The sunglasses worn by David Lunch reflected the thermonuclear brightness of the sun in this late morning. The sky of a uniform blue crackled like a television screen filled with white noise. With his hands symmetrically placed on the steering wheel of his car, the wind filtering through the half-open windows making his grey mane wave, the filmmaker methodically drove through the streets of the city where he had made his home for several decades – Los Angeles, the city of film, the one of all dreams. And of all nightmares too. His mouth pursed in a pensive grimace, unaffected by the increasing heat of the summer day. He scanned the vehicles preceding him on the asphalt ribbon, slowing down behind some cars, sometimes accelerating to catch up with others, suddenly changing direction depending on what he saw or thought he saw. He was obviously looking for something. This strange motorized choreography would have made no sense to a potential spectator, as it didnt appear to be guided by any structure. The filmmaker seemed to navigate according to his intuition of the moment, without having established a real driving plan.
Neil, sitting in the passenger seat, cleared his throat: “Mr. Lunch?
Drawn out of his reverie by the passenger he had forgotten for a time, with a surprised air, Lynch finally answered: “Yes, Neil?
– I wondered if we shouldn’t head in the direction of the studio?
– The studio?
– Yes, we are already half an hour late. We have an appointment to shoot the scene with the Pyromaniac and K….
The abrupt braking sent Neil’s coffee onto the windshield. Lunch had just spotted a red car on a perpendicular street. He swerved in pursuit, his foot to the floor, making the engine roar violently. Neil fell down in his seat, panicked.
– Mr. Lunch?
– One moment, Neil.
The lanes passed on both sides of the vehicle at a bewildering speed, the wind whistling by the windows. The coffee spilled on the windshield was dripping in long brown streaks, diminishing visibility significantly.
– That is, the studio with the Pyromaaaahh…
New squeal of tires. Abrupt stop. Lunch’s car stopped within a few centimeters of its prey. Leaving the engine running, he leaned forward to read the license plate of the vehicle preceding him on the road. A look of annoyance came over his face.
“Damn, I thought so…”, he grumbled.
Straightening up with caution until finding a posture more or less normal, Neil contemplated his employer with big eyes. The drops of coffee finished sliding along the windshield.
– You… Well, how…
– The license plates, Neil, the license plates. I can’t go back to the studio until I get my date of birth on those plates.
– Your date of birth? But, uh, why?
– It would take too long to explain. But it’s very, very important.
– Your date of birth?
Lunch looked at Neil as if this last had had a cerebral embolism.
– Yes, Neil, my date of birth. Nothing will work until I manage to recompose it using these plates. Four and six, ten, the number of completion.
Several blows of the horn convinced Lunch to return to his briefly interrupted hunting party. He took a new direction, going against the current flow of vehicles moving towards the studio. All this was becoming alarming. It had never taken him so long to spot the right numbers. Had the Beaver already begun his detrimental action?
At a red light, he reluctantly stopped the car. His hands clenched on the steering wheel as his eyes scanned passing cars of all makes. Seemingly obsessed by what he was seeing, his mind was actually traveling elsewhere, many years away. He remembered another car ride through the industrial areas of Los Angeles with Jack Spence. His favorite actor, to whom he had given the main role in his first feature film, had often accompanied him like this, with a bottle of Coca-Cola in his hand. They both enjoyed the zone’s extravagent metallic architecture, humming, full of smoke, sources of life and warmth within a universe haunted by the terrifying presence of malignant spectral entities. They liked to fill themselves with the dull power of these gigantic monsters, sometimes in disuse, always evocative. He missed their long walks, their endless discussions until the end of the night. Jack had sometimes supported him in his paranormal investigations, he had not hesitated to play the role of scout in these unknown lands.
It was during a tour of the industrial underpinnings of the City of Angels that Jack, sitting in the back seat, suddenly leaned over his shoulder in panic, pointing:
– Look, over there!
Lunch had squinted his eyes, seeking to locate the source of his companion’s attention.
– Over there!
– At the corner of the street, behind the wall… it was…
– It was you!
– I swear, I could have sworn it was you.
His mouth half-opened in an expression of incredulity, Lunch parked his car along the sidewalk near the wall indicated by the actor. It was a wall covered in graffiti and film posters half torn off, including Back to the Future among others. At the angle of the wall, someone had drawn a long arrow in chalk, topped by the inscription “Stage Entrance”. A little worried, the filmmaker and his actor made their way towards the spot. Behind it, they discovered a vacant lot, in the middle of which sat an abandoned television set, the screen smashed. All around the set, someone had built a kind of “dam” made of intertwined branches. Otherwise, no signs of life.
