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        The phone rang and Terrence Azlenabek regarded it with disfavor. Another journalist? He had reached the point where he was ready to vote for the total suppression of the press. As for the reporters who worked for the tabloids, they should have their heads chopped off. Terrence would be more than ready to do it himself. He could feel the heavy weight of the axe in his hands, see the line of sun bright on the blade ...
        "Yes?"
        "Is that Terry?"
        "Terrance. The name is Terrance. Terrence Azlenabek."
        "Yeah, okay, uh, Mr Terrance, I'm — "
        A film producer, apparently. Busy putting together a moving picture destined to be called "Sex With Angels".
        " ... so what I want to know is, is it true? I mean, about the babies?"
        "The babies?" said Terrance, lost.
        "Eating their way out through the mother."
        "As an instructor," said Terrance, "I've always encouraged my students to read the texts for themselves."
        Then he hung up. And, for good measure, unplugged the phone.

* * *

        John was in the pub when the reporters found him. Their questions were about the projected movie, "Sex With Angels".
        "What?" said John.
        "Eating their way out through the mother."
        "I think I saw a movie like that," said John. "It's a ... what do you call it? Science fiction movie?"
        He turned out to be referring to the classic monster-in-space movie known as "Alien".

* * *

        "To the extent that he's Milton," said Terrance, provoked into comment, "he can't deny responsibility. His vision predates the invention of science fiction."

* * *

        Gavin Maps was furious.
        "Terrance, Terrance," said Gavin, lifting up his hands in frustration. "Haven't I told you? I'm your lawyer. You have to keep your mouth shut."
        Yes, Gavin had said that. Many times. But the truth was in the text, wasn't it? How did the text go? Terrance couldn't remember exactly. His mind wasn't working as smoothly as it used to, maybe because of the media impact, or maybe because he had been putting too much sugar on his muffins.
        
        Made pregnant by you, and swollen to excessive growth,
        I felt the violence of your gaping birth
        Tear through my entrails, dissolving flesh
        To this foul coil of serpent that you see.

        Something like that. Not exactly. But something along those lines. Sex as transgression, as violence, as rape. The daughter, made pregnant by the father, giving incestuous birth to a son. The son tearing his way out of the womb, a violent image predating the "Alien" movie by hundreds of years. The mother, made pregnant by the son, giving birth to dogs which then gnawed holes in her serpent body and lived there, barking, howling, malevolently aggressive in their efforts to torture her.

* * *

        "The work is the work of a sex pervert," said Terrance to himself.
        And longed to say it to the world. For he was an academic, was he not? And was not truth at the heart of the academic quest? Well, no. If the truth be told, at the heart of the academic quest was the holy grail of tenure. But it would be nice to have truth as well, if you could.
        Terrance was pleased, in a way, with the invented quotes that the sleazier segments of the media used to fill his silence.

* * *

        
        As the media frenzy gathered pace, it became increasingly necessary to counterpunch.
        "The guy in fancy dress isn't John Milton," said Gavin Maps. "So he can't sue. My client was writing about the real John Milton, not this masquerade man put together by the Ghoulish Arts Corporation."   
        Masquerade Man — the title stuck. It was a spur-of-the-moment formulation, but it filled a need. A one-second sound bite to sum up the nature of the thing the Hallelujah Arts Resurrection Corporation had formulated.
        "Resurrection man," said Gavin, capitalizing on his success. "That's a term with a history. The original resurrection men were grave robbers. Stole bodies hot out of the grave, sold them to people who got kicks out of cutting them up. The Resurrection Corporation is working in the same tradition."
        This was dirty fighting. A low blow. A half-accurate fragment of history being used to rake up mucky images of blood and filth, of creaking graves hauled open in the dead of night, of limp corpses being vivisected in the dark dungeons of science. And, as Terrance Azlenabek watched Gavin's efforts, he experienced an increasing depth of frustrated rage.
        To be spoken for rather than speaking in his own right — that in itself was intolerable. For Terrance, the hot arena of the lecture theater had always been the best of the world's good places. There, he was king. The indisputable master of his field. Power, mastery — this is what it's all about. But Gavin, by insisting on speaking for him, reduced him to a position of penitent silence.
        So —
        "I am not penitent," said Terrance, when the tabloid reporter ambushed him on the street. "I regret nothing. To the extent to which he's Milton, he is what Milton is. As for the work, well, it's the work of a sex pervert."

