On 17 February,1971, at 0254 hours, the Vagina Police busted Pandora. She was lying on her government-issue Empress bed, and purring as Michelangelo Ben Canaan — statesman, painter, architect, soldier, journalist, boxer, silversmith, gunsmith, blacksmith, and lover rotated his fingertips in her side, under the rib-cage, when the white-robed police lasered the door. They charged her with Improper Orgasm, Section 13 of the Sexual Response Act: “primary rhythmic contractions of more or less than 0.8 seconds apart” (in Pandora’s case, 0.7 seconds). They then wrapped her in platichrome bands, hoisted her to their shoulders, and carried her out to their car.
The operation did not succeed without conflict between the parties involved. Pandora first responded with surprise, not untinged with delight. She had never seen black men before; in her youth she’d Conscientiously Objected from social work in the ghetto and so had passed draft age with her racial curiosity unconsummated. She knew, of course, that the Muskie Doctrine specified exclusive use of Negroes as Vagina Policemen but ordinary citizens rarely encountered the VP.
Ben Canaan, however, was no ordinary citizen. In his lifelong struggle with mechanism he’d encountered black faces many times before. When the bust began he stood up by the side of the bed and glared fiercely at the two policemen.
“We charge you, Pandora, with Improper Orgasm, Section 18 of the Sexual Response Act. You will come with us.”
A vague impression that she knew these men made Pandora feel unreal, disoriented. Such feelings. like being half-awake, had disturbed her all her life. She turned to Michelangelo. “What does he mean?”
But Ben Canaan didn’t hear her, for he sensed a sudden victory. “Section 18?” he said, “You’re sure you haven’t made a mistake? You know, don’t you, that no one’s ever been charged with Section 18 before?”
The police said, “We charge you, Pandora, with Section 18.”
“Hold it.” Ben Canaan grinning, walked up close, obscenely close, to the impassive brown faces. “I think you boys have stretched yourselves a little too far this time.” His penis climbed up and touched a white robe; he stepped back. Pandora, suddenly chill, huddled on the bed.
The police said, “We will now discharge our duty.” They stepped forward in unison.
“Like hell you will. I’m Michelangelo Ben Canaan, senior member of the American Crown Council. I demand you produce evidence.” The Negroes stopped. “Something wrong, boys? Something the captain didn’t tell you?”
The policemen turned a quarter step to look square at Ben Canaan. “We acknowledge your right to examination of evidence.”
“Thank you, gentlemen.”
“Agent 13, come forward.”
Pandora screamed. A little man, less than two inches long, crawled out of her vagina. He was wearing a pinstriped suit — drip dry — and was carrying a micro-mini-film recorder. Ben Canaan frowned; Pandora blinked; the police allowed themselves momentary grins. Pandora said, “How did you get inside my dolly?”
The little man boomed out a surprising baritone: “Your dolly!”
Michelangelo said, “Answer the question.”
“Wasn’t too hard, really. Actually, you see, I climbed in two nights ago. Shot her up with a dose of novocaine so she wouldn’t feel anything to wake her up, then I hoisted myself up her legs and squeezed right in.”
“Oh,” said Pandora, “that’s why I felt so funny. Didn’t I tell you, Angelo, that I felt funny yesterday when I woke up?”
The taller policeman picked up the little man, who’d been floundering on the satin sheets, and placed him on the dresser. “Agent 13,” he said. “Councillor Ben Canaan demands we produce the evidence.” Agent 13 held out a miniscule gloved palm. Ben Canaan, peering closely, could see a tiny cylinder, metal, probably lead.
“Angelo?” said Pandora, “Does he have anything?”
“Is it dangerous?”
“Yes. It’s micro-mini-microfilm.”
Agent 13 said, “You got it, Councillor. Micro-mini-microfilm — with each and every ill-timed response of your sweet lady’s body. Took it myself — at no small risk, I’m sure you’ll agree.” As the little man spoke, the taller cop stepped through the doorway into the hall. He returned shortly, platichrome bands looped on his left arm, a heavy staple gun in his right hand.
“Now that Councillor Ben Canaan has seen the evidence,” he began, and his partner joined in, “We charge you, Pandora, with Improper Orgasm, Section 18 of the Sexual Response Act. Now you will come with us.” Ouickly they wrapped her in the bands.
Very perplexed, Pandora looked to Michelangelo, who now fumbled in his clothes, as if to dress quickly and run away “Angelo, why don’t you stop them? They’re hurting me.”
