This is a composite novel about the Nothing man. It was constructed a chapter at a time by eight people. We were most careful not to resolve anything. We introduced new characters and places or not, as we wished. We just didn't let anything really happen. That's where the title comes in. Nothing ever really happens. This is basically a put-on and was meant to be fun. Think of each chapter as the first chapter in a book, any book. It's all setting up for later. Only in our book there is no later.

None of us was a professional author. We were mostly Community Theatre players. The Nothing Man was an elaborate theatre game I had used as a teaching tool.

We thought it would be advantageous to the work, as a whole, if we could carry earlier characters and events into our own chapters, with references to past characters, situations, etc. Here are a few guidelines that were developed to help the authors.


    ·Give the people and places reality with description, visual and emotional.
    ·Advance the story with new characters, locations, and action.
    ·Remain in and use the established context.
    ·Use effective lead-ins.
    ·No sudden stops. Build toward the change over.
    ·If you're stuck, fill with description and something else will come to mind.
    ·Don't rush the plot, if you can find one.


    I assume that you are at this site because of some God-related reason. I surely don't want to offend anyone. So, I must tell you that this work was mostly done before God made himself known to me. Also, that the other contributors weren't God-inclined either. As a result, there are a few graphic descriptions. Actually, by today's standards, these incidences are rather tame, as well as being short. Mostly the book is just a lot of word fun.

NOTHING MAN: Chapter 1

Twelve more hours and it would all be over. He sat waiting for the water to boil, oblivious to the gray shabbiness of the room. Twelve hours. How had he ever become involved? He knew better, didn't he?

He thought of how the others had reacted to the unexpected announcement. Jolly "Chollie", his brows knit tight. The ends of his permanent grin turned down almost to the rounded edges of his cheeky jaw line. Herb, retiring to a neutral corner for an extended seizure of muttering and hand wringing. And dear Lisa, secreted away in the chrysalis of her doe-like innocence, not able to realize the far reaching consequences that lay just hours away.

He jumped with a start at the toasters ka-dunk, his sand-flecked blue eyes narrowed in disorientation. Then lapsing again into deep thought, he rose mechanically and looking down at the pool of spilled cream by the steaming coffee, sitting next to the buttered toast and jam, he realized it had happened again. It was really getting to him. Lucky he wasn't out in the traffic instead of hidden away in this shadowed cave high on the side of a bleak concrete canyon. Or was it? Maybe better if he stepped off the curb and….

Shifting the position of the half-eaten piece of toast for the seventh time he slowly lifted the cup of now cold coffee to his mouth, letting the slightly bitter fluid brush his lips. He knew exactly what he must do next. As reluctant as he might be, he alone was burdened with the responsibility and he alone must initiate the proper action. Was this what his life was about!? Was this his Holy Grail, his Noble Quest, his Final Test?

He had often wondered at the apparent lack of purpose to his existence. Was this at last, at long and most final last, the answer to that wondering? The dishes and silver softly clattered into the sink and he suddenly felt coldness on his stomach. With an oath he gave the tap a sharp twist cutting off the stream of water that had been playing merrily into his coffee spoon and then down his trouser front. "Why is it, if there's one spoon in the sink, that damn faucet will find it every time!!"

Daubing himself with a towel, he walked toward the john to wash up and shave 'Well', he thought wryly, 'at least we'll still be able to pinpoint the time and location; a lotta good that'll do. If only someone had taken the time to investigate further, or at least do a little planning. "0h, can it. That's spilt milk."

His next awakening came as he tried for the fifth time to pull past the shirt corner peeking from between the teeth of his fly zipper. "Cut the crap, okay? I've got enough without you too." He hung his jacket over his back on a crooked finger and headed for the door. In the doorway he paused, looking back in to the room. "Don't wait up for me, I may be late." His eyes glazed momentarily. "Very late." The door shut quietly.

NOTHING MAN: Chapter 2

Slowly, agonizingly, he regained consciousness. Peering through slits, black-rimmed and swollen, the room acquired distorted focus. "What the…," he ejaculated. "Be not overly distressed, my friend." the round brown form expostulated from the corner on his left. "Turkish dogs." he spat in reply. "Is this how you propose to exonerate your precious Capitan?" Sharp pain, red-hot and menacing rang through his head. He realized he had spoken automatically, without any knowledge of what he had said. He panicked and blocked it, though only momentarily, and then let the full realization come that his mind was empty; he knew neither who nor why he was. At least the room had stopped spinning. He first deduced that he was in fact an American because he spoke English with an American accent. 'I think, therefore, I am," he thought and immediately acquired another bit of knowledge about himself. Intelligence. And from then on it was easy. "Smooth sailing," he called it much later. His assumptions tumbled out one after another in a geometric progression, so fast the room started spinning again. He found a laundry ticket on his vest lining. "The DeLuxe Cleaners" was printed in a slanting script. A fancy French laundry, he calculated, could only mean one thing--he was a man of means. Leaping deductively he came to the startling conclusion that he had a deadly purpose, and must recall it at any cost. Straining, straining, he turned his neck, which by now was stiff and cold, to the smiling man in the corner.