* * *

        The next afternoon, when Gavin Maps and Terrence Azlenabek met in the wake of the tabloid's MILTON SEX MANIAC headlines, Gavin was even more furious than before.
        "Not one more word," said Gavin. "You are not to say so much as one more word to anyone. No more radio, no more TV, no nothing."
        "But what about free speech?" said Terrance. "And academic liberty, what happened to that? For a lifetime I've been committed to the liberties of the liberties of the mind. As one of the great intellectuals once said: A good book is the lifeblood of a master spirit."
        "You aren't a book and neither is he," said Gavin. "This isn't theory, this is fact. We're talking about a real live person. Terrance — are you listening to what I'm saying?"
        "Yes. In an uncouth and bad-tempered manner, you are advising me to gag myself."

* * *

        Night.
        At the end of a long and unproductive debate, trembling with exhaustion, Gavin got to his feet and stood facing the city night, arms folded. The darkness of the early night doubled his image in the uncurtained window. The fatigue on his face was so bitter that it was close to pain.
        Terrance sat upright in his chair, watching Gavin. For a long time now, the chair had been inviting Terrance to relax into its leather embrace. But he was still holding out against the temptation.
        "I apologize for my attitude," said Gavin, turning and unfolding his arms. "But," he said, as he sat, "this is a very difficult position that we're in."
        "That I am in."
        "That you are in, yes. And that you will drown in unless you do what is necessary to save yourself. And the first necessity is silence."
        "And the second?"
        "You could always recant," said Gavin.
        "Recant?" said Terrance. "Who are you? The Holy Inquisition?"
        "I'm your lawyer," said Gavin.
        "Then start talking like a lawyer!"
        "I am," said Gavin. "As your lawyer, I'm advising you to apologize."
        "That is hardly consonant with your advice to stay silent."
        "You apologize through me. You say nothing. I'm the mouthpiece, I do the talking."
        "I'm beginning to see why your marriage came to its unfortunate end," said Terrance.
        Gavin took a deep breath, shook his head, then, with professional zeal, continued to hammer the key point:
        "You apologize, and withdraw some of the more extreme statements you've made."
        "For example?"
        "You've been calling him a sex maniac. A child rapist."
        "I didn't say that," said Terrance. "I merely remarked that in all probability there was an incestuous element to his relationship with his daughters, albeit one which, in all probability, was subconscious, a submerged element which conditioned his art without ever being implemented in the mode of action."           
        "You know your problem?" said Gavin.
        "What?" said Terrance.
        "A relative clause won't fit in a sound bite."

* * *

        Gavin Maps was firm in his advice. Recant. Take it back. Issue a statement. Go on TV and say you never meant it. But his client, Terrance Azlenabek — not Terry, please, Terry sounds like someone in a boy's cartoon book — was stubbornly defiant.
        "Giordano Bruno wouldn't recant," said Terrance, "and neither will I."
        "Oh, please," said Gavin, wincing. "If you want to be a martyr, what do you want a lawyer for? All you need is a carpenter with a couple of pieces of lumber and a bag of big nails."
        "What?" said Terrance, sharply. "What are you on about? I didn't understand that remark at all."
        "Then think about it," said Gavin. "I do have your best interests at heart, Terrance, but there's a limit to what I can do if you insist on pursuing what is, frankly, a course of self-destruction. Now — do you have any questions?"
        "Yes. It's not related, but ... well, I really don't know who to ask."
        "I'm your lawyer, Terrance. You can speak to me about anything."
        "Well. The thing is. I ate a hamburger once. It was some years ago. In fact, it was back when we didn't yet appreciate the danger. And I've been wondering, recently — just how contagious is this mad cow disease?"
        Gavin, it seemed, did not properly appreciate the vital urgency of this enquiry, and became somewhat brusque. While their relationship was still outwardly cordial by the time Gavin ushered Terrance out of his office, inwardly, Terrance was seething. Everyone's concerned about Milton's life, but what about mine? Who cared about me when the waitress delivered the hamburger? Recant? Take it back? No! If I'm to suffer, then Milton can suffer with me. And, besides — the truth is the truth, and that's all there is to it.

