Get different — that’s the motto of the Salon Postisme. The Salon occupies the irregular spaces between what easily could be and what can never be. It is an array of vectors crossing an indistinct N-dimensional frontier into a multiverse of alternate realities, each diverging from the mundane by the merest of imaginings. The Salon Postisme is a suite of fictions: here are seven.
In the Days Before the Reckoning
Escorted by an unconventional guide, a handful of outliers embark on a pilgrimage into the wilderness where, through an uncertain alchemy, obscurity is turned to legend.
“Get Different” – printed on a weathered index card, the invitation lures a select if idiosyncratic clientele up the long narrow stairway to the Salon Postisme. After nearly bleeding out onstage, a hemophiliac body artist immerses himself in an ancient ritual for freeing the “clotters” of the world. A high-priced corporate consultant risks his career to identify the Double Outlier, destined to change the world in this generation, for better or worse. A college student searches the mad-genius father she’s never met – or is she an impostor, a covert operative tasked with stealing his plans for building a powerful but enigmatic device code-named “The Icon”? An elegant and sophisticated fundamentalist divorcée crosses the frontier into the realms of the unchosen, where the daughters of men consort with the sons of the gods. Stephen Hanley, new Proprietor of the Salon, offers his clients neither happiness nor success but a guided tour of the Abyss. When one of the impossibly wealthy attendees at a mountaintop debauch pursues his covert obsession with a lovely barkeep, the fates of the Salon’s clients and its Proprietor become as inextricably intertwined, and as self-devouring, as the braided gold Ouroboros chain encircling the barista’s throat.
An unsuccessful writer attains a level of creative genius that might not be his own.
After an abandoned career, a failed marriage, and a disheartening foray into authorship, Bud is headed toward the end of the line. Is it chance or fate that veers him onto the Via Oscura, a convoluted trail that loops into a snake that eats its own tail? On this sort of Pilgrimage the end comes just before the beginning, the last stop proves to be Station Zero. A hypnotic three-way tryst in a lush private railway carriage leaves Bud stranded in an underground station, oscillating between the eternal return and the Tomb World. In a subterranean chamber with no floor and no walls he chronicles the recovered memories of the gods, who have forgotten that they created the universe. On the move again, Bud enters through the gates of a medieval town transformed into a hive for the international elite, a grand central Station in the systematic quest for apotheosis that is Pilgrimage Inc. Having become a famous writer seemingly overnight, Bud charts a new course with the ambivalent aid of an old hand from the early days of the Salon Postisme.
A self-proclaimed portalist and a hypothetical explorer of alternate realities, Ulrich Daley has trouble venturing outside of his own house – until a mystical realtor comes to call.
Even though he’s anointed himself a Proprietor of the Salon Postisme and turned his spare bedroom into a Laboratory for conducting thought experiments, Ulrich Daley remains a misfit loser. He can barely make heads or tails of his own ideas, which for years he has been recording in his big three-ring Portality Notebook. Ulrich strives mightily to attain a grand synthesis, leading ultimately to the invention of a practical vehicle for achieving portalic transport across space and time. But Ulrich is not a practical sort of fellow, and everything seems to conspire against him: his three-way floor lamp, his espresso machine, and especially his next-door neighbor Mel, who inflicts upon Ulrich his alter ego as Prop O’Gandhi. Eventually it becomes evident to Ulrich that his own house has become corrupted, by everything from dead raccoons in the chimney to the Face, who from the bathroom mirror directs its unwavering gaze just over Ulrich’s left shoulder. One day Prop Immo shows up at Ulrich’s front door – a realtor who represents neither the buyers nor the sellers but the houses themselves. She takes Ulrich on a surreal walk-through of a protean house she represents. During their labyrinthine drive back to his house, Prop Immo imparts to Ulrich her portalic wisdom of “real properties.” At last, with the unlikely assistance of a backhoe, a portal opens up for Ulrich, his family, and his house. Will the portal transport them to an alternate reality, or will it dig them deeper inside Ulrich Daley’s troubling world?
Carrying a suspicious parcel and an envelope stuffed with cash, a courier embarks on a cross-country road trip in the company of an enigmatic dancer.
