By Paul Dewalt

The longing for Paradise is man's longing not to be a man.
----Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Felix (F001) woke up at 6:00 a.m., as he did everyday.

"The usual today, Brother F001?" the Mood Monitor next to his bed said.

He always had butter pecan, his favorite flavor, but today felt like chocolate or rocky road. "Yeah, give me the usual," he said anyway, and the medicinal dispenser immediately dribbled out a creamy foam into a tupperware cup. "Well ... bottoms up."

After finishing his drink, he layed his hand on top of the bathroom scanner: the bathroom unit folded out, and the bedroom unit folded in. Once inside the bathroom he hurried to the toilet and undamned a flood of swampy urine in the bowl. A flag flipped up, the toilet trap opened, and the suds whooshed through the plumbing with anal-retentive conviction.

"Aaaah, Lord."

"Better take a supplement, Brother F001: the ph is slightly off," the bathroom Mood Monitor said.

"If you think it's best," Felix replied.

Felix didn't question the Mood Monitor; he never questioned anything. It was the medicine: the medicine everybody on the whole planet took in the year 2111, the medicine that turned everybody's brain into an obedient and malleable play-dough.

After his shower Felix repeated his earlier palm scanner-unfold/fold routine, except this time the kitchen replaced the bathroom. The neutronic food unit activated, and Felix's breakfast--an egg/ham/gravy turd--started cooking, transmuting itself vaguely into the semblance of a food group.

"I think I'll skip breakfast today ... I don't feel hungry."

"And after the trouble I went to," the kitchen Mood Monitor said. "Shame on you."

Felix felt guilty, though slightly less than usual.

The kitchen Mood Monitor sensed Felix hadn't felt enough guilt either. "Maybe you better spend extra time this morning with Bible Bob--."

"Excuse me, but I have to use the bathroom again," Felix said, reversing the unfold/fold sequence.

Felix tapped his bladder again into the toilet.

"Aaaah, Lord, have mercy."

"Well, the color's better this time. Pick a number from one to ten."


"Okay, you're fine. Now hurry to your bible lesson.

Felix went back into the kitchen.

"Aren't we the rude one. And what do we have to say for ourself?"

"Forgive me, kitchen Mood Monitor, for I have sinned...."

"That's better ... now let's open our bible pac and, if we aren't interrupted this time--"

"Forgive me, for I have sinned...."

"--start today's lesson."

Felix flipped the lid open on his portable bible, and placed palm over the scanner.

"Good morning, Brother F001 ... Have we taken our medicine today, Brother F001?"

"Yes and yes, Bible Bob."

"Whale then, let's get started. Today's lesson is: The Evils of Fornication and Masturbation."

The medicine kicked in totally now; Felix felt like he'd just been kicked in the balls.

"Now, Brother F001, tell me ... Brother bed Mood Screen tells me Barney was exercising last night during sleep cycle. What can you tell me about what Barney doesn't like, Brother F001?"

"That he doesn't like to be touched."

"And ... we must respect ..."

"... Barney's private space ..."

"... and his right to say ..."

"... "NO!" to touching that makes him feel uncomfortable ..."

"... and his desire to say ..."

"... "YES!" to godly cleanliness ..."

"... and the grace ..."

"... HE grants to sinners who humble themselves in his ..."

"... omnipotent shadow...."

Barney hung like a wet noodle in Felix's pants.

On his way home from work on Saturday, Felix stopped at the Religious Reproduction Clinic. The 1100th floor tramport platform next to the clinic was almost deserted, except for a few patrols of Witness and Proclaimer policemen and their pitborgs, who helped sniff out Immunents and assisted with other search-and-seizure operations. Most people were still at work, but Felix occasionally left work early on Saturday, as was the case today, for religious reproduction services. Someone had to overpopulate the already 30 billion-peopled planet, and since Felix was one of the select few with his nuts still intact (a genetic scan at birth determined that he had a sweet singing voice, and the church choir always needed good bottom, namely, baritone and bass), he had to make the necessary concessions to posterity and donate sperm in the eroti-profusion ceremony, which, actually, he enjoyed (however briefly and guilty he was made to feel about it)--and not just because he was contributing to the stated population objectives of the Barefoot and Pregnancy Acts.

