8 – Revolution

Adolescents were hanging from the lampposts like lice. Crowds camped out on the Place de la Concorde simply wearing bags over their heads with “defeat” scribbled on them in crayon.  Others jogged in place shadow-boxing, trying to get in shape though malnutrition had wasted them to toothpicks.  Many burned newspaper scraps and disassembled chairs to badly reproduced sketches of the Virgin, praying on the pavement.   Still others robbed such shrines of firewood, and lifted every flammable scrap, strapping them to bundles on their backs, to smoke or burn out the enemy.  Behind them, great misfit mobs staged small parades and lunatic demonstrations: fire-eaters marched naked determined to seduce the invaders into inaction, and so save France.  They watched a pied piper prototype who claimed hypnotic power to make his followers invisible.  There were public suicides.  The recruits saw the darker side of Anarchy when an unemployed waiter wearing his old apron plunged from the Arc de Triomph with a stone tied to his left leg, blindfolded by a French flag.   On his way down he struck two “traitors” swinging from telephone wire.

They avoided a procession of out-of-work cooks carrying butcher knives to the outskirts.  Eventually, while fending off a mob pushing car wrecks, who tried to enlist them in erecting a barricade to protect Paris, they stumbled into a beggar woman who cried out that her husband just died of pneumonia.  She had apparently saved a pistol and one bullet.  Fumbling with it just as Undine passed by, with Ulrike at her elbow, the two beautiful girls felt obliged to stoop and persuade the widow to live.  She jerked her arm away.  Refusing to hear their pleas, she squirmed over the pavement closer to her husband, and successfully shot herself.  The shot frightened a pack of dogs being dragged along by an old man, wearing a bleached dog-skull cap.  He proclaimed he had collected strays all over Paris, and that he was a prophet and not the so-called legendary Diogenes rumored to have defended the homeless in Berlin.  He declared he never fed the dogs so they would devour the incoming army.

Ulrike cried out in despair when the dogs broke away, and scrambled barking after them.  The old man waving his skullcap fell behind, hollering.  The dogs were too malnourished to attack.  The man too old to run.  Slowly outdistancing their master, the dogs trailed pitifully behind the recruits but eagerly their way.  Just as the recruits could see the first huge crowds listening to street orators lining the Seine, the dogs caught up with the real Diogenes, and he was damned if he could not lose them.

“Smelled ham on our pants.” Vlasav remarked, dropping back to shield Ulrike. Ulrike’s five senses were scrambled by the noise and disorganized suffering around her.  She wished to take time to help bury the widow and her husband, stop and help every sufferer she could hear.  The streets. city, the air itself — seemed wounded to her.

Diogenes petted a wolfhound limping up, offering it the last of a hambone.  Unfazed by the chaos, Diogenes joked: “One bone for revolution, one feast for a stray.”

“Can’t make a revolution on an empty stomach.”  Rupert stooped to pet a basset-shepherd mutt, vaguely reminding him of his own dog, Virgil.

“Can’t make revolution without one.”  Vlasav smiled.

“What revolution?”  Claude gasped,“This is Atavism!  Neb’s already ruined Paris.”

“Did you expect a masqued ball? A pageant? “ Undine huffed, then tried to explain,  “It’s still somnambulistic but it’s been …. whipped up … like a cyclone in a dream.”

“Like a bedspin!  And look at you … filthy with dog mange!”  Claude reproached Diogenes.

“Ever hear a dog whimper in his sleep?” Diogenes asked, examining a three legged poodle, “He sounds no different than a man, or a city, lonesome for a meal.”

“What?”   Claude bristled.

“Claude! Didn’t you say Langston listened to the Democratic Anarchists near Notre Dame?”  Undine took his arm, still depressed by the widow’s suicide, but determined to calm Claude down, “Isn’t Notre Dame ahead?”

“There’s a naked corpse!”  Claude shivered.

“Claude, cool out.  Check out Aloysius!”  Diogenes joined Undine to steady him.

“Look at those columns, the roofs!” Aloysius scanned the beige exteriors shedding cement like dandruff, the slate rooftops smothered by squatters — architecture echoing a glory which dwarfed every person shouting in rags before him on the street.  He compared Paris to the little he saw of Prague. But Paris looked bigger, more magnificent. The noise and despair evaporated as he drank in the fading beauty.  Claude dropped his jaw and gaped, mocking Aloysius’ naïveté, yet Claude’s scorn slowly faded to shame before Aloysius’ aesthetic awe, and he felt himself a coward, a court-softie, and jaded by the very decadence he hated. Claude felt a secondary shiver of nostalgia as he recalled his own first experience in Paris, heard Langston laughing at him long ago on the Ile de la Cité, and a calm spread through his limbs as he eased down from his counter-productive pique.

As they moved on, a thin cowl of smoke from bonfires twisted, spiraling, leaking from alleys, and eerily rising from rafts burning on the Seine. Smoke plumed from burning files dragged from defunct government or emptied academic offices.  Chopped up tables, dismantled stairwells salvaged from apartment buildings joined trees cut from the few still standing in the Tuileries.  Fires cackled everywhere.  Each flame seemed to hold a transient magic, a surreptitious idol of hope within its center, for the infirm, or for the cowardly who participated by proxy.  Yet even the infirm, hidden in alcoves or alleys, would kick or denounce “cowards”, or each other, waxing between mystic reverence for “La Flamme” then casting reproachful eyes at anyone preparing to sit out the struggle.  Frightened boys and middle-aged maniacs not too disabled or paralyzed by delusion were shoo’d from the fires — sent packing to the barricades  — “Don’t come back alive if we lose!”  A toothless grandma kept chanting, brandishing a stick, then pounding with dirty feet a rhythm she felt right for revolution.

While this instant religion sprouted from the unconscious of those who feared invasion, many were willing to resist the imminent fall of their city, and they too flowed toward Notre Dame.  Another Paris was rising from its knees.  Families who once drifted on rafts along the Seine now scaled its bridges or paddled to its banks.  From a dreaming Paris woke a citywide debate on how to defend their city, and defy Neb’s invasion.

Undine slowed when they reached the Louvre.  Now it resembled a ghostly monastery, an abandoned temple squatted by reluctant infidels.  She had once slept in the Louvre, and ever since, knowing that Grabmaler had been key to stealing its artwork, she obsessed on the desire to restore its glory.  Aloysius, Ulrike and Rupert strode ahead, replaying their walk through the Alps for a moment, until Rupert noticed Undine standing back in reflection.  Her auburn hair fluttered while watching crowds stumble into the streets from its gigantic, empty galleries.  She put her fingers to her lips as every detail of a private plan proliferated in her memory. In anticipation, she let each insight and danger mingle in her imagination,  the luster in her eyes paling as smoke from a fire wafted by.  Her life had come full circle.  She would risk it now, or lose it all.  Rupert fell back, fearing she might succumb to the chaos around them.

“What is it?”  Rupert dabbed her eye with the edge of his sleeve.

“Just wait.”  Undine whispered. The recruits pulled up short as she focused on the yard of the squatted Louvre, surveying its trampled down iron fence, its mass of milling squatters disgorged from the entrance, spilling out to the Seine’s banks, wringing their hands at leaving their corners undefended but determined not to miss their history either being made or lost.  Undine examined the Pont des Arts, the foot bridge across from the Louvre swarming with new inmates, and the jammed Pont Neuf at the tip of the Ile de la Cité, facing it.  She blocked her eyes and imagined the barge, silently cheering Trotsky on, seeing the paintings, even Virgil, Rupert’s dog, and, let it all cohere again, despite the swirl of distractions, and the uncertainty of her scheme.  Rupert watched Undine and fought against feeling excluded from her isolated resolve, and felt lonely though she stood just before him, wishing a share in her thoughts, remembering he admired her resolve, years before it was tested.

