In Scene One of this movie called The Pact we see a bunch of
young people stumbling around a field. They've just taken acid together
for the first time and they're starting to get off. It's a longshot;
hold. The scene looks like an album cover, grunge-Ophelia. It's as if
the acid wasn't cut with speed and has a very slow build. They're gathering
twigs and dragging branches into a kind of clearing towards the middle
of the field. The landscape's moist and northern, late summer-early fall,
everything bending underneath it's weight.
* * *
Dissolve to another part of town, wideshot from a two-lane bridge over a wide
but shallow river. Police cars, sirens. A team of rescue workers dredging out
the river, yellow parkas, silt and spillage from hydraulic pumps. A wide net
wrapped in algae, beer cans. They haven't found anything yet except for all the
Like the opening in Stormy Monday you don't know where you are. The action's
sharp and discontinuous. Dissolve back into the field. We don't know yet ten
years have passed between the two locations. We start to see the people closer
(fast-forward 500 years of Western culture): their clothes, their hair, their
different ways of gathering wood, move haphazardly together.
Matchsticks, kicks and heavy breathing: they set the bramble pile on fire. Smoke
and flames and rotting foliage. The girls hold out their hands to warm them in
the fire. The fire's the event that's saved them from that never-ending sense
of acid escalating nowhere. "Let's play a game." Except for Jamey and
Stefan, everyone is in their early 20s and different shades of white and Asian
middle class: Paul and Jeremy, Lin, Miyoshi, Jessica and Margot. Jamey's about
15, a local kid who knows about the woods. Stefan's 36 or so, European, he's
in charge. As the fire catches on they start to play a game where they all introduce
themselves by name and 'confess' to some addiction, goofing on the 12 Step Program.
It's all giggly, trippy, nice and noncommittal until Margot speaks and Stefan
challenges her. Implies that she's a snob. She gets defensive, squirmy, all the
others watch excitedly, conflicted maybe but still waiting for a taste of blood,
until Stefan lets her off the hook. Throws her a "lifeline back into the
group. Reintegration. Conflict materfully raised, averted. This is the first
hint that things are pretty creepy.
Ann Rower and I wrote The Pact five years ago and it was never made. In
lots of ways Ann and I were like the same person though we different ages, backgrounds
and experiences. Collaborating made us even more the same to the point where
it got mystical or scary. We were both too repressed to fight and most of our
understanding passed between the lines. Example: For months we'd both been getting
our hair done on East 8th street by this guy named Joey. One week, without saying
anything about it to each other we both spontaneously felt uneasy with this twinning
and decided to change haircutters. At that time there must've been 400 hair salons
in lower Manhattan to choose from. Ann got her hair done at Vidal Sassoon and
so did I. Etcetera.
So when we wrote The Pact both of us were drawing from different, parallel
experiences. Ann experienced The Pact when she was in her early 20s in
New Hampshire. I was thinking about experimental theater games and a shithole
I'd spent time in outside of Hamilton, New Zealand. I must've been, 19, I was
hitchhiking down from Auckland back to Wellington. I'd got a letter from my old
friend Paul saying he was living in a commune outside Ngaruwahia. I remember
it was pretty hard to find it. I spent a night in Hamilton with the "Anglesea
Mob", it was mostly Maori kids looked after by a hippie Christian couple.
Something about finding jobs. The night I stayed there people sat around playing
guitars and singing radio songs they'd changed the words to. "United We
Stand." It was boozy, sweet and Polynesian.