Lunch stared at Spence. “I assure you”, declared the latter, “there was someone who was a dead ringer for you”.
– I believe you, Jack.
– I can’t believe it…
The memory of this incident evaporated from Lunch’s mind and his attention fixated again on the flow of vehicles circulating in front of him.
– 46 !!!
Immediately after having spat out this number, his year of birth, he pushed the accelerator and started his vehicle like a shot in pursuit of a pickup truck. Neil had no choice but to grab the handle above his seat, hoping his boss’s reflexes would get them out of the mid-day traffic alive.
X X X
“You can’t mean that, Dynah!” spat Laure Adler.
“I assure you I can, Dale,” replied Kyle MacLalaland.
– If you don’t stop this act immediately, I’m warning you, I’m going to tell Gordon everything.
– Fuck you.
Lunch listened to this exchange while nodding his head regularly with a satisfied air. The new approach developed by the two actors seemed to suit the director’s expectations to a T. Kyle and Laure, however, looked slightly disconcerted in response to the turn that things had taken, still unable to determine their respective characters.
– I’m sure you’re having an affair with Lola.
– But she’s dead, Dynah!
– No, not anymore – you reset the timeline where she was killed by her father…
– By POP.
– …and now she’s alive again.
– Yes, but you know we’ve gone to another dimension, where she became Carrie.
As Kyle and Laure spouted these lines, they frowned heavily, eyes wide, trying to make sense of their exchange.
“This is perfect, I love it! Cut!”, yelled Lunch.
He rose from his director’s chair to approach the show’s leading duo. He motioned to Mark Forest, who had remained seated behind the camera: “Will you write all this down for me, Mark? I think we’re headed in the right direction now that we’re writing the final version of the script and the actors have improvised the storyline we gave them.” Forest turned to his assistant to indicate his complete lack of understanding regarding the filmmaker’s expectations.
“Kyle,” Lunch continued, “that’s fine, but maybe try to keep your balance better with Dynah’s high heels, you’re supposed to be a woman and know how to walk in those things.
– Yes, Laure?
– Could I possibly have a slightly newer cell phone than the one I was given? I thought the action of the series was going to take place in the future.
He brought the donut he had been nibbling on since the beginning of the scene to his mouth and bit down on it, taking an ample sweet bite out of the pastry. He chewed it in silence for about fifteen seconds before resuming.
– I wonder if…
“This is perfect, I love it! Cut!” someone behind him shouted.
He turned around and discovered David Lunch, the director of the scene they were shooting. He was getting up from his chair to approach the leading trio of the series. On the way, he signaled to Mark Forest, who remained behind the camera: “Will you write all this down for me, Mark? I think we’re going in the right direction now that we’re writing the first draft of the script and the actors have improvised the storyline we gave them.
“David,” Lunch resumed, “that’s fine, but maybe try to put less emphasis on my tics with your donut. I know that everyone thinks I eat too much sugar, but let’s not exaggerate.
– Yes, Kyle?
– No, I’m Laure.
– Oh, sorry… Laure?
– Do you think I could potentially have a smartphone? I don’t think the idea of getting a pager really makes sense, although the action of the new season is supposed to take place before Lola Farmer’s murder, if I understand correctly?
Lunch gave himself a few seconds before answering this question. He inserted the entirety of the donut that Neil had just given him in his mouth and took his time chewing it well, observing the reaction of the actors in front of his small pantomime.
– In fact, I thought that…
– This is perfect, I love it ! Cut!
X X X
The universe is a vast uterus and David Lunch floats within its heart at the speed of light, warm, from a wave of plasma to an ejection of ions and electrons, like a cosmic foetus with his arms in the form of a cross. The wind of the stars undulates his impeccable suit during his interminable instantaneous journey, an astral voyage leading up to the White Lodge, where the Maharishi invited him. He takes advantage of the journey to light a cigarette or two in order to clear his mind. He avoids an asteroid belt, runs through a nebula, and wonders about the way to go. The Beaver has parasited his physical dimension with an assiduousness more frantic by the day and if nothing concrete is quickly undertaken, the situation might come to ruin. But what to do? How can the harmful actions of this doppelgänger of mine be counteracted?
What had the Maharishi already indicated concerning the way to join him? Third black hole on the right before turning towards the galaxy NGC-430? Or was it instead the fourth one on the left, just before the quasar at the end of the world? No, that was the direction of the planet Dune – there was no way he was going back to that hellhole. Might as well pay Baron Harkonnen a visit, thanks!
