Nigredo: Cody Goodfellow

Few cult deprogrammers these days would even try to take someone from Ex Libris. Hardly any even call themselves deprogrammers, anymore. “Exit counselor” is the preferred title, in keeping with the warmer, fuzzier new psychology. A human brain must be more than just Descartes’ materialist cognitive model, or its feelings wouldn’t get so hurt by the truth.

My methods were not popular, but they worked. Most of my business was by referral. The clients who came to me had exhausted every other hope of recovering their loved ones. When I could not myself convince them to accept that perhaps they were healthier, more enlightened, perhaps even happy, with their new lifestyle, then I had them sign my waiver and went to work.

Ex Libris was a hard target. They didn’t greet at airports or convention centers or lurk outside euthanasia booths. They didn’t panhandle or turn tricks. Mostly, they meditated to the Master’s audiobooks while toiling in digital sweatshops up and down the coast.

Their leader was a creative writing professor. Dr. Preston Marble used the classics— “guided” meditation, hypnosis, sleep deprivation, protein starvation, mild hallucinogens and traumatic writing assignments. Ex Libris grew out of Marble’s writing seminars and his “Awakened Editions” series of classic books annotated for neurotics desperately yearning to become psychopaths, harvesting the most hopeless wanna-bes, fans and impressionable victims into a militant bibliomancy cult.

Marble’s guide to story structure translated more easily into a practical bible than the Bible, complete with interactive commandments. Every devotee had to compose an “antibiography” of everything they were not and never would be. On average, they ran to five hundred thousand words composed on no sleep and amphetamine-laced oatmeal. When your Editor finally approved your antibiography, you had to burn it and throw the ashes in the ocean or eat it.

If they used Allah, Buddha or Jesus, they’d be on FBI watch-lists, but to the outside world, they’re just a fucking book club.

Sometimes, I can dress up as a senior cult official and pull them out with no headaches. This outfit had no slack, so I cut their DSL line, then knocked on their door. Four surfers in each one-bedroom unit at all times. A van came every other day to rotate them out. Eight more places like this, just in this part of town.

Cable guy uniform. Toolbelt. Wig and mustache, cotton plugs in my cheeks, lifts in my shoes. I chloroformed the geek who answered the door, caught him, threw the deadbolt and dragged him into the living room.

No furniture except for four workstations and a couple futons in the corner. Lysol, incense and macrobiotic farts. Two were awake and pecking at their boards. Another lay on a futon with headphones on. The one I wanted.

She wore a biofeedback harness and a Cranio-Electrical Stimulation cap. They listen to his heartbeat and EEG mixed with his audiobook lectures while they work. The more her brain activity conforms to Marble’s template, the more mildly pleasurable zaps she gets from the cap.

And all while copy-editing or revising the mass media equivalent of lead-painted, asbestos infant’s teething rings. If you’ve ever watched a slab of direct-to-video dreck or mind-numbing scripted reality show patter and wondered how sane human beings can create such empty noise, well… sane people don’t.

The system also tracks bodily functions and location for the home office. Anyone unplugging their unit or wandering out of range triggers an alarm and the Editors come running.

I unplugged her and took off her headphones—Marble’s sleepy bullroarer voice reading something about an anarchist exploding himself at Greenwich Observatory. She was semi-catatonic, dead on her feet. I didn’t even need the chloroform. I stood her up and escorted her to the balcony.

Someone knocked on the front door, then tried the knob.

Out on the balcony overlooking the alley. My assistant waited on the roof of our parked van, ready to catch the product. I bagged her and lowered her over the railing.

Carl caught the bag and gave me a hand down onto the van, then jumped down and caught the product, dropping her in the back. In and out in less than two minutes.

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