No Secrets

from Experiments in Belief

I knew the Imam back when he was Mac-D in a set called the One-Fives. In those days, down around 105th, a set had to be deep or get squeezed out. You went in young. Us kids? We didn't pick it, we didn't know what it was, we just did it. Sermon Five: The Imam himself tells how he was selling gels and thought he was just playing with the big kids.

Gels were big then. Government had to find ways to control people. Wasn't 'til about 2050 that white folks got far enough ahead that everybody else was like farm animals. See, we forget. We used to be able to compete. That's why it was all about drugs, and the CIA dumping gels by the case in our neighborhood, little colored Easter eggs, so that the cops could go on hunts and put us all through the old drill of cages and pictures and surgery so they can wipe a red laser beam over the tops of our heads and tell who we are. "It is the hand of Allah, my brothers, the hand of Allah alone that can break this Crime Engine that marks and lowers our people, and it's not even the hand of God but a FIST we need. Break us out of this high-tech zoo. De-mar-cat-ed, tab-u-lat-ed, in-fil-trat-ed. Ain't gonna be Wally's FEEDstock. Ain't gonna be LIVEstock. Gonna be holy. Just like every living thing . . . We are holy. . . . Our center cannot be destroyed. Say it! Holy! Pray for the hand of God. . . . Pray. . . ." (Sermon One).

It was never about drugs. Even in the 'twenties, it was about keeping us poor so that we couldn't get at their genetic codes. Some nigger shoots himself full of poison, who cares, right? But you got that same nigger popping IQ200 homologues . . . Well, you won't catch the CIA dumping homologues in NOBODY'S neighborhood.

Was Mac-D got us in that business, already preaching, though at first it was all about gang power and gang race. Set himself up a nice dope house, stacked what he made, and did his research. He could read minds. Said it was psychology, but he could read minds. Went right for Simon Horchek and the Genesis Corporation. Waited in a room at the Regency, in a leather chair, a tray laid out with cheeses and a bottle of Beaujolais. He had me aim a track-light at the back of his head and then stand off to the side. Didn't let me say a word.

Had the Eye, even then. The smooth, saxophone voice worked on EVERYBODY, not just the ladies.

Horchek paid attention, his wrinkled-up tie between his knees.

"You're here to betray your employer," the Imam said. "Your profession also, your country, the economic system that put you where you are."

"Maybe I just want an easy buck." Horchek's sickly, freckly hands took turns squeezing the tie. Like he'd never been in a suit before.

"Money is not what you love. If you loved money, you would have an ocean of money."

"Yeah, sure."

"You would have gone mum on the homologues until they gave you a cut. People think you were pissed at a 10K bonus, but that’s not it. You thought your little pills were about to save humanity."

"10K's more than I expected. I knew I'd signed away my soul at Genesis. So what? Maybe I don't have a soul."

"Saviors. Little saviors, right? Pennies to manufacture, a dollar apiece at the pharmacy—you thought EVERYONE would be buying your pills, and codes would be for everybody. Right?"

"You believe a lot of things when you're 25. What exactly do you want me to DO?"

"The work of man is always spiritual, when it is allowed to be so. You have a soul, Mr. Horchek. It simply has been undernourished until now."

Then he lays on the heavy shit about a new world order. Already had the big picture. Already the way he says goodbye is "no secrets." He signs and then instead of "peace" or whatever it's "No secrets, bro'," and he walks away. That's how he said goodbye to Horchek, a slap on the shoulder and that slogan, which he never had to explain, and from then on he was trafficking secrets.

Until homologues, if you stole plasm you probably got a white baby, or you might score a brainiac from China, but then it's the same baby over and over if you try to sell it, and you still need a doctor, and what neighborhood wants two hundred identical little kids? What people want is a pill that goes in, unwinds the weak spots, puts in brains, muscles, the right proteins—and then sews it all back together, so the kid is yours; he looks like you, but he's also got the newest version of everything.

Homologues was what got the Imam into family. Got real serious with Doreen. I could hear him through the vent, the same Isha every night, the first prayer I wrote down: "Kings, baby. All the best of everything—and raised right. Like nothing the scientists imagined. US. Exactly what the scientists are afraid of, but magnified."

"Always dreamin'. . ." Doreen, sleepy but wanting to listen, like me, my head hanging off the gym mat—my bed—so my ear could be against the metal grille of the AC.

"The first gift of Allah. The dream. We see the future and know how it should be. We have no excuses like the rest of the animal species."

"That all sounds real pretty, but listen to yourself. A baby. That's hard work. You ready for that?"

"We see our children, already alive in thought. We know what they'll need. We have no excuses. We know what the people need. When the soul of a people is decided, that is the end of all contingency."

"Mmmmm-mm. You shore a talker."

I could hear Doreen sass him when he went on like this, but she was his first disciple. At the wedding, which went down in a park with me as Imam and only a couple other people, Doreen traded vows to "seek beauty," to "obey the amal of Mac-D" (later, the Knowledge Amal, or Will to Knowledge), and to "reverence future lives." To be a hundred percent honest, we thought they were nuts. But it was good to get some ritual back in our lives. Now we all know how high it takes you to make a vow before the eyes of Allah.

