I had achieved the age of majority, and I ascended to the sub-basement for my ritual beating. Zweibel was an extremely old man even then, or appeared so; he was borne in a clanking, brass-appointed wheeled chair, had already taken to wearing iron dentures, and was barking orders in vast clouds of spittle at all around him. Flakes of horny gray skin fell from him like clinkers of ash. Viscous, bloody urine puddled around his feet. The acrid stench that came in waves from his already decomposing flesh caused the plating to tarnish and peel from his wheelchair in dull cupric tatters. He was apparently disoriented—caught, I later learned, in the deep throes of a perpetual laudanum enema.

The beating was an inverted pyramid of torment—thorough, systematic, precise, bitter, and exactly long enough to do maximum damage without allowing me to slip into unconsciousness. It was, in short, exactly what one would expect from a man trained primarily as a newspaper editor. I do indeed remember the pain. But throughout my ordeal, he was instructing those who stood about him like so many gore-crows, his executive editors. And more than anything else I remember his speech, although no single awkwardly hyphenated syllable stands out.

He was dictating instructions for the dissemination of obfuscation, emotion-laden half-truths, and lies to the public in order to foment divisiveness at home and war overseas. He wished for the economic woes of the time to be overshadowed by paranoia, especially the deviously useful paranoia of those who fear the myriad differences in ways of life of those around them. He desired for popular entertainment to supplant education in perceived importance. He wished to make of the American people a nation of docile, bitter, judgmental sheep. He was at that time one of the most influential men in the world.

As far as I am able to determine from reading today's various news-papers, he still is.

Authored in the Year of Our Lord 2003, by my hand;

Brother Hedrick Foote,

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