The Risen

A Holographic Novel

U

Peter Whitehead

 

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Two birds, friends joined together, clutch the same tree.
One of them eats the sweet fruit;
the other looks on without eating.
 

The Riddle of the Soma Sacrifice
The Rig Veda: 2000 B.C.
Η

PROLOGUE

Η

At the start of a lunar eclipse, Matthew Sutherland, micro-biologist and crystallographer, in his laboratory at Cambridge University, typed INITIATE into his computer, the code to start the experiment in which his unique jade-green X-ray laser beam would penetrate certain crystal lattices, flawed with traces of an organic, radioactive isotope of carbon, created millions of years before inside a unique, translucent, pyramidion-shaped diamond ...

     ... hoping to reveal how the split occurred at that ecstatic moment hundreds of millions of years ago, when elemental carbon became miraculously alive, capable of functioning in two separate ways, as living and non-living matter ... hoping to reveal how and why the element carbon changed from being utterly inert, dead, to become the essential, creative atom in every living system, the structural backbone of every molecule capable of self-replication.

     At the same moment, John Faulkner, physicist manquι, alias John Raymonde, psycho-pharmacologist and adept at  synthesizing psychotropic chemicals, sitting at the sacred centre of a copse of beech trees planted in two rows around a burial mound, the pattern flawed by a stray elm, singing a mantra, a phrase from the soprano aria from The Dark Side of the Moon, swallowed a translucent pyramidion-shaped crystal of synthetic Tiresiamine, developed from an extract of certain bodily fluids of a Mongolian shaman in trance, after eating a mixture of honey and crushed sacred mushroom, Soma ...

     ... hoping the experiment would turn on a chemical switch and induce a new bias-frequency in his brain, inducing receptivity to the so-far undetected R-Field Matrix, enabling him to see holographically, as if through a half-silvered glass darkly; by which he meant to materialise a consciousness (expressing the wish to be reincarnated) with whom he had been in communication: an Egyptian shaman, Amenhotep, who in Tel El Amarna in the 18th Dynasty of Ancient Egypt had again used the technology by which human consciousness could be stripped from the holographically-structured gravity-field-continuum of the brain, transformed into a laser beam, and sent into space.

      The synchronicity in timing of their two, slightly flawed experiments, may have been a coincidence ... the convergence of their minds afterwards, as if two Virtual Reality programs on two computer screens had been mysteriously fused, was not ...

      Neither knew, though John had imagined the possibility, that at the same moment, the copper-handled door in the newly-discovered hidden chamber in the Great Pyramid of Pharaoh Cheops, in which the secret library of Imhotep was hidden, together with the body of Pharaoh Chephren, was being breached, by light and time and unenlightened man ...            

L

holography n. the science of producing a photographic record (hologram) by illuminating the object with coherent light from a laser beam and exposing a film to light reflected from this object and to a direct beam of the coherent laser light. When interference patterns on the film are illuminated by the laser beam a three‑dimensional image is produced. – holographic adj.  – holo'graphically adv.

holograph n. book or document hand‑written by its author; original manuscript; autograph.

What do you call a computer disc – the original typescript – so to speak, so to write, comprising the text of a book of fiction, composed on a computer, about holography? A Virtual Holograph?

virtual adv. 1. having the essence or effect but not the appearance or form of: a virtual revolution. 2. Physics: being or involving a virtual image: a virtual focus. 3. Computers: of or relating to virtual storage: virtual memory. <L virtϋs VIRTUE.

?

A hologram is a holographic photograph of a three-dimensional object, printed on two-dimensional paper, which appears to exist in three-dimensional space. We appear to live in three spatial dimensions. Recent work in physics has suggested there are many other dimensions we cannot yet perceive. Temporal and spatial. To make a holographic photograph of a sculpture of a girl's head, it is photographed by laser light simultaneously from two viewpoints. This double viewpoint is created by taking the photograph through a half-silvered mirror. Half of the light is reflected back – the other half passes through the glass. The two images are recorded, superimposed on each other. The image created by these two jumbled viewpoints resembles the surface of a pool of water into which two stones have been thrown; two spreading waves, interfering more and more with each other, becoming less and less coherent. But look at this apparently random chaotic mess, this witch's brew, through pure laser light, and the original object magically reappears, assuming its original perfect shape ... poised in three-dimensional space.

***

Chapter ONE

 "According to a recent report in Brain/Mind Bulletin, a new method of photography has disclosed a bizarre holographic phenomenon in plants. When a hole or square is cut out of a leaf, inside the hole a ghostly miniature image of the entire leaf appears. This and other tantalising bits of research suggest that holographic distribution is basic to many different kinds of order, from photons to 'plant consciousness' to human consciousness."

"Looking Glass Universe."

 John P. Briggs and F. David Peat,



Matthew was deep in thought, not seeing the world around him. Someone watching him might have thought he was counting the paving stones passing under his feet, or studying their mineralogical composition, or trying hard to imagine the waves beneath them, but he was doing none of these things, and no‑one was watching him. At least, no‑one with his authority to do so. He was desperately trying to think of something he might have forgotten, trying unsuccessfully to focus his mind on that space just beyond what is known ... always tantalisingly out of sight ... wishing he had a computer with a direct input into his mind and at the press of a code-word, like ZAP, a luminous scanner would sweep through his brain cells like a searchlight probing the night sky. Within seconds it would highlight the enemy, those alien errors floating in from yet unimagined realms outside the control of his rationality, and cast them to oblivion. Surely he'd thought of everything this time?

     At the gate, he looked up, surprised it was already dusk. He hadn't noticed the light seeping away, as predictable as the tide. He stopped for a moment, the half‑light suddenly making him uneasy, casting a further mantle of doubt over his perceptions, the material world a mere reflection now from a half-silvered mirror. The flux of blurring edges, the ghostly overlapping of shadows eroding the three-dimensional certainty of colour, the emerging spectral interface between light and darkness, threatened his sense of tangibility, as if he might not really be there, or ought to be somewhere else. He much preferred lucidity. Nightfall always reminded him of dreams of railway stations at night dimmed by dank fog, of trains snaking through invisible landscapes, beads of light going somewhere and yet nowhere, half‑forgotten childhood images fused with half-remembered scenes from old black-and-white films.

     Pressing on through the trees, he was relieved to see the emerging building shrouded in darkness and therefore empty. It seemed right, that evening especially, he should be completely alone. Soon would be the moon's eclipse, the night sky pitch black, the moon as absent as he could make it. That was why he had chosen this night, when the lunar influence might be minimum, the moon completely hidden on the dark side of the earth and unable to reflect back the sun, virtually eliminating any other undetected field resonating with its gravitational or magnetic power. Might it not have been the moon, visible to the earth, reflecting the sun's invisible energies, that had ruined his previous two experiments? Not having managed to calculate or discover anything else to explain the failures, recently the notion had quietly crept up on him and haunted him, that it had been the moon's malevolent influence, somehow or other, that had caused the irrationality of his results; a suspicion, strong and persistent, which had refused to go away. Finally, seeing that an eclipse was predicted, he had been reluctantly persuaded to choose this moment for his experiment – perhaps seduced might be the better word, although the last thing he would admit to himself was that he could be superstitious.

     Beneath the trees, he hesitated again, pausing to weigh the moment, the promised centre of gravity in the present floating, uncertain psychic geometry of his life. Awaiting him in the silent empty building was his beautiful, pyramidine diamond, poised to receive the jade‑green laser beam that would penetrate its crystal heart ...

     Being alone in the building would also reduce the risk of alien mechanical vibrations. During the day there were thirteen other scientists working there, any one of whose experiments might cause some kind of low‑frequency rumble through its structure affecting his results. This time, with the precious last remaining diamond, there must be no mistakes; the experiment would almost certainly alter the crystal's unique and fascinating internal structure forever. This was his last chance to consummate the union of the two sets of images in his mind, those of his imagined, theoretical model, and those of the objective, mechanical facts of his experiment, and it was essential to avoid every risk of external influence at the moment of this fusion of consciousness and experimental act.

     But why was he feeling so sad? Was it because he had been so intensely excited all day, so close to completing this ambitious, even reckless project, the fruition of his life's work? Now he was feeling acutely lonely. He stood quite still, breathing as quietly as possible, not sure why he was listening so intently, or to what, even imagining for a brief moment some kind of other presence, unseen and unforeseen, hovering just out of sight, threatening his poise of certainty; but he quickly dismissed the image. No time for such things – must get on! He strode towards the laboratory ...

     He was not usually so emotional. Proud to be a classical scientist, he devoutly believed that science would explain everything. All mystery was mere illusion, resulting from not knowing enough of the facts. One day soon, scientific method would reveal an all‑embracing new theory which would explain the entire physical (and so‑called mental) structure of the universe, probably with one elegant equation, a mere thirteen or fourteen digits long, revealing how and why the universe of matter and life emerged; and his work was an integral fragment of this rational search for the answers to such profound questions; life was a mere function of matter and would eventually be explained entirely in those terms.

     Carbon was the essential element, the structural key to this mystery, its essence, and he felt inspired working with it. At some moment in so‑called prehistoric time, some moment when the moon was blood, carbon had suddenly become capable of becoming  alive – and that was the moment he was seeking to capture and recreate – in his mind; inside his diamond; the subtle moment in history had somehow crystallised and was trapped in its mysterious structure ...

  Approaching the gloomy building, he was surprised to notice how sharply, almost painfully, its stark, square silhouette contrasted with the delicate, swaying limbs of the tall trees framing it against the almost silvered, starlit sky. He rarely noticed such things, but suddenly the black, concrete, hard‑edged monolith seemed to symbolise his anguish, resonating in some way with the expanse of doubt and mystery which he knew (despite himself) still lay beyond the limits of present human perception and knowledge, and he felt suddenly humbled. It was an awesome task he had set himself. Was he asking too much of his mysterious diamond crystal? And himself?

