B U F F O N E ' S     J O U R N E Y

When Tazio blew up our villa with his volcano, Mariangela, Jytte and me just barely escaped with our lives. It was really kinda dangerous: earthquake, fire, flowing lava. We knew Tazio wasn't doing it on purpose, he was in an all-out fight with Ulfo's Demon, and they were both using all the power they had to clobber each other. It's just that it was not so good for us, who were inside the villa they were knocking down.

I was really scared, but Mariangela was brave as always, and Jytte didn't care at all, since she was in some kind of magical coma that Ulfo's Demon had spelled upon her. So we couldn't just run away and leave her to die.

But suddenly Jytte woke up--the Demon's spell had stopped working--which was a good thing because she was the only one of us who could drive her car.

The building we were in--the Main Hall--was falling apart, big rocks were crashing down hard all around us, and the ground was shaking so much that we could hardly keep on our feet, but we jumped into the car anyway and drove away--zooooom--as fast as we could. And just in time too, because the whole villa went up in a really humongous eruption right behind us. Smoke and fire, flying rocks-it was kinda neat--but kinda sad too, tho. I saw Mariangela's tower fall over and go crashing through the main hall roof. Our home was wrecked.

I was looking back and crying about Tazio and Ulfo, because they were in the middle of all that exploding fire, but Mariangela said, "Oh hush, Buffone: neither of them can die and you know it." She was trying to sound like she didn't care, but tears were running down her face too. Jytte was crying too, but she had to drive and it wasn't easy with the road jumping all sideways and burning boulders falling all around us, some bumping the car really hard, but she kept going.

But then Jytte said, "What's that ahead?" Up in the sky there were three bright lights moving toward us fast, lots brighter than the stars, or the Full Moon which was causing all this commotion.

Mariangela knew what they were: "It's the Angels! They're taking us out of here before Anton arrives."

"Gisp, is that a flying saucer?" Jytte asked, pretty surprised.

"Oh, I guess," Marianne shrugged, "although we call that a Solar Finger."

One of them stopped right above us and shined a ray of light down, and our car was suddenly floating, getting pulled up and into the light, leaving the world and the villa and the volcano behind. Then the light got too bright to see.

Things got kind of fuzzy for me then: next thing I wasn't sitting in the car with Mariangela and Jytte any more, I was sitting on a big throne of emerald in the middle of a really HUGE room of glass (I guess), surrounded by lotsa people in white robes kneeling all around me, row after row of them in concentric rings, bowing and chanting "Hallelujah" and "Hosanna", stuff like that.

I knew this place, sorta: I'd dreamed of being there lotsa times. But this time felt different--like this wasn't a dream, like I REALLY WAS there. It's just that this was the kind of place that shouldn't be real: I could see through the glass floor to the world below us, round and turning, decorated with fluffy clouds and sparkling oceans, big islands with mountains and forests and cities. Above me were a zillion stars, even tho it was daylight, and the moon was way off to one side instead of over me as it had been just a minute before, all of it turning and churning and moving like the sky was alive. Just like in my dreams, except that this time it was...well, I didn't know what it was.

Ulfo said that my dreams are symbolic, whatever that means. I was wishing I was smart enough to understand what he was talking about. Wishing I was smart like Tazio, he understands everything. It's all Theron's fault, I'd complain, he made me exist but didn't know what he was doing, so I end up being this stupid comic-book character dwarf, drawn to look funny. He'd even named me Buffone.

Anyway, there I was, feeling confused and sorry for myself, sitting on that green throne with all those people chanting and worshipping ME, for some reason. I figured they must've mistaken me for someone else, so I just waited to see what would happen.

Then they got quiet and it was like I was supposed to say something back to them, but didn't know what to say, so they started up with the Hosanas again, just went on and on.

I couldn't help feeling shy about sitting in front of so many strangers; I'm not used to crowds, living in that villa all my life. But I needed to find Mariangela and Jytte, so I finally had to ask, "Does anybody know where my friends are?"

A thousand voices answered me, "WE ARE ALL YOUR FRIENDS, O LORD!" It took a while for the echoes to stop.

"Oh, good. Then maybe one of you--just one--could tell me where Mariangela is? I need to find her."

One of them stood up and came toward me, tho not all the way, falling on his (her? I couldn’t tell) knees and calling to me from a respectable distance. "O Great Lord Almighty, how can you not know? You who know everything?"

I suddenly found myself feeling... cranky. It had been irritating enough hearing all their idiotic worshipping and chanting over and over again, now they wouldn't even answer a polite question. I stood up and called back at him/her: "Well, if I KNEW I wouldn't ASK, would I?"

That really wasn't like me, I'm usually so polite, meek even, it was like being someone else. And then I noticed that I actually WAS Someone Else: certainly not a dwarf. When I stood up, I stood UP and UP and UP, until my head was now among those stars above. I was GIGANTIC!