But they don't have kids right away. The Imam has his vision, and he waits for the homologues that can make it happen. When C2 leaves gangbangin' and ends up on MTV, Mac-D's still got no kids, even though C2's band is calling him "the Imam" and Mac-D's already singing in those scamp-rants about "Let your blood overrun" and "Crack Wally's code" and "One race, one name, one fate."

The Imam waited five years for a Superwise. Ask me, they ain't no Superwises. Never seen one myself. Just the same stories all the time about a CIA plasm with a very tiny Chromosome Five. Tiny? Shit, the last thing gonna make anyone smart is missing code. Don't have to know biotech to understand that.

But the Imam kept after Horchek. My theory is that by now Horchek was getting all shook, especially with the Feds calling Mac-D a "crook" and everyone knowing he's deep into the gangs. Overground people was scared. Good homologues had an international distribution. Slums were filling with kids who knew who they were and how to get out. Feds probably put the squeeze on Horchek.

The CIA knew that Mac-D kept his hands clean, so Plan B was to hit him and scare everybody about the black market. This is a fact. People who think Jack Rotin forged one sentence of the Green Report or had it out for the Agency don't know a thing. Jack Rotin is probably the only truly patriotic American left, and the only cop who ever had any respect for the law.

One day Horchek sends word that a Superwise is in the pipeline. Just like that. For years he says there ain't no such thing, then he's got a whole case of pill bottles. Gold capsules. Probably some sick fuck in the CIA saying how niggers like gold and if we make them shiny all the niggers will want to have them.

Was hard to get Doreen to drop a homologue. So long as it was just a pill she had all these reasons and things she read online and side effects to mention whenever the subject came up. But the Imam dug the gold, and that’s what gave him the idea. Thought he would invent a new ceremony, the Life Ceremony, to teach respect for making life. It was like a second wedding, candles, promises, trading of the pills: put the pill in the other one's mouth and say a vow, all like that, which was when he had me read this prayer, which should be in the Book of Sermons: "Swallow this morsel of my soul so that it may join your body, as my body welcomes what you give freely of yourself. Together, we intertwine the threads of our lives and make a third, a life that will exceed the sum of its inception. By the power of Allah, amen."

They went around and around the floor lamp winding the ribbons, red and blue for blood and water, the weaving ritual—you see it in one of the C2 videos, something with a symbolic meaning which no one really tries to understand.

"It’s part of the Faith, babe," was something like how it went.

"You’re dragging me into your CRAZY SHIT again."

"We the only ones that ain't done it. We ain't set an example."

The quiet tone, the still face of a Buddha. Meditatively, he kneaded her arms. A working of clay.

Her last response was a complaint, a meek plea for mercy. "It's my body now you're taking from me."

"Reinterpreting the Word. It's what I do. I know when something's right."

My proof that the "Superwises" were genetic warfare? Just look how late the prefrontal cortex starts to degenerate, how long it takes the eyes to expand, the nose, the hair that comes only about the 10th year, when most of these monsters have already split from home. This code was designed to beat the ultrasound and get itself born. No knockout mutation could do this. No accidental truncation. Someone high up wanted to teach us a lesson. Millions of us. Most everyone that year who tried to beat the rules, as a matter of fact.

The Imam was the last person on the planet to see that his kid had yellow eyes, super-thick nails, calluses, curved legs and funny knees, big teeth. The story had already broken, Congress was even believing it, that an agency might be involved, and still he holds Mary's little hand, the little angel, and takes her to the playground every day. I see him under a tree reading her a story, and he just laughs it up when she tears the pages and puts them in her mouth.

He read her the same book a hundred times, the story of a pink elephant who no one likes until he saves a princess, and who then lives in the palace doing dainty jobs, like setting the table for tea. In the end, it was just the Imam in a corner of the room, his living room—I saw him one night, after a showdown with the Cloverleaf set. We'd lost some bodies, but he didn't hear a word I was saying. It was all dark except for the reading light behind the chair, and the only answer was the slow creak of a page being turned, a page crumpled-up and missing pieces, taped together like a jigsaw puzzle—and something he was hissing, feeling the page with his hand.

"Never mind," I knew to say right away. "Tomorrow. All right?"

"She can't do it," he said, giving me the Eye, which made me freeze just as I was gonna turn around. "She can't understand a word."

I never asked how she was doing anymore, because I already knew.

"I go in the kitchen for one minute today. When I come back, she's got the parakeet. Fuckin' . . ." He let the book fall like a dead thing over his lap and rubbed his eyes with his fists. "I heard the bird when it happened. She bit off the head. Just like that. For fun? Was she hungry? Do they have to turn into fucking zombies?"

I wasn’t the one with the sermons. I just stood there waiting for more.

"What can she do if she can't talk? . . . They'll put her in a zoo."