     The image of the sensuous, dancing trees was reminding him of something else. At first he couldn't remember, but it seemed tantalisingly familiar. Then he remembered. The black, leafless, filigree branches, swirling to the music of the wind, although suggesting some kind of computer-generated calligraphy, were almost identical to the opening images of an old movie he'd seen a few days before at a University Film Society show. Once a week he allowed himself to see the club's scheduled film, his only transgression from the narrow, obsessive path of his work routine, the only time he reminded himself of the pleasures others enjoyed and suffered in the world of human intercourse, which he had such little time or willingness to share. He took pleasure not knowing what he was about to see, only occasionally consulting the program, enjoying the surprise of surrender to unforeseen images.

     It had been a short German film, apparently made between the wars, filmed in the Black Forest and entitled something like Extase von Daphne, leeched through and through with heavy music by Wagner – he guessed Das Liebestod – no dialogue, and shot entirely on grainy black and white film. The mood and texture first reminded him of war films – those dreadful shots of trenches in the two Wars, indelible images etched in the collective unconscious, the skies full of small black logos for death, winged planes and rockets, raked by gunfire and search‑lights. The film was an unusual ballet film – set in a natural terrain of dense trees, without the expected protection and comfort of a theatre. The dance movements were curiously unreal, poetic, filmed entirely in slow motion. He'd been surprised to find it very erotic.

     The story was almost non‑existent. An exquisite young dancer, half-naked in a white diaphanous dress decorated with hundreds of eyes, like those on a peacock's tail, fleeing some invisible terror, danced seductively with strange shadowy beings who seemed to be split‑off parts of herself, black rather than white, opaque rather than translucent, until gradually engulfed by the darkness and her dark selves, she merged into the trees. Alas, she disappeared just at the moment Matthew was acutely aroused, excited to see what would happen next, when he was one step ahead, enjoying an imagined image of her final demise – an act of possession by the person watching, filming – rape, even – projected in the private cinema of his mind. He felt utterly cheated when her flimsy dress fell apart, torn to shreds by the unseen force, and instead of revealing all, she'd been transformed into a tree.

     He was remembering the film quite vividly now, the recollected images resonating with the sinuous mime of the charcoal‑black trees silhouetted against the silvered sky. He'd really gone for the feature film, which he knew to be von Sternberg's The Blue Angel, which he'd never seen, but after so much frantic work recently, deeply tired, he'd fallen asleep after the opening titles and slept soundly through the whole film. Impatient with himself afterwards, he realised he might just as well have stayed at home and enjoyed a dream ...

     Pressing the code 31416 on the electronic door‑lock, the laboratory door clicked open. The lift being switched off, he was forced to climb the four flights of stone stairs. Having spent the evening apprehensively counting the minutes, he impulsively started counting the stairs. Eighty-three steps. It seemed odd, such a number of steps unevenly divided amongst four apparently identical staircases. He made a mental note to count the stairs on the way down. He hated odd numbers.

     Opening his office door slowly, he crept into his private domain so stealthily that anyone watching would have thought he was either a thief or a spy, anticipating an ambush. After a last apprehensive glance at the night sky, he drew the curtains. The windows in the adjacent room, his laboratory, had been permanently boarded up, in the elaborately-planned insulation against all random wave radiations, with sheets of lead, which also now covered the walls, ceiling and floor.

     He flicked the master switch to activate the complex apparatus: the vital laser system, the super‑computer, the X‑Ray microscopes and other items developed especially for his experiment. While his machines were warming up, he switched on the more humble electric kettle for tea; he also needed to warm up. Sitting down at his desk, he wrote in his notebook:

20.13hrs, 25th March. Pyramidine Diamond #3. Jade X‑ray Laser penetration starting traverse at isotopic carbon lattice, 1/1.618 ratio distance from crown of crystal. Split prism imaging of resulting bi-phased radiation to be analyzed by revised resonance diffraction software program, with virtual three-dimensional crystal axis parameter model.

Soon the computer controlling the entire narrative would trip the quartz crystal switch, with its accuracy of a billionth of a second. The whole experiment would be completed in thirteen minutes, under the radiation umbrella of the eclipse, during which time his fate would be sealed, his future focused by a crystal lens into this brief contraction of time, a cosmic snapshot. Was he on the brink of an amazing discovery? This time he'd surely taken every possible precaution...

     He looked fondly at his apparatus, listening to its gentle whirring. He'd spent two years building it to support the unique X‑ray laser that was at its core. Through the newly adapted, specially darkened lens, he peered at the diamond crystal awaiting its fate, remembering the intense excitement of first seeing it, three years or so before. He'd just received his Doctorate for an acclaimed thesis on the differences, detected by interference of the reflections on the crystal interfaces, between the spatial and temporal orientation of atomic crystal structures of organic and inorganic isotopes in fissures of carbonaceous material in a rare, unique Alaskan limestone, two hundred million years old. He was visiting his former tutor, the new director of the crystallography department in University College, London, and while casually looking through an old case of crystal specimens, Matthew found a small black box, like a jewellery box, initialled "FP" in gold. Inside were three almost identical small diamonds. Two were the same size, the third slightly smaller.

     He'd never seen tetragonal pyramidal crystals of diamond before; a mystery, even at first sight. It was very difficult to cut them in that shape and there was no apparent reason to do so. In this shape they were rather dull, so they could never be sold. Even more strange, the three stones were perfectly cut on the quaternary axes to the same three-dimensional crystallographic formula, an awesome task. And then, even more amazing, parallel to the floor in each pyramid, was a faint green flaw, presumably caused by an internal layer of green lattices trapped inside the clear lattices. He'd seen flaws in diamonds before, but without such formal structure. Faults were usually random, amorphous, like flecks of silver or gold in a nugget of lapis lazuli, or flecks of blue or green in the iris of a human eye.

     He first thought the flaw was man‑made, inserted, but that seemed impossible too. No‑one had the technology to make three such similar diamonds. His tutor was equally puzzled; he suggested they needed researching. Finding no mention of them in the department's files, Matthew had been allowed to slip the box in his pocket, and the work began. Diamonds were made of pure carbon; the traces must be organic material of some kind ... and anyway, he'd felt a sudden desire to know more about them. They had somehow called him ...

     Later work revealed the flawed green lattices to be a highly radioactive carbon isotope deriving from a different organic source to the rest of the crystals. Not so much a mystery, as an impossibility; so he decided from that moment to keep his work as secret as possible. There was also a weird difference in electron spin. So what process were these crystals a permanent record of? Like images in a documentary film?

     The temperatures and pressures needed to compress the original carbonaceous material, usually old trees and plants, were so enormous and usually so random, that a perfect layer of lattices could never have been predicted. He even wondered if the diamonds might have come from a meteorite. There was no immediate answer to such questions – he knew only that the flawed lattices were exactly on the golden mean between the base and the apex of the pyramid; identical in each, despite their different sizes.

     After trying many ways of elucidating the structure of the green lattices without damaging them, he had invented the electro magnetically pure, green X‑Ray laser, which he somewhat romantically called his Jade Laser. It switched on and off nine hundred and eighty-eight thousand times a second, and was so narrow and so pure, it could penetrate lattices only atoms apart, hopefully without altering the inherited structure created so many millions of years before. That at least had been his intention. But the first two experiments had gone wrong; the results avoiding elucidation, apparently quite irrational.

     He gazed fondly at the third diamond, fractionally the largest, overawed by its beauty, yet dreading the fact it was the last of the three. He was still feeling quite tense, physically, and it annoyed him. He wanted to relax; it seemed necessary, even though the computer was programmed and set and he would play no further, real part in the experiment. All he would be doing was thinking about it, worrying about it; and, he knew, that should play no part ...

     Music! That would make him relax. His only true, deep pleasure apart from work, he had often grudgingly wondered if music might embody some kind of natural resonance between matter and consciousness, by which he meant that listening to it actually structured his thinking, like a potter's fingers at the wheel, a shaping force etching away on the shifting surfaces of the meaning and structure of crystals: often music had seemed to help, as he asked his epic question; why one element only, humble carbon, was at the heart of every living system on earth, and probably in the universe, the essential atom in the backbone of every particle of life; polymorphous and existing in so many startlingly different forms. As coal it was black, soft and opaque, all that remained after living material had died and been crushed and compacted by gravity and time. Yet it also existed in the pure form of diamond, the hardest crystal known to man, absolutely inert; dead. And yet, life was impossible without the carbon atom, its beautiful structure a perfect quaternio; there could be no life, no self‑replication without it.

     What music would calm his nerves and relax his body? Bach he loved, but nothing seemed right. Mozart also felt inappropriate. Suddenly he remembered Mendelssohn's Hear My Prayer, which he'd heard in Kings College Chapel the week before. He'd been captivated by it, and the newly bought disc was still in his brief-case. He especially wanted to listen to the aria, Oh for the Wings of a Dove. Yes! Ideal. He found it, set it playing, and it immediately felt painfully tangible. Putting the aria on endless repeat, its soaring beauty promising to distract him from his complicated fears, he sat down and closed his eyes; almost slept, almost dreamed, images of a strange copse of trees and a girl in a transparent dress ... slow motion, on the verge of revealing all, the veil about to be rent ... almost fell completely asleep. But he caught himself before the fall ...

     Minutes before his machines were due to spring into life he turned off the music and returned to the inner sanctum of his laboratory. Peering through the darkened lens again for a last look into the heart of his diamond, its physical integrity as unblemished as a virgin, he switched off the lights and waited. It seemed like eternity ...

     ... waiting for the planned‑for instant of time when millions of pulses of laser energy, an infinitesimally delicate pencil of pure viridescent green light, would penetrate the diamond, working slowly through the crystal's lattices in jumps of micro‑millionths of a millimetre. At the same time the laser beam would rotate, set to measure the alteration in spin of the electrons in the two layers of different isotopic carbon atoms under the pressure of the laser's energy. It was such an elegant image and fascinating idea ...

