Ibrahim Chess derailed his own law-abiding life by making the mistake of phoning up for a weather forecast. He had no consciousness of precipitating a catastrophe for himself, but that was exactly what he did when he made the call.
The fatal phone call was what brought Ibrahim to the attention of Beria Dag, the head of Ideation Control. It was the phone call which linked Ibrahim, at least in Beria's mind, with a terrorist conspiracy to overthrow the rule of law in the city state of Oolong Morblock.
The fact that Ibrahim was innocent, the fact that there was no terrorist conspiracy (at least, not when the phone call was made) -- these facts meant nothing. Society rests not so much on facts as on perceptions, and Ibrahim cast himself in the worst possible light by making his phone call on a day of tragedy which included, to mention just one facet of the tragedy, the disaster which blighted baby Paffita's life forever.
Ibrahim's error was to phone Egon Turow on the morning of the day on which Egon blew himself up.
Egon, on the day on which he blew himself up, was awakened early in the morning when his telephone rang. The time? Only 6:37.
"Yeah," said Egon, who never answered with his name because he ran his weather forecasting service anonymously, with his clients making payments by credit card to an outfit known as Relsh Strasborg Predictions, which was theoretically based not in Oolong Morblock but in the far-off nation of Relsh Strasborg.
Egon, then, was the hidden man. Hidden, at least, from the tax department. His clients? Well, initially, when he had first moved into commercial weather forecasting seven years previously, he had acquired his first clients by spamming potential prospects, and word of mouth had served him well since then.
"Client seventy-six," said the caller.
"Yeah," said Egon, grabbing his client book from the bedside table and flipping it open. "And your name, please?"
"Adventuring Salt Building on Pier Nine."
"Yeah, okay, uh ... confirmed ID. And the question was?"
"The Bilge Globulus tomorrow," said Ibrahim. "Calm or windy?"
Egon's paranormal talent kicked in. His talent was to predict the weather, and he did so now.
"Windy," said Egon, with great confidence. "Very windy. Possible storm conditions. Got that?"
"Yes, thank you," said Ibrahim.
And hung up.
In point of fact, Egon's prediction was wrong. Totally wrong. Astral talents did not always function flawlessly, and Egon's was always one hundred percent wrong. If he said it would be fine tomorrow, you could count on rain. If he said it would be windy, you were assured of a calm day. But his clients knew that. Having been told by Egon that the Bilge Globulus would be windy, Ibrahim Chess had a one hundred percent guarantee that it would be calm.
That was the thing with Egon: he was always consistent. And so, for his clients, he comfortably outperformed the supercomputers which tried to predict weather patterns. The computers were right ninety percent of the time, but that ten percent error area could get you into real trouble.
Having finished with the call, Egon got up. And did the terrible thing. He didn't know it was terrible, but it was. The terrible thing was going to result in death, horror, mutilation and, on top of that, the destabilization of the civic peace in the city of Oolong Morblock.
The terrible thing was to eat breakfast. Specifically, to eat two-minute noodles mixed with boiled green peas and, additionally, a can of tuna flavored with valsada denbok curry, valsada denbok being a herb which grew on the island of Irian Ko. With no consciousness of error, Egon ate this breakfast as he had far, far too many times before, each mouthful taking him closer toward his own death.
As Egon ate, his belly warmed, his gut swelling with feelings of potency. He began to ride a sensation of unimaginable energies. He had enjoyed this sensation before, often, and he loved it. His belly was hot and chumbly, a cauldron of controlled violence, and he knew it was in his power, at a whim, to glorst: to explode himself, spewing catastrophe in all directions.
"As is my duty," said Egon to himself.
He had been feeling, more and more, the intrinsic fragility of the universe. To glorst was to strike a blow at the world of appearances, the world of sham and lies which obscured the crystalline realities of the underrock, the foundation world, the true reality of which the visible and palpable world around us is but a poor second-hand imitation.
And, by destroying the world's illusions by the simplest of means, the application of raw violence, Egon would help expose the Dreamer, who was part of the underlying reality which was hidden by the veils of illusion. Exposed, the Dreamer would realize his (or her) true nature, and the rest would follow.
"The rest," said Egon.
He no longer bothered to think through the details of what "the rest" would entail. It was sufficient to be deliciously conscious of the fact that the transformation of the world was in his power.
But not if he acted alone.
Any person who glorsted in massacre mode disturbed the fabric of known reality, but for a truly transformative event there would have to be multiple acts of self-destruction. People exploding on trains, in buses, in public parks, in crowded shopping centers, in movie theaters, at airport check-in counters.
"I trust to the power of a good example," said Egon.
