The Pulse: Alberta

Fairy Tales

Summerland, BC, 1967

When he was 11 years old, Antonio was lectured by his father beneath the Old Apple Tree. While the bombs were falling on the rice paddies of Vietnam and Cambodia, the old preacher dropped these heavy words onto the frail shoulders of his progeny: Son, the world is like the fruit of this tree, full of Good and Evil. The skin of the apple must never be touched. But the seed lies within the flesh, and must be passed on to future generations. The preacher then bit into the apple that lay firmly in his right hand. A juicy bit of flesh flew up into the air and splattered onto the surface of Antonio's third eye.

Antonio was condemned to spend each summer picking the barely ripened fruit of the Okanagan Valley. Labouring under the scorching sun, he asked himself, How to extract the seeds and sweet juices without rupturing the skin? In high school, and later at the University of British Columbia, he pursued this question relentlessly. By his second year he realized that he would never find the answer in Biology or in any other science that pretended to answer the basic questions about life. Science attempted to find means, not motives. Any lawyer knew that motives cut deeper than means

So Antonio switched to the Dark Arts, eventually completing degrees in Literature and Law. He reasoned that these Arts were the source of the stories that defined the problem of existence in the first place. They were also the source of the practices that tried to verify, deny, or obfuscate the doctrine of Good and Evil. How else to explain the Catholic Church, Evangelical Lutherism, Dracula, Nietzsche, Faust, Byron, Batman, or Scientology? Weren’t Sartre and Camus just writing stories so that they could answer the question posed by the litigious serpent in the story about the Garden of Eden?

In the course of his studies, Antonio discovered that he was unlike any student at university. The source of his disquiet and rebellion went much deeper than a simple hatred of a tyrannical father. He felt something deeper within him, something much darker than mere spite. There was some sort of black impulse that urged him to study Law so that he could break it, to create Beauty so that he could deface it, and to find Religion so that he could destroy it.

On Fallar Prime

On the outskirts of Fallar Discordia the streets were so dark that the creatures there had to touch or stab one another to get where they were going.

Fallarians loved being in the dark. This wasn’t just a physical thing. They also preferred to be unclear about what was happening in the world around them. Otherwise, where was the fun?For instance, it was considered tactless to tell someone what you thought. It was more acceptable to let them guess at it, connive a way to get around it, use it, or demolish it. Parents never told their children what to do, lawyers never told their clients how to act, and no one would even think of telling you what you were supposed to be.

Fallarians laughed at the crude infractions of other races. They were like automatons, with chemicals poured into their systems until they became exactly what their masters wanted them to be. In the Fallar Dominion beings had the freedom to chose what they wanted to be. They could be what their time and space suggested, or they could decide — against all logic or practicality — to be something completely different. They certainly didn’t believe in a Creator who determined everything in advance, and then pretended people had free will.

Slowly, subtly, Fallarians determined what free will meant.

The Brothers from Göttingen

Slowly, subtly, Antonio realized that he wanted to become the Prince of Darkness. He knew that this Prince was merely a human construction, but he found human stories irresistible. Or perhaps it wasn’t a myth. Perhaps that was him, in some other persona, deep down inside. He would find out. The realization of Fallarian roots was a mysterious thing, and no one from that universe ever knew for sure exactly who they were.

Antonio did know, however, that it would be easy to pass as a character from the ancient stories. Humans were so indoctrinated by these religious narratives that they would believe almost anything — even that he was the incarnation of the Devil himself. Two things assured his success: 1. humans became spellbound by the mere idea of miracles and the supernatural, and 2. they were so technologically naïve that even the simplest of Fallarian transformations would seem like Black Magic to them.

Antonio first needed to establish his credentials. He did this by completing a Ph.D. and publishing a book on the Grimm Brothers. The book was a joy to write, since nothing captured the Fallarian ethos of anarchy and self-determination better than the Grimm Brothers from Göttingen.

In his Ph.D. thesis Antonio argued that while Disney tried to make everything turn out alright in the end, the Grimm Brothers didn’t indulge themselves in false hope. Antonio mocked the storybook morality of what humans called philanthropy and altruism. In a highly satirical style — which nevertheless contained all the scholarly paraphernalia and four-line sentences academia required — he argued that the Grimm Brothers had made an invaluable contribution to world culture by unleashing the metaphysical terrors that lay hidden beneath the hypocrisy of manners, philanthropy, and anti-trust laws.