     The sharp click of the quartz switch took him by surprise. He heard it activate the sensors recording the radiation gradients across each spatial dimension of the crystal, before measuring all the other electro magnetic wave radiation levels in the room, its scenario before energizing the laser. Intensely excited, he looked into the eye‑piece of the microscope, the cross of wires focused on the lattice where the laser would start its sensuous penetration, seeking the mathematical data that would reveal its archetypal structure and secret history.

     Outside, the eclipse was starting. The dark side of the moon, the illusion, visible and invisible. Shine on crazy diamond!

     The aria was still hovering in his mind, unattended, when the laser flashed phoenix‑like into being and illuminated the inner space of the diamond. He held his breath and his heart missed a few beats as he saw the whorling, twisting motion of the rotating beam. The reflected rays danced round the walls of the diamond like luminous green snakes trying to escape from an underground tomb, and he felt intensely satisfied with himself. This was the first time he was actually witnessing the event, behind the darkened lens, and it was so beautiful! This time, surely, he'd got it right? Everything was so graceful, so perfect, so chaste – he would even admit to aesthetic pleasure in seeing the dance of light in the elemental drama inside his crystal amphitheatre.

     But suddenly, for no apparent reason at all, he felt something was going wrong. At first he merely sensed it, but then he began to see colours that should not be there, as if the green light was splitting into all the colours of the rainbow, which was clearly impossible. Only white light contained all the colours. There was none there, and it was an impossibility for there to be any other source of light or wave‑radiation energy. That could only occur in the event of some kind of elemental,  nuclear fusion. He decided the colours must be an illusion, probably within the lens of his own eye, or a reflection inside the crystal that only he could imagine seeing. He tried to think of this idea clearly, but then he started to lose control of his consciousness – or that is what it seemed. For a moment he started to panic, but then it seemed to be a pleasurable feeling. He felt himself given to it, and an uncontrollable surge of emotion, waves of ecstatic elation, seemed to spread out from some point near the base of his spinal chord, a huge tidal rush of motion or emotion up the centre of his spine, shooting off at tangents to engulf his whole body. Then it seemed as if his perception of time instantaneously expanded and he was able to distinguish, simultaneously, every single discreet movement of a million iridescent wings, beating within the diamond ... wings and eyes and surfaces, almost of flesh, hidden but now emerging from behind millions of veils ... everything happening all at once. It all seemed utterly beautiful. Perhaps the laser had been deflected back into his own eye, but that seemed too trite an explanation. Something was opening and he was seeing through ...

     ... a small membranous fragment of his mind still clinging to reason, an odd idea flashed on the screen ... had he created atoms of the transition element, iridium, in the crystal's lattice network, acting momentarily like the core of a reactor? But that would have caused a huge explosion! Impossible.

     Again, in an instant, his perception seemed to slip a dimension, and something more profound seemed to be happening. To the diamond or to him? He wasn't sure. Was it pain or pleasure? He couldn't tell. Time and space seemed radically dislocated. Suddenly he seemed to fall inside himself, turning inside out, and he felt he was witnessing himself being decapitated by a sudden blow ... a delicate hand in a white lace glove ... as if his entire being had been sucked out through his eye ... his whole brain crushed, and then imploded into a cloud of mere green luminous atoms ... floating in space like a billion flecks of dust on a pale green moonbeam ... or green leaves flecked with blue falling from a tree with an eye on each ...

     ... and then there was darkness. That deep, deep darkness only imagined, meditating on an image of a total eclipse. Or imagining the heart of the invisible black dwarf star, the twin of the star Sirius, the brightest in the heavens ...

     Stillness. Silence ... but then the sound of a heart‑beat, not so much diffused through layers of skin, but an ocean ... drawn out, his body becoming a million miles in length, as if it had become pure light or pure time. Floating, for an eternity of time, as if space had been finally eclipsed by time, though time could no longer be perceived. A million folds within folds. There was a voice speaking but then he decided it must be an aural reflection of his own thinking. Or his thinking become transposed into digital energy, quanta of light, reflected through a half-silvered mirror ... things fallen apart and yet whole. Watching himself. Two girls robed in white and then, as if he was looking into a room, or tomb, or operating theatre where the two girls were performing something unspeakable. Rubber gloves. Or the hand after the white lace gloves had been torn away. He saw a body like an insect's body inside a cocoon, wrapped in bandages. He felt something touching him and fingers seemed to grope right through his flesh, as if his body was mere image, a mere reflection in a mirror, which it was – he knew that now – but the fingers pressed in hard, into some part of himself he was deeply ashamed of ... was it his own body suspended in a green robe, poised just before being cut into a million pieces? Or the body of a young girl? Or both?

     Suddenly. Nothing. Absence of thinking. Death or sleep. The hint of dreaming returning ... timeless. The image frozen, the fingertip on pause ... he was the size of a galaxy reduced to the size of an atom, his being stretched between, he was the stretching between those two images, or ideas, the interface between the two. Not one or the other but the silvering, distorting the image reflected on the glass ... the inner face of an imaginary crystal, which was some part of himself, fragmenting ... again, the silence, as deep as a black hole. Time spent ...

When at last he became aware of himself again, he was lying on the hard floor feeling very stiff. He felt certain he'd only been unconscious for a short time. Perhaps he needed to think that. He could feel a sharp pain behind his eyes, reminding him of the piercing flash of green laser‑energy suddenly reflected from a previously unobserved flaw, a mirror‑like surface inside the diamond. He opened his eyes slowly and painfully, hoping to see the message on the computer screen that the experiment had nevertheless finished according to plan, but to his horror he could see nothing at all. Everything was black. He rubbed his eyes and opened them again. Nothing. He seemed to be blind.

     He pressed his fingers on his eyelids to try to alleviate the throbbing pain and restore his sight, but he saw spiralling patterns of intense colour that reminded him of exploding galaxies, pulsing on the dark screen inside his head. He opened his eyes again, hoping it had all been an illusion, but still he could see nothing.

     Remembering pain‑killing pills in his desk, he groped to the drawer and found the bottle, stumbled on his knees into his office and managed to find the fridge, drank some milk with the tablets. Still blind, he started to panic, deciding he must dial for an ambulance; but then remembered the switchboard was off at night. If he was to get help, he must walk into the street, which he knew was impossible. He wasn't sure what to do, but decided he ought not to leave the laboratory until he felt better. Surely this was only a momentary lapse?

     Because he often worked at night, he had installed a sofa‑bed in his office. Knowing he ought to rest for a while, maybe sleep, most of all get warm, (he was feeling deathly cold), he managed to reach and open the metal filing-cabinet and take out the duvet squeezed into one of its drawers. He found his electric fire and switched it on, opened up the bed and lay down, wrapping the feather‑filled duvet tightly around his body. As the pain behind his eyes eased, he fell into a dreamless sleep.

     At least, for the first few hours or so his sleep was dreamless. Then the dreams began ... dreams that would not go away until they had been recognised, even though he would only start to comprehend them slowly, a fragment at a time ... the veils of the dreams folding back on themselves  like the skin that covers the vestige of an ancestral third eye in the centre of a forehead, in those creatures with or without legs, with or without wings, that in the human memory always seem to resemble snakes ... only time would tell ...



John was becoming impatient. The images wouldn't go away; images connected with his work. With Cindy. Georgina. And there was the question of the vine leaf and its holographic interaction with the dissolving crystal. He could see it in his mind's eye ...

     For a while though, he had managed to wipe his mind clear and keep it empty, but now, as if the film projector had been started again against his wishes, an ethereal montage was insisting on being seen, flickering on the screen's silvered surface. Spectral images, fixed in time.

     Most persistent were the two holographic images that had arrived at the house in the morning's post ... his and Georgina's. The factory had done a good job. He'd received holograms before of images created on his computer, but these were the best so far. But the biggest surprise was Georgina's reaction, the childish, irrational, ecstatic (and he had to admit, infectious) excitement with which she had received her printed image ... her calligraphic pen drawings and miniature oil paintings now looked like becoming a thing of the past. 'One of my drawings has become truly alive ... and forever. Look, as I move my head, the figures move and turn, vibrate, almost dance! They are really just about to make love. Now you can truly imagine it. Not just a crack in time like a photograph, but a continuous moment, a miniature resonating film, an image resonating with itself. Weird! I'd no idea a holographic image like this could be so mysterious.'

     She'd been so beside herself, and so sexually aroused by the excitement (he'd told himself), he'd impulsively taken her to his room and hugged her, held her tight for a long time as if needing to feel the warmth from her body (they'd done that often enough before); but then kissed her sensuously on the mouth (she didn't seem too surprised); and proposed she come with him; 'Why not? On this magical day, how can you say no?'

     To his surprise, she'd said yes after barely a moment's hesitation. There were too many coincidences! 'I'll come!'

     But by now, she was almost panicking, not sure how much longer she could play her role without complaining. She was warm enough under the white sheet and quilt, but her arms were aching and her wrists were chaffed by the ropes and probably bleeding, although in that particular respect, it was the least of her problems.

     Taking a small red lacquered box from his pocket, decorated with a white bird fighting a green and blue serpent, John laid it on the grass in front of his knees. Inside was a leaf, the largest he had so far grown from his vine, the precious divine plant given him by his shaman. He'd smuggled the roots into England from Tadakshan and managed to grow it in the garden, entwined around a beautiful silver birch tree. He was thinking of them now, symbiotically entwined, the vine having split into two stems. Inevitably it recalled his favourite image, the staff of Tiresias, with its two serpents sensuously weaving around it.

