Word count: 2258
Copyright (C) 1996
by David Alexander.
The Shock of a Feather
"I am a feather for each wind that blows."
A Winter's Tale, Act 2, Scene 3.
I awakened in a strange car going down a strange road in what was surely a strange country.
"Where are we, Albert?" I asked my brother, who was at the wheel.
"Shut up," Albert said.
I was long used to Albert's rudeness to say nothing of his capriciousness. It would not be the first time that Albert had taken advantage of my trust in him, nor, I was certain, would it be the last. "Albert, you will have to tell me sooner or later where we are, you know that surely. So why not make it simpler all around and just answer my question."
"Fuck you," Albert said and delivered a sharp slap to the side of my face with the back of his hand that stung painfully.
Albert was always the weaker one of us. It was because I let him get away with his belligerence that he acted as he did. Nevertheless there had been times when I had been forced to take matters directly in hand. "Don't take advantage of my code of nonviolence to all living beings, Albert," I told him. "I remind you of the last time you pushed me too far, and the unpleasantness I caused you then."
Albert bit his lips.
"Belize," he said.
"We're in Belize. It's just south of Guatamala. We just crossed the border before you came out of your fucking trance."
"That's good, Albert," I said. "Now we're getting someplace. You have told me where we are. Now tell me why we are here."
"The usual bullshit," Albert said.
"Meaning you've gotten us into trouble again."
"Meaning the usual bullshit, that's all," he said and swerved to avoid a huge snake that slithered across the road clutching a sheep in its jaws.
"Alright. We'll put that aside for the moment. Let's concentrate on where we're going and why. Where are we going, Albert?"
"Where is that?"
"So we're going to La Paz, Bolivia. Good. Now tell me why we're going there."
"To see a guy," said Albert.
"To see a guy," I said.
"Could you be more specific?"
I began by cursing Fate for making me the Siamese twin of my brother Albert. But I ended by recognizing the underlying cosmic unity behind the veil of illusion. From birth we two had been joined at the hip, our kidneys, hearts and other vital organs connected by a network of veins and capillaries far too greatly enmeshed to be operable, even by the most skilled surgeons using the latest technology. Such a plight would have been difficult enough to bear under any circumstances, but in my case these were raised to the highest power of absurdity.
My brother Albert and I were direct opposites in all things. I, a Buddhist monk, followed the path of the Tantra toward enlightenment. Albert, a career criminal, followed the path of greed and ignorance deeper into the manifold ensnarements of samsara, the material world of illusion.
While I sought to divest myself of anything that created ego-energies, my brother desired only the accumulation of money and possessions. And while I had vowed to do no harm to any living thing, Albert was a sadist who gloried in causing pain and anguish.
Because an operation to separate us would have killed at least one of us, we were forced to share this uncomfortable arrangement. Since I could not look on while my brother engaged in robberies and killings, and could not in any case intervene because of my Buddhist vows, I took refuge in deep meditation.
Often I came out of my trance as we stooped over the corpse of a man Albert had just murdered, or during an act of sado-masochistic sex, or even lying in the gutter with the reek of alcohol from my brother's snoring mouth in my nostrils. Perhaps the most unpleasant period was when my brother's conviction for the murder of one of his criminal compatriots required that we both spend two years in Ossining State Prison; fortunately he had copped a plea.
Even during those infrequent periods when Albert had tried to go straight it had not been easy for me. The jobs he chose then were always dangerous. Albert liked living on the edge. The year he spent as a stunt man in Hollywood, for instance, was among the most harrowing of my life.
As I lost myself in deep meditation, we were leaping through rings of fire, jumping out of airplanes without a parachute, crashing helicopters into the sea and smashing fast cars into brick walls at ninety miles per hour.
After this he became an underwater demolition expert, and we spent a harrowing year after the Gulf War diving in Scuba gear in the Persian gulf where Albert disarmed hundreds of floating mines, any of which could have easily blown us both to smithereens.
Worse still was his next job as an acrobat with Ringling Brothers Circus. After a year of tightrope walking and swinging from the trapeze, it was almost a relief when Albert announced he was sick of the straight life and was returning to a life of crime.
Nevertheless, I could not in good conscience accept this decision and tried every means to persuade my brother short of direct interference to seek a non-criminal means of earning his livelihood. After a brief stint hijacking trucks for the Mafia,
Albert declared that he would take my advice and enroll as an insurance agent for Metropolitan Life.
Accompanying Albert on visits to the homes of prospective clients was a refreshing and positive change from our previous activities. Albert's natural intelligence and personal charm won over many of his clients and he quickly sold several policies, rapidly ascending to the ranks of the Star Producer's Club.
I tried to reinforce Albert's decision to take this new and better path in every way that I could, pointing out to him how the policies he sold benefited humanity.
With each policy he sold, I reminded him, he removed another layer of bad karma from his dharma body and increased his chances of being reborn as a human instead of another of the seven forms of sentient life.
Had he persisted in generating negative karmic energies, I told him, he would certainly have been reincarnated as an insect, demon or other low form of life in his next rebirth.
