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“The Mortal Janice”
The first installments of Narrative 3 of The Immortality Project are now available. On instructions, I am posting them at a rate so that so that the “The Mortal Janice” will be fully online by the time the sequencing clock reaches 70%. At that time, I will receive, and will begin posting Narrative 4, aiming to complete its full posting by the time the clock reaches 80%.
Based on this schedule, we shall begin Narrative 7 just when the sequencing is complete. That moment, we can assume, will be a tense one at the underground site of the Immortality Project. — Stephen
In As Beautiful as the Sky, Janice has it bad. Blair’s immortality right up close is making her a little crazy.
Blair wore his heavy coat and a black watch cap pulled low to cover his missing ear. Behind him, the sky put on its typical dawn show: streaming ramps of light, cathedrals in the clouds, heavenly mountains of glory, all the usual. He looked just as beautiful as the sky.
This reminds me more than a bit of how intoxicated Kate became when we first started to receive messages straight from Oxadrenals. I don’t want to embarrass her by reposting The Power of Glamor to Glamour, but you can just click on it :-) — Flyss
P.S. The Rilke poem that opens Narrative 3 says it all.
Yes, as Flyss says, I was quite dazzled when we had our first direct communication with a non-mortal. And I didn’t have the excuse of having spent the evening making love to the man, much less defending him from someone who went on to slash off his ear.* Janice certainly can be allowed her intoxication.
But she’s not entirely intoxicated, and it doesn’t last.
In the very first paragraph she notes, “You could get stupid and fall in love with someone like that if you didn’t watch out.” In other words, she is watching out. And moments later, when she discovers Menniss trussed up in the trunk of Blair’s car, she pushes Blair into the background and takes over.
And she has a remarkable inner voice to go along with that remarkable set of tattoos! I hope the countdown clock rises quickly, so we can hear much, much more of her soon. — Kate
I realized that I had my expectations wrong. I thought this was going to be some kind of thriller leading up to a secret underground lab, with great secret forces moving through the world. Well, it is all that, except it’s about the people involved first, and only after that the forces. It doesn’t get straight to the plot points. Kate has some ideas on why, so I’m handing the floor to her now. — Flyss
In terms of what Flyss just said, think I may understand the purpose of what Oxadrenals and Janice are doing: The are requiring that we stay focused on a human level and remember that humans are valuable as individuals. Far too often, in my experience, people who work on a large scale to often come to regard human beings as pawns on a chess board. I’ve seen this myself with clients who work high up in corporate management structures. Strattera reminds me that this is the central subject of all John LeCarre novels: that secret agents supposedly working for a good purpose usually end up losing their humanity.
The people we are learning about here certainly haven’t lost theirs! These are not clean cut, hyper-efficient, single-minded, uncomplicated “agents.” They are problematic and colorful, and they solve their life problems in inefficient, colorful, psychologically complex and meandering ways. They care about each other and the people they meet, and they allow that caring to influence them. Psychologically, this is much healthier than becoming a heartless human machine! It’s also better, I think, than transcending everything and trying to live like an angel.
For this, we have Janice as an amazing model! She is simply one-of-a-kind: crass and refined sexual and spiritual, wounded and whole. Despite the fact that her story doesn’t take us right to the point, by listening to it we are made to remember that throughout this transition from mortal to immortal we are humans first. — Kate
In the third installment of the Mortal Janice, Connecting the Dots, Janice is doing a lot of reflecting on the contrast between immortality and mortality, between perfection and imperfection, and trying to connect the dots between them. As part of this, around the middle of the installment, she forces Blair to get a piercing. (There’s a practical value too — to disguise him as they flee.) After the piercing is done, she writes.
Blair looked good with the stud in his nose. Less perfect and more human.
Interesting isnt it? We need imperfection. A little later on, she writes something even more interesting (and also, in my opinion, painfully beautiful):
Blair is staring at her, “his eyes all amazing.”
I’d seen that look once before, on the faces of a bunch of drug dealers and other friendly assholes who hang around my neighborhood quickstop. I’d been stuck inside the quickstop for awhile behind someone who’d bought a lot of lottery tickets and needed to scratch every one open and then buy some more depending on how they scratched out. But I didn’t mind waiting because in the real world outside it started to pour. The guy scratched and scratched, and it stopped raining, and I bought my frozen burritos and when I left the quickstop I got hit full in the face by a double rainbow, a full double, stretching across the whole sky and with a piece of a third bow close to the ground, and the pimps and the drug dealers staring at it, this gift from the sky, their attitude gone, no fucking with each other, grateful, exposed, open like little kids who’ve never been hurt.
