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Gap Music

        It was the chanting which finally made Paul Viola lose control. A few years back, there had been a brief Gregorian chant fashion spike. And now the same kind of chanting was coming through on the squad room radio, mixed with electronic bongo drums, assorted hyena calls, backfiring automobiles and a strumming mandolin. It was Blip Blip Moo Goo's latest hit.
        "Hey!" yelled Paul, getting to his feet. "Turn it down!"
        "Cool it, man," said Dwayne Loop, grabbing him by the elbow. "Come on, let's get out of here."
        Dwayne marched his partner to the local Bill Gates. He stayed vigilant all the way, watching Paul as one might watch an unexploded bomb, and he didn't risk a single word until they were safely ensconced in a cubicle with a couple of Bill Burgers and the coffees they were bundled with.
        "What is it, then?" said Dwayne.
        "It?" said Paul, stonewalling. "What do you mean?"
        "Oh, come on," said Dwayne. "How long have we known each other? What is it - the old mid-life crisis, or what?"
        "I got enough day-to-day crisis in my life without worrying about any other kind," said Paul, prying the protective seal off his little cuplet of Macro Soft.
        "Yeah, well," said Dwayne, "you're real uptight. You need to loosen up. How about shooting something? Come on down to the Rattlesnake Yard some day, loose off some rounds."
        "Nah," said Paul, dumping the Macro Soft pseudo-milk into his coffee. "It's no fun shooting animals. They can't shoot back."
        "Shoot a policeman, then," said Dwayne. "It's the latest craze."
        Sure was. City-wide, three cops down in the last month.
        "Yeah," said Paul. "Did you see the Commissioner on TV?"
        "No," said Dwayne. "But I heard about it."
        The Commissioner blamed gap music. Worse than raz music, ripple music, dragon trance or rock and roll. Gap music was a kind of punk poetry, but it was worse than straight punk rap because gaps were left in which the listener could improvise. Hence the name.
        "Trouble is," said Paul, "he's got no proof."
        "Proof?" said Dwayne.
        "You know," said Paul. "How do tie the gap stuff to all these dead officers?"
        "It's common sense," said Dwayne. "So what does he need proof for?"
        "So he can convince these bleeding heart liberals that this gap music really is bad news," said Paul. "So he can get it banned."
        "What kind of proof does he need?" said Dwayne.
        "I think he's talking about dead bodies," said Paul. "With notes pinned to them - gap music made us do it. So I've started to think, hey, maybe we could help him."
        "What, shoot someone?" said Dwayne.
        "Sure!" said Paul. "Shoot him!"
        "Who?" said Dwayne. "The Commissioner? Our dearly beloved Commissioner?"
        "Why not?" said Paul.
        "Blanks or bullets?" said Dwayne.
        "Live rounds," said Paul. "Cyanide tips and mercury cores. All or nothing - that's my motto. Send him anonymous letters first, of course. Gap music fans gonna gun you down. That kind of stuff."
        "The boss is going to be real sorry he let us back together," said Dwayne. "If he lets us work together for the rest of the year, it'll be the end of civilization as he knows it."
        "About time, too," said Paul.
        "I'll drink to that," said Dwayne, but didn't, since he had already finished his coffee.
        Paul had finished also. After a succession of law suits following scalding incidents, all coffee sold in New York was lukewarm, and consequently you tended to drink it real fast. Some people said that was a marketing ploy to make you drink more.
        "So where shall we go to get drunk?" said Paul.
        "Some place where they have lots of fights," said Dwayne. "I feel like working off some steam."
        "Tonight?" said Paul.
        "Sure," said Dwayne.
        And they did. But, riding home on the subway, still at least partially sober, Paul heard the same Blip Blip Moo Goo song, and felt a sense of inconsolable sorrow sweeping over him. Something, somehow, was very, very wrong.

