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1979 Crown Publishers Alongside Night Cover


Alongside Night
A Novel by J. Neil Schulman


Part Two

A sleeper met in his dreams the Prince of Darkness, finding him to be erect of figure and fair in countenance. He addressed him, “O handsome Prince! Men know nothing of your beauty, but always depict you as fearful-looking and hideous!”

Lucifer smiled, replying, “Those figures have been drawn by my enemies, who blame me for their eviction from Paradise. It is in malice that they portray me so.”

– SHEIKH MUSHARIFF-UD-DIN SA’DI, 1184-1291
(best known as Sa’di of Shiraz),
translated from Bustan (“Garden”)

Chapter 10


“Sign here.”

Mr. Gross gestured to the document he had just placed on the coffee table, extending Elliot a pen. Phillip was in the kitchen preparing dinner.

“I knew there was a catch somewhere,” Elliot said. “What is it?”

“A skeptic, eh?” replied Mr. Gross. “Well, I can’t say I blame you. Read it for yourself, then, if you have any more questions, I’ll answer them if I can.”

Elliot picked up the paper and began reading it aloud:

“GENERAL SUBMISSION TO ARBITRATION

“Agreement, among the undersigned Submittor, the Independent Arbitration Group [there was an address], hereafter IAG, and all other persons who have made or may make General Submissions to Arbitration . . .

“In consideration of the mutual promises herein . . . and other good and valuable consideration, the Submittor agrees that any disputes arising, or which have arisen, between Submittor and any other person(s) who has made or makes a General Submission to Arbitration shall be arbitrated by IAG under its Rules then in effect. Submittor acknowledges receipt of a copy of the Rules.”

“Which I just happen to have a spare copy of,” said Mr. Gross, handing Elliot a booklet.

“Mmmmm,” Elliot acknowledged. He then skimmed over a technical passage about filings, notices, and such, then concluded:

“Arbitration shall enforce the law of the contract to effectuate its purposes, and shall decide the issues by the application of reason to the facts under the guidance of the Law of Equal Liberty (each has the right to do with his/her own what he/she wishes so long as he/she does not forcibly interfere with the equal right of another).”

“Okay I get the point,” said Elliot. “But what does this have to do with me?”

“Everything,” Mr. Gross said. “Every single person who works with — or does business with — the Revolutionary Agorist Cadre has signed just such an agreement as this, either with this group or another with which they have swapped reciprocal jurisdiction. The Cadre will not do business with — will not even talk to — anyone who has not signed a Submission to Arbitrate.”

“Why?”

“A number of reasons,” Mr. Gross said. “Being an underground organization, the Cadre cannot sue in a government court if someone breaks a contract or otherwise damages them. Also, the Cadre do not care to use gangster tactics to enforce their contracts. Broken arms, setting fires, murder — this is all that’s left when one is deprived of a peaceful method of settling disputes. And such methods are — in any case — against agoric principles. The Cadre cannot set up their own court — dragging people into it the way the government does — because such a court would be — and would be called — a kangaroo court. It would not have the mystique of having a State behind it, and nobody would respect its decisions.”

“Wait a second, wait a second,” Elliot interrupted. “You’re telling me that this Independent Arbitration Group, that they’re not part of the Cadre?”

“Of course not. How could they be? It’s a perfectly legitimate arbitration organization. Check with the Better Business Bureau, if you don’t believe me.”

“Then how can a ‘perfectly legitimate’ organization have an illegal organization as a client?”

“It would be easy enough for the Cadre to get around this by simply having board members file Submissions in their own names — leaving the Cadre as an organization out of such matters — but, as it happens, the government wants the Cadre to have a Submission on file.”

“What?”

“Muhammad hasn’t come to the Mountain,” continued Mr. Gross, “so occasionally the Mountain goes to Muhammad — meaning that the government has been notably unsuccessful in dragging the Cadre into statist courts and prefers having channels available for claims the government itself wants to file against them. I would be surprised if the federal government hasn’t already demanded arbitration over the firebombing of its FBI offices.”

“You’re kidding.”

“Oh, I’m quite serious.”

“But that’s crazy,” Elliot said. “First off, if the Cadre people are anarchists, why would they ever agree to meet peacefully with their enemies in the government?”

“The Cadre have no choice in the matter. The Submission clearly reads that the Submittor agrees to arbitrate any dispute with anyone else who has filed one. If they did not, their Submission would likely be revoked.”

“But why don’t their prosecutors involved simply arrange to have their police arrest any Cadre people who show up for the trial?”

“‘Hearing,’” corrected Mr. Gross. “There are no formal charges; only litigation of damages. But to answer, the Cadre take no chances; all such hearings are conducted in countries that don’t have extradition treaties with the United States.”

“Wait a second, wait a second,” Elliot interrupted. “If the government can sue the Cadre this way, why can’t the Cadre sue the government? They’re revolutionaries; they must have complaints against it.”