“I can’t touch the Vagina Police,” he mumbled. “I can’t violate the Muskie Doctrine.” Then he smiled an artist fighter smile. “But I can do this!” His hand leaped from his pants pocket, the fingers curled tight around an oblong plate.
“Watch it!” shouted Agent 1. “He’s got —” Too late for the little bug. His voice rose to a screech, spat for a moment, then cut short as his two inch body tipped over the dresser edge and fell to the floor. The tall policemen dropped Pandora; one of them picked up Agent 13, the other pocketed the microfilm.
“I knew it,” cried Ben Canaan, waving the oblong plate. “He’s not human. He’s a machine. See this? It’s a field disrupter Philiplindustries built it for me; it can drain the life from any machine.” He laughed. “Did you think you’d fool Michelangelo Ben Canaan?”
The tall policeman said, “We fail to see the relevance.”
“The relevance!” Ben Canaan nearly jumped over the bed. “He’s a machine.”
“The microfilm remains the same.”
“But a machine —” He cut short; his face opened up a huge grin. “I think I understand.”
Pandora, even now, could not shake the dreamy feeling. She felt chased by some great beast of truth, a menace more frightening somehow than the bands around her chest. She tried to focus on the real danger.
“Angelo, what’s happening? Are you going to get these things off me?”
Ben Canaan ignored her. “Yes, I understand now. You boys haven’t heard yet about Bill 62, right?”
“Please inform us of Bill 62.”
“Bill 62. The 62nd bill of 1971. My bill. It passed the Crown Council yesterday and the king signed it this morning. It reads like this: no machine may testify against a human being. You got that? I’ll say it again. No machine may testify against a human being. And that includes any evidence gathered by a machine. You can take your microfilm and slap it in your scrapbooks. It can’t be used in court.” Now Michelangelo looked over to Pandora, eager for her love and admiration, but found instead that Pandora stared, solemn and quiet, at the two policemen who now stepped forward in unison.
They said, “We think you had best check the wording of your bill, Councillor”
Ben Canaan cocked an eye. “There’s no loopholes. I wrote that bill very craftily. But I can check it for you if you like.” Keeping his eye off Pandora he crossed to the phone and dialed a numbe..
A crisp voice sounded through the speaker “That number is disconnected.”
“I know. Check my voice print and hurry up about it. This is Michelangelo Ben Canaan.”
“Yes, sir, Mr Ben Canaan.”
After several seconds a metallic sound, arranged to resemble a human voice, said. “You have connected to the Homeostatic Law Library. Your request, please.”
“Has Law 1971-62 gone on tape yet?”
“Read it back to me.”
“Law 1971-62. Primary clause: no human being may testify against a machine. Secondary clause one:”
The small cop’s finger on the phone button broke the connection.
“I think,” he said, “the primary clause will suffice.” Ben Canaan turned a blank face at him, then back at the mouthpiece, still held in his hand, six inches from his face.
“Angelo!” screamed Pandora, “They’re taking me away.” And so they were. The brown arms contrasted handsomely with the platichrome bands as the Vagina Police hoisted Pandora onto their shoulders. “Help me, Michelangelo!” When at last he couldn’t hear her Ben Canaan screamed and dropped the phone, as if the mouthpiece had scorched his hand.
When the turbo-car had whipped along some two hours on roads without street lamps Pandora began to suspect a fearsome secret. They must have left the city for the worker suburbs — why? Did the Vagina Police really house themselves in the country? Would Negroes really live so far from the ghetto “Mother Harlem” as they called it? Perhaps, thought Pandora and her skin tensed against the platichrome, they only pose as Muskie cops. She looked across the circular cab where the uniforms glowed in the soft light.
“Who are you?”
“What do you want with me?”
“You’re not cops. Cops work in the city.”
No answer to anything. She tried to imitate Ben Canaan’s one-time arrogance: “You fellows better tell me right now who you are and where we’re going.”
The brown faces said together, “We cannot talk with you. Such conversation might constitute sacrilege.”
Lord in heaven, thought Pandora, have I been kidnapped by a gang of flaming resurrectionists? She saw the whole plot — they’d dump her on some honky lawn where fifty or five hundred stoop-backed workers would rip apart her body while they growled their honky prayers to their honky gods. “Don’t touch my body!”
And yet, the danger, the whole situation, felt unreal, dream-like. Her entire life seemed a painted cellophane wrapper, sealing in her true self.