In the morning they sent me on to Ngaruwahia. It was 16 miles outside of
town and there wasn't any phone and no one had a car.Walked for miles along
unpaved road, finally a farmer showed me where the house was. A white rectangle
wood-frame thing, broken windows. There wasn't any furniture, just sleeping bags
and mattresses spread out on the floor and people's stuff in plastic bags and
backpacks. Nobody had a job and the place didn't seem to be about gardening or
farming. It shocked me, seeing Paul; a bishop's son who'd gone to New Zealand's
most exclusive private school, living in a place so squalid. Paul was there when
I arrived. He showed me round and stuff came out about the breakdown he'd had
in Sydney, first stop on his travels overseas. He was here, he said, because
of Vee, a slightly older guy he'd chosen for his "teacher." What do
people do all day? They get up, they cook a meal, they talk. Sometimes fights
erupted, mostly of the playground kind, and Vee presided over them. Residents
drifted in and out the dormitory/lounge, and these people seemed more lost than
Paul. It was a way station on the road to and from the mental hospital. Vee'd
gone into town that day and there was lots of speculation about where he was
and what he was doing.
That night Paul and I crashed out early in two sleeping bags at the far end of
the lounge. Around midnight I woke up to screaming. A big burly guy with long
red hair berating a stumbling speed freak for doing what? - spilling beer over
a mattress? Vee's home, Paul whispered. I curled up deeper in my bag but Vee
didn't seem to notice this extra body (mine). The next day Vee acknowledged me
but I avoided him. I was a journalist, and Paul tried to broker some idea about
a 'story' but Vee and I backed off. I got to see a little more of Vee's 'therapy'
in action, yelling at the misfits, Shape up, asshole. Paul was scared of being
homosexual and studying Vee's 'manliness' and I was just a sentimental moralist,
I couldn't see the point, got all choked up about how these people needed help
and this wasn't helping anyone.
* * *
Dissolve. The people disappear and ten years pass. Margot drives up in her little
silver Jetta. The field is overgrown, it holds no clue, and she's still amped
on getting-out-of-the-city energy. Gets out, looks around, she doesn't see anything.
Ten years later she's a video game designer, dressed hip professional, ABS over
Patricia Field and she's only here because she's just inherited the house her
grandmother abandoned all those years ago. The house the group spent 7 months
Cut to town: Margot darts past a woman about her age swatting a screaming kid,
darts into the superette and just misses a beat-up Plymouth Barracuda crawling
down the main street. It's Jamey. He's also just arrived. He's been working somewhere
north and he's very proud of the car's pushbutton windows.
From here on in the script cuts back and forth between realtime and flashbacks
moving forward. And there's a point to this: the longer Margot stays, the more
she can remember. The way the group devolved from giddy druggy psychodrama to
the heart of fucking darkness. The way athletic independent Jessica got scapegoated
like the medieval Jews 'Til she finally broke down and the group dumped her in
a mental ward. Jessica's a spy! She's evil! The way Margot knew that it was wrong
but didn't stop it because Stefan was her boyfriend. The way the group promised
they would stay together all the time and tape everything they said and did together.
The way Margot listened to the tape one night and heard the sounds of Stefan
fucking Kathleen, the new girl who he'd met in town. You're so soft, your ass
feels like a baby's. The way she let him tie her up, spend all her parents money.
The night she tried to run away and failed. The way her favorite picture at the
time was a postcard of a drowning woman by Millais, pre-Raphaelite Ophelia.
Jamey's Barracuda eases to a halt outside of town to pick up a hitchhiker. Her
name is Karen, she's Irish, 17, her face spills out like water. Karen's just
ditched her au pair job in Bar Harbor and she's terrified of being found because
she still owes the family on her ticket. What do individuals become over circumstance
and time? (True subject of the 19th century novel). Margot's reaction to the
terror of the Group was amnesia; she spends the movie flashing back to things
that she's blanked out. But Jamey's different. Shy and passionate and inarticulate.
His confusion crashes all around inside. Jamey's a little strange but Karen likes
him. They get along; they drive around to all his favorite places. But then things
turn. Karen wants to leave and he won't let her. Their string of magic afternoons
turns sour, the way things do. Her fear makes him crazier and angrier. Jamey
is tormented because he's run out of things to do. And so he kills her.
Jamey runs her body through a woodchipper.
Last week at school, Stephanie Taylor and I were talking about the pre-Raphaelites.
Isn't the point to fuck it up? Beauty's close to death because it's begging for
some kind of violation.