*


        The music came to him in his dreams. Not deep-voiced manly Gregorian chant, but something closer to the life of a boy. Soaring. Celestial. And with it came a memory of searing pain. Of impotent anger, of humiliated tears, of cockroach loneliness. The smell of candle wax. Marble was cold beneath his fingertips. Cold and inhuman ....
        Woken by nightmare, Paul Viola looked at his clock. Almost 5 am. He had slept enough. Taking his Glock from under his pillow, he did his ritual check of the apartment, then showered. While he showered, the Glock stayed ready in its waterproof Submarine Holster, stuck to the wall of the shower with Velcro.
        The hot water soothed him, calmed him. He felt almost human by the time he switched on the radio and caught the latest.
        " ... shot down in Big Apple Park. The officer was responding to an anonymous call reporting a brawl ... "
        And Paul was already responding, reaching for the remote control to turn on the TV. He channel surfed until he found what he was looking for. In the darkness before dawn, on the sacred ground beneath the very Big Apple itself, crime scene technicians were at work, aided by floodlighting.
        "Again," said Paul.
        The scene on TV helped keep his mind off the date. It was his birthday. Today he was 42 years old.

*


        Though Paul was up early, when he got to the Son Loy subway station he found he was going to be late getting to work. Someone had jumped in front of a train at a station further up the track, throwing everyone's schedule out of kilter.
        How grossly inconsiderate! If Paul ruled the world, a specially designated municipal suicide train would cruise into designated stations in the small hours of the morning, and people who jumped in front of any other time at any other hour would forfeit their estates to the IRS.
        "Coffee," he said, swearing softly as the implications of the delay began to sink in.
        Drive in to Mong Bloc? No. Rush hour traffic would already be starting to clog the streets. And he did not have a parking sticker for the van.
        Resigning himself to delay, Paul bought a copy of the Rising Sun then retired to a mid-platform fast food counter, where he bought himself a bowl of noodles. The noodles were half-gone when he spotted, out of the corner of his eye, a man in a bright orange suit. He turned, saw blue shoes beneath the suit, and remembered the music. The high celestial music of his dreams.
        Blue. It was all tied up with blue. In a blue room, a man with a scented handkerchief. Incense burning in the censer. Latin chants soaking into the marble. The marble was soft and wet, melting under his hands. A bell intoned the hours.
        Returning to the real world, Paul realized he had been lost in a kind of waking dream. For how long? A moment? A minute? An hour? A train was coming in. And, conditioned by long habit, he pressed forward, ready to board.

*


        When Paul Viola got to the Xavier Building, he met up with his partner, Dwayne Loop, who seemed untroubled by the black eye which was his souvenir of the previous night's bar fight.
        "Two things," said Dwayne.
        "Shoot," said Paul.
        "First up," said Dwayne, "gap music."
        "That was yesterday," said Paul.
        "Seriously," said Dwayne. "The Commissioner wants everyone to come up with ideas."
        "Ideas on what?" said Paul.
        "Oh how we can get it banned."
        "Is that our job?"
        "He thinks so," said Dwayne. "I got an idea already. Music, it's money. A waste of money. Compulsory investment accounts for kids, that's my answer."
        "Investment accounts?" said Paul, baffled. "I don't followed - follow, don't follow you."
        Stumbling tongue, stumbling grammar. He had no hangover, but, yeah, he was tired. Couldn't just shake it off any more. You stayed up and partied, you paid a price for it the next day.
        "They have to invest their pocket money," explained Dwayne.
        "Yeah? And their window washing money? Their cash from, like, cocaine errands, robbing banks, that kind of thing? Who's kidding who?"
        "Okay - you got a better idea?"
        "You're weird, Dwayne," said Paul. "You know why I signed up with Multiple Murder? Because I'm serious people, that's why. Now you're telling me I got to worry about gap music?"
        "Sure," said Dwayne, deadpan. "It represents the end of civilization as we know it."
        "Yeah, well," said Paul, feeling the first nagging hint of an actual headache, "this is one of those days when I feel that might not be a bad idea. By the way, you said there were two things. What's the second?"
        "You have a compulsory with Napoleon."

