As Orbis stood up from the blue velvet chair and adjusted his white suit, a production assistant scurried up to him and pointed to the wireless mike attached to his lapel.
"May I ..?" She asked nervously, but removed the piece without his permission. He held out his hands to his side and lifted his chin, as if that helped. She said thank you and backed away, returning to the shadows on the other side of the camera.
Orbis liked it better when he appeared before a live audience. The rush of the people, their lit up eyes, their smiles, looking to each other and nodding knowingly: these were reactions he enjoyed. It was gratifying to see the impact of his hard work reflected back to him with so much love. It brought out the compassion in him, and that's what made the circle complete.
"Orbis, there's a gentleman here to see you." Yumi didn't look Orbis in the eye. But she did have a business card and Orbis took it.
"Mr. Canticle." Orbis read the card aloud. "Venture capitalist." His eyes rested on those two words for a moment. There was no address, just a cell phone number. "What does he want??"
"He didn't say. He just said he wanted to meet you and discuss an option he has."
Orbis smiled to himself and retuned his sapphire gaze to the card. "Is he here in the studio?"
"He is, but he said he has other appointments soon. He wanted you to call him. Perhaps dinner."
Orbis usually had his schedule booked well I advance, but the idea of a venture capitalist seeking him out fascinated him. He did have an idea for a spiritual gym he had been kicking around for awhile. He envisioned a clear glass building, as if built of crystal, with a large fountain and waterfall in the lobby. People would end and head off into the direction of their heart: The meditation zendo, the yoga ashram, or his newest innovation, the Orbis Distillation Center. Perhaps Mr. Canticle could help him with that.
"You didn't mention Brahamone™ to me this morning." Yumi said.
"I wanted to spring it on everyone at one. I enjoy seeing the looks on everyone's faces. "
"How did you come up with such an idea?"
"It's not an idea. It's a concept." Orbis corrected her. "This is a crowning achievement of my life's work. All my learning, all my knowledge and understand, has led me to this summit. The final Truth of our existence."
Yumi was always in awe of her guru, but something wasn't sitting right with her. The Brahmamone™ concept didn't seem complete, more of a cipher than a thesis ... of all the levels and subtle thoughts and energy of the world just boiled down to a chemical. Still, part of Yumi's contract when she signed on as Orbis' chela was that she surrender her will to his divine Will. Perhaps it was her callowness to call this all into question. She needed to meditate deeply on this. Orbis, after all, was so much more evolved than her.
"Did you wish to see Mr. Canticle?"
"I'll meet him in the green room, I guess." Orbis said. He was still feeling light in his feet. The workers in the studio were scrambling for the next set up, a makeup chair and a table in front of the chair set he had been on. They weren't really paying attention to Orbis anymore, but talking amongst themselves.
Orbis' startling revelation, as to be expected, had beamed out of that little studio and was making its way through the electronic media. Dakota's cell had been beeping constantly since she went into a break. Friends and other fellow travelers were wanting to know what this guy was saying.
The implications were sinking in. So were also people running to their machines and checking in, googling and following the information leads.
Orbis was blissfully unaware of all this and stepped into the green room. A man was standing there, watching the two televisions in the room. One, up on the wall, was showing Dakota laughing and talking with the makeup lady. The other was a news channel.
The man was tall and thin, fit and healthy. He had a calmness about him that comes from one used to command. His hands were behind his back. Orbis looked at them. They were well formed, strong, thick fingered, well manicured. This was a physical man, who enjoyed hefting weights, stretching his red muscles, celebrating his prowess. His hair was exactly as it should be, cared for with a streak of grey in it. The suit encased his body in fine fabrics, as if he had been born in it.
He turned from the television, sensing the people walking to him. Yumi placed herself between Orbis and Mr. Canticle. "Mr. Canticle, I'd like to introduce you to (pause) Orbis."
"Mr. Orbis -- "
"Just Orbis, please."
" -- Orbis. What a pleasure it is to meet you." He brought his hand around. Orbis met it. He nearly crushed Orbis's delicate fishbone handshake. He also didn't let go of the hand for a moment, his blue eyes staring openly and probingly into Orbis' sapphire contacts.
Yumi noticed it and her immediate response was so step in and tear the hands apart, but had a thought that Canticle would take his away, tearing Orbis' skin after it.
"I was watching your broadcast this morning. Very interesting." Canticle smiled widely. Good dentist too, Orbis though. The teeth were white, clean, pink gums, a tiger who knew how to care for his most precious weapon. Canticle gestured to the TV up near the ceiling.
"Thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed my little conversation."