Doubly certain the position was justified, Martin then resumed be-weeping his condition. Some action surely was required. Therefore relying on a certain rallying of certain forces, he gathered together threads luminous and pneumatic like eye motes in reptilian configurations. "Now wherefore stoppest thou me?" he cried to no one in particular, though the same man was presumably still watching. And in that instant his wits propitiously returned. "Ah yes," he sighed, "it's all clear now, if not who I am, at least what I must do." Steeling himself with iron cords of determination, he asked the new man (Morris was the name he knew now with a sort of psychic certainty) why he was watching him so abstractedly. "For two reasons, Sahib," he placidly pronounced, "neither of which shall I tell you." Lurching for the door, stumbling and sweating, he found it unaccountably unlocked, and passed through. These vacillating fluctuations from mood to mood, certainty to doubt troubled him no longer. He was certain that they had drugged him in an attempt to sabotage the mission. "Of course," he firmly expounded, " I should have expected this."

"Lisa," he remembered reflexively.

Lisa, herself unaware of the denouement building in her background, (background in the scenic not historical sense, naturally*) approached her writing table meditatively. "Reggie will be simply furious with me," she ruminated to the morning room at large. "How ever can this situation be resolved in a satisfactory manner," she pondered. Meanwhile Forbes, the butler, entered discreetly and began checking off items on an inventory sheet attached to a modern, efficient looking though not cheap, clipboaod. An uninitiated observer might postulate that the servant was preparing a list of possessions for an auction the bank was staging as part of foreclosure.

    *Naturally. How could anything be building in one's historical background since one's background is, by definition, over? Unless of course this story were science fiction or mystical mumbo-jumbo of which the author thoroughly disapproves, as any discerning reader can readily discern. No, dear readers, time, in this particular part of this memorable missive, advances and never retreats.

But, in fact, the master of the mansion was of a peculiar apprehensive nature, and required a complete inventory of every room each morning to insure that his castle had not been penetrated in the night, and possibly burglarized, Lisa by now was no longer enchanted but quite bored with the repetitious reminder of her host's eccentricity. "Perhaps I should procure protection," she rattled paranoiacally. "My God, I'm alliterating again," she quite suddenly realized. This was definitely a signal that a storm was coming or at least rain. Her ancestors had programmed this prophetic talent into her as a unique method of avoiding the necessity of contracting rheumatism.

NOTHING MAN: Chapter 3

In the bowels of the narrow alleyway, he steadied himself against the wall. The cold sensation of' the red brick against his cheek offered little relief from the heat and humidity of the mid-afternoon. He stood there for what seemed like an hour, steadying his nerves and trying to quiet his mind. The perspiration that had gathered on his brow ran down the back of his neck. "How is this possible?" he thought. No matter, he had dallied in the alley long enough. With measured steps he groped his way past overfilled trashcans, circumvented puddles of rancid water, and found his way into the street. The brilliant sunlight playing off a thousand office building windows temporarily blinded him. With thumb and forefinger he pinched the bridge of his nose slamming shut his eyes. Weaving uncertainly against the heat of the city and sudden brightness, he had all the outward appearances of a skid row bum. "If only I could remember, where, what, who or even when, perhaps I could shake this feeling of impending doom." He made his way down the avenue, dreamlike, walking against the thick atmosphere that taxed the small strength he still had left. Standing at the corner the crowd closed around him; it was stifling. The traffic surged past like a huge steel snake emitting its deadly fumes, he couldn't breathe. Suddenly he ran. Bolting out of the herd, he slipped between the cars, clenching his fists with mad determination he fled as if his life depended on it. For all he knew, it probably did. Down the block, around the corner, flying past the inner city turmoil, creating his own breeze, the sound of his worn shoes hitting the sidewalk pounding in his head. The throb of his heart, the pumping leg muscles, that great release when the body, near to the breaking point, can muster fresh power, produce the adrenalin. The marathon run to nowhere for the Nothing man.