And my voice had sounded like thunder and echoed back a hundred times. That poor her/him who had spoken to me had now cast him/herself abjectly on the glass floor and was shaking, obviously scared of me. I said, "Oops, sorry," and sat down again. Trying to blend in, I didn't want to make an even bigger fool of myself.

"Are you okay?" I asked the shaking person on the floor, "Hey, I didn't mean to scare you. I just need to find Mariangela and Jytte."

"Th-th-they are with the Angels, O Lord, sequestered in the Ætheric Realm for their initiations into the secret rituals of female mystery. No one can find them until they have returned to Earthlevel."

I didn't know what he/she was talking about. Once again, I regretted not being smart, once again I resented how Theron had made me, and then--all of a sudden--I remembered everything. And I mean Everything.

But I forgot it all when I woke up from that silly dream. Which was funny: normally I have perfect memory.

This time I was lying on a cot with someone fussing over me, putting a cold cloth on my forehead. I hoped it was Jytte, she's just so...but when I opened my eyes I got a real surprise: it was some other girl I'd never seen before, and she was a dwarf like me!

Okay, not exactly like me, she didn't look like a cartoon character with too-big eyes. She had a nice face, if not fantastically beautiful like Jytte. I could see that we were in some kind of camping bus, but not the car I'd been in with Jytte and Mariangela; I was somewhere else...again.

"Oh, tu es réveillé! Bon, je commençais à m'inquiéter," the dwarf girl said. I understood what she said: (Oh, you're awake! Good, I was beginning to worry), although the words sounded funny, pronounced all wrong.

"Dove sono?" (Where am I?) I asked.

"Quoi?" she asked back, not understanding me, "ne vous parlez français?"

"Quel est le français?" I asked, now in her language. We had a confusing conversation about what language we were speaking because at that time I had no idea what a language was. Later I found that I'd been speaking mostly Italian in the villa, but Ulfo/Ulfa sometimes spoke in other languages and I guess I sorta had a feel for them because I never had a problem switching over, no matter if it was Chinese or Ancient Babylonian (one of Ulfo's favorites).

She told me her name was Gelda and asked for mine. She laughed when I told her.

"Doesn't Buffone mean CLOWN in Italian?" She called it pitre, which wasn't my name at all. Then she wanted to know how I got there.

"I dunno, where am I?"

"This is Circus Zappoline, we found you asleep in the middle of the Big Top this morning. Couldn't wake you up so we brought you here. We were afraid we might have to call a hospital, but weren't interested in having the police come too, so we waited to find out if you were all right. Are you?"

"Oh, I'm fine," I said, sitting up, then did a handstand to prove it, "see?"

Gelda was looking at me kinda amazed, then she smiled. "I can see. Show me more."

I did a flip over her and balanced on the back of her chair, a toe first, then on a fingertip. Easy stuff.

"Come with me," she said and led me outside. I saw then that the camping bus I'd been inside was a motor-home and there were a lot more of them beside that one. There was also a really big tent, animal cages and two elephants, so now I could see that it really was a circus. Not that I'd ever seen a circus before, but I'd heard about them from Mariangela. Gelda was calling out, "Hey everybody! Come look, come look!"

The circus folk, about 50 of them-- four of them also dwarves --came out of their tents and wagons to see waht the fuss was. "Okay, show them what you can do, Buffone!" Gelda demanded with a big smile.

At first I didn't understand what I was supposed to do or what was special about anything that I could; I'd lived all my life with three Avatars who could do all the same stuff as me. It wasn't until Jytte came to the villa that I found I could impress someone with my jumps and flips, and since I'd wanted to impress her a LOT, I started showing off. But with these strangers I was shy at first, until Gelda begged me to do it. So I hopped around the wagons a little.

Once they started applauding, just as impressed as Jytte had been, it became fun for me. So I really let go, ending up on the trapezes inside the Big Top. Daring leaps, swinging tricks, spinning and twirling, silly poses in mid-flight between the big tent poles. They all seemed to like it. A lot.

"Putain de merde, we can use a dwarf like you," the circus boss told me, so I had a new home, new friends and a job.

Not that I had given up on finding my old friends and family, but I didn't know where to look. I found that I was now in a country called France, far from where our villa had been in another country called Italy. Gelda showed me on a map. Our circus was camped outside a town called Clermont-Ferrand, which I'd never heard of.

I knew so little about the world: I'd only been outside the villa two times in my life: once when I was too new to even talk Theron had taken me and Mariangela and Anton Artemis along for a tour of Europe in a car; once again with Tazio into La Destinazione, just before the villa got blown up. I especially remembered how the pretty girls in town thought I was the ugliest thing they'd ever seen, which is part of what they'd always kept me in the villa to protect me from.