Right then the car lurched, causing the cab light to flicker off, on, off again. Moonlight sprayed through the tinted windows. Pandora looked outside.
They’d left the suburbs. She saw it right away she couldn’t believe it. No houses, no lawns, no people at all, not even a road. The car just whooshed along a flat grey nothing. They’d left behind the city, the suburbs, the whole world itself. “Take me back!” she screamed and slammed shut her eyes. The car stopped.
But she couldn’t bear to keep her eyes closed for suppose they grabbed her and threw her from the car? Keep watching, keep their hands off my body, thought Pandora; she opened her eyes.
Right then she thought she’d tumbled into a dream, for sure. Two men not men at all really, sat across from her and smiled benignly. Their faces, blacker than pure onyx, shone with transcendent glows, brighter than the moon, brighter than the soft-spun golden robes flowing from their shoulders to their knees. Faint coronas flickered over their kinky heads. But most remarkable of all — from each back sprouted white feathered wings. A dream, a dream, thought Pandora. As a little girl she’d often dreamt of such men flying with her round and round the house. “Take me home.”
They looked at each other, as if deciding whether or not to speak. At last, two deep liquid voices said. “We certainly intend to.” One winged man leaned over and touched his fingers to the platichrome, whereupon the bands sprung off onto the floor.
“You can’t do that,” said Pandora. “you’re just a dream.” Her voice rose. “Why don’t you let me wake up?” Just then the car roof sprung open and Pandora felt the unobstructed moonlight on her skin. She flailed her arms wildly as if a honky had thrown sand in her face. “Get it off..’
The two men leaned forward: their folded wings rustled as their hands on her shoulders stood her up in the car. When the graceful fingers touched her skin a warm feeling, vibrant like a song inside her body, calmed her, and now she stepped from the car to a field of wild grass. She straightened her shoulders to look around as odd feelings twinged her muscles. Except for a mountain far away the land stretched flat wherever she looked. Her eyes opened wide: she felt she could see out past the world’s edge. Her fingertips stroked her thighs.
“Who are you?” said the Black Angels.
A dream, thought Pandora, just a dream. Now they’ve come to wake me up. “What did you say?”
“Who are you?”
She laughed. “I don’t know.” She understood now: Pandora never was. Time to wake up.
The Angels pointed to the peak, where the sky’d begun to brighten. “Look,” they cried, “He sends us light to match the dawn within you. Remember now and show us who you are.”
He? Whom did they mean? And yet, as pink light touched her skin she realized she knew. Father sent them; He sent the dawn, He sent His angels. And her too, Father had sent her, but she’d fallen into dreams, a false life with false memories and false desires. Time now to wake up. She’d begun to shake but when she stopped herself convulsions siezed the world.
“Hail Mary, Mother of God!”
Mary? Yes! Remember? Yes. Oh blessed memories.
She stretched her arms (translucent skin, ecstatic muscles); her fingers raised the sun (through the angels’ voices hosannas thundered from the earth); the mountain burst afire (two thousand years — melodic wings flutter around her empyreal essence, bedazzled voices ring her lonely radiance); trees ripe with golden peaches sprung from the grass. Back. Back again. Herself.
“Hail the Holy Virgin!”
Mary frowned — then laughed. No sooner herself again then the old foolishness returns. Someday she’d gather the angels and tell the truth (how good to know the truth again) tell them why the Holy Ghost really picked on Little Mary — not at all for purity. Mother Mary remembers now. Once again the mist descends, once again the wild blood burns her thighs. Hail Mary, mistress of God. Oh blessed ecstasy.
“Forgive us our transgressions on your mortal form, O Virgin.”
Through her memories she mumbled,“Forgiven.”
“The Father sent us. He feared you’d forgotten your mission.”
She turned, surprised. Yes, the mission, she had forgotten it. Sadly, Mary abandoned memories for thoughts of duty. There’d been a conference to take action against a beast, a strange creature who lived under Manhattan and each night devoured seven souls. Where the beast came from the Father wouldn’t say, though he called for its annihilation. Mary volunteered, took on Pandora’s mortal flesh (it would not do, the Son argued, for the Virgin to resurrect herself — she hoped the little prig had learned a lesson), and promptly forgot (with Michelangelo Ben Canaan serving her new body) all heavenly thoughts. How cheap, she thought — Ben Canaan, any man, after the Ghost.
