FLICKER STREET Treatment # 6 - Tentacles
In 1955, Kong, posing as Mr. Drang, a Eurasian businessman, approached a brilliant young artist and poet living in France called Orphee deLander. Born Orpheus deLander “Orphee” Rojiczek on July 9, 1929, Orphee was parented by a ½ Polish, ½ Greek father (Mikos Rojiczek, born 1900) and a French mother (Collette Bertrand, b. 1911). Orphee's mother Collette was a Bohemian whose mother Cybelle Bertrand (birthdate unknown) was a stunning model and a groundbreaking painter in her own right. Cybelle met Jean Aumont Tressilian, La Comte de Marangais, in 1910 and they had a brief and intense affair. She was deeply impressed with his many admirable traits – his keen intellect, his passion for justice, his steadfastness, his love of art and of animals (he was a vegetarian who raised a wolf pack as pets) and his formidable physical prowess. Unfortunately he was too impassioned for the cool platinum-haired Cybelle, eternally lost in her own reverie.
Jean was heartbroken; this was his first real love. He had spent his childhood and teens tending to a mentally ill mother, La Comtesse, who demanded he and his brother James Vallard Tressilian (popularly known as Bramwell "Bram" Vallard) be molded into instruments of vengeance against their father's killer Luc-Pierre Montreux. In 1912 Jean launched his vendetta against Montreux as the mystery man Richter, and finally brought down the unscrupulous banker, even winning the heart of Montreux's daughter Hermione.
Richter wasn't aware he had a daughter by Cybelle for many years. For Cybelle's part, she raised her daughter to be the classic free spirit, pursuing art, music, and love wherever she found these things. The roving businessman Rojiczek was perhaps a poor tonic for these needs but he gave her a life of comfort, where she could explore her passions. Their son, Orpheus, was a peculiar child, even by his mother's jaded standards. He took the name Orphee deLander at a tender age to record his endless reams of poetry and sign his crude but expressive artworks. Mikos was less impressed by his son's “arrested development” than was Collette, and pressured his son into sports, travel, and business. Orphee scoffed at all three – his sport was art, his travel inward, his business simply being. Mikos died of a massive aneurysm when he was only 40 shortly after a raging attack at his son, whose presence he could bear no more. His last known words were screeched at a fever pitch to his son: “Get outside more!!!”
Then his thoroughly narrow mind just burst, as his son answered, mumbling, “Go inside more...”, as he shed a single opaque tear. This became his mantra it seemed.
Fifteen years later, Collette Bertrand Rojiczek was still her son's most ardent fan and patron, and was excited when Mr. Drang offered Orphee a job – to head a publishing/ filmmaking arm of Drang's co. Democorp (a subsidiary of SkullCorp). Orphee leapt at the chance to create avant-garde art and get paid for what he was worth (he was in dire financial shape, as Collette had donated most of Mikos' modest fortune to charities and used the rest for her and Orphee to travel Europe and Asia).
But before he even began his ostensible new career with Democorp, his initiation, as it was, into the company was via SkullCorp. He came to SkullCorp's main offices in Hallmark MA in 1955, and began being debriefed on Omega, Pisces, the Terminus, the Pod, Exodesia... all the secrets Skull was hiding and that only a handful (Anton Gamble and Cary Bradcroft, to name two) outside of the Machine knew anything of. At Kong's behest, Orphee was being tested. DeLander had read Anton Gamble's mind-blowing recent books and wished to explore Gamble's theories. As a result, he became, as Gamble before him, a lifelong target of REACT surveillance. After being debriefed by Drang, Orphee wished to investigate the legendary ship Terminus. The truth is that “Mr. Drang” was recruiting for far more than a publishing position while in France in the mid-1950s. Kong didn't want an artist; he wanted a first rate spy and a test subject for a whole new platform of human test trials utilizing Ursulin's purloined Omegan tech.