* * *

        Terrance refused to hide. When the meeting was done, he ventured forth, meaning to perambulate through the city streets.
        Out on the street, one of the paparazzi was waiting in the cool evening. He snapped off photographs. Poor guy must be desperate. But then, it's too early for the starlets to be at their restaurants. And who is this? Another of those — what do you call them? — process servers?
        The stranger was a person of color. A young man of intense blackness, in fact. His body was armored in black leather and weighted down by a ransom in gold. A pimp? A drug dealer? A hired assassin the pay of Milton or his minions? Or could he be — God forbid! — a performance poet? The performance poets are the plague of our times, we should bring back hanging and hang the lot of them.
        "Got a minute?"
        He is asking for the time. You will indulge him with a horological consultation and he will snatch your watch. He is a mugger, pure and simple. Don't look at your watch.
        "A minute?" said Terrance, protectively holding one hand against the dignity of his slight but undeniable paunch, where his timepiece was concealed. "Certainly. I believe that in fact quite a few years of sublunary existence yet remain to me."
        "Great! Terry — may I call you Terry? — I'm Spike Chops, assistant to Mike, that's Michael Cologne — "
        "No."
        "But, wait! Terry! Hear me out, this is a great opportunity."
        "I meant — no, you do not have my permission to call me Terry. Nobody calls me Terry. You may call me Terrance. Or, if you prefer, Azlenabek. You may, if you wish, adorn that name with one of the conventional honorifics."
        "Certainly," said Spike, making a smooth recovery. "My apologies, Mr Azlenabek. The thing is, Mike — Mr Cologne, I mean — he really wants to have you on his show, that's the — "
        "The Port River Arts Show, yes. A great idea. My chance to put my side of the case to the public. Live, I take it? Excellent! Done. Only one stipulation. I will not wear makeup."
        "With all respect, Mr Azlenabek, TV lighting is pretty cruel. No makeup, you're going to look like Dracula after a long week in the coffin, kind of washed out and bloodless, a sort of, well, not exactly warm and human."
        "While I acknowledge my membership of the species homo sapiens," said Terrance, "I do not see that this requires me to project an image of kittenish fuzziness. I am what I am and I will be seen by the world as exactly that. Exactly when do you want me to appear on this show?"
        "Tomorrow."
        "Tomorrow? Tomorrow will be excellent."

* * *

        That decided, Terrance chose to walk home. The cool of the night was intensifying into a dry, pitiless cold, but he had always liked the cold. Winter was coming, and winter is the dry season of clarity. He had always done his best work in the winter. Particularly his work on Milton, which had revolutionized the perception of the poet. Not a Calvinistic prophet seeking to justify the ways of God to man, but — well, basically a sex maniac.
        Woman obsessed the mind of Milton. Her naked shame, her sinful blame: these images were with him from the beginning. Later, when he sat down to justify the ways of God to man, the end result was more a justification of the ways of man to woman.
        For woman was sinful from the start.
        It was woman who worshipped devils, demons, foul spirits, things bisexual in their nature. Bestial gods, brutish forms, foul idols. It was woman who worshipped those alien others, those black stalkers of darkness, heavy with alluring gold — demons, polymorphously perverse, able to change themselves, shape themselves, make themselves what they will.
        How does it go? I can't remember. Once I could remember but now I can't. It must have been that hamburger. In an entire lifetime, just one bite of cannibal cow. But one bite is all it takes. Baudelaire had syphilis, we have BSE. Just one bite, and all else follows. The original sin. Milton's mind, obsessed with sin. The sinful spirits. If I can't remember, I can still approximate:—
        
        For spirits when they please
        Can either sex assume, or both; so soft
        And uncompounded is their essence pure,
        Not chained with manacles of joint or limb,
        Nor founded on the brittleness of bones,
        But, airy in what shape they choose,
        Dilating in the cumbrous flesh they bower
        And execute their airiness of purpose.
        
        Not exactly that, but something like that. Airy. That's the key word. Airy, bright. Bisexual spirit sex. No blood in it, no prions. No parasites to rot you from your thrust to your gullet.