There's a police alert all over town, they're searching for the missing girl.
Blood and bones and fingernails flying in the river.
Cut back to back with Margot's climax flashbacks of the group's disintegration.
And Margot solves the crime (too late) because now she knows.
Was the point of this, Just Say No To Disintegrative Violence? The point
was, Ann and I wanted to make movies.
James Schamus read it in New York and said, 'Horror is a dead genre.' Great line.
And so I started pitching it in New Zealand.
* * *
Auckland, 1993: The New Zealand dollar's been devalued to .52, and the tax law's
been rewritten to make film losses entirely deductible. American movie and commercial
crews are shooting here because the dollar and landscape and proficient crews
make it a third-world buy without any of the hassle. Jane Campion is the hit
of Cannes and the Film Commission's turning out six feature films a year and
for a moment anything seems possible.
I'd made a bunch of underground/experimental films and was wondering how to make
the magic cross from art-land to real movies. Everybody said 'the script, the
script.' Ann and I had already written one called Sadness at Leaving and
were finding out that this was not so easy. Sadness was an espionage romance
set in the New York early 60s, an ensemble drama with good characters. It wasn't
very underground and no one bought it. But on the other hand, The Pact had lots
of sex and violence. It occurred to me that we could pitch it downtown art and
then do something full-on sleazy. So maybe we could hit up the New Zealand Arts
Council for production as 'short drama,' use the funds to shoot a pilot and then
find a real producer. Or maybe find one first and cut him in? There was a vision,
it was hazy.
It was incredibly effective, phoning round production companies in Auckland
and telling them I was in town for two weeks from New York. Everybody read
said that it was suffering from "narrative confusion."
My old friend Shake took me round to see Hank Barker, a former leftist
ours who'd gone from writing midnight rock & roll theater shows to being
one of New Zealand's best-paid screenwriters. Hank was everybody's hero. His
plays were actually entertaining, an element mostly missing from the New Zealand
literary world, with lots of sex and drugs. He got up at 5 and wrote in whatever
commune he was living and had beliefs outside himself. Hank was the most militant
of all the leftists, leading a mass defection (five people, maybe seven) from
the softcore Socialist Action League to the Communist Worker's Party, an organization
with ties to and maybe even funded by Albania. One time Hank took us with him
on a pilgrimage to home of a reclusive famous older poet and we could see the
torch was being passed between two generations of literary rebels. Hank's hagiography
And now he had an office and a screenwriting award, a wife and child and
mini-van. If Shake, the good-natured fuckup, was Hank's link to his rebellious
was the floating signifier. Hank didn't know anything about the East Village. "So," he
said, "ya makin' money?" I sort of dodged the question, told Hank how
I'd been to see his movie when it was playing in New York. It was about 11 in
the morning, but Hank took out a bottle of Glenfiddich's and when the whiskey
hit I started telling him about the movie. And Shake, according to our plan,
asked Hank if he could talk to Victor. Because Victor Rourke, a former cellmate
from their leftist days, had just teamed up with New Zealand's king of 'B's and
softcore porn to start a new production company in Wellington. They called themselves
Black Label. Was this a template of our movie? I was thrilled to be alive at
a moment when old differences were breaking down, believing female anarchy could
thrive within the chaos of the new world order. The more Shake and Hank warned
me about Victor's blatant piggery, his brashness and aggression, the more I wanted
to hook up with him. Hank called Victor, put me on the phone, and I made fast
plans to drive to Wellington.
Shake and I were drunk and gloating when we left Hank's office around noon and
we had no plans so we wandered over to the Shakespeare Arms Hotel to get drunker.
Breezing through the public bar on our way into the lounge, my treat, we passed
a guy in a denim workshirt sitting by himself with a book, a glass, and a whole
litre pitcher of Dominion Beer and it was my ex-husband, David Healey. David
looked just like the alcoholic he'd been trying to become for 15 years, when
he walked off the set of an academic career after having an existentialist epiphany.
