I’ve started smoking again. After being so good at stopping. I’m so fucking angry I could kill Natasha’s cat. Okay, strike that. The cat’s gone anyway.

And I’m better now. I promise.

How did I get stuck with that freaking cat anyway? How did I get stuck here at all? I try to act like it didn’t happen. I try to act like everyone else, but in my head, I know it’s all true. Like that movie, Carrie. Everything ended in blood, guts and revenge.

I’m a movie star. I was in the most successful movie of all time, Moon Wars.

Oh, who am I kidding? I’m not a star. I was given that part to make Phillip Chu look good. And damn, did he look good. So good he got me into his bed and Jessica found us there. Now he’s off somewhere on holiday with her.

If that’s the case, why aren’t I off somewhere, too? I swear, I get no fucking respect.

I spent six months in Camarillo State Hospital. Why? Because I refused to say what I saw with my own two eyes at that theater didn’t happen. You think the doctors of death died out with Nazi Germany? Well, they didn’t. They’re still very much alive right here in the good old US of A. At Camarillo State Hospital.

They tied me to a bed. Gave me meds that made it so I couldn’t move or scream. All the while, I was fully aware and could feel everything they did to me. You know your worst nightmare, when you’re running from something but you never escape and you can’t even scream? It’s worse than that. Because you’re wide awake, lying there with doctors and nurses in white, probing and prodding and sticking you. Pain and terror so bad you scream and scream, but nothing comes out your mouth.

All the while they keep telling you what’s real is fake and what’s fake is real and right is left and left is right and up is down and down is up.

Electric shock. Peeing uncontrollably. I had three seizures while I was there. And now I have to be on anti-seizure meds for the rest of my life.

Psychiatrists are sickos. Perverts. I lost about 20 pounds and I’m a small person already. I became dangerously ill. Addicted to the meds.

But even in that hell, there was kindness. Some smart mental patients. Actually, smarter than most people I’ve known on the outside. And real heroes, too. I learned how to fool the orderlies and the doctors into thinking I was taking the meds. I’m an actor, after all, so I started acting for my life. Pretending I’d learned my lesson. I said I’d been wrong. I realized the error of my ways and admitted it was all a lie. I complied.

And eventually they let me out. While the others being tortured were left behind. They were expendable. I could be used as a prime example of Reeducation. In the first week of my release, I had a couple of press conferences where I repeated what they told me to say. After that, I was allowed to retreat back to my little house in Topanga Canyon, not far from where Natasha lived—just down the street from me, in fact. Once, it seemed like in another life, she’d knocked on my door, looking for her cat, Seti. She showed me a picture, but I hadn’t seen it. I love animals and I eagerly helped her look for it, without success. A few days later, I saw Natasha at the local market and she was all smiles, saying Seti had come home.

So, one night, not long after my release, when I heard the scratching and frantic meows, I opened the door and recognized Natasha’s cat. It shot past me and into the house, then proceeded to rub up against my leg, purring contentedly, as if it belonged. It was a hefty tabby, but clearly quite sweet. I picked it up and went down to Natasha’s house and knocked on the door. I don’t know why I did that. I already knew she was gone. I’d seen her at the premiere after all, in cahoots with those other commandos. I shook my head. Forget about all of that.

I took Seti back home with me, bought some cat food, and tried to live a normal life. I asked my agent for scripts, but he said now wasn’t the time, I had to focus on promoting this film. Except no one asked me to do any more press after those first ones, and those hadn’t been about the film, but about how dangerous the lies were that were being propagated by these fringe groups. So dangerous they had even fooled someone like me. It was strange. But again, too dangerous to think about and I had to stop.

Anyway, nothing can stop Moon Wars. It’s breaking records across the world. I should feel proud, but I don’t.

I went to some parties. Fucked a few guys. Tried to go to lunch once with friends, but got attacked by fans clamoring for autographs. Paparazzi with flashing cameras, terrifying me that I might have another seizure, and asking questions I couldn’t answer, like, “When was the last time you saw Phillip Chu?”

After that, I stayed inside, until one night I got so bored I went to a private party just a few miles away, at the house of a screenwriter I knew in Malibu Colony.

I was on the deck enjoying the fresh breeze and ocean view when this guy approached me. He was tall and thin with shoulder-length brown hair and soulful eyes. He looked like a 1960’s hippie. He seemed harmless enough until he started commiserating with me about my press conferences.

“Don’t worry, you can be honest with me,” he said conspiratorially. “You’re not the only one who knows what really happened that night. I can tell they tried to brainwash you, but there are ways to keep a clear mind.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said, walking down the steps onto the sand. He followed after me.

“You heard of Qigong?” he asked.

When I said I hadn’t, he explained he was part of a group practicing Qigong, a meditative practice dating back over 4,000 years in China.

