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The Story of “e”


Mel C. Thompson


Copyright © 2018


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1. His Continual State of Pent-Up Rage


Incel was combing the information networks of the world trying to justify his continual state of pent-up rage when a knock came at the door of his subsidized apartment. (The subsidized apartment thing was kind of an embarrassment because he spent a lot of his time writing and publishing articles about how taxes and social programs were tantamount to simple theft; but Incel had compartmentalized this by claiming to himself that the help he was getting from the government was only a temporary thing and that he would soon be joining the ranks of perpetually-angry tax-payers as a full-time worker who was fully self-sufficient.) Of course he had no way of knowing the person knocking on the door would see through virtually all of his illusions, and so he impatiently pulled the door open and said, “What?”


The entity who faced him seemed to have a male form, although one could not be sure if the humanoid figure had any gender at all. By all accounts, one would reasonably presume there was a normal person underneath the garb, but such a guess would be purely speculative. This being had two arms and two legs, a torso, a neck and a head, but they were all covered by a pure-white whole-body suit. The “man” began to speak very clearly although his entire face and form, (if indeed there were a face and form behind the white cloth), was completely covered. Somehow this covering did not muffle the sound in any way. It was as if his voice were emanating through the entire surface of his body. The only distinguishing mark was a large letter “e” in the center of what would have been the “shirt” portion of the body-suit.


Incel jumped back and exclaimed, “What the hell? What is this — some kind of joke? What do you want? Why are you screwing with people this way? Don’t you know this is a rough neighborhood? You could get shot or mugged wandering around a place like this alone in a costume like that. Why don’t you try this stunt in the Art District where people will at least be ready for something like this?”


The person spoke. “You are Incel?”


“Yes, but who told you about me? Did one of my hostile readers put you up to this?”


“No,” replied the entity. “I have been sent by Nature. There are some things you need to learn. I was sent to impart those things to you. You will be free to share, or not to share, the things I must show you. If you do opt to share your story, some people will believe you and some won’t, and some I won’t allow to hear you. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The main thing I came to tell you is that Nature may, or may not, help you with your loneliness, but it has empowered me to show you the source of your loneliness. Nature has not failed to reward you in the ways you were seeking to be rewarded because of any personal enmity toward you, but rather because rewarding a person like you too much would create a risk of violating all of the laws of Nature, and Nature takes its laws pretty seriously. The laws of Nature, of course, are plain to see, but your survival instinct forbids you, and almost all people, from seeing them. In any case, it was Nature’s determination that if you knew the cause of your suffering, you would take your sufferings far less personally and perhaps you would hate humanity far less than you do now. That is the only reason I am here.”


“Oh great,” sneered Incel. “You know, it’s socialist-infiltrator nut-cases like you that make the Men’s Rights Movement seem even more fucked up than it already is. Everyone already sees us as desperate wankers and freaks, and now you have to come and make our job even harder by parading around in some glorified jump-suit claiming to be a prophet or some such thing. And anyway, I don’t like the way you’re using the word ‘Nature.’ It sounds like some kind of religious prattle; and while half the people who read my editorials may think I’m some impotent loser, at least I don’t need the crutch of some New Age goddess crap to keep me going. I may have to live alone because of what I believe, but I’m never going to knuckle under and go in for any mystical sissy shit. So, if you will excuse me, I’d like to go back to making my gourmet dinner for one, dinner for one forever. My life is hard enough without some liberal performance artist creep stalking around my door trying to convert me to some wimpy Taoist garbage. If you have anything serious to say, you’d better say it quickly and you’d better say it now, or I’m slamming this door shut. That last thing our movement needs is another bipolar fruitcake like you!”


Incel went to shut the door, but found that not only could he not shut the door, but that the door was coming all the way open and the creature “e” was stepping straight into his one-person micro-palace. Incel tried to speak but found he could not force any words out at the moment. Incel then turned to see that “e” was lounging quite leisurely on his overstuffed, brown, leather couch, (a couch he could never afford on his own but which was inherited from one of the long series of prematurely-deceased people in his semi-undergrounder world).


As Incel wrestled a bit with being tongue-tied, “e” noted, “You must forgive me for the stereotypical manner of my intrusion. Having read some of the literary criticism you intersperse with your woman-hating, reactionary political screeds, I’m already aware of what you’d say about this situation, that it’s the lead-in to every inept screenplay and every first novel written by anyone destined to remain anonymous in perpetuity. And thus you would discredit both my performance-art costume as well as my forcing my way past your door. Well, I wasn’t sent to bring you literary pleasure or to suit your aesthetic ideals. I’m simply a conveyor of information, information in the form of a double-helix code, to be exact. Whether or not that seems cliché to you is beside the point, since I will prevail however threadbare and prosaic you may think I am. Nature told me that I am to always win every dispute in perpetuity. And so, you see, your opinion of me can’t ever matter.”


Incel stared straight at what would have been the eyes in the all-white figure, and having glared in indignation for a moment, turned away, and, regaining his voice, said, “Screw this. I’m calling the cops.”


As he pulled out his mobile phone to call the authorities, a text flashed across the screen saying, “Even if the police come, they won’t be able to see me.”


Incel threw his phone on the floor and went into the kitchen to cook. Having hallucinated before when he was quite young, he knew not to take situations like this too seriously. His psychosis was only intermittent and so it wasn’t even worth getting on a regime of full-time meds when, by the time he even got an appointment with a psychiatrist, the episode would be over. His general physician described it as a mere genetic fluke that popped up now and then, nothing worth risking a lifetime of involvement with the horrifying mental health system in California. He figured that by the time he was done cooking, the whole episode would conclude.


