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Explore a futuristic world where meditation is forbidden and comes at a price in this excerpt from Children of the New World by Alexander Weinstein.By Alexander Weinstein MOKSHAI.
Rumor was you could still find enlightenment in Nepal, and for cheap. There were back rooms down the spiderwebbed streets of Kathmandu where they wired you in, kicked on the generator, and sent data flowing through your brain for fifteen thousand rupees a session. It was true, Jeff from the co-op had assured Abe, though passport control could be a bitch when you returned to the States.
“They pulled my buddy when we hit Newark,” Jeff had said, sipping maté from a gourd. “But he was showing. His third eye was completely open and he wanted to hug everyone. Just think about porn and you’ll be fine.” Jeff had handed Abe a crinkled business card. Namaste Imports. “Go to this place.”
So Abe had saved his money, bought the ticket, and traveled the endless hours, numbed by bad sleep and bland airline food, to find himself in Kathmandu. Finding Namaste Imports, however, had proved impossible. The streets had no names and looking up, all Abe saw was a tangle of electrical wires and lights blinking on in the dusk. Around him, masses of tourists, heavy with backpacks and vacant looks, milled about. And amid all this churned a perpetual stream of cars and mopeds, nudging their way around pedestrians, honking, yelling out of windows, and raising endless dust. It all seemed far from enlightenment.
By ten that night, the shops had shut down. Abe wandered back to his hotel to the sound of Beatles cover bands filtering down from terrace cafés. A couple skinny Nepali teens emerged from the darkness. “Hash, Pollen, Sex?” they asked, but when Abe asked for Moksha, they turned squirrelly and retreated back into the doorways. So Abe returned to his hotel room, stretched out on his bed, and wondered if it was all bullshit and Jeff had sent him on a fool’s errand that’d cost him his savings.
Moksha, it turned out, wasn’t bullshit. It’d just gone into hiding ever since the twenties, when the U.S. cracked down on Nepali distribution. There had been nonstop busts at yoga studios and health spas in the U.S. An oxygen bar in Sedona had been found with makeshift crown plates hooked up to an old Sega Genesis console. The CIA had confiscated the equipment and sentenced the owners, a gray-haired, dreadlocked couple, to life. By the time Abe was in high school and just starting to get interested in experimenting with enlightenment, it was impossible to find. The U.S. government had strong-armed Eastern religions. Transcendental meditation classes were raided, tai chi groups disappeared from the parks, and churches began burning esoteric Buddhist texts. The closest Abe had come to scoring any enlightenment was when some seniors, troubled kids with a penchant for Lao Tzu, had cannibalized an old iMac and built a crown plate out of tinfoil. Abe had placed the foil cap on his head and closed his eyes.
For a moment, sitting in the kid’s garage on a nylon beach chair, Abe had thought he felt something. He sensed a dull light behind his eyes, fuzzy and warm, and his heartbeat expanded. The sound of the air-conditioning unit kicking on droned into a melody, and he’d had a vision of his mother asking him, as though he were still a child, if he wanted her to pack him a lunch. Light streamed through the window over the kitchen sink, and for a split second he saw her sadness. Then something in the makeshift machine popped, sending a curl of plastic smoke into the air. The seniors had yelledshit and poured their Pepsi on the electrical fire, and Abe found himself back in the dank, oil-stained garage, as unenlightened as he’d ever been…