"Saying you know what God is, is hardly a little conversation." Canticle said.
"It's been a thesis I had been working on for awhile with some fellow physicists. I'm very proud of it."
"You should be. If it's really true, then you will change human life here as we know it."
Orbis took that thought in, let it mentally digest, and found he enjoyed the idea. It would be the biggest marketing coup since the introduction of home video.
"Yes, I think it will be everything I hope it will be." Orbis was confident.
"Oh, and so much more, I would think." Canticle turned to the news channel. Two anchors were on there discussing the interview.
A photo of Orbis, Not a very good one, he thought, was in the right upper corner of the screen.
The arguments were what he thought they would be: People clinging to their ingrained notions of what immortality is. The woman was getting very upset with the other man.
"Now John, this has not been proven true yet." She was saying, but Orbis could see flickers of heat and light behind the woman's make up.
"This is just repeating what science had known for decades. This man just finally said what needed to be said."
"Well, I think you're wrong. There is a higher intelligence who is the author of our reality. And when we come back, we'll be meeting with Cardinal Oswego who will explain this all to us."
Commercial break. Advertising some medication to dissolve cervical cancer.
"The controversy is brewing." Canticle said. He took the bagel he had been gnawing on and popped the rest of it in his mouth.
Meanwhile, outside that black reflective monolith, the sun started to refract its light down into the concrete canyons of the city. Where the building met the sidewalk two groups were out there trying to get the attention of the passersby. They had been gathering most of the morning. At first it was a collection of groups protesting Orbis' appearance. They were the usual suspects: Baptists, fundamentalists, cranks from the cornfields of Iowa. They held signs displaying their anger over the fact Orbis (Satanist! One woman spat, her face distorted with rage) was getting air time at all. As with all free speech, it was soon met with equal opposing force. (There is always someone to disagree with, but those who fear religion can be the most fanatical.) Hedonists, and other friends of Mammon were soon yelling back at the groups. The concierge nervously adjusted his glasses, thought this was getting a bit volatile and asked his supervisor to call in the police. Soon the clacking of horses could be heard, a bit of the 19th century mingling with the concrete disillusionment of the 21st.
The civilians, fighting with the flow of humanity to their jobs, weren't particularly interested in what each of them had to say. One group was holding bibles and signs. The other group was holding signs, but they had bullhorns. Some were praising Orbis. They held up signs begging to COEXIST. The signs confirmed it, along with slogans like "Religion is the source of all evil" and other scathing opinions.
The two groups became more and more heated. The energy spilled into the air-conditioned cold marble of the lobby. The horses moved back and forth, a little nervous at being so close to two-legged creatures. They were attracted to each other as the strength of the anger pulled them closer and closer. Finally they flashed into each other. The one group felt strong enough about God to pass their own judgment. The other group knew since Orbis was right, and had only confirmed what they had already guessed, it truly didn't matter what they did.
Free at last. Free at last.
The other group demonstrated their freewill by wading into the Christians. Immediately the two groups melded into a heaving throng and rolled out into the street. Children tore loose from their furious parents and were trampled. The cops turned red blowing whistles and took their batons from belts. A man snatched a cop's gun out of his holster and fired. The officer rose up in his saddle, his face blank with shock, then fell from the horse. The horse bolted from the crowd, running down the street where a bus hit it, spinning throwing the broken carcass onto a sidewalk of pedestrians. The bus stopped in the middle of the street. The driver fumbled for his windshield wipers, trying to remove the blood, thick on the windshield.
A limo rolled past. Within it, Mick Jagger finished his bloody Mary, tossed the cut crystal and ice onto the floor in front of him and noticed the fighting down the street and the dead horse. His face was sallow and seemed to float in the half darkness above his green suit. "Brilliant." He pouted, then turned his attention to the fourth quarter profits.
People talked on their cells first about the Orbis interview, then about the fight. The crowd grew swollen, moving further out into the street. A hot dog vendor lost his cart, overturned then overrun with people. Instinctually, some stopped to help themselves to the food, but the violence trumped gluttony.
"Hell, if God is dead, then really nothing matters." Said one bemused observer, right before he was punched in the mouth, sending teeth and blood flying against the black glass.
It didn't take long for this philosophical cabin to catch fire. Traffic snarled quickly to a stop amidst blaring horns and rubber squealing. Cabbies stepped from their vehicles with tire irons, attempting to break up the fighting themselves. They were losing money. The hatred, the energy distorted the glass, the reflections of fighting and pushing seeming more unreal.
Cameras were now in the street, broadcasting.
Dakota Lawson was going through her voice mail, with images of awards in her head when some of the production assistants came running through the small studio.
