It was obvious at a glance that things had changed in Rennes and not for the better.
The breakdown of the relationship between Celia and her former husband had unforeseen consequences and the international Sufi movement had foreclosed on La Metairie Blanche, forcing her to vacate the property only a few days before we arrived, in order to install one of their own, a visiting Sufi sheik, in the white house on the hilltop where she had found her treasure all those years ago. Marcel had taken her into his own home in the village but she was in a wretched, black dog-mood and we feared she might be on the verge of attempting suicide or losing the plot entirely like so many others in the zone.
Despite his usual good humor, the years had evidently not been kind to Marcel. His brother, Antoine, had gained the upper hand in the running feud, forcing Marcel to give up the keys to the kingdom. Antoine and Claire Corbu had taken control of Sauniere's domain and working hand-in-glove with a shadowy consortium known only as the 'Association de terre de Rhedae', were 'restoring' the church and the Villa Bethany with an eye towards capitalizing on the mystery trade by opening the grounds for the first time to the public. In the course of the 'restoration', many if not all of the original furniture and fittings, including Saunier's books and the original brightly colored panes of glass from the crumbling greenhouse, had mysteriously gone missing.
Whatever remained of the truth was vanishing rapidly from ken, replaced by what increasingly resembled an esoteric theme park complete with waxwork effigies of Sauniere and an incongruously aged, suitably 'witchy'-looking Marie. In real life, she had been a relatively young woman at the time, just one of the many misconceptions that had taken root as the events receded and the story took on the substance of myth. Worse still, Marcel's gout was playing up and the new mayor, an unscrupulous right wing martinet with a very chequered history of military service in North Africa, was giving him hell over the upkeep of the parking lot and the public toilets which remained his uninspiring responsibility.
In the meantime Marcel had completed his comic book, a graphic exegesis that while lovingly detailed coyly omitted any details about the nature of the treasure itself. It did go as far as showing the staircase leading to the vault, however, before cutting away, which was enough to raise a few eyebrows at least among seasoned Rennes watchers. While Marcel had no trouble in finding a publisher, he had typically been cheated of his royalties and was as down on his luck as ever. Although public interest in the area continued unabated, fed by a slew of documentaries and paperback bestsellers promising new revelations, very little revenue had found its way into the pockets of the locals themselves. The only sign of civic rejuvenation was the appearance of a restaurant named the 'Pomme Bleu', although it was in the hands of a British couple, who had bought into the area and was accordingly shunned by the locals.
While there was still no hotel in the zone and the cuisine sucked, you could at least get a decent drink in a relaxed, paranoid atmosphere surrounded by fellow treasure hunters and conspiracy theorists, who habitually fell silent every time the music stopped for fear whoever was sitting at the next table might overhear whatever it was they were plotting. And they were always plotting something in Rennes. The first law of magic was written on the ala carte menu and the waitresses wore black with matching silver pentagrams of the sort now commonly available in the local bookstore, which was looking more like a gift shop every day, replete with bumper stickers, tee shirts and novelty pens that, when shaken, showed Sauniere escaping from the Villa Bethany with his treasure in a wheelbarrow.
The commercialization of the enigma, although a little sad, was not without its pleasures and I was pleased to note the works of H. P. Lovecraft and accompanying facsimile Necronomicons were now habitually stocked on the plateau, which seemed like a tacit admission of sorts.
Things had begun to change off plateau too and life in the zone just wasn't the same.
The incoming mayor had done a clandestine deal with another town, and had sold them most of the local water supply. The River of Colours had dwindled to a muddy trickle and fields that had once been filled as far as eyes could see with luxuriant waist high marijuana plants now lay fallow and desolate. Most of Danielle's cats had finally died and although he still sold treasure maps, since his girlfriend had left he had taken to wearing a dress and now answered only to the name of 'Ariane'. Possibly because of the lack of water he made no effort to shave or depilate, although his shaggy appearance rested incongruously with the hand-me-down feminine attire. He was close to the only surviving 'freak' in the area, now that the UFO community had finally given up the ghost.
Even the new agers pitched on Celia's former land were having a lean season. The incoming Sheik had recently acquired a gun and was apparently threatening to shoot any squatters found on 'his' land.
