This excerpt begins Quinn's novel, The Bill Gates of Heaven. which brings together -- via the fictional narrator Nick Ray -- the Heaven's Gate cult, Microsoft, and the disastrous Western film Heaven's Gate. The novel is currently seeking a publisher.
The man known variously as DO, Bo, Pig and more formerly as Marshall Applewhite used to say, follow me, Nick Ray, follow me.
It's too late, DO. I can't. I have missed my opportunity. Instead I watch as the shrouded bodies are carried out and stacked like logs inside the San Diego County coroner vans. I recognize the men by their over-sized Nikes. Even hidden deep in the shrubbery, I catch the stink of death.
As DO lay dying, I gave him a noogie on his shaved, bristly head. Wake up old man. Wake up. As if he had fallen asleep watching a Star Trek rerun.
Wake up and smell the roses.
That final gurgle of a crushed wind pipe and the dents my thumbs made in his chicken-skin neck.
I circle the house like a phantom, hiding from the police. I touch the dew on the flowering Judas tree. My hands are covered in its purple blood.
DO walked with an old man's caution as if the earth would vanish beneath his feet. But when seated or singing, he rose to the occasion.
I have my sports bag, my pocket full of quarters and my spiral notebook. I wear brand new Nikes, black, size 14. Swoosh!
Hale-Bopp Brings Closure to
It was my search of the Internet that led us to Hale-Bopp. Disaster is a not so subtle translation of the Latin for "bad star". And comet comes from the Greek word "kome" meaning hair, the fuzzy gaseous tail as the comet approaches the sun.
Our kingdom was close at hand. Our ideal member: Smooth, hairless face. High temple, large dark eyes, small nose, tight constricted mouth except when singing. DO's final anima or Ti after one of her secret cobalt treatments. They melted her hair away.
Nothing in this sun-baked land helps me. I wet the tip of my pencil and try to get my thoughts down. I squint for my words. My language is full of dust.
"It's 4 a.m. . . time to get up, lover boy."
DO pokes me in the side, tickles me.
"Stop it, DO."
"Why should I? Who's going to stop me? You?" He puts his hands on his hips and laughs. Out of the corner of my eye, I can see Brother Dugan's long legs stretched out on the lower bunk. I always have to check to make sure they aren't hanging out before swinging down from the upper bed.
DO had a beautiful voice, sang like a canary. His voice at other times was calm, resonant while he stared unblinkingly into your eyes.
That was DO. A great con man with a sing-song voice and sea-blue eyes.
Blossom makes me crazy the way her spoon rattles around in the porcelain bowl as she tries to scrape out the last specks of apple sauce. I want to yell at her to stop. But if I criticize her, Brother Dugan will give me a dirty look and punish me later though weĠre running out of time.
Blossom's gray eyes are the same colour as her short, brushed-back hair. Her stubby fingers poke at a dribble of apple sauce on her receding chin, push it towards her thin-lipped mouth. She has a gut to feed, stares at the remaining sauce in my bowl.
I need to spill my guts, my mouth sour from months of barbiturates, my mouth an ugly frown. I need to tell her the truth about this sorry enterprise called Heaven's Gate. But I keep quiet, swallow just a little of the sauce because I can see Brother Dugan's eyes are focused on the bobbing of my Adam's apple. Days of retching up my food have given me a stomach ache and my clothes hang loosely. A thin, reedy man not quite ready to step outside with the others and die.
Blossom picks up her bowl and licks it cat-like. I match her grin to appear less miserable.
Sadness and intense focus on oneself are Major Offenses.
Have you ever tried conversation with your mouth padded with apple sauce laced with potent drugs? Brother Dugan sits there making sure that we (the first 15 had already left) clean out our bowls.
"Duggie, how come you aren't eating the pudding?"
"I already ate."
"But it was pasta. We're on the same AWAY team."
"DO wants me to clean up."
"But what about the schedule of departure?"
"I'll join you later."
I mumble, "Okay." Jazz is staring at me. He's one of the castrati. A sweet pure boy, much younger than myself. I put on a neutral face though I feel guilt. Should I find a quiet room and tell Jazz that he's about to embark on a one-way trip?
If only I believed in DO's vision and swallowed as freely as the others, even licking the bowl empty like Blossom. In the washroom, I force my finger down my throat and vomit a yellow bile into the toilet bowl. I flush it, the mess swirling like a comet's tail.
"Breathing. . . someone's still breathing. Take their pulses. Make sure they're all dead."
I wait for my wrist to be squeezed by Brother Dugan's manly paw. I wait for them to hold me down, the purple shroud placed over my mouth, my nostrils pinched closed. I hear footsteps and whispering down the hallway. Plastic bags are unrolled over the heads of those still breathing. DO brushing off his wings of death.
He's bending down to each sleeping body, caressing the wrists of the men. His gargoylic form as he bags each soul in the shadowy room. Did I fall asleep? Did I dream everything? Am I awake now? Should I open my eyes again? What the hell will I see?
"Don't you have a little feeling for me?"
She reaches down and squeezes me there.
"I like that about you."
"Bonnie, you aren't really dying."
"My name is Ti, and I'm already dead."
All my women are here as I feel DO's warm breath on my face.
The sun sits fat in the sky. Clouds pass. A gull floats by. I feel like pissing so I do.
I hear a window open above me. I brace myself. I never know what I will be splattered with. Pink panties flutter down and cover my face. I breathe deeply. They are unwashed. I smell the woman who once wore them.
In the alleyway, she-males fight over their needles and johns. This is what I am stuck with in the dull bliss of my Phenobarbital and vodka memory. My body, a cockroach I must inhabit, until the space ship picks me up.
Where are the others? Where are Bo and Peep and their lost sheep?
I am no ordinary vagrant. I have quarters and a five dollar bill in my pocket. If the authorities pick me up I can always say I'm looking for the nearest Laundromat.
"My friend was a member of the UFO cult, Heaven's Gate."
"Your friend? Where is he now?"
"He's hiding. He wants reassurances that you won't arrest him."
"Tell your friend we can't promise that."
"He doesn't want to go to jail."
"Have him come to the station with his lawyer."
"He'll call you right back."
I hang up. I walk to the mall and watch the TV news in an electronics store. I count the bodies as they're loaded into the coroners vans. Luke Skywalker had my ID, I took his. We could have passed for twins.
When they interview my ex-wife, she endlessly repeats on the different channels, He was crazy but we loved him any way.
It's all crap, I whisper under my breath. No one tells the truth anymore.
My father, Nick Ray Sr., used to say you could tell how important a man was by the number of mourners at his funeral. Hiding behind a gravestone, I count 11 at the cemetery including my ex-wife, Gloria, and my children, Nick Ray Jr. and Ella.VThe minister says nothing about Heaven's Gate or flying saucers. When they leave, I stand over Skywalker's coffin and say goodbye to him, wondering if he and the others have made it to the other side and are watching me.
DO said it was all a matter of perspective.