“They have sued, but there are practical limits. For one thing, the Cadre cannot sue the government as a corporate entity, only certain individuals in the government. More importantly, an arbitral decree is only as binding as the parties to it can be compelled to make it. On the countereconomy, an arbitral decree is the basis for a boycott and ostracism against anyone who doesn’t comply with it — a ‘casting out’ that is virtually equivalent to being turned naked over to one’s enemies. In this case, all the Cadre can ever win — practically speaking — is the small fee the arbiter requires both parties to put up as a compliance bond — and if the Cadre force the ante higher, the government will refuse to play. The federal State is not about to stand for any private arbitral decree that would do real damage to any of its employees; they would be protected by invoking ‘sovereign immunity.’ And the Cadre have no way of forcing the government to pay up: in all-out war the Cadre would lose hands down.”

“Then how does the Cadre expect to win?”

“They hope to starve the government to death.”

“Nobody’s going to starve here,” said Phillip, entering the living room. “Dinner is served.” He disappeared back into the kitchen.

Elliot picked up the pen and signed the General Submission to Arbitration.

“You must leave for Aurora. Tonight.”

The Grosses and Elliot were at the dining table, finishing off Swedish meatballs with rice and a good German Liebfraumilch.

“Aurora?”

“A code name, of course,” Mr. Gross continued. “I can tell you that it’s somewhere on the Eastern seaboard. Anything more than that is on a need-to-know basis restricted to the Cadre.”

“But what is it? Does it have to do with the northern lights?”

“It’s symbolic, mostly,” Phillip said. “Aurora was the goddess of dawn in Roman mythology and represents hope; the Cadre also used the name because the first two letters –AU– are the chemical symbol for gold.”

“More literally,” said Phillip’s uncle, “AU is also the abbreviation for ‘Agorist Underground’ — which is precisely what Aurora is. It’s the seat of a chain of secret agorae — marketplaces — where countereconomic traders meet to do business.”

“How do you get there if you don’t know where it is?”

“The Cadre handle that. In your case, you’ll be sealed into a baggage trunk with an air tank as companion, and will be shipped there. And if you want to enjoy the trip, I suggest you pass up a second helping of Phillip’s meatballs.”

Elliot pushed his plate away, but his concern was not with motion sickness. “You’re not coming?”

“No. Neither Phillip nor I is under suspicion right now, and my taking you to Aurora this weekend would have its risks, if for not other reason than my being missed by friends. But don’t worry, you’re welcome back here at any time, for as long as you think necessary.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“Our pleasure.”

After Elliot had helped Phillip clear away the dishes, they set up the chessboard again, this time Phillip — undistracted — gaining the advantage. By seven thirty, down by a bishop and a pawn, Elliot resigned. Mr. Gross suggested at this point that Elliot take a Dramamine. Elliot took it.

At eight, halfway through the play-off game, the doorman announced a delivery on its way up; Mr. Gross ruled a draw by fiat, ordering the boys into Phillip’s bedroom. They chatted aimlessly there until Mr. Gross called them to the living room ten minutes later. “They’re waiting in my bedroom,” Mr. Gross explained, anticipating Elliot’s question.

In the middle of the living room, next to the couch, was a trunk with its lid open; it was large enough to hold a man — and had to. There was a thick layer of foam padding on bottom and side interiors, a safety harness, and four FerroFoam air tanks built into the lid.

Elliot regarded the trunk dubiously. “Small, isn’t it?”

“Nonsense,” said Mr. Gross. “It’s one of the largest on the market; they use them over at the Met Opera. You’d better get right in.” Elliot looked hesitantly at the trunk another moment. “What’s the matter? Claustrophobic?”

“No, agoraphobic.”

Mr. Gross smiled. “You’ll get over it.”

After Elliot was properly bundled, he said warm goodbyes, then was strapped into the harness. His arms and legs were immobilized, a mouthpiece adapted from SCUBA equipment was inserted, and the lid was closed. It became pitch dark, and Elliot heard a lock click.

Someone knocked on the trunk and seemed to whisper (shout?), “Take it easy. You won’t be in there long.” Elliot declined answering for fear of losing his mouthpiece.

The trunk was pushed upright, Elliot being suspended by the harness — sitting on it — as if he had been attached to a parachute. As the trunk leaned forward, then tilted back, Elliot deduced that a hand truck had been slid under. A forward lurch, a bump — he was moving.

Soon after the journey began, the trunk stopped for what seemed a substantial pause, Elliot overhearing discussion that he could not understand. He thought he caught the words “wrong apartment,” then the voices ceased, and the trunk started moving again.

He was on his back again shortly thereafter, feeling and hearing vibrations, endless changes in momentum, ups and downs, sideways movements . . .

Elliot awakened with a jolt. The trunk was at rest. Must have fallen asleep, he thought. No doubt the Dramamine. He heard the lock click again, and the top opened; still groggy, he was blinded by a flood of light. A hearty male voice boomed, “Playing hooky, my boy? Well, your essay was due today, and you’re not getting out of it that easily!” The man bent over the trunk, smiling widely. Elliot squinted, nearly choking on his mouthpiece.

It was Mr. Harper.

#

Next in Alongside Night is Chapter XI.

Alongside Night is
Copyright © 1979 J. Neil Schulman &
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust.
All rights reserved.


Winner of the Special Jury Prize for Libertarian Ideals from the 2011 Anthem Film Festival! My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available free on the web linked from the official movie website. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

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