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He's been called a charlatan. A confidence shyster, a sleight of hand predator, a new age whore.

And rightly so.

To his credit, he's never been one to duck for cover even when the volleys have been intense. Paradoxically, one gets the impression he's actually inviting the criticism. Encouraging it at some level. Hoping someone might finally see through the trickery and point a single, honest finger to the heart of the lie. His lie.

And one day, they did.

It may take a moment, but behind the stage persona one can discover a person (yes, a human being) with equal capacities for kindness and aggression. For childishness and warmth. A person who knows faith as well as he knows paranoia. Hope as well as desperation.

But there aren't many who are all that interested in the man. Not as such. They're here for the show. The spectacle. The flash pots, the wall of Marshalls, the levitation, the miracle healings. They're here for the man of light. Guru Taboo is in the building.

And he won't disappoint.

Years after his public humiliation and spectacular fall from grace, after the personal tragedy that sent him on a decade-long journey of discovery through Asia and the Americas, after the last of his numerous self-help manuals were remaindered to the 99 cent e-basket, Stacey Keene from America's 60 minutes did a 'what are they doing now' story - featuring Pink, Tarantino, and the guru himself - and asked him: Why do you think it all went so sour so quickly?

He smiled a little, rubbed the knot of scar through his left eyebrow with middle and forefinger, and nodded. "I guess at the beginning it was a joke. Pretty much. I wanted to make a few dollars, and the new agers had plenty to spend. God they were throwing it at me - and still do - at anyone who can save them from themselves. These are sheep just begging to be fleeced, you understand. It's almost unkind not to. The catch was, Miss Keene, that it actually functioned. People got better. Sick people. And that's not a joke. It went tits up, sour as you say, when I got tangled up believing in it as much as they did."

The wing lights click out and the stage goes dark. Cue: strings and woodwinds - mournful notes, long and painful.

Crowd in sudden tension.

At 30 second intervals paid 'wailers' go into fits of uncontrollable laughter or tears.

The tension is quite palpable now. The audience can feel it vibrating in their guts. Read: their solar chakras.

At the five minute mark a woman collapses in an acute ischemic episode. Mottled facial skin, spit caught at the corners of her wire-tight lips. Two uniformed ambulance officers make their way through the crowd, who watch the episode played out on the mega-screens around the stadium. The camera crew following at a discrete distance.

Up in the booth Bob the Controller gets a look at her face before she is taken out of the central dome. "She's not one of ours."

Guru Taboo from the darkest corner of the control booth. "Production costs just went down 100 dollars."

Bob into his panel mike. "Cue the hum."

A metallic drone lifts up through the audience, the speakers set in at seating level. Statistical analysis can show that over 60% of them will now be holding their breaths. Perfect.

Guru Taboo switches on the microphone in his head-set. Bob tweaks it so that a miserable, whiney feedback warbles through the stadium. The collective wince.

"I'd best be out there." Says Guru in measured, earthy tones.

At the word 'best' a clap of magnesium-white light bleaches stage and audience alike. By 'be' it is already gone, leaving only blackness scarred with the purples and blues of retinal bruising.

"It's him." One of the wailers screams, but for real, shoving a hand down her pants and straight onto her clitoris. Spontaneous orgasms, male and female, ripple through the crowd.

"Peace." Says Guru from centre stage.

James the apprentice controller looks at the now empty corner of the booth, then across to Bob, "How the fuck did he do that?"

Guru had walked three days solid, pausing only to chew more coca leaves while he rubbed his swollen, bloodied feet. He didn't have anything to eat, the leaves wouldn't let him sleep, so he didn't bother stopping. He just walked. When he passed streams he would drink a few handfuls, wet his scarf, and keep moving.

In pilgrimaging none of the other tin sheds wedged into the corners of God's own colon had he had the feeling - as strong and as sure as in these last thee days - that he was walking to his own death.