Passing an abandoned artificial satellite, Lunch told himself that he still had time to foment his counter-attack. He had an appointment yesterday with the giant teapot interpreted by David Bully. Since his departure for the beyond, the British singer had not ceased to conceive massive pranks. Like the day, two years from now, when he replaced the team’s Garmongonzola with liquid mashed potatoes full of lumps of pancake batter in the middle instead of corn kernels. What a laugh when everyone had spit their food out! A bon vivant, uh… well, a good undead vivant – but then, he sometimes crossed the line, so he should remember his sense of duty while working for the FBI.
Just about to arrive at destination, Lunch saw the giant head of Major Guirlande making the turn of the golden sphere of the Pyromaniac. It had been a long time since he had exchanged with the serviceman. He had been taking it easy since his decapitation, I must say, content to sail across the Ocean of Being as Moby Dick. From time to time, he would even spit out a little water like a whale blowing steam through its blowhole. The fact that he accepted to play the role of Fat Man with Ruth Homeimport at the end of season 3 in North-by-Nortwest Passage however pushed Lunch to turn a blind eye to his erring ways.
Whereas for once he would have liked to land lightly atop the White Lodge, Lunch was flattened like a pancake at the landing. Not easy to pass from the speed of light to two kilometers per hour in the space of three seconds. He got up while holding his hips and went towards the glass door connected to the living room.
Sitting cross-legged, the Maharishi floated over to him from the gramophone on which he was listening to the Beatles’ White Album (again!?). He wore his ever-present smile as usual like a copyright ™ mark of transcendence. A bright luminosity emanated from his person, a rainbow of regenerating waves. Bathed in these powerful spiritual emanations, Lunch felt immediately revived. He bent slightly in front, joining his hands at the level of his heart while inclining his head.
– Namaste, guru.
– I see that you still have to perfect your landing technique, don’t you?
– A few small improvements to work out, yes.
– I put some donuts and astral muffins on the table by the couch over there. go ahead and help yourself, you must be starving after that trip!
– Thank you guru!
Lunch didn’t need to be told twice. He seized a crunchy donut without delay and devoured it conscientiously. He observed the room while chewing. The decor had not changed since his last visit: a floor carpet reproducing the atmosphere of the planet Jupiter, a giant electromagnetic bell placed like a dung heap in the middle, an old-fashioned sofa in the back…
– The Pyromaniac is not here?
– No, he’s still watching movies in his upstairs theater. Since Ditto left him, we can’t get anything out of him. He spends his time watching old copies of The Wizard of Oz.
– I’ll have to talk to him.
– Knock yourself out. I’m throwing in the towel!
The Maharishi floated away in the direction of the sofa. He settled comfortably above it within a few centimeters of its surface. Lynch sat down in an armchair facing him.
– The Beaver started to build his dam, didn’t he?
– Yes, guru.
– Have you managed to locate him?
– Not yet. He slips into the folds of the stage curtain and disappears every time I’m about to get hold of him.
– He’s clever, yes…
A thought bubble slowly took shape above the two men, an emanation from the past commanded by the Maharishi. They looked in its direction to see what it depicted, like a VCR replaying a scene from an earlier episode of the series. A scene gradually emerged from the initial fog, from the shapeless mass of memories contained in the sphere. An image of the Maharishi splashing around in the Ocean of Being up to his chest, playing with a bright yellow plastic duck, finally stood out clearly against the indistinct background. The Maharishi suddenly gesticulated, his eternal grin turning into an embarrassed grimace, and he immediately erased the image: “Oops, sorry – bad memory…”.
A new sequence soon appeared in the thought bubble. Lunch could not immediately distinguish what it was supposed to depict. The action was moving at high speed, as if someone had pressed the “fast forward” button of a remote control. And then things slowed down, stabilized little by little. You could make out the presence of a mature man wrapping a young naked woman in a plastic sheet. Norman Bates in Psycho? Cristo in Philadelphia? POP in Deer Meadows? By looking at it more closely, Lunch noticed that the young woman did not have a face, like certain paintings of Giorgio de Chirico. The scene changed and the waterfall of North-by-Northwest Passage came to replace the wrapping of the young woman. The flow of water falling in slow motion into the lake, smashing its surface, took on a threatening air. As if the fragile layer of a mirror was about to crack in front of the incessant assault of this mass from out of nowhere, from an unfathomable below. The image remained stable a few seconds before flickering and then going out like a lightbulb.
“Rancho,” whispered the Maharishi.
“Yee-ha!”, answered Lunch without skipping a beat.
The two men stared at each other in silence a few moments, trying to digest what they had just seen. Troubled.
The Maharishi resumed: “You are far away”.
Lunch blinked, looked around, frowned. “Uh, no… I’m here, Maharishi”.
(TO BE RETURNED TO)