YOU ARE CURRENTLY SEEING BLOG POSTS IN PROPER CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER. While in this mode, the links at the bottom and top of each page are not correctly labeled. However, the left pointing arrow always advances forward in time, and the right pointing arrow retreats.
The concept of a hanger-on has already been mentioned on this blog by Oxadrenals, and, before that, intuited by Kate, but here we learn a great deal more about the threat they pose, in a passage that is a fine example of Saul’s language: vivid, intense, and yet tinged with consistent humor. Here’s what Saul has to say about them:
There is nothing more dangerous than a man or woman who has discovered your immortality. Mortals may in time resign themselves to aging and death, but this is a resignation forced by circumstance rather than embraced by will. Once he glimpses in your person, the possibility of escape from age and death, even the most respectable of men will become rapacious, his humanity overwhelmed by lust for what he believes you can give him. He will grasp at you with a strength that surpasses sanity, grip you like the old man in the fable who sits on the Brahmin’s shoulders. These tragic and dangerous creatures have been called Peiniea—The Hungry Ones, Rasmeosi—Those who Grip, and Luefelloto Lofelli—Seekers of Lifeblood. In English, they are often simply referred to as hangers-on.
By no means will such a being accept the bare truth: that immortality is an irreducible fact of nature, incapable of being gifted or conveyed. Rather, he will know to a certainty that you possess an herb, a spell, a sacred spring, a mysterious power in the blood that once consumed, will provide the gift of eternity. He will demand access to this gift and will credit no denial.
For example, an alchemical gentleman once came to believe I possessed the Philosopher’s Stone, lodged, peculiarly, within my liver. He wished, therefore, to possess my liver. My flight encompassed three continents before I at last escaped his voracious grip.
No, he is a terribly dangerous thing, your hanger-on, far more dangerous than war, famine, or weather. You must at all times do your utmost never to acquire such a being; and if, by ill chance, the disaster occurs, you must flee upon the instant, letting nothing dear delay you.
There’s much more besides, and a great deal of material to think about. –Stephen
The first installments of Narrative 4 of the Immortality Project chronicles are now posted. The title of the entire narrative is “The Hanger-On,” and the subject is Richard Menniss, Bounty Hunter. (Interesting that he’s characterized as a hanger-on rather than as a “bounty hunter,” though he is in fact both.)
We’re seeing things from Richard Menniss’ point of view. He’s frighteningly good at what he does. Not only does he physically invade people’s homes as easily as a razor blade slicing into butter, he’s just as good at invading people psyches. But he does have a conscience, and he’s troubled.
It’s a very ugly episode, but, really, the ugliness we see is in the world he invades, not in his soul. — Flyss
P.S. I’m not ignoring Soraya’s magisterial post. I’m digesting it.
The “opening quotation” of Narrative 4: The Hanger-On, is supposedly a quote from The Cask of Amontillado, by Edgar Allen Poe. But a close look shows that it is not the actual quotation at all, but a bizarrely altered version. The attribution explains the change: Supposedly,this is the “King James Revision” of the story!
God seems to be the narrator, rather than Montressor (the man bricking in Fortunado in the original.) From my reading, this appears to be a depiction of God bricking us in with mortality and taking credit for giving us peace by killing us in the end. I read the “tiers” here as decades; we are supposed to imagine God blithely bricking us from the moment we are born. The victim (us, or Menniss) first notices what’s happening in his fifth decade, at which point he shakes his chains. God listens for a moment, and then goes on bricking. I supposed this means that we first notice we’re mortal in our 50′s. (That has certainly been the case for me.)
It’s a bizarre yet moving burlesque. We see here how beneath his humor Oxadrenals (for this has to be a product of that peculiar mind) is deeply serious.
But is he reliable? Can we trust him? Or would we in fact find greater security in the experienced, parental, aristocratic realpolitik of Soraya and the True Immortals?
I share the dilemma Kate speaks of.
Clearly Oxadrenals is trying to give us what we want. But is it what we need?
On the other hand, can we, in the modern world, allow an elite, no matter how wise, to choose for us and tell us what we can and cannot have? — Stephen
Installment 3 of The Hanger-On is now posted. Many readers may find it hard to stomach. For me, though, the experience of reading it is a punch in the stomach. It is only too cruelly honest about what it feels like to be an aging man.
We can only assume that Menniss confessed all this to Oxadrenals, knowing that it would be written down. That bravery urges me to an admission: I have felt what he admits feeling as he walks through the Catalyst on the way to meet Francine. I am not proud of it. I do not want to advertise the fact. I do not want young women to know that I feel such things! And yet, while I do not act on them, I share the feelings Menniss so self-ruthlessly describes.
Then, later on in the installment, his heart opens, and all is changed. — Stephen
Among other things, the trialogue between Saul, Janice and Menniss is hilarious! At the same time, I was moved by Saul’s ability to recognize, and bring out, Menniss’ badly damaged underlying nobility.