“Shall we launch the attack?”
“No,” said Mary, “First we meditate.” So the three sat cross-legged on the ground, their eyes closed, their bodies still. For two weeks the angels meditated on virginity and beastliness. While they thus comported their souls Mary summoned her Ghostly memories to wash through her body wherein she suffered incessant orgasms, each involving contractions 0.7 seconds apart.
The heavenly party left the turbo-car at the suburb’s edge and trod silently back to the city. Mary stayed naked though the angels had offered her a golden robe. Also, she rejected the suggestion they turn invisible so as not to disturb the workers. She liked lascivious stares; she liked to imagine hot odorous mouths.
They had just reached the wall separating the suburbs from the City proper when seven emaciated men leaped from behind bushes to plop bodies face down in the dust at Mary’s feet.
“Who are you? Get out of my way” she said as she wiped her shins.
The leader — a bald man, even more emaciated than the rest, his body cased in a hair shirt (his followers wore rags) — spoke from the dust. “Forgive us, Holy Mother of God, we only wish to serve, to throw our sinful bodies behind you as you fight the Beast.”
“What makes you think I need any help? And who told you about the Beast?” Something about this man greatly annoyed her.
“Pardon us,” said the Angels. Mary turned. “We beg forgiveness but we sent this man a vision. We thought the people should play some part in the holy conflict.”
The leader said, “We pray we don’t offend you, Blessed Mother. We did not mean to imply you need our help. We only beg participation.”
The apology failed to placate Mary. “If you want to help you might tell me who you are.”
The angels said, “They call themselves– ”
“Shut up,” said the Holy Virgin. To the bald man, “Who are you?”
“We call ourselves the Society of Early Christians. We seek to purify our souls from modern decadence. We have thus adopted, in our own pathetic manner those mortifications which so distinguished– ”
“Enough.” For a moment no one spoke or moved. Mary imagined she could smell decay rising from the purified bodies. Then her anger exploded. “Will you get your faces off the ground?”
They scrambled upright and the moment Mary saw Baldhead’s face her anger passed in understanding. “Michelangelo Ben Canaan,” she whispered. “What happened to you? How had such a lovely body come to such a wreck?”
Ben Canaan’s face, once golden with life, now an evil blotch of eczemic red and malnutrition yellow, had shrunk into the bone. When he spoke his mouth struggled to form the words. “You’re…”
“I am not. Forget who you think I am. Tell me what happened.”
“You should know, Blessed Virgin. I’ve joined your ranks of holiness.” For a moment the old Ben Canaan swagger flared up again, then died.
Mary said, “I’ll judge whatever holiness I see. First tell me how you came to this… this purification.”
Ben Canaan blinked, as if he found it hard to relate past fictions with present realities. “You’re right. Of course you’re right. I shouldn’t claim any holiness. Not if I want to get any. I used to claim a lot more for myself. Do you remember all those claims I used to make? How I made myself the people’s champion?” He took a deep breath, Afterwards he spoke more easily. “Not so much as fool, then, as just a sinner I did recognize the conflict: machine-centered world against a man-centered world. But I couldn’t see behind it. No, that’s not right. I didn’t look behind it, because I wanted to believe it was something I could conquer. I wanted to think that I alone determined history. So I made myself the great humanistic hero.”
“I thought you did very well at it.”
“No! No grace. no grace. Don’t you see?”
“Humanism has its place, Michelangelo.”
“Not my kind of humanism, the weak delusion kind, the self-centered kind. I thought I could use machines against themselves. Manipulation, that’s the answer. So I thought. Yes, you’re right. I did do a good job of it. But the machines did a better job of using me. Holy Mother, try to remember”
Mary thought back to her Pandora dream, to Ben Canaan’s sudden anguish when the Homeostatic Law Library said —
“No human being may testify against a machine. That’s not the way I wrote it, but so what? I gave it to machines and let them twist it right back at me.” He sighed. “But that’s not what woke me up. I realized, after the Law Library clicked off, after the cops had left me all alone — the telephone. I was using a machine to talk to another machine. I’d become a bastard machine myself.” The six men behind him shook their bowed heads, sharing through their own memories Ben Canaan’s degradation. But Michelangelo himself tossed back his head like he used to do before a fight. “No hope, no refuge. I prayed. Like no man ever prayed before I prayed to Jesus. Look!” He thrust forward his bald head, almost in Mary’s mouth. “God sent me a sign. All my hair fell out.”