“The barge  …  Undine.”  Rupert whispered.  “It’s coming, isn’t it.”

“Yes, wait, Rupert.  Everybody!  Come back!”  She shouted, waving her arms.  “We must return to this footbridge!   It’s called the Pont des Arts.  Do you hear me?  Any plan we construct, must end on that bridge!”

“Shouldn’t we wait to see which’ll be the most convenient, the safest plan?”  Rupert pleaded.  “Once we get to Notre Dame there will be other people … other plans … ”

“There’s got to be others involved!”  Claude added, shuffling up, “We must mindmeld with Langston!”

“Mindmeld?” Aloysius laughed, raising his eyebrows.

“No!” Undine silenced them.

“That’s it?  You’re not gonna wait for Langston?”   Claude cried.

“We nail our destiny to this side of the bank.  To that bridge!  And that’s final!”  Undine persisted.

“You heard her.”  Aloysius remarked,  Claude irritating him.

“No, it’s too soon.”  Rupert wheeling around, hoping Diogenes would judge, and intervene.

“Now, we make it here!” She shouted, her eyes having passed from their pale luster to clear jade.

“Sounds like a beginning.”  Diogenes muttered, backing Undine, “Every end has its beginning.”

“That’s right!  That’s revolution!”  Aloysius seconded her, unflustered by the mobs, and mesmerized by her resolve.  He suddenly felt as close now to Undine as he did to Rupert.  He wanted to see that art again which he merely glimpsed in Hoboken, which relentlessly tortured him since.  If he survived, he would live here in Paris, learn the language, learn — to paint – and never slump back into his lazy, ironic past.

“Let’s make for Notre Dame.  Langston might be there.”  Claude compromised, a little miffed, but finding his legs.

A new enigma seemed to hover in the smoke above their heads.  The crowds thickened approaching Hotel de Ville. Restless, searching, experimenting with the new electricity fear added to the air, Ulrike nearly hyperventilated from excitement.  She knew it was absurd, but she felt aghast at the waste of sound, even as she felt it, and her pulse heighten.   Diogenes too was irritated by clownish waste of energy, but he had to play the tie-breaker for the recruits, balancing their larger purpose, and the coming violence, over theatrical street distractions.  Claude disciplined himself, determined now not to be a pain in the ass — focusing on sifting the crowds, on finding Langston, and ignoring what seemed an utter holocaust.  Vlasav was lost in the carnival atmosphere, nurturing revenge. Gradually they were absorbed by the crowds surrounding the outer ring of street speakers competing for a solution as  how to resist the invaders, after their government had long fallen, without money, weapons, nor a clear reason to survive.

Near Chatelet, a hunchback missing an eye, sporting steel blackjacks on his knuckles, and swinging an amputated leg replaced by a sofa leg stump reached the apex of his harangue.  Many seemed to think just his brutality and guts could lead them out from The Atavist’s shadow.  He was describing how his friends, the strong behave:

“We eat chicken bones mixed with glass! We burn holes in our forearms with hot wires!  We drag our bellies behind scooters to toughen ‘em for war. We sleep on rat-infested concrete slabs and shit on anybody who shaves! We hate Jesus and conk Christers over the head with crosses! Slap them with our dicks across da face!  We never sleep more than two hours a night.   Grind any stone which rubs us raw inside our stolen boots!  We sleep on trash!  If we think too much we bash our heads with garbage cans, against brick walls.  Sniff glue for a week. Poke bones through our ears!  We are anti-Atavists!  Real revolutionaries spit out the past and rape decency!  We battle ‘em by being tougher and we don’t give a fly’n fuck!” Then he kicked into higher gear: “No goddamn-son-of-abitch’nrimbjobbnlickspittle bastawdgonna MotherMary my ass withalubricatedcrucifix dildoovoodoo… !”

Overcome by his obscenities, he cut his forearms open with a razor blade, and dove onto the crowd.  The recruits extracted themselves from a heavily muscled mob of long out of work toughs, followed by their dog escort, and histrionic, surly glances.

“Nebuchadnezzar would love this!”  Aloysius scoffed.

“Sure, to battle the enemy, they copy him!”  Rupert seconded him.

“Atavism as macho … ” Undine snorted.

“He had no mind.  Do you think he will be good in battle?”  Ulrike asked Vlasav innocently in Czech.

“Dirty talk is not real revolution.”  Vlasav reassured her.

Next they had to push through a crowd surrounding self-castrated eunuchs dressed in white linen, pawing rosaries, claiming to be so pure that the Antichrist would be blinded by the light of Isaiah when his troops saw them.  Many lifted up their white gowns to graphically prove their purity by showing off their half-healed stumps — the speaker included:

“Driven by impure sexuality which gave the first Plague of the Second Coming we living angels will spook and blind infidels by blasting Holy Water through fire hoses at them.  The Antichrist is penis head!  The serpent will devour his neck after he melts before our innocence!  The devil’s fire is fed by piss!  Now, let us roll our eyes toward heaven and purify the world in the name of Isaiah!”

“No, Elijah!” Another screamed.

“No, the butchers!”  Diogenes catcalled.

“I wish we could save our innocence from seeing this.”  Undine echoed him.

“Hearing it was enough!”  Ulrike protested, and lead the recruits to the next congregation.

They pushed through to The Coalition of the Average, normal French folks who had stuck their head ostrich-like into the sand of history, after the Collapse.  At least they appeared sane.  Given that France, once prosperous and civilized, slid into permanent crisis, it made sense that many would hide for years in cellars until provisions were exhausted.  The Average would try to battle extremism with old-time moderation.  They had pressed their shirts without running water or electricity.  They stood calm, and considered with equanimity how they might, despite deprivation, weather the invasion.  Theirs was the nation which once had worked and paid its bills, raised, educated its children, died without a fuss, and had the practical courage to face day-to-day, frustrating hardship, by going to work, restraining passion, by behaving ethically.  Yet it sounded now like a set-piece of nostalgic theater, and grew sad when they began to present polished toasters, unused spare tires, golf clubs, and show off pictures of blooming Alpine gardens, photos of people skiing or taking baths, all preCollapse paraphernalia.  The denial revealed that they really had no plan to cope with the permanent abnormality of a world without money, nor a way to feed itself.

“Sure do got some purty pictures!”  Aloysius drawled.

“And spare tires!”  Diogenes chuckled.

Finally, in the square before Notre Dame, drooping over the Seine, from Hotel de Ville to the left bank, spilling all the way to St. Michel, around to the Rue de Boucherie, and occupying both bridges, a crowd had cohered to hear one speaker argue that he had nothing to offer but solidarity.  No food to hand out.  No Avatar to sweep them to paradise.  And no secret cache of weapons to repel the invasion.  Only spontaneous citizen committees, which would be dissolved as soon as the invasion was repelled.  He introduced himself as a Democratic Anarchist.  Neither brutality, nor manufactured innocence, nor head-in-the-sand nostalgia would repel the invaders, nor win the tactical battle ahead to outwit an armed and wealthier and far more ruthless foe.  The crowd had listened to every conceivable maniac, but the real debate was here, as far as the recruits were concerned — not only to repel the monster at the gates, but to account for why survive consciously after the Collapse, the “why” was essential since many Parisians wanted to know why they should bother to fight, when they had nothing to look forward to.

