From the private Journal of Luisa Smith Ach! My younger days when I was--how you say?--svelte. Hitching rides under trucks. Scaling public buildings on a slim nylon rope. Ah, and when was the last time I gave a man his last surprise after rising from his crawlspace?
Oh, but I can comfort myself in knowing that these memories likely did not exist before I volunteered for the psychoactive drug tests.
My updates to this journal have been scarce of late. Well, there is a reason for that. I've been inside Hootin' Holler's justice system. Deep inside. A quill pen and leather-bound diary tend to be conspicuous in such a setting.
Why am I in jail? The answer is simple. I am scouting new talent. While unquestioning thugs and desperate alcoholics cause trouble if their concentration grows too great, the truth is that every organization needs a few. The hard-luck drifter found walking along the highway with a car door in his hand may have skills that will be needed later. Or at least a pliable rashness.
Mind you, it has become somewhat difficult to get sentenced, or even detained by the sheriff's office. I seem to have acquired a reputation. Yes, it's true. Victims of petty crime are reluctant to even report me. I stole four chickens from four barns in a week's time. Each time the farmer saw the formidable Ezekiel Smith absconding with his poultry, and each time he kowtowed and begged off. The last time I released the chicken in disgust. It was only by scaling the outside of a family home that I got to this point. It was the wee hours of the morning, and the mistress of the house complained of suspicious noise in the night.
I don't need my boy joining me in here just now. When you're attempting to hire muscle, you need to keep your personal life separate. If this tag-ripping was indeed illegal, someone will have to be paid off.
Ah, I beg to differ, Parson. Life is the root of all evil. To reject evil is to turn in fear from both life and death. Such is the conclusion I reached after my near-fatal brush with the Marburg virus.
Oh yes, I give. Tourists have been known to give me valuable trinkets during my summer wilderness jaunts. And they had better, if they want to reach their motels in one piece. So I've handed a few treasures to the church. But to be honest, the loyalty of a holy man is not the most precious thing to me. Give me the courage of a sinful woman.
Yes, of course, Jörg would prefer horsepower to donkey power. I understand the instinct. I understand all instincts, when it comes down to it.
Someday, perhaps someday soon, I will introduce the lad to the '67 Dart I have squirreled away in Louisville. And from there hovercraft? Tanks? Mechanical spiders? Don't put ideas in his head, not just now. Luisa and I are still determining his motor reflexes. He's gotten quite proficient at catching shot glasses in midair, but nothing has been decided yet.
For the present, we have the beasts of the hills. Untraceable and they live off the land. An example all my soldiers can admire.
He must have thought he was dining--had dined--on the ill-got gains of my barn raids. Ah, not this time. No, this bird was born and raised on my property. Although its parents may have come from elsewhere.
Well, that's a certainty, in the case of the "father." And "bird" might not be strictly speaking the right term either. But the taste is essentially that of chicken, with a twist.
Is there a law against crossbreeding ground fowl with octopi? Let's just say that a dozen or so corporations wince to know that I beat them to the punch on this discovery. Let us also say that they are not above using the USDA as a stalking horse.
Yes, eat up, Parson. Me, I've got to go dispose of some feathery ink sacs.
If you must know, the salt in my diet chiefly comes from the blood of the star-nosed mole. Well-placed field agents in Canada have reported beneficial effects in the area of tactile sensitivity. Such a talent has its drawbacks, certainly, but in short bursts will be vital for my upcoming plan. And at any rate, I am a superior man. I have no reason to fear the results, the knowledge.
In order to dispel morning grogginess, I've been downing two or three handfuls of Skittles per day. Hence the sweet.
Luisa has missed the act of cooking for me, but science must advance.
My enemies--and legion they are--will resort to any tool at their disposal in order to find out what I have planned. My closest compatriots need to help me keep things sub rosa, until I am ready for things to be otherwise.
My son Jörg is a superior specimen in so many respects. But he has one formidable weakness. As shown by Luisa's ability to gull him with the crude façade of a lie detector, he is susceptible to manipulation through guilt and shame. Most parents might find this reassuring. I am not most parents.
No, Jörg's psychic defenses must be reinforced. A three day course of hallucinogens may open his floodgates, force him to confront his false morality. For now, there is nothing but to laugh.
Believe it or not, the Wild Turkey has an animal cunning rarely seen among creatures of the foothills. It chooses the most capricious times to fly--yes, fly--and keeps predators off-balance. These birds are sufficiently intelligent that eating them feels a little like cannibalism. And a lot like being reborn into the world, but that's a long story.