Unlike in the past, it was now with a sense of security that I entered states of meta-consciousness during my daily meditations, because I knew that when I came out of my trance it would be at Albert's cubby at the insurance company's headquarters on 42nd Street or at the Chock Full 'O Nuts around the corner where Albert liked to go for a sandwich and coffee, or in the living room of one of his clients while he was out on a field call.
Then one day I discovered that Albert had slipped back into his old, negative karmic ways. Having entered my trance on a crosstown bus between our apartment and his office, I returned to find that we were engaged in a shootout with the police. The shock was too much to bear, and I immediately re-entered the trance state to escape it.
When I came out of it again, we were undergoing an operation. I saw a scar-faced man smoking a cigaret pull a large bullet from my side with a pair of rusty tweezers and heard it drop into a pan with a loud clink. I did not get the impression we were in a hospital. Then somebody gave us an injection and I passed out.
This was the last thing I recalled before awakening again in the strange car on a strange road in a country that Albert had just told me was Belize, just south of Guatamala.
I would have to try again to get to the bottom of things because I had the distinct impression that Albert had outdone himself this time, and that we were in deeper trouble than ever before. "Albert, I insist that you tell me why we are driving through this jungle road to La Paz, Bolivia, who this fellow is we are supposed to meet and precisely why we are supposed to meet him."
"How about you go fuck yourself, asshole," was Albert's response.
"Be reasonable, Albert," I told him. "Surely you can see that it would be better to let me in on your plans."
"Up yours," he said, and honked the horn, then the car slammed into something large and hairy that was crossing the road and we rolled on through the gargantuan leaves of strange, tropical plants.
"Very well, Albert," I told him. "You present me with no other alternative than to use the Yoga of Thought Transference."
"Fuck your Yoga of Thought Transference," he said. "I ain't scared of that bullshit. Just try it and see if I care."
"I fully intend to try it, Albert," I told him. "Unless you tell me what I want to know for both our good. Last chance."
"If you try that yoga shit I'll just punch you in the head till you stop."
"That won't work. Once I am in my trance nothing can shatter it," I told him. "Tell me what I want."
"Om, om, om, om," I began and felt Albert's punches buffet my head and face. I entered the state of meta-consciousness so rapidly, though, that I did not even feel them.
Now I began the Tantric visualizations of the Yoga of Thought Transference that would exchange my consciousness with that of my Siamese twin. Each syllable of the mantra began to glow with psychic energies. From them sprouted a lotus, which became the universe as it unfolded to reveal the seven gods of power who guarded the portals of sunyata, the great and eternal void.
Through one of these portals I sent my consciousness and found myself inside Albert's mind. Merging with Albert-mind, I at once gained all the knowledge that was contained within it. Amid this knowledge was that which answered my questions.
At once I understood what was happening. The car we were driving had been stolen in the coastal town of Escuintla, Guatamala, where Albert had beached the yacht of a hijacked drug runner containing a load of Mexican brown heroin worth several million dollars on the street.
He was being hunted both by Interpol and the Mexican police, but also by the angry and vindictive members of the drug ring whose merchandise he had ripped off.
Somehow he had managed to transfer most of the drug shipment to the stolen car and headed into the dense jungles of Central America through secondary roads he had come to intimately know while a mercenary during the surrogate warfare of the Reagan years.
But first he had placed a telephone call to La Paz, in the vicinity of which a retired surgeon who had performed various secret operations for the CIA lived in seclusion on a rambling finca far removed from civilization.
This surgeon was renowned for his uncanny skill with Siamese twins. Not only did he have a high success rate with the separation thereof, but he was also quite adept at grafting procedures. In short, this surgeon was capable of taking two ordinary humans or even animals and grafting them together, creating a man-made Siamese twin pair.
Under one of its clandestine programs, the CIA had used him to create Siamese twin rats, dogs, chimpanzees and, in several cases, human beings. He had even been able to graft fish, Vietnamese cockroaches, snakes and birds with some success.
Albert's plan was as ruthless as it was clever. He would first sell the load of Mexican heroin to a buyer in La Paz, who would take the load on a no-questions-asked basis.
Then, several million dollars richer, Albert would drive out to the doctor's remote farm where, for a small part of his windfall, he would pay him to first separate us and then graft me onto the body of a Bolivian peasant who was already lying in a drugged state on the surgeon's operating table.
The fact that the surgical procedure on the Bolivian peasant was already in progress and that he was being kept under constant sedation while under dialysis and connected to IV stacks explained the undue haste with which we progressed over treacherous jungle roads which would otherwise have necessitated a far greater caution.
As I said, it was an ingenious if diabolical plan, and now that I appreciated it in all of its manifold aspects, I began to see how the negative karmic energies that Albert was in the process of generating through it might be turned to better uses.
This once I would forgo my vows of non-involvement in the interest not only of saving my life but in storing up karmic merit for myself. My mind was merged with Albert-mind, but I now separated the two minds and ejected Albert-mind into what was my former body.
"What's goin' on?" Albert asked after the split-instant during which our minds were switched. "How come I'm in these shitty yellow robes you wear, asshole?"
I didn't bother answering Albert, whose battered face was already turning purple and beginning to swell from the punches he'd given me. If he couldn't grasp what was happening he was a lot dumber than I thought. The fact that I was now behind the wheel should have told him everything.