The speaker was a scrappy, diminutive intellectual wearing a pair of taped-together glasses, a crumpled gray shirt, with bent shoulders and nervous hands, thrusting forward a weather-beaten prowlike chin, parting strands of prematurely graying hair wavering in the breeze under a tilted black beret, shouting his ass off:

“We have slept.  Paris has slept!  Our economy collapsed.  But it was one of the last.  Our memory is receding!  Not so long ago we had a nation.  An economy.  Our beloved Paris was envy of the First World.  This is why it was harder for us to adjust.  But going backwards, which if brought to its logical reduction, means Atavism, to build on it, pursue it, this is a new phenomenon.   Hence we have an opportunist who was has made a career of it, and an army, and he has come to take us over, to subject us.

We harassed away the tides of immigrants and our revulsion empowered the most vicious right-wing Nationalists, the FNA, gave them a chance to ruin our country.  Now, gangs, extortionists, paramilitary fanatics roam, hoard, harass us for what little we have left and we  … the good souls of France … have laid down to starve, or to sleep on rafts along the Seine.

“Look at us!  We seem to have nowhere to go but sink back into our past.  We have given up.  Found a last bullet and done ourselves in after pulling our last bottle of wine from our cellars.  We blew our brains out in the dark.  But sleep is a luxury we can least afford.  A drug lord has chosen to invade us.  A drug lord has proclaimed himself our Emperor!

The Greatest Absurdity now wants be Master us.  He has troops as close as Montreiul.  Further suburbs are already occupied.  We still have supplies coming in but few guns.  I ask you now.  I plead with you, can we sensibly organize and repel this thug and in repelling him, succeed, and make a new Paris?”

“Yes!” many cried, listening in the crowd.

“Will those who still have working guns and a few bullets join our brigades, our citizens erecting makeshift barricades?”

“I will!” A few volunteered.

“Now, in our time of reckoning, let’s show the rest of our world French substance.  We represent, now, the human race!   Humanity is on the line!  Thousands of our ex-patriots are coming home.  Two million are here from the South!  Indeed there are people from all over the world here who know if we go down –everyone will lose.  Many of  these people have seen the troops amassing.  With great danger to themselves some took tallies, recorded locations, and many lost their lives.  Those who have slipped through the lines are here, to stand up, to wake us up and defend Paris with their bodies, wake the mind, the soul of France!  To wake Paris!  Wake up the world.”

Then he more or less signaled the crowd that he intended to digress, speaking lower, and inspired many to bend their ear:

“Many of us have forgotten or never learned to read.  I speak now just to the French.  Few of us have gone to schools outside of listening to our grandparents groan while our parents scavenged bread.  Most of us our orphans.”

“It’s an orphaned world!” Rupert shouted in French, but the speaker ignored him.

“Rupert!”  Undine shushed him.

“We do know that centuries ago there was another French revolution against kings, emperors.  Alas, that was long before the world population smothered our resources, — when the world was still rising, in wealth, and technology.  So I am not here to promise you anything.  Beware of wild promises!  Beware of fanatics!  With our backs to the walls, dear citizens.  We stand to defy!”

The crowd yelped approval but hecklers stirred a racket with bent-up pots and pans, nearly drowning out the acclaim.  The speaker resisted their provocation, waiting for a larger crowd to collect:

“We’ve had a series of governments, veering wildly from a jingoist right to a shrinking, progressively fanatic left.  We fragmented then exhausted our resolve to live.  This is why this is a Revolution!  Not merely a defense.  We will affirm why we should survive Collapse, by squarely facing the issue of our freedom.   We can no longer exhaust ourselves in denial because we are sinking into anarchy.  We have to organize that anarchy.  We can no longer fear we’re becoming third-world.  We’re there!  And though we pretend not to notice, or act out fantasies, the grit to fight never left us.  It suggests just how the French as no other people have weathered the Collapse.  We dreamt, slogged on, but the vacuum eventually had to attract another power, even though we are surrounded still by failed governments — we will emerge.

“There’s an exception in Berlin!” Undine shouted.   Rupert looked at her, amazed.

“And we’re beginning to have some contact with Anarchists there.  Excuse me.”

He paused, wiping his brow, admiring Undine while doing so, and the crowd let him.

“When the Louvre’s masterpieces,” The crowd moaned at this point, ” ... were all finally stolen … and shipped overseas we were more devastated than the earlier financial thefts from the government as it crumbled.  Or the endless overturning of new ‘governments’ which were really gasps of desperation, each offering new violence and further scandal.  In those paintings, we saw the mirror of our past stolen. It’s buried somewhere outside New York, underground, we think, and losing that mirror of ourselves, that record, effected us more than when governments filled with gray bureaucrats fled.  Perhaps because we were the most artistic of people?  Or because it was easier to bemoan a symbolic theft than the explosion of global population, or the exhaustion of our resources which preceded the Collapse — both building for generations to ours — a long invisible process — except on ledger sheets, or writ in the transparencies of water, and air, or smeared in evaporating puddles of oil.  Yes that’s helped us lose our way.”

“Get on with it!  Get on with it!” Hecklers stomped their feet and the pot clankers joined in.  He shifted moods, the hardbit little intellectual terrier decided to appeal to the nostalgists in the crowd, momentarily, to outflank the rowdies:

“I know we’ve had enough of violence amongst ourselves, consorted at night with our own ghosts, squatted, taunting silhouettes.  We had friends, family …. who disappeared.  However horrible, it was our epoch. There was something lovely in our fading, as our homelessness merged with glimmers of our past … malnourished at twilight …  we fought to survive and there  are things we can be proud of … “

We know!” Several Parisians, caught the oblique elegy, remembered their own losses and commiserated.

“But now, whether we like it or not, we must organize to save Paris.  We must see that it’s worth it to go on living.  We may not have a future but we still have minds.  And if the legacy of the human race, of civilization, of kindness, reasoning courage, of  freedom  — are our only possessions — perhaps we can prove to ourselves that we are all we ever needed.  Our own Time.  Our own freedom.  Our troublesome, individual consciousnesses — just recognizing we still have the most valuable thing which we forget in our greed.  This is why we must resist, survive, and why we must win.”

“Here’s our man!”  Diogenes admitted, turning away with some relief.

“Don’t we know where the paintings are?”  Aloysius stepped back, puzzled.

“But what is he concretely advocating?  I just see a defensive psychological sketch, not a revolution.”  Rupert reflected.

“”No, don’t miss the point.  If the French choose to survive, after even the French government is homeless, they wake to the real world, the Collapse, by defending themselves.”

“But does that constitute revolution?”  Ulrike asked.

“Maybe it does now.”  Rupert jumped in,  “If fighting constitutes the acceptance that France as the French once knew it is over — that no military or a police force will do it for them — it could be revolution amongst those who understand.”

Everyman must do it.”  Diogenes corrected him, “Not a clique.  And if Anarchy is the realpolitik in this Morality Play, after Atavism has gown horns and come a-knocking, then resisting here will affirm humanity beyond its history.  It will be the first time when no class-interest, no political power, no patronage — when no money — can be gained by affirming humanity.  That was always the core of Revolution.  We were just never poor enough, before, as a race, to see it.”

“They want to prove that Revolution does not come from gun barrels but from the people ready to face them!” Undine ventured.

“Yes.”  Diogenes continued, thinking outloud, “Since there’s nothing left to defend materially, we fight for our human identity.  We conceive of ourselves purely as human just to survive.  To resist the backlash of history, resist Atavism, isolate the essential from the vain, and, even if we go down, the cyclic recognition is complete.”

“We need to be stripped down to know the difference, to know we are human.”  Vlasav concurred.