Ice, white and cold. These were the first thoughts, even before he dared open his eyes. Again, ice, white and cold. A slight breeze rolling over his face. He was lying in a bed of utter comfort. By keeping his eyes closed he tried to make what must surely be a dream last longer. It would be soon enough that he would wake to find himself back in that hell of confusion, that mental turmoil and physical pain. Ice, white and cold. It shocked him out or reverie and at once his lids flew open involuntarily. "Well, well, welcome to my world." She was thirty-ish, brunette and beautiful. "I thought you might not pull around, you've got one hell of a lump there mister." She wrung the cloth out in a basin of water, and pressed it over his brow. Ice, white and cold. He jumped a bit at the sudden realization. "Who are you," he attempted, "and how did I get here?"

"It seems your little jaunt in town ended in a nasty fall. That's when I happened by and took pity on your butt." She dropped the wet towel back into the water and took a few steps away from the bed. His field of vision widened at this point to take in the scene of the room. Opulent was the word. Rich was this bitch with the wry sense of humor and Good Samaritan tendencies. He let his tenseness slacken off and for that split second a calm he had not known in months washed over his being. He gazed out the window; green lawn and well-manicured shrubbery met his glance. Gnawing confusion flickered in the pit of his stomach.

"You're really quite a nuisance, I suppose you want something to eat." The words trailed after her and the next thing he knew he was quite alone. He lay very still for the next few minutes listening to utter silence.

Lisa took the lid off the soup pot and immediately dropped it back. Her hand flew to her mouth and hot steam rose from the stove and curled up across the kitchen ceiling. "Damn!" Opening drawers and slamming them closed she searched for a potholder, a towel, something. She was a stranger in her own kitchen and of all the days to have given Mildred the day off, it had to be today. Aaron would pay for this. Him and his brilliant ideas, playing nurse, half scalding herself, it was definitely not fun anymore.

Pushing himself up on one elbow, he tried to reach over to the table beside the bed. A small white telephone sat just out of reach. His head erupted in slow beats of pain just above the left eye. He pushed his weight nearer to the edge of the bed and rolled over onto his stomach. Reaching out, he was able to lift the receiver and bring it up to his ear. The dial tone sprang to life, he listened and he thought. Wedging the receiver between his ear and the pillow, he slowly reached for the dial. "Business as usual, I see." The voice froze him to the bone. It was the brunette. She put the tray she was carrying down and lifted the phone back to the table. "I was just.....just calling to....."Hell," he broke, "none of this is making any sense, nothing has made sense in so long, l ....'. She wasn't listening, but busied herself with the tray of food she'd brought for him. "I believe if you can manage to sit up, you will find the repast palatable. Mildred has a way with soup. You should find it delightful. I almost burnt my hand off getting it out of the pot. Eat hearty." She turned to leave, stopped on a thought, bent down and removed the phone jack from the wall, wound the cord around the thing and carried it out. "I'm not very good at this game," she laughed, "leaving this temptation in such close proximity was foolish, yes?" Turning on her well-heeled heel (albeit slightly rounded), she strode out again into the interior of what must have been one hell of a house.

"A man struggling to find an identity is rarely hungry, except for the freedom from the struggle"--Ronald McDonald 1972

NOTHING MAN: Chapter 4

Lisa opened the door and with the rain, in came Aaron. A short, slight man in his late fifties, his rimless eyeglasses flecked with droplets, he moved into the room with apparent ease. "How's he doing?" Lisa took his coat, "Alive and curious," she retorted, "and it's about time you waddled your ass over here, I have had it!!!"

"Now, is that any way for a genuine angel of mercy to talk? My dear, you forget by what means you are able to indulge yourself in this cushy-cushy lifestyle. And as far as you having had it, why yes I must agree, you have had it. And if you would like to continue to have it, you will keep that acid tongue of yours tucked in your pretty little mouth or I will see what I can do about shutting you up on a more, shall we say, permanent basis.

"Aaron, it's just that the committee is dragging this thing out too, too long. Anxiety, Aaron, is the thing wearing me down. Can't you get the contract back? Can't you talk to my father and make him LISTEN??? Oh, it's more than I can bear." "Always in such a hurry my dear, but first things first, I must see our intrepid intruder. Lead the way Lisa. Some things just can't wait."


The formidable figure of Capitan strode from behind the overly large mahogany desk. He smiled in that uncertain way, half smile, half threat. The pearls that were his teeth flashed their fleeting whiteness, contrasting beneath the great black moustache.