I'd had some truck with the Sufi movement over the years and while it was perhaps none of my business, it was obviously high time someone had words with the Sheik and gave him a li'l perspective on his actions. Since my time in California, I had internalized the kabbalah and set about learning the ninety-nine secret names of God and the sigils that accompanied them, which, like the 'Weirding Way' in Frank Herbert's Dune, could be used as fighting words, to strike and kill like stones even if pronounced correctly. Realizing that I was sympathetic to Celia's plight and perhaps sensing a showdown in the wind, the Sheik decided to head me off at the pass by inviting us to break bread with him instead, an event that lead to undoubtedly to one of the strangest and most Bavaesque dinner parties I have ever had the privilege of surviving.
Being the south, the soiree was alfresco, served at a long table set up on the hilltop overlooking Rennes. The Sheik, being the lord of all he surveyed, sat at the head of the table, giggling at his own jokes and grinning like a malignant Chesire cat at the merry mischief that surrounded him. The first thing that struck me was that he didn't look like a Sheik, and there was nothing eastern in his genetic make-up or even vaguely centered in his manner. In fact he looked exactly like 'Bob' from Twin Peaks, his long grey hair tied back in a tail and he spoke with what sounded like a Canadian accent. He didn't bother rising when we were introduced, and presumably imagined the magnum in the holster ostentatiously slung over the back of the chair and his good grace with the secret society that had mysteriously installed him, had given him a blank cheque to behave as he pleased.
I was seated at the far end of the table with Katie on one hand and Celia on the other, both by now so deeply traumatized neither were much good for conversation, although Kate wore it better. Celia did her best to bear up, her daughter, Grace, glowering quietly at her side, administering kicks to her mother's shins every time she started blubbing openly. Our writer 'friend' sat about as far away from myself and Kate as he could get, mindful of the events of the night before and possibly fearing a further bout of unprovoked daemonic possession, safely buttressed by Marcel and a nervous looking Dutchman named Harry and his equally nervous girlfriend, who apparently worked for the 'Association'. Claire Corbu, Noel's orphaned daughter, had been invited but unsurprisingly, considering the bad blood between Marcel and Antoine, failed to show, which turned out to be a smart move on her behalf. Dagobert, the big, white Pyrenean mountain dog, filled out the assembly, ensconced beneath the table and keeping a rheumy eye out for whatever scraps came his way as the malefic meal wound its way painfully from course to course.
"But it's not fair..."
"It's horrible," muttered Harry.
"I hear you there, dude."
"But it's my house..."
"Care for some salad, Celia?" Our writer 'friend' smiled politely, his efforts at keeping up appearances developing a slightly cracked edge.
I met Marcel's eyes across the table and he raised one hand to his head, miming a gun and smiling as he pretended to pull the trigger.
"When you work for the 'Association', you find out things the public don't know!"
Harry's girlfriend nodded sympathetically, something a little mechanical in the gesture, as if they had gone through this routine a million times before.
"My table... my chairs..."
"Try the wine... of course, it's got no legs at all."
Our 'friend' raised his glass, swilling it in the fading light.
"I don't know how much longer I can take it, personally..."
"Shut up! It's your fault you lost the place, you stupid old bat," hissed Grace.
Dagobert growled uneasily beneath the table.
"How much longer any of us can take it..." Harry tailed off, gazing past me into the gloom. Dusk was rising from the ground now as it usually did, the trunks of the trees marching away into the twilight, the hump of the Rennes plateau looming from the mist behind us like Bocklin's Isle of the Dead.
"My knives. My spoo... owhhch!!" Celia grunted, absorbing another kick.
The Sheik giggled. Then he stopped, catching the look on my face.
"I bet you don't believe there's anything 'supernatural' going on around here at all, do you, Mr... Mr...?"
"Mister is okay with me. Yesterday I would have said no, but after last night I don't have any choice. There is something going on around here and 'supernatural' pretty much covers it..."
"You were in Montsegur?"
I nodded silently and Kate shuddered as if the mere mention of the name might set her off all over again.
