Excerpt from The Muse Asylum by David Czuchlewski, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Muse Asylum

by David Czuchlewski

The Muse Asylum
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  • First Published:
    May 2001, 240 pages
    Apr 2002, 240 pages

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I noticed a man inching up the side aisle, hunched over and grasping at the wall. He was dressed in a heavy overcoat and a winter hat, even though it was a spring day. His face was grizzled and dirty. I could hear him mumbling to himself as he passed me. Mullin saw the man but continued to lecture.

Once the man had made his way up the aisle, he climbed onto the stage. All eyes in the lecture hall were on him. Mullin, taken aback, asked if he needed help.

"I’d like to say a few words to the class if it’s okay with you, man."

He put his right hand in his coat pocket and pointed it at Mullin, as if holding a weapon. Mullin moved away from the lectern.

The man cleared his throat and began to speak. He announced that the government was after him. He said the United Nations had implanted sensors in his brain. He told us he had been visited by space aliens.

He also identified himself as Horace Jacob Little.

After a few minutes campus police flooded the room and tackled the man. They removed him, screaming and cursing, from the lecture hall.

Mullin returned to the lectern and spoke over the excited buzzing of the students.

"The amazing thing is that no one can prove that was not Horace Jacob Little," he said. "Maybe that was some wacko. Maybe it was the author himself, acting crazy for reasons known only to him. Or maybe it was an actor I hired to illustrate a point about anonymity and its consequences. In the end, we’ll never know."

I did not see him at the time, but I have often imagined my classmate Andrew Wallace sitting in the back of the lecture hall, watching this spectacle. Andrew’s life would never be the same. Something inside his mind struck a note and completed a harmony he had been composing over several confused months. In that moment a new world took shape in his mind. His thoughts accelerated to an unprecedented and dangerous speed. He was startled and hyperalert, as when we see an unexpected movement in the dark. If this isn’t Horace Jacob Little, he thought, then who is? Who is?

But I did not see him. I missed the moment when the general terrain of his life, and mine, was established. I would later read Andrew’s account of all this in his Confessions, the document he wrote at Overlook Psychiatric Institute in which he purports to reveal the secret of Horace Jacob Little’s identity.

It was during freshman year that I made my first abortive attempt to locate Horace Jacob Little. I had just finished rereading Strange Meeting, and I found my roommate, George Faber, sitting at his computer playing Martian Slaughter.

The computer had always been the most important thing in George’s life. He would play gory death games like Martian Slaughter for hours and hours, finally yelling at four in the morning that he had won--he had beaten back the starcruiser of the Galactic Empire and saved a grateful humankind. In his serious moments he wrote computer programs with what I was told was the genius of an artist. His expensive machine, which he designed and assembled himself from an assortment of green circuit boards, stayed on continuously, whirring and chirping. He believed it was too damaging to turn it on and off.

"Check it out," he said. "I’m in level seven, the subterranean headquarters of the Galactic Overlords."

I watched him maneuver through the two-dimensional world, the mouse moving fitfully. Misshapen aliens came from the shadows, foaming at the mouth. George peppered them with orange rays. The speakers screeched with their death cries. Two aliens managed to gang up on him, and he could kill only one before the other closed in, chomping away with its razor-studded mouth.

"Shit," George said, slapping the computer monitor on its side. Blood flowed down the screen.

Copyright 2001 David Czuchlewski. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without the written permission of the publisher, Putnam Books.

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