Felix stepped into the stained-glassed archway, above which was carved: GIVE TILL IT HURTS, and entered the door. The motto wasn't specifically directed toward him, but to the women, who were required to produce five children. An acolyte with a contemptuous Mood Monitor-induced sneer sat at the reception desk. She gave him a latex overcoat for Barney and the ceremonial vestments he was required to wear.

"First left, take a right, first room on the right," she said, and looked at him as though he were a pustule of bilious phlegm.

"Forgive me, for I have sinned ..."

Felix was on his knees in the ceremonial eroti-profusion booth,

"... but he who shall populate the earth in HIS image shall ..."

and there were two Mood Monitors: the one Felix was with now was the Solemn Confession -Slash- Repentance Mood Monitor, which made him now feel guilty, dirty, and otherwise the utmost in defilement and fecal excrement; the other one cast a seamy red glow and had an eye goggle mounted on its side with a long springy cord jacked into a port next to the ceremonial altar,

"... not receive eternal damnation for spilling thy seed on the ground ...,"

and Felix mounted the altar, mouthing the ritual incantation along with the Solemn Confession -Slash- Repentance Monitor,

"... but he who walks in the path of the lord ...,"

he put the goggles on,

"... shall receive not damnation ...,"

he watched the harlot Bathshebas lick, moan, grind, and groan, "... but life eternal...."

and ten seconds later Felix spoke in tongues, convulsed in cathartic rapture, and collapsed in a puddle of divine afterglow.

A moment later he awoke to the ubiquitous kick in the balls, raised himself off the altar, placed his hand over the medicinal dispensary unit, and agreed to the "butter pecan, Brother F001?" interrogative, though he definitely felt like vanilla today.

Go figure.

Felix lifted one of the disposable tupperware cups stacked next to the altar and deposited Barney's latex overcoat in it, fastened a lid on it (and burped it) then dropped it off with the receptionist and went home.

He played church bingo with the living room Mood Monitor until all his money credits were gone. "It all goes to a good cause, Brother F001," his bingo companion said.

After his third medicinal supplement that day, Felix couldn't have agreed more.

On Monday Felix was refreshed, eager to get back to his normal sixteen hour, Monday-Friday, twelve hours on Saturday work week. The ten continuous hours of singing in the choir the day before revitalized both body and soul. His balls were a bit sorer than usual from bed, bathroom, and kitchen Mood Monitors, and he no longer even liked butter pecan. Still, getting out and about in the work place made him forget all this: there was always plenty of distracting work to keep him busy.

Felix operated a medicinal relay terminal for his Parish quadrant--section G on his work Mood Monitor--and he'd had an especially busy past week. A band of demons (Satan's Minions, his Spiritual Occupation Overload said) were hindering medicinal production and distribution by bombing relay substations. Felix had to be more diligent than ever if any of the blinking lights he stared at all day on his work Mood Monitor flickered or disappeared.

Next to Felix, along the panel of work Mood Monitors sat Sister Bethany (B252), a ZERO population growth trainee, young, "An eager beaver," she said in passing one day while chatting around the medicinal dispensary unit.

"... And why I'm assigned here," she continued, "I wasn't blessed with the seed from my Religious Reproduction Clinic."

"Oh, my goodness," the other sisters said, and then totalled up their combined contribution to overpopulation. "But don't you worry, darling ... the kind elders will send you away to a birthing retreat in a few months if you haven't received god's blessing by then. While chattering among themselves, though, they had to confess that they didn't know the success rate for birthing retreat attendees, having never seen or spoken to any.

Felix, for his part, only heard bits and pieces of these conversations between his trips to the toilet, but he hoped Sister Bethany would succeed and not have to leave the parish quadrant. She had had a strange effect on him since her arrival: he had more trouble focusing his eyes on his work Mood Monitor; he had hallucinations of her where she was among the harlot Bathshebas from the eroti-profusion booth, licking, moaning.... And his balls felt like ping pong balls inside a church lotto tumbler when he was around her.

After work Felix paused in front of the Religious Reproduction Clinic on his walk to the tramport, gazed through the pane glass door; the same acolyte sister sat at the reception desk, and whose fetid, foul memory of him, he could see from her expression, hadn't changed.

Felix's window peeping prompted a visit from two patrolling Witness and Proclaimer police, summoned, no doubt, by her, and now on both sides of him, their pitborgs sniffing profusely for biopharmocological excrement from the pores of his body, or the lack thereof. While the pitborgs backed him against the wall and blocked any possible escape route, slobbered on his feet, eyes beaded on his own, one of the police officers detached a portable Mood Monitor from his utility belt; the other officer prepared a generic police-issue medicinal pack.