*


        Napoleon Osaka was the psychiatrist who had cleared Paul to resume work after the Cigar Store Massacre. That did not mean that Paul trusted him. However, Napoleon had at least one good point. He got straight to the point.
        "Freud recommended we take six months to ballet dance our way through this one," said Napoleon. "But the police insurance plan allows me ten minutes."
        "So let's get down to it," said Paul, mouth dry.
        Dry mouth, okay, that's a consequence of drinking up big. You're not really nervous about this, are you? No. Dry mouth, headache, all goes together.
        "Right," said Napoleon. "You know why you're here?"
        "Yeah, I'm 42."
        "And?" said Napoleon.
        There was no need to say more. They both knew the score. While recovered memories could start to surface as early as age nine, in the classic male pattern they came to the surface in early middle age. Statistically, there was a sharp spike associated with one's 43rd year (with lesser spikes at the ages of 46, 57 and 62, and a couple of blips at ages 79 and 93). Moreover, for many males the 42nd birthday itself appeared to serve as a trigger.
        "Well?" said Napoleon, as Paul sat mute, preserving his privacy against the hidden voice-stress analyser which Napoleon was alleged to have concealed in his office.
        "Nothing," said Paul, at last, aiming for a burnt ashes monotone.
        "No dreams?" said Napoleon. "No, uh ... linguistic recoveries?"
        "Nothing."
        "Okay, if that's the way you want to play it," said Napoleon, looking at his watch. "But, if you do need therapy, the insurance plan provides for eighteen hours of counseling spread over six weeks, and there's a special provision for petitioning for more."
        "Eighteen hours? I thought you said ten minutes."
        "That's just for this clearance interview," said Napoleon, pulling a keyboard toward him and starting to enter code numbers into the medical database.
        "So we're done?" said Paul.
        "I didn't say that, did I?" said Napoleon, nimble fingers dancing over the keys. "No, don't stand up. Sit! That's better. Just remember. We've all had past lives, and at least twenty per cent of us were women once. It's nothing to be ashamed of."
        "I didn't say - "
        "Just remember," said Napoleon, holding up a checking hand, "if you surface some disturbing material, you're not the first. Nixon, for instance. You read the diaries? Maybe not. At - "
        "China," said Paul, cutting off a lecture. "Yeah, I know the stuff about China."
        "And," said Napoleon, rolling on unstoppably, "it was at 42 that Bill Clinton finally realized why Casanova was such a resonant name for him. It was at your age that Freud - "
        "Yeah, yeah," said Paul, "I know about Freud."
        Yes, Paul knew exactly what Sigmund Freud had remembered, and the very thought of it disturbed the hell out of him.
        "There you are then," said Napoleon. "It's not just you who remembers thing. We all do. It's part of the typical male pattern."
        On the way out, when Paul glanced back just before closing the door, Napoleon was typing with total concentration, frowning slightly, his fingers flying. Talk to Napoleon? No way! While Paul knew it wasn't strictly rational, he could never bring himself to really trust any man who was a ten-finger typist. Makes you wonder what the guy was really doing in those past lives of his.