He swigged back a few shots of Kentucky rye whiskey and followed that up with a few blasts of tawny port, a tonic that was more consistently effective than risperdal or stelazine, (and yes, his doctor told him that even though the ultra-puritanical California medical authorities would have yanked his medical license in a minute if they knew he’d broke ranks with them and all their punitive, small-hearted regulators, and let the truth out). His seeming hallucination was likely to go away soon since he had some pleasures to render to himself tonight. It so happened that his local market had fresh Icelandic cod on sale along with a solid Bordeaux white. He already had some purple potatoes in stock along with some oyster mushrooms. It was going to be a one-man feast, and that was reward enough to stabilize his otherwise pleasure-starved body-mind complex.


After he finished cooking, he headed back toward the living room to set up his meal on the coffee table between the folding chairs just opposite the now-accursed couch where the apparition named “e” had been sitting. He sat down on one of the folding chairs, placing a single glass of wine and his first serving of food on the coffee table. He looked up, and, to his displeasure, the entity “e” was lounging, arms outstretched and legs spread casually. Seeing this, he arose and went to the kitchen and filled up another plate with food and filled up another wine glass for his uninvited guest. He set them down rather harshly, stopping just short of slamming them down, in front of “e” and said, “Well, eat!”


Complying with his unwilling host’s orders, “e” absorbed the food and wine through the white cloth-like membrane that surrounded him, and, out of seeming politeness, he did so in an area where a mouth would have been, had “e” possessed a standard mouth.


So?” demanded Incel.


You are a good cook,” replied ‘e.’ “If you are also a good masseuse, I think perhaps more women than you know would be prepared to overlook both your ill temper and your indigence.”


Incel suspected this assertion was true, but quickly put the thought out of his mind as he was not in the mood to “go soft,” especially in front of a stranger. Besides, he thought, “I could see such a situation turn into some kind of white-knighting or codependent simping, and frankly, I’d rather die first.”


As he ate some of his cod, he looked up at “e” who was staring at him and realized instantly that “e” had just seen what he thought. As a defense mechanism against this, Incel turned on what he called his “semi-compliant mind,” a thing he only did when he saw he was in trouble or had no way of winning an argument or debate.


Okay, Mr. Mind Reader,” said Incel as he took a few bits of purple potato and a couple more swigs of sauvignon blanc, “you might as well tell me your name; and you might as well speak your peace, since, apparently either you’re for real or I will need to be checking into UCLA psych ward tomorrow morning.”


Sitting up straight, and taking on a more respectful pose, “e” said, “You may trust me when I say that it will not be necessary for you to visit the hospital anytime soon. You have, such as they are, all your faculties in operating order. My name is Evolution, and I came here to promise you that nothing whatsoever is wrong with the world nor with the relations between the sexes. In fact, Nature asked me to tell you that no mistake has ever happened in the entire history of biology or physics. Every cell and every atom have performed their duties 100% perfectly within the sets of laws they were given to operate. Since all entities are, by definition, experiments, none of them can ‘go wrong,’ per se. In fact, your personal misery is precisely built in to the structure of this universe. And, (if you will forgive me again for sounding religious), all of the torture living beings go through is perfectly divine. There is nothing much I have to add to that unless you have any questions.”


After concluding his short sermon, “e” said, “Since my priestly duties are now completed, I ask that you kindly bring out that nearly-full bottle of tawny port you were drinking from before you came in here. I think I might like to absorb a lot of it. I have not assumed this form in a very long time, but Nature informs me that while I’m here, I should, (and these are her words), ‘check out Incel’s radical porn collection.’ I admit to having not quite attained omnipotence, and so, in spite of my lofty language of a moment ago, I confess you’ll have to educate me on this detail of human existence.”


Incel, without replying, reached to the far end of the coffee table and picked up a remote control device. After pushing a few buttons, he pointed the remote control, like a large finger, toward a 64-inch flat screen television which suddenly popped on. “e” and Incel stared at that screen without further comment until shortly before dawn.


2. On The Increasing Disposability of Men


As Incel sat alertly at his table at a somewhat exclusive café in North Hollywood, he gulped down imported black tea which was so strong that it was stronger than black coffee. In this way, the full depth of his caffeine addiction was masked from the coffee drinkers around him, although the café workers, who knew better, stared at him disconcertedly, wondering why Incel’s skull did not burst from such an onslaught of liquid stimulant.


It was Incel’s ritual to retreat to this particular café precisely because he was so relatively unimportant there. His very-low-paying writer’s fees, which left him nothing to donate to the pleading Doctors Without Borders girl near the Metro station, were such that he was penniless and on several types of government assistance. Notwithstanding this, several thousand people per week read his works in one venue or another, (and most of those readers were in Los Angeles and they hated him); and so he did have to take some minimal measures to evade unpleasant encounters. He finally settled on a strategy of going into bars, restaurants and cafés where he was, by far, the very least-known person. In this way he could be totally ignored, which was what he needed in order to get through his day without any unnecessary drama beyond that which his “writing work” created.