"Oh my God. They're fighting in the street over the Orbis interview." Said the woman to Lawson. Lawson looked at her blankly. Her mind now was filled with more awards and old images of classic televised riots of the last fifty years. The anger, the pain, the blood, the fire hoses.
"Are you filming?"
"A crew just went down there."
"Great, I'll be there in a moment." Lawson crouched and ran to her dressing room, changed her top and checked her makeup in the giant lighted mirror before running back down the stairs.
The city street was afire with self righteous hatred. With the power of a neutron bomb, the shock waves of rage swept outward and upward into the buildings. That one final, ethereal Cop now vanished in a puff of smoke, and now the mice were cut loose.
"The rise in prostitution and other crimes are through the roof. And when police arrived on the scene, people opened fire on them and sent them back. The police returned later with superior firepower of the SWAT teams and took control of the scene."
So the news anchors said to each other. Orbis and Canticle stood transfixed in front of the monitors. Actually, Orbis was transfixed. Canticle was using his blackberry, as if he had predicted the events and was now just confirming them with silent investors.
"This is impossible." Orbis muttered to himself, staring at the television with soft boiled eyes.
"Superior firepower." Canticle muttered, "About the only way to keep control of the hordes. Since they don't seem too interested in controlling themselves."
Orbis tried to speak but the words didn't have the air to tumble down onto his tongue. He opened and closed his mouth several times. "Yumi!" He shouted, turning around.
"She was just here." Canticle offered, but his blackberry rang and he answered, stepped out of hearing range.
Orbis noticed her black book and cell sitting on the coffee table. He looked around helplessly, wondering where she could be. Orbis felt himself straining, and took a couple of Raja breaths to calm himself. He needed to keep the spirits about him. Yumi usually was always within earshot. This was part of her tantric training he had sent her through at the Praxis Institute. A six week course, and she was serenely grateful and limber afterwards.
Spying a simple door at the far end of the room, Orbis stepped to it. He realized the violence of his steps, and purposely closed up the lengths of his steps and minced his way to the door. Beside the door was a small table. On the table, tossed carelessly, was Orbis's black leather appointment book.
"Yumi --" Orbis opened the door but the room was black. He flipped on the light. Yumi and the production assistant leaped up from the loveseat. Yumi's top was opened, her bra pushed up, and a ring of lipstick was smeared across her still erect nipple. The production assistant beside her was pushing her skirt down.
Orbis stared. "Excuse me, I didn't know you were busy." He said with enough gravity to crush an elephant, then turned off the light and closed the door firmly. He picked up his appointment book and walked towards the television.
Yumi burst out of the room straightening her clothing. "Orbis. Orbis! Master!"
"All those who work for me, including myself, have taken a vow of abstinence until the planet is removed from the contamination of ignorance." Orbis announced to her as if he was talking about whether he wanted his eggs runny or scrambled. But it was meant for anyone else in the room. This man was always acting. Canticle glanced up, then returned to his viewing. "I am so deeply disappointed in your choices."
"Choices are all I have now." Yumi said, pouting, looking down at the ground, her thick black hair covering the sides of her face. She swept her hair back behind her ear. Her fingers smelled.
"Call me later. Come back tomorrow." He said calmly, his sense of composure returned. He turned away from Yumi, no longer thinking of her. She shrugged, looked with interest at the production assistant now tiptoeing from the room.
"I have one question." Orbis said, raising a finger and looking to Canticle, who was enjoying himself, as if lost in deep thought, "I just announced Brahmamone™ on the television this morning for the first time. How did you already know about it?"
"I'm a successful man, Mr. Orbis." Canticle said levelly, putting his expensive custom pen back into his inner jacket pocket. "It's my business to know these things. Information is power, as Dr. Kissinger once said."
Orbis smiled but it was more like a frown. He had a falling feeling like he wasn't in control anymore, and he didn't like it.
He was snapped right out of it by an explosion, a low lying boom muffled by the television speakers. He and Canticle turned to the television. A car had exploded in the street, taking out the windows along the block with it. Shards of glass fell like rain from the side of the building, into the brawling crowd. People were holding each other, blood was streaming freely. The picture was minimized into the corner of the screen, and two different news anchors were now looking seriously into the camera, brows furrowed.
"As news of Orbis' fantastical announcement is working its way through the city, the tenor of the activity has tuned decidedly ugly. Law and order seems to be taking another hit while political groups are now racing through the streets causing millions of dollars of damage. The mayor has talked to the governor who is calling in the National Guard to handle this alarming chain of events."
The pictures changed again to another perfect composition of people fighting with the cops.