I'd lived with him in the aftermath for the first three years, and existentialism
hadn't made him happy. He settled down to dealing pot out of the proofreading
room at the Daily News where I was working as a writer. David often beat me up.
It was just assumed that I was stupid, cheerful and ingenuous with this straight
job. He hated everything I wrote. Slaps and punches. And maybe he was right,
because David was a genius and my writing was so shallow. A black eye swollen
shut behind a pair of goggle sunglasses. The 70s. I really wanted to be smarter.
And then, I was not the only one who came to work with bruises. There were two
other girl reporters. But breezing past him after meeting Hank with Shake didn't
register as triumph. Neither did I feel compassion. I just felt swirls inside
my head, the collision of two timescapes, thinking this is truly cinematic.
* * *
For Margot Smith, things always started with a limitless sense of possibility.
Excitement, projects. Even though she often couldn't see two feet in front of
her, she liked to think about the future. Margot Smith was Stefan's pimp. She
was a little richer, worldlier than the others and so, except for Jessica, who
tried to find her own direct line to Stefan's power, they trusted her. She transmitted
her belief to them. She was his translator and conductor. When the group broke
up they all ran away like rats and Margot never saw anyone again. She went back
to school, dropped out, became a software game designer. She's spent the last
ten years never questioning her resolution to be independent, self-reliant. And
so her world lacks glamour.
In Scene 12, a flashback, Margot's alone and listening to a tape recorded the
night before in her and Stefan's bedroom. She'd gone home to try and get more
money from her Dad because Stefan wanted video equipment. It's Stefan's voice,
and Kathleen's whispers. The thunk and shivering of their clothes. And it isn't
just the fuck, the fact, that's so upsetting, it's how he's different, much gentler
than he's ever been with her. There are no lessons to be learned. You're so
soft, he says, adorable. Your ass feels like a baby's. And Kathleen
literally coos. Margot's face compacts into a wrinkled ball of logic, looking
for a line of thought that will help to her accept the unacceptable. But then
she can't. She wonders where her life went wrong, it's like she's standing at
a threshold in front of everything that's dark and inexplicable. And then the
door flies open. Stefan looks at her and smiles. You can't just listen to
the tape, he says. You have to tape yourself listening.
* * *
Black Label's headquarters on Courtney Place in Wellington had a rubber plant,
a waiting room, a secretary and two offices. Victor hadn't read the copy of the
script I'd Fedexed but he took me out for lunch at the Amsterdam Hotel, new meeting
place for the new New Zealand cinema. Victor had a plate of meat and several
beers. I ordered what I'd read what people are supposed to eat at meetings: a
salad and a spritzer. Victor laughed because I had to tell the waiter what that
was. He was a big guy, with thinning reddish hair pulled back into a ponytail,
and something about him seemed incredibly familiar. I couldn't locate how or
where, but this often happens in a country of 3 million. Victor started telling
me about the sleazy films he was distributing for his partner and his ambitions.
He'd just attended a Robert McKee Story Structure Workshop, and he was fired
up with plans for crossing over from B movies into mainstream features. Of course
I thought The Pact would be the perfect vehicle. The fact he hadn't read it was
no problem because he knew just what to do. If Ann and I could shrink it down
into a treatment, he'd take it over to the New Zealand Film Commission for development.
They owed him one. And then I told him all about my plan for hitting up the Arts
Council. He liked it. Because if the Film Commission passed and I could bring
in 40 grand, then we'd have seed money for him to hit the European markets for
This business part seemed so exciting, so integral to the whole idea of movie.
It occurred to me that topless dancing in a hustle bar had been the perfect training.
Belief is all it takes for anyone to be a leader. While his followers equivocate
and doubt themselves, the leader treats his life as if it were a movie, claiming
the unassailable right to be himself. Leaders don't apologize, they don't explain.
And so the followers step in, giving up pieces of themselves by interpreting
the leader's every word and move, and all this borrowed energy makes him bigger.