“It’s amazing to me!”  Ulrike spoke up, “These are not hermits hiding by night in mountains, or in suburbs.  Hiding is no solution.  This is why I came.  What Friedrich died for.  This is real while the Birds were a wish, a fantasy.”

“Right!  Not hiding in cells, behind a creed, a myth, wallowing in violence, in ambition — there is — finally no place to hide — so we sacrifice pettiness, and walk into an open city re-creating itself, and we create — ourselves.”   Undine declared.

“Do you remember the city of which the academics dreamed, while hiding in prison?”  Aloysius reminded Rupert, “And your Atlantis dream off Santorini?”

“Yes, the academics were hiding. So was I when I dreamt that!”  Rupert confessed.

“No myth, no theory, no dream, but Paris in the streets.” Diogenes granted, calmly, then, intending to scale back their youthful enthusiasm,  “Yet it could be Hell in a few hours!”

“It was worth it just to see this!”  Ulrike sang.

“Now, will we live long enough to remember it?”  Undine puzzled.

“Yes, lambkins, we will live.” Diogenes reassured them.

A series of gunshots echoed from Hotel de Ville, followed by inchoate screams, then a roar of terror rumbled from one crowd to another.  A fool had set off a small bomb and it inspired an anticipatory reaction to the thousands of rounds of mortar shells, yet to be fired.

As the crowd turned from listening to the speaker the hecklers and pot-clankers panicked, experiencing a moment of Atavistic jingoism.  A few heard English spoken, and they slowly surrounded Diogenes, who spoke last.  The hecklers began to hop around him, mocking the recruits as spies until one finally grabbed then hoisted Diogenes, on his shoulders, and paraded him briefly, while Undine held back Rupert who was bracing to fight.

The speaker, seeing the crowd lose control, quickly intervened shouting: “Stop!” The crowd murmured support, reproaching the grumbling hecklers until they backed off. The speaker scrambled down his wooden platform stairs and personally pulled Diogenes down to his feet.  Several fellow Anarchists surrounded the hecklers who harassed Diogenes and drove them away despite catcalls and whistles.

The bulk of the crowd clapped when Diogenes waved, signaling he was fine.  Diogenes told the speaker, in French, while the crowd craned necks to hear, that he had met Nebuchadnezzar, and just returned from Prague with those who had infiltrated his court and knew what he planned for Paris, knew, that is, the method of invasion.  For a moment the crowd whispered, reproducing what little they heard, tittering this way and that, and some began whistling, judging Diogenes another maniac.  But to the speaker, who introduced himself as Denis, and who deliberately glared into Diogenes’ eyes to judge for himself, he did not, and neither did Diogenes’ friends — the recruits — whom he carefully appraised. The dogs which had slowly gathered around the platform began, spontaneously to bark, as if in approval, and the crowd mercifully found it funny, laughing together, then clapping rhythmically.

Impulsively, for dramatic effect, and frankly losing his voice from having shouted so long, Denis, the speaker, invited Diogenes up to the platform to have his say as compensation for being roughed up, and to please the crowd.  Diogenes refused until the rest of the recruits joined him, and Denis obliged, pulling them up the platform stairs, one by one.  Denis raised his hands as if to demonstrate Anarchist ethics, and the crowd, interested, but impatient, gave the foreigners time to speak:

“Yes, I have seen Nebuchadnezzar in Prague!” Diogenes began in broken French,  “He is an incredible slob!   He runs a huge but loose operation which feeds on embracing the very thing it might be accused of — tapping the shame that we are going backwards, by making a twisted virtue out of general decadence.  This drug lord is a misogynist.  A whore.  An inane Sadist who tortures the human in us by sexually mocking the animal essence of our bodies.

“As a heirofart of a popular movement he has a larger hypnotic power than anyone in recent memory.  The world has had to watch Neb grow.  He knows this.  He grew powerful in a post-barter economy and, again, actively engages a world which is getting poorer with devilish gusto, allowing his troops to savage, to destroy what’s left, use up the last in our small savings of resources, in one big orgy of death. This empire will eventually commit suicide.  They all do.  But sooner not later if we, everyone who wants to stop him here  — are vigilante and stand solid,  and act smarter now than ever, we can drop his fat ass into its own abyss.

“We were mad or foolhardy enough to go there, infiltrate his court and steal his plans.  We have them here!  Your speaker has characterized him correctly.  Just that we could penetrate his court reveals that his occupation, brutal as it is, and his armies as huge as they are, are not the effective nor unified forces they might be imagined.  His growth has been, however, evidence that the world longs to embrace, to embody its despair at its regression, as Atavism.”

Diogenes realized that he was merely thinking outloud, and the crowd’s patience for the why of it all was draining. They needed to see his personal reaction to the Emperor since he claimed to have seen the Great Bastard Himself. The crowd, unlike many Parisians in the past, had the foresight to forgo his accent, and listen to the substance of his mind, provided he hurried up.  So Diogenes shifted gears.

“The world has been both magnetized and frightened by its own grimace because he fed off our fear.  But Neb would be made happier by what I have seen in Paris, until now!  Chaos!  Wild schemes!  Frenzy!  He is simply a fat man!  A red-headed bastard who eats, and farts and fucks, and we are going to have to go down, beneath the streets, to meet the rat.  Blow up the fat man!  The misogynist, the regress, the killer.  But since your intelligence sources just tell you to repel the troops which have amassed in the suburbs you have responded as you might, believing that that’s where you will have focus your attention.  But it is not!  It is underground!  Beneath your streets!  In your sewers!  In your Catacombs!  This fat man’s no mystery.  He is here already, hoping that you will believe it all is going on in the suburbs while he captures you from by rising from below, from within the concrete guts of your city!”

The crowd hushed.  Some scoffed.

“Look. I saw this emperor!  I insulted him!  And we escaped to deliver over what we know.  Take or leave it.  Again, we are just in from his Prague court which we have infiltrated, and we have his plans.  This young man here, Rupert,” Diogenes pointed to Rupert, “and his friend Aloysius have obtained the blueprints for Neb’s operation, and it is different from what you would expect.  But you should ask yourselves, if you want this revolution,”

Diogenes peered down, either remembering his French vocabulary or planning how to pique the crowd and the Anarchists to action:  “Or  you can go on dreaming … “

“No!”  Several members of the crowd shouted.

Diogenes waited, then asked: “Why not let him in — doesn’t he offer the longest sleep?”

“No, we won’t let him in!” Several more shouted.

“Look at us!  We’re awake!”

“Good.  But isn’t death and humiliation inches from has-been historicism?”

“What?” A half-dozen scratched their heads.

“No, we will not go backwards by choice!” The speaker himself shouted from the platform.  Smiling, knowing Diogenes was being deliberately provocative to whip the crowd into action.

“The monster, man, he’s happy!” Diogenes suggested, then turned, “But if you squeezed the venom of your collective guilt, mixed it with his megalomania, what could you have but a siege?  Occupation?”

“He will not occupy Paris!” A whole group in front shouted back.

“Jamais!, Never!” The crowd thundered.

“What did you dream on the Seine banks wrapped in damp newspaper?  In abnegation?  We all know the carnival of dreams, even when a hole has been punctured in our ids, like an old inner tube, that squid of ecstasy comes writhing right out onto the streets!  Right out of our mouths! And those of us who kept our composure confirm our humanity by poking it disdainfully with a stick!  But revolutions make for larger monsters, who crush the asphalt they dance on.  Being swallowed by a monster is very like catching a bad case of history, and if you’re too afraid, well, then there’s no remission … “

“We’re not afraid!”

“We can organize!”

“Talk to this man find out if he’s telling the truth about the plans!” Ulrike voice kicked in, loudly, and the whole crowd started, surprised by omniscience of its echo and by its ominous volume.

