“Governments throw money at a problem. Bill Gates directs money at a problem. But what problem is he seeing? You’d better figure that out, because, would you take an injection from this man?” (Notes for The Underground.)
My friend Charlie recently sold a painting to the Gregorian Museum out on Galactic Park.
They hang his painting in one of the upstairs rooms for a week, and then trouble starts. Charlie gets a phone call in the middle of the night from the director. Charlie can’t believe his ears. He rushes over to the museum.
Upstairs, the director is in his pajamas pacing back and forth. Charlie goes up to his painting, looks at it for a few minutes and sees it.
People have walked into the painting and taken up residence there.
They’re in there.
Law suits, the director says. Their families could take us to the cleaners.
When Charlie calls out to the people inside his painting, they don’t hear him. They don’t seem to be able to get out. At least no one’s trying.
What do you want me to do, Charlie says.
Get them the hell out of there, the director says. Pick up the picture and shake it if you have to. Turn it upside down. I don’t care.
Charlie doesn’t think this is a good idea. Somebody could get hurt.
So for the next few hours, he sits in front of his painting, drinks coffee, and tries to talk to the people inside.
No dice. Even when he yells, they don’t notice him.
By this time, the chairman of the museum board has shown up. He’s agitated. He’s yabbering about containing the situation.
Charlie asks him how he proposes to do that.
Blanket denial, the chairman says. Pretty soon, the cops are going to link these disappearances to the museum—but then we just throw up our hands and claim we know nothing about it.
A lot of good that’ll do, the director says. Even if we wiggle out of the law suits, our reputation will be damaged. People won’t want to come here. They’ll be afraid somebody will snatch them.
Okay, the chairman says, we’ll shut down for repairs. New construction. That’ll buy us a few weeks and we can figure out something. We’ll say the building needs an earthquake retrofit. Not a big one. Just some shoring up.
…So that’s what happened. They closed the museum and hoped for the best.
Charlie was upset. If word got out, how could he ever sell another painting? His agent told him he was nuts. He’d become the most famous person in the world, and people would be lining up trying to get inside his pictures. You’ll be a phenomenon, he said.
Yeah, Charlie said, until some nut tries to take me out.
A week later, while Charlie and I were having breakfast at a little cafe over by the river, he told me the people inside his painting were building yurts. They were digging a well. And for some reason, they were all wearing cloth masks.
What are they eating, I asked him.
Beats me, he said. But they don’t seem worried. They look okay.
But they can’t get out, he said. At least they don’t want to. They’re settling down in there!
I asked him the obvious question about shrinkage.
I know, he said. They’re a hell of a lot smaller. But no one’s complaining, as far as I can tell.
They like your work, I said.
He looked at me like he was going to kill me, so I let it drop.
Okay, I said. Here’s what you need to do. Go over there and add something to the painting.
Paint on the painting. See what happens.
Sure, he said, and drive them into psychosis. Who knows what effect it would have?
Paint a nice little country road that leads them right out into the museum. They’ll see it, they’ll walk on it.
No, he said. Don’t you get it? They’ve already taken things a step further. They’re not really living in my landscape. That was just the initial draw. They’re building their own stuff in there. They’re…poaching!
Then there’s only one thing you can do, I said.
I leaned across the table and whispered in his ear. He listened, then jumped back.
No, I said. You have to. Don’t be a weak sister. Go for it.
The next day, I learned later, Charlie showed up and went upstairs in the museum and cleared everybody out. He unpacked the little suitcase he’d brought and set up a player and a speaker. He shoved in a disc and turned on the music. Some sort of chanting. A chorus.
He took out a change of clothes from the suitcase and put on a long robe and a crazy hat. He eventually showed it to me. It was from a costume party he’d had at his house. Tall red silk hat with tassels hanging from it.
He stood in front of the painting and said:
HELLO, INHABITANTS. I AM CHARLIE. I’M YOUR CREATOR. YOU’RE LIVING IN MY WORLD, THE WORLD I MADE.
They all looked toward the sound of his voice.
THAT’S RIGHT, he said. I’M RIGHT HERE. THIS IS A REVELATION. I DON’T DO MANY OF THESE SO LISTEN UP. I AM YOUR CREATOR, YOUR GOD. DO YOU UNDERSTAND?
All 30 or so of them were now gathered together, outside one of the half-finished yurts, with their masks on.
They were nodding and saying yes.
GOOD. WE NEED TO GET A FEW THINGS STRAIGHT. YOU DIDN’T OBTAIN MY PERMISSION TO ENTER MY WORLD. SO YOU’RE GOING TO HAVE TO COME OUT SO WE CAN DISCUSS DETAILS. MY WORD IS LAW. UNDERSTAND? STOP THE BUILDING. STOP THE DIGGING. WALK TOWARD ME. WALK TOWARD THE SOUND OF MY VOICE.
They hesitated, looked at each other, and started to walk toward Charlie.
THAT’S RIGHT. KEEP GOING. YOU’RE DOING FINE. I’M GOING TO SHOW YOU WHERE I LIVE.
This was apparently quite a perk, so they walked faster. They broke into a trot.
Finally, they emerged from the painting and, Charlie said, they swelled back to normal size right away.
It was quite a thing to see, he said, like balloons blowing up—and then there they were, all around me, in the museum. First thing, I took the painting off the wall and laid it on the floor, face down. Enough of that stuff.
Charlie told them who he was, the painter. It took a few hours of intense conversation before they understood and accepted the situation. All in all, they seemed sad.
And there was one other thing. They were calling him FAUCI. They repeated the word over and over, as if it were a chant. He told them to stop. They did.
What were you going to do, he asked them. Live in there forever? Couldn’t you see how to get out?