It has been pointed out to me that I have something in common with the late M. Bonaparte. (A relative amateur in the art of conquest, one with little sense of the long game.) Yes, I too am low to the ground. One sees much that way.
Does my stature hurt my billiard game. A fair if rude question. The truth is, I have been known to throw games. I find that final clattering victory has more of an impact if it is in doubt. As well, it puts opponents at ease, and one must have willing opponents. It has become nearly impossible to scare up a ping pong match.
One final note. I often receive questions regarding LVN and the schoolteacher, Madame Prunelly. Are they in fact the same woman? For now I will only reply that there is a reason every deck of cards has two jokers.
A forceful denial is required. It is absolutely untrue that I--or anyone in my employ--laces the county's fish and game birds with mind controlling substances. I have moral standards, although they are not immediately apparent to the layman. And while the citizens of Hootin' Holler do--unlike bass and chickens--have functioning minds, my sense is that controlling these minds would prove more trouble than it is worth.
Now, powerful halluninogens are another story. On occasion, these elixirs may find their way into the food supply. Not en masse, but enough to trigger "mystical" insights in some. One should never underestimate a hillbilly on a vision quest.
From the notebooks of Lucas Morrison The city has its beautiful women and its nocturnal degenerates.
The countryside has its rustic pleasures and dangerous animals.
No place I have known has another Elviney (my pet name for Colonel LVN). And yet she combines qualities from each category. And so living with her requires me to draw on all my experiences. It is an exhilirating ordeal, one not for all men.
Oh, some may grouse "mental cruelty" and "gaslighting." I'll have none of it. They have never been married. Least of all have they been married to a rival in the service of Smith's vision.
"Bothered by the sight of blood"? I should hope not, my jovial bear of a man! After all, it is lovely to be able to evade violence. One always hopes that one's adversaries will take the functionality of the laser cannon on faith. And when proactive force is required, more sophisticated weapons are pleasant. Still, at times one must pick up the scimitar and get one's hands dirty, if only to prove one can.
Interesting story with the good doctor here. He was employed by... someone, who I believe I know but won't name now. Engaged in staged cattle mutilations and the abduction of cornpone hillbillies, he almost faced his capture without showing fear. Almost. I was impressed with the skill he showed in his hands, and was amused by the thought of keeping him and his Dartmouth elocution here. As predicted, he has picked up on the ways and talk of the plain folk of theses parts.
The old man circled our encampment numerous times, near-empty canteen hanging from his neck. Luisa wanted to find a deep ditch in which his body could rot. I was tempted, but his orange eyebrows and high-pitched ranting made him too conspicuous. There was just that chance that he'd be missed, even that he was the black sheep of a wealthy family.
No, better to bring him in, somehow. But he wasn't strong. Wasn't good with weapons. Nor should he be allowed within thirty yards of a sterile lab.
In the end, we gave him a broad straw hat and a shiny preacher's suit. We've given him the duties of arbitration and ritual. The wonderful thing is that it doesn't matter if he's any good at it. His presence lets my people know that I care. And that one way or another, I am always watching.
You may think me unduly harsh with my son. Well, go ahead and think that. I need not justify my actions to anyone.
But perhaps your perception and appreciation may yet grow. A child growing to maturity needs a little of his father's vinegar as well as mother's milk. A boy destined to lead a squadron of supermen may need an extra dose once in a while. Among other ingredients.
Thankfully, Jörg has not let me down. Yes, I have faith that the boy and his compatriots will make short work of the hausfrau's clayware. And between the two of us, I've requested that he grind the Dukes of Hazard memorial set. That popinjay Tom Wopat will pay for his insolence.
From Luisa's log. We lie to the world. We lie to each other. Our relationship is based on deceit, aimed towards a goal most would call mad. Horrific even. And somehow, the ever-present spectre of betrayal brings us closer together. For the mask, the kill, the cover-up: that is who we are.
I think Snuffy would like sweet potato pie tonight. I truly think he would.
To be absolutely clear, my fretting over who takes over as "leader" of the "free world" would be a foolish waste of time and energy. The president, whoever he or she might be, will answer to me when he or she learns of something I have in store. I don't want to spoil the surprise, but let's say it rhymes with "tidal agitator." To micromanage would squander the great advantage--aside from my intellect--that I have: time.
Luisa will, of course, write in "Felix the Cat." Oh my, she'll be giggling all night.