It so happened that this particular location was frequented by lesser-known, but significant, movie producers and slightly-famous, but struggling, actresses who’d had enough film credits to keep working at the margins of stardom until they really made it big or at least found some pretext to sue any corporation or mogul they could in order to make sure old age didn’t find them homeless. This café not only served as a kind of refuge for Incel, but also as a fount of irrefutable intelligence which was, by class-wide honor-bound agreement, “kept from the little ones who would freak if they knew what we were doing and knew how easily we got away with it.” However, the upper-middle-class, like members of every racketeering organization, were always getting too confident, and over-confidence always ended up in sloppiness. Falsely presuming the establishment had barely a single loser in it, and seeing few people around them who weren’t in a thousand dollars worth of clothes, they used this establishment as a kind of public confessional, thus accidentally handing Incel, on a golden platter, as it were, far more evidence than he could have ever even prayed for, evidence which added a nasty sting to his articles, articles that fundamentally-dishonest people were glued to with a rabid and morbid curiosity.


One unspoken, iron-clad rule among the perilously upper-middle-class of Los Angeles was that, should the bottom ever fall out, “God will forgive you for suing innocent entities as long as the company or person in question is solidly white, incredibly wealthy, and crypto-conservative.” And Incel’s article about this phenomenon was itself a mini-hit, netting him a rare $300 payment from the grateful editor of a sex-industry-related business magazine. In fact, it was in this very café, a place where eavesdropping was shockingly easy due to how loudly egomaniacs spoke, that a waify redhead whose only talent was playing herself in cameo roles, plotted just such a book-tour-securing, retirement-fund windfall with a beta-male orbiter who hung on her every word and dared not question her ethics, hoping against hope, that he might one day escape the friend-zone if he was obsequiously compliant enough, (not realizing, of course, that obsequious compliance was the character trait that landed guys into the friend zone faster than any other singe factor).


This café was a godsend for Incel’s writing. Incel, being a world-class paranoid who had the typical paranoid’s interest in corruption, game-rigging and insider trading, noted that, for reasons he could not comprehend, no gangster-at-heart could resist bragging about what they’d done; and this made his job all the easier; and he was all the more hated because virtually all of his articles were based on blatant confessions he’d heard without even having to sneak around in the traditional ways. The fact that so many “bad editors” of “tasteless publications” kept indulging him by publishing him, (usually without pay), made a sizable number of people in the San Fernando Valley murderously furious at him. For this reason alone, no woman who expected to keep any friends, employers or landlords, could possibly date him. For some reason it made his vengeful audience even angrier that Incel’s recent essays, in response to questions about his “involuntary celibacy,” spoke of its “surprisingly array of fascinating advantages for my writing life.”


The people he knew, and he had known dozens, who treated addicts in recovery, or were getting in their 3,000 hours to become therapists, or otherwise in some kind of religious vocation, despised the fact that Incel was a complete reprobate whom they would have loved to convert to what he called “sincerity-ism,” except that he had dozens of hours of ready-to-hand first-person testimony against virtually every goody-good idea they tried to convert him to. (It goes without saying that Incel found “humble gratitutde” to be the most sickening of those ideas which formed the core of the fundamentalism of sincerity-ism. Of course these professionals all knew Incel was technically-correct, but their professions all had strict guidelines as to what economic dropouts and wing-nuts were permitted to believe, and, without coming out and saying it, they all, to a person, believed that all bad-attitude punks simply must somehow discredit what their own eyes and ears had told them. They absolutely had to be ordered to believe “helpful things.” Anyone who spends much time in the environments of failures tends to come to the conclusion, with the full support of the institutes they work for, that as long as bitter losers cling to what is “true” versus those things “mentally-healthy people believe,” they’ll be incurable.


Since low-income, semi-unemployed, rebel weirdos have problems with authority, social convention dictates that the only way to deal with them is to simply starve them of human fellowship until such time as they “buckle under and get with the program.” As of Incel’s time, no system of rehabilitation, parole, or therapy, existed where the unrepentant blasphemer and the professional helping him were allowed to admit to all of the rot existing within the authority figures around them. It was their finding that the loser must be obligated to mouth positive things about the economic and romantic systems around him, and just keep chanting those things until he believed them, or else all would be lost.


The other non-negotiable key to sincerity-ism is the doctrine that the “patient” must proclaim that all problems with his life emanate 100% from his own wrongdoing and wrong thinking and from no other source. The idea is that if the sinner had someone, or something, other than himself to blame, especially anyone more socially elevated than him, he would latch on to that immediately and, with righteous indignation, refuse to reform until the people above him did. It’s not that the professional helping class would mind it if those above the reprobate would reform themselves, but, to a person, they all knew that the upper-middle-class system of evil is more insidious than the more simplistic evil of bloody tyrants and mob bosses, and thus the hope of reform coming from that quarter hovers quiveringly just above zero. Therefore all of the weight of making the world right, 100% of it, must be fully and finally and exclusively made to fall on the shoulders of the low-level failure, period.


Incel could indeed have perhaps been bullied, isolated or sweet-talked into sincerity-ism had he not recourse to this café, wherein, within thirty minutes of his arrival, replete with stacks of Jonathan Franzen books and cloth-bound writing journals, some accountant-to-the-stars would quite volubly instruct a “Valley newbie” as to where everyone laundered their money and which tax lawyers aided the good souls of Los Angeles in evading the lion’s share of the taxes they would otherwise owe.