“Please, I don’t want to know any of this,” I said, feeling the panic rising up inside of me. I glanced left and right, relieved no one was near enough to overhear our conversation.

“Moon Wars isn’t just another sci-fi book,” he persisted. “It’s got hidden messages, all about seeking truth. Turning toward virtue, morality, and the dignity of humanity. Our eyes have been opened thanks to Rey’s writings. We practice the art of the Breath.”

I’d never heard of Qigong and the art of the breath sounded hokey. But I was vaguely aware of the fringe group calling itself X-Rey, and I knew from how this guy talked that he must be a part of it. The FBI was threatening to classify them as a terrorist organization. It’s said they caused the fire at the theater. X-Reyers deny this, of course. They claim they’re searching for the right sequence to open the portal to get Rey back from…somewhere. To achieve a higher state of enlightenment. Oh, and to learn from the aliens.

Because that’s where Rey and Chu are. Apparently. With the aliens.

“Come on,” I objected. “Chu and the others are on holiday. It’s some sort of publicity stunt. Everyone knows that. I’ve seen photos of him on a beach in the South of France.”

“Then why are you here, alone?” he asked.

I went home that night and started shaking uncontrollably. I downed my pills and sat on the sofa, grabbing my legs with my hands, trying to stop it. Stop it!

Seti jumped on my lap and I screamed and threw him off. And then I felt bad because none of this was the cat’s fault. The cat howled and disappeared through the open window. I haven’t seen him since. I don’t know if I want him back or not.

A few days later, the doorbell rang and I nearly had a heart attack. I waited for the person to go away, but they rang it again.

“Let me in for fuck’s sake,” said a voice.

I opened the door. “Slick, what the hell?”

He was an old friend from college who used to come over on occasion and complain about married life. He brushed past me, just like the cat, and plopped down on my sofa. He looked terrible; he smelled, too. He was shaking and sweaty. Withdrawals.

He begged to stay with me. Hannah had left him. Just disappeared. A lot of disappearing going on lately. He started babbling about the book, Moon Wars, and the colors red and blue and how they turn purple. I was so sick of the topic. It was like I couldn’t escape it, even if I hid in my house.

“But not just any purple,” he said.

He lifted his pant leg and showed me a disgusting purple abscess that took up almost his entire calf. It looked like an infection from needle wounds and I thought he might lose his leg.

“You have to get help,” I said.

But he kept pointing at his leg and talking about Moon Wars.

I needed him out of there. So I checked him into rehab and even paid for a week of detox. I went back home, vowing never to open the door again.

The first thing I did was take my copy of Moon Wars and burn it in the fireplace. That sounds crazy, I know. But it had begun to haunt me, staring down from the shelf.

Tonight, I sit on my back porch and look up at the stars.

Where the fuck are those bastards Chu and Rey? And that bitch Jessica? She’s the one Rey kicked out. Not me.

Why am I alone here?

I need another cigarette. I look down at the stubs littering the table.

I’m all out. I’ll have to go to the corner store.

The thought terrifies me.

I can’t keep that guy’s face out of my mind, his words about hidden texts and the art of the Breath.

And Slick, hardly able to breathe anymore.

I cough.

Maybe it would help me stop smoking, learning the Art of the Breath.

I have to stop thinking these subversive thoughts. If anyone finds out my thoughts, they’ll lock me up again. I can’t let that happen.

Just act, Mavis, just keep on acting.

At least there’s comfort in knowing I’m not the only one. There are others out there. Fuck, what am I saying?

I’m not like them!

Maybe I should find that guy.

Maybe not.

Maybe just stay home.

Yeah, that’s what I’ll do. Just stay home.

After I get one more pack of cigarettes, that is.

Just one.

I feel like I’m waiting for something to happen.

***

For all installments from Luminaria, click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Chapter 1: Come to Me — Lana
  2. Chapter 2: The Proposition — Hannah, Part 1
  3. Chapter 2: The Proposition — Hannah, Part 2
  4. Chapter 3: Killer Gene — Natasha, Part 1
  5. Chapter 3: Killer Gene — Natasha, Part 2
  6. Chapter 4: Wrong Turn — Lilly, Part 1
  7. Chapter 4: Wrong Turn — Lilly, Part 2
  8. Chapter 5: How it Happened — Adonai
  9. Chapter 6: Vishku Way — Erolin, Part 1
  10. Chapter 6: Vishku Way — Erolin, Part 2
  11. Chapter 7: Undercover — Farida, Part 1
  12. Chapter 7: Undercover — Farida, Part 2
  13. Chapter 8: Lights, Camera, Action — Jessica, Part 1
  14. Chapter 8: Lights, Camera, Action — Jessica, Part 2
  15. Chapter 9: Balancing Act — Ith Daktar San, Part 1
  16. Chapter 9: Balancing Act — Ith Daktar San, Part 2