"My daughter does not know everything, Senior. She is of course devoted to me and therefore does ask too many questions, but in this case, it is best we tell her as little as possible." He was speaking to Louis, a right-hand man to Captain and as close to the boss as anyone can get. Louie did not like it when he was addressed so abruptly. With the magnificent height of Capitan towering over him there was little argument that the boss would have his way, as he always had his way. And now it was up to Louie to bring up a subject that would surely bring a good deal of displeasure to the committee. Capitan, having stated his point took his great weight back behind the desk and settled into the over-comfortable swivel chair. He looked Louie in the eye, and smiled that uncertain smile, and waited. A cold chill crept up the spine. Louie gripped the arm of his chair and coughed. "You smoke too much, my friend. Perhaps you should have Aaron take a look at you." "Forgive me, Capitan, it is nothing and Aaron is busy elsewhere." "And with a most worthy patient, if I may say so. You seem troubled about our arrangement this morning. Perhaps it is not only Lisa who needs coddling. You grow old, Louis, and nervous."

Suddenly all courage left Louie longing for less, and like Lisa, he was prone to alliterate when things went weird. So, swallowing his curiosity, he begged dismissal from the chamber and wishing Capitan a long and prosperous life, headed for the parking lot, and the comfort he got slipping behind the wheel of his Lincoln Continental. The committee had given him this car as a token of supreme appreciation for the part he had played in getting rid of Manny the Porn king from the district. A simple task, in his younger days, but now he no longer had the stomach for such messy affairs. He was getting weak, and Capitan was noticing his weakness. He slid the Lincoln into the flow of traffic, and behind the wheel, behind the sunglasses, it was hard to tell that this was not the same old Louie the 'Luger" whose name had at one time brought shards of fear to bear on the entire West Central Underground.


The phone began to ring, shattering the elegant silence with the force of a baseball through plate glass. It rang twice and then silence. Someone in the house had answered it. He could barely make out the hurried whisperings of a conversation. Straining, he tried to hear, anything, a name, anything. The sheets on the bed were beginning to dampen with his perspiration. He wanted to sleep, that black void of unconscious wandering that seemed so far from his reach. He dare not slip off, to wake up where? And who? The conversation had stopped now and that awful stillness, the surreal silence surrounded him.

He did not hear Aaron come to the door. It was with quite a start that he discovered his visitor and his head at once began to throb. "It seems that Lisa has taken splendid care of you. You seem alert, well rested, and quite suited to our purposes." "What purposes are those? And doesn't anybody introduce themselves anymore?"

NOTHING MAN: Chapter 5

The receding line of the cloisters in the autumn Oxford drizzle put him in a meditative mood. Vibrant even in the gray light of late afternoon, the green of the cross-mown lawns reflected with the medieval architecture the ancient faith in reason, the reason in faith, which saturated the place.

She had been precise in terms of place and time, and he had as yet almost two hours before Thais had indicated that he should come. "Why precisely seven thirty" he mused to himself. Equally inexplicable was the hard fact of the plane ticket to London discovered so surprisingly one morning in the mail. In all, he had not the slightest indication of the insistent necessity of his presence here at this place, at this time.

He looked across the mown square at the stone abutment of her window... impassive in its stony mystery, it gave no hint of any activity inside. He could just make out the regular slow dripping off the slate overhang. The afternoon was washed in a humid softness, not at all unpleasant, but somehow comforting in its all-enveloping languor.

As the short train ride from London had done little to limber his muscles after the long plane flight, he determined to pass the time until seeing Thais by strolling the narrow lanes and byways of the old city, letting the odd spirit of the place wash over him and perhaps awake some remembrance of his past here, of his past before Thais.

In spite of the incessant din of traffic, the stonework and statuary still lay, as he remembered them, outside of time. All on the streets and sidewalks positively oozed an atmosphere of purpose: snatches of conversation reached him from the passersby, conversations of abstruse philosophies couched in elegant dialectic, conversations curiously out of time. His decidedly casual interest in the concerns of the anonymous multitudes among whom he moved vanished when he realized near the Dodelian Library that most of his time had somehow evaporated; he would have to hurry in order to be with Thais at Worcester in a quarter of an hour. Although he had always detested the commercial harshness of High Street, it did represent the most direct route to Worcester, and he concentrated his thoughts while passing the garish shop windows on the woman at the end of his short and damp journey.

The tight and winding stairway to her room was just as he had remembered it to be; this was certainly no surprise, for the slow clock of Oxford had always been one of its most enjoyable facets. Even as before, the final triangular step was loose: it may have been centuries since its last repair. It was quiet on the stairway landing except for the slight suggestion of an organ somewhere. Although it was impossible to place, he guessed that it came from Thais' room, for she had always been partial to the instrument because of its ability to conjure a world of mathematical elegance, a world of, as she used to say, "spherical abstracts."

