, dear journal, for the length for this entry, but the conviction and fire of the Bonhomme's vision! It will not leave my mind in peace. Feb. 26th I went to the Bonhomme's dwelling again today. His voice and gestures fuel my imagination like nothing since London, indeed, like nothing I know. Ideas flow through my skull and out my mouth. He percolates them and concentrates their fundamentals into a dense, sweet syrup that invigorates my tired form and strengthens my weary spirit. This is the third day without opium, and I feel resurrected. I am too busy, too interested to feel pain or cravings other than the desire to know; to know more. The cafe can hardly believe it. "But Roland, we rely on your business!" "When you are here, all know the world still turns!" "Your dry humor is needed to off-set the base sorts that frequent this place, darling. Sit by me for a while and tell me a story." "Come! Have another glass of absinthe! I have the sugar ready for you...." No more will "the green milk" satisfy my thirst. I am only parched for eloquence, only hungry for a morsel of the Grey Gentleman's words and, dare I say it, doctrines? He has led a revolution of titanic magnitude in my mind. I am convinced he knows the secret to happiness on earth, but is either unable (or unwilling) to tell me. I must find out how to be a "new man" (as the Bonhomme puts it)! I MUST KNOW! Feb 28th. Raptured hand, please stop shaking! The Bonhomme got a package today from Shanghai. He opened it in my presence and inside the crate was a bundle of cloth. Gingerly, he unwrapped the bundle and exposed a black lacquered box with leering demons and thundering clouds carved into the sides. He looked up at me with a fanatical grin. "Roland, it is here. The Egg of the Mind is here!" The Egg of the Mind! I had heard only a little about it, but that was enough to make my heart lurch. The Society of Five Centipedes had invented the compound during the Yuan dynasty in order to help overthrow their Mongol conquerors. The hand of Kublai Khan himself painted the characters, "All 'Egg of the Mind' will be given to the Son of Heaven, and any person under heaven, from magistrate to monk, shall die upon keeping even a modicum for themselves." The Society of Five Centipedes was disbanded after the Yuan dynasty fell, but rumors from northwestern China are ambivalent about whether or not any still know about how the Egg of the Mind can be manufactured. One emperor of the early Manchu dynasty supposedly found some of the coveted substance, but it was his undoing: someone had poisoned it. The madness it inflicted on him is a cautionary tale for emperors even to this day. The Egg of the Mind! "I shall be the first," the Bomhomme declared, "to become a new man; by all means, you shall be the second." I nodded my assent and helped mix some of the black powder from the casket with hashish for him to smoke. The hookah gurgled with glee as he puffed five, seven, ten, twenty brown clouds into the joyous air. With an anticipation almost palpable, I stared at his face for a gleam, a hint of the magic that was about to unfold. He calmly looked out into nothing. "Roland, go home tonight. When I awaken tomorrow, I will be as a newborn. I must rest now." As his friend, as his disciple, I obeyed unquestioningly. I cannot rest. In two days, I will wake from my sleep of boredom and dullness. Feb. 29th Oh God. I returned to his dwelling and saw a couple old women, like vultures, milling about the place. "He was screaming and howling all night," said one crone. "He quit crying when they finally broke the door down." "He was squatting in a pile of his own merde, and beating his head with his hands, I hear." "All he could do was wail and yell, but he did it all with this idiot's grin on his face." "He was a queer fellow. Paid his rent, though." All said as if it was a day at the fair. All I could do was take the wretched box and shuffle home. Defeat. Everything voided. I have placed the arsenic from the pharmacist on the nightstand next to you, witness of my pathos. Tomorrow morning will be my last morning. March 1st I see it now. How could I be so naive? I know who "poisoned" the emperor; it was his own hand. I shake my head at my foolishness and laugh at my despair of the previous night. We have won! And to think I almost threw it away like so much chaff! A world of joy! A world of happiness! The cares of the mundane cosmos stripped like the knickers of a bride! The hashish is mixed! The Egg of the Mind is ready! Tomorrow, I shall be a new man.





Back to Thomas Ligotti Online