They were telling me the important thing and I was listening to them as they told me the important thing. ‘Yes, yes, yes,’ I said to myself, ‘they are telling me the important thing.’ ‘Yes, yes, yes,’ I said solemnly, ‘that is very important, that is very important indeed.’ But then only seconds later all traces of the important thing had gone clean out of my head! My mind was as clean as a whistle – not a trace of any important message was left in it. Not a trace, not a trace. If I were to be entirely honest at this point I would have to admit that I am not really sure if I ever did have any idea of what the important thing was. I had been listening but that’s not to say that I had taken anything in. ‘Yes, yes, yes’ I said to myself then, by way of a protective reflex, ‘Very important, very important, very important…’
The truth was that I was confabulating. The truth was that I was confabulating like a bastard! The scrubber had gotten hold of me and it had scrubbed me clean. ‘Oh, that old scrubber – it’ll get you every time’ I blathered on fondly, ‘that old, old scrubber. You’ve really got to watch out for it, haven’t you? You’ve really got to watch out for that old old scrubber.’ I winked cheerily at my imaginary audience at that point and then started making kind of reproachful clucking sound by loudly sucking my teeth. ‘You don’t want to let that old scrubber get hold of you, you really don’t’ I warned the crowd of imaginary people who had gathered all around me. I was clucking and winking and shaking my head from side to side for all I was worth. I got very worried then. Panic took hold – suppose the scrumbler was out there and suppose it was getting closer and closer to me all the time, homing in on my mental activity? Suppose it were to penetrate my disguise? Suppose I got scrumbled? Then of course I remembered that it all already had caught up with me. I remembered that I already had been scrumbled by the scrumbling machine.
I was in the Bardo realm and it was very hard to keep a grip on any sort of mental consistency. Things could change so very quickly here – they could change in the twinkle of an eye. Friends could become enemies and enemies friends. I was back in my apartment, leafing through one of my old paperbacks. The pages had got all stuck together in a congealed sodden mass. It came apart slowly in my hands, crumbling away into clumps of damp turgid mouldy-smelling book-dough. I don’t how long I had been sitting there, letting the decayed material of the book run through my fingers, playing about absentmindedly with the lumpy, doughy texture of it. I could have been there for hours. But then I looked up and I saw that darkness had abruptly fallen. Skeletal trees showed up in inky-black silhouette against the darkening sky. They looked like strangely elongated hands – long spindly fingers probing, searching, reaching out blindly into the gathering dusk.
The Frendz were outside in large numbers at this stage – I could hear them chittering at each other in their insect-like language. They wanted me to come out and play. It was hard to catch sight of them in the thick clumpy darkness but I could hear them. I could hear the driving rustling sound they made as they walked. I could hear the crisp crunch of gravel under their feet. I could also hear the harsh, insistent sound of their breathing, which they did through a series of apertures in their abdomens. ‘Come out and play, come out and play, come out and play,’ they intoned telepathically. That was their siren song. Something within me responded to their subliminal calls – something inside me yearned to go out and play with the frendz. They were like the buddies I’ve never had – apart from the fact that they were eight-foot tall with the blunt, expressionless heads of sea-lampreys. They hunted by telepathy – they can track you down by your tell-tale mental presence, which is like some sort of infrared glow to them, and then they sing for you and send you happy pictures. They play upon your loneliness and your credibility to lure you out of the house. They hook you and then they slowly reel you in. ‘Yes, yes, yes,’ they whisper softly in your mind, ‘we’re your frendz, we’re your frendz, we’re your frendz…’