At the end of an ordinary workday, a courier employed by an east coast Pilgrimage Station discovers a surprise in his inbox: an unlabeled parcel and an envelope full of hundred dollar bills. Another courier has gone missing, having evidently joined the Insurgency, a shadowy network notorious for practicing extortion as performance art. Did she, under duress, expect the Courier to complete a delivery that she could not? Bound by the Code, he does not reveal his secret cargo either to his colleagues or to the top brass at Pilgrimage HQ a thousand miles west. He continues his westward drive to the mountains, making deliveries to the purported legal advisor for the Insurgency and to the Host, whose wealthy associates have previously been targeted by the Insurgency. Accompanied by a protégée of the Host’s known as the Dancer, the Courier heads south to the Cantina, a desert roadside shrine celebrated continually by an itinerant congregation of flagellants. When the Courier and the Dancer are commissioned to make a delivery to the elusive mastermind of the Insurgency – a mission they suspect of being an entrapment scheme – the two travelers improvise a zigzag flight through uncharted regions of the American southwest. After the Dancer’s identity is revealed, the Courier himself becomes the recipient of the keys for unlocking secrets that link the Pilgrimage, the Insurgency, and the Salon Postisme.
The Dream Artist’s Tale
In the company of an elegant and enigmatic Hollywood dream artist, a disillusioned secular guru undertakes a pilgrimage to retrace the footsteps of his protégé, who without explanation has walked away from celebrity into hermetic obscurity.
The trail begins in a less-than-glamorous backwater of the French Côte d’Azur, where Mrs. Dervain lures Stephen Hanley out of his self-imposed exile. The object of their pilgrimage is Miguel Obispo, a young former performance artist who, under the influence of scientist-turned-mystic Doc Karas, has been transformed into a reluctant messiah. At the height of his celebrity Miguel stepped off a train at the Barcelona station and walked back into obscurity. Now, commissioned by an elite international cadre of followers called The Fellowship, Mrs. Dervain and Stephen Hanley set out to follow Miguel’s solitary path. Winding through space and time, the trail leads them across old Europe to a remote and ancient hilltop village in southern Italy. Is it choice or fate that brings them to this unlikely end of the line? Is even the most relentless pursuit of individual vision controlled by a collective Will that remains forever inscrutable even to itself? An ultramodern boardroom overlooking a medieval ruin, the illuminated alleyways of Dead Malls Limited, a candle-lit grotto – these are the last stations on Stephen Hanley’s personal Via Oscura.
The Passion of the Void
For the esoteric residents of the Scriptorium, the decommissioning of their remote outpost on the Pilgrimage Trails marks the beginning of an alternative Via Dolorosa that traverses alternative pasts and ominous futures.
As Proprietor of the Scriptorium, Bud presides over an assortment of idiosyncratic and solipsistic writers experimenting with methods for communicating with the gods. Now Pilgrimage HQ, dissatisfied with the Scriptorium’s return on investment, has sent the corporate hatchet man to shut them down. Their halfhearted resistance having failed, the residents become resigned to the inevitable until a series of unexpected visitors usher them into the underground. Cobbled together by homeless people from junk and spare parts, the underground offers a perfect refuge: climate controlled, well stocked with supplies, out of plain sight, and continually expanding its network of glowing musical tunnels to meet the growing need. The tunnels are also riddled with fleeting glimpses of divergent pasts and traversed by couriers bearing dispatches from a forbidding future. Is the tunnel complex a device, an organism, a god, an alternate universe? Or are the tunnels the collective magnum opus of the Scriptorium, a deus ex machina transporting a band of obscure creators through the Apocalypse into legend, along with whoever and whatever in their imagined worlds they deem worthy of redemption?
The Seven Creations
Amid a convivial cabal of the distant past – or the distant future – a crafty old vagabond exegetes the creation of the universe.
The Sage is a collector of creation stories. When after timeless wanderings across uncharted frontiers he returns to the postmedieval Salon, the old man engages in an extended conversation with the resident theologians. To his skeptical interlocutors he reveals the literal truth of the Biblical creation narrative, hidden in plain sight since the foundation of the earth. Not God but men created the universe, the Sage affirms. Knowledge, meaning, history, culture, man, the gods – a sixfold creation unfolds itself within that legendary six-day interval. And is not a seventh creation revealed in the unnamed Narrator’s eyewitness account – the creation of creation itself? On the seventh day the Sage departs, his own creation entrusted to another nameless Witness. She vows to bear it across the Apocalypse to the remaining outposts, heralding the remote possibility of a different creation emerging amid the vacuous clutter of the Void. In the Ouroboros that is the Salon Postisme, this seventh fictional installation – the postscript, the day of rest – is also the zeroth, in its inchoate potentiality hovering just before the beginning…
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On the blog’s sidebar I’ve put links to the first chapters of each of the seven “movements” in the Salon Postisme Suite.