The Harbinger (With Apologies to MCS) [1]

I went to see him in the hospital. It was bad. [2] He couldn't even tell me what had happened to him. It made me scared to see him too; what scared me most was—he wasn't doing anything. What I mean to say is, he wasn't moving. All he did was lie in bed. Gaping up at the ceiling. And to make it more horrifying, as if to make up for the fact he couldn't budge, he talked and talked and talked. Or more accurately, he raved. [3] I couldn't figure out what he was saying but I wrote it all down, I was so terrified. He said:

"There are supernatural beings that have invaded mankind. Or maybe they're just human, I don't know. They look like humans, exactly like humans. [4] At first I thought they were Nazis, from the dark side of the moon. [5] But now I know. They're worse—worse—worse. They make the Nazis look like wolves. [6] I've seen them throughout my entire life, but they didn't bother me and I didn't bother them and we just let each other be. I walked past them on the street, they didn't give me a second glance, [7] I didn't try to hunt them down and tie them to the stake [8] and—until this dream, you see. I had this dream last week.

"It was. It was—like sitting in one of those places, you know, under the iron sky [9] and on the dirt floor and drawing circles on the ground with sticks. [10] And then you look up and see the Aurora Borealis, hear that strange music, you know so old, so full of longing—those words—those words we don't even have words for. Sehnsucht. [11] Wanderlust. (But they didn't even have camps up there, did they?) [12] And then you realize none of it really matters much anymore. Whatever the hell is happening. To you. To go down to the desiccated blackened dead hulk of it—I dreamed about their plan. Their Plan for mankind. I saw it in a moment of absolute clarity and I woke up screaming. [13]

"Once I knew about that Plan I realized, no matter what the cost, no matter what, I had to stop Them. That it wasn't a matter of If. It was a matter of When. I had to—I had been chosen. Chosen. [14]

"So I started recruiting others—but I couldn't tell them all, see? In fact, I couldn't tell them anything. So I kept it a secret. I told them it was a literary movement [15]…and they all believed me… and they all followed me…"

Then he stopped for a while, which made me relieved, because I at that point I was starting to get worried. But I didn't have any time to relax. Because right then he turned and looked straight at me (which was strange because up until that point he had only been staring directly overhead).

"It was so pathetic," he said softly, "that it made my head hurt." [16]

It sent chills down my spine—words don't convey it, it was the way he said it. Or maybe the look in his eyes. So sorry to say, no bones about it, I bolted. I was in a cold sweat and I don't think I even started breathing properly until I was about twenty miles from that place.

(The whole time the only thing I could keep thinking about, over and over again, was how much I hate hospitals.) [17]

[1] For the life of me, I could not figure out who this 'MCS' was—all my research has turned up naught. My only consolation is those fools at the SD bureau must be banging their heads over this as well. Scrambling desperately to find this man, bungling over themselves in their petty pride...perfectly comical. I can only hope he will be able to get away in time.

[2] As a child, Vlčák was overtaken with bouts of a mysterious fever which would lay him up in the hospital for months at a time. It never quite went away, he used to tell me.

[3] But at least people heard him! What else can he do? When one is trapped in one place…hemmed in on all sides, so to speak…

[4] Don't they all? Ultimately they threatened him, you see—the SD—I know not with what, but he would not leave. Would barely let me in through the door. Under house arrest, to all intents and purposes.

[5] Oh dear. Seemingly a plot of one of those B-list movies from the '60s…Iron Sky, I recollecthe would find it charming, in hind sight. I have a penchant you see, for collecting these old artifacts and such and often when Andrew could not sleep we would stay up nights and watch these—I even let him borrow some of these, for his own comfort when I was called away on my travels and could not—oh dear. He still had—they are all incinerated now, of course. Burned to ashes in that raid. Damn.

[6] SS-Obersharführer Klaus Wolf—Vlčák's father. Hence the nom de guerre. He had a soft spot for Andrew's mother—some kind of Slavic woman—they're all blood and guts and steel in theory, you see—but Theory and Practice are two entirely indifferent things. So even after she was killed for her crime, Wolf kept an eye out for little Andrew. He took after his father, strangely enough. His hair was a bit dark, true, but his eyes were spot-on. Blue.

[7] They thought he was Aryanisable, you see.

[8] Oh dear. My dear Andrew…it must have been Alex who revealed this too you, no?

[9] See [5].

[10] Another early reminiscence: Vlčák learned his first Geometry from one of those survivors. He told me the story once during lecture. I was doing the straight-edge only construction of harmonic conjugates, you see, drawing those three collinear points on the board, A B C, and he showed me such a clever trick for placing that fourth point ζ so that—well, such trivial details will not interest you, dear reader. That's how they kept themselves going. Andrew told me. In that Camp. Sitting on the ground, doing geometry in the dirt. I personally find such tales morbid—but what else can one do? And how cruel, to have survived once—only to be cast back down to the depths—as it were—people often inquire after my atheism, and I would like to tell them this is the reason—but oh no, that would be not quite true—oh no, no God would be that cruel.

[11] A word that held a special place in Vlčák's heart. He collected them throughout his life, you see, in a little black book—underlined words, he called them—in his mind, thinking one would send such shudders through his mind, he used to tell me. Earthquakes. A kind of code, perhaps. A kind of rough translation: longing. All the intensity of lust without the razorsharp edge of sexual desire. And he often used to feel Sehnsucht at those train whistles—there is a train track, you see, that runs not so far from here—especially at night—completely separate from their cargo, of course! He often told me he had this dream, where he would walk to the station at kind of a trance, as it were...wait on the platform together with a million lost souls...and a train would come and bear them off, to regions vast and beautiful and unknown.

[12] "At night those who had nothing or less than nothing ventured out. In Mexico City they called them teporochos, but a teporocho is a survivor, a cynic and a humorist, compared to the human beings who swarmed alone or in pairs around El Chile. There weren't many of them. They spoke a slang that was hard to understand…Their life expectancy was short. They died after seven months, at most... Their feeding habits and their sex lives were a mystery. It was likely they had forgotten how to eat or fuck. Or that food and sex were beyond their reach by then, unattainable, indescribable, beyond action and expression. All, without exception, were sick. To strip the clothes from a body in El Chile was to skin it." (2666)

Andrew went up to visit that camp in New York once (Alex was only too happy to oblige him, of course). He was always a little quieter afterward.

[13] You woke up screaming aloud, a breath from your secret God.

[14] They believed they were the Chosen people. That's why they clung onto it, of course. Every mother believes her son will be the Messiah!

[15] He is referring to the visceral realists, of course.

[16] See note above.

[17] As do I, Andrei. As do I.