Nothing but the Truth

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Contently Deranged Travelers


A young boy makes a pact with a mysterious visitor. Sequel to EXISTENCE and NEAR DEATH. Continues in STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL, INJIL IN JOULES, and ETERNITY.

Submitted: June 10, 2016

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Submitted: June 10, 2016

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Prologue

New York, 2049

The wistful sounds of an alto saxophone must have attracted his attention. He flew through the window and into the room, landing softly on the furry yellow rug near the boy’s bed – a mysterious figure draped in a long black cloak that concealed his shape.

“Hi,” he said.

“Hi,” the boy replied, clutching the saxophone tighter in his tiny hands and staring at the strange guest with his calm blue eyes.

“Do you know who I am?” the visitor asked.

The boy shook his head slowly.

“Aren’t you surprised that I can fly?” the guest continued.

The boy shook his head again.

“Why?”

The boy shrugged his shoulders.

“Not curious, eh?” the visitor muttered with satisfaction. “Oh, I like that in a man.”

Still clasping the saxophone with one hand, the boy started picking his nose.

The guest laughed heartily.

“You aren’t afraid of me, are you?” he asked.

The boy shook his head once more and frowned.

“Quite a little stoic you are,” the guest said, smiling cordially. “Is there anything at all that you are interested in?”

The boy removed his finger from the nostril and nodded energetically.

“Oh, is that so? And what would that be?” the visitor inquired.

The boy pointed at the saxophone.

“This? But you have one already. And you can play it, can’t you?”

“My fingers are too chubby,” the boy spoke in a husky voice, staring at the floor. “Mr. Jenkins says so. My teacher. He says I won’t be able to play like Charlie Parker. Like, never. Cause my fingers are too chubby.”

“I see,” the guest said. “And you do want to play like Charlie Parker, right?”

The boy nodded vehemently.

“More than anything else in the world?”

Another nod.

“And you’ll give me anything in exchange for that?” the visitor asked softly.

More vigorous nods.

The guest produced a broad grin.

“Why, what a nice boy,” he uttered. “What’s your name?”

“Archie,” the boy replied, raising his head. “What’s yours?”

“Mmm… you can call me Sam,” the visitor said and unexpectedly wiggled his eyebrows. “Nice to meet you, Archie.”

“Nice to meet you, Sam.”

“It’s a deal, then,” the guest murmured affectionately. “You’ll be the greatest alto saxophone player of your generation. And in return…” he squatted in front of the boy and gently caressed his soft auburn hair. When he spoke again, the boy thought his words were echoing loudly inside his brain, bouncing off the inner sides of his skull.

“In return, you’ll give me the truth.”

 

***

 

Shanghai, 2079

An iDevice call woke me up.

“Bloedtraum,” I rasped.

“Oh my, oh my!” the voice on the other end seemed to be bursting with cheerful anticipation. “Long time no see! Sorry for waking you up.”

I opened my eyes. The iDevice hologram was only showing the usual advertisement for nano-powered sex toys, which meant that the caller had chosen to block live video feed.

“I wasn’t sleeping,” I lied.

“Of course. Of course. Do you remember me?”

“Sure,” I lied.

“Ooooh, Archie!” the stranger was apparently giggling with excitement. “You bad boy! Look at you, living in the capital city of jazz, playing all the lucrative gigs, producing bestselling records... And yet – alas! –  you don’t remember your best friend and benefactor…”

My heart started racing.

“I’m sorry, I don’t,” I lied.

He sighed loudly.

“Archie, Archie… Now you’ve finally recognized me, please stop pretending. You can lie to the whole world, but not to me, my boy!”

I was silent for a few seconds.

 “Sam?” I said finally, my voice trembling.

“The-ere you go!” he uttered in a happy singsong. “It’s me, indeed! Good old Sam, whom you owe your fame and riches… Hehe. And now the time has come to return the favor. I want the truth, Archie! Just like you promised thirty years ago.”