* * *

        Terrance thought about it all the way home. Then, seeking to purge Milton from his mind, he turned on the TV. Only to find Gavin there again, on the Pandora Program, still counterpunching.
        "Do you think this is an important issue?" said the interviewer.
        "Emphatically," said Gavin. "We can say goodbye to the past if the vampires are going to come creaking out of their coffins, courtesy of the Cannibal Scavenger Corporation or whatever."
        Gavin's strategy remained unchanged. Play the vampire angle. Fill the public's mind with images of dead bodies, rotting flesh, wet stench, corruption, decay. Make sure that, if the libel case went to trial, the jury would be on their side.
        For the uninitiated, the Pandora Program reviewed the facts. The Hallelujah Arts Resurrection Corporation broke into Milton's grave and took his bones. (Actually, they had wanted Shakespeare, but that had proved too controversial, partly because of the admonitory curse on the gravestone.) From the bones, they brewed up the necessary DNA then fabricated a body.
        So far, so good. Basic science. A cloning operation, pure and simple. However, a clone is only a body-copy. A brain which is merely a copy of Milton's brain is not Milton. If you make a bunch of different Miltons then disperse them round the world to be raised in India, Iran, California, Northern Ireland and North Korea, then you may quite possibly get a devout Hindu, a scholarly Ayatollah, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist, a triggerman for the IRA and the Stalinist successor of Kim Jong Il.
        Environment influences — if you're born in Beijing, you won't grow up speaking Welsh, and if you're born in Wales then you'll probably reach adolescence without learning how to use chopsticks. And there is no way you can get the author of "Paradise Lost" if you take away the shaping influences: the Calvinist tradition of Puritan England, the laborious education in Greek and Hebrew and Latin, the stresses of a nation torn apart by civil war, the psychological catastrophe of the dysfunctional marriage, and then the long years of blindness in which the grown man was reliant upon the subservient daughters whom he tyrannized.
        And so the Hallelujah Arts Resurrection Corporation programmed the brain.
        Limbic Programming — that was the name for it. A kind of brainwashing, in the view of its detractors. Only there was nothing to wash away — you were starting with a tabula rasa. While the body was being grown to adulthood in its forcing tank — a process which took seven long years — the neutral stimulation technologies patented by the Hallelujah Arts Resurrection Corporation shaped the wet raw flesh to the assumed form of the Mind of Milton.
        When finally released from its tank, the artificially aged body — chronologically 60 years old — thought itself to be Milton. The deathbed Milton, miraculously resurrected to enjoy a further ten, twenty, maybe thirty years of life.
        "But it's a fraud," said Gavin. "There isn't enough known about Milton. Or about the human brain. If it's really Milton, why doesn't it write poetry? Two years out of the tank, and not a single line of poetry."
        Direct cut to John Milton himself. At a pub. Playing darts. Drunk. A tankard of beer — some props department must have supplied that tankard — at his side. Lugubriously drunk, his bright purple FREE THE SPHINX T-shirt riding up to reveal the pale whale of his beer belly.
        "Are you real?" said the interviewer.
        "I reckon so," said John.
        "But — are you the real Milton?"
        "That's the name on my driver's license. Got it last week."
        "So, if you're the real Milton, why don't you write poetry?"
        "These days I'm a performance poet. Stand back! Give the bard room!"
        And, given room, Milton launched himself into his performance poetry.

        I like cow and I'll eat it
        Till my nose drips out my fingers.
        I'm a man of the land, it's okay by me,
        Pass me the sky, I'm ready to fly,
        Let's play the hip-hop, I'm ready to jazz,
        And — oh, by the way, Coke is A-okay.

* * *

        
        Real academics don't cry. That, at least, was Terrence Azlenabek's opinion. So he merely turned off the TV. And slept, and dream. Fingered women in his dreaming thoughts. Fair idolatresses, their shadows wet beneath his fingers. Subverters of Solomon. Dangerous women, engrossed with flesh, their murmurs amorous, their tales filled with lust —

        The love-heat of the roaring kine, which,
        Pattied into hamburgers, fed and soon infected
        All of Zion's daughters with equal heat.
        And, like the amorous Sphinx which chose the whale,
        They fed their wanton passions in the sacred porch
        Where Ezekiel saw them, when, by the vision led,
        His eye surveyed the dark idolatries
        Of the alienated kingdom of the cow.