Tapping lightly on the heavy door, he sensed that it was unlatched. His watch indicated seven twenty-eight. Nudging the door slightly, its delicately balanced weight swung away before him, giving to view the heavily timbered room just as he had remembered it. Bach's B-minor Fugue enveloped him; be recalled sardonically that he had once known how to play it.

Thais lay on the corner bed in provocative nakedness, unashamed in sleep as a statue, her lithe body a study in contrast to the heavy woolen coverlet on which it lay. A deep red rose, loosely grasped in her left hand, lay softly on her belly. A small table, a birthday gift from him years before, stood near the head of the bed; on it rested an ivory hashish pipe. A faint wisp of smoke curled upward. Thais opened her eyes.

NOTHING MAN: Chapter 6

He stopped in the doorway, admiring her beauty when he felt an iota of doubt insinuate itself into one of the deeper recesses of his brain. Thais, her rich ebony hair covering the pillows which propped up her head, parted her full lips in a diminutive smile that brought a wave of uncertain relief to his mind; uncertain because that bit of doubt had not only not been dispelled, but seemed to have grown without his even being aware of the change. Old instincts suddenly and quite involuntarily pricked him to action. In the time it took him to walk the nearly ninety-three and one half inches from the door to the left side of Thais' bedside, be automatically scanned the room, his delicately trained eye taking in all the details pertinent to the present situation while his other eye surreptitiously ogled Thais' thighs.

Reaching her side, his stomach began to churn as his gaze confirmed that un-dispelled jot in the far reaches of his cavernous cranial cavity. There, from his cordovan and white wingtips, came the source of that timorous tad; the slow, whispered, blip....., blip....., blip....., of Thais' essential essence. Absurdly he noticed a part of his mind say, "it does add a dash of rake to the old kicks." It was this same blip....., blip....., blip...., which his delicately trained ear had detected as he stood in the doorway what seemed like ages ago now. Of course, without the aid of the leather surface upon which to blip....., blip....., blip....., the sound of the drips striking the shallow red pool nestled in the white shag carpet had been more of a whispered put..,.., put....., put...., rather than blip.,..., blip....., blip.....

Barely able to contain his gruffly galloping gorge, he leaned over Thais' fading presence and gently stroked her cheek with the back of his delicately trained hand while the other hand slowly extracted single hairs from his right sideburn causing just enough pain to let him forget his imminent regurgitation.


Slowly he lifted the rose close to his nose with morose memory. He leaned his head against the cold hardness of the cell wall as he thought, yet again, "A setup. Oh, such a clever setup." And again the follow-up. Who, who?" Louie, the laconic Luger? Aware of Louie's' fear of flying, he rightly reasoned that Languishing Lou wouldn't have had the time to reach Pea Soupolis before him. Capitan? Capable, culpable, Capitan? Somehow with an instinctive certainty he knew that Le Moustache had waned not waxed on this occasion. Who was left? "Aaron the Able Alchemist." The shout of his own voice jarred his delicately trained ear and interrupted his other ears appreciation of A Bird in a Gilded Cage, which issued from the harmonica in the next cell.

He was furiously fitting the fragile fragments of the puzzle together when he heard a voice say, "Awrigh', awrigh', stuff yer duff, they've cum fer ya." 'Who's come? "Ah never asks, ah never tells, ge' on withit." Outfitted once again in his own clothes and his personal items, he emerged from the inner room into an intermediary hall which led to the outer office where a dark haired, simply but tastefully dressed young woman smiled at the various graffititorical inscriptions presently occupying the wall space near the front table located at the rear entrance of the room.

As he entered the florescent glare of the outer office, Lisa turned and a half swallowed "Wha. .." squeezed through his lips as he abruptly stopped. For a long moment he stood there studying her, feeling in his chest the long descent of the final piece of that puzzle which would clarify everything; just as though it were a Frisbee thrown with deadly accuracy into an inner tube from a ninety-four foot ocean cliff. "But then that means… Of course, of COURSE!!!" Slowly walking toward her he chuckled to himself saying, "It's so obvious…, now." Her lips parted sympathetically in a warm reciprocal smile and she held out a hand to greet him.


