Norman Allan
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Art and Fiction

Chapter 38:  Inside the Hippopotamus.

Chris reached out to grab the hippo’s peg-like teeth, but the peristaltic urgency of the great beast's gullet sucked him down. Down into darkness. Pressure. "I should die in a minute," thought Chris. But he didn't. The pressure eased and he found that he could breath. "How many stomachs does a hippo have?" he wondered. He calmed down. His heart stopped racing. "This is a dream," he thought. "I’m caught in a dream."

He saw a light and crawled towards it. He stuck his head out into a large cavern. A cave. Below him, in the centre of the cavern, was a desk. There was a candelabra on the desk. Several candles cast a soft shifting light on scrolls, manuscripts, papers, jumbled. Two figures bent over the desk studying. "One looks like me," thought Chris. The second figure was a stranger to Chris, but I recognise him as myself, the narrator.

"I think we need something extraordinary here," the narrator was saying, "something transendental has to happen to you, Chris, since you’re the Messiah. It’s gotta be something… well like, like you could be swallowed by a hippopotamus."

"And then," said the other figure, Chris himself, "then the hippopotamus could cross to the Nodal Isle, cause that's where we want him, me, to get to, isn't it? and vomit me up on the Node."

"There's no reason," said the first figure, "why you should ever leave the hippopotam, Christopher. It's a big creature. Big enough to hold everything. To the Egyptians the hippo was the great earth-mother, Taurt, who devours her lovers and sons. It is the centre of the universe, the omphalus. There is no reason to believe that you ever escaped the stomach of mother Taurt."

As Chris watched and listened from above, unseen and unbelieving, his head poked though into the cavernous stomach, there was a great peristaltic heaving, and he was flushed into another place...

Christopher found himself in another cave-like room. In the doorway, overlooking a vast canyon, sat the Gypsy and the robot, Carlo. "Hi!" said Chris, but nobody noticed. Their attention was enmeshed with the re-intrusions of the Berber.
Kali and Carlo, having escaped the Berber and rejoining the Bawdy Side Show, journeyed up to El Stone to prepare for Hashishmas where Chris now observed them sitting in the mouth of one of the many caves carved in the El Stone canyon wall. It was night. Carlo was playing on the cosmic synthesiser. It vibrated and shivered like a thing alive. He played it nowadays continually, non-stop, to force-field and exclude the perverting vibrations of Hadji Baba.

("No. The Berber should be dead already," said Christopher, leaning over the manuscript in the hippopotam's first stomach. "I've had enough of the Berber. It would better the balance of the story to be rid of him now."
"Just let me finish this scene. I'll attend to it in a minute," I replied.)

Back in El Stone all Kali and Carlo's power was occupied in keeping the emanations of HadjiBab at bay. "The Berber grows stronger by the hour despite his deaths," observed Kali. "We must go on to the offensive!"

Kali drew pentacles in the air with her fingers, with the index finger of each hand. At the moment, to her mind's eye, the pentacles appeared a little muddied. She reported this to Carlo. He adjusted his instrumentation. The "Om" of the cozy shifted. The a-real stars in Kali's inner vision glowed golden. They were safe. For the moment.

"Silver linings," said Carlo.

"What?" said Kali.

"The Berber is a rich and colourful phenomenon, don't you think?"

"Honey, the Berber is nothing but a wart on the cosmic member. That is why we are never letting him Lodge it."

To better the balance of this tale, the Berber, Hadji Baba Syed, is to be abolished by this decree: "When Kali, the Blue Lady, peed on the Berber's fire, she doused it completely. The Berber, Hassan, Noname Khan, etc., was therefore, thereby, utterly extinguished. So be it."


What goodies do we lose by killing off the Berber? In the version where the Berber survived his trial by urination, Carlo and Kali were too busy fending him off to have time to cancel the hot-dog and soft drinks concessions for the El Stone Hashishmas do. And the Berber contrived to have "Ultimo", his musical computer, gig there at El Stone, zombifying all who listened. "Hot-dogs, Pepsi, Coke," the horde of celebrants screamed. Christopher, was going to have to fight. He would draw the phoenix-bill knife for the cosmic battle. He was Enlightened, by this time, and he did not care anymore... but!

It would be the Incompetent Evil Genius who would master the Berber, two prongedly. Prong one: by inoculating the wirings of the world with electrical worms to jam conductivity, he would silence "Ultimo", and the computer. Prong two: meanwhile, the Fantasmagory, another creation of the Incompetent Evil Genius' genius, a creature of black flame (negative energy) resembling nothing more than the silhouette of a shaggy dog, would steel into the Tangiers basement and licked up the Berber's fire.

The hippopotamus burped.

Hallelujah tapped Chris on the shoulder breaking him from his reverie. He shook his head to clear it and found himself sitting meditating at the Node. Across from him sat a hippopotamus, smiling.

"It's time for tea," Hallelujah chorused, and he led Chris back to Sheena's shack.

"Shekinah," asked Chris. "Could we possibly be inside... you see I had this a, thing that I was somehow swallowed by an hippotam, a..."

"There are many points of view in the boa-tree," Shekin sang.

"But. Hmm. Well, then, tell me, am I the messiah?"

"The me is higher?" Shekenov looked deeply into Christopher's eyes. "Sing to the God’swings. See what harmonies they reflect."

Christopher aum.ed, OM-boled himself. (Bols are the symbols and syllables of Indian music, the notation of the tabla.) Christopher scatted, making himself one with the source, "aiun". The God's wings mirrored, answering I/eye/aye. Chris' face grew soft, his eye grew single. He felt himself merging with the pluroma. He ceased to observe himself as separate. Felt his part in the unfolding whole. But, at this time, this only lasted while he hummed.

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Chapter Thirty Five