* * *

        The next day, Terrance felt hungover, although he had not touched a drop of alcohol for months. He spent the day preparing what he would say on the Port River Arts Show. And, when he went live that evening, Michael Cologne let him say it.
        Michael listened calmly, respectfully. Occasionally asking an urbane, cultured question to clarify a point for a non-specialist audience. Occasionally sitting back to sip at his liquid morphine. (As all the world knew, the cancer was far advanced, and Michael had, at best, only two or three more shows left in him).
        For Michael Cologne and for the world, Terrence Azlenabek outlined his reading of Milton's great work, "Paradise Lost". Art as sex war. For the twelve books of the great poem, Milton struggles with lustful, rebellious women. Subduing them, at last. In the twelfth and final book, we find the angel Michael —
        "Let's be sure to keep our Michaels straight," said Michael Cologne, with an urbane chuckle.
        — the angel, masculine by name regardless of whatever sex might be bestowed upon him by theology, in discourse with Adam. The male angel and the first man: they meet in grave debate upon a hill, the man receiving knowledge from the angel.
        Once masculine intelligence has been informed, the pair descend to the place where sinful woman sleeps — in Milton's words, "with gentle dreams composed to quietness of mind and submission." The first woman, Eve, admits her sinfulness, her blame; she yields to the rule of man.
        "The poem begins its arc with a parade of women lustful, active, self-willed, given to the subversion of the hearts of men," said Terrance. "It ends with the woman, the first of the female flesh, calmed, made passive, with all her spirits composed to meek submission."
        "But does any of this make Milton a sex maniac?" said Michael.
        "That term is one from the tabloids, contrived by them and never used by me," said Terrance. "It means that Milton was certainly always thinking about sex. Given that his long poem took a considerable time to write, I don't think it is going too far to call him sex-obsessed."
        "But Milton says his poem is about God and providence."
        "Ever since Freud, it has been impossible to take any individual's account of their motives at face value," said Terrance. "Arguably, this poem functions as an instrumentality of power in the mundane realm in which a man forges machines of manipulation to dominate and subdue a woman."
        "But Milton — "
        "Didn't possess self-awareness. He didn't realize — couldn't realize — that he'd been writing a poem about his own sex difficulties."
        Hot. The heat of intellectual excitement. You may say you did this, but I know what you really did. Heat of battle amplified by the heat of television lights. Sweat forming on his forehand.
        "So, in your reading," said Michael Cologne, "the supposedly theological poem becomes a sexual instrument, a wish-fulfillment fantasy, if you like, in which a rebellious reality is absorbed and transfigured by the shaping imagination."
        "Exactly," said Terrance.
        Very bright, this Mr Cologne. Let's give him an A, maybe even an A-plus. No, not an A-plus — to get that A-plus you should either extend or oppose the argument, not simply understand it. But. Even so. How gratifying that at least one of the eaters-of-cow understands. Here, under the hot lights, in the intolerable hum of silence, at least one mind that understands. One cool spot in hell.
        "But," said Michael Cologne, "suppose, for the sake of argument, that all this is true. How does it bear on the life of the present-day John Milton? I mean — you do say that he is not the real Milton at all."
        "He is not and cannot be the real Milton," said Terrance, fighting to stay cool as the waves of heat swamped over him. "The technology is a guesswork reconstruction, as the company admits. In point of fact, we cannot know of a certainty how Milton pronounced his vowels. Far less what he did in bed. But, if the company has claimed to have fabricated the complete man, they must have fantasized a sex life for him."
        And what would that have been like? To have had a sex life? To have claimed one of those breathlessly attentive maidens who blushed when you touched the ever-so-intimate computer printouts which formed the earthly embodiment of their conceptual processes? To have made the slight aperture of that pouting mouth open a little wider? To have touched the wetness? Hot engulfments of a cow, there were viruses, I never touched, you can't condemn me, you can't do this to me. God.
        "So he's not Milton," said Michael. "Yet you make statements about him which would seem, on the face of it, to be libellous."
        "Libellous and slanderous," acknowledged Terrance, maintaining the cold needle of his intelligence amidst the buzzing lights, the blistering hot silence. "Libel being the embodiment of those ideas in print, slander their vocal expression."
        "Are you admitting libeling him, then?"
        "All I am saying," said Terrance, wishing he could say more, wishing he could breathe out the swelling darkness, "all I am saying, and all I have said, is that, to the extent to which the living, breathing, dart-playing John Milton is the historical poet, to that extent and to that extent only do my remarks about him hold true."
        "Including the ones about child molestation?"
        "I spoke of an undeniable attraction to his daughters," said Terrance, speaking with the exaggerated carefulness of a man who knows he is hopelessly drunk. "I was thinking of his daughters as sexually mature women. As they were when they cared for the blind Milton. Not immature children. The point is, the Ghoulish Arts Corporation — "
        "The Hallelujah Arts Resurrection Corporation?"
        "Yes, that," said Terrance. Drunk on the heat. Drunk, with the singing virus swelling triumphantly inside him. Bovine spongiform encephalitis. "They can't have their cake and eat it. That's the point. To the extent to which the present Milton is the real Milton, he's a sex maniac. As the tabloids have it."
        "He is a sex maniac, then."
        "No," said Terrance. "It is a sex maniac."
        Watching this live on TV — the lines to the studio were jammed, and his repeated attempts to get through on the phone had resulted in total failure — Gavin Maps cringed. You don't refer to a human being as "it". Not live on TV. Your jury — and, Terry old son, I think this one really is going to go to trial — won't forgive you. Not for that. You can't play the remote Apollonian intellectual in this Dionysian age. We're into the warm fuzzies, Terry, we don't relate to human icebergs like you.
        "Terrance," said Michael Cologne, "you've been very frank with us tonight, and I only wish we had more time to explore the intricacies of this situation. I just have one last question for you. Aren't you — well, at least a little wary of the consequences of speaking as freely as you have?"
        "No," said Terrance.
        Hot from the lights. The darkness bulging into brightness then fading again. Truth. The truth will out.
        "No? Not at all?"
        "Don't put your umbrella in a woman," said Terrance. "You'll get syphilis."
        "I do beg your pardon?"
        "I ate a hamburger," explained Terrance. "My mother died. She was tottering around for five years. Babbling. Her brain was a sponge, do you realize that? Wet, like a cheese, torn apart, as if people had been copulating inside it. I ate the hamburger, nobody warned me."
        It was swelling inside him, the confession, and now he confessed. He had eaten, he had eaten, he had done it. All his denials, all his acts of prudence and caution, all his shunning and abstaining, it had done him no good at all, in the end.
        "This was back before the warnings, back before we knew," said Terrance. "I was a young man then, nobody knew. Or, rather — some of them knew, but they didn't tell us, oh no, we were cannon fodder, contamination for profit, can't run the farm without bodies for the silage bins."