“Who lifts a rotting copy of the Rights of Man from the garbage, and reads it when searching for discarded pork rind?” Diogenes asked.

“We do!”

“Who mulls over the words of a constitution when our enemies drive death wagons, do donuts, over the bones of our dead?”

“We do!”

“Now, the veil of Maya is a dirty rag flapping from history’s tailpipe!  A bloody ribbon with its bells caked in shit.  Given this — still the spontaneous commitment between two souls, multiplied, however wasted by poverty, or humiliated by history, can make this emperor crawl back into his hole!”

“We will make him crawl!”

“Two single souls, say, a father teaching his son to read the night before a sniper sends bullets through the son’s ear — who would not envy their vanished evening over preparations for war?  Not wish them well over their oppressors who make history?”

“We do!”

“But if that envy is overcome, condensed into a plan, a risk, an organized run at the barricades, and intelligence, there will be nothing pathetic or humiliated about you when Paris offers him his first defeat, and dump Nebuchadnezzar, for all the world, puff, into his own grave, and on his fat ass!”

“Dump him on his ass!”

“The homeless inherited the world!  Are we too embarrassed to fight for our freedom, afraid to be seen battling over principles in a garbage dump?”

“No, we are not ashamed!”

“Now listen, we have only a few suggestions.  We are not French and we don’t know Paris.  It’s your city.  It’s your country.  It’s your language.  It’s your revolution.  And we not here to interfere but to humbly join you.  We’re just recruits.  But we do know what’s going to happen here.”

“Suggest what we should do!”

“Are you embarrassed to tell us?”

“Shout it out and we’ll refute it!”

“Be blunt and we’ll decide!”

“O.K.  What would I have you do?  I cannot reveal too much of the plan in public, now, because Neb is certain to have spies here.  But if we can hold a palaver somewhere with your inner cores of Anarchists, with the speaker, then you will, and not us, suggest what you can do.  I have already said too much.  But I can suggest this now. Neb’s plan is to take you while your rush to protect yourselves from without.  He is in your sewers, man!  The Democratic Anarchists, if they agree, could set up a headquarters near the Louvre.  Lastly, I request a heavy street contingent of your most grisly fighters simply to wait for further instructions from the footbridge the Pont des Arts. The Democratic Anarchists, if they agree, could set up a tent there.  We’re here for your Revolution — why wait, whining?  Death to Fat Ass Atavism!  Vive La Revolution!”

The crowd exploded.  He mangled their language but they loved his challenge.  Then, as Diogenes prepared to step down from the platform, they heard a far off roar from large artillery.  Not street demonstrators, nor small caliber rifle fire, nor pistols, nor an isolated bomb as before, but a syncopated, series of explosions, shells going off slowly in a ring, around the center of Paris, echoing all the way from the suburbs, now occupied by Neb’s army. for all of Paris to hear.  As echoes of the blasts circulated through the buildings, and streets, haunting the crowd, ricocheting, it seemed to end all debate.  The crowd knew that unarmed Anarchists, and a mélange of patriots were facing those rings of cannon,  just plain mad or courageous civilians were dying or facing death in the suburbs.

With those first shots, the crowd listed, for a spontaneous moment of mourning for the million or so who were now risking themselves to defend Paris.  They turned toward Denis in deadly earnest.  The group with the pots and pans slammed them on the pavement with a clatter, renouncing their opposition.  Rhythmic clapping began.  Denis, the speaker, watched the crowd transform from a rowdy mob to accomplices, to Anarchists, and the crowd studied the faces of the strange looking foreigners before them.

“What about them?  What do they say?”  A few asked Denis.

“Follow his plan!” Undine obliged in perfect French.  The crowd saw a gritty, beautiful woman shove her fist into the air, “Go to meet the enemy!  I have seen him, from a cage!  He’s got cages in mind for you too, for your women. And I want to say this, the Louvre paintings still exist. They are no longer hidden in the New York or Hoboken complex but on French soil.  Take faith in this good man!” She bowed to the speaker. “And to this good man.” She nodded to Diogenes. “And, to this young man, Rupert, who with Aloysius here personally infiltrated The Whore’s court under disguise and we know what these Mercenaries intend to do, and how they’re going to do it.  I propose a celebration, if you win.  Please be at the Louvre and the Pont des Art tomorrow night!  If you win this revolution!”

“We will win!” They roared.  And indeed, thousands of Parisians were draining from other, competing speakers, from the so-called anti-Atavists, the Isaiah eunuchs, the Coalition of the Average and dozens of such groups, and all began shouting out their solidarity.  They looked at Undine as if she were their mystical apparition.  For, somehow, she felt the moment of transport, and let herself be visually transformed.  Ulrike felt it, and her pacifism began to evaporate, and so did many of the other women in the crowd, all of whom had suffered incredible setbacks in their rights since the Collapse, and they all began to spontaneously sing, full-throated, and loud, to drown-out the propaganda ploy Neb had planned by firing off the cannon in a circle around Paris.  Thousands of women began to sing, and the men became all ears.  Then everyone joined in, while the cannon now seemed a futile effort to frighten them.  Now the cannon acted as a drumbeat provided by the Great Bastard for their chants, to unite them in opposition, to help them face the music of their failings, and to die at the barricades, and win.  They all sang a melody Ulrike had spontaneously adapted from one of Friedrich’s symphonies, adding the simple refrain: “We will win!”

It ended with a wild cheer, though some began whispering amongst themselves that this was grabbing at straws, others rushed the stage to touch the hem of Undine’s dress.

“Wait, Citizens!” Denis shouted at the top of his lungs,  “Please  enlist in the units we first introduced.  Yes,” Denis shouted, smiling at Undine, Rupert and Aloysius, “We will win!”

Before the crowd broke up, a voice cried out to the platform, and a fine looking black came running to the fore: “Claude!  Claude! I can swear before you all that they have been in Neb’s court because that man,” The black was pointing to  Claude: “was Nebuchadnezzar’s court clown!”

“Langston!” Claude cried, recognizing him.

“Citizens!  They are telling the truth!  I was sent here by Neb and there are troops  already inside Paris!” Langston, showing up, to Claude’s astonishment.

“O.K.” Denis signaled, as the crowd watched Langston now lifted on the crowd’s back, “You will wait for us ‘across the River’”.

The crowd felt that if they survived, this would be remembered years to come, End or no End of History, as La Lumiere, the Moment of Light, or Awakening, with thousands enlisting and falling-in to be sent to the barricades.

Langston strode up to them as they stepped off the platform, smiling, laughing, amazed to see Claude in Paris, and sat down immediately to meet everyone, on the pavement.  He appeared as extroverted and quick to laugh as Claude was to scowl, and unworried that he just risked his life.  Langston, one could see immediately, was the beloved, the handsome devil-may-care mercurial man-of-the-world poet worshipped by Claude, the brooding melancholic actor, and smoldering intellect.  Everyone one was so taken by Langston’s wide-open laughing vitality that they had to remind themselves that, having betrayed The Atavists whom he had served in public, he was now certainly a marked man. And that a battle soon to rage might take all of their lives, as another barrage from the suburbs echoed among the buildings.  Undine stood beside Rupert frankly admiring Langston’s near indigo or blueblack skin, his geniality, his confidence, an oddity before the Collapse, a miracle after.

“What are you doing here?”  Langston screamed, gawkers collecting like crows around Undine.

“Who’s following you?”  Claude asked, wheeled around, scanning the inspired faces.

“Aren’t you going to introduce me to your friends?”  Langston asked, with a tender, masculine voice.