Doreen was on the balcony, behind sliding glass doors, a neglected cigarette in her left hand. I tried to take Mac-D another way: "Ain't no one's fault except the CIA, man. Just wait 'til the hearings go down, then you can sue."

He ignored me. Hissing again, he was whispering the names of the elephants his hand was touching, words like "Ta-ta" and "Zee-Bu," basic syllables he had tried to get Mary to say.

"You can try again," I said. "Beetle-man's got shit you won't believe. That's all you can do."

Beetle-man was our new supplier, a scientist at MIT with big eyebrows. The Imam had never met him, and he never asked about the new homologues.

He crumpled a page of the book in his hand. His eyes moved around the room, following spirits, the evil jinn he said were taking possession of his family. I could feel them, but only he was able to see their jeering faces. This was the beginning of his contact with al-Ghaib, the unseen, and the start of the madness that comes to anyone who glimpses the mind of God. He tore out the page. "No more miracles," he said softly.

This complete breakdown, and the Imam's wife didn't turn her head or even move a muscle. The cigarette smoke just rose to where it curled in with her hair. When she split next month, we all saw it coming, but not the Imam. Ever listen to "Ruin," the last scamp-rant, the one that's barely a song? You hear his voice and you just know his faith is gone, but then go into the words, go down into what he's saying, and you'll see what the CIA did to him. All that shit about "June the Fifth, June the Fifth, Day of Death, June the Fifth" wasn't about the Power or rising up to take back the secrets; it was plain suicide; it was "now let Creation unmake the hand of man" and "no more gods, no more devils" and "tools only make other tools" and "smash your engine."

Got us all out in the street, and you know the brother can make a speech. I didn't even see it in person, because I was in New York dealing with inventory. He came over the Net, and someone had jacked him into a big screen in Times Square. Cops tried to cut the wire to the speakers but got run off. The idea was that it was twenty years since House Bill 111, which put you in a cage if you used code without paying for the license. He knew how to get you feeling small, with the government doing blood tests in the schools and saying you cheated if you got stolen genes and you better pay up if you want to go to college. "How long we gonna kiss their fat asses?" he kept saying, completely out of his preacher voice and past reason and just trying to rile everybody up. "How long we gonna put up with this COUNTRY CLUB? How long we gonna keep the grass mowed, pick up the trash, park the cars—and let them tell us we CAN'T go inside and that we'll NEVER go inside and that our kids will NEVER go inside? How LONG we gonna keep KISSING all these ASSES?" Windows were already breaking where I was, and he kept going: "How long 'til they look like space aliens and we're dogs? How long? How long 'til you're chained to the back porch and you drink from a bowl?"

Didn't say a word about Creation or the hand of man, because he knew he was on his own planet about all that. He just wanted to bust things up. Wanted to scare the government. Thought if we torched the DuPont building the corporations might stop trying to social-engineer us—or who knows. By now he thought genetics was pure-and-simple the work of the Devil, which if that's true the whole world is Hell, and all of us who want a good life for our kids—we're devils. I think that's what he thought. He turned on us. Had one more lesson to teach, but all it did was make us into animals, stomping on top of cars, killing cops, jacking shit we don't even need. Now we really are chained to somebody's porch. Got Army tents in every park. Tanks, curfew, they can shoot us just for being in the wrong place. Teenaged boys with machine guns come to your house to pluck your hair. If your follicles show you been taking homologues, that's it. No one knows where you go, only that you don't come back.

Government said they shot him, but Mac-D didn't take no bullet. Brother's still around. I seen him twice. After laying low a while he got so cracked in the head that he just went AWOL. Probably did time in a concentration camp back when they were rounding up the bums. I don't know. First time I seen him was Ramadan 2065. He read the whole Qur'an aloud at a bus stop, not saying one word that didn't come from a page in the Book, not even showing that he recognized me, though I stood there for two hours. Next time was a few years ago, just before the Superwises got hanged. You still saw packs of Superwises, mostly at night, teenagers. They ate garbage, rats, pigeons. Don't tell me they ate people. I don't believe it. That was more shit cooked up by the same rich people that made them in the first place. Anyway, Mac-D was with the Superwises, back when they could hang in the park and people would just ignore them. He seemed like their leader, sitting in the middle and tearing off bits of raw meat. I don't know, maybe it was a bird they were eating.

Haven't seen him since. Maybe he got caught when the U. S. Marshals swept the area for Superwises.

Ask me, the best thing Mac-D left was the one thing he cut out of the Sermons: the Life Ceremony. Don't have a black market anymore, but even on Medicare you can get a basic homologue. Government knew they had to give us SOMETHING. No brainiac shit but good blood, heart, kidneys, all like that, and you younger folk probably can't imagine what it does to you, to hold that pill between two fingers and know it contains some of your unborn child. Just try to pop it in your mouth over breakfast. You can't. You're too close to the secret. You got to go with your wife to a quiet place, in wudu, and then pray for the changes in your body. Even the Christians do this in their own ceremony. I heard atheists, too, more and more. You have no choice. You come up against Life, face-to-face, and all you can do is wonder how God can put it there, right in your hand.