     Cutting a square out from the centre of the leaf, he enfolded the small pyramid-shaped crystal neatly inside it, pulling the shiny leaf over it, parallel to the four pyramid sides; as the old man had instructed him. The crystal, in the light of the moon, appeared quite green against the leaf. He kissed the leaf and held it against his breast, showing respect to the plant world. Inside his body, the leaf would set the chemical ambience ... a possible catalyst to the dissolving crystal. The remaining piece of the leaf he pressed to his forehead with his index finger, before wrapping a white bandage over it, tying it at the back of his head, the empty square of the cut-out leaf in the centre of his forehead. He chuckled at the idea. A small empty screen on which might appear the image of an eye, the eye of Horus the falcon, as if reflected from a half-silvered mirror ...

     In the half-light, he could see the quilt on the ground, its contours the shape of a girl's body, or, remembering other images, a sacrificed animal waiting to be cut up into sacraments, to be raised high on a golden plate, an offering to the gods. He knew Georgina would relish the image, this transformation of herself, but he felt slightly guilty remembering her embarrassment when he had slipped one of his vine leaves inside her, after they had first started to make love ... another of Amenhotep's suggestions. He felt a surge of love for her suddenly, lying so still on his favourite carpet, the one from Shiraz, symbolically depicting a scene from the story of the Hashishin; lying so patiently under the white sheet and patch‑work coverlet she had wisely suggested bringing.

     But only after the fulfilment of the rite could she be released. Timing was of the essence, and she knew it ... although Amenhotep knew more about the timing than both of them.

     She was wearing the full-length white dress he had given her, with the fluted, pleated skirt and classical bodice, now rather torn, which she had agreed to wear 'especially for the occasion, it seems appropriate!' The same dress as the painted girls were wearing on his holographic image. Perhaps she had become one of those girls. This was how desire shifted; and constantly betrayed. She'd been shy at first, the reluctant sister she'd always been. Pensive and reserved, until suddenly, she'd laid her head on his shoulder, silent still, then stroked the back of his head, then kissed him lightly on the cheek, crying softly, knowing there was no escape; almost as if she'd been struck, she sobbed just once, loudly, then shuddered in her whole body ... surrendered ... eagerly pulling him through the surrounding bushes towards the small clearing at the centre of the copse, where she spread the carpet between the four wooden posts, before lying down. She was given. The veil could be torn.

     They'd agreed not to talk in the copse, especially about the Tiresiamine, although earlier she'd tried to persuade him not to take such a dangerous risk. Please! Perhaps he'd been careless, even foolish, certainly sentimental; after all, he could not be sure he had interpreted all the coded instructions correctly? He might even be the victim of a conspiracy? But his courage had persuaded her to take her risk, they'd be terrorists together in the plot against the hypocrisy and tyranny of rationality! She could never stop him doing it, and had no more right to insist, even though, or just because, she'd decided to give herself to him; for the first time. If Cindy couldn't dissuade him, then she couldn't.

     Now, humming the aria from The Dark Side of the Moon, sitting under the trees at the spot he had divined was the centre of the copse's power, John was trying to focus his mind on his experiment ... but was thinking of Georgina. So close and yet soon to be so far, tied down and almost unable to move; but she had agreed to Amenhotep's instructions. Except, at that time, the girl in question might have been Cindy ...

     Cindy and Georgina! It wasn't exactly right to say Georgina had been a virgin after her love affair with Cindy over the years, but he was prepared to believe, probably because he wanted to, that he was the first man to whom she had given her body. Had she not been expecting it, unconsciously? Dreamt it already perhaps? Their coming together like this in his sacred copse? Perceived the scene and foretold the rest? Her virginity being an essential part of the image? Had Amenhotep not meant her all the time, without John knowing, and as usual, he had got his way? Or she, hers?

     ... the involute, the conjunctionis as he'd called it. That's why it had happened, because of the position of the moon and stars, not that she had woken up that morning and discovered suddenly that she desired him! Perhaps it had been simmering under the surface for some time; as knowledge of the future does, as desire shifts the surface even of things; as on her hologram she had put a violet sky, suggesting the timeless and the beyond, above the stone and the wing, for these must become important again ... Isis, still hovering as a bird over the fragmented, crystalline Osiris ...

     Georgina! Under the white sheet in front of him, his sacrifice; before his own, of eating the crystal. The image of her beauty was still resonating with those imaginary girls of his holographic version of the beloved Delvaux painting, the image he had loved so much over the years and finally transferred (trance‑feared, as he had written on disc seven, by accident!) to his Virtual Reality computer program, altering it to his own needs before trance‑forming it into a three‑dimensional holographic image ...

     ... broken stone columns, a railway station at night, a stone sarcophagus, and tall, silent girls robed in diaphanous white night‑dresses, half veil, half cocoon, with dark eyes focused on infinity. Georgina had insisted on making an image in parallel with his, the goddess Isis in the form of a hovering falcon copulating with her dead husband Osiris. She'd etched the image directly on limestone, copying a photograph from a tomb in Tel El Amarna. Someone had chipped out the erect penis of Osiris and all that remained was a deep dark hole in the limestone, where the penis should have been. This image had always amused her (and disturbed her, she had to admit) and if John  was going to market his erotic image, she'd said, why shouldn't she have a go with hers? No‑one could say it was obscene. The viewer would be guilty of imagining what had been lost, and so he or she would be the pornographer. At least it would be provocative ... and it had already annoyed Cindy. That in itself was good enough reason!

     And now she was here, with him, in secret. He was still pondering her decision to give herself, wondering what had really provoked her uncharacteristic, potentially destructive behaviour, saying yes so suddenly, after so many years. It must be hard for her to betray Cindy, whom she had loved without condition for so long. Was she really as impressed as he was by the many strange seductive coincidences, all focused into this day, this one single fraction of magical time, under the shadow of the eclipse? Destiny calling her? Another of the weird resonances that take over once you let go and listen, and allow the gods to reveal themselves, and speak as they do ... in images.

     He tried to meditate again. Normally he could wipe his mind clean of the world in seconds, like pressing the erase button on his computer. But it had been a tiring day, especially with the final, complicated calculations, making sure the moment was indeed the unique coincidence of temporal and spatial forces, especially within the multi-dimensional networks of the gravitational trachyon R‑field, as he'd called it, occurring only once every two thousand years.

     But now he was aware again of his desire for Georgina, suddenly so painfully urgent he was in danger of forgetting details of the delicate preparation for the experiment, his mind filling with the image of her body. Especially her sex. Strange how the mind focuses itself. Once it would have been her beautiful lips, those lips worthy of an Egyptian princess. But he mustn't allow this sudden obsessive image to haunt him ... but could he prevent it? And what was she thinking?

     Georgina was still thinking of the irony of it being the worst day of the month, though perhaps it didn't matter. For John maybe, blood, as he would see it, the blood of sacrifice, would be merely a fragment of the multi‑dimensional conundrum ... how would he know there were two bloods mixed at the same time? And what difference could it possibly make?

     Tiresiamine. He'd known it must exist since first reading various Egyptian texts, fascinated to see how the priests were initiated into the wonders of cosmo‑genesis, adepts at re-tuning (and returning to) the human brain, at accessing the R‑Field, which he would be the first to materialise, now ... not long after discovering that the left and right sides of the brain interfere chemically and must be considered to behave holographically ... in one temple in Amarna you have to imagine you are reading the hieroglyphic text twice, one on the wall and simultaneously the other text on the second side of the wall, in the next room, out of sight ... as if the wall was transparent. Translucent. Adepts indeed in revisioning ...

     But what about Cindy? To come so far in their work together and then abandon her at the last minute, like making love, both reaching higher and higher, and then he came before she did, leaving her floating, hovering, frustrated and betrayed; that weird word came. Who came from where? There was so much meaning hidden in mere words, but so much more in the hieroglyphs; especially on the subject of sex and union; especially of opposites.  

     Now, damn it, he was still clinging ... the montage of images of his equations, elegant, sensual calculations for the frequency band of the R‑field within the trachyon/gravity complex. The historic archetypal split, the train of thought mistaking the signals and diverting itself onto two tracks at once, with devastating consequences, had been the separate development of the right and left sides of the brain. The whole secret was the interface between them, the interference between the two visions ... Amenhotep had said: 'I am that interface. Become me!'

     Now, it was about to happen, provoked by the crystal of eaten Tiresiamine. Fortunately, Cindy didn't know he had synthesised Tiresiamine ... more like Aviamine, but better, enabling him at last to see as if with the magic eye of Horus ... by which, he meant to materialize Amenhotep directly from the R‑Field ... in the same way the Companions of Horus had first materialized themselves, onto the earth, into its material fields;  but that was another story.

     He was thinking too much! Perhaps it didn't matter, this confusion of images, like a series of overlapping waves on the surface of a pool into which so many stones had fallen, because the drug would force itself upon him whether he liked it or not. At the instant the chemical reached his brain, his brain would alter frequency, separate into two independent vibrating halves of a transcendent hologram resonating with each other, not against, as with normal (sic) consciousness, the left brain dominating the right ... rationality cutting off the deeper harmonics of the energy of the unconscious. If his intuition had been right, he would now see in order to see, not merely to look at ...

     At last he felt himself relaxing completely and he started to go into trance again, repeating his mantra, 'Amen‑hotep ... Amen‑hotep,' until he was approaching deep trance, barely anticipating the surge of new consciousness that would be sucked into his mind from the furthest reaches of time and space, winging into matter in the form of a man, Amenhotep himself ...

     But suddenly he snapped back into the present. Time was running out. He looked at the luminous face on his watch – surprised to see it was already eight-forty. Now, thankfully, he was feeling pleasantly relaxed. The crystal was inside the leaf, and he held it gently between his fingers. What extraordinary power was given to us, yet so much still hidden, in the world of plants! It had taken ten years to synthesise this crystal, and now he was within minutes of discovering whether he had been interpreting the messages correctly. To think! At no other time in the history of the universe, with its unique composition, had this precise crystal existed. In creating such a perfect and powerful specimen, was he not equal to any god? Certainly to the Companions of Horus! Soon it would speak to him, his two minds would become one and the interface between them would dissolve away.