"Good old Cap," he said pushing his plate away to give himself some leaning room on the table of the small sidewalk cafe located on one of the hundred little side streets that branch off the main artery that leads directly through the central portion of this quaint old section of the twisting contour of the river which winds its weary way, with what woeful Wight it can muster, to the upper reaches of the city, where only the bravest and most courageous souls ever dared put print to dust. "Somehow I knew instinctively that Cap had nothing to do with Thais' demise," his eyes growing moist with the words. In hesitation, she broke eye contact with him, lowered her head briefly, then with a hint of darkness in her voice she said, "He wants to see you." Then after a short pause, "In seventeen minutes." (oboes and bassoons are heard from behind nearby cafe tables)


Once again confusion engulfed him as they made their way up through the stench of burned cabbage which filled the dark stairwell of the squatty three story apartment building. The stairs ended abruptly at a thick, age darkened oak door. Lisa rapped gently and in a muffled voice said, "Muifffumornnrt"(sic). Instantly came the indistinct but recognizable bass that was Caps' alone saying, "Klashiburnnererf"

It seemed as though he had been waiting inordinately long for his eyes to become accustomed to the darkness of the room when he came to the realization that there was a complete lack of light in the room; and also had some insightful thoughts regarding the absence of shadows in totally dark places. "Sit down, relax," said that distant thunder that was Caps' profound bass. "I am sure you will want to hear what I am about to say."

NOTHING MAN: Chapter 7

Memory echoed like a raging torrent in his head. His presence in this place summoned vivid, fragmented glimpses of an uncertain past. "It's the room," he thought, "the room." The crystal white light of recognition bathed him to his very soul. His aimless search had come upon its target with uncanny accuracy. This room was the focus of his desire. This room would give him clear vision back through his cobweb-covered past. This room was special to him. This room was what he had always desired. He had always wanted a room with déjà vu.

"I don't generally disturb people's private thoughts," said the Capitan, using more than a kernel of wisdom, "but corporal punishment is a major option if I am to believe the commercial I saw on my admiral TV about Sergeant flea collars." There wasn't even a loose tenant to tie together the Capitan's rank thought processes. A soft-spoken, bleary-eyed "Damn you," was all he could muster in response, "damn you." "Your insolence will cost you," sneered the Capitan with a disquieting certainty. "The moment of truth has arrived for you." Then, suddenly, "Lisa, come in here. His time has come:"

She slid into the room like the fog. Her one-piece leopard skin suit clung to her body like a drunk to his bottle of port. Little about her full, moist body was left to his imagination. Her lips were painted the deep crimson of fresh blood. Her burning indigo eyes sliced through his thoughts, leaving inconclusive direct objects, conjunctions, and dangling participles. All that remained with him in his meticulously shredded psyche was desire, raw desire, raw desire for her. Nothing else mattered. Nothing else could matter.

Muted animal sounds, frenzied jungle beats, an ever-quickening pulse in his throat, in his ears, in his blood; louder, louder, louder:

A panther leaping towards him, its great, muscular legs stretched out, its claws extended, the slender, deadly ivory teeth rocketing towards him. A prophesy pleading for fulfillment. A frozen moment. The potency of life screaming, beckoning, demanding. A chilling, lifeless wail.

There was no telling when his memory made its ever-so-timely return. Perhaps it was the spectre of fear which brought the past to forgiving terms with the present. Perhaps it was the bacon lettuce and tomato sandwich on whole wheat toast which chose that moment to turn in his stomach, reconnecting ancient synapses, like repaving an unused road, bringing to fullness his being. Or maybe it was just the physical proximity to the room with the déjà vu.

NOTHING MAN: Chapter 8

What ever had caused the return of his memory, fuzzy as it was, it could have desperate and highly damaging ramifications. Somewhere in the abyss of his mind he knew that it wasn't a good time to be remembering some things. But his mind wouldn't listen and so delicately framed, focused, and snapped the shutter on his past, frame by frame, present to past, in a blurred sequence of images his mind regurgitated all of the hostile details of his most recent unfocused past.

One frame, who was it? A full face but no name, came into focus, and seemed to give him some hope. Hope like an open hole in the ice above him as his body, though tied rigid in the chair, seemed to float in freezing waters with that nameless portrait image triple exposed on top of the Capitan's image as well as Lisa's. The Capitan, that seedy bastard with the pock marked face. With his sleazy prick of a tongue, licking those thin, cruel, and slashing lips that couldn't be hidden by the ill-trimmed mustache. And Lisa, yes Lisa. His senses could not break loose from the smell of her perfume blending with the faint smell of her body, that combination of sensual/sexual essences that had held him captive once long ago.