“You used to have such nice hair.”
Ben Canaan started. His head cocked, he looked inward momentarily, then continued his monologue. “God spoke to me through baldness. ‘Only Jesus can save you. And Jesus won’t touch you if you don’t relinquish your fleshy ease and comfort.’ I understood. I thank God for revelation. Since then I’ve lived inside my hair shirt and outside my man-made structures. I’ve eaten nothing but bark peeled from dead trees and drunk nothing but tepid water I pray constantly for God’s strength against my urges.”
“Amen.” muttered his followers.
“Not constantly” said Mary. “You took the time to start an organization.”
Ben Canaan lowered his head — to hide a smile? Perhaps, thought Mary, talking has lubricated his mouth. “I do God’s work as best I can. These men have also seen truth. Together we formed the Society of Early Christians to prepare ourselves for battle.”
All seven men fell to their knees. Michelangelo stayed silent now as his six colleagues implored the Blessed Virgin for acceptance. “Hail Mary. Hail Mary. We beg you, Holy Mother of God, don’t deny unworthy sinners.”
Mary laughed, reached out a fingertip to Michelangelo Ben Canaan’s chin, lifted up his humble face, and said, “How could I deny so proud an advocate?”
For the trek through the city Mary decided they’d best turn invisible after all, not for herself or the angels, but for Ben Canaan and his skinny crew. She felt angered when no Early Christian experimented with his new power. Ben Canaan only marched stolidly forward, his chin humbly tucked into his chest.
Just after they entered the city the Father manifested in a burning automobile to inform them they’d find the Beast in an abandoned sub-cellar under the World Trade Center. They reached the ancient building at noon, only to find it locked shut with a squad of guards — three workers and a robot captain — standing before the doors. A moment’s eavesdropping told them that the city had closed the building for fear of a ghetto attack. Apparently, the police interpreted the piles of bones nightly strewn about the trade center grounds as remnants of Afro-tribal murders.
The Angels looked to Mother Mary. “Blessed Virgin, you’ll have to do something.”
“I suppose so,” said Mary, who felt confused. For some reason her eyes would not focus property; the building appeared to waver.
“If you’ll permit me —” offered Ben Canaan.
“Certainly,” said Mary.
“If the holy servants —” the Angels raised their brows — “would each kiss a worker —”
“Profligate son,” said the Angels. “beware of blasphemy.”
“He’s speaking to me,” said Mary. “I’ll decide.”
Ben Canaan continued, “Then, if they’d run away the squad will follow.”
Mary squinted at him. “I’m not sure.”
“Good enough.” A nod to the angels. “Go.”
The holy servants stayed invisible until a foot away from the guards, then revealed themselves. “Black faces!” cried the robot. “Careful now.”
The honkies raised their guns. “Don’t you boys come no closer,” one said, while another whispered. “Jesus, look at them African get-ups. These must be the leaders.” The two Angels looked at each other, back at Mary, then at the squad; finally, each bent forward and kissed a worker on the cheek.
“Miscegenation!” screamed the robot. The angels leaped back. “Get them.”
“Keep your wings folded,” shouted Ben Canaan. “Stay on the ground.” The Angels ran down the block, the police close behind.
Michelangelo, Mary noticed, as she walked to the plate glass door, now stayed only one step behind her, in contrast to the six paces he’d kept earlier. She had no chance, however, for analysis. A queasiness overcame her as she reached up her hand to the glass. The whole building shimmied and quivered, ran together and dissolved like loose paint. The spasm passed quickly; a moment later Mary’s hand along the glass melted a doorway.
The blessed phalanx passed uneasily, almost embarrassed, through the quiet hall. Mary felt cow fused, less her own mistress than at any time since her death. She could not shake a conviction that nothing of the building really existed. Twice she spun around as if to catch the walls dissolving, but she only caught puzzled looks from the Early Christians. They moved slowly through the different levels. The stairwells were not continuous and all doors looked the same, so that each floor required a search for the passage down to the next one. After twenty minutes they’d only gone down seven levels below the street. On level nine the angels rejoined them and the ten crusaders continued downstairs.
By level eighteen they’d ceased to find any signs of habitation. The office doors had no nameplates, the water fountains didn’t work, no pictures of the king hung on the walls. Level twenty had no offices at all. Chips in the plaster wall showed stone rather than steel and concrete. By now the only light came from the angels’ halos. Still, they found a stairway, but on the next level, a cave-like hallway without even the pretense of plaster, they only found a sign which read, “Universally Restricted Area. No Admittance.”