Such accountants sometimes had with them what was erstwhile called “the guilt list,” a name that stuck until another name superseded it. This was a list of feel-good charities that helped people far, far away, ideally in Africa, (because helping anonymous people in Africa cost just pennies on the dollar compared to helping real homeless mental patients or addicts asleep near a freeway onramp). An accountant who was seated across from another accountant, discussing this very topic, said, “Why not just call it The Africa List?” which elicited a burst of involuntary laughter from a group of trust fund managers in the table across from them who were, of course, also eavesdropping. After that point, “the guilt list” nomenclature disappeared ans was forever replaced by “The Africa List.” CPA’s would bring out The Africa List just as the expressions of their new clients began to fall due to the guilt involved in both not aiding U.S. social programs and simultaneously stiffing any feckless relatives of theirs who were floundering. The Africa List guaranteed that for every American loser they didn’t help, three young African kids would greet them as beneficent saviors of humankind. The very non-racism of that would surely wipe out any vestige of bad karma implicit in their insatiable and rabid hoarding, so they eagerly hoped. Aiding them all were conservative pastors, imams and rabbis who, in exchange for a highly-prosperous future, tacitly agreed that all their sermons should evade all those parts of the scriptures that went so far as to insinuate that those who did not sufficiently share their wealth or pay their taxes might go to Hell for eternity, because Hell for eternity was just not the kind of topic polite people, if they had any class at all, brought up.


Although Incel was anti-religious, he did slip up and use the phrase “offering from the gods” when incontrovertible testimony for a story that an inattentive reporter for the mainstream media would have ignored, was just dropped into his lap by what he called “the faithful parishioners” of his favorite café. And today’s offering from the gods came in the form of nine women seated around a table bonding over bubbly. They were coworkers at a company with a very low turnover rate, meaning that many of them were best friends with their coworkers and partied with them after working with them, and even stayed over at each other’s houses after partying. It was something on the order of a nine-way marriage in which everyone was obligated, (but only after becoming drunk enough to deny everything later by pleading intoxication), to discuss in precise details the most strategic decision-making processes of their lives.


The nine women discussed many almost randomly chosen items and bantered around in what seemed to be an almost unplanned and haphazard way, making bystanders wonder if the conversation would ever get anywhere. Most of the eavesdroppers simply didn’t have the patience or “faith” that Incel had, and seemed to tune out. (Any police interrogator knows this rule: Just keep them talking and they will incriminate themselves. A short conversation is a bad conversation. The longer it goes, the more certain the victory for the interrogator.) And sure enough, the topic “accidentally drifted” to low-income men and how to get rid of them. Interspersed between comments about that topic were comments about the even more forbidden topic of lies that men have to tell when they’re breaking up with women because of their weight. But as the extremely-attentive waiter never missed an opportunity to refill an even half-empty bubbly glass, the women soon lost all self-consciousness and began to boisterously talk about how to recruit, and use, a non-sexual harem of men for the purpose of having those men streamline every discomfort in life in exchange for virtually nothing. Additionally, and critically, they detailed key tactics used in getting rid of an orbiter once he lost his usefulness. Incel, a formerly-ardent beta-male orbiter listened intently.


At that point the assistant manager made a rather grave expression toward the leader of the officemates, a woman whom he knew well and treated with respect since she ultimately decided which establishment would get the hefty income from such nights of debauchery as she orchestrated. Upon looking up and seeing the darkened, serious face of her friend, she urged the women to hush their tones when speaking a certain way. After that, while one could not hear the contents of the conversation the women were having, one heard interspersed bursts of laughter, the non-specificity of which was fine by the assistant manager, after each woman had “scored” an even deeper debasing of men than the speaker before had. And while their competition to debase men was fierce, it was, it must be added, extremely friendly and no hurt feelings were noticed in any of the women’s faces.


Incel formed the title of his next major article, based on what he had just heard: “On The Increasing Disposability of Men” when suddenly his smartphone gurgled out the sound it made when the increasingly-authoritarian smartphone OS was adding new apps against the user’s will, apps he would have to just passively accept or consciously work to delete.


3. Incurring The Wrath of The Patriarch


One of the new apps, after it self-installed on Incel’s phone, beeped and beeped again. Irritated, Incel stopped his writing and tried, over and over, to launch the “uninstall all new apps” function, but alas, the mass-uninstall feature was failing, meaning he would have to go through a list of new apps, one by one, and uninstall the unwanted one that was beeping over and over for attention.


Finally he just left the restaurant and went home to clear the junk off his smartphone and start writing again. As he cleared away new app after new app, he noticed one would not delete, not even when he tried to “manually” delete it. He put on the stronger of his two pairs of bad glasses, one which magnified too little and the other which magnified too much. (Optometry of the sort his Medi-Cal covered was so bad that it verged on being dangerous, meaning he went years between appointments with “real optometrists.”) After putting on the stronger pair of glasses, he looked closely at the persistently offending app, it was displayed as a white circle with the letter “e” in the middle of it.


This was the last straw. This “e” hallucination had gotten out of hand. Clearly it was time for him to go on “real meds,” since this particular “e” hallucination was now becoming “a thing.”


*


Because Incel did not want to go to the giant, depersonalized emergency room at UCLA, he would go to the Medi-Cal default clinic in East LA. Finally there was a Metro Line that went there, so he didn’t have to borrow a friend’s car to see the doctor there anymore.


Any part of California anywhere within a hundred miles of the coast was now so economically unlivable that there was virtually no psychiatrist available to 90% of the people who needed one. This meant that one psychiatrist would often preside over a hotline that serviced ten or fifteen clinics full of doctors not quite qualified to give out meds any stronger than Wellbutrin or Valium. So when the “high-end crazies” came in with nowhere else to go, the Medi-Cal clinic doctors would interview them as best they could with the limited skills they had in a field they never meant to practice. Then, desperately, they’d wait in a telephone cue until the overwhelmed psychiatrist picked up the phone and decided the next of the dozens of fates he might decide that day. Whatever that phone consultant told the doctor to do, she did. After writing the prescription she was instructed to write, she’d have the clinic secretary interrupt the patriarch’s work and pester him to rubber-stamp the prescription the phone consultant had given. (And the patriarch, while not a qualified psychiatrist, did take several elective courses in psychiatry in medical school, which made him even more arrogantly authoritative toward his subordinates regarding such matters. He rarely differed, however, with the phone consultant; but if he did, he interrupted his current patient’s appointment to personally see the psychiatric patient in question and “straighten the matter out.”)