Blair was staring at me like I was a rainbow. Part of me loved it. Part of me hated it. Because what’s so magical about a rainbow is that it doesn’t last.
You have to remember that she’s entranced by his immortality; as kind of a mirror image, she’s afraid what he loves about her is her evanescence.
I don’t think she’s right, though. I think he senses that she can make him more human.
But how does this all relate to The Immortality Project?Why are we hearing about Janice’s insecurities rather than skipping straight ahead to the exciting stuff: an underground laboratory, guys with black helicopters, etc.? I’ll give you my personal ideas on that in my next post. – Flyss
As I mentioned in my last post, I have an idea why these chronicles of the Immortality Project are spending so much time on Janice and Blair’s personal interactions rather than skipping straight ahead to the exciting project itself.
Kate suggested that Oxadrenals wants us to remember the human side to all this, and that’s why he’s spending so much time on the people. And I agree. But I think there’s another reason.
Keep in mind that during the period that we transition to immortality, the world will be full of contrasts between the immortal and the non-mortal. Not everyone will become immortal at once. There will be haves and have nots. So, the issues Janice is facing are issues we will all face. We need to understand them!– Flyss
[Stephen’s note to new readers:Eight narratives of the Immortality Project are being published in installments. These are non-fiction renditions of actual events leading up to the present day. The authors are Oxadrenals, Janice, and a set of professional writers. This page shows all the narratives in their proper sequence. The narrative begin in late 2009. In the present, the genetic sequencing of a True Immortal is nearly complete. The narratives will reach the present at approximately the moment that the sequencing finishes. There is a considerable chance of intervention at that time by the Immortal Illuminati. One of the purposes of publishing these narratives is to help dissuade them from intervening, as explained here. These Illuminati have recently discovered this blog, but they have not yet contacted us.]
Another installment is up, with the ungentle title of “Poisoning Myself.”
It begins with Janice and Blair jumping on a train at Denver Union Station. Stephen will shortly post on the content. I want show you some photos so you can picture it. Also, the fact that we’re dealing with Immortals gives one an extra perspective, as you’ll see.
It’s a grand old building, but a security guard there told me a lot of the old pretty stuff is about to be torn out. Figures.
Here’s the facade:
(Click on the images to enlarge them.)
A view of the reverse side, with train tracks visible:
Here’s a wide angle view of the old fashioned waiting room. It’s strangely bleak and empty in there. I felt lost, but in a lovely, nostalgic way.
Here’s another view, this one showing the entrance to the boarding area. Those wooden seats are wonderfully weird.
Here’s the decorated walkway down to the trains. Easy to imagine Blair and Janice sneaking down here to hop on a train.
But they’re going to rip all this out to put in a spanking new pedestrian walkway. That’s our disposable culture for you. We even dispose of monuments!
Immortals must find it disgusting. — Flyss
From installment 4 of The Mortal Janice.
There’s more life in poisoning yourself than trying to live forever. It lets you know you’re dying little by little and if you don’t know that then you don’t really live.
I’m so profound.
There’s truth here.
Not that one need literally poison oneself. Nor would I agree that mortality is a necessary prerequisite for fullness of life. Rather, the wisdom here has rather to do with the realm of antinomies.
The line “I’m so profound,” is, of course, meant to be read not as a direct claim but as self-mockery. In fact, to state, “I’m profound” without irony is in fact to demonstrate that one is not profound. In contrast, Janice’s sincerely self-deprecating usage immediately alerts us to the presence of real insight. Here, already, there are at least three opposites at play. But that is just the beginning.
Janice herself does not believe in poisoning herself: She is in recovery, attending 12-step groups. Rather, she makes this statement as a kind of irritated reaction against Blair, with whom she has just undergone, several days of constant proximity. His shallow brand of”perfection” has begun to ear on her. She has begun to recognize, as we have through her, that he is a terribly stunted person. Listen to this description:
I affected him, which meant that some part of him saw me. But he couldn’t look at me directly, only at the part in himself that got affected. Like using himself for a mirror. And that meant he only saw me through himself.
This is very subtle. It’s not that he uses her as a mirror, which is the conventional concept of narcissism. Rather, it’s that he uses himself as a mirror; he can only see her as she is reflected in his own reactions to her. Again, these are antinomies in abundance.