For eight years Orphee toiled for Kong/ Drang's company, called the Democorp Artists Refuge while still based in France, and tried not to let the money and the secrets sway his work and artistic integrity. Just as Skull wished to corner the market on cutting edge science and employed headhunters to seek such talent, so too did they wish to corner the market on progressive and alternative artforms – be it visual art, film, literature, or music.
In 1963, Orphee moved to the US to work in a special SkullCorp division. The pay was wonderful, and Orphee sent his mother money to support her penchant for traveling and remaining unemployed. To be near the hub of Skull activities, Orphee settled in Hallmark (the Flicker Street area proper) with his longtime lover Eugenie Heurtebise, b. 1937, whose brother, Cloquet, died in 1959, killed by the cops after being informed on by his American lover, Anne Francesca. A New Wave film director friend of Orphee's made a fictionalized film about the case called Asphyxiation.
Orphee was intrigued by the hard sciences divisions of Skull – he was placed under the auspices of Donal Rykards – brilliant scientist, hideous human being. Rykards made it clear to deLander that he was essentially going from being a publishing magnate to a less-than-human guinea pig in the eyes of Skull. Orphee was ready, at that point, to transcend his current existence so why not? After reading Anton Gamble's 1962 dice-up of existentialism and radical physics, “Distortion” (not a novel about electric guitars as many now assume), he was game. He asked exactly what he'd be undergoing and even begged the question if it involved the type of distortion Gamble elucidated on. Rykards conferred with Phileas Caleb, overseer of all Skull science and tech (and in the vaunted inner circle that began as the Machine). Caleb found it amusing and said to Orphee, “There's a drug. LSD. Trial experiments have been conducted on prisoners and college volunteers with it. Let's call what we're giving you – TSD. Trans-Somatic Distortion. Congratulations on your perception. Carry on, Donal.”
And so Orphee gained access to (and helped name) TSD – a Skull-funded operation dealing in genetic experimentation extrapolated from Omegan tech in Hallmark first in 1956 (when it was called trans-morphic somatics). This was from the tech Ursulin of Omega Ceti I (derisively called “Captain Omega”) brought with him in 1951 when his Pod entered Mt. Mosaic through extradimensional space at a landing now called Terminal Pointe. It was made clear that the experimentation on deLander could go on for a few years if Orphee was willing to deal with the results. What Skull really wanted was a home-grown mutant – they called them “recombinants” - that was a creation of Omegan science. Orphee was a perfect genetic subject (there were others lined up; some argued more perfect) in that genetically, he carried Exodesian blood – his great-great-great-great-grandfather was the Exodesian priest Urias, and his eighth great-grandmother was the Exodesian priestess Alluu, Ewen Cromwell's grandmother. Orphee's grandmother Cybelle Bertrand surely carried some Exodesian genes to account for her mysterious longevity. Based on the exploits of his grandfather, Richter and great-uncle, Bram Vallard, Skull was convinced Orphee had an enormous genetic destiny. And then there was the seemingly natural causes his father passed away from. Were they so natural?
While in Hallmark, Orphee had an affair and the woman, Darby Poole (descendant of the Cromwell party's cabin boy Cullen Darby) became pregnant. Shortly before this, Orphee became the earliest test subject of a TSD experiment. He felt guilt, not knowing what would happen to the child, who was born Lars Poole in 1964. Darby died in the early 1970s and Lars began the long shuttling between foster homes and orphanages that scarred his young life. The boy eventually was named a ward of the occultist Cary Bradcroft, who raised the teen as his own son. But Orphee's experiment had had a distinct effect on his son's genetic structure.
Orpheus and Eugenie remained in Hallmark ostensibly because Orphee's brother, Bertrand Rojiczek (b. 1937) lived there. Bertrand was a keyboardist in an up-and-coming doomy psychedelic band, The Sacred Mirrors, formed in 1966, whose lineup was: Richard “Dannish” Bacon, on vocals; Locke (Juve Dugas), Belgian bassist and agent of Phileas Caleb; Zane D'Azai, guitarist/ hippie burnout; and redneck drummer Butch Blanton (born 1949 in Hallmark's “mill town”, Augensburg MA). The couple hung out with the band and met their friends: the man who called himself Graven Idyll (Arliss Gordon Cope), a radical black militant who inspired Orpheus; Hyacinthe (Cynthia Gauvin; Orphee became very attracted to her [she called him “My Land”]); and Fiora Charme (Emily Duncan), who came on the scene as the childhood sweetheart of Dannish but, after he brutally dumped her she wed Bertrand, though she is also in love with Cope. In 1970 Richard Dannish “RD” Rojiczek was born to Bertrand and Fiora.