"You should talk to my friend Michael," said the Sheik, reaching for his cell and keying in a number. "He knows a lot more about that place than I do..."
"That place..." Katie pushed back her chair, opting out of the conversation, fear and confusion flitting across her face as the Sheik earnestly passed me the handset.
"He's been studying it all his life. Made a film about it... about... what was it again?"
I listened to the cell ring and then somewhere on the far side of the world I heard Michael Mann's answering service click on.
"The Keep... yeah.. that was it."
I terminated the call, deeply grateful no-one actually picked up. "That movie sucked."
"Well it can be a bad thing to be obsessed," mused the Sheik, eyes wandering over the darkening treetops as if trying to see what Harry was looking for. "You can lose perspective, y'know..."
"The music was alright I suppose..."
"Hang on-- what was that?!"
The Sheik was pointing past me and turning I saw a distant pinprick of light moving across the sky, so high up it was probably on the outer edge of the stratosphere.
"Looks like a satellite to me..."
"Definitely a satellite", concurred our writer 'friend' hurriedly. Ignoring him, the Sheik started across the lawn and after a beat Grace followed.
"The mad hatter's tea party!" chirped Harry's girlfriend. "This is it!"
"So, which one are you?" I asked, deciding I might as well make a game of it. "Alice or the dormouse ?”
In the momentary lull we all caught the Sheik's hushed voice as he pointed out the retreating speck of light to Celia's scowling daughter.
"They come at the same time every night. Like clockwork..."
Grace edged closer, scowl deepening as our host stared intently up at the empty sky, breathing deeply and rhythmically, in through the nose and out through the mouth...
"Can you hear 'em?"
The Sheik closed his eyes, one hand trailing lightly against Grace's surly fifteen-year-old ass. She didn't seem to notice or make any effort to step away. "I can talk to 'em. The same way I talk with the dolphins. From here and from here..." He indicated his pineal gland with his forefinger, then his plexus.
I narrowed my eyes. "What dolphins?"
"Used to work with ‘em all the time back in the States" The Sheik nodded smiling goofily. "Yeah. Dr John, man. He taught me everything. Everything I needed to know..."
"Dolphins, huh?" This was starting to make some kind of ghastly sense to me, the info shrapnel steadily snowballing into a cohesive outline. Michael Mann. The international Sufi movement. Dr John. Cetaceans. People from the Pleides.
"Go on..." The Sheik smiled, unbuttoning his shirt to reveal his graying chest hairs. "How old do you think I am?"
"I don't know, dude. I don't care if you're 48, 58 or 158. But there is one li'l bone I'd like to pick with you..."
"MKULTRA for starters..."
The Sheik opened his mouth as if to say something and then closed it again, fear sparking in his eyes. "I don't know what you mean... I..."
"How much do you know?"
"As much as I need to."
"Shit. You're one of Whistler's boys, right? You saw the file..."
I nodded, winging it. "I can't fuckin' believe it... That piece of shit in Aspen blabbed."
I didn't have to turn to sense Kate and Celia hovering behind me.
"I don't suppose you mind telling us what you people are on about?"
“We’re fuckin’ fucked. They killed my brother...”
"I was just fishing. Thought I'd throw in a couple of trigger words and see how he reacted. I didn't know he'd take it this badly!"
"Jim! Jim!!!" The Sheik fell to his knees, clawing at his hair and clothes.
"What the hell did you throw at him? One of the ninety-nine secret names of God?"
"Mkultra and Operation Artichoke. They're codenames for a CIA mind control programme."
"How did you know that?"
"Read it in a book. The Search for the Manchurian Candidate by John Marks (1979). How else? I mean, I don't think it's even classified any more."
Tearing at his shirt, the Sheik began to sing in Hebrew, tears streaming helplessly down his cheeks.
"He looks really sick. C'mon. We'd better get him inside..."
The interior of 'la Metairie' was exactly as Celia left it the day the Sufi movement sent her packing. The 'Sheik' didn't seem to have any personal effects other than his recently acquired firearm, and there was only one conspicuous addition to the existing furnishings. A huge reinforced steel safe stood in the corner of the room and the sight of it seemed to reassure our host no end. Steadying himself, he spun the combination lock first one way and then another, listening for the soft click as the tumbrels disengaged. I already had a pretty good idea about what we would find, but the sight of those thousands of tiny, gleaming ampoules arranged rack after rack within took the others by surprise.