Returning now, to the antinomy of poison and life. Here I must say that I am having trouble articulating what I sense. Perhaps I would roughly state my impression this way: “The certainty of death gives us contact with reality, and deprivation of that certainty may put us at risk of never being real.”
I do not for a minute believe that narcissistic self-involvement is an inevitable consequence of immortality.But it may be a risk. Based on recent occurrences, I suspect that in the near future we shall have the opportunity to learn whether these personality characteristics are specific to Blair, or are present more generally. If the latter, we shall need to face the issue squarely, for Janice is right: Never to be touched is never to live at all.– Stephen
P.S. I believe we are beginning to see the possibility that Blair may emerge from his shell, though via an unexpected route. See the newly posted Installment 5, titled “Bondage as Psychotherapy.”
Really, the idea starts in Installment 3, Connecting the Dots. Janice gets Blair a piercing, in part to help disguise him, but also because she instinctively senses he needs to feel something. In Installment 4, Poisoning Myself, Janice reflects in various ways on how limitation and wounding put one in touch with life.
In this installment, she takes it further.
Blair has been getting a CT-scan looking for GPS trackers in his body. (I had one of those, for the same reason.) Janice comes back from just barely not having sex with Marcus, a man she just met, and finds out that Blair’s clean. More than that: the radiologist says that his body is utterly perfect. She gets a CT herself, and discovers that, like most people, her body is full of internal imperfections; she might even have a brain tumor (though she probably doesn’t.) The comparison angers her, and that night when they have sex she is aggressive, and introduces him to bondage. Her anger is also love, though, and when she sees how he reacts her heart opens to him.
He wasn’t playing at being scared; he was damn scared, even by loops of scotch tape.
And he loved it. We broke the tape pretty quick, which would have happened even with regular sex but this was hot, hot sex. I leaned all my weight on one of his arms to make it stay up by the post and told him to pretend he was still tied and not to touch me. Extremely hot.
He was surrendering. He was surrendering to me, and in his mind it was more than play. For a guy like him, it was real surrender.
I’m not sure who cried first, me or my downed angel.
There’s a great deal else in the installment too. Janice’s internal dialogue is entrancing: sexy, hilarious, poetic and perceptive all at once . — Flyss
P.S. This section also gives new meaning to the title of Installment 7 of Narrative 1. :-)
Someone visited me too. Unlike Kate, I wasn’t entirely charmed. But I _am_ interested.
They’ve offered to bring me and Strattera on a tour of their current home in Santa Clara. But, as I say, I’m not fully charmed. And, out of stubborn pride, I refuse to let them derail my reading of this narrative. So, please pardon me as I leave that no doubt interesting subject aside, and continue to talk about what I’m reading!
Bubbled up safe in the new BMW, drove on a long black highway west. The sky was clear, but high mountains in the distance wore their own private clouds. Yellow signs every couple of miles said, ‘Watch for eagles on the road.’ I’d never traveled west of Colorado before.
In installment 6 of The Mortal Janice, they drive down Highway 50 toward Ely, Nevada. As they go drive, we learn a lot about Blair’s history, including what happened when he first noticed that he wasn’t aging, how he came to believe that he’d unconsciously sold his soul to the devil, and how Saul rescued him and became his mentor. Also, we discover the origin of the vampire-in-the-coffin legend. (Yeah, Janice herself is skeptical about that last part.) There’s a lot more in it too, but overall it’s a respite from the intensity just before.
Some of this installment will mean a lot more to people who’ve read rather than skipped Narrative 2, The Hafeem Saul. I really recommend reading that, by the way. It’s much slower, but once you adapt it’s wonderful. — Flyss
P.S. Yes, I’m in shock at being visited by a rep from the Immortal Illuminati. But I refuse to give them the satisfaction of showing it. Yet.
Installment 7 of The Mortal Janice takes place somewhere I’ve been to recently.
We stopped in Ely, Nevada under a twenty-foot guy with one blue leg straight and the other bent and holding a lariat lit with Christmas lights. The place was a casino with a hotel curled around it. Besides Mr. Big Blue Guy, the place had stirrups, whips, horseshoes, spurs and chain-saw sculptures everywhere. I’d never been to a casino.
The guy is actually holding a pick, not a lariat, and there aren’t any Christmas lights, but otherwise Janice’s description is right. Not bad for writing from memory a few months later.