*


        "So how did it go?" said Dwayne.
        "Like you go to the dentist," said Paul. "He gives you an all-clear, but you know it's not forever. Your teeth have got to give up sooner or later."
        "Yeah," said Dwayne.
        "So," said Paul. "How about you? You remember anything?"
        "Fighting in a bar," said Dwayne. "Being sick."
        "We're not talking about last night," said Paul. "We're talking about your past lives. Well? Remember anything?"
        "A bunch of stuff," said Dwayne.
        "Yeah?" said Paul. "You never told me about it."
        "Kind of private, isn't it?" said Dwayne.
        "And?" said Paul, prompting.
        "Well. I was a peasant, maybe a few times. Yeah. Sometimes I get this little buzz down in Chinatown, signs and stuff, I can almost read them."
        "Yeah, well, everyone must've been Chinese at least once," said Paul
        "Sure," said Dwayne. "But the big thing, the real clearest, I was Ernest Hemingway."
        "You and a hundred other people," said Paul.
        "Well, sure," said Dwayne.
        No mystery about that. The world's population had been getting larger and larger year by year, which meant that human souls must somehow clone themselves during transmigration. The classic textbook image was of a soul - Newton's soul, say, or the soul of William Blake - dividing itself, amoeba-like, during its ethereal postmortem transition stage. Making two where there had been one.
        And why are memories of being Hemingway, say, or Napoleon Bonaparte, so much clearer than the faint palimpsest recollections of life as just one more rice crop peasant? Again, no mystery. The recorded biographies of famous people provide prompts which facilitate recall. You look at the chocolate box and you see the tower put up by Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, and all of a sudden you remember, yes, that was me. I built that.
        "And there was one time," said Dwayne, confidentially, "one time, well. Maybe I was a woman. But I don't remember too much about it."
        "So," said Dwayne, changing the subject. "How was it? Being Hemingway, I mean?"
        "Not too bad," said Dwayne.
        But, that night, as Paul sat by himself, drinking whisky neat, it was not Hemingway that he thought about. Rather, it was Dwayne's transvestite transgression. Gender bending. Man to woman. Paul wasn't at all sure how he felt about that. A woman. Dwayne was a woman. Had been. Yeah? And what kind of woman were you, Dwayne?

*


        Again, the dream. Again, the knife, the amputating pain. The clear voice soaring, unstoppably. The bishops stirring the soup. The oysters bobbing up and down in the chuckling soup, seasoned with smirks and grins. Raphael's paintings. Cellini's gold. Soprano, soprano.
        Paul woke with Latin chants echoing in his head. He knew, now, what he needed. He needed a priest. Then he looked at the clock and got the shock of his life. Nine o'clock! Impossible! He had slept right through his alarm. A blinking red message light on his phone showed him he had slept through a call, too.
        "Paul," said the message tape. "This is Dwayne. Get your ass out of bed and get over here. You're late."

*


        Paul was in a filthy mood by the time he got on the train. The morning commuter rush was well over, and Paul found himself alone in a carriage with a thug of a young man with one glowering black eye and fish-hook earrings on which there were impaled live and limply writhing worms. He had a bag of glue in one hand and a ghetto blaster in the other, and from the blaster there pumped a gap routine by Mister Slurry of Arctic Waste:
  
        Kill a cop kill a cop kill a cop
        Kill a cop kill a cop kill a cop
        Kill a cop kill a cop kill a cop
        Kill a cop kill a cop kill a cop

        Right then and there, Paul knew that the bleeding heart liberals who thought gap music was harmless were dead wrong. Because he could feel the music urging him to trash the kid to a bag of bleeding bones then bundle him out of the window. He was being urged to murder, and he was seriously considering succumbing to the urge.
        If he did, would he get away with it? How would it play in court - the gap music defense? Cop hears music, trashes kid. The jury might not buy it. And even if they did, the media would probably build it up into some exaggerated story about police brutality. How about busting the kid for cruelty to animals, then? Those worms on hooks. Prosecution material, surely. But it wasn't worth it. All that paperwork. And interrogating the kid would be a pain - some of those glue-bag kids had gone so far down the toxic track they had trouble even remembering their own names.
        Seeing Paul watching him, the kid abruptly reached up to one of his earrings, tore off the worm, opened wide then swallowed. Then grinned. Insolence incarnate.
        "Hey!" said Paul, charging out of his seat. "Police! You're under arrest!"
        "What's the charge, man?"
        "Eating meat," said Paul. "You'll go down for ten years for that."
        Under the Contamination Act, designed to minimize the damage being caused by mad cow disease, the consumption of any uncertified meat attracted severe legal penalties. And Paul was sure that worms weren't certified.
        "Worm's still alive, man," said the kid.
        So saying, the kid stuck out his tongue. And there on that platter of faintly greenish-yellowish flesh was the worm, still vaguely alive and faintly writhing. Then the kid spat it to the floor and stomped it into mush.
        "You killed it!" said Paul.
        "No law against killing worms, man. Only eating them. Don't you cop boys learn the law?"
        And the kid cranked up the volume on his ghetto blaster, and Mister Slurry rapped it out:
        