“Answer my question!”  Claude turned fully around, while clasping his wounded hand.

“You’re hurt.  I see!   We can take care of this.  Let me take you to the Sorbonne!  Look at this crowd,” he smiled, rising, “Look at you!”

“Well?”  Claude smiled, restrained but triumphant that they indeed connected.  They were in it together.

“Did you hear Denis?  Isn’t he right? And who are these friends of yours?”  Langston asked.

“You were to be assassinated today, you know.  That’s why I’m here.”  Claude said, stubbornly.

“I figured as much.  I’ve showed and told them everything they wanted to know.  The meeting this afternoon would have been redundant.”

“You missed a meeting?”

“I missed the meeting.”

“And would they know you would come here?”

“Sure.”

“Are we being followed?”

“Relax, there are too many Anarchists here.  This is a dangerous crowd to cross.  Wait, I’ll send a message to Denis through them where to join us …”  Langston called to two women in the crowd, spoke quickly to them, wrote something on a paper, then jogged back. “Come on, I’ll take you to where we can talk.”

They followed Langston through the milling crowds, crossed a bridge, a road and found themselves before a now gutted English bookstore.  It sported a very haggard board with a flaked Shakespeare in black nailed over the open window frames where shattered glass kept pages from stacked books from flapping themselves to dust.  Many bookcases had been pulled out by hypnotic firewood scavengers for La Flamme.  Still, several dusty old personages, one a striking looking blonde old lady, who wore a low cut black lace dress and a silk hat pulled over her left eye nodded as she presided over the Sisyphean effort against final disintegration. Examining them, she nodded at each of his friends, recording every one individually to herself, as Langston led them up a rope-ladder in the back of the bookshop to a charred room upstairs were recently several walls had collapsed, onto the remnants of a sink, and more bookshelves, then opened another door, went through a hall stairwell and opened one last door with a metal key, and led them into a dusty room full of shredded felt peeling off the walls boasting three full sized, busted mirrors.  They all sat on the floor and peered through the windows to Notre Dame.  Langston eased down on a wooden box.

“Now we exchange information.  If we join what we have we can hand Denis the full draft.”

“We have the blueprint for the Catacombs.  These two young men here stole them, dressed up in costume I supplied.”  Claude said, rather proudly.

“Ha. Yes, I heard.  Wait, let’s see the plans.”  Langston smiled.

“Here.”

“Good job!”  Langston said, glancing at Rupert and Aloysius, half guessing at the ordeal they had to endure to steal them.  “I scoped out and consulted on how they could drop into the Catacombs.  Odd as it sounds the homeless never occupied the crypts themselves.  The French are still Catholics or delicate enough not to disturb the dead.”  Langston yawned, then became absorbed in the blueprints.  Slowly he began to connect the dots: “Goddamn that’s how, where, shit, I see it all now!  Look.  My god!  But it is also risky here. Oh how stupid.  No they might make up for it!  Yes, that makes sense.”

“Does it?”  Diogenes asked.

“Will you let us see what you see?”  Rupert asked.

“Look,  they’re going to move out of the Catacombs here …  probably intending to burn the millions of bones up through the sewers to freak the French public into frenzy.  Ten thousand troops are involved as they plan to burn out sections of Paris.  They know La Flamme would have a symbolic reaction if they usurped it as a symbol.  So, the Atavists decided to burn a central part of the city.   Then they will attack here … while the crowds rush with their backs exposed till it becomes a mad rout, and they massacre their way out from the center — to meet in the suburbs.  The citizens will rush into themselves while the real power of the city is taken here … and here … by more technical and competent soldiers.”  Langston finished, amazed.

“You see that all from the plans and knowing the site?” Aloysius asked.

“Can I ask you why you betrayed them?”  Diogenes inquired.

“Would I drive a nail into the coffin of the City of Light?”  Langston peered around, painfully, “I offer this information at the right moment, because I could not stop Neb from coming here, and the French couldn’t either.  It’s essential to make this Neb’s first defeat, Atavism’s first and final nightmare.  I chose to recommend the Catacombs, argued successfully for them, and it’s really quite funny — because it is where millions of bones are buried.  They’ve adopted the image but it is or can be a dangerous choice for them.  There’ll be thousands of troops enclosed, nearly suffocating and they’ll have to share space with the dead.  Isn’t it ironic that after all the innocent people Neb has killed in Eastern Europe, that when he reaches for the jewel, Paris, it will be through an underground graveyard?”

“So, you put a kink in the invasion to assuage your conscience?”  Diogenes pressed.

“No. I waited for the right time.  Just as you did.  But there’s something else.  And this is all I managed to do.  And it hasn’t assuaged my conscience!  I told the Blunts that they would be there.”

“Why?”

“Wait, with flame-throwers?”

“They listened to you?”

“Yes.  The Blunts crowded around me when I told them.  They are better organized but a much smaller group.  They asked me after discussing amongst themselves whether they believed the Atavists could be smoked out by flame-throwers, since it would all happen underground.  And I said yes.  This encouraged me, since they’ll be vastly outnumbered.”

“And do you think, combining the location and two unequal adversaries, that that alone will defeat the Atavists?”

“No, but it will complicate things.  Still, the Blunts might have to be led directly to the Atavists.  The Blunt’s commander is going to be telling maybe a hundred and fifty paramilitary mercenaries to sabotage ten thousand soldiers.”

“Sounds like a no-show.”  Aloysius interjected.

“Oh, they’ll be there.  Or be shot.  But if the men are smart they’ll claim they never saw the Atavists, thread their way out of the Catacombs quietly, after killing their commander, and desert while Neb destroys Paris.”

“You know, Rupert,”  Aloysius spoke up, “It reminds me of Santorini.”

“Why is that Aloysius?”  Rupert asked.

“These flies need bait.”  Aloysius suggested.

“What?” Undine cried, catching on even as Rupert sat puzzled, “You’re not going down there!”

“What do you mean?  As decoys?”  Vlasav asked.

“Yes!” That’s perfect! They know the Catacombs!” Claude volunteered, for them.

“Shit!”  Langston breathed, “That’s exactly what is needed, but I wouldn’t ask anybody to do it.  It’d be fucking horrible.”

“Wait, ” Diogenes interrupted, “Let’s think our way around this.  Suppose it worked and the Atavists were smoked out of the Catacombs — or died adding their flesh to the skeletons, as it were, how would that stop the Atavists in the suburbs?”

“There are millions out there to stop them, to lay down their lives.”   Langston offered, “And, it’s really only a diversion.  If the troops from inside Paris don’t send up red flares from central Paris — from the Louvre — I believe — send up violet flares instead — they withdraw.  That’s the plan as I understand it.”

“Let’s send up violet flares now, for shit’s sake!”  Diogenes mused.

“Send them up tomorrow evening and it may work!”  Langston laughed.

“No, they’ll have their own men at the Louvre and they’ll be armed, the same one’s with the flares who will shoot anyone who interrupts the plan.”  Rupert interjected, catching up with Langston’s information.

“Then we will have to create another diversion!”  Claude moaned, “In a city full of them … ”

“Yes, we still have to have thousands of Parisians at the barricades, organized, or, at least, swarming there.”

“We’re doing that anyway.”  Ulrike suddenly intoned.  She had been sitting there quietly, ghostly, “To plunge into the dark and move in a way the predatory sighted cannot … ”

“What?  What brought that on?”   Undine asked, mystified.

“I can see it now, the whole thing now!”  Rupert concurred.

“What whole thing?” Undine pleaded.