I didn’t have to go to Ely to photograph it because I’ve been there and done that last year. It’s a garish place there, in the middle of nowhere. And what happens to Janice there, and what she does in reaction, is funny. But in an edgy way.
Or, more than edgy – outright disturbing. “Zeke’s” sense of humor has a distinctly dark and violent edge to it.
Is anyone else thinking what I’m thinking? (continued in my next post) — Flyss
Continued from my last post.
I’d mentioned how Zeke’s behavior, while amusing, also had a dark, violent edge. But Zeke is obviously meant to be the same person as Howard of Narrative 2 –The Hafeem Saul. And in that narrative, Howard admits to being identical to Alexi, the man who came close to mugging Saul in Moscow in installment 3 of that narrative.
In other words, Howard/Alexi/Zeke have a distinctly weird and frightening side. But think about his:
Description of Oxadrenals: “He wore a theatrical handlebar mustache and a goatee…” (from our sighting of him.)
And, of course, there are other connections, obvious to those who have been reading the narrative.
If Howard = Alexi = Zeke also equals Oxadrenals, and we know that Alexi and Zeke have a real dark side, then maybe our friend Ox isn’t quite so cuddly and innocent as we’ve all been thinking. And, if so, than what if his “arch-enemies” the Immortal Illuminati aren’t so dark as he’s led us to believe?
It’s worth thinking about, anyway. — Flyss
(For new readers: All of the narratives cited here are accessible, and arranged chronologically, here.)
I’m starting to feel a bit sorry for Oxadrenals — we all seem to be ganging up. But while we wait for him to defend himself, installment 8 of The Mortal Janice has been posted, titled A Rock Fallen from the Sky.
Considering everything, how much do you want to bet it’s this rock?
That would certainly put a lot of things together!
It looks like Blair is going to get in touch with Saul. I wonder how that will go. We know from the very end of Narrative 3 (The Hafeem Saul) that Saul has been yearning for this. But people aren’t always grateful when someone finally acts nice after being a jerk for a century (literally). — Flyss
PS — I just started reading the newly posted installment 9 of The Mortal Janice,titled “Becoming No One at All.“ It seems that Janice is going on her own to see Saul! — Flyss
RE: installment 9 of the Mortal Janice.
Janice has fallen into a throughly self-destructive mood. She contacts Saul by email, pretends to be Blair, and goes on her own to meet him. Only when she sees him in person does she seem to recognize the danger she’s in.
I’d gotten used to Blair’s eyes. So innocent and open. But Saul’s eyes weren’t innocent. If he decided I would die, I would die.
“Let me talk to you before you kill me,” she says.
One more installment to go. — Flyss
I wonder if anyone else shares my guess about the identity of the woman who met Blair in the bar in Installment 8. Here’s the description:
“She was very feminine and tiny. Asian, I think. But utterly sure of herself.”
She essentially dares Blair to abandon Saul, in a maneuver calculated to cause Saul immense anguish; and if my guess is right, it is a maneuver acted out with gusto by someone Saul trusts and reveres.
And then, 75 years later, that same person commands Saul to return to the scene of where he was so badly hurt, and to “cease penance and live!” (as described in the early part of The Hafeem Saul.) Possibly this is all some kind of cruel kindness intended to help him grow and develop, but it is breathtakingly manipulative.
Much as I am enjoying my conversations with Soraya’s representative, there is no question that these people, too, are masters of the art manipulating people for their (supposed) own good. If Oxadrenals is a brazen manipulator, he is in good company. - Strattera
I don’t agree that Janice is in an entirely destructive mood. She feels tempted that way, certainly, but she’s fighting it bravely.
The night before, she felt erased by Blair’s insensitive recitation of three centuries full of romances, but she successfully resisted harming herself as she might have done in the past. (Her description of going to sleep in that state is poignant.) And the next morning, though she takes a foolish risk, I don’t think in her mind it amounts to suicide. Rather, she sees it as bravely marching forth to face her demons. Janice is on a healing path, even if it looks likely to be a long one. — Kate
The last part of Narrative 3 of the Immortality Project Chronicles has been posted. It’s a wild ride! From fear, to friendship, to philosophy, to a cliffhanger ending that crashes right up against the cliff left hanging in the first narrative.
Narrative 4, I’ve heard, is told from the perspective of Richard Menniss. (I’ll miss Janice, but I know we’ll get back to her.) It’s supposed to start appearing in a day or two. — Flyss
P.S. I’m starting to think I overreacted about Ox. Not sure what got into me.