The people at UCLA didn’t know Incel, which meant that they didn’t hate him, because they were too important of an institution to take note of an almost-nobody like Incel. However, in the East LA clinic, very few ultra-low-level celebrities came in, and so they’d already Googled Incel and found out he was an infamous misogynist somehow kept alive by a combination of welfare and unreliable patronage. And hence, unlike UCLA, they deeply disliked Incel and wished he would never come back, but alas, he kept returning. (While the clinic did have one evil patriarch M.D., Incel failed to take note that every other doctor willing to work in this dangerous and underpaying part of the city was female, meaning that he owed his medical survival to women. Due to the laws of cognitive dissonance, it did not occur to him that perhaps females continually saving his life, and the lives of countless others, might be a mitigating factor in favor of the gender he planned on making a living dehumanizing.)


Dr. Lindsay was the doctor who usually got stuck having to see Incel, a duty she dreaded with all her smugly-white ultra-upper-middle-class Santa Monica soul. And today was no exception. She approached the incoming-file bin just as the receptionist was retreated from it, having dropped off another hopelessly-thick batch of downwardly-mobile case histories. She grabbed the next file and saw Incel’s name on it. Having already had a long and discouraging day, she threw the file down and issued a string of curses which slightly traumatized the almost genderless, brittle, bespectacled male at the billing desk behind her. He wiped back his thick, brown forelocks and stared sternly at the doctor. The doctor issued an equivocal kind of half-apology and ducked away with Incel’s file.


She entered the examination room where Incel was waiting and thumped the file down on the counter next to the sink and stood, arms crossed, and said, “The letter ‘e’? The intake nurse says you keep seeing the letter ‘e’? Do you realize we have people here with late-stage cancer and incurable diabetes and completely debilitating rheumatoid arthritis? And now I’m supposed to waste away my day trying to figure out why you see ‘e’ on your stupid phone?”


Dr. Lindsay often spoke harshly to Incel, but Incel knew not to react to the hardened affect that she put on. It was his firm belief that she would not toss him out until she reached some diagnosis or came up with some recommendation regarding whatever his “problem of the month” was. (Dr. Lindsay, an orthodox 3rd Wave Feminist, was further irritated by the fact that almost all of the misogynist, involuntary celibates she saw were world-class hypochondriacs who, on top of spreading their toxic message of hate around the world, had the habit of clogging her already overrun practice with endless reports of nonexistent medical conditions.) Incel pretended as if he didn’t notice his doctor’s impatience and pulled out his cell phone. The text on the cell phone read, “Your doctor is not permitted to see me.”


Alright, give me that stupid thing,” said Dr. Lindsay as she impatiently pulled the smartphone from Incel’s hand. “Okay, so there’s no ‘e’ app on there. So now what do you want me to do, commit you to a hospital? I’d just end up sending you back to UCLA and they’d bounce you out of there in 48 hours over such a small-time hallucination.”


After a few minutes of this tense type of discussion, Incel prevailed on Dr. Lindsay to call the psychiatric consultation line which he had heard all about from the time he ran into the billing clerk who stared reprovingly at the doctor whenever she slipped up and resumed her bad habit of cussing at work. The billing clerk, seemingly completely asexual, was taking his lunch at a burrito stand just a block from the clinic when Incel spotted him as he went in to place his own order. After Incel took the liberty of taking a seat beside him, the billing clerk told him all the ins and outs of the clinic and how to “max out” all of its potential services. Dr. Lindsay didn’t know how Incel knew about all of the services that the clinic tried to reserve for “truly deserving” patients, but it irritated her that Incel always managed to create far more work for her than she thought he was worth.


Just to humor Incel, and to hopefully get him out of her examination room, she called the usually-busy psychiatric consultation line; but much to her surprise, the line was not only not-busy, but the consulting psychiatrist picked up the line on the second ring. Dr. Lindsay breezed through the “letter ‘e’ controversy” quickly and expected the call to end quickly. But, to her surprise, the usually-rushed consultant keep piling on question after question, wanting to know everything she knew about the personality of Incel. By the time the call was over, the doctor gave her an opinion which startled her: “Your patient has a profound and incurable mood disorder. I want you to put him on Depakote short-term until UCLA can test out some more sustainable medicines for him. He won’t be getting better in this lifetime. This is a palliative-care case from now on.”


*


The receptionist burst in on the patriarch and his patients, thus incurring the wrath of the patriarch, at least a dozen times a week. She knew from years of experience that the patriarch, when he was seeing a patient, however trivial the matter at hand might be, would never respond to her knock. She’d had it with standing at the door knocking gently and being made a fool of as she stood there helplessly with a prescription for him to rubber-stamp. She was too proud to quit the job and too proud to properly subordinate herself to her employer. If the patriarch wanted to, he could fire her, but each time he threatened to, the clerk shot back with, “and the temp agency will be sending you replacement clerks for two years till you find someone who wants to stay here and put up with this.”