        Kill a cop kill a cop kill a cop
        Kill a cop kill a cop kill a cop
        Kill a cop kill a cop kill a cop
        Kill a cop kill a cop kill a cop

        And the kid sat there, insolence incarnate, slapping out a beat to the rap of the rhythm, with the train rocking and swaying, rocking and swaying. Then a gap came. And the kid improvised, singing "Kill a cop kill a cop kill a cop." And Paul longed to haul out his gun and shoot the kid dead. They were alone in the car and nobody would see them.
        That was when the kid took out a Sky Window and started eating it.
        "That does it," said Paul. "You're under arrest."
        "What?" said the kid, startled. "Hey, I'm just eating, man!"
        "There's a law," said Paul. "No eating on the train."
        Yeah, yeah, you're slow today, Paul, you shouldn't have waited for the candy bar, you should have thought of that one back when he ate the worm. But he didn't eat it. Right? Right. He just sucked it, that's all. Sucked it, spat it out, stomped it.
        Get with the program, Paul. Your brain's as mushy as a Bill Burger. You need a holiday. Or something.

*


        
        Paul took the kid in to Xavier and booked him. Kid's name was Evin Gerbil, and he had two priors, one for Illicit Congregation and a second for Dumb Insolence.
        "Three strikes and you're on your own," said Paul, reminding Evin of New York's tough Well on Welfare policy, which mandated that any three infringements of the law, however so minor, cost you all your welfare entitlements.
        "I got a job," said Evin.
        "Yeah?" said Paul.
        "Yeah, I'm a transgressionist," said the kid.
        Oh. One of those, huh? Well, Mr Transgressionist, let's see how you like it in the hard cell. The courts are real busy right now, might take until this time next week before your lawyer can get you bail.

*


        "Taking the Maximum Enforcement Policy really seriously, huh?" said Dwayne.
        "Yeah," said Paul, putting on his jacket.
        "So where you going?" said Dwayne.
        "Research," said Paul. "I'm seeing a guy up at Amsterdam."
        "The prison?"
        "No. The university. Music expert."
        "Music?" said Dwayne. "Why?"
        "Hey, it's the Commissioner who's all wired up about music," said Paul. "You want a why, ask him. Me, I'm just doing my job."