* * *

        After that, it was all a bit blurred, until Terrance was out in the night, walking. The car caught up with him by the riverside. Stopped.
        "Get in," said Gavin Maps.
        And in they got.
        "Drive me home," said Terrance.
        "I don't think you're in any fit state to be going home," said Gavin. "I've arranged for someone to have a look at you, and that's where we're going. Right now."
        But the hospital couldn't hold him. And, on the way back home, Terrance bought a gun. (He had read in the press that you could get one on any street corner, but actually it wasn't that easy — it took two hours, three whiskeys and a black eye to get what he wanted. But he got it all right.)
        So. Out like Hemingway. Gun to the head and —

* * *

        "How do you feel, Terry?"    
        The words swam down to him from the hot whiteness of nothing. He was in pain, but the edges of the pain were blurred. His eyes closed, and there was darkness.
        "How do you feel?"
        In the beginning there was the Word.
        "How do you feel, Terry?"
        A woman's voice, this time. And, provoked by the voice, he found he could speak.
        "Did you say something, Terry?"
        Apparently he had been mistaken. He thought he had spoken, but he had not.

* * *

        This went on for an indeterminate period of time until the day when he woke and found, unexpectedly, that his vision had cleared. It was a man this time, leaning over him and asking him the same question.
        "How do you feel today, Terry? Going to talk to us again today?"
        "Terrance," said Terrance, acerbically. "My name is Terrance Polton Azlenabek. Nobody calls me Terry, not even my wife."
        "You are married?"
        "Of course not. That was a joke. And who are you and where is this?"
        He was lying in a kind of coffin, made from something as white as styrofoam. People were looking down at him. They were wearing white clothes. Robes? No. Laboratory gowns.
        "You see?" said one of the gowned figures, turning away to speak to someone Terrance could not see. "With the modern data densities, it's almost like the real thing."
        And, as a hideous surmise bulged in Terrance's mind, John Milton came to the foot of his coffin and looked inside. An older John Milton, maybe 75, a grimly austere figure — no trace of the dart-playing performance poet slob remained. He was wearing not a laboratory gown but a suit. In his lapel was a gold logo-pin identifying him as one of the executives of the Hallelujah Arts Resurrection Corporation.
        "It wasn't BSE, you know," said John. "It was syphilis."
        "Syphilis?"
        "It all came out at the inquest," said John. "If you were a virgin, how would you get syphilis?"
        "Who says I'm a virgin?"
        "You're forgetting your diary. The Pepys of our time. Still. The syphilis was there. We think you were probably molested as a child, though you don't remember it."
        Ah, so that's how this little game is going to be played out, is it? Academic as molested child. Milton's revenge. He analysed me thus because he'd been raped as a child. All is explained. The eagle as victim. Cue sob-sob soundtrack, cue auditory treacle. Well, we'll see about that. If trends are trends, guns will be easier, not harder. The critic is greater than the poet, you know. The poet can only create. The critic can cut out the poet's heart and eat it. Bang bang, you're dead.
        And, smiling — nothing puts a man in a better humor than a richly-anticipated pleasure — Terrence Azlenabek accepted the proffered hand of John Milton, and rose from the dead.


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