Of course the receptionist was right, and so the patriarch grabbed the prescription from her hand each time, signed it angrily and then slammed it hostilely on the counter, turning away coldly to again address the patient he was seeing. The receptionist, with an evil grin, would whisk the approved psychiatric prescription from the counter and rush it in to Dr. Lindsay or any of the other staff doctors who happened to need her help.


For some reason, today, when the receptionist knocked, the patriarch said, “Come in.” He was with a favorite patient who liked golf and fishing every bit as much as he did; and the patient, although well off, chose to live in East Lost Angeles and chose to go to this clinic, a fact which made the asexual billing clerk stare with incredulity when he processed the claims involving “a guy with real insurance.” Hence the patriarch was momentarily a fulfilled soul, getting, however briefly, to commune with his own kind.


As she slid the prescription to him, he said to his patient, “Jim, hold on just a second. This is just another rubber-stamp deal. After I sign it, you’ll tell me a bit more about the marlin-fishing you were doing in Cabo. I can’t get enough of that stuff.”


The patriarch put the prescription up against a cabinet to sign it, assuming that is was just another antidepressant or anti-anxiety “scrip,” things which he referred to as “candy we hand out to the kids who can’t handle the pressure.” And just as he began to gleefully sign it, he stopped and scowled reprovingly. He looked up at the receptionist and said, “This is bullshit! God damn it! Hold on Jim. I’ll be back with you in a minute. This is just bullshit.” It seemed that Dr. Lindsay had also incurred the wrath of the patriarch this week. The receptionist just looked at the patient, smirked and whirled away to her desk.


*


The patriarch, in a rage, flew into the exam room where Dr. Lindsay and Incel waited for his verdict. He slammed the prescription for Depakote on the counter and said, “What the Hell is this! Depakote? No, no. This kid is a self-pitying, low-level neurotic who can’t get laid or hold a job. I’m sorry, but that doesn’t qualify him as a psycho. Now, I don’t want this wanker on Depakote. That’s serious stuff for serious cases.”


When Incel and Dr. Lindsay tried to explain the mysterious “e” on the smartphone, which only Incel could see, the patriarch grabbed the phone and tossed it unceremoniously into the sink, causing a loud rattle and thud. “Now,” said the patriarch, “other than your little telephone hallucinations which every tenth weirdo on the planet seems to have these days, what have you got for me?”


It was then that Incel narrated the entire evening he had apparently hallucinated with the entity “e,” including the part where he sat up till almost daybreak watching porn with that entity.


Dr. Lindsay and the patriarch stood there transfixed until at last the patriarch bowed in mock humility and said to Dr. Lindsay, “It appears the good telephone counselor has defeated me. Our patient is indeed a madman.” And with that, he turned back to the counter, signed the prescription for Depakote then put his hand on Incel’s shoulder. “It’s gonna’ be a long, hard road, kid. You try to hang in there, buddy, okay? Just try to hold on somehow. We’ll try to take care of you the best we can. I don’t know that our best will be good enough, but that’s all we’ve got to work with, for now.” He winked confidingly at Incel and slipped from the room, seeming almost wounded.


There was a gentle side to the patriarch after all, but that gentle side only came when the news was hard for him to take. Beneath his bullying exterior, he was “a man of many sorrows.”


4. Two Hundred Million Perished


Incel woke up the next morning practically marveling at his state. For the first time in years, he slept eight hours straight without seeming to wake up even once. The sun streamed through the cracks in his dilapidated shades as if it were liquid cocaine. He sat up in bed and felt like a normal person who could actually handle a normal job. His whole body felt as if he were receiving a warm hug from someone, as though he were bathing in the sort of endorphins that socially-acceptable people had access to.


The problem with all this, of course, was that Depakote, Dr. Lindsay said, was not a good long-term solution because it had the potential to pose a lethal threat to vital internal organs if used in high doses for too long a period. Other doctors disagreed with that, and some people seemed to be okay taking it for decades. However, Dr. Lindsay had prevailed on Incel not to get his hopes up about ending up on any long-term drug that would have the stunning short-term results of Depakote.


There was always Lamictal, but Lamictal had really scary, even if exceedingly-rare, side-effects. Upon reading that list of side effects, many paranoid people who believed they had such bad luck that the gods had cursed them, would often refuse Lamictal in spite of their disapproving doctors looking at them like they were irrational cowards, the doctors not thinking through, as it were, the obvious fact that mental illness often came precisely with irrational cowardice.


In any case, Incel was thinking that he’d delay his appointment at UCLA for a month in order to use up the whole thirty-day supply, just for the purpose of experiencing what it would be like to be “a real person” for a whole month. But this line of thinking was interrupted by the sound of a flushing toilet, (a very scary sound to a person who believes himself to be alone in his home).


His heart pounding, Incel got up and crept to the bathroom only to see “e” tossing the empty bottle of depakote in the trash. The toilet had been flushed because “e” had flushed the entire month’s supply of Depakote into the sewer system.


Incel grabbed his head with both hands and shouted, “What are you doing? You just flushed the best thirty days of my life down the toilet!”


Depakote,” replied “e” rather condescendingly, “is a drug for people with profound mood disorders. As for you — you would have been fine on a low dose of Prozac and a conventional sleeping pill.”


But I’m hallucinating your existence right now; and that alone qualifies me for something more extreme than nervous-housewife medicine.”


You may think so, but that also would be an error. You have not hallucinated anything since our first night together. The only reason other people cannot see evidence of me is that knowing fully of my existence would ruin the narrative of their lives, a narrative that has far more than selfish motives, but rather a narrative that permits all of my work to proceed without serious interruption.”