"Open," the generic-police-issue-medicinal-pack officer said, and Felix tasted butter pecan and a hint of hydrolyzed soybean on his tongue. He felt guilty, and a vice gripped his balls. "Fill this," and Felix relieved himself in a Portapee and handed it to the officer with the portable Mood Monitor. "Ph acceptable.... One more test for good measure."

And Felix was again a bouncing ping pong ball.

After work the next day Felix saw Sister Bethany standing on the tramport platform waiting for the 10:20, and home from work. From behind, Felix gazed at the fall of robe over her hips, high and jutting, her buttocks, ripened and expansive. She appeared to him as a dangling pear--those that he'd remembered as a child from the picture bible stories with Bible Bob, with Adam and Eve buried in lush orchards and vines of fruit--something to be eaten.

As the tramport slid into the station, Felix inched closer and greeted her pleasantly.

"Good evening, Sister Bethany B252."

"Good evening, Brother Felix F001," she replied.

And as the tram car doors opened Felix positioned himself directly behind her so that when the car filled, snug and Standing Only, he was squeezed against her. Ordinarily, Felix avoided a circumstance like this, as it was customary for men in situations like this to find their balls on the receiving end of a arduous and unpleasant journey home, as Felix, himself, knew on occasion, when Barney'd unintentionally found himself buried in the opened petal of a sister's buttocks. Now, however, Felix had felt no such disincentive, and, in fact, intentionally aligned Barney in said previous position, Barney seemingly commanding him to do so. Barney, for his part, became quite animated, especially with the steady vibrating hum of the tram, and Felix handed full navigational control over to him.

"Excuse me, Brother Felix F001," Sister Bethany said, "for this sinful transgression upon you."

"Bless you, Sister Bethany B252, for your kindness and concern ..." He sighed, his body shivered, "... Bl-e-e-ss-ed are the merciful! ... bl-e-e-ss-ed are the merciful!...."

When Felix pees the next morning, his urine stream is clear and the Urine-Test Flag lies still; the bathroom Sensation Screen doesn't voice a blessing, either. Instead, a piercing sound and pain in his head crumbles him unconscious to the floor. When he awakens, two Theocratic Witness and Proclaimer Guards are towering over him; two pitborgs are panting and drooling on his face, shoulders, chest, and arms. His wrists and legs feel numb, and a paralysing retractable baton/vise clamps them together securely. His head pounds, he's dizzy, but his mind is clear, de-fogged and unfettered, as if awake after a long sleep.

"What in heaven--!" His mouth stops mid-sentence. His mind and body sees, hears, and feels, but his voice won't follow his commands.

"You are to report for ministerial counseling ... a vacation of spiritual revitalization and purification has been prescribed by the Council of Elders."


"I'm afraid so, Brother F001--Brother Felix: there's no reason to be formal here at the Spiritual and Biological Fellowship Ministry ... we're all friends. And you are to worry, either, because soon we'll have you feeling as good as new. You're here for a much needed rest."

"Actually, Brothers, except for a headache, I've never felt better ... perhaps a little confused--my mind and body seem to have taken on a life of their own--"

"Yes, Brother Felix, we know ... which is why you are here.

"Notice the symptom-free responses: alert, personality digression, cognitive un-disassociation."

"Yes, normal EEG functions, pre-addiction dopamine levels, associated serotonin elevation."

"What do you think happened?"

"I don't know, but if this isn't a random anomaly...."

"I shudder at the thought."

"We'll have to do a system diagnostic ... a mapping.... We've got our work cut out for us."

"Yes ... shall we proceed then, brother."

"Pictures? Music?"

"Yes, Brother Felix. It's part of your treatment ... now just lie there and relax...."

Rip Goner's detail milled around the elevator testing subcutaneous Comm.Bio-links, performing last-minute weapon diagnostics. The adrenalin charge from the soldiers buzzed Rip's own Primalnode; the signal was strong and everybody pumped with heightened animal tension: it was the usual pre-hunt rush.