An Early Christian said to Ben Canaan, “What can we do?”
The leader said, “As humble sinners, nothing. The Holy Mother will find a way.”
They’re all looking at me, thought Mary, they know it all depends on me. And yet, she didn’t want to bother. She wished she could lie flat on the floor, she wished she could surrender to cool vibrations rippling her skin since they’d entered the building. She knew the mission’s importance, yet she could hardly see or hear, let alone take any action. Stand still and close my eyes, she thought. Send them all away. As the world vanished she discovered she could sink the vibrations into her toes, shoot them up her legs, through the calves, thighs, deep inside her — flower petals — lotuses — unfolding — ancient faces smiling — explosions — her breasts exploded — under the skin — explosions feeding back upon themselves — silent thunder —
The Virgin Mary pointed down her hands. Lightning shot from her fingertips and burned a hole in the stone.
“A miracle!” the angels shouted.
“Look!” cried the Early Christians, “The Beast! The Beast!”
Mary tried to look but the more she stared through the hole the more everything shimmered in a purpIe light. She could make out a large head, a steel (!) horn, two bright yellow eyes. Beneath the head a bulky mass squatted some twenty feet below her in a vast cavern. The enemy. She knew she must lead the attack, yet nothing worked right, her ears no better than her eyes. She could hear, as over roaring winds, shouts — Ben Canaan, most likely — but she couldn’t pierce the words together. If she tried looking away, she thought the walls alive, shaking and wheezing like lecherous old men.
Calm. The Blessed Mother closed her eyes. She discovered her hands on her breasts, her elbows tight against her ribs, her knees locked together. Calm. “For maintenance of calm recite a poem…” something Pandora’s mother used to say. But Mary didn’t know any poems; neither she nor Pandora liked poetry, so another desperate moment passed before she thought to mumble, “Hail Mary Mistress of God.”
Whether the prayer, the memory, or something else calmed her Mary couldn’t tell, but her legs spread apart, her arms fell, her hands released her breasts. Suns — explosions — inside her belly spread outwards to the skin. She could see clearly now. She stood all alone above the battle site. The angels, probably directed by Ben Canaan, were flying through the hole while the Early Christians held tight to the holy robes. When they touched bottom, the Angels began to circle the Beast, as if they prepared a complicated offense. The Beast took no notice. Nor did he notice the Early Christians who got down on one knee and then, to Michelangelo’s horror, drew laser guns from inside their rags. While their leader raved of sacrilege the Early Christians maintained a steady fire. Without even a glance at them the Beast lifted up its yellow eyes to Mary.
“Holy Mother of God,” she whispered. Now she understood. The dizziness, the shimmering walls, exploding flesh, aromatic winds. Memories. The long hard steel horn stuck up at her. “You again,” she thought. Then, just the same as two thousand years ago, the universe crumbled — like a sand castle in a hurricane. Oh blessed blessed ecstasy.
Mary leaped through the hole. When the angels saw her float towards them they backed away from the Beast. “The Holy Mother joins the fight.” Ben Canaan knew better; from his Pandora memories he recognized the look on Mary’s face.
As she floated down Mary spread her legs wide apart. The Beast lifted his head. And finally — after two thousand lonely years, twenty frustrated centuries — Mary’s hallowed vagina, with a soft slurp, slid down the steel horn of the Holy Ghost.
The angels tried to scream and failed, tried to shut their eyes and failed, tried to fly away and failed. Forced to watch the wild gyrations the angels disintegrated into heaps of black dust. Their wings somehow remained, flapping wildly of their own accord. When the Early Christians saw the wings they grabbed them — instinctively, for they’d all relieved themselves of sanity — arid flew back through the hole to the sub-cellar. From there they all found their way to the street, and eventually retrieved their sanity in government desk jobs.
Only Michelangelo Ben Canaan stayed behind to witness the Holy Coitus. For two hours he watched them pound and pulse, listened to them groan and scream, until at last the Beast reared up and slouched off, with Mary rising and falling, rising and falling, into the darkness. Where they went Ben Canaan never found out though he suspected the cave tunnel somehow led to Bethlehem. Two more hours passed while darkness watered Michelangelo’s burnt-out brain. Then he stood up, sighed, and began to grope with his hands for a way to get home.
Copyright © 1971 by Rachel Pollack.