But I have a follow up appointment at UCLA scheduled. What shall I tell them are the results of my experiment with Depakote?”


You won’t tell them anything because I erased that appointment from their database.”


But what will I say to Dr. Lindsay, who’ll want a follow-up appointment with me to see how the appointment at UCLA went?”


No, she won’t be curious about anything of the sort, since I already erased her memory of your last visit with her, and I’ve arranged for the rest of the office to forget you were there also. The next time you see her, she will only ask about your long history of psychosomatic pains.”


Incel turned from the bathroom and went and sat dejectedly on his bed wondering what he ought to do next, but just as he begun to indulge in a deluge of self-pitying thoughts, “e” appeared at the threshold of his bedroom door and advised him to engage in whatever his daily grooming ritual was because they were to go on a field trip together to Griffith Observatory Planetarium.


*


e” had rented a car, or rather, he had simply taken a car from a rental car parking lot and drove off with it. The theft was reported to the police and the police, true to form, appeared to do next to nothing about the theft and seemed profoundly disinterested in investigating the matter further. When the owner of the rental car franchise pressed the police about why they would not investigate the car theft, the shift captain merely advised the franchise owner to fill out any additional details about the alleged incident on an online report form. The only work the police seemed willing to do was to enter the missing vehicle into their data base of possibly-stolen cars.


As “e” and Incel drove along the freeway, and down side streets, sirens and lights were erupting and flashing behind them. This was because “e” was driving while wearing a disguise which was completely concealing his identity, or so they thought, and thus the various police cruisers called in the license plate number only to find that indeed the car was believed to be stolen. However, in succession, each police car that attempted to follow them seemed to become lost and lose the trail. This made no sense to Incel considering that “e” made no evasive maneuvers. Incel would ordinarily have refused to ride along with anyone in a car that was stolen, however, at this point, Incel was thinking he might greet an arrest with relief as somehow being taken into custody might cause the “e” hallucinations to go away or at least recede. In short, either way, he felt he had nothing to lose by going along with a criminal or being arrested as a criminal, whichever would turn out to be the case.


Eventually “e” turned the car up the winding road toward the observatory. In the distance one could see the Hollywood sign and the Greek Theater. Finally they arrived at the parking lot of the observatory and parked the car. Suddenly a police car came roaring across the parking lot and the officer got out and rushed toward the vehicle. “e” and Incel got out and walked past the policeman who appeared not to notice them. Several other police cars surrounded the stolen rental car and took possession of it. No one even looked toward “e” or Incel and they walked around the grounds of the observatory.


I suppose,” said Incel, “we won’t be taking the car back home.


No,” replied “e.”


Then how will we get back to my apartment?” pressed Incel.


I won’t be going back to your apartment today.”


Where will you spend the night after you leave here?’


e” laughed and said, “I’ll be sleeping in everyone’s house at once.”


That doesn’t make any sense to me, but anyway, how do you expect me to get home?”


Just walk down the hill and catch the train at the Glendale Station.”


Just moments later Incel and “e” appeared near the doors of the planetarium, a place where the entire domed ceiling and part of the walls comprised one massive screen that came down low enough to make the viewer feel surrounded by whatever phenomena was being depicted from the advanced 360-degree projection system.


There was yellow tape across the doors and three unarmed security guards milling about. “e” led the way as he and Incel walked straight past the guards who were demanding that they stop. “e” simply tore the tape down and began pulling open the doors even though they were locked. The guards shouted that the theater was closed due to maintenance work and that no one was allowed inside. “e” indicated that he was aware of that and opened the doors as though the locks on them hadn’t existed. The guards kept grabbing Incel’s arm as he walked forward into the main auditorium with “e,” but somehow their grip seemed to slip away as they continued toward some seats near the end of an isle. The maintenance workers shouted at “e” and Incel to go away, but Incel mindlessly sat down next to “e.”


In a moment the husky lead guard was towering over them, looking awkward in his ill-fitting black polyester suit. The guard’s skin was unnaturally tanned from standing outdoors all day and his forehead sweated profusely.


What are you freaks doing in here, and why did you ignore our orders and trespass. I should have the cops drag you out of here right now.”


I believe,” said “e” calmly from his seat, “the police are busy in the parking lot taking possession of a stolen car. They won’t have time for a petty trespassing case.”


So,” pressed the lead guard with his two rather sallow-looking assistants standing behind him, “what do you hope to accomplish? Are you homeless and just wanting to use these seats as a place to crash?”


Not at all,” said “e.” “In fact, a very short film will be starting momentarily. Since it will only be several minutes long, you will only be inconvenienced by our presence for a minuscule amount of time. By the time the police dispatcher took your call off hold, this little convocation will have already broken up. And you’ll not get the police to interrupt their day to apprehend a trespasser who appeared momentarily and then voluntarily left. In any case, the film not only applies to my friend here, but specifically, it applies to you and your coworkers here who are low-income men. These few moments will prove to be most informative and, I might add, conducive to the reduction of your future suffering. Please, have a seat, and spend just a few moments watching the film with us.


One of the sickly, skinny guards with crooked, coffee-stained teeth and taped-together glasses stood forward and interjected, “You’re a crazy man. You look like a lunatic in that white cover-all suit. Anyhow, I just patrolled the projection room area fifteen minutes ago. The room is dark. The equipment is turned off. The workers have the day off due to the repairs going on. There’s no film scheduled. There’s no one here who would even know how to turn the projection equipment on.”


e” stood up and produced three $100 bills and said, “Let us all agree that I, in my white suit, am a crazy man, as the guard says. Very well. However, if you will each take a seat for just seven minutes and pretend with me that a film will be showing all over this dome, I shall pay you each $100 for your inconvenience. If, after seven minutes’ time, there is no video projecting onto the dome, I shall surrender my seat and me and my friend shall exit the theater without further struggle.”