So I guessed it was best for me to spend some time with the circus until I found out what to expect of the outside world. Circus Zappoline was a world of its own, just like our villa, another safe place for a weird little freak like me. Besides, I liked the jobs they had me doing; besides showing off for happy crowds of people with my acrobatic clown performances-- which was easy and fun -- I got to use my muscles putting up and pulling down the big tents, playing with the elephants and tigers. It also gave me time to understand what money was for and a chance to save some up for when I was finally ready to go exploring.

I was with that circus for three years. I made friends--and enemies--so it was kinda like a school for learning how to fit into society. I got along better with the "normal" people than the dwarves, maybe because I wasn't really the same kind of dwarf. They were genetically similar in bodies and faces, while I'd been created by Theron as a living toy. My only real friend among the dwarves was Gelda, and the three other guy dwarves were jealous of me because she liked me too much. They were also jealous of what I could do, since I became the most popular star in the circus: Buffone, the Flying Dwarf.

All I did was a trapeze act and clown routine, but audiences were crazy about it. I became slightly famous--to those who were into circus acts anyway. Buffone, le Nain Volant sold tickets, so there was some promotion; posters, merchandise. I wore flashy-colored tights and a red cape just like a superhero, did "death-defying" leaps and "impossible" acrobatic tricks. So did all the other acrobats, of course, I just did everything on a bigger scale, since no one else could climb up into the Big Top by springing back and forth between the two main poles on the way up, it was double too far for them. And I was doing flips and spins in flight, making funny faces, pretending to read books or falling asleep mid-air, and so on. I guess I'm a natural show-off, but I loved making people gasp and laugh, especially kids.

I never told any of them it was easy for me because I was an Avatar, not even Gelda, I just knew that wouldn't be smart.

And I was getting smarter as I got older, I could tell. One day Gelda asked me how old I was, told her I didn't know, so she guessed that I had to be around 30. But I've looked like this since I was created, I never was a baby or a little boy, always a full-gown-adult little dwarf. But I could figure it out: remembering having seen just over 108 Full Moons, so I must have been alive for only 9 years at that time. No wonder I'd seemed so dumb, I was actually just a child.

Now I was learning a lot. I started reading real books instead of comics, didn't matter which language. For the first time in my life I had a TV in the trailer I was living in, so I could see the news and dramas, although the first year I wasted on kid's cartoons and stupid movies. Well, I WAS a kid then (still am I guess, tho I've gotta be about 15 as I write this). But I'm nothing like Tazio, the smartest person in the World at age 12! But before he was ever Tazio he'd been Theron, who just had to make me inferior to himself.

After the first year I had some money saved up, our circus was camped outside Chambérey, so one day I went into town and bought an I-Pad. Mostly because it was a great toy, games, music, videos--but then I found that with a little bit of extra pieces it could go online to Internet. It finally occurred to me that I could maybe Google my family.

Tazio's business web site, dellaTerraSpa was still online, but it hadn't been updated since the catastrophe, so there was no news there. There were no clues about Mariangela or Jytte, but I did find that some kid who sounded a lot like Tazio had made a big impression on a LOT of girls in Roma a year before--so he was still alive! And a year later there'd been some kind of Muslim jihad about to start World War III, but that ended when a freak earthquake had split off and MOVED Israel away from the Arabic mainland. That HAD to be Tazio!

Also in the USA, there'd been eyewitness reports about someone changing from man into woman, werewolf stories, demon stories, angel stories. That had to be the Ulfæ, still alive. I was so happy. But they'd both disappeared again, so I didn't know where to go find them.

Although once in a while the thought of my family made me more angry than sad: I had loved them all and they'd abandoned me. None of them seemed to be looking for me...if they were alive. I sometimes wondered if Mariangela and Jytte had dumped me on purpose--to a circus where I could get a job, so they wouldn't feel so guilty about it. I mean, what other possible use could they imagine for a silly dwarf? But then I'd get over it, since I'm usually positive by nature.

My time with Circus Zappoline finally came to a dramatic end and I had to go travelling anyway. It was because of Gelda, who wanted me to have sex with her. I liked Gelda--no wait, I loved her--just not that way. I still wanted a woman like Jytte: blond and beautiful, tall, wonderful bits all over. The kind of woman I could never have. So I wouldn't desire a... well, a dwarf!

Others desired her (she was pretty cute for a dwarf), but especially Henri, our circus strong man. He was jealous of all the dwarves, and most of all me. But by then he also knew that I was about ten times stronger than him or any other person he'd ever met. I used to play with the elephants by pushing them over, wrestling the tigers for fun, nobody was going to fight me. I wouldn't fight anyway, I don't want to hurt anyone.

But the scene was getting uncomfortable for everyone, so I asked Gelda what she wanted to do. She wanted to run away with me, but I had to say no. She got mad and went to Henri's wagon and had sex with him and that fixed everything. Maybe it was her revenge, or a sacrifice on her part for the sake of the circus, but after a