"The hell is that stuff?" muttered Katie, taking a step back as the 'Sheik' tore open a packet of disposable needles, still running on auto-pilot.
"Elixir vitae, man. Alchemical mercury!" whispered the 'Sheik', expertly filling one of the syringes.
"It's a tranquiliser named 'Ketamine' - used mostly by veterinary surgeons. Also known as 'Vitamin K' to the great and the good," I explained, turning one of the ampoules in my hand to examine the lot number. "This batch seems to have come straight from source. Dr.John Lilly's lab in Aspen, Colorado."
"I mean how old do you think I am," muttered the Sheik, tying off.
"You round up the others and try and get them home, okay? Anyone who wants to leave. Now would be the time."
"Someone has to stay with him. We can't just leave him like this... besides, it's high time we found out what's going on around here."
"Okay. Just don't go getting into that stuff. Whatever it's called. We've got an early start tomorrow. We're due in Rennes les Bains at seven thirty, remember?"
"I'm cool. Don't worry!"
The 'One World Dreaming' balloon was once a permanent fixture at the Glastonbury festival, but since the young New Ager, who owned and maintained the elaborate montgolfier moved back to France, he had fallen on hard times. Considering the Jules Verne connection, the opportunity to survey the zone from the air had proved irresistible and the itinerant aviator had jumped at the excuse to take us for a spin around Mount Bugarach, weather and cross winds allowing. I figured that gave me enough time to hear the Sheik out and if things did get a bit heady then the light and space of the balloon journey was the best possible method of blowing away the cobwebs.
Marcel and Harry took charge of ferrying the confused guests back to their various beds, while I built a fire on the hearth and waited to hear the 'Sheik' out. I don't know how much of that stuff he was mainlining but it seemed to do the trick, pulling his scrambled head together long enough for me to pry his story out of him.
He assumed I knew far more than I did, but that was ever the Achille's heel of the intelligence community and secret societies in general. As they are secret to begin with, no-one ever really knows who's working for who and there's always a sneaking suspicion the other guy probably knows more than you do, or is already an initiate of some more exotic order. Adopting a friendly, brotherly tone I settled myself on Celia's couch, casually throwing in the occasional 'buzz' word to spur the 'Sheik' along. In the event he didn't need much encouragement. It was an old story and I had already guessed its outlines. There are a million stories just like it in the zone, drifting through eternity...
His real name was Adam Trumbull and he claimed to be a close relative of Douglas Trumbull, the special effects creator of Kubrick's 2001 and director of such offbeat entries as Silent Running (1971) and Brainstorm (1983). The Trumbull family was from old French-Quebecois stock and according to Adam, they were directly descended from the Templar grand master who founded Montreal. The Templars had more or less invented banking by coming up with the first chequebook at the time of the crusades, and after their persecution in Europe, had allegedly fled to the New World from whence they had plotted their revenge on the kings of France, instigating the French revolution and the 'nights of fire' in Haiti. At least according to Adam, who unearthed a slew of geneologies and crumpled identity documents from a cardboard folder. For all I know they were probably elaborate forgeries, no more authentic than the famous 'Rennes documents' at the core of the Baigent/Lincoln/Leigh book and, in point of fact, resembled nothing more than hand-outs in an elaborate role-playing game.
Adam had always had a strong interest in the paranormal in general and telepathy in particular. In the early 70's, his research had brought him into contact with John C. Lilly, M.D., a fellow physician and psychoanalyst, who focused on biophysics, neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, electronics and computer theory. In essence, he studied consciousness - human and animal consciousness. Lilly had been involved in electro-shock therapy and sensory deprivation studies since 1956, when he had begun immersing volunteers in a tank of lukewarm water. The subjects wore a face mask that enabled them to see only blurred light. The maximum time a volunteer could tolerate these conditions was three hours. The volunteers reported feelings of unreality and tremendous loss of identification. They literally did not know where they were, or who they were, or what was happening to them. Due to this enormous mental pressure most of them abandoned the experiment.