He began by noting that previous to the Grimm Era — which Antonio placed between the Age of Collapsing Reason and the Age of Deep Romantic Chasms — life was a simple affair. The ego was as of yet unacquainted with the full power of the id. In this early period, women were forced to wear iron chastity belts, and boys and girls still slept soundly with visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads. This was a precarious situation, for it left the women without a key to their own depravity, and it left the little ones vulnerable to all the marauding spirits that drifted in the subatomic wasteland beneath their mundane lives. In this perilous world, djinns rose up from the earth in a swirl of fiery dust. As quickly as it took for the mothers to be distracted by the biceps of a construction worker, the djinns swept the children off their teeter-totters and into a gypsy caravan.

Antonio argued that the Grimm Brothers were merely warning the youth of the nation to be streetwise about these things, and to carry some sort of weapon (at least a knife) into the dark and dangerous forest of the playground. As for the mothers, Antonio suggested that they buy a pair of metal cutters and thereafter plead the Fifth Amendment.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/nov/12/grimm-brothers-fairytales-horror-new-translation. 2014 translation by Jack Zipes, reviewed in  The Guardian  (November 12, 2014) by Alison Flood.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/nov/12/grimm-brothers-fairytales-horror-new-translation. 2014 translation by Jack Zipes, reviewed in The Guardian (November 12, 2014) by Alison Flood.

Antonio also argued that the Grimm Brothers were products of their geographic environment: their native town of Göttingen was less than 50 miles north of Frankfurt, where in 1587 the first Faustus legend was published. As a result, they were influenced by the finest strain of philosophy that Germany had to offer: the bargaining of one’s worthless soul — that didn’t weigh so much as a pea! — for all sorts of power and glory.

The Germans were to be admired because they weren’t constrained by conventional notions of morality. They were more than willing to strike bargains with the Devil. Faust, Nietzsche, Hitler — all masters of negotiation! The Grimm Brothers merely put this into a form that children could appreciate.

Their parables instilled in the little ones a deep and abiding respect for what Antonio called The Ten Sacred Principles of Terror: 1) Fear is not a psychological state, but a real thing; don’t fool yourself, it’s out there; 2) Horror can be calculated on a scale from 1 to 10, starting with the suspicion that your parents are feeding you exact laboratory doses of pablum; 3) Increments of terror are all the more effective when they can be neither felt nor measured by forensic experts; 4) Psychotic episodes are twice as unnerving when alternated with moments when your guardians seem to exhibit genuine affection; 5) The impact of a ghost story is magnified by campfire or the sulfurous glow of a burning Barbie; 6) The ghost of an evil grandmother can be invoked without the help of vampire bats or Ouija boards; 7) All nightmares correspond to real dimensions to be experienced after death; 8) God and the Devil are in a dual which is not necessarily eternal; 9) The universe is a big game of dice; 10) The Devil has them loaded.

 ❧

By the time Antonio was hired as a full professor at The University of Calgarium in 1996 he had figured out a way to get back at the old man in the apple orchard. The same tyrant who bit into the apple and then forbade everybody else to take a bite.

Vulcan, Alberta, 1999

32 years after his father lectured him in the apple orchard, the words still echoed in Antonio’s ears. He heard that dry preacher’s voice repeating its onerous commandments, coming down to him as if from on high. It drove him on, whipped at his soul, as he drove his Ferrari over Route 533 into the small town of Vulcan, amid the wheat fields of southern Alberta. It was here that he came to avenge himself on his father by worming his way into the heart of the most beautiful girl on planet Earth. 

It would be an enormous understatement to say that Beatrice Oneirica was no ordinary farm girl, no run-of-the-mill miller’s daughter. While she fit that bill in some ways — she was full-breasted and had skin smooth and white as Devon cream — she was also a girl of deep poetic sensibility. A miller’s daughter might spend her day rolling thick slabs of dough, yet Beatrice followed the fluffy clouds that hovered over the endless fields of wheat. She let the tips of her fingers roll over the edges of the roses that circled their homestead, breathing in their deep perfume, imagining that she was somewhere else.

The Soul of the Rose , by John Waterhouse, 1908 (Wikimedia Commons)

The Soul of the Rose, by John Waterhouse, 1908 (Wikimedia Commons)

Beatrice had never learned a word of Italian, yet she yearned to wander the marble piazzas of Italy. She longed to see the wonders of the world — the broad avenues of Paris and the great masterpieces of Florentine art.

At night in her bed, her perfect skin stretching against her soft nightdress, she dreamed of the day her prince would come.

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