All these experiences were entwining themselves and meshing into geometric and logarithmic patterns, adding up to no answers, only one intense unanswered question. Who belonged to the face in his memory? The answer could somehow be the key to his survival.

At that same moment there came a bone-crushing blow to the bridge of the nose, the place on the face that houses more nerve endings per square millimeter than any other, and the Capitan's slimy face forced itself into focus as he slowly and deliberately slurred some words that seemed to fall out of his mouth like spittle might fall from the mouth of a rabid dog. "We can waste no more time... we want to know where the documents are now. If you do not tell us we will simply kill you... in a rather slow and painful way, of course. Before we are through, you will tell us what we want to know. Isn't that right Lisa?" As he turned to look at Lisa's smiling face, the door seemed to bend inward and then implode into the room and splintered bits of doorframe flew past his face.

Before the dust cleared enough to see what had happened, he heard the spit of what he knew to be a small caliber handgun fitted with a silencer, cough twice within the confines of the small windowless room. Lisa who had been standing against the thick rock wall opposite the door slowly began to slide, still smiling, down toward the floor. The smile faded into a grimace about the time her butt hit the floor. A blotch of dark red blood blossomed on the left aide of her cheat; just about where he remembered and could still picture in my mind, her taut upturned nipple would have been. At the same moment, a look of horrid disbelief appeared on the face of Capitan. Also appearing on his face was a small hole in the middle of the forehead that grudgingly refused to give much blood at all. Capitan slowly placed his forehead to some papers on the desk as if he were dribbling a dab of hot red wax from the hole in his head prior to placing his stamp of approval. Martin then turned his head slowly toward the doorless, sunlit opening and there stood the face from his mind, but this time it had a name. For there stood the indefatigable Charlie Barstow. He was grinning that aren't-you-glad-to-see-me-even-though-I'm-a-little-late? grin. As he cut the ropes that had bound Martin to the chair, he said "Let's get out of here quick. We've got plenty of work to do yet, Partner."

NOTHING MAN: Chapter 9

There was an instant just before he resumed consciousness when everything was clear. Of course it all seemed so funny when he thought about it. Yes, Charlie Barstow, good old indefatigable Charlie, and he remembered his what was it again? Marvin, Morris...Maxwell... and then it faded and standing before him like a gigantic boulder on a narrow mountain pass was Capitan, grinning uncertainly, his mustache curled in a sneer, while on the edge of the bed where our hero lay, sat the cruel temptress Lisa.

"Who am I?" he asked plaintively, all his resistance dissolved by the forgotten memory of the dream. (The forgotten memory of a dream may seem an implausible concept on the surface, but when that concept is all that remains in the vast data bank that had once held all he was and ever had been, it was a concept worth holding on to, even clinging to--but he digressed, and there was no time for digression.)

"Indeed," roared Capitan, "who are you?" His laugh rose to a cackle. "Yes, very good, very good indeed." Again the cackle and from the tone of that laugh it was immediately apparent, even to one who knew nothing, that Capitan had been drinking in large quantities.

But Lisa's full lips only pouted. "You can laugh, Father, but the truth serum told us nothing, nothing except that this creep in his fondest dreams wants us dead." She grabbed a handful of hairs on Nothing Man's chest and giving a sharp tug, pulled several free. "A bullet hole where my taut nipple should have been, was it? You pervert, you sadist: I should have you hanged (not even rage could sully Lisa's exquisite sense of grammar) by those little peanuts between your legs."

"Oh, God," cackled Capitan, "daughter, how I love your lusty hate." His huge beefy fist reached out and covered Lisa's left breast the way a Viking's hand might surround a drumstick. "Incest!" he moaned, as if suddenly discovering a great truth, "the one crime I have yet to commit and father (if you pardon the pun) of all the others. I must have you!"

"Father, how I love your delectable crudity," Lisa said with a gasp and rolled off the side of the bed onto the floor, Capitan on top of her.

Matthew, Mortimer, Michael, Mickey, Manfred. He simply could not remember and there was no time for this. Charlie Bartholomew, Charlie Batchler, Charlie...indefatigable Charlie...That was the secret, that name was the key. But no time, no time for this.

Amid a cacophony of heavy breathing and throaty moans, Nothing man rose on unsteady feet. Malcolm? Forget it. He wrapped himself in the stained sheet and stepping over the writhing bodies, grasped the nearly empty bottle of Capitan's tequila and a half lemon resting conveniently on the nightstand, and made his way to the door. He had it half open when he heard Lisa cry out:

"Feeling frigging fine, Father:" And he knew it was going to rain (why did he know that? He could not remember). He took an umbrella-- a yellow plastic one with red flowers--squeezed a few drops of lemon into his mouth, washed them down with the remaining tequila and stepped outside, closing the door --carefully behind him.