One holy man at a time, he'd had his spirit splashed in kerosene. 'This one, my friend, this is the one.' And like any sheep begging to be fleeced, Guru Taboo would believe. Would pack light and travel long, just to see ... that all around the world there were men just like him. Just as unashamed and predatory. 'Same shit different bucket.'

One holy man at a time. And now that he was drenched all he needed was was someone compassionate enough to light a match.

This one here was recommended by the local warlord, whose lips parted dryly in a gold-capped smile as he took 'temporary' possession of Guru's Jeep, tent, rucksack and credit cards. "Come back quick time, slow time, no matter, they here waiting for you." Guru said nothing. The warlord continued, "And you telling my brother greetings. He owe me money still." Then a laugh that put the taste of copper in Guru's mouth.

He plodded as he walked. Each heavy step sending a hazy, prickly feeling up through his legs that he knew should have been pain, but was something less because of these coca leaves. He mused how he might get a few hundred kilos into Los Angeles past the FDA. As genetically modified bay leaves? Wild mountain basil?

"Hello, Mujo."

Guru turned. A deeply tanned monkey-man looked back at him.

"How'd you know my name?"

The monkey-man put a rock across Guru's face, gashing open his left eyebrow and sending him into a quick, restless sleep.

Down in the lounge of the Waldorf Astoria Stacey Keene accepted a tumbler of Lagavulin from Guru and sat back attentively.

"The footage is gone." She said.

"Told you it would be." Said Taboo.

"But, it was proof. You could have come back with that. Started all over again. It would have worked."

Guru shrugged.

She pulled a mini recorder out of her bag. "At least let me tape it again. You have my word, it will only be for my personal records."

Guru waved a hand over the machine. It's red 'on' light blinked off and a wisp of smoke rose up from the speaker holes. "Shit." Stacey banged at the buttons. "You didn't ..."

"I did."

She tossed back the single malt and fell back into the chair. "Why me?" Wondering if both the story and her chances of getting into bed with Taboo were gone.

"Why indeed, Miss Keene." Guru smiled. "Did you hear the one about the journalist and the new age whore ..."

Up in the booth Bob barks into his mike. "Who the fuck is she? Get her off the stage, get her off right now."

Guru gets an earful before he can flick his earpiece out, then brushes his hair back with his left hand which is their signal for 'OK', and waves down security as they edge onto the platform. "Maybe just one more before we call it a day. What does everyone think?"

The crowd wails in approval.

The woman makes her slow, pained way to the centre of the stage. Her face hidden by a black and white checkered Arafat. Even without the scarf no-one could have seen her features, doubled over like she was. The rift in her spine so Disney as to be comical.

The boom mikes pick up her wheezing and send it out through the crowd, the frequency of illness inducing nausea and headaches in waves.

"Could we get a chair up here, please." Guru looking into the darkness in the wings.

The woman shakes a finger. The gesture sets the crowd mumbling and Guru reeling. He knows that sign. That off-hand Slavic way of saying 'I can stand, go screw yourself'.

"Oh, Mujo." She says.

The Guru's mouth literally drops open. And fifty thousand people watch it magnified to the size of a VW.

"Camera 2." Bob screeching. "Switch to Camera 2. Now, now, now."

But the damage is done. Every last person in the stadium saw Guru in a quintessentially human display. And when you want to have stars put in your eyes, humanity and razzmatazz just don't mix.

Then more damage. The woman lifts off her Arafat and Camera 2 - which has nowhere else to point - gets a square shot of a face gutted by cancer. The wounds open and weepy. The skin tortured into altogether the wrong colour.

If ever anyone wanted to point a finger at Taboo The Fake, this would be it. This would be it.

In the audience there are already those vomiting or dry reaching as the dark chasm of reality opens up between them and their two hundred dollar seats.

Guru looks at the face and feels the stage shifting underneath him. It is his mother looking back at him. His dead mother.

Guru couldn't open his left eye. His right blinked up at a fresh sunset as the first twinges of coca headache set in. He got up to sitting in awkward stages.