"Listen up, pussies (no offense, Fox)." They laughed, Rip's nodes measured the emotional shift (it was his job to loosen his troops--it maximized their combat efficiency, upped the survival-rate quotient). "... you know the drill: standard diversionary strike posture, A-Team; infiltration, apprehension, rendezvous, B-Team...."

But it wasn't routine Search-Rescue, and Rip knew his troops knew it--knew he was lying. The hushed whispers throughout the KamiCorp substation were palpable; it was impossible to dismiss Trox Luger's arrival and the speculation it aroused. Intelligence secrets Rip had known now for days--intelligence on the target he and his troops were about to secure. It was just as well, this shroud of mystery, Rip thought: it'd keep his men alert.

The subject was a machine-operator, a drone. Simulations spotted a paradigm shift. A female operative reported it: "Dry-humped me," she said, and Intelligence verified his "medicinal" schedule. The doctors wanted him--"NOW!" was how they said it.

"Okay, maggots ... let's move out--I don't wanna miss my afternoon spot of tea.


Summary: The bioscopic analysis of the patient is negative, that is, there is no trace of the addictive pharmocological life form, which I speculate is the result of a naturally evolved immunity factor, as yet un-isolated.

M. Carbon {EXIT}.

When Trok Luger entered the medical bay containment field, Felix was sculpting his food into shapes with his fork, playing with it child-like. Luger sat, facing him, on an adjacent examination table two meters away, observing. Dr. Carbon was working with some blood and tissue samples, and half-watching/listening from across the room.

"Felix, my name is Trok Luger--my friends call me Trok. And I hope we can be friends, Felix. Do you think we can become friends, Felix?"

"I don't see why not, Brother Luger. What parish are you with?"

"Just call me Trok, Felix ... and I--we--aren't with a parish, Felix."

"Everybody's with a parish."

Luger and Carbon glanced at each another.

"Not everybody, Felix."

Luger stood and walked over to a medical bay microscope. He punched a four-digit number on its console, and a cartridge loaded onto the viewing platform.

"Come, take a look."

Felix gazed at the image projected across the magnification monitor, confused.

"What is that?"

"It's Paradise in a cup."


Luger loaded another cartridge.

"Now look at this. Do you see any difference?"

"The first one had more squiggly things?"

"That's right ... that's the Paradise in the Cup."

"I don't understand any of this."

"What you see, Felix, is how blood looks like when it's made to look many times bigger. The second picture is your blood."

"That's my blood?"

"Yes, and you'll notice it doesn't have any of the--"

"Squiggly things?"

"That's right, Felix ... the squiggly things. Only your blood once had the squiggly things, too."

"Is that good or bad?"

"We believe it's good it doesn't, Felix, and we--me and the doctor--want to learn why."


"Because everybody else has the squiggly things in their blood except you--that is, except me and the doctor and other people like us (but that's a different story). If we can find out why, then maybe we can make people well."

"Because the squiggly things make them sick?"

"Yes, your Ministers control your mind with them. Come, let me show you something."

Trok led Felix outside the medical bay door, turned left, and went down a long, brightly lit corridor. On the walls were murals of lush nature scenes: animals, men, women, and children frolicked in meadows, sat on picnic blankets with bowls of fruit, milk, and honey, innocence and purity embalmed over their faces.

"Very pretty," Felix said.

"Yes, isn't it?"

"Reminds me of Bible Bob picture stories as a child."

At the end of the corridor was an elevator. A mural covered it, too: a gate, winged angels hovering about it, one holding a remote control in his hand and finger at the ready.

Trok opened the doors. Inside the elevator on the back wall the gates were spread wide open, and a pathway narrowed to the horizon. A voice spoke: "BOARD HERE FOR THE EDEN EXPRESS. ALL PASSENGERS MUST TAKE THEIR MEDICINE BEFORE LOADING THE EDEN EXPRESS. AN ASSORTMENT OF FLAVORS ARE AVAILABLE FOR YOUR PLEASURE ..."

"Look around you, Felix, and what do you see? Everybody with a smile, playing, beautiful scenery, animal companions, bountiful food ...


"You can't have this, Felix ... "


"Everybody looks so happy."

"Yes, don't they?"


"I don't understand any of this."

"I know you don't. But I want you to visit here everyday, and, in time I think you will."


Luger shut the door. He put his arm across Felix's shoulder, turned them both away from the elevator, and walked back down the corridor.

Copyright by Paul Dewalt "paul dewalt"

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