If money's abstract human energy, then movies are like leaders. Finally Victor
let me talk a little bit about the script. He liked the gory parts but wondered
if the story and the character arcs would come together. The girl, he
said, she's not a hero. Hmm. Margot wasn't Xena Warrior Princess but did
she have to be? You've gotta realize, he confessed, I'm a very hands-on
The next day I had a meeting with Helen Benneham, director of the Arts Council.
She invited me to her house, a large and sprawling thing that overlooked Otaki
Bay. A big Victorian, with oriental rugs and books, the kind of casual wealth
you hardly ever see in Wellington. Helen knew all about my husband, a noted European
critic. She was a sophisticated person, rich obviously beyond her $60,000 job,
a kind of diplomat. Helen was refreshingly unconflicted about using her position
to promote her favorites. Perhaps my husband would like to write a monograph
about a New Zealand artist she believed in? Let's make a deal. All three of us
were Jews. I felt relaxed and comfortable. I parodied the meeting at the Amsterdam
with Victor Rourke, she vaguely knew him. Victor says he'll work with me,
I told her, but I don't think it's the best thing for the movie. Victor thinks
that he's a feminist because he likes tits and ass and gore and character development.
She roared. And so I'm worried. Because of course I'd rather work with you.
Did she see through this?
* * *
Nearly seven months have passed since the group's first acid trip and now it's
winter. Everything has led us to this freezing room. Paul and Jeremy are shoving
towels and rags into the broken window Jamey kicked in the night before. Jessica's
pacing all around the room, she's wrapped in shawls and sweaters, seven layers
of unraveling wool, muttering. Welcome to Bedlam. Very gently, Jeremy
tries to take off the long scarf that she's wound around herself like a straightjacket.
She tears away and screams: "I need that!"
The camera tracks with Jessica across the living room. Margot's hunched
a smoldering log in the open fireplace, burning photos from her grandmother's
family album. Jessica grabs a half-burnt photo out of Margot's hands: "I
need that, too!"
Alyssa, the heavy girl who'd always played the role of goddess/ mother
in the group, is on the phone writing down the bus schedule. Miyoshi, the
cupcake, is cutting chunks out of her long black hair, dancing by herself and
scattering it round in circles on the floor. Jessica scoops it up. "I need
that! I need that too!" Stefan appears. He's always somewhere. This is obviously
his last chance to keep the group together under his control and he rises to
it brilliantly. "Just stop!" he screams. And then he pins Jessica beneath
his gaze, she can't escape, she stumbles "What you need is a good fuck," he
sneers. For a microsecond everybody watches this, she freezes. He's about to
speak but then thinks better of it, tips the coffee table covered with three
day's garbage on the floor. Kathleen, holding the microphone beside him, hardly
breathes. Stefan grabs Jessica and throws her face down on the table. "Go
on, Jamey. Give it to her." At first Jamey doesn't get it, he's confused.
Are they still mad at him about the broken window? The entire room is willing
him to move. So he obeys and Kathleen tiptoes up beside them with the tape recorder.
Stefan proclaims Invisible Sex! and everyone starts chanting Do it,
do it. Kathleen looks at him adoringly and Stefan starts to tell a story
from The Hunger Artist. "This is the text we'll use," he says, "for
the performance that we'll do in Edinburgh. I'll be the hunger artist. We'll
build a cage ..."
Helen took another sip of tea and looked beyond me through the leaded windows
to the bay. "Christine," she said, "I think your script needs
much more violence."
* * *
Back in New York, Ann and I compressed the script into a treatment and sent it
back to Victor. Months passed and even though we got a fax or two from Victor
there was never any news about the Film Commission.
On April 23 we got another fax from Victor. It was a landmark date-'April 23'
was the codename of our character in Sadness. He told us he'd be traveling
to Cannes in May. He'd like to stop and see us in New York to talk about the
script and did we have a place where he could stay? Ann was a little dubious
but I was grasping at the whole idea of 'movie.' Perhaps he'd bring The Pact with
him to meetings?