“We each have a part.  Just as Friedrich might have composed a symphony …   If we accept that Revolution culminates everything we have done since childhood, that the true calling is to love one’s fate, to risk it, put our lives on the line, we reach into the future through the valley of shadows.”  Ulrike rested, meditatively, with a strange glow around her chalky face, “Thus we extract life from death!” She turned toward Rupert now, knowingly,  “Rupert, tell me something, do you not feel restless now?  Like your legs are aching to run?”

“Well, yes, that’s true.” Rupert admitted.

“And Aloysius, how do you feel?”

“The same way.”  Aloysius admitted.

“You’re in condition, now, to run — and see in the dark.”

All of them considered the cryptic outburst from the heretofore silent blind girl, glancing at the twilight deepening over Paris.  Desperate conversations wafted from the streets competing with explosions rumbling from the suburbs. They knew they could do nothing, if they could not convince Denis.  Nothing on their own.

Undine walked downstairs to consult maps of the rivers, and estuaries of the Seine.  Diogenes questioned Langston closely about the Atavists as fighters and Rupert and Aloysius picked his brain further about the Catacombs, obliging him to describe every last crevice.  They played cards found stashed behind the peeling felt wall coverings.  Vlasav slept for two hours then began to speak earnestly with Ulrike in Czech. Three hours later they heard a crude knock on the door by a gun.  Denis walked in, careworn, with a bodyguard.

“I hope you’re not going to waste my time …”  Denis panted in the candlelight, exhausted.  “There are thousands of  …  casualties.”

“We will not waste your time.”  Claude replied.

“Here are the invasion plans that this Rupert and Aloysius have stolen.  I think they are self-explanatory.”  Langston interceded for them, handing Denis the plans.

Denis spread out and surveyed the blueprints, his head and glasses seeming to scan each sheathe as if a detail-isolating visor was fixed then fell over his squinting eyes.  Finally, he concluded: “They are not. I could be handed a doctored blueprint of our Catacombs by anyone.  We are in sympathy with your seeming intent.  This alone cannot convince me.”

The recruits studied each other, agog.  Ulrike scratching her head, all aghast that Denis would not believe them.  All except Diogenes who had the patience to let the process play out.

“Let me ask you this, then, Denis.”  Diogenes reasoned, “In the five hours we have waited here have the invading troops advanced a yard?”

“No, they have not.” Denis replied, while his bodyguard retired downstairs, searching the bookstore for bombs.

“And have your citizens managed to put a dent into your encirclement?”

“Well, no …  some infiltration … some mingling and provoked desertions … many unfruitful … fatal skirmishes.”  Denis answered, tentatively.

“Our point is this.”  Undine caught on,  “Why should those troops wait there?  Their presence can only attract and galvanize opposition, you, by waiting.”

“True.  We’ve asked ourselves that.”  Denis admitted, dryly.

“And, as civilians stream out of central Paris and there’s a stand-off in the outskirts — would it not be in Neb’s interest to assault Paris from the inside?” Claude asked.

“And wouldn’t that be a sound strategy for delaying an unimpeded invasion from the outskirts?”  Rupert pressed him.

“Haven’t you found out that there are troops inside the Catacombs?”  Aloysius added quickly, in English.

“One at a time! Denis raised his hands defensively. “We have heard of movements by squatters approaching the Catacombs.  Found nearby bodies riddled by bullets matching the standard Atavist issue rifle.”

“So then, you had proof of our word, of our intelligence, besides these blueprints!”  Langston concluded.

“You could still be Neb’s agents!  Trying to draw us into a trap.”  Denis whispered acidly.

“What’s that?” Ulrike cried out.

Books and plaster crashed downstairs.  Several people seemed to have forcibly entered the store on the first floor.  Then the old blonde proprietor’s scream filtered up from downstairs.

“Everybody down!” Denis shouted.

“They won’t climb the rope! They’ll have to come up the stairs!”  Langston said, finger to his lips.

“Cover yourselves with books!”  Diogenes whispered.

“Away from the door!”  Langston whispered, while both he and Denis unlocked their revolvers.  They listened to them smash the lock on the stairwell adjacent to their room.

“They’re coming up!” Ulrike whispered, shivering.

Only then three sets of boots stomped up the stairs adjoining the room.  Within seconds a bullet blasted the lock, then a barrage of semi-machine gun fire ripped through the room, striking, mostly, books.

Three men in civilian clothes broke in, with wild, frightened, coked up expressions on their faces.  All three aimed at Denis and Langston, and fired again.  Denis, who had already ducked behind a bookshelf, shot one directly, and remorselessly, in the head.  Langston stood his ground and fired a number of rounds penetrating the second assassin’s chest, who fell onto Ulrike’s lap as she convulsed, and screamed, for help.  The third stumbled out of range then leapt wildly down the stairwell howling, “You’re a dead dog, Langston!”

Claude grabbed Langston’s gun and jumped over the bodies and books and shot the third assassin from the window, just as the assassin turned to fire up at him, intending to escape down the street, he stumbled over the dogs whom had collected around the old English bookstore, and still waiting for a scrap, then fell in the nearby park, under a dried up water fountain, his mouth still trying gurgling “chien” or “dog”, after having caught a slug in the nape of his neck.

“How did you manage to do that with your bad hand?”  Rupert marveled,  crawling out from his pile of books.

“I don’t know, really.”  Claude shook nervously, himself amazed.

“Vlasav’s been hit!  Ulrike cried.

Vlasav had been wounded by one of many stray bullets just under his shoulder.  He was grasping it without saying a thing, looking feverishly at the wound, refusing to whimper or cringe.  Denis ordered his bodyguard, who had done nothing throughout the shoot-out to take Vlasav to a rudimentary medical clinic the Anarchists had set up near the Sorbonne.  Ulrike left with him, pulling herself up to help from the corner into which she had been coiled, suffering tremors from hearing guns.  After Ulrike and Vlasav left, they inspected the three men.   Denis searched their pockets and brought out a bundle of papers from the apparent leader’s coat pockets.  Denis studied the papers while Aloysius and Rupert dragged the corpses out and hid them under bushes in the nearby former park, and returned.

“What do the documents say?”  Rupert asked.

“FNA.  There’s a photo here … of Langston.  It’s an execution order.  This completes, confirms your story Langston.  I’m … sorry … I have to be skeptical.”

“Forget it.”  Langston smiled, his strange indigo skin covered by beads of sweat.

“You mean the ring wing nationalists sold out their country?” Undine mused.

“Yes.”

“Any evidence that this bookstore is part of their orders?”  Diogenes scanned the papers over Denis’ shoulder.

“No.  I can’t see any.  They must have asked people in the streets after the rally.  It was quite simple, really.”  Denis replied, meditating now on how to incorporate their suggestions.

“Let’s hope so, otherwise we’re not safe here.”  The body guard finally arrived back, after showing Ulrike and Vlasav to the door and not having interceded downstairs to stop the assassins.

Denis scowled at him, “You, FUCK OFF,” he shouted, in English, “Get out!” dismissing his useless body guard, he thrust open the door, and shoved him out.  Denis sat down, and sighed, “Alright, let’s do business!”

Notre Dame hovered directly out the paneless window, somber, still  lovely against the purple twilight.  As they drew up plans Rupert, Undine and Aloysius stared at the ancient church, now occupied by the homeless, and under the pall of smoke from La Flamme burning on parts of its roof.  They could still feel the thrill of its majesty, follow its flying buttresses, the twirl of patina green angels ascending its spires, while Diogenes and Denis questioned Langston closely, then Claude, wringing every detail of the operation from each of their memories, while sifting through alternates and risks — for one grand, workable plan.   It all seemed rather profane when the Undine and Rupert admired Notre Dame, or glanced over to the Seine. They were together again, and shamelessly made-out because they might lose their lives tomorrow.  Rupert felt so much admiration for her, and so much envy for a world of work, vacations, and seduction, that he imagined  existed in the past, when the simple joy of making love was not so beset with shadows and fear — that he desired Undine’s strange mix of boyish athleticism, and pure feminine delicacy, now.