     But first, reality! He looked towards the road, a quarter of a mile away. The hired car had arrived, waiting for Georgina with its lights on. He'd ordered a lovely old black Rolls Royce with a chauffeur in uniform ... a joke which he knew she would enjoy. Cinematically appropriate, as Cindy would say, kitsch and vulgar;  as she would have wanted it, vamp bitch that she was, if this trip had been hers ... So what! Cindy had betrayed him often enough, with mere thinking.  He was not going to feel guilty about it now!

     Afterwards, Georgina was taking the night train to London, a previous plan she didn't want to change; a trip to museums to take photographs of Ancient Egyptian sculpture. It had been wonderful how their work had overlapped recently ...

     The eclipse had almost reached its predicted murder of the light. He placed the crystal and the leaf on his tongue, closed his eyes and swallowed. Paused ... only briefly, before pulling back the white sheet, kneeling down to untie Georgina's wrists and ankles, gently, considerately, acknowledging the pain she had suffered with the first thrusts; but it had seemed necessary.

     Slowly and elegantly, she curled up from the edges, like a leaf that has fallen on a fire, her arms and legs, like springs uncoiling, wrapping round him and clutching at him, dragging him closer as if she wanted him to become part of her, his entire being inside her. She said nothing but murmured quietly, almost inaudibly, indecipherable words more like music, as he lay gently, half on top of her, before starting to caress her ... again. It had been necessary to do it twice ... the old man had explained why.

     She opened her eyes and gazed at the night sky, saw that the eclipse was almost there. She wondered at the excitement they must have felt, inside the Great Pyramid, waiting as she had done, for the instant when the star of the god or goddess would be visible at the end of one of the stone shafts, when the three stars of Orion's belt would come into view, the stars of Osiris, and the priest and priestess would make love, dressed in their elaborate robes and animal and bird headdresses. Imagine the scene! Perhaps they were already making love and at the precise moment, the priest, well trained, would ejaculate. And the star Sirius, the dog star, the star of Isis, would be another perfect predicted moment of ritual and sexual magic. What ecstasy! She felt, for a brief moment, that excitement ... it was as if she was now inside the Great Pyramid, part of those sexual magical rites; so much to do with expansion of consciousness, as Cindy and John knew. She knew now how it must have felt. That intense expectation, that deep sacred and sexual arousal.

     But she must concentrate on the now, anything might happen; John had warned her that, afterwards, he would almost certainly pass out, but she must quickly leave and ignore him, whatever seemed from the outside to be happening. She had no idea that Amenhotep might be actually watching ...

     John was concentrating on his fingers, plying her open again. Oh, the indescribable mystery, the excitement of feeling those lips swollen, and just inside, the moisture, and further inside, the heat ... and throbbing. He slipped inside her. She tried not to show him that it hurt still, or her secret. It was all a matter of timing, he said, but hers was not exactly perfect. Surely it was the worst possible time? But the unspoken had remained unspoken. It was the outside events that were important. He was the director of the film, she was merely the actress. Once, she recalled, smiling to herself,  she had decided never to surrender her virginity to a man. But the moment had come ... and gone.

     She had no script, but she guessed John would plan to ejaculate as the chemical hit his brain, the moment when the eclipse reached its climax. She had witnessed him making love to Cindy, often enough, adept at holding back, and he did so now ... but she was so excited she couldn't stop herself letting go, pushing hard and squeezing ... and she lost herself, for how long she had no idea ... dreaming lovely dreams of a perfect golden time of long ago ... only to come back at the moment John's body went taut and hard, arched up and shuddered savagely ... everything happening at once. She dug her fingers into his back and pushed herself hard against him as long as she could ... so hard and with so much certainty, she was holding him up. Then she fell back and he fell back down on her, before quickly falling aside as if struck by a blow, his entire body now limp, and she knew he was already away ...

     She eased out from under him, put his arms at his side and laid the blanket and then the coverlet over him as he had asked her. Every small part of this ritual had been given to him by Amenhotep and it was a privilege for her to share it. She dressed quickly in the long warm cloak, over her torn dress, and after kissing him on the cheek as he slept, she headed off down the track between the high hedges, towards the lights of the car; wondering how she would deal with the idea that she was now going to be in love with him, whatever that might mean in this day and age, just because of this once ... never to be taken away. 

     ... clinging for a brief moment to consciousness, perhaps memory, images spreading in two directions as if from the point of contact with lines learnt by heart, as all boundaries fell away, an image rose into his mind, a shimmering white falcon, swooping towards him, claws outstretched, "his shape a cross eaten by light", in its feet the golden bough, Soma, which, just before it struck, it let drop and it hit him in the centre of his forehead and splintered into a million crystals, "where he alights a skin sloughs from a leafless apocalypse, on his lens each atom engraves with a diamond" ... Horus, Golden Falcon of the Dawn, spirit‑child of the mysterious sexual union of Isis and Osiris ... wingbeats making him rise, slithering down onto him, copulating with the invisible phallus she created for herself and her divine purpose, by magic ...

     ... hovering still, not yet fallen, trying to imagine the complex, elegant little molecules of the drug swimming along his bloodstream, eager to conquer his mind and restructure it, but he was also thinking of Georgina going for the night train, and now she seemed to be on it, enveloped in steel, its thunderous movement penetrating the night ... he hoped she wasn't so confused she got the wrong one ... he, thinking about other living cells, creatures in themselves, molecules in which is written the predestined future, images spawning images, swimming along inside her, forms a million years old, waves of passion squeezing, sucking, contracting on him, genes she had received, taken with her, gone forever. Gone. They were hers now. The immune system would fail to reject them, even though they were foreign bodies. What perfect apparently irrational elegance!

     A girl in a fluted white dress, a railway station at night. Stone and steel columns, torn by shrapnel. The train leaving the station, moved out of the time and space of their shared image, mimicking his Delvaux hologram. Behind the column on the left which was also a tree, he thought he saw movement.

     Suddenly he felt the fusion of the drugs flood his brain, the involute dissolve away his image of himself, the womb of deepest space calling him, crystal and leaf enfolded, infolded into each other's structure, and the mind's remaining words eclipsed, hard edges, eroded away in the abject darkness that precedes the creation of every thing ...

     A  falcon re-alighting on its golden perch.

     He was kneeling, trying to hold onto nothing; pure imagining ... like dream. Being blind now to the abandoned, redundant plane of reality, he didn't see the flash of pale starlight that reflected like a laser beam from what might have been a flint knife, or a quartz crystal the shape of a pyramid ... its edges honed as sharp as the light itself from the face of a newly-cut emerald. He couldn't be sure the violent sound of tearing was the whisper of leaves rustling, amplified in his throat like a scream. He didn't see the dark shape that might have been a blind old man slouching towards him ... a white falcon circling above them both, seeing all ... his body could be its prey now ... talons outstretched, clutching into matter as the thorns of a rose once pierced into the flesh of dying, crucified gods hung on golden boughs ... its curved beak opening, mimicking the scimitar of time, slicing the illusory space of the living into irreconcilable fragments, fourteen to be precise, images that seemed for a moment to be projected on an imaginary cinema screen in someone else's mind ... a woman's mind he had once known, as deep and turbulent as a sea of molten lapis lazuli and as ancient as time itself, shared with her, an imagined androgynous holograph ... or if he did, part of his mind thought it was merely the sound of the wind rustling in the leaves, and eyes budding on rotting fruit ... preferring to imagine bloodsap in the leaves, dried blood on fresh leaves, the secret fruit of the tree, pushing up through the humus around its roots ... to remember what he wanted to remember ... the wind blowing some loose blonde hair over a pretty face ... in slow motion, like in a film, with desire at last fading, like light itself, no longer illuminating everything, even inside his own darkening mind ...

     ... a pile of pitch-black bandages, no longer white in the eclipse of the moon, in which a pure white falcon had been lying, mummified, in wait for its moment to be reborn ... dead but not dead ... perhaps dreaming ... waiting, waiting ... and then there was nothing, not even dreaming of dreams, the ultimate irony, nothing, not even sleep, not even birth or death. He was rising up and taking off and yet, like an image in a half‑silvered mirror, life reflecting death falling,  wondering if there was no turning back ...

Georgina lay down on the bed in her sleeping compartment, her belly throbbing, her womb contracting ... seeing one image in her mind, herself entering inside his crystal, as if she had been drawn inside it and they had made love there, on a patchwork quilt of many colours, lying back watching an erotic film of a couple making love in a small glade inside a copse of trees in which there were bluebells, crushed beneath her ... green stains and blood on a fluted white skirt ...

     Except the more she gazed into the crystal, there seemed to be two crystals ... two places, two times ... she was in both of them at once, making love, she and the other, in one seeing, in the other, being seen ...

Ο

The final preparations had been completed. The batteries were charged. The robot had been placed in the stone passageway, the camera switched on to standby, to be triggered when the optic fibre, with its lens and laser-light source, was inside the chamber, pushed through the flaw, the break at the bottom of the stone portcullis door, with its copper handles. Clearly there was air inside the chamber; the first robot's search-laser had shown there were gaps where the door touched the floor. If any of the books from the library of Imhotep were exposed to the air, any damage would have been done already in the four thousand five hundred years since the Fourth Dynasty, when Pharaoh Chephren had sealed up the secret chamber.

     Some of the crystals were secretly hidden by being set into jewellery; but the pyramid-shaped crystals, essential to the Isis rites and reception of the so-called Green Rays referred to in the Pyramid texts, were hidden inside the body of one of the mummified falcons, inside its painted mummy-case.