Orphee opted to remain in Hallmark not solely because of his brother, but also he was “drafted” by SkullCorp to be a full-time agent in MA. This brought him full circle back in contact with TSD. He finally obtained clearance in 1969 to undergo a much more intense TSD experiment than he had taken part in six years earlier. He decided to split with Eugenie at this point lest something else happen to a child of his. Impulsively, however, the amative deLander bedded the seductive Hyacinthe. Their child, Etienne Rojiczek, was to be born in 1970. He married her shortly thereafter.
Orphee's second TSD experiment was conducted by Rykards and Caleb together. After this experiment Orphee began to explore the extent of the physical and psychokinetic abilities he acquired via TSD. He became one of the most powerful products of Skull's riffs on Omegan technology. The TSD-induced transformation changed him physically – he became stronger, leaner, hairless, with dark translucent skin. One could see hints of his musculature and nervous system writhing under his flesh, and his eyes became blackened opaque pools. When he cried his tears were red. He could discharge and manipulate undulating waves of psychokinetic (or “PK”) energy. He called these his tentacles, and soon Rykards was referring to him disparagingly as the “Absurd Tentacle”. The name stuck, despite Orphee's distaste of it. Finally, one other ability he gained was the ability to take on any physical form for lengthy periods of time – a technique of disguise inherent in Omegans and Pisceans alike.
Orphee visited Terminal Pointe MA at Mt Mosaic, where the Pod was drawn into our world in 1951. At Terminal Pointe, he met with the Pod's pilot Ursulin, who agreed to help him master his abilities, and swore to bring in someone far more powerful to help as well – Nocturno, the undead man formerly known as Ashton Bradcroft. Despite his disdain for corporations, Orphee accepted some help from Renova, Inc., who Cary Bradcroft accused of trying to exploit the Tentacle. DeLander quit SkullCorp for good upon learning of their true nature and plans from the Bradcrofts – things he'd suspected for years but was biding his time (a true Cancerian), using Skull for power as they used him as a guinea pig.
By 1971, the Absurd Tentacle's dominating personality was overpowering Hyacinthe. He became drawn to Nocturno's homonculi daughter Silent Indigo, whose origins will be chronicled in an upcoming treatment. They had a passion beyond human erotic experience, resulting in an offspring named Honor, b. 1973. Hyacinthe filed for divorce from the Tentacle, and afterward he and Silent Indigo continued their affair and decided to raise their child together. Nocturno had other plans. Indigo had betrayed Nocturno to Kong, and so he “unmade” her alchemically. Orphee swore revenge and left hallmark for a time, deciding that the “so-called forces of good (Nocturno) and evil (Kong) are more alike than they they pretend”. Orphee turned young Honor over to Hyacinthe (now going by her natal name, Cynthia Gauvin) to raise. She had remarried one Phillip Parlington, whose name Honor took. For years Phil was the only father Honor knew, though Phil and Cynthia Parlington divorced when Honor was still young. Hyacinthe was also raising her son Etienne Rojiczek, and he saw Honor as a little sister. She was hypersensitive, sharing her father's birthday, and Etienne was always there to protect her – or tried to be.
After the 1980 divorce from Phil, Cynthia took Honor and Etienne away to a new house and became paranoid and besieged by LSD flashbacks. She had many emotional problems and she sheltered Honor to an unhealthy degree. Honor's 1st attempt to break free was when she grew infatuated with Jesputh Avril (grandson of SkullCorp co-founder and dark occultist Keegan Avril) in 1984. She had gone by Honor Parlington for years, but at Jesputh's urging, took the name Honor Bradcroft, after Ashton Bradcroft (Nocturno), her grandfather. Part of Jesputh's interest in Honor was in her latent magickal energy – and the Bradcroft fortune.