From the journal of LVN, educational minister The girl, the one with the red ribbon and the raven black hair. Do I see something of myself in her? Yes, I certainly do. As a girl, a flowered slip of a thing. Yes, before the battle scars and the lessons that so few women survive. Before I knew what commitment was, and who was worthy of mine. So young! So raw!
My instruction of these young women is far from complete. They must learn. The sexual instinct is a great and powerful thing. You must make it your servant and not your master. You must make men your servants. They'll be only too happy to make you the fools they are.
And most especially, be cautious around boys like Smith's spawn, Jörg. Because of his blood, he thinks himself special. Well, special he may be. Time will tell. But he will be humbled and will learn to learn the hard way if Ms... If I have anything to say it. No special treatment from the girl children on my watch.
The operative known to me only as LVN--the source of the colloquial "Elviney"--is an enigmatic one. She has been employed by Pinochet's personal security detail and worked with several Maoist groups, and thus her associates have spanned the ideological spectrum. Her motives are her own.
Currently she is responsible for the education center, deceptively primitive in appearance. The children show her unquestioned loyalty and obedience, even love. This despite--or because of--the permanent missing status of a few of her unrulier charges. For me she has inspired surprise, bafflement, and yes, the occasional twinge of fear. (All of which I shall deny if it is repeated to her.)
In all frankness I never asked Lucas to take LVN as a lover. Nor would I have done so. The man's ego and impetuous loins are responsible for that. Yet, perhaps an advantage. When two of one's officers are locked in marital combat, it tests the mettle of both. Thus I may determine, as the plan progesses, who shall hold the more reins.
Yes, my trusted lieutenant Lucas and I have had many good laughs regarding the citizens of Hootin' Holler and their adherence to "old time" slave morality. They know--if only by osmosis--their Old Testament and their New Testament. But few among them are aware of the Newest Testament: the Book of the Fully Realized Man.
Well, they'll learn. Those who can learn shall be educated. Out of the weak and credulous masses shall rise the strong men and women of tomorrow.
Collapse onto the bed? Why of course I did! For a full week I've been testing designs for the new currency to be unveiled in the Western... Well, suffice it to say that I'm deep into a grand R&D project. And every other waking moment is spent securing the loyalty of my minions in these convoluted poker rituals. Well, it wears a man down.
Now I need sustenance. Food!
I trust Luisa. She may be prone to bestial rages, particularly in the presence of certain integers. (Long story for another day.) But in the kitchen, as in so many other locales, she shows a determined forward motion. In the vernacular, she knows how to git R done.
Yes, a baby born today is a boy or girl who will come of age in the new Eden. The grander, sweeter future that will be brought about by one Ezekiel "Snuffy" Smith and his minions. Yes, the citizens of the world that will be. In a way, they are the reason I get up in the morning. The reason Jörg... Excuse me, the reason "Jughaid" and I spend all that father-son time hacking into weather satellites.
So yes, when I heard that the Wiggins family had brought forth new life, I was excited. And not just because Alvin's wife has always struck me as a paragon of barrenness. No, I thought these youngling's deserved to be greeted by the man who will humbly shape their world.
Instead? Birds. And not real birds, either. Rather, it was three wren-like automata that I had assembled myself as a post-graduate project. (Not the entire project, of course.)
Well, the rest of the day I spent in a foul (not a fowl) temper. Luisa's skills as a masseuse, courtesan, and knife-thrower were certainly needed that night.
Why, one may ask, does Ezekiel Smith have a dead skunk under his porch? Well, one may ask, but if one is wise one will refrain from seeking too many details. Law of the exile, don't you know.
Suffice it to say that the poor creature was not the intended target of the experimental neurotoxin. But once it had wandered into the cloud, the man of science in me sat up and took notice.
The amalgamation of chemicals seems to have preserved the flesh, in a true paradox. The smell is actually becoming... sweeter? Yes, like honey and roses, although the scent of decay has crept in. Research continues between the poker games. Little two-toned martyr, your death has not been in vain.
And why do unregistered voters love me. Well, as much as it surprises even me, I have aroused a certain amount of affection in my fellow Hollerites. It could be that I always have a kind word for any soul I meet. It may be my generosity in distributing fish, when I catch one. (Or more. There is a precedent for multiplying fish. But now, now, mustn't blaspheme.)
The monitor chips that I've implanted in the heads of most inhabitants of the Greater Hootin' Holler metropolitan area may also be a factor. Now do not fret. The mechanics are harmless--by and large--and unintrusive. For the most part I let my neighbors go about their tawdry lives.
There is a possibility I could use the cerebral implants to bend these fellows and fellowettes to my will, should the circumstances arise. Needless to say, a forgettable local election does not qualify.
