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Up close & personal,

the fun of poking fun at conspiracy theorists fades. Though, to be truthful, this was not so much a contheist, rather someone who had joined the dots in a correct order, but had managed to mix the puzzles up from which they came.

This theory involved a significant site, or maybe two; it was unclear, & engaged in a bit of spectral shifting. On one there was now a power station. The other, or maybe the same site, was a hill of black stone that, iceberg like, was mainly beneath the surface but was now the interest of mining interests. A "Martian Meteor" that had not left a crater; a dome concealing a "planetary intrusion", which, if even just the top was mined, would shift the balance of the Gaian system that was this Earth of ours. The indigenous people knew of its power, regarded it as the head of the Rainbow Serpent, used the surrounding area as a burial site. & yet — a contradiction since the oral tradition is extremely strong in the indigenous peoples of this land — such knowledge was now lost to them.

But not to the theorist, who even knew the name they used to call it by. Buddha, spelt out for reinforcement, so that there would be no mistaking it for a homonym. & the fact that the top of this black rock had been mined — again this spectral shifting — was the cause for all the Islamic unrest going on.

The conspirators? As Claude Rains so famously said in Casablanca, round up the usual suspects. State & Federal governments, the mining companies, academia — especially the scientists — the indigenous people, the population at large, singular highly-placed individuals within the population.

& the contheist? A man in his late thirties, well built, casually dressed in pressed jeans, sandals, & a bright yellow shirt of the kind called hi vis wear. Well spoken, telling his story in not so much a practised way but rather with the familiarity of something he has lived with for a long time, has laboured over, like a poet who has been working on their major work for years, who can recite it from start to wherever it's now up to & include all the references, recall the bits left out, identify the bits inserted. A man who brought his ten-year old son along with his revelations. A son who was embarrassed by his father, who shook his head in sorrow, kept moving away, who had heard it all before & feared the outcome. Any outcome. Every outcome.

How they had arrived at where we were I do not know. Maybe seen the quasi-official sign on the building or even on the floor where we were. Had entered & felt that maybe we were the ones who might manage to do something. Who wouldn't listen when I told him that we weren't in a position to, who overtalked me, voice growing louder until someone in the office hearing the rising voice & having experience of someone else coming in & becoming destructive, rang security who, in turn, because they were several kilometres away, rang the police because "they'd get there quicker."

& I, not knowing this, finally talked the man into going, though leaving behind the notes he'd made for us of what he considered the salient points. He wasn't to be seen in the corridor when I went out for a cigarette a few minutes later.

I caught the lift down, exited to be met by three security people & five policemen. They were getting into the lift I'd left just as the man & his son arrived in the other lift. I have no idea why they'd taken so long to reach the foyer; perhaps they'd stopped off on each floor to see what other offices were about. The father saw the backs of the police, then saw me & paused to ask if there was a terrorist threat. I smiled & told him that there wasn't, that someone had rung the police about him, & he'd better disappear quickly. He shrugged, walked quietly out of the building & off round the corner. The police & security reappeared a couple of minutes later & headed off in the same direction.

I do not know what happened from there on, was horrified that the response was so overwhelming for what was essentially a harmless act. Thought to myself that the only thing that the presence of so many armed & uni(n)formed men would do was to provide further evidence to the contheist of the conspiracy that is actively trying to silence him. Felt sorry for the son. Resolved to look further into it & see what the dots are made of. Another Ka'aba? Or just another seam of coal?

Mark Young has been publishing poetry for almost sixty years. He is the author of around forty-five books, primarily text poetry but also including speculative fiction, vispo, & art history. His work has been widely anthologized, & his essays & poetry translated into a number of languages. His most recent books are les échiquiers effrontés, a collection of surrealist visual poems laid out on chessboard grids, published by Luna Bisonte Prods, & The Word Factory: a miscellany, from gradient books of Finland. Due for publication are Residual sonnets from Ma Books, The Perfume of The Abyss from Moria Books, & an e-book, A Vicarious Life — the backing tracks, from otata.