In the early 70's, Lilly had been introduced to the drug Ketamine by Dr. Craig Enright, in the hope of alleviating the chronic and oddly regular headaches he had been suffering all his life. As Lilly floated in the isolation tank fluid, Enright injected him with 35 milligrams. Within a few minutes, Lilly could actually visualize the migraine pain moving out of his skull and subsequently felt no pain whatsoever for approximately twenty minutes, until it once again reentered his head. When Lilly began moaning and groaning Enright shot him up with another 70 mg. This time Lilly felt the pain moving farther away, "about twelve feet this time". When the pain returned, Enright administered a further 150 mg. This time, when the pain left Lilly's head, it didn't come back. An hour later Lilly climbed out of the tank a new man.
A week later, when Doctors Enright and Lilly met at the Esalen isolation tank, they agreed to join forces and conduct a joint research into the effects of Ketamine as a possible programming agent. The movie Altered States was based on one of their initial experiments. On this occasion, Enright injected himself with a measured dose of K and, "with Lilly observing", began a strange odyssey into the primal/archetype regions of his psyche, returning to the "prehominid origins of man". Enright, in this programmed "altered state", displayed all the typical features, movements and sounds of an Ape Man; hopping around in a crouching position, grunting, growling, ranting and howling. Lilly assumed Enright was having some sort of seizure, whilst his fellow researchers 'reality' consisted of a confrontation with a leopard, which he drove away with his arms flailing, grunting and shrieking. Finally Enright climbed up into a tree and stared balefully down at his friend and colleague from the branches above.
An important factor in Lilly's decision to continue experimenting with Ketamine was its measurability. K's effects were extremely repeatable, in that you could determine exacting levels of dosage to correspond with the desired effect one wished to experience; whereas other mind expansion agents such as LSD and psilocybin are a somewhat quirkier and inherently less predictable. With Ketamine, Lilly found a suitably empirical approach could be followed to achieve literally mind-bending results.
The potential inherent in the concept of 'mind control' had long been a source of fascination to both the US military and the wider intelligence community. In 1949, the CIA's Office of Scientific Intelligence (OSI) initiated a program initially christened Project BLUEBIRD, with a specific brief to conduct an "analysis of foreign work in certain unconventional warfare techniques, including behavioral drugs". This was evolved to become the blueprint and bible of mind-control programs and psychological operations adopted by the west for decades afterwards.
The outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950 and the subsequent exchange of POW's encouraged western intelligence to delve even further into the program's potential. In August 1951, the program was renamed Project Artichoke and in 1952 was transferred from OSI to the predecessor organization of the Office of Security. OSI did retain a responsibility for evaluation of foreign intelligence and in 1953, made a proposal that experiments be made in testing LSD with Agency volunteers in the hope of creating "sleeper" assassins, who could be triggered by hearing a certain word or phrase.
Captain John McCarthy, who ran the CIA assassination team that operated out of Saigon during the Vietnam war, told a friend that MKULTRA was an acronym for "Manufacturing Killers Utilizing Lethal Tradecraft Requiring Assassinations", which sounds like a reach to me but you never know. Donald Rumsfield was involved in the program from its early days and the original 'Nam team (codename: Archangel) were reassembled when the program was reactivated as Operation Phoenix for the second Gulf War, and subsequent occupation and asset stripping of Iraq.
Dr. Lilly later openly admitted that his early LSD and tank research had been conducted under the program's malignant auspices, and while remarkably relaxed about his source of funding and the use to which his research had been applied, Adam's seething paranoia and that loaded magnum slung over the back of his chair bore mute testimony to the long shadow MKULTRA cast out of time. Operation Artichoke and its kid brother MKULTRA were of course the direct inspiration for Richard Condon's 1959 novel The Manchurian Candidate, which, in turn, formed the basis for director John Frankenheimer's classic feature film.