*


        The musicologist was a lean, ascetic man in his 60s who went by the name of Howard Pevril. Not the man Paul had wanted to see, but the university was closed for Exorcism Week, and was almost deserted. So Paul had to settle for Howard, who was startled by Paul's question, and took a moment to adjust his rimless spectacles before he answered.
        "How they were castrated?" he said. "I'm - well, really! I'm sorry, that's hardly my field!"
        "But you're the music expert," said Paul.
        "The harpsichord is my field," said Howard.
        "Same period," said Paul.
        "Uh, well ... yes and no. Castrati, we're talking - what? Sixteenth? Let me think. Seventeenth, I think. The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, that would be the peak period. Harpsichord, well, there's an overlap, but opera isn't really my, my. Well."
        "Specialty," said Paul. "But why do you say opera?"
        "That's what they're, uh. That's what it was all about."
        "My informant told me it was the Church," said Paul.
        "Church?"
        "Yes. As in Catholic Church. The guy, he's a serial killer, I've been interviewing him. He's convinced it all goes back to a former life. His taste for killing, I mean. He blames it on his castration. When he was a kid, his testicles were cut off and thrown into a big pot. This was way back when, we're talking centuries. And the bishops, they were smiling, they cooked up his balls in a kind of bowl like a bronze helmet."
        "Uh," said Howard, looking as if he needed an airsickness bag.
        "Well?" said Paul.
        "As I say," said Howard, dabbing at his brow with a rose-scented tissue, "it's out of my area. The harpsichord, that's my thing. Actually, I've been focused on the sixteenth century, on the very earliest years of the harpsichord. Castrati are not really my, uh. But I can tell you right off, your informant is suffering from ahistorical hallucinations."
        "Ahistorical?" said Paul. "You mean, not historical? You're saying it never happened? They never took these boys, never cut their balls off - "
        "Oh, there were castrati, most definitely," said Howard, cutting him off in a manner more confident than previously. "In the opera, most, most definitely. In the church? Well, to tell the truth, I can't rightly remember. I've been having, uh, a delayed breakthrough, and it's not easy to deal with. I should know but I don't. But I can tell you now that your informant's, uh, black mass memories, that's what we could term them, they're the typical hysterical melodrama of a false recovery. If you read Freud - "
        "Yeah, I've read Freud," said Paul, seeing that he was no going to get any more out of Howard. "Oh, by the way," he said, rising. "What was your breakthrough all about, if I can ask?"
        "It seems I was once a surgeon," said Howard. "In the days before the invention of anesthetics. Very interesting, but not, uh, professionally useful."
        "And how has this recovery changed you?" said Paul, probing.
        "Changed? Oh, well, red is definitely no longer my favorite color."

*


        Surgery. Castration. Just your hallucinating imagination. False memories. Hysteria. Something else hidden beneath. As Freud classically said, "In self-defense, in order to deny its true knowledge of its former lives, the mind will paint the world with blood, so to speak, blinding true recognition in a frenzied paroxysm of crazed invention."
        So what are you hiding, Paul? What were you in your former lives?
        He could ask as often as he wanted. But nobody was going to answer him.

*


        The music came again in his dreams. He was sitting in church listening to inner soul of crystal take flight. His hands were clasped on his lap. There was a bathtub in the street. A baby lay in the bathtub, slathered with strawberry jam. A station wagon lay in two halves, moaning - cut open, vivisected. He was a pterodactyl woman, his rough body shaped of mud, wet with roses and unruly with thorns. His lap was flooded with kerosene. It was pouring from his milk carton. The coat hanger had gone in too deeply. Pedestrians pulsed through the subway systems of his veins, leaving gaps between them to accommodate the secret Eyes of the IRS.
        "No," said Paul, waking.
        No. He was not a woman, would not be, refused to be - not even a modified pterodactyl woman. Never had been a woman. Never a maid mother girlfriend secretary saint. Couldn't even touch-type. Just two fingers - see? Peck, peck, peck, peck. Has two balls, and types like a man to prove it.
        Yet, through the day, fresh memories of his former lives as a woman kept surfacing. The rubber diaphragm, smelling faintly of disinfectant. His damp bread yielding to probing fingers. The hopelessness of the gray dishwater stalled in the sink. His shrunken breasts, the luxuriance of youth barely a memory. Giddy fountains spurting, fossil teeth muttering. Tongue dry, no saliva. The tethering leash, the daylight not making sense, the circle lost in the square.
        "I just can't afford to feed her."
        Sold in the marketplace. Someone was sold. But was he the seller or the sold?
        The aggressor had a fish. A big wet fish. She was down, hit by the fish. The sheer humiliation of being hit with a fish! A single scale hard on her lips. A tomato breaking in the aggressor's fist, dribbling wet stuff.
        Down on the dirt. Creamy gray-white smear. Am I or aren't I? Pulling out, and the heat unleashing. Dribbling ooze. And a memory of a moment of sheer despair: the spaghetti cold and hard on the plate, uneatable, cold, the aggressor had left it uneaten, just walked out without eating, and he wasn't coming back, and her stomach kicked her, needful, urgent, unstoppable.
        "What're you thinking about?" said Dwayne Loop.
        "Oh, just stuff," said Paul.
        He realized he was at his desk in the squad room, though he had no memory of the morning routines which must have brought him to that place. Somehow, he had dressed himself. Had he eaten? The sour discomfort of his stomach suggested he had not.
        "Stuff?" said Dwayne, probing. "For example?"
        "O.J. Simpson for president," said Paul. "How about that?"
        "Simpson?" said Dwayne, blankly. "As in the cartoon show?"
        "No," said Paul. "A different Simpson. He - "
        And that was when the squad room radio started squawking urgently.
        "Officer down! Officer down!"
        One of their own was down in the Yan Wheelstack carpark building on Mayhew Street, a quick sprint from the Xavier Building on Pangloss Street.
        At the crime scene, Paul managed to sneak a handwritten note into the situation. It was duly found, bagged, and taken away for analysis. It read: GAP MUSIC MASTER ESCALATE THIS BIG TIME, LITTLE CHEETAH!
        Let the psychological cryptoanalysts up at Boy School puzzle over that one!
        Meantime, Paul was thinking about Evin Gerbil, the gap music maniac who had stomped on the worm. Where was Evin right now?