Before they could accept or refuse these terms, “e” had already forced a crisp $100 bill into each of their hands. The guards looked quizzically at each other for a moment until the lead guard said, “Well, you heard the man. Have a seat. I’m setting the alarm on my smartphone to go off in seven minutes. After that, we all go back outside and pretend this never happened.”


*


Suddenly all of the lights in the planetarium went out, eliciting another cry of disapproval from the maintenance workers who were sill unhappy that the intruders hadn’t been summarily kicked out by the security guards. Shouts came from all around, “What the hell? Hey, turn on those lights? We’ve got work to do in here! Stop fooling around.”


Since no one had gotten up to turn off the lights, the guards were terrified; but before they could get their bearings, the entire dome glowed ever so slightly and Mahler’s 5th Symphony blared through the gigantic sound system. Now the workers too were all looking up at the dome wondering why a projection-room technician was running a test while they were trying to do repairs and upgrades. As the maintenance workers and the security guards looked on, suddenly a glowing egg, a human ovum, started at one end of the planetarium and moved toward the center of the dome, growing ever large as it rose and migrated, settling about thirty degrees shy of the top of the dome and assuming the visual size of a large planet.


“This is impossible!” declared the sickly, thin guard. “There’s no one here to run that video!”


The lead guard lifted up a hand calmly to silence the subordinate, and said, “We’re being paid to watch now. We can ask questions later.”


From the other end of the dome behind them, came an endless stream of countless sperm. Like a frantic school of fish, they filled every inch of the planetarium’s dome and walls, even swimming all across the floor. In every possible formation, and from every possible angle, they competed for the chance to be the first one to penetrate the egg. Suddenly, the video went into rapid time-lapse mode and showed the full merging of the victorious male reproductive component and the ovum. As the time-lapse speeded up, one saw the fates of the unsuccessful sperm, many never making it to the fallopian tube, countless others going in wrong directions and end up lost, and countless more being killed off by white blood cells. As the video was ending, a stream of words came across the dome that read, “One survived. Two hundred million perished.”


Precisely seven minutes had passed and all the lights of the planetarium went back on. The lead guard stood up as the maintenance workers stared incredulously at him. “Listen fellas, I’m sorry for the inconvenience. We got a call from some of the higher ups and they wanted to do a test run of this for some future show. We’re all on our way out. We won’t interrupt your work again today. Sorry if they forgot to notify you, but the whole thing was only severn minutes, so let’s just all go back to our work.”


The maintenance workers were divided, some thinking that the short break from their work day was interesting while others were impatient to be about their business. Noting some of the maintenance workers grumbling, “e” assured the security guards, “I’ve arranged things so none of those maintenance workers will remember any of this.”


The lead guard shrugged as if to say, “I’ve had weirder things happen on this job.” And as the guards, “e” and Incel went to head back outside, another security guard, also dressed in black, stood with her arms crossed, smiling in such a way as to leave doubt as to whether she’d become confrontational or laugh off everything she’d seen. Her hair was sandy-blond and cropped, but not overly so, and her uniform fit perfectly snuggly. Her face was rather roundish, but not pudgy. One could not say she was either overweight or slender. She was a perfect blend of masculine strength and feminine flexibility; and Incel immediately felt a twinge of attraction toward her that he’d not felt toward any woman in months. This made him blush with shame. Of course the female guard noticed this and smirked, neither approving nor disapproving, but merely acknowledging her awareness of Incel’s thoughts.


Seeing something wrong in Incel’s expression, the lead guard said, “Don’t trip dude. She’s the coolest dyke we ever had here. By the way, I figured out who you are. Someone leaked a photo of you on the web. You’re that writer guy who’s always hating on chicks. But don’t worry. You see, Samantha here, she has to try to date women too; and she can’t stand them either. So, it’s all good. She could tell you stories.”


Samantha gave a strictly-forbidden and unprofessional hug to the lead guard and then laughed. Then they all went out to walk around the grounds of the observatory under the guise of doing the mandatory “perimeter patrol,” the part of the job that gave the guards there some privacy and some dignity for the better part of a half hour, every hour.


Knowing Incel was chronically short on friends, “e” permitted the guards to remember the evening, and they agreed to let Incel hang around the observatory for free whenever he was feeling lonely. As they parted “e” walked further up the hill to sleep “everywhere.” The lead guard casually noted, “That ‘e’ dude is a real freak. Sometime, when we have more time, you’ll have to tell me what the dude’s gig is.” Incel agreed as he shook hands with all of them and excused himself to walk down the hill to Glendale to take the train home.


5. A Fanboy To That Misogyny Channel


Victoria-Elizabeth La Seine was in the printer room pulling some hard-copy off the continually-churning Hewlett Packard M402 when her famously-creepy employer bowed facetiously toward her and said, “If Your Majesty would be so kind to have a word with me in my office, I would be much obliged.”


Her employer and publisher, Roger Allen Woods, was a bit of an anglophile and could not get over the fact that one of his star reporters was named after two English Queens. (The story behind her French last name was lengthy and convoluted, and so she simply tried to evade the topic whenever it came up.) Although everyone else knew her as Liz, he never ceased calling her “Your Majesty,” even when he was displeased with her.


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