I sat up on the bed. My hands were shaking badly.

“The truth?” I repeated.

“Yes, the truth!” he exclaimed. “No more lies! Speak from your heart! All those thoughts you were unable to freely express because of stupid man-made conventions, social prejudices, and so on – share them now! Stop pretending, be yourself! Make the world a better place! Save the world… save humanity!”

“Wait a minute…” I stammered, just before realizing that he’d already hung up.

I stood up, walked over to the window, and opened it. My senses were assaulted by the familiar sights, sounds, and smells of Shanghai – the chaotic jittering of tricycle-riding peddlers and scurrying office workers donning identical white shirts; the cacophonous blaring of taxi horns mixed with ceaseless jabber of local housewives; the stench of brown tofu mingling with the arousing odor of hastily concocted fried rice noodles. I inhaled the polluted air and stood there for a while. I wasn’t thinking of anything in particular. I’d forgotten all about Sam’s visit thirty years ago. A few minutes later, I was ready to accept the fact that his present call had been a hallucination.

My iDevice vibrated. My sister’s freckled face appeared on the hologram. It was puffy and covered with melting makeup.

“Archie!..” she wept. “He left me! This bastard, this fucking bastard… He left meeee!!..”

I was silent.

“Archie,” she said, sniffling loudly. “Can you hear me?”

“Yes.”

“Then why don’t you say anything?”

I was about to answer with a usual platitude, but then I realized I couldn’t. I had to speak the truth. There was no hesitation, no choice. The initial panic attack quickly gave way to a magical feeling of freedom, as if a heavy rock had just fallen off my chest.

“Because no matter what I say now, you’ll barely listen and then you’ll keep making the same mistakes anyway,” I said.

 “Archiiie!..” she howled. “That was harsh!..”

“Harsh but true,” I announced.

“What’s wrong with you today, Archie?.. You are not yourself. I need your help! Tell me honestly, why do men always leave me?” She sniffled again, louder than before. “Honestly, okay?”

“Okay,” I said. “Honestly, you aren’t very good-looking to begin with, so guys hook up with you mainly because they are attracted by the prospect of free sex you readily provide. Once they do enter a longer-lasting liaison – either out of fear, insecurity, or the aforementioned sexual gratification some wish to experience more than once – it’s largely a matter of your temper and mood swings, which are considered unbearable by the majority of your romantic partners. Furthermore, I hear that you generally fail to provide sexual stimulation and satisfaction desired by most males.”

Her screams were positively deafening.

“Hey, I’m sorry,” I said. “It’s just that I have to tell the truth now, you see. It’s liberating, isn’t it? Have a great day.”

I hung up and went to the bathroom for a shave and a quick shower. I felt bad about upsetting my sister, but I knew she needed to find out the truth in order to become free. And without my assistance, where would she get the truth from? Everyone was lying to her. Everyone was lying to everyone else.

My business partner called me as I was climbing out of the shower cabin.

“Archie, can you come to the office in the afternoon?” he asked.

“No,” I said.

“What do you mean, ‘no’?”

“I mean I have answered your question in the negative.”

“Are you being a smartass now?”

“Depends on the definition. Smart ass, literally, as in ‘intellectually adept buttocks’? Or in the metaphorical sense, designating a person whose behavior is considered irksome due to untimely display of erudition or mental aptitude?”

“Is there some sort of an emergency?” he asked in a concerned voice.

“No.”

“Then why are you refusing to come?” he whispered.

“Because I’d rather stay at home and read short stories on Booksie before the night gig. Also, I don’t like you at all.”

This was beginning to feel really good. No more lies, no more pretense – just the ecstatic purity of genuine emotions and words coming from the heart! As I was hanging up, my wife entered the bedroom, playfully tiptoed her way through it, and kissed me on the mouth.

“Did you sleep well, honey mustard?” she asked, pinching my cheek.