When Victor arrived at Ann's from JFK he still hadn't read the expanded
treatment that we'd done on spec, that he'd 'commissioned.' We took a walk
to let him rest
and read. Ann said she found him "pushy, mushy."
Back at the loft after some chitchat Victor finally gave us notes. He said-I
quote- "Too much dialogue. Needs more action. Takes too long for the story
to get started." Mostly, Victor thought we had to introduce a subplot. It
was not enough that Margot's growing consciousness enables her to solve the crime.
Something had to throw her off the track, a false suspicion.
Margot finally remembers something she forgot, the way things ended between her
and Stefan. It was what happened on the night she tried to leave and Stefan found
her. She's lying on the iron single bed above the stairs underneath the silver-painted
eaves. He's tied her there, haphazard, roughly. Black cords around her wrists,
the long strings of her roman sandals tied around the bottom of the bed. Her
shirt and eyes are open. Stefan's standing by the bed, a giant angry shadow.
He lunges forward, slaps her. He rips the phone cord from the wall...
A flood of images of dispersal. Pages ripped, a milkweed pod exploding, scattering.
She thinks: I feel like I've been cut into hundreds of bleeding little pieces,
now they're flying. I'm just nothing... Ophelia drowning. And meanwhile on the
other side of town the chipper whirrrs and Karen's body flies all over town and
Margot understands something. All the clues she's missed in town cohere and Margot
leads the cops to Jamey's hideout.
Victor thought we ought to add another character. Let's call him Randall.
Randall's a bit of a loner living on the edge of town. Margot sees him
once or twice in
town, maybe he's rude to her. At any rate, Randall reminds her of Stefan. So
Margot rallies up a witch-hunt, accuses him as Karen's kidnapper. To make things
worse, Randall is a righteous eco-terrorist, a saner Ted Koszinysci, and he's
hiding, planning to blow up a dam that would flood the virgin timber in a valley.
From Victor's notes: "Margot plays this schizoid game with Randall. She's
crazed and on a rampage, living out her past through unsuspecting others."
In the golden age of their romance Margot and Stefan are rolling on the grass
outside the house while the group plays Gods and Goddesses. Everything is warm
and sunny. Margot's relaxed and blissed, her hands inside of his and reaching
for his cock. Abruptly, Stefan flips her over on her back and pins her hands
down. He gazes at her from above (directions from the script) and forces
her to become aware of her own arousal. She's breathing very hard. He smirks
and looks at her so penetratingly she feels like he knows everything about her.
Let's make a pact, he says, tightening his grip. Yes -To stay together for one
year-he grips, she squirms, he guides her hand back to his cock-Yess-and not
to lie-Yesssss-and keep the tape recorder running all the time. Yes, yes-
What's scariest about The Pact is not these little bits of s&m but
the way it slides so easily into a pagaent of reality. It was not elective play.
That's what was wrong with all these druggy psychodramas-they didn't try to change
reality. It was an endless hall of mirrors. Stefan's violence constantly erupted
out of nowhere. He was a hulk of isolate and involuted will and misery that he
and everybody else called knowledge. The leader is a black hole, consuming particles
of energy, belief, ambition from his followers. It's all his game and it's the
only game in town. No matter how alert you are he keeps you living in a psychic
state of terror. Victor Rourke's reaction to The Pact disturbed me but it was
hard to get a fix on it. Because even though I hated it, it felt seductively
Around 8 Sylvere, my husband, picked us up for dinner. Even on his way to Cannes,
Victor was still hick enough to be impressed by the restaurant that we chose,
the packed club that let us in because my husband knew the bouncer.