*


        The night Evin Gerbil finally made bail, getting out at just after eleven pm following a night court hearing, Paul Viola tailed him. Followed him home.
        "Evin."
        Evin turned and Paul shot him. Shot him the manly way: face to face. Evin collapsed backwards in a spastic spasm and Paul shot him five more times. Then leaned in close and shot him twice in the head, just to make sure.
        That night, Paul dreamt happy, confident, manly dreams. He dreamt he was Ernest Hemingway, fishing for horses on the great plains of Africa. He hooked a wild stallion, and played it for six hours on the steel wire until the brute finally tired. Then he reeled it in and shot it up close, in the manly way, using the handgun he had inherited from his father. The tourists will often shoot them from a distance, using rifles, but that's cowardly. It takes all the sport out of it.
        On waking, Paul thought about his dream. He thought about it as he retrieved a fresh throw-down gun from the hidey-hole in the attic.
        Ernest Hemingway. Yeah. That was possible. The terminal madness, the final event with the shotgun - that would have been pretty traumatic. Not stuff you would want to remember. Bad enough to make him want to "paint the world with blood", as Freud put it.

*


        "Remembering yet?" said Napoleon Osaka, passing Paul on the stairs in the Xavier Building.
        "Yeah," said Paul. "I'm starting to think I was Ernest Hemingway in a former life."
        And he had been. It was all coming back. The familiar silhouette of the Eiffel Tower looming above Paris. The taste of absinthe. The smell of his first wife's diaphragm, never entirely free of the lingering contamination of disinfectant. The excitement of the new women, each new wife richer than the one just discarded. The time he made James Joyce take off his spectacles then beat the pansy senseless in a boxing match. Yeah, it was all coming back, and Paul was eager to talk about it.
        But Napoleon had already moved on, climbing downhill, descending. Paul opened his mouth, as if to call him back, then closed it again. Tell Dwayne first. They could get drunk together, and pool their manly memories. How about that, Dwayne - we're soul twins!
        So, bright with the gloss of his freshly recovered memories, Paul went confidently up the stairway, ascending into the promise of his freshly-created future.

The End

This story, "Gap Music" was first published in Psychotrope issue 9, April 2001 (ed. Mark Beech) (Worcester, United Kingdom) (pp 13-22; 5,108 words) (fantasy). Copyright © 2001, 2003 Hugh Cook. All rights reserved.



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