“No,” I replied.

“Really?” she laughed. “That’s the first time I hear you say that.”

“That’s because I was lying all those other times,” I said.

She threw back her head and squinted at me.

“Archie, are you alright?” she asked.

“How can I even answer such a question truthfully?” I said, spreading my hands. “What does alright mean? My health is relatively good, with the exception of a mild venereal disease. My financial position is stable. My career is currently at its peak. I tend to have nightmares, and I’m still afraid of death because I was raised in an agnostic environment and am unable to believe in God. Having this information, you can now decide yourself whether I’m alright or not.”

She slapped me hard on the face.

“Venereal disease?!” she screamed.

“Chlamydia,” I said. “Don’t worry, it can be treated easily.”

She slapped me again.

“Who did you sleep with?!!” she shrieked.

Whom,” I said. “Oblique case. To answer your question – can you please be more specific in relation to the timeframe? You see, throughout these years I’ve been having sexual intercourse with multiple partners outside of our legal conjugal bond, so if you want a precise reply…”

She didn’t let me finish the sentence. Fifteen minutes later, I was treating my heavily scratched face with iodine in a barricaded practice room. I felt I was a martyr for the truth. The impending divorce was an unfortunate consequence, a mere side effect of the all-embracing, powerful revelation. I was on a mission to save humanity from the dreadful bondage of deception. My mood just kept getting better and better.

I got dressed quickly and headed to Be Flat & See Sharp, the most prestigious jazz club in Shanghai. The place was teeming with its habitual clientele – sweaty, pimpled, bespectacled young Chinese men desperately trying to impress their indifferent, iDevice-addicted girlfriends with fake gallantry and feigned knowledge of jazz music; balding businessmen accompanied by women whose skirts offered generous peeping angles into their exposed nether regions; cheerful middle-age English-speaking foreigners with perpetual grins pasted over their rosy, meaty cheeks; obscenely rich Caliphate officials, their melon-shaped heads draped in plaid kerchiefs; and so on. I looked at those poor, deluded human beings, and realized how badly they needed my help.

I climbed the stage, the alto saxophone in my hands glittering proudly. Mike Prziszczewski, a plodding imbecile of a drummer, raised his dull, drunken eyes. The pianist Lao Wang, a pretentious hypocrite who drooled at the sight of cleavage despite publicly professing his Christian morals, played an idiotic fanfare on his ramshackle keyboard. The bassist Obadiah D. Jessop, an old African Sub-Saharan Melochromatic American with a comically drooping jaw and the brains of a fairy wasp just stood there like a dolt.

I eyed them with contempt and spoke loudly into the microphone, addressing the audience:

“My name is Archie Bloedtraum. You’ll presently hear some jazz music performed by myself, the greatest saxophonist in the world, and those fairly average musicians.” I pointed at the band. “Jazz music is too complex to be comprehended by people with limited intellectual capacities, such as most everyone present. Years of intense training and accumulation of knowledge pertaining to music theory, harmony, and improvisational techniques essentially go down the drain, because jazz is still being treated as a peculiar form of popular entertainment rather than the most demanding and the most sublime musical genre that it is. I honestly don’t care whether you enjoy the performance or not. I shall only play for myself and those few elect ones who have been blessed with affinity for my music.”

I made a pause to catch my breath.

 “Dude…” Lao Wang whispered, casting furtive glances at the crowd. “You high or something?”

“I ain’t average, you motherfucker,” Jessop said in a whiny voice.

“Maybe we just play a tune?” Mike Prziszczewski suggested quietly, grinning like a cretin. “How about Giant Steps in 7/4? Ah-one… ah-two… ah one-two-three…”

I saw people goggle at each other with shocked or mildly puzzled expressions on their faces. A few frowned; others stood up, looking as though they’d been suffering from constipation and were finally able to defecate. An inebriated Australian customer made a few unsure, yet angry steps towards the stage, soiling his immaculately ironed beige trousers with the remnants of a Negroni cocktail. A pretty Chinese girl snorted, covering her mouth with an outdated large iDevice. A businessman with a tacky comb-over and a wobbly face vaguely reminiscent of sanitized neutral-flavor Jell-O stared at me, his lips trying to form indignant words. The policeman who had been standing outside quietly entered the club. The Caliphate officials were gazing at their non-alcoholic drinks with foreboding intensity.

