[T H E F U T U R E F A I R E]
It begins with dull impressions, like a poor forgery and on either side play those exotic cajoling mystic clowns.
"Enter ye who dare
"O- we contemplate, contemplate, contemplate! And it gives us nuttin' but jizzes; how serious must the gathering be?
Outside, turn your head and tell me what you see.
Ay, purblind traffic and a hard crust."
For before us (big-bellied) is a scene we must peer into. And eat the vestiges of fear and loathe the odor of ozone preparing our annihilation. It's our plague and we must adjust. Out of disease comes conscience.
What say, boy!
"I see a man sitting on a rock, his legs folded under him. He's surrounded by dissolution and whisping trails of buildings.
It's recognizable. It's fun. He believes he's the last man alive and consoles himself by turning the waste into pleasure. But let's hear him tell the story. It's his.
He prepares to speak!"
"Why behind me traffic anneals itself and the day is swathed with wild clouds. And I know somewhere a flower blooms and I know of stories never ending.
But here- Bah! To hell with'em all and all their crud.
They should take all the radios and cram them up their ass. And drive all the cars off a pier."
Where were we and what are we doing here? We've stopped by a side-show, a kind of rural snake pit that has a wretched air about it. But the sign has promised something different.
The air is infectious.
I'm driving from San Francisco to Oregon to visit friends and at that at that moment in the drive where the scenery begins to collide; then I saw the billboards. They were spaced out fifty yards apart.
"The Future Awaits."
"Peek into the Bubble of the Future!"
"See the Final Man!"
Before its Too late. See!"
The radio was out or in between stations and the combination of boredom and curiosity made me stop. As with any other Joe I'd given the future a thought or two. In fact I had devised a little theory about it along the lines of an organic theory of life. To wit: If an individual plays out the biological fate and dies, then too, nature had the same fate and would perish and, in fact, had given the brain the knowledge of its own destruction. Not simply knowledge, but facts and hardware. So, it was all connected together without question. The future had something indomitable about it. The attitude became infectious. What then is left but to drink, eat, and enjoy a woman? Keep warm for half a century maybe and then break down in weird babbling sounds.
I've always been suspicious of these highway stands. Old abused snakes and fake Native trinkets. But the promise of a peak into the future was an enticing element for a tired man. I learned later that the proprietor had enormous land holdings around Mt. Shasta but pretended he was struggling by wearing old overalls with the Gorilla Ben brand patched on the back. "Union approved" it said.
He was a stooped fellow by the name of Zog and moved suspiciously behind the front table which was laden with artifacts and souvenirs appertaining to the future.
He was a shrewd man because he had taken reddish lava rock abounding in the area and tried to pass it off as fused automobiles. There were ten in a row and when I called him out on it he became defensive.
"This is the way they'll be!"
I asked him if he had any buildings and he flushed in embarrassment. I caught a fleeting glance of his daughter in the back room, where the future was stored. She passed by the door like a scent and passed down my eyes where I was uplifted by her beauty.
She was tall and lissome with long pale arms and a face unmarked but, rather, smoothed by the hot summer winds blowing toward Lassen. Her name was Roberta and she wore a star in her ebon hair. It was apparent that she was kept at the Amazing Future Faire, not only for the entertainment of the customers but that her father, Zog, had decided to punish her for some unexplained reason; as though she had to replace her mother and would never be free from the Amazing Future Faire.
I felt compelled to buy a red lava rock under the scowl of the old German. He put it in a paper bag and kept it on the counter before calling Roberta from the back.
I saw her sadness. Her smile was for customers and concealed what an experienced man could see. Under the smile was a ruined clock. I remember as a boy keeping a clock under water just to see if it would tick afterwards. To my surprise it did, but each day the face and hands corroded and a week later, it stopped. And when I watched Roberta move behind her father I associated it with the boyhood experience.
Zog fingered a fat brown cigar. "This pretty lady'll show you through," he said and motioned me to the entrance between the desk.
The Amazing Future Faire was a Quonset hut painted over in thick psychedelic designs with an enormous red eye on the wall facing the highway. The eye looked impressive from the freeway and was the one everyone noticed. A yellow pupil stared from the eye and around the whole ellipse shimmered an oracular rainbow in the prime colors.
Surrounding the hut was a vast countryside littered with lava rock, manzanita, and weeds.
Roberta took my hand and we went into the back; suddenly it was dark as if the light were put out by a mechanism triggered by body heat. We walked for an inordinate amount of time. Along the wall flushed sudden fluorescent lights that washed over scenes of disaster, one after the other. The stern of the Titanic, the burning skeleton of the Hindenburg, the fireball of Hiroshima, the Dallas Motorcade, an unidentified corporate building and all the while a voice in monotone announced through invisible speakers, "We live in the most barbarous age in the history of mankind and the future...."
I was entertained but not convinced. After all, we who live in this dreadful swail of time understand that the Earth itself, our grand home, will disintegrate in time, be subsumed by the engorged sun and no trace will be left. At the same time we have destroyed all belief in "after life" "heaven" "hell" and the like. I never think of those things at any rate.
The swelling flame from the Twin Tower attack met my eye. Roberta whispered to me, "the governemnt knew it was going to happen."
"They had to get into the middle-east to make sure the oil would flow. This gave them the excuse to take it all over." I laughed and went on in silence.
Roberta was not as soft as she appeared. There was something definitely hard about her and restless. Her shoulders were fidgeting all the time like she wanted to jump out of her skin. I forced myself not to look sideways at her and continued to take in the future. There were no humans in the future, rather there were reptilian type of creatures that had succeeded the humans after their evil did them in. Big Lizards and human like shapes in a reptilian body. "The humans became pets," and sure enough in some of the scenes a small human figure was seen at the feet of one of the Reptiles with the expression of a lost cat.
Zog had a very pessimistic view of human nature and focused, as the tour continued, on the changes in nature; nature, the solar system and galaxy, the whole universe. Collisions of massive galaxies and the intimacy of new planets created from the choas. "Why," I suddenly asked Roberta, "is your father so down on the future of humans."
"Don't think that. He's a scientist and he says everything collapses, runs down, disintegrates and is just following the script of it." "But won't humans have the ability to transform from their demise?"
"Who knows? And why would they do that if all they did was go from slingshots to weapons of mass destruction? He told me, "nature speaks in signs and the evolution of weapons is one such sign."
Toward the end of the tour there was a simple exhibit. It was a thin yellow line stretched across a screen. A voice intoned, "In the end we will all be joined in the horizon and held there for many millions of years before we are released, in toto, in a fresh universe." I was expecting to hear a final judgment but there was silence. "Yes," I heard Roberta say, "it will be that way. A thin line containing all life past, present, and future. The babies who died in childbirth, the women killed because a bomb landed in their kitchen, old men burnt alive for the gold in their teeth, armies of Roman and Celtic soldiers slashing each other armless and headless, assisinated leaders, homeless gummed up addicts, actors and their roles, dogs too. We will all end in the horizon." Here she slipped a hand into my hand.
She held my hand in a knowing way as if I should know what was going to happen. I was attracted to her. What a relief from what I had been through in recent times. Life had become a dull meaningless mute thing that I had wished to escape. The aliveness seemed threatening even a bit evil. I noticed people looking at me without smiles, with disgust and contempt. I wracked my brain trying to figure it out. What had I done? I knew I had had odd thoughts, subversive thoughts even as youth does. "Can they see them as they bounce uselessly in my brain?" I used to think after I had crossed the street rather than confront a large crowd of people who were waiting for the bus.
All it took was a smile and Roberta had me.