Cynthia remarried again, in 1985, to Brandon ver Dorn aka Snow Archer (b. 1937), an ally of Nocturno's; his ID was known to his wife but not her children. Brandon was the great-grandson of ambrosius ver Dorn, the chief bankroller of the Cromwell party of 1886. Brandon and Cynthia had a daughter, Quill, b. 1988. By this time, Honor was a mess. Brandon and Etienne both tried to help her, but she detached herself. She trusted Phil Parlington, her adopted father – a huge mistake as he raped her in 1990. Jesputh was her idealized dream man who would take her away from all this, but he merely wanted sex and prestige from her, and let their friendship dissolve when it looked like she was no easy lay.
Neither Etienne nor Honor saw their father for a long time.
The Absurd Tentacle appeared in Hallmark throughout the 1970s, helping spark a new counter-cultural revolution (sometimes derisively called “Terminal Culture” after the ship that brought the knowledge that started it all). In the mid-70s he reunited with Heurtebise and they finally wed, spawning a daughter, Cejour deLander, in 1975. By this time, Bertrand and Fiora had a daughter, Collette, and had separated. Fiora roamed free for a while, having an intermittent love affair with Arliss Gordon Cope that spawned Collias Cope. Bertrand raised his two children, RD and Collette, alone. We shall revisit this branch of the Rojiczeks (and Etienne) further along in our treatment.
The deLanders decamped to England at the end of the 1970s and the Absurd Tentacle and his family basked in a younger crowd's attention. Cejour grew up much like her grandmother and great-grandmother – a true willful free spirit. Orphee wondered if his daughter would bear the marks of his post-human transformation in any way. DeLander became friends with a small cadre of telepathic recombinants – hardcore punks Kelvin Mallory, his sister Fallon Mallory AKA “Mal Black”, and Mal's best friend, a pre-teen Japanese girl Miya saito, whose nom de plume was “Mia Zero”. Orphee also became close friends with Oblidiah Trent, AKA Ras Free Man (b. 1957), a young Jamaican reggae musician who was spending a few years in England touring and recording but mostly just plotting vengeance for Phileas Caleb's murder of Trent's brilliant father Emerson Trent, who Caleb used as surely as he had Zachariah Clancy in Phileas' "outreach" program.
Orphee also befriended the African-American detective Cotton Suede (b. Pauline Cutler, 1954), who'd been sent by mysterious parties to ferret out the Tentacle and return him to America. She ran afoul of his “bodyguard” who looked out for his extended family when he couldn't – a deadly martial artist called Luna Sumatra. Orphee's charm and charisma soon had them all getting along and sharing a commune with his grandmother, Cybelle, who was as youthful as when Richter first lost his heart to her 70 years earlier.
In an odd set of circumstances, Orphee deLander simply disappeared in 1980. Some say the parties that sent Cotton to trail the Tentacle eventually assured his demise; some pointed to suicide; some say he faked his death and assumed a brand new ID (things he could easily do). Some say his power finally overwhelmed him and he simply dissolved away, a soul too fragile for this world. That last scenario is the one he likely would've found the most amusing.
He left behind a thriving organization, Coventry Expeditions (originally deLander Unltd), to an inscrutable young man known only as Randell Coventry, who became the Absurd Tentacle's final disciple. Eugenie and Cejour returned to Hallmark in 1981 and Cejour and her cousin Collette became best friends and drifted into the goth and punk scene at a very young age in the late 1980s. By this time the secrets of Randell Coventry if not the ultimate fate of Orphee deLander had unraveled. These secrets will be explored in depth further along in this narrative.
Welcome to Flicker Street!
June 25, 2015
Flicker Street, all images, characters, and story elements are Copyright 2015 George Henry Smathers Jr.