We didn’t want to get out, one of the men said. We liked it in there.
And that was pretty much that, except for the signing of waivers and non-disclosure agreements with the museum. For which the people were granted lifetime platinum memberships and some vouchers and coupons for the museum store and restaurant.
Charlie went into a funk. He didn’t go into his studio for a few months.
One night, I dropped over to his house with a bottle of bourbon and we had a few drinks out on his porch.
You know, I said, you can start a church if you want to. I know a guy who writes fake scriptures and peddles them. He’s good.
You really do want me to kill you, he said.
We drank in silence for a while.
I told him: those people with their wells and yurts and ritual masks? Sooner or later, they’re going to hypnotize themselves and fall for another strange deal. Nobody’s going to stop them.
Charlie looked grim. That’s the thing, he said. They liked living in my picture. It wasn’t a problem for them. And I took them out. I conned them.
Well, I said, if that’s the case, and there’s nothing wrong with them, they’ll find another painting. See? Someday, you’ll read about a bunch of people disappearing, and that’ll be what it is.
Yeah, he said, maybe.
A week later, he got back to work.
Universes. Some weird things happen in that area.
Like, for example, the whole business we’re having now with the landing party out at Sandy Port. Four couples, a bible and some gift boxes of mints. They say there’s lots of room in their universe and they’re looking for new settlers.
Here’s the twist. They claim they’re living in a permanent pandemic. Some sort of virus. As if this would be an inducement for people here to join up and sign on and emigrate.
They’re…I guess you could say, devoted to this pandemic of theirs. It seems to be a major part of their religion. Hard to tell.
A few of our scholars were able to take a look at their bible. It’s composed of studies. The language is strange and convoluted. All about tests, viruses, projections, models, injections, and containment measures. Apparently, where they come from, they have to keep away from each other, at a distance of several yards. At first, our scholars thought this was to prevent disease transmission, but it seemed more like a ceremony. Anyway, we began to believe they’re trying to infect us with their disease. Of course, it isn’t working. We’re healthy. We don’t get sick very often. In their bible, there’s quite a lot of language about mask-wearing. It’s mandatory for them—but here, they’re not bothering, which adds to our suspicion that they’re trying to infect us.
Then—our people found, in their bible, mention of a man named Fauci. He was some kind of prophet. They still revere him. He lived long ago. He foretold a time of great pestilence. They’ve built monuments and even shrines to him back home.
I called Charlie right away and told him about Fauci. He didn’t want to know about it. Look, I said, maybe these people come from that world inside your painting. Maybe they’re actually a lot smaller than they appear to be here. This is fantastic.
He blew up and started cursing at me.
I guess I can understand his reaction. He paints a painting and everything is just fine, and then other people look at it, and then they walk into it. That’s the farthest thing from what he intended.
This is one of those problems artists face, I guess. What are they going to do? They paint a painting or write a novel, and the audience puts their own twist on it.
It can even become a religion. Of course, I don’t have an issue with that. I’m a businessman. I see an opportunity, I take it. If you can sell a product, and people decide to use it in their own way, so what? As long as they like it, who cares?
This guy Fauci probably saw things that way. He was selling disease. A lot of customers bought in. They went whole hog and started a church. What was he going to do? Abdicate? Maybe he enjoyed playing the prophet.
In our world, we have all sorts of laws against corruption, double-dealing, fraud, and so on, but most people ignore the rules. Commerce at any cost, no matter what, is the tradition.
I’ve told Charlie to wise up. Selling and buying—what more do you expect? Sure, people get hurt in the process, but it’s what we’re stuck with. May as well make the most of it.
I‘ve been around the block a few thousand times. As a hobby, I study societies, civilizations. Freedom? Honor? They’re always trampled on.
Why? Because people won’t keep fighting for what they believe in. Then they stop believing.
I don’t blame them. I’m sympathetic. I accept their weak attitude. In fact, I use it. Wouldn’t you, if you could, when all is said and done?
I’ve lived in a lot of times and places.
My name is Bill Gates, and I like to think of myself as a practical man.
This Fauci. I feel I know him from somewhere. Maybe a long time ago, we worked together. I’ve worked with so many people. They might start out with a few honorable principles that cause them trouble. Then I show them they need to get real. Then things go much better for them.
One day I said to Charlie, look, you’re inventing new worlds all the time. It’s terrific. But somehow, people take it the wrong way. They don’t see how pure your ideas are. So you have a problem. I can straighten that out for you. You just need to make an adjustment. Don’t expect so much from people. Relax. Just that little change, and you’ll be on the road to fame and fortune. Don’t fight them. Cater to their weaknesses.
He couldn’t see it.
But I keep trying.
Charlie, I say, let people have their illusions, just get rid of yours. Join the majority and play the game. The only game there is. Control, or be controlled. Am I right? Come on. Sure I’m right. See a problem, solve a problem. What else is there?
When I find someone who won’t give in, I do everything I can to turn him.
If you don’t like me, fight me. Let’s see who wins.
When I notice a certain kind of…LIGHT, it irritates me. I try to turn off the switch. That’s my thing. I operate on a certain level. I want everybody to live on that level.
The author of three explosive collections, THE MATRIX REVEALED, EXIT FROM THE MATRIX, and POWER OUTSIDE THE MATRIX, Jon Rapport was a candidate for a US Congressional seat in the 29th District of California. He maintains a consulting practice for private clients, the purpose of which is the expansion of personal creative power. Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, he has worked as an investigative reporter for 30 years, writing articles on politics, medicine, and health for CBS Healthwatch, LA Weekly, Spin Magazine, Stern, and other newspapers and magazines in the US and Europe. Jon has delivered lectures and seminars on global politics, health, logic, and creative power to audiences around the world.
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