He heard the voice of his attacker before he could locate the face.

"You don't like pain too much, do you?"

Guru's throat was dry, his voice like someone else's. "I've got nothing to give you. Just my clothes and a few coca leaves. But take them. Just let me go."

The monkey-man came into view. The face a little different to how he remembered it. A lot, actually. There was nothing feral or animal left in it to see. It was perhaps something closer to the perfection of a Renaissance angel. He was sure it wasn't the same person at all, until it spoke again. "Why do you let people call you Guru?"

Guru stammered, caught between ideas. "Wait, you, and then you knew my name as well."

"I've heard a couple of your Podcasts. Good production values."

Guru just found himself going with it. "That's Bob. He's been looking after my technicals for years."

"Good guy?"

"Oh yeah, sure. And a good friend."

"At the top of this ridge here you'll see the lights of the next city. If you keep up a steady pace you'll be there by midnight. There are plenty of places to eat. Thank you for coming."

"Thank you too." Said Guru, shaking the angel's hand, and set off for the ridge. It was about a hundred metres later that he realized he'd just missed something.

He turned back with a confused look as the hideous monkey-man swang his face to within inches of Guru's.

"Go away."

Guru blinked. "No."

"What are you doing here?"

"I want answers."

"Don't we all, pretty boy, don't we all."

Stacey Keene eyed Guru over the top of her second glass of whiskey, making sense of nothing through glazed-over senses, and decided just to ask the question in another way. "What the fuck happened up on the mountain?"

Guru laughed. "What's my real name?"

"Mujo."

"You have to write the story using my real name, but not your own."

She juggled the possibilities. "You're not going to give me any more footage for 60 Minutes."

"Fuck 'em."

"But if I write a short story, as if it were a fiction, under a pseudonym, but giving the world your real name ... you'll give me the truth."

"Alcohol does wonders for you."

"And I can pick any pen name that I please?"

"Yes." Said Mujo stupidly.

Up on the mountain the monkey-man presented a near fully-rusted soup tin of water to Mujo and said, "I can clean your eye, if you really want me to?"

The shape shifter had so many tricks Mujo didn't quite know how to take him. He said nothing.

"If I do you'll see properly with it."

Again, nothing from Mujo.

The monkey-man simply nodded as he wet his fingers and went about cleaning the congealed blood out of Mujo's left eye. When he was done he sat back and waited.

Mujo blinked flutteringly. He saw lights coming from the corners of things. A kind of glow that made him rub his eye instinctively.

The monkey-man lowered Mujo's hand from his face. "No."

Mujo just looked around for a while. Something dawning on his face. Slowly he cupped a hand over his right eye. Then, "What is it?"

"The strings." Said the monkey-man.

"Of what?"

"The universe."

Mujo began to weep.

Later he would try writing it down, exactly what he saw - and can see - but would never succeed. Never really understanding that words weren't invented to be accurate, but to be metaphorical. Though he did do the next best thing in deciding to find someone, some day, who could do justice to the idea.

"How do you do that thing with your face?" Mujo asked the monkey-man after he'd watched the sun rise on its now plainly obvious cords across the sky.

The monkey-man showed him. He showed him all his faces: the monkey and the beggar, the holy man and the iguana, the angel and the god.

And so it was that Mujo learned how to see the strings of reality, and to pull them.

It was the first of only two lessons the monkey-man would give him. Both lessons taking less than five minutes all together - but with a pause between them of several weeks. It was in these weeks that Mujo thought he was learning the secrets of the universe. Anything he asked the monkey-man to do, the monkey-man did. All of which - as you can imagine - amounted to little more than intellectual and emotional masturbation.

One day Mujo found himself being woken just before dawn and led in a half-sleeping haze up to the ridge from which the next city could be seen.

"Listen." Said the teacher. "You've got a bucket full of party tricks right now. I'm sure you'll get plenty of pussy with it. Congratulations."

