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The Helmet of Horror, Page 1

Victor Pelevin


Chapter One

 

  Started by ARIADNE at xxx p. m. xxx xxx BC GMT

  I shall construct a labyrinth in which I can lose myself, together with anyone who tries to find me - who said this and about what?

  :-)

  Organizm(-:

  What's going on? Is there anyone there . . . ?

  Romeo-y-Cohiba

  I'm here.

  Organizm(-:

  So what's going on round here?

  Romeo-y-Cohiba

  Your guess is as good as mine.

  Organizm(-:

  Ariadne, are you there?

  Romeo-y-Cohiba

  Who's she?

  Organizm(-:

  She started this thread. Seems this isn't the Internet, just looks like it. You can't link to anywhere else from here.

  Romeo-y-Cohiba

  xxx

  Organizm(-:

  Hello! If anyone can read this, please answer.

  Nutscracker

  I can read it.

  Organizm(-:

  Who posted the first message?

  Nutscracker

  It's been up on the board a long time.

  Romeo-y-Cohiba

  How can you tell? There's no date on it.

  Nutscracker

  I saw it three hours ago.

  Organizm(-:

  Attention, roll-call. There's just Nutcracker, Romeo and me here, is that right?

  Romeo-y-Cohiba

  That's right.

  Nutscracker

  At least, we're the only ones who want to join in.

  Romeo-y-Cohiba

  Right, so there are three of us here.

  Nutscracker

  But where is here exactly?

  Organizm(-:

  How do you mean?

  Nutscracker

  Quite literally. Can you describe where you are now? What is it - a room, a hall, a house? A hole in someone's xxx?

  Romeo-y-Cohiba

  Well I'm in a room, anyway. Or a cell, I can't tell which is more correct. Not very big. Green walls, white ceiling lamp. A bed by one wall and by the opposite wall a desk with the keyboard I'm typing on right now. The keyboard is attached rigidly to the desk. Above the desk there's an LCD screen set in the wall behind thick glass. That's where all these letters appear. It's impossible to break, I tried already. The room has two doors, one made of strange, blackish-green metal. It's locked. There's a raised section in the middle of it. The other door's made of wood, painted white, and it leads into a bathroom. It's open.

  Organizm(-:

  I've got the same as Romeo. A locked metal door with some kind of relief design on it. A hotel-style bathroom with soap, shower gel and shampoo on the shelf under the mirror. Everything in packaging marked with a strange symbol - something like a little cogwheel. So where are you, Nutcracker?

  Nutscracker

  In the same kind of room. I think the door's made of cast bronze. But Organism, the symbol on the soap looks more like a star than a cogwheel. In fact it looks like the symbol they use in books for a footnote. It's even on the loo paper, every sheet.

  Romeo-y-Cohiba

  So we're all in the same hotel. Let's try knocking on the walls. Can you hear anything?

  Organizm(-:

  No.

  Nutscracker

  Me neither.

  Organizm(-:

  I'll try knocking on the door, listen.

  Romeo-y-Cohiba

  I can't hear a thing.

  Organizm(-:

  So how did we get here?

  Romeo-y-Cohiba

  Personally speaking, I haven't got the slightest idea. How about you, Organism?

  Organizm(-:

  I just woke up here wearing this pooftah's housecoat with nothing underneath it.

  Nutscracker

  It's not a housecoat. It's a chiton - the kind of tunic the ancient Greeks used to wear, so I won't take issue with your opinion of it. I don't think they wore any underclothes either.

  Romeo-y-Cohiba

  It's a good job it's warm in here then.

  Organizm(-:

  So, maybe you remember how you got here, Nutcracker?

  Nutscracker

  No, I don't.

  Romeo-y-Cohiba

  Why have you two got such odd names - Organizm, Nutscracker?

  Nutscracker

  Well, why have you got such an odd name, Romeo? Is your cohiba really such a whopper?

  Romeo-y-Cohiba

  I suppose that depends whose you compare it with. And anyway, it wasn't me who invented the name. It just appears on the screen when I send a message. I'm not Romeo, I'm xxx. A professional xxx, if anyone's interested.

  Organizm(-:

  Porn business? Socially significant work. You and I are almost colleagues, Romeo - I'm a xxx. I used to work at xxx. com, so I'm temporarily out of a job. But there's not much danger of that for you.

  Romeo-y-Cohiba

  How did the porn business get mixed up in all this? And what are all these x's?

  Nutscracker

  That's not the first time they've appeared. It's the censor. Someone's monitoring our conversation. And he doesn't like it when we try to exchange information about who we really are. Or start swearing.

  Romeo-y-Cohiba

  Hey, you, whoever you are! I demand that you allow me to contact my family immediately! And the xxx embassy!

  Nutscracker

  What makes you think there's a xxx embassy here?

  Romeo-y-Cohiba

  There's a xxx embassy everywhere.

  Nutscracker

  Are you sure? What if we're in xxx?

  Organizm(-:

  Apparently you guys can understand each other without words. But I don't understand what the xxx embassy is, and where xxx is, if there's no xxx embassy there. And what the xxx you want it for anyway.

  Monstradamus

  Hi there, is it okay if I join in your discussion?

  Organizm(-:

  Who are you, Monstradamus?

  Monstradamus

  xxx. I live in xxx and I'm a xxx.

  Romeo-y-Cohiba

  Perhaps you ought to try something a bit more original?

  Monstradamus

  I've read all the messages on this thread. I'm in the same situation, the same room, the same fancy getup. And I don't remember how I got here, either.

  Nutscracker

  So now we are four. That's nice.

  Organizm(-:

  What's so nice about it?

  Nutscracker

  Maybe more will turn up soon. The more heads we have, the better our chances of coming up with something.

  Organizm(-:

  And what if we've simply died?

  Nutscracker

  Don't panic! Dead people don't hang around in chat rooms.

  Organizm(-:

  We don't know that for a fact. Maybe that's all they can do.

  Romeo-y-Cohiba

  If this is the afterlife, then I for one am disappointed.

  Nutscracker

  Let's discuss the situation. I suggest we don't take Organism's hypothesis about the afterlife into consideration.

  Organizm(-:

  Then maybe it's a dream?

  Romeo-y-Cohiba

  Pinch yourself. Maybe you'll wake up. I tried already, it didn't work.

  Nutscracker

  Right, so everybody has a bronze door. Let's try figuring out the design on that door. It's a figure like a rectangle with the upper and lower edges bent inwards and the sides bent outwards.

  Organizm(-:

 
It looks like a bat. Or the Batman symbol.

  Romeo-y-Cohiba

  I reckon it's a double-headed axe.

  Organizm(-:

  Maybe it's just decoration, without any meaning. But Romeo saying it looks like an axe has made me think so too. The fascists used to have axes like that - or was it the ancient Romans?

  Monstradamus

  If it is an axe, it's much older than Rome. They used to have axes like that in Crete and ancient Egypt.

  Organizm(-:

  Are you a historian then, Monstradamus?

  Monstradamus

  No. I'm a xxx.

  Organizm(-:

  Hey, that's right. I forgot.