Frankenheimer served as an advisor on JFK's campaign team and after the events of the November 22nd in Deeley Plaza, the film was famously withdrawn from distribution. The president's brother was subsequently to spend the last night of his life as a guest at the director's mansion in north Los Angeles, and Frankenheimer personally drove Bobby to his date with destiny at the Ambassidor hotel the next morning, and was present at the fatal moment. Now I'm not suggesting the director of The Island of Doctor Moreau was a mindless, zombie assassin. Heaven forbid! You see and hear a lot of stuff when you don't exist, and I saw some things during my time as a dog, I can tell you. But I digress!
Working along initially separate but ultimately parallel lines to MKULTRA and Operation Artichoke, the US Navy had begun a secret dolphin project back in 1960, "trying to discover whether the sleek physiology of the animals could be applied to the design of submarines, underwater missiles and torpedoes", according to The Rose-Tinted Menagerie by William M. Johnson (1990), but this program had rapidly grown to encompass more sinister research, including "training of dolphins to attach explosives and electronic eavesdropping devices on enemy ships and submarines".
By 1965, it became obvious that the USA was facing stiff competition from the USSR, raising the specter, according to the CIA, of "a dolphin gap".
[The Russian program, according to the CIA,] "could enable the Soviets to evaluate the potential benefits of developing acoustic jamming countermeasures to US Navy dolphin programs..." In the 1981 issue of US Naval Institute Proceedings, Lt. Commander Douglas R. Burnett, an admiralty attorney, discussed the issue of combat-dolphin escalation between the superpowers. "There may be no choice except to destroy all dolphins," he warned, "or any marine mammal representing a similar threat."
After years of state-funded research, Dr. Lilly had succeeded in perfecting a technique of implanting electrodes into the brains of unanaesthetised animals and stimulating the "pain and pleasure sectors" of the mind. After butchering monkeys by the dozen at the National Institute of Mental Health, Lilly concluded that judicious manipulation of these brain areas could inspire joy and well-being, or pain, anger and fear. Indeed, by using the electrodes to deliver reward or punishment stimuli, the animal could be entirely subordinated to human will.
By the time Adam had gotten involved with the program, Lilly had turned his attention to dolphins under the pretext of wishing to "communicate" with these intelligent and highly perceptive creatures. To insert electrodes into the brains of the fully-conscious animals, holes were made in the skull with a sharp instrument and a carpenter's hammer "the dolphin was held down but tried to jump up at every blow - not because of the pain, but because of the unbearable noise produced by the hammering."
"Despite disappointment and sadness," the good doctor summed up, "we had to go on with our research: our responsibilities lie with finding the truth." (Johnson, 1990).
Judging from the testimony of former trainers in the CIA and US Navy, somewhat less invasive "brainwashing" techniques had been experimentally employed on cetaceans since the mid 1970's. According to my somewhat less than reliable host, marine mammals had been guineapigs in a "Program Plan for Anomalous Mental Phenomena", an effort conducted as part of government investigations into remote viewing and anomalous cognition. A declassified bibliography of research papers completed from 1976 to 1990 includes a 1987 report titled "A Remote Action Investigation with Marine Animals" by Dr. Edwin May and Dr. Charles Pleass that would tend to confirm this. The research was conducted for SRI International, Menlo Park, California, one of the primary research entities alleged to have carried out research for the U.S. military and intelligence service's Project STARGATE, a program that investigated E.S.P (referred to as 'anomalous cognition').
Although the US Navy conceeds that it has been able to "program dolphins and keep them under control for distances up to several miles," it strenuously denies allegations of brainwashing prompting Dr. Farooq Hussain of the Department of Biophysics at King's College, University of London, to ask:
"How is an animal which for centuries has only been recorded for its intelligence and friendliness towards man, now taught by one man to kill another? They must use electrical stimulation of the pain and pleasure centres of the brain in order to induce and reward aggressive behaviour. Of all the depraved and disgusting activities of which man seems capable, this one in particular must rank highly."
It was not until years later however that the increasingly unstable Dr Lilly finally admitted "I was running a concentration camp for my friends." (Johnson, 1990)
By now, Lilly had succeeded in convincing both himself and subsequently his loyal disciple Adam that they were being telepathically directed by an alien consciousness he referred to as (SSI), short for Solid State Intelligence, a supercomputer-like entity in the much the same techno-mystical vein as Philip K. Dick's VALIS. SSI was of a malevolent nature, eternally at odds with a second extraterrestrial network known as ECCO, an acronym for "Earth Coincidence Control Office", that Lilly thought was responsible for all the fortuitous coincidences in life.