The coincidences the title speaks of is clearly not that at all. The convergence upon Santa Cruz has been orchestrated by The Eldest.
It was she who caused Blair to abandon Saul in Santa Cruz and who later directed Saul to return to Santa Cruz. It was also she directed Oxadrenals to build his community of Hafeems there.* Isn’t it interesting how it is that though she worships chance, she also controls circumstances to a surprising extent.
And yet, perhaps it is all in the service of bringing matters to a point of maximum concentration, the low-entropic points at which chance plays the maximum role. — Stephen
*I know this last fact via personal communication from Oxadrenals (though it is hinted at in some of the dialogue between Janice and Oxadrenals/Zeke in Narrative 3.) The other points were explicitly noted in the published narratives.
Menniss says something early on in this narrative that I think captures the essence of the whole process: It doesn’t matter whether immortality is a good thing or not. The desire for it is ineradicable, greater than the thirst for water. It is the desire to live: the essence of all thirsts rolled into one. — Stephen
For new readers: The Hanger-On is Narrative 4 of the chronicles of the Immortality Project. These narratives detail the events leading up to the current conflict between the Hafeems behind the project (Oxadrenals foremost) and the Immortal Illuminati who wish to suppress it. Though the narratives currently detail events that occurred early in 2010, they will soon converge on the present.
Gruesome as this whole narrative is, it’s also very funny. From installment 5 of the Hanger-On, titled Under the Canopy:
(Menniss is telling Saul about his doctor friend Lemon, who is something of a doctor to the criminal underworld.)
“Here’s his real tour de force: he installs internal Kevlar shields to protect vital organs.”
“I marvel to hear of it,” Saul says. “This can actually be done? Does it work well?”
“It works, but its uncomfortable,” Menniss says. “I wore one over my spleen for awhile, but I’m a stomach sleeper, so I had to take it out.” — Flyss
P.S. If you’re wondering why I’m not showing pictures of the places in the stories, it’s because I can’t go there just now. Not allowed: strict instructions of Oxadrenals and Soraya. I’m cooling my heels here in Denver, getting frustrated and bored not doing anything. Probably go down the rabbit hole just for that reason alone.
The sequencing task ifs forging steadily ahead, and in order to keep on schedule, we must finish posting The Hanger-On (the fourth narrative of the Immortality Project) in the next few days. That is why installment 6, Trust, is so long.
But it’s a highly eventful, if disturbing, chunk of narrative; and, at its end, we see the extent of Soraya’s reach.– Stephen
In installment 6 of The Hanger-On, aptly named “Trust,” Menniss has surgery in the back seat of a Lexus.
I went to a dealership and took this photo:
Nice car and all, but eeuuoo! Remind me not to do that, OK?– Flyss
P.S. As for how the chip got there, perhaps Richard Menniss had the same thing happen to him as what I watched agents of Soraya do to the man we referred to as “the Bounty Hunter.” It’s very similar to what I imagined, except the chip was put his belly rather than his foot.
I believe these are all metaphors for the way in which he (and the rest of us) are are trapped by mortality. As Lemon says in Installment 7 of the The Hanger-On:
You’re born in a collapsing room, and the ceiling starts coming down from the moment of your first breath. It never stops, and one day it will get low enough to squeeze the juice out of you.
Don’t we all face this?
How do you deal with it? — Kate
Narrative 7 of the Hanger-On covers a lot of ground. Besides containing that great quote Kate talks about, it takes us to a dark beach where we glimpse Soraya’s blue&black paramilitaries, and then witness the intervention of the Eldest.
I happen to have visited several beaches at night when we were in Santa Cruz a few months back, and the scene reminds me of a couple of photos I took back then.
Here’s a Santa Cruz beach with fire circles like the one Saul and Menniss visit:
Here’s a closeup of one of the fire circles (no naked girls like in the story, sorry):
And here’s a cliff probably a lot like the one the blue&blacks came down:
The final section of Narrative 4 of the Immortality Project will be be posted shortly. Then we’ll have to move on almost immediately to Narrative 5, as the sequencing countdown continues to advance, and Oxadrenals feels it necessary to have all of the sixth narrative posted by the time the clock reaches 100%. — Stephen
At the end of “Tied-Up, Helpless, Loving” (the latest installment of Narrative 5), Janice plays bondage games with Blair again, and this time he surrenders to it. And you know what? I think it’s the best thing that ever happened to him.
But the first part of the installment is about a different level of bondage: We meet some members of the blue&black organization, and we find that if any one of them were to tell the world about the immortals they’d die instantly. (Or, at least, they think they would, which is still bondage.)
Also they call hangers-on “lice.” I agree that Menniss is a louse, but to call mortals who are hungry for immortality “lice” is disgusting.
I know, I know, this is all written by Oxadrenals, and shows his bias. But with details like this, it’s hard to see the Immortal Illuminati as the good-deed-doers they say they are. Soraya, are you willing to refute anything here? — Flyss