Shoot The Piano Player

How could they? he wondered. How could they convince themselves that in this whirling tidal pool of existence, providence was sending them a message? Seeing visions, hearing voices, their eyes awash in their own juice—living on their own and borrowed hallucinations, banners, songs, kiddie art posters, phantom worship. The lines of bayonets, the marching rhythms, incense or torches, chanting, flights of doves—it was hypnosis. And they were the vampires. The world realpaid in blood for their articulate delusions, but it was all right because for a while they felt better. And presently they could put their consciences on automatic. They were beyond good and evil in five easy steps—it had to be okay because it was them after all. It was good old us, Those Who Are, Those Who See, the gang. Inevitably they grew bored with being contradicted. Inevitably they discovered the fundamental act of communication, they discovered murder. Murder was salutary, it provided reinforcement when they felt impotent or unworthy. It was something real, it made them folks and the reference to death reminded everyone that time was short and there could be no crapping around. For the less forceful, the acceptance of murder was enough. Unhappy professors, hyperthyroid clerics and flower children could learn the Gauleiter’s smirk. The acceptance showed that they were realists which showed that they were real.

—Robert Stone, A Flag For Sunrise

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