He was free, but at the same time he felt a certain sense of loss. Capitan and Lisa were the only people he knew--he knew more about them than he knew about himself--and now he was fleeing them. Merle? No, that wasn't it. Manny? At the end of the hallway was an elevator. He descended to a lobby where fortunately a Halloween party was in progress. Could it be Merlin? He was staring into a mirror trying to remember his face when a woman wearing the costume of a bunny rabbit with large flopping pink ears and a pink nose that twitched coquettishly came up and threw her arms around him.

"Milt," she cried. Then she stepped back. "Milt?" She appeared puzzled. "Milt?"

"I..." Nothing man felt a sense of overwhelming joy surge through his body. "Do you know who I am? Do you know?"

The great furry head stared for a long moment and then slowly shook. "No, you're not Milt. Milt didn't have a mole on his cheek. Sorry. But I like your outfit." She turned and disappeared into the crowd, leaving him considering this new piece of information. He had a mole. Mack?


He must have walked for hours down dirty streets beneath tall faceless buildings while all around him the merriment of the holiday raged independent of his desires, as if it were taking place on a different planet. Monty? Marcel? It was useless. He was nothing while everything around him, everything he saw and heard and smelled and touched (not to mention tasted, though at the moment he was not hungry) was something. Only he was nothing, which philosophically made him unique and almost something. Bone weary, he sat down on a park bench. It was nearly dawn now and from some hidden paradise he could smell the faint aroma of baking bread. They were after him, no question about that. But who was it they were after? He could not stop, he must keep going: somewhere there was an answer, somewhere a sanctuary awaited him, in some corner bread was rising for his homecoming. But he was too tired. It was beginning to rain now, large slow drops, but it did not matter. He would lie down on this bench for a few moments and then go on.

He had lowered himself to one elbow when he heard a voice speak behind him. It was a voice he instantly recognized. The voice said:

NOTHING MAN: Chapter 10

"You are doing pretty bloody well this time around." 'This time around?' he wondered. Reincarnation? Charlie (for it was he) continued, overlapping his thoughts: "You are one of those lucky few who travel life with light baggage."

A few drops of rain began to fall.

"You want to know who you are, what you're doing here, about Lisa, the Capitan, and me? Well, you have to consider the possibility that this may be the best it gets for you. After all, you have Lisa and her left nipple, at least. Some men have only a few coverless copies of Playboy or some already memorized videotapes.

"I will give you this much. I am your guardian angel. You used to sit on the side of your grade school desk, saving a space for me. I have come to claim that space anew, and find it empty as ever. Lisa, the Capitan, and a few brand names. You do not need reincarnation because every chapter in your life is new for you. What you discover this time through is the most you will have to go on. Remember the time you tried to trick your hand into signing your name through habit, and only managed to find out that your pen writes poorly in cold weather? You do not know your name, but what is it in a name? At least you never grow old and boring to yourself. You are rather a young-man version of the Ancient Mariner, only you have nothing to say to yourself. Which is why I am saying this to you."

"Is he playing the pest with you, sir?" The bobby was polite but deliberately intrusive--a man of action bristling with adverbs, pointedly, incisively. "Charlie, here, used to have bigger audiences in Hyde Park, and the more people in the audience, the less Charlie bothered them. Recently Charlie has taken to buttonholing individuals, and we've complaints."

In the meantime, Charlie had metamorphosed into a shrug and a slouch, and was inching away into the prams and pigeons almost implicit in that park.

How many times can it begin to rain without actually raining? Something left a splotch on the pavement and another something struck him an exact wet blow along the part in his hair.

There was that woman, Lisa? Something with an L, and something about her shoulder blade? Elbow? And the man with black patent-leather hair and a compact vocabulary--like a bag of electrician's tools. Cameron? And his friend, his friend's name that started with a C or an A....

He was on a bridge staring down at the Thames, his reflection (what did he really look like?) broken by eddies and the sporadic concussions of raindrops.

But the suicidal voices were drowned out. For a man like him, suicide was almost redundant.

Even though all he had to go on were a few handfuls of names, memories, he felt clean. He turned to step off the bridge.

A cab stopped, scuffing its tires in front of him. A familiar woman waved casually from the back seat, and the cabby beckoned him with a swing of his shiny black-haired head. They were expecting him. He was clean and alive and ready, and that counted for something.

On To Chapter Eleven

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