It was something like shock that hit Mujo in the chest. "Are you, sending me away?"

"There's a question you have to ask me."

"No."

The teacher slapped him across the forehead. "I'm not asking you, I'm telling you. There's a question you have to ask me. One chance, so proceed with caution. I'll be back in a while and I'll want to hear it."

The teacher started down the slope.

It took Mujo a while to gather his thoughts. He had to shout down the hill, "And if it's not the right one?"

"I'll kill you."

And as he said so, the images blew over Mujo's mind. The long, long chain of students who had found the monkey-man but not the right question. The images suddenly three dimensional, suddenly physical, as Mujo became a spectator looking over the monkey-man's shoulder as he struck down one after another of his students with disgusting and vicious blows to the head. The sound sickeningly predictable: moist steak slamming down on a chopping block. Whap! Whap! Whap!

Mujo pulled out of the journey with a gasp, suddenly back in his body. Piles of bones, here and there, and there, conspicuously visible in the half light of dawn.

Mujo shouted desperately down the hill. "But you're a man of peace."

"Dream on, pretty boy." The voice didn't come up the hill at all, but was spoken as if the teacher had his lips to Mujo's ear.

Mujo thought about it a time. "And if I just leave now?" No longer shouting.

"They'll kill you in that city. Most likely. And if you take your chances with my brother the war lord ... well, he'll most certainly do you a mischief."

Mujo found himself searching a for a rock, trembling with rage.

The monkey-man whispered a laugh into Mujo's ear. "Save the fury. Work on the question."

Mujo finds himself staring into his mother's eyes. His tears start. "Hey, Mum."

"I was dead."

Mujo says nothing as he passes a hand over her cancers. Puerile flesh drops in liquid splats to the stage floor. The wounds healing before everyone's eyes.

There is another hum in the place, this time organic. The audience bawling silently. Bob joins them.

"I was dead." His mother repeats as her spine straightens out.

"I know, Mum, I know."

Stacey Keene came out of the bathroom, having thrown up the better part of a bottle of Lagavulin. She wiped he mouth clean on the bed cover. "You can't be serious."

"But I am."

"If I write that, they'll think ... fuck it, they'll send me to detox. Permanently."

"It'll be under a pseudonym. Don't forget." Mujo smiled.

Keene groaned and laid her face in her palms. "God, if I was just ten years younger."

Mujo got up, pausing at the door. "And, just for the record, you never had a chance getting me into bed." He smiled. "Goodbye." By the time he'd closed the door behind himself, Stacey Keene had gotten what she'd asked for. She was ten years younger.

The teacher-killer walked up to the ridge with a bounce in his step, swinging a metal club idly as he walked.

Mujo waited quietly. In fear or calm he couldn't say.

"So, pretty boy, you've seen me pull the filaments. You've done it yourself. You've wasted my fucken time for weeks with all sorts of bullshit questions, but there's only one that matters. Give it up."

"What's the law that governs what happens when the strings are pulled?"

The teacher roared with laughter. "Good boy. Good, good boy."

"So ...?"

"Just for the record, I want you to know you're the first to get it right."

"Liar." Mujo snarled.

The teacher smiled sheepishly. "I'll answer the question now, but be careful. The hole is easy to fall into." He waited a good, long while. Then, "The strings do whatever you want them to."

As promised, a chasm opened up before Mujo's inner eye. And he felt it pulling him in. Logic fighting truth. Reality just could not be this simple, this ... generous.

"No." He refused the easy fall into the known.

Mujo tugged a string and turned the teacher's metal club into a snake. The teacher let it go. When the snake hit the rocks, with the tightening of another string, Mujo turned into a bunch of flowers.

"Good boy." Said the teacher, now a rain cloud crackling with inner fire, and floated into the air.

On the stage there is a singularly unique event playing out that no-one will ever remember happening in just the way it did. Mujo is embracing his mother, dead over ten years from pancreas cancer, and crying.
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