Independent and tough, Undine still offered, within her brassy exterior, warmth and solace, an invitation to end Rupert’s emotional exile — an open door, an exotic, moist home, an Ithaca for his Odyssey, inside her radiant body.  She tugged on his belt and led him to a corner and he dutifully began to prepare a bed for them from a pile of books.  She stripped down his pants as he bent over, and pulled free his cock, caressing him, fondling him in full view of the recruits, if they were impolite enough to look.  He peeled down her trousers, and found creamy silk panties stolen from Claude’s closet, raised his eyebrows, laughed, and kneeled to kiss the now moist lips of her sex, unmasking her aromatic clitoris with his tongue.  And gradually they made love, real love, not self-interested, you-do-that-I’ll-do-this-for-you egoistic negotiations between two creatures greedy for orgasm — not the hydraulics of popular sexuality between posturing strangers –  but as real lovers do, when the world is remade in the image of their love.

When they returned, everyone was respectful.  Undine stepped to the paneless window, with Rupert in tow, and it seemed impossible that Paris could be occupied by Neb, and, except for the haggard crowds milling about, wishing to worship Undine, for she had inadvertently struck a symbol in the popular imagination, it looked like a city which could shake its back, like a wounded beige seagull, and once again it would sail under starlight, and defy gravity.

No one made them return, and no one embarrassed them by intimating that they knew they just made love yards away.  No one raised his or her eyebrows, nor patted them on the back, nor showed any outward sign they were jealous.  Denis had the amazing delicacy to slip them both a dry, filtered pre-Collapse Gauloise Blonde cigarette, and lit each, while they re-integrated back to the Revolution, and the question Undine would play in the restoration of the Louvre treasure.  Slowly, conversation revived, and they turned to the question of exactly how to show that the paintings were in France, to whom, and when.  This was the one feat which Denis had to doubt.  Slowly, gently, he had her repeat just how she escaped by Black Market barge over the Atlantic and how she could guide the huge and invaluable shipment through the rivers and locks of Western France.  If Undine could not prove her story as everyone else had, he could not invest his or anyone’s time.  Denis, however, was impressed by Undine, by her French, by her sharp look, and by her evident tactical intellect, and he saw the immeasurable propaganda value of her beauty, the symbolic and unconscious way she had of behaving in public, which even Rupert and Aloysius, who had infiltrated and stole the plans with Claude’s help, did not naturally  inspire.

Undine needed an armed escort so that no one would climb into the barge, and as she only had Trotsky’s former crew, she feared that even if hidden under tarpaulins, the barge might be harassed and pillaged as it entered Paris.  Yet Denis was still divided if he could truly give it his attention.

“It would be a tremendous boost to our morale if what you say is true.”  Denis demurred.

“A boost to the Anarchists!”  Undine declared.

“If you had one painting to prove it.”  Denis tactfully persisted.

“Then send three armed Anarchists with me to the barge where it is now on the Seine , and I’ll bring one back.”  Undine bargained.

“Trotsky was to meet you and help in the final leg of the journey, where is he going to show up?”  Rupert amplified, for her.

“I was going to meet him at the barge.  I have to go there anyway.”

“I cannot go out to the barge with you, that’s obvious.”  Denis insisted, looking sad.

“Can you send an emissary to see it for you?”  Undine said.

“I’ll go with her!”  Rupert volunteered.

“No, we need you here.”  Denis interceded.

“It’s settled.”  Undine insisted,   “You send a man or woman you trust.  I’ll have to spend tomorrow afternoon … returning, and guiding with your maps the barge to the Pont des Arts.  You must dispatch guards to help me.  My final offer, sorry.”

“I accept!”  Denis nodded.

“You’ll be in trouble out there!”  Rupert objected.

“It’s a deal!”  Undine agreed, firmly, smiling to Rupert, bringing his strong body to her, as everyone both delighted and envied them for them for their love, and her beauty.

“O.K.  Before I leave, Diogenes … sum up exactly what you want.”  Denis concluded.

Diogenes looked around, to see if everyone was ready for a statement.  He paused, then breathed:  “O.K. Every manhole cover in the area except one by the Louvre — absolutely sealed.  Especially those adjoining the Catacombs near Denfert Rochereau.  Leave one or two open near the Pont des Arts so that squatters who are crawling out, crawl out there.  Since we don’t know how it will go … when we snarl the Atavists up in their own numbers — every over manhole sealed.  We must vacate the Louvre.  I’ll do that tomorrow afternoon.  Then we meet near the Pont des Arts.  Exactly as Undine proscribed.  I’ll be on that bridge, with Claude and Langston.  Aloysius and Rupert you will have to … act, I’m sorry to say … as decoys … in the Catacombs.  No one else has as tough a job, and, I know it’s corny to say, but we will pray for your safety.  If we can we will show off the barge at the Pont des Arts tomorrow night to rally support within the city against Neb-Fat-Fuck.   Our operation will either have failed and we’ll be dead by then. If we survive we will begin the most incredible Party Paris — THE WORLD — has ever seen…  Claude will be in charge of the celebration.  Vlasav, and Ulrike will help at the bridge, assembling the crowd.  That’s the gist of it.”

“Good.”  Denis agreed.  “I have a million things to do tomorrow but, I think, it would be instructive if you accompany me early to the barricades before Undine leaves for the barge.  If you do not see the reality of what is going on in the outskirts, you’ll never know your part, nor understand the total operation … to which, I  admit, you are now essential.”

Vlasav and Ulrike then returned, Vlasav having received the rudimentary medical attention offered inside Sorbonne IV.  Ulrike was looking as if she was anxious to say something.

“Vlasav, can you outfit the Atavist vehicle you stole?”  Denis broke in,  Can you still drive it, tomorrow morning?”

Vlasav sniffed, “Yes, I can drive it.”  Looking around proud not to have been left out of the battle, after receiving a bullet.  He pulled off his shirt, and turned around to show the dressed wound, his shoulders having been bandaged by Ulrike with sanitized rags.

“If you could find that armed … wagon … we’ll need it tomorrow at the barricades.  You’ll have to see what’s going on, to understand the whole operation.”  Denis repeated, for Vlasav’s benefit.   Then Vlasav immediately went out, despite Ulrike’s remonstrances, to reclaim the deathwagon.

“Ulrike?”  Rupert asked.

“I would like,”  Ulrike finally was able to speak, “To return to the Sorbonne and work for the wounded. ” She winked, at Rupert, knowing that he knew the phrase in German,  “I have firm past experience and I have made some friends there.”

“Excellent, good choice.”  Denis concurred.

“Claude?  Langston, you’ve been quite subdued …”  Denis said.

“We’ll throw all our effort to round up anyone who will help seal those sewerlids, organize around the Louvre, and instruct those recruits we employ, at the Louvre.  If we have permission, about what they might expect if Rupert and Aloysius do, or … do not succeed.”

“Good.”  Denis agreed.  “Diogenes?”

“We’ll talk tomorrow at the barricades.”  Diogenes suggested.

“Fine, but who is going to stay here and coordinate communications between us?  We must have at least one person here so that we can respond in case of emergency.”

“I can do that.”  Aloysius volunteered.

“Is that O.K.  Are we ready?”  Denis rose.

“Yes!”  They all concluded.