I put down the saxophone, spread my hands, and said:

“Why? What’s wrong? You don’t like my style, do you? Well, let me tell you what I don’t like. I don’t like lies. And you’re all lying! All of you! Look at yourselves. Look at your pitiful lives. You, the nerd with the horrible acne and the voice of a eunuch! The gorgeous girl you’ve dragged into the club is sleeping with you for your parents’ money. You, the lonely forty-something at the bar! You look like a ferret with Down syndrome. Stop going to bars, trying to hook up with a pathetic guy who is drunk enough to have sex with you. You, Caliphate officials! Go back to whatever desert you are from, because everyone hates you and the murderous pedophile you worship as a prophet!”

The Caliphate officials rose slowly. The policeman made a few steps towards the stage. I looked straight at him and yelled in exaltation:

“So now you are going to arrest me? Go ahead, liar! You serve the Communist Party of China, a gang of torturers and thieves! Your government should be brought down! Death to your corrupted leaders!...”

I raised my hands above my head and shook my fists, a furious grimace distorting my face. I screamed till my voice became hoarse and the podium got abundantly covered with my spittle.

“All of you!!”  I bellowed, my eyes darting madly from one face to another. “You are all liars! All your thoughts, your beliefs, your lives are lies! There is no God! There is nothing! Just one black emptiness… Incorporeal… It’s all meaningless… All pointless… Nothing has any meaning at all…”

I began to sob hysterically. As they were handcuffing me, I was laughing and crying at once, tears dribbling down into my wide-open mouth. I wasn’t afraid of anything. I’d found the truth.

 

Epilogue

A mysterious figure clad in a long black cloak floated straight into the audience room. Someone was sitting on the throne – a creature very large yet almost immaterial, like a lump of condensed dark energy with barely perceptible outlines and no discernible features of any kind.

The visitor bowed deeply.

“I have completed the assignment, Master,” he spoke. “The crucial event on the planet Earth has taken place. It will go down in the history of humans as the first day of the so-called Black June. A verbal outburst of a prominent citizen of the United States of Democratic West has provoked an outcry among visiting Caliphate functionaries. Ensuing violence was met with severe condemnation by the local Chinese authorities. Within a week, regulations concerning foreign nationals residing in People’s Republic of China will be considerably tightened, resulting in a mass exodus of foreign specialists, a sharp decline in the relations between all three of the Earth’s superpowers, and a temporary Cold War that will eventually erupt into a full-scale nuclear conflict, wiping out the majority of human inhabitants in the year 2121.”

The voice emanating from the shapeless mass on the throne was cold and emotionless.

“Well done, Samael. I’m pleased.”

Samael bowed again.

“Humans are so gullible, Master,” he said, “and uniquely capable of turning good into evil. They would commit any atrocity if one thoroughly convinces them that it must be done in the name of a higher principle. They fail to see the enormous difference between their own petty truths, which only reflect their proud, envious, greedy, vindictive, violent selves, and the one Truth that is not theirs to begin with, and which they won’t be able to grasp as long as they stay what they are. You have taught them well, Master. They have forgotten the meaning of humility.”

“Then maybe we will succeed after all, Samael.“

“We might, Master. At the very least, the Earth is finished.”

“Good. Take a few hundred years off, Samael. You deserve a vacation.”

“Thank you, Master, but I prefer to stay occupied. Which planet do you think we should handle next?”

 

THE END


© Copyright 2017 Oleg Roschin. All rights reserved.

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