     Imhotep was waiting. Was the world's collective mind ready for the revelations that would change its image of itself, forever; ready to understand perfect translucency, the mystery of knowing knowing? Was anyone still initiated to decode the messages, unravel the riddle of Chephren's Sphinx, reveal that reason itself was the riddle, the veil? Even when the maps and plans of the Pyramid were discovered and revealed at last, who would be ready to receive the telepathic messages? Where was the all-seeing eye of the falcon, initiated into the mysteries of Isis and Osiris, that would understand the language of perfected, invisible light? And respect its source?

***

Chapter SIX

"As for the Robes, those of Isis are variegated in their colours: for her power is concerned with matter which becomes everything and receives everything, light and darkness, day and night, fire and water, life and death, beginning and end. But the robe of Osiris has no shading or variety in its colour, but only one single colour like to Light. For the beginning is combined with nothing else, and that which is primary and conceptual is without admixture: wherefore they have taken off the robe of Osiris, they lay it away and guard it, unseen and untouched. But the apperception of the conceptual, the pure, and the simple, shining through the soul like a flash of lightning, affords an opportunity to touch and see it but once."

"Isis and Osiris"
 Plutarch


'Tell me what Cindy's novel is really about, now's a good time!'

'Never! Let her do it, it's her secret life, if she wants to reveal it.' She stood up. 'It's time we took our seats!' She looked at the clock anxiously, as if it would be a terrible crime not to be installed for the rise of the curtain. 'I must get the music ready. It's a long tape. I'll do all the talking, so relax, forget yourself, and Doctor Sutherland especially! Imagine you're acting inside someone else's dream, that you're free to do whatever slips into your mind. Now that kind of freedom is very rare I promise you, especially with an insatiably sexy woman who has ceased to be herself and can do and be anything she wants. So enjoy it while you can!'

'I'll do my best' he murmured, trying to remember if he'd typed the DF118D7ASAR code into the third disc before the final experiment ...

Georgina took him by the hand and led him into the drawing room. At first he could see very little. There was only one light, a dim red one, but he could see enough to realise she had done a fantastic job with the decor. Everything was draped with curtains, bedcovers or old clothes, not just the furniture, but also the walls. The red lampshade was a Victorian dress cut up and hastily sewn onto an ordinary beige lampshade. The long and narrow room was an ideal theatre, classical in style with its ornamented plasterwork ceiling. In front of the window, semicircular in shape, was the large raised platform where once the grand piano would have stood. The stage. He liked it all immediately and felt comfortable with the ambience, a mixture of a decadent, cheap German nightclub and a Victorian brothel. For reasons he couldn't be sure of, he felt it had a homely feeling about it.

'Look over here!' she said, showing him behind a screen. 'She even has her own lights! John bought them of course. She's prepared for everything. This is my main job, the spotlight, making sure she is perfectly LIT. Lighting is everything for a woman's face! What do you think?'

'I'm impressed. It feels like somewhere else, not here at all!' He wasn't sure what he meant but it sounded right.

'Exactly! Which is how you must feel, someone else, somewhere else. It's just our film ... and a great script!'

'Do you know the script then?' Had they often done it before, he wondered, this particular scenario ... not daring to ask. Or really wanting to know ...

'Script? Good heavens, Cindy never has scripts. She's quite impromptu B that is without prompts B the sexy bits especially; either that or they're from her novel. I just improvise; I'm seen and not heard, like an ideal mother!'

'Why always her novel? Are we living her novel? Is her novel about dancing?'

'Ur ... yes in a way, and no. Her novel can't be just one long, per-versed sexual fantasy, or can it? But don't ask questions, look over there ... your jacket and hat. Slip those on when the time comes and sit in that seat. Okay? And you'll be the master for whom she'll perform her dance of the seven veils, the stripping away of all illusion. Lucky man. See you tomorrow!'

He gulped. 'What do you mean, tomorrow?'

'Well if it goes on too long ... and some of Cindy's plays take off on weird tangents and last a week at a time ... I tend to get lost and slip away to work!'

'I hope you're joking?' he said almost desperately.

'Of course I am ... well, exaggerating, just a little!' She kissed him gently again on the cheek and smiled knowingly as if she was quite accustomed to these kind of evenings, and couldn't wait to get on with the action.

Suddenly a painful wave of ideas seared uncomfortably into his mind and threw him completely off balance; I wonder if they think I'm not who I say I am, that I'm really one of them, whoever they are, and they think I know everything that's going on, an old hand at this kind of thing, but I'm really a spy investigating John's disappearance, sent by other people that John was secretly working with. I've been sent to find out the truth and avenge his death!  He started to sweat.

It all seemed so obvious; of course! All the coincidences he'd talked about so naively, weren't any such thing, but were contrived accidents, deliberate comeons to fool them. After all he knew nothing about Egyptology, he'd merely bought a couple of books and a few relics at an auction and yet he was giving the unlikely impression he was mesmerised by a mummified falcon that looked like a decaying black cigar. Clearly he was nothing more than a detective with a most implausible set of credentials, far too obvious to fool anyone, and the two girls were leading him on, acting as if they hadn't seen through his whole pose, and the evening's event ... so plangent with implausibilities ... was probably a plot to have him murdered, acting in a Nazi brothel! And such a death would hardly provoke much credibility amongst his scientific colleagues. Suddenly he remembered that noone at all, anywhere, knew he was there, except the two girls, and he began to feel desperately alone and vulnerable. Why had he been so arrogant and not asked himself how they might have seen him, from their point of view?

The more he thought about the way the two girls probably saw him, the more he began to panic ... the more obvious it was that he was being tricked into acting in a charade that had as its climax, a brutal, symbolic murder; the decapitation of John the Baptist. Then he saw a connection he'd not made before. Was the disappearance in the copse some kind of baptism, albeit of fire? The head of John on a plate, not  John the Baptist, a real head on a plate ... the missing John himself, one of the fragments of his dismembered body? Certain images from his dreams were starting to make too much sense, and he could now remember them clearly, which  seemed strange. Was this the threshold of dream?

He leapt up, intending to escape immediately, when the door opened and Georgina entered pulling Cindy dramatically behind her. Matthew felt suddenly quite faint. His chest contracted as if he'd been struck by lightning, or as Georgina would have said, by one of Zeus's numinous, blue-green thunderbolts. Georgina was looking utterly amazing, sensual and exotic in a long black dress, her dark eyes sparkling mischievously, heavily outlined in kohl. A perfect Herodias. But never had he seen a girl look so stunningly, transparently  seductive as Cindy. His knees felt weak.

She'd painted her face a deathly white colour reminding him of a statue of a pagan goddess he'd seen in a harrowing Pasolini film; wasn't it Oedipus Rex? Her eyes seemed huge, decorated and enlarged with painted bird or butterfly wings. Her lips seemed so translucently red in the white mask that he felt they were radiating a strange force towards him ... he'd not be able to take his eyes off her lips whether she was speaking or not. At that moment they pouted provocatively, poised ready to exude some deadly poison which he'd not be able to resist. The cold sweat of a few minutes before changed instantly to a fever. Sidetracked from his earlier train of thought, his mind was freewheeling ... he was going nowhere ... unless staying was somewhere. She was sheathed in a cocoon of veils, mysteriously layered like the bandages on a mummy. He could see the strips of coloured veils beneath a pure white, diaphanous kind of dress, or outer veil, although it looked more like a skin through which the veils appeared, like scales or feathers ... and he remembered, dimly, the strange cocoon of his dream. Had she secretly witnessed his dream and then, in her movie dressing room, transformed it into her own creation? Everything about her suggested an outer shell ... the mask, the white material ... behind it the soft vulnerable inner body of an insect or bird, ready to dissolve inside itself into something utterly frightening ... some kind of hideous black pitch or molten magma ... before undertaking its final metamorphosis into a predatory winged being. Yet also, under that outer skin, something so desirable, the image to describe it eluded him ...

Matthew felt terrified ... but agreed with John suddenly; in certain situations, terror could be an aphrodisiac ...

Georgina brought Cindy slowly towards him, leading her by her hand, a hand sheathed in a long white glove, encrusted with pearls and cheap jewels. Georgina introduced them gravely, with not the slightest hint of artifice or embarrassment. 'Cindy, this is Herr Josef von Sternberg, director of The Blue Angel, all the way from Hollywood to watch the dance he's heard so much about! He says you look beautiful, a strange mixture of two images superimposed, a painting by Vargas being seduced by a Gustave Moreau!'

And despite the previous fears and reservations about entering the space of the girls' charade, he felt he could be Von Sternberg after all, and he felt his toes stretching in imaginary jackboots; it was really quite an exciting feeling.

Then Cindy decided to sit down ... which was clearly to be the first major scene of the spectacle. She seemed to go limp so slowly, and at the same time so elegantly, that Matthew was spellbound. He was reacting to every small movement, watching a film in slow motion on an editing machine ... or another cubist painting come to life. But it also made him think, unexpectedly, of one of his slides under a microscope and the image flashed into his mind of crystals forming ... taking shape ... emerging out of an almost transparent liquid, as if from nowhere. Everything about her was of something about to emerge out of a tantalising absence. He was still standing up, transfixed, long after she had draped herself across the chaise-longue like an abandoned puppet. Suddenly he felt embarrassed again and sat down himself, impulsively, nearly falling over his own feet as he did so ... the imaginary jackboots getting in the way.

Georgina asked her if she'd prefer wine or champagne. Cindy allowed her head to sway so far back it was through half open eyes that she launched a hungry, mean glance towards the wine bottle and murmured, 'A glass of wine now, darling, I'm parched ... while I'm waiting for you to open the champagne ... '

Matthew could see she was relishing the power she was exerting over Georgina. She turned to him and purred. 'It's a great shame I don't speak German, Herr Josef. A great shame too that you've come without your whip! Georgina told me all about your new film.' She held up her glass. 'To Salomé, the sacrificial daughter ... not the last daughter to challenge the hypocrisy of the Church. The true prophetess of the AntiChrist!'