One evening after a particularly powerful shot Lilly was sitting watching the Dick Cavett Show, when an alien representative of ECCO appeared and "with some advanced form of psychic surgery" bloodlessly removed the good doctor's penis and nonchalantly handed it to him on a plate. "They've cut off my penis," Lilly exclaimed. When his long-suffering wife Toni pointed out that his penis was still intact, he immediately rationalized the situation by deciding the ET's had replaced his normal human penis with a mechanical version, that could become voluntary erect when he wanted it to.
After Lilly attempted to call the White House to warn the President about an impending alien Apocalypse, the powers that be realized the good doctor had finally flipped his lid, and tried to have him committed to a psychiatric hospital. Unfortunately, Lilly was an old friend of the hospital's director, who saw to it he was released and after a second bid failed, he was allowed to remain at large, continuing his ever-escalating regimen of 'vitamin K'.
When their sources started to dry up, Adam and Dr. John were left with no choice other than to start manufacturing the precious 'elixir vitae' for themselves, in order to maintain contact with their "space brothers" from the Pleides. After leaving the employ of the US government, Lilly supplemented his income as bestselling New Age author and 'scientific advisor' to George Lucas by pushing Vitamin K. to the rich and the feckless. It was the perfect pitch. Not only did the drug induce a lucid induction state similar to an out of body or near-death experience, but it reduced hair loss and liquified fat cells. Of course, it also drove you completely insane, but that's par for the course in Hollywood.
No-one surfs forever. The I.R.S. and rampant paranoia had finally broken up the cozy scene back in Aspen. Dr. John had decamped to Hawaii, where he lived out his declining years in a state of advanced dementia and Adam had fallen back on his friends in the Sufi movement to blag his way to Rennes, where he had run aground on Celia's hilltop. It wasn't all bad, he insisted. Although he could barely hold it together from one shot to the next, he believed he had arrested the aging process and succeeded in holding back the growth of the cancer cells in his body by injecting ketamine directly into his tumours. Accordingly, his personality was in a constant state of flux and while I never did get to find out who 'Jim' was for sure, I suspect the 'brother' he referred to was supposed to be Christ. Either that or Jim Morrison. I doubt he could tell the difference and by now imagined he had been both of them in some previous incarnation.
To be honest, my attention had begun to drift. At some point in the course of Adam's unburdening, I had begun to while away the time by snapping the necks off the ampules and pouring them up my nose to see if it had any effect. I understand the full 'ketamine experience' can only be achieved by mainlining the shit, but I have a few house rules of my own and staying clear of intravenous drug use is one of them. Whatever that stuff was, it was unadulterated and before long I found I was no longer in my body but listening to Adam's monologue from somewhere up on the ceiling.
At first I predictably thought 'Shit. I'm dead,' but then it occurred to me that I was still connected safely to my body, which was comfortably resting on the couch before the fire. This was very reassuring and bore out at least some of the claims made by the good doctor. A sort of funnel had opened in the ceiling that hadn't been there in 'real life', and when Adam launched into a very bad rendition of 'Riders on the Storm', I began to move towards it, anxious to excuse myself of my present company and try out some of the possibilities inherent in the lucid astral state in which I apparently found myself.
This being Rennes, the funnel opened into an octagonal shaft or stairwell that spiraled down and down into glowing darkness, there being no difference between up and down any more, nor was I alone in this strange limbo. What looked like big day-glow Geckos or Salamanders scampered past, clinging to walls marked by ancient glyphs and ciphers that became alien, antehuman circuitry before my eyes, suckered feet sending out random lizard signals through the trembling matrix. Then the shaft opened abruptly into a vast cavity that lay at the heart of life, where the eight-limbed magna mater waited for me, venomous, twining serpents, alligators and other creatures unknown jostling to suckle at multiple breasts, that were really spinnerets and wove a web that ran through everything...