"I think it's liberating to be finally putting this notion of God behind us," said the other reporter.
"But now that the final denominator is removed from the equation, don't you think people no longer feel the need to behave themselves? To treat each other decently."
"Behavior? Who has ever behaved? The idea of living in a false fear is dead."
"Without the norms of decent behavior, then the notions of violence and Will to Power become more relevant? I think it was Chesterton who once wrote: "If people don't believe in God, they'll believe in anything."
The other reporter shook her head, eyes alight with contempt, "I don't know who Chesterton was, but I know this is a liberating moment in human history."
"Even when they deny it, they count on it," Orbis muttered to no one in particular, "They live negatively."
"I've got to run," Canticle said, putting his phone into the holster on his belt. He turned completely to Orbis, who was getting smaller the more he watched the idiot box. 'I'll come to the point."
"Please do." Orbis straightened his collar, worried about creases, smoothed his hair back.
"I am putting together a company. Our product will be simple. It will be you. All about you and your meditation halls, your DVDs and other media. But the main product of yours I want to market is Brahmamone™."
"Brahmamone™? I don't know how ..."
"You discovered it. You isolated and quantified it. So you can bottle and market it. I have very deep pockets and am not concerned with price tags. All my partners and I want is the exclusive of this hormone."
"I don't know how to do that. I'm not even sure if it can be bottled. Who are your partners?"
"They prefer to remain unknown, for now. Once the product is on the market they may show themselves. Let's just say they are in the medical replication field. Synthesizing God will be the ultimate product placement, right?"
Canticle picked up his jacket he had tossed over the back of a chair. He leveled an malevolent gaze into Orbis' eyes. "I'll be in touch with you once the National Guard puts the unwashed back in place. Once order is restored through force, we can get to the details of a lifetime contract. In the meantime, talk with your friends in the field on the best ways of manufacturing this hormone. Perhaps even synthesized." Canticle held his eyes for a moment, then confidently, a bit too casually, went to the door, opened it and stepped out. He walked through the fighting and the fucking. Outside the elevator two men were arguing. One simply took out a knife and began stabbing savagely, a lifetime of politeness vanishing within a shower of slashed jugular. Canticle watched coolly, taking out a handkerchief and gingerly removing a spot of blood from his lapel. The elevator silently lifted him to the top of the building. There a black helicopter awaited him. An assistant took his coat and he stepped inside where a cold gin and soda awaited him. The heavy doors sealed behind him and the vehicle lifted into the air, carrying him through the rising smoke over the jagged city horizon, passing another helicopter heading over the scene, snapping pictures and relaying them back to their bosses. Then guns lowered and tear gas was sprayed into the crowd.
He who has the guns makes the rules.
Orbis was left alone with the sound of the television. The two televisions were showing different aspects of this event. The newscaster was discussing how mobs had broken into St. Patrick's Cathedral. Priests, rabbis, and other clerics were being murdered. The Cuban government hailed Orbis, calling him a true friend of the Proletariat, but thousands of hopeless Cubans were committing suicide.
Orbis never thought this little story would cause such damage. He was thinking of chatting with Bill Moyers over lattes, not confirming Frederic Nietzsche on the pyres of the weak and helpless.
Indeed, the crux, the silent fulcrum in the human mind is that there is something, anything, larger than this beautiful cesspool we call Home. Take that vision away and there's nothing. What do we do when we've taken every drug and fucked ourselves limp?
But Orbis was concerned about others? What would Orbis do now?(He had the questionable habit of speaking of himself in the third person when frustrated). He didn't know how to synthesize hormones. He left the field of physics because he wasn't very good at it. This was how he got into the new age game -- being sincere was the ticket to success and couldn't be measured by independent means. Mr. Canticle and his "partners" sounded like men who didn't hear the word no too often. Besides, there was no Brahmamone™. The idea of the seat of consciousness being nothing but chemicals was something people had been toying with, but it was only the pipe dream of atheists who couldn't stand the idea of something they couldn't control. Orbis had hoped that by announcing this he could bring the two sides together. The proceeds from this alone could pay off his home in Naples.
Mr. Canticle wouldn't be pleased with the news. But, and Orbis smiled to himself, perhaps Mr. Canticle didn't care.
A lifetime contract. Only one lifetime, Orbis wondered? He would bring that up at their next meeting.
Outside the green room there was a loud bustle, a tsunami of sound rushing towards the fragile door. Orbis flicked his eyebrows and turned to face the racket. Newsmen, camera floodlights and hairspray rushed into the room. He held his arms out from his sides and squinted into the powerful floodlights.
He was ready to answer all questions.