They toasted the imaginary dancing girl, ex nihilo, the young girl skipping and dancing in the human mind for two thousand years ... raising their glasses high in the air. By the time Matthew had dragged his eyes away from Cindy's crimson mouth and winged eyes, and put his glass down, it was quite empty. Georgina filled the glass immediately, before switching on the music: very quiet and distant, languid and romantic.

'Mere background music, of course!' Cindy remarked, in an obviously false voice, looking right through him as if he wasn't there. 'The music for my dance is very special, a tape I made in southern India, mostly tabla and flute, performed for a local ruling family to commemorate the death of one of their ancestors, music I find impossible to resist, my body resonating as if someone else is directing it, as if I'm dancing with someone who is separate yet still inside me. But I shouldn't be telling you these things, you may see it very differently. I expect you see everything as a series of film scenes, even day-to-day events, as you pass through space and time ... a film montage ... do you?'

Taken off-guard by her sudden question, Matthew was groping for an answer he thought Herr Josef might make when Georgina emerged from the kitchen and scolded Cindy for 'asking our distinguished guest such impertinent questions! Lucky he hasn't brought his whip or I myself might be using it!'

Cindy smiled winsomely and purred, 'You're right. I'm sure Herr Josef thinks in images and not in words anyway. Forgive me for sounding like a journalist from HARPIES magazine!'

'Exactly!' said Georgina, smiling sweetly, putting down the already-opened champagne.

'We must finish the wine first, it is the very best Pauillac after all,' Cindy demanded, indicating that Matthew's glass was empty with an almost imperceptible twitch of an eyebrow, the kind of gesture she'd make bidding fifteen million dollars for a Van Gogh painting at an auction, the painting of his newly severed ear wrapped in a bloodstained bandage, ready to be sent to Gauguin.

Georgina suddenly exited right, 'to arrange the caviar'.  Cindy turned towards Matthew as if intending to say something secret and intimate, but then she hesitated, apparently transfixed by the Shiraz rug between them, and for what seemed to Matthew an aeon of time, she appeared to be meditating on the mystical whorls and gyres in the sacred mandala, by chance now delineating the space between them, until finally she raised her face towards him and, without any hint of emotion or contrivance, asked, 'Do you believe in reincarnation, Herr Josef?'

Before Matthew could answer Georgina returned and Cindy cast a ferocious look in her direction, but then seemed to regret the show of irritation and made the effort to smile and whisper words of approval instead. Before placing the tray of caviar on the table, Georgina seemed to involuntarily raise it above her head like a priestess in some ancient ritual, preparing to lay a sepulchral meal or the entrails of some newly sacrificed beast onto an altar to be devoured later by some vengeful god; and Matthew winced at the thought.

Cindy prepared the caviar slowly and precisely and in silence, and then in time with the slow lilt of the music, she presented Matthew and Georgina and then herself with a small square of toast, as symbolically as a priest might hand out the Eucharist at a wedding, her eyes seductively caressing the black translucent eggs, scraped from the wombs of Black Sea sturgeon. 'Voila! Let's not forget the lush body of the Fisher King. Long may he lurk in the oceanic depths of that black sea we call our unconscious minds!'

'Yes indeed!' said Georgina, obviously relishing Cindy's somewhat baroque verbal images as much as the dish.

By the time all the pieces of toast had been eaten, the communion finished, Matthew had drunk several glasses of champagne and was starting to mildly lose the certainty of being present in his body; lush or otherwise. In contrast, Cindy was finally reaching herself, was about to become whole, her two selves united at last. The limpidity of the caviar had risen into her eyes and they shone pellucidly with fermenting desire. She looked at Georgina fiercely again and said, 'I was just about to tell Herr Joseph my theory about reincarnation!'

To Matthew's dismay Georgina stood up, gulped down the last of her champagne; 'I must prepare myself. See you later.'  Cindy ignored her as she wafted towards the door.

Matthew sat back in his seat as far as he could go, but again Cindy focused her attention on the spirals of the Persian rug before she started speaking vaguely in Matthew's direction. The last thing he was expecting was another verbal striptease, but Cindy seemed much more interested in talking than dancing, or else she was making the most of Matthew's discomfort, as he gazed into her eyes like a schoolboy. 'The reason I mentioned reincarnation was not to provoke a lengthy discussion on the subject ... but to tell you, firstly, that I believe it is the one great mystery at the core of all human experience and has been deliberately overlooked by our culture with terrible consequences ... and secondly, I want you to think of reincarnation while I'm dancing, because I think it is the central idea behind all the old forms of sacred dance ... especially the erotic dances of temple prostitutes, and that is what Salomé was, after all. It is the whole idea of being possessed by a higher spirit, which is at the heart of such ritual dances, is it not?'

Matthew didn't know what to say. He was guessing that Cindy believed what she had said, absolutely. It was the first moment it dawned on him that she and Georgina were always talking about reincarnation in one form or another. It was virtually an obsession; and John's too, apparently. Yet nothing could be further from his own belief. He felt guilty for not taking it seriously but it wasn't what he'd been expecting at all ... of Salomé. He was pleased when Cindy stood up and said she had to leave him for a moment, and he was alone again to ponder the strangeness of the situation.

He drank another glass of champagne and noticed he was feeling more detached from himself, not just becoming drunk. Had the girls put something in his drink? But as he tried to focus his mind on this possibility, he felt himself already falling. Images ... the halfnaked girl who had danced into the trees ... so poorly done. Kitsch. Vulgar. Childish almost ... and he started to doze again ... as if he needed to dream again ...

But the activity of the girls prevented his escape, though his mind was still blurred when he saw the pinpoint of bright light spreading in the darkness ... as Georgina manipulated the masking frame on the head of the spotlight. At first the projected shaft of light appeared as a very small circle in the centre of the stage area, but then grew larger, revealing Cindy standing perfectly still and poised. Very slowly she raised her arms until her fingertips touched the outer edge of the circle of light, and Matthew immediately remembered the drawing by Leonardo da Vinci delineating the perfect harmony of human proportion, mimicking the wheeling systems of the stars ... every small atom the size of a galaxy ...

... the music was slow, the flute's melody meandering around a single drone note which it was caressing the way a humming bird hovers around the flower it is robbing of its honey. Matthew saw Cindy slowly evolve into such a bird, hovering unnaturally slowly, vibrating with such slow motion he could see each small movement quite distinctly, not obscured by the whole, the wings reaching a centre point, a tonal centre, but then passing through it as the imaginary wind wavered, and the wings kept beating to keep it poised, cheating the pull of gravity ...

He'd expected Cindy to dance flamboyantly with bold gestures and frantic sweeps of her body and arms, but the more he watched her the more mesmerised he became. Her movements were so slow, so slight, so subtle ... she resembled a plant, a reed at the edge of water, solitary yet firm, the partner of two waves, moving tenuously as the water beneath the surface swirled into an eddy but at the same time reacting on a different plane to the wind billowing above the surface. She seemed to be moving in this strange double way ... as if there were two melodies interweaving in counterpoint, both moving her body in their distinct and different ways, as if she was dancing with a filmed image of herself dancing, the one superimposed over the other ... at times in perfect symmetry with it, then just for a few seconds, out of phase ... interfering ... and the struggle to recapture the illusion of being in phase seemed almost to suggest the struggle to remain tangible in a world of pure thought ... and for some unknown reason an image came into Matthew's mind of several delicate reeds held together by a mess of feathers and bits of straw ... the small round nest of a reed warbler entwined around each of them, binding them together into a single purpose ... an external womb, bargaining for time, in the bound and knotted condensations of space ... and he suddenly remembered the nest of the reed warbler was the favourite victim of the cuckoo ... and somehow this related to the idea of reincarnation ... and his present predicament ...

... losing all sense of self and objectivity as he tried to focus on the mysterious duality of Cindy's dance. From time to time her recorded voice spoke dislocated phrases ... words no longer needing to relate to things ... making no linear sense, but the kind of vertical meaning common to dreams which Matthew now felt he understood without knowing why or how ... as if it was necessary for the dancer to absorb these previous images in words ... as if she was dissolving them away inside herself, a necessary preliminary to dissolving herself and undergoing metamorphosis from the virgin daughter into the temple prostitute ... from innocence to experience. At one moment she called for mother in a strange plaintive voice as if she was losing her way and needed a touch of deeper knowledge to draw on, to absorb into the language of her dance, and he saw Georgina, the mother standing in the shadow, just beyond the ring of light ...

That was it ... it was a language. For the first time in his life he was seeing a body not merely dancing ... every small movement was a vowel or a consonant fusing into words which could not be pinned down rationally but were small areas of focus in a purely visual language ... hieroglyphs ... and suddenly Matthew experienced a most uncharacteristic thought as if thrust on him by someone else ... that trying to structure such a language rationally would be like arranging butterflies in a box and sticking steel pins through their bodies instead of experiencing the true meaning of the language by watching them fluttering at random around a bush of roses, as red as Cindy's lips. A mere slip of a girl ...

Then he managed to shift perspective even more and saw the dancer herself as a musical instrument ... and her fingers seemed to be playing invisible strings that surrounded her like a spider's web but were in some way still part of her body ... spreading out like waves, both the strings to be plucked and lines on which notes might be written ...