While I was dubious at first, Lucas has persuaded me that throwing streamers and babbling about "a chicken in every pot"* may make me more approachable to the common folk. Do I want them approaching me? At a time of my choosing, yes.
Meanwhile, I have the boy we've given the codename "Jughaid" patrolling the crowds, apprising me of the next generation in dumb muscle. This day shall not go to waste.
* Chickens are, on the whole, abysmally stupid. If one wants a chicken in one's pot, one can simply leave the pot on the portico and a chicken will step into it before long. That's how we done do it in these parts. To quote the vernacular.
It need hardly be said that when I tell Lucas that the key to a good marriage "is to not keep secrets", I mean the sort of marriage other than the domestic tranquility that so many of the sheep flock to. No, what I refer to is the special wedlock between a visionary leader and his trusted lieutenant. Lucas--"Lukey" to the tourists and sleepers--is due his share of the spoils. The portion he requires is something I barely notice, especially as he takes a good percentage of it in corn liquor and chaw. (In a previous life, Lucas was a commodities broker.) But I will not tolerate him lying to me. Mine is a jealous sect.
Luisa, well, bless her. She is busy inculcating the trigger words into the mind of Lucas' companion Elvira Lynn. "Berry patch" is an unconscious instruction to take a memory-altering sedative if taken prisoner. The others are rather esoteric, and I will keep them to myself for the present time.
A man of the law. An enforcer of slave morality. And yet while I may hold him in contempt, I cannot entirely dismiss the sheriff. While the laws he represents are soon to be swept aside--as my own transcendent law rises--he shows a certain... adaptive quality.
Laugh, old man, and the world will soon laugh with you. Because this silly little whodunit of yours? It will propagate the truth as I need it to be seen. Oh yes, you've heard me go on and on while ensconced in your drunk tank. And as you are at heart a trusting sort, you believed I was simply jabbering. Well, you'll be educated soon enough.
Yes, laugh sheriff. But as you set in motion the informational phase of my plans, know the last laugh shall be Snuffy's.
Ah, Luisa! Or, as we are expected to say in these parts, 'Weezy. (Gad.) Such a warm companion! Such a lethal aide! And so different from what you were before.
Yes, when I first recruited her from the lower ranks of the Stasi, Luisa was a shy German farmgirl who could barely hold her Luger straight. But I saw potential in her, and was determined to develop it.
She is a new kind of creature now, as her command of avian lore shows. Or rather, in a way that the exchange above only begins to demonstrate. If she sees a wren foraging on the ground, she is able to catch it in one hand a second after it takes flight. To comfort the bird or to wring its neck. I've been witness to both.
Mama is most certainly not the woman who gave me life lo these many years ago. Her identity is another story for another day.
Curse that carrot-topped fool Skeeter, and his ineffectual money-making schemes.
Yes, these soft Kentucky suburbanites always seem so awed and grateful when they're introduced to "mountainfolk" and "ur mountin' folk ways." For the first hour. A full day's tour, and their coddled stomachs have been turned by our water and our rather cultured meat. Life in this part of the land toughens a man, one reason Hootin' Holler--don't ask about the name--makes such an ideal base of operations. But a few tourists get sick, and lawyers come sticking their noses in. Reporters, *shudder*. My plans are not meant to be known, not yet.
Nor, for that matter, is my face. Oh no, no pictures. The name "Snuffy Smith" must remain a whisper, if that. Meaning that the camera held by that towheaded hausfrau must have an accident. Skeeter is responsible for this sheer Charlie Foxtrot. It is only right for him to clean up the mess. It would be lovely if harm could be spared the family themselves. Yes, I would prefer that, and hope it may be so.
Not just any man, obviously. A man of outsized talents, gifts, genius if you will.
Such a man will not be satisfied working for another, any other. Oh, he sees the value of labor, but it must be on his own terms. His ambitions will be so outsized as to terrify nearly all of his fellow beings. Those who are not repelled may find themselves compelled to serve him. For this man, "The world is my oyster," is not a mere cliché, but a confident vision.
Such a man is Ezekiel "Snuffy" Smith. Like Alexander the Great, like Napoleon, Snuffy feels the right--nay, the duty--to reshape the world to his own liking.
But it can't all come at once. The world powers are too entrenched. Stick your head up too far, too fast, and it's apt to be chopped off. And so Snuffy Smith bides his time. He waits, and watches, obscuring his towering intellect behind the pose of a shiftless hillbilly.