That was standard wisdom in the city state of Oolong Morblock, regardless of your religion or ethnicity. "Example leads!" -- it was a truism often on the lips of the city's school teachers, parents and politicians.
But to lead, example must be known. It would not be sufficient to die without appropriate publicity. People did, after all, glorst on occasion simply because they were suicidal -- disappointed in love, downsized at work, maimed by public scandal or under arrest for murder.
Every year there were, on average, half a dozen instances of glorsting in Omblock. Not really a cause for alarm, because most people who were going to explode themselves had the decency to go do it somewhere private or, alternatively, somewhere remote from centers of population, the summit of Mount Spottle being a favorite spot.
In Egon's life, there had never been a massacre glorst, except for the case of Lombonny Nedcroft, who had blown himself up at the Cow Vesti mud wrestling arena in protest at the federal government's decision to raise the Universal Sales Tax from five percent to twenty. But that had been back when Egon himself had been only two years old.
"Publish then perish," said Egon, deciding his course of action.
Since an anonymous, unmotivated death was worthless, he would have to die with publicity. And, of course, for that purpose, the Internet was ideal. He would die a martyr's death and his death would be known to the world. With that thought in mind, Egon settled himself at his computer and began typing a passage which he intended to upload to his web site.
"Glorst for glory! That is my plan. In the name of the martyr's cause, in honor of my deceased father, I, Egon Plendora Turow, will today strike a blow for astral freedom by glorsting in Xalbardoz land. I call on all who are capable of glorsting to glorst for glory. Blast through delusion! Reclaim reality! Find the Dreamer! And wake! Let the whole world reverberate to the shock of the new! Claim our true destiny and conquer the living world!"
Egon checked his work carefully. He ran a spell checker over it (after all, it would be shameful to die and leave a bad spelling error behind as a target for the world's derision) and then, happy with what he had achieved, he uploaded his incendiary text.
His words were now on his web site, were now part of the realm of the Internet, available for anyone on the whole planet of Lox Oxberg to read. Read now! Read free! Read and rejoice! A martyr has glorsted! Reality has been shaken and is ready to be overthrown!
"Done," said Egon happily.
All that remained now was to kill himself, and he exalted at the prospect. Facing the certainty of his own death, he found his surroundings imbued with significance. The boring routine world in which he had lived out his life had disappeared. He had entered the realm of first and last things in which everything had numinous significance, from the brown stains in his unwashed coffee cup to the little glittering points of light in the dishcloth which he had used to mop up the fragments from the glass which had dropped and shattered the night before.
"Astral hero!" said Egon, proclaiming himself.
He was going to change reality. He was going to change the world.
Already, Egon's uploaded words were having an effect on reality.
Usually, most of the dubious stuff that got uploaded to the Internet got ignored by the authorities for days, weeks, months, even years. There were just too many web sites to invigilate. But Egon had used the keywords "glorsting" and "martyr's cause".
By happy coincidence, an automated Internet scanning program, which spent its busy days trawling through thousands and thousands of web pages, noted the combination and alerted a human operative, who reacted with flawless initiative. Soon, police cars were howling toward Egon's residence, the officers in the cars armed and ready to shoot on sight.
Egon's face was soon retrieved from a police database. Fortunately, as a juvenile, Egon had been convicted of videotaping his pet gerbils copulating, and of selling the resulting porn tapes on the Internet, a serious crime in Oolong Morblock, where animal sex images were deemed "degrading to humanity". So Egon's face (albeit in a juvenile version) was shortly on the big LCD screens found at every station of both the subway system and the el.
A message scrolled beneath the pictures:
"Glorst warning! Flee this man!"
A few minutes later, the same face and the same message was on all of Omblock's TV stations.
At the same time, security squads, including snipers, moved into position at key points on Parkes Pilkem, the island of the wealthy elite, the island which was commonly referred to as "Xalbardoz land", because almost no astrals lived there.
It was a flawless operation.
But it failed.
Egon Turow had left his home near Balimo subway station immediately after uploading his latest addition to his web site. But, instead of getting on the subway (too many cameras, too many watchers) he had taken a taxi to Voot, his plan being to get the ferry to Abendigo and then travel by bus to Sekigahara, up in the north of the island of Conflux.
To Egon, "Xalbardoz land" did not mean Parkes Pilkem. No, it meant the island of Conflux, the economic powerhouse of Oolong Morblock, an island dominated by skyscraper office blocks, massive apartment blocks, industrial plants, research labs, brain training campuses and the like.
Egon was on his way, then, to Sekigahara, his target being the Garden of Innocent Smiles, an upmarket daycare center for baby members of the Xalbardoz world.