And to his surprise he had to move his body sharply to stop tears coming to his eyes ... the sadness he felt seemed derived from the beauty of the dance ... but he felt sad because he had not expected it of Cindy, that he had underestimated her, that he had been expecting something predictable, even vulgar. That is what he had been dreading ... that it would be cheap and vulgar and he'd not be able to cope, for shame. He felt so relieved not to have to feel he must reject the experience that he gladly surrendered, trying to participate in it with her, to remember what she had said about seeing her as being animated by another being ... and this he saw now, clearly, a marionette abandoned totally to forces that were moving her ... using her to express a language ... and he wanted to cry with frustration, like a child who is learning to speak for the first time, wanting to know the language so much and participate in its magical ability to make things happen at a distance ... but this time it was the particular language of woman which he might only listen to and partially understand ... what they allowed him to understand! It was a language that would remain almost entirely foreign to him ... unless ... unless they would reveal to him the code. But this he knew would not happen ... and then he grew even more sad, realising that however passive he might become to their power, however much he surrendered himself to them ... they would never take the risk of revealing the inner secrets of their mysteries to him, and this made him feel desperately lonely, knowing the world of woman would always be an image on a screen he could only look at, a play on a stage he could never be part of ... virtually unknowable yet forever demanding him.

He closed his eyes tightly trying to escape the feeling of loss ... but an image from one of his own accidental, involuntary plays, a dream, came onto the stage of his mind; a huge painted backcloth ... the trees, become like peacock's feathers, covered in eyes ... watching him ... mocking him. The stage was empty of people ... empty of even the shadows of people. He felt hollow and empty inside himself ... devoid of desire. He was becoming aware of the deep resentment in his inner being, which he had been determined to forget and ignore ... his envy of the power of woman to experience the sensuous ecstasy of pure creation ... of dance, of sculpture, and of the two combined, of flesh ... if only he could cry!

Almost imperceptibly the mood of the dance changed. Cindy had still not removed a single veil yet she seemed to be quite naked. And the syncopation ... she was dancing more and more out of phase with the music, whereas until now she had been mimicking the rise and fall of the music's contours very precisely, only straying from its geometry for fractions of a second. Now she seemed to be developing gestures that were more and more at variance with the form of the music, as if the music was still trying to maintain its power over her body, yet was losing that power ... she was resisting it, moving against it, teasing it, and the movement of her hips suggested the music was like a hand moving in space and by her movements she was pressing against it provocatively, making every use of it to caress herself ... and by going against the flow of the music she was taking more pleasure from it, wringing out more pressure from it. Matthew felt he was watching an invisible man making love to Cindy very gently, with firm but considerate movements ... taking no pleasure for himself, but being taken ... and the more Matthew imagined this illicit, hidden intercourse, the more he saw Cindy without her veils ... the more he felt he could see her naked breasts and her pubic hair, neatly trimmed into the shape of a heart. Yet each time he returned to the direct sensual experience, he saw she had not removed a single veil ... they were still swirling protectively around her ...

His mind drifted with the music, enjoying the dialogue between her erotic movements and the music and the more he experienced her making love with her invisible partner ... even though he knew it was a projection of herself ... like two snakes copulating round an invisible central axis ... the more aroused he became ... even though his mind lapsed back at moments towards images he was familiar with, images of positive and negative electron spin and living and nonliving isotopes of carbon, matter and antimatter ... other kinds of snakes around other kinds of harsh reproof and verticality ...

... as Cindy started to dance faster and more emphatically, wrestling with the music and her invisible assailant, and the movements of her hips and thighs suggested she was abandoning herself to an inner passion, inner music ... having less and less to do with the outer music. The flute melody ceased and all that remained was a plangent, insistent rhythm from a mosaic of primitive percussion instruments, beaten with bare hands. Cindy was now dancing to a melody of her own, unheard by her audience. Suddenly a monologue of words emerged above the music ... Cindy's voice quoting erotic phrases of Oscar Wilde's play ... and her dancing became more frenzied and overtly sexual ... until the head of Iokanaan was called for ... and to Matthew's alarm Georgina appeared out of the shadows in her long oriental black dress, wearing a mask, and carrying a silver tray ... and on it was something he could not see at first and he felt a sharp plangent shudder vibrate down his spine, making his body burn from his forehead to the soles of his feet. He was sure it was the head of John! Next, it would be him ...

But to his relief he saw it was one of Georgina's sculptures ... a transparent head which, as she moved, reflected waves of light around the room. It was like a huge crystal and to Matthew's amazement, the beam of projected white light was split into all the colours of the rainbow, torn apart by the sharp crystal face, revealing the spectrum of coloured ribbons that had been so magically woven in the plait of virgin light,  as the prism of experience so often loosens the petals of the spectral rose and blinds us forever to the innocent visions of childhood ...

Without warning a piercing flash of green light made Matthew sit up sharply. Georgina had suspended the green wings of a dragonfly at the centre of the skull to simulate Matthew's diamond, and the light caught it and it seemed to reflect directly into Matthew's eye. Or was it an illusion? He was stunned momentarily, taken unawares, instantly slipping out of time, unable to avoid returning to the instant when his laser presumably collided with the strata of organic carbon in his diamond crystal ... or when it whirled out of control ... a distinction he had yet to ascertain ... drifting ... and in that brief second of collision which should not have happened, the fusion of opposites, and in the space where there should have been nothing, emergence of energy that had come from nowhere ... and he would have to call it cold fusion, meanwhile, because there was nothing else that could resemble it. Where was the new energy coming from, inside his crystal ... or his mind? And the green veil splitting ...

He wanted to stand up and shout out, to stop the action and point out the more subtle coincidences, as if by making the connection to his diamond he was in some way entering into the drama of Cindy's erotic dance, no longer as a mere spectator, a voyeur which is what he had always seemed to be, watching himself even when making love, but now, drawn into her space, contributing something of his own ... but he couldn't move ... or speak ... he was already hovering, floating, part of him somewhere else ...

Georgina put down the tray with its crystal head on the front of the stage and Cindy stood over it, raising the veils of her skirt provocatively and starting to gyrate over the head ... taunting it yet at the same time seeming to revere it ... her thighs almost caressing its translucent lips. Georgina went behind her and slipped her hands around her body, lightly brushing the skin until she grasped her firmly on her breasts. Cindy seemed to want to escape but could not, her desire for the object in front of her was too strong. Georgina stood firm as Cindy danced more and more in a frenzy, fighting against the interlocked fingers around her breasts ... tightening like a corset.

Then she seemed to try to bite the hands of her symbolic mother, but the hands wouldn't move ... and the more she danced, the more the veils were torn off her body ... the more she tried to pull herself down as if to rub her body against the translucent head, the more her thighs tore their way out from the restricting cocoon of membranes ... she was becoming naked despite herself ...

Georgina's hands were exploring her, up and down and around, until they moved slowly down the body of the writhing girl, brutal and hard, obviously seeking some kind of revenge, pressing against the flesh so hard the bones in her fingers were visible under the skin, as if she was wrestling with the whole agony of creation, but not knowing whether to create or destroy, hurt or give pleasure, release and give way or crush and reabsorb, like shaping a huge vase of clay on a whirling potter's wheel, not sure whether to make a statuette of Venus or Victory or Athena or Isis ... the goddess in all her glory ... or to squeeze so hard that she modelled a slim slip of a girl, barely shaped yet as a woman ... her sex a mere pencil mark ... until her fingers found their mark, caressing the girl between her thighs ... and the dancing girl, no longer Cindy, was writhing with pleasure but also with pain as she struggled at not being free to go down on her knees and thrust the head between her legs ... crush the lips of her sex against the translucent lips of the mindless head to release herself from her mounting desire ... albeit until the next time ... and she pressed down and touched the face, with her own lips, to pull back after the first glimpse of release ...

... slowly uncoiling until she was straight again. Most of the veils had fallen off her body and now she danced painfully with her head pushed back against the body of Georgina. Georgina's hands were covering her vagina, caressing hard.

The two girls kissed ... a long passionate kiss. Cindy turned round to hold the girl in black inside her arms, her perfectly-shaped bottom now visible, glistening as if newly fashioned from the clay, swaying to the music from side to side ... the two girls moving together, pushing against each other, their bottoms twisted as they pushed in harder, in a way that Matthew could not see exactly, until they fell gently down on either side of the sculptured head and it seemed to disappear inside them ... their bodies pressing it against each other as coloured veils swirled around like wings and Cindy's body emerged from between them ... naked, lithe and glistening ... trailing only one green veil ...

As the music throbbed on, Cindy lay on her back, placing the head on her stomach as Georgina sat beside her, continuing to fondle her ... as if the head had become a baby. Georgina stood over Cindy and placed the loosened veils back again over her body, but they slipped off as Cindy continued to writhe and shudder in time to the percussive beat of the music. Finally Georgina went to the spotlight and turned it off. She stopped the music, took out the tape and immediately started another, an even more primeval percussive music, the same insistent beat going on and on and on, as if forever. She came to Matthew and whispered in his ear, 'She's all yours now, baby' ... and left the room.

Matthew paused for a moment or two as if he might prefer after all to take flight but ... looking again at Cindy, open and awaiting him ... slipped off his jacket and trousers ... now at last there was nothing in the world, or inside himself, that could stop him taking her, he wanted her so much ... he could see how open she was beneath the sculpted heartshaped pubic hair that he had glimpsed earlier under her skirt ... an image he would never forget as long as he lived.

He lay down next to her ... he tried to take away the last remaining pale green veil covering her face, but it was secure around her neck. She resisted and whispered. 'I am nobody and everybody, just take me as I am ... leave me the veil ... leave your whore one veil over her too brightly lit face!' He slipped quickly into her ... thrust into her hard with utter relief and she put her arms around his back and pressed him down inside her, squeezing his bottom tightly ... and said, 'Please don't hurry ... take your time ... be very gentle ... we are gods, we have all eternity ... kiss me slowly ... imagine you are the wind and I am a weeping willow tree ... and we have all night to caress each other, secretly ... before the harsh light of dawn!' She was so open and wet he knew he could make love to her forever ... and still be waiting. Waiting until she decided ... until she made the move ... and squeezed ...

And Matthew learnt to make love as if he was a god ... and was surprised how easy it seemed to be ... having left himself behind somewhere, outside the diamond, entranced by Salomé's dance of unveiling ...

 

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