Jammed up against the jukebox in the backroom of Euphoria, Victor and I were
drinking double whiskeys while Ann and my husband talked. I felt like I was floating
backwards in a bubble, 10,000 miles away to Wellington, an alcoholic womb that
could indefinitely contain you. We knew we knew each other, and each failed attempt
to pin down the cross led to another flood of recollections. Both of us knew
everybody: Mary McGlone and Russell Campbell, the Duke of Edinburgh Hotel, the
Forester's Arms, the Melser Brothers. Giggling, I confessed I'd slept with 3
out of the four and at that moment Victor's arm reached round to grab my ass
and that also felt so right, so Wellington. I was still so stuck on this phenomenon
of time and travel, the way an element of the past could present itself right
here in the middle of the present, Club Euphoria. But I'm sure that Victor's
buzz came from his anticipation of the future. His power, his mobility. Success
at Cannes. Perhaps we'd fucked? We both `agreed that it was strange for neither
person to remember it.
Ann and I did our best to follow Victor's notes into another draft. It
was a hopeless mess. Victor passed it on to a McKee-trained story editor.
like it. Did we want to try again? I bought Ann little gifts: a postcard of Ophelia,
a papier-mâché horse like Jessica's, but by now she'd had enough
and needed to start writing her next novel. I made some changes, sent the script
to Victor with a note that Sylvere and I would be leaving soon to spend the summer
in Los Angeles. He faxed back right away. He'd be traveling from Dublin to the
Banff Television Market in July. He could change planes at LAX. If I wanted,
he could spend the night. "Maybe you could meet me at a cheap hotel at Venus
Beach," he wrote. "We could talk about the project."
Everybody in the group wanted to be gods and goddesses. Mostly they liked making
up descriptions of themselves and their relationships to each other. The group
was everybody's favorite subject. The spent a lot of time on naming. Stefan and
Margot of course were Zeus and Athena. They called Alyssa Demeter. Jessica was
solitary and she liked to play the flute and so they called her Pan. Taking away
her name was the group's first deliberate act to exile her and drive her crazy.
It started when the group was dancing. Jessica broke a glass and Miyoshi cut
her foot. Adorable Miyoshi howled with pain and Jessica skulked away. I think
Jessica's trying to tell us something, Stefan said. Two days before she'd
been caught writing in her notebook. They call a Meeting of the Gods and strip
Jessica of her powers. She's no longer allowed to play the flute but she can
sing. She can't. They force her. Her voice is breaking. How does it feel?
It feels like shit. Stefan's hurling questions like body probes in an alien
abduction. How does that feel? It feels like me.
Last week at the gym I started crying because the hand weights were too
heavy. Instant emotional recall of childhood, being weak and teased and
picked on. It's
the same with watching any act of cruelty. Jessica was afraid to stay and she
was afraid of being exiled. A Taoist healer who I otherwise respected said about
her friend who'd died of cancer at age 45, "She decided it was time to leave." Impossible
to accept irrationality or bad luck or any other form of chance outside the individual.
When Ann and I wrote The Pact, we were thinking about evil. We believed
that it existed. We believed it had a source. We blamed the leader.
The rendezvous with Victor Rourke at Venus Beach never happened. Instead
he came to stay at the house I was renting with my husband. I felt driven
to pin down
the reason that I felt I knew him. 'It's not important, never mind,' Victor said.
And so we started talking about the high-rent slum that we were renting from
the Beastie Boys, the slobbish habits of professor's kids, anything except the
script. It made me think of Ngaruwahia and Paul. "I had this friend named
Paul who went to Wanganui Collegiate, he was completely helpless..." "From
Wellington?" Well, yeah. Paul never hung around the leftist glamour crowd
so I was surprised that Victor knew him. "He lived with me." "In
Auckland?" "No...it was in a house outside Ngaruwahia. After James
K. Baxter died I set up this place for kids who needed help..." And just
as suddenly as Margot knew about the wood chipper, I realized Vee was Victor.
Of course I had to tell him everything. The trip from Auckland, visiting the
house, the way it had affected me. I was blown away by the connection. More than
just a shadow from the past, Victor Rourke was Stefan.
The next day Victor and I went for a walk in the Angeles Crest Canyon. He had
a long plane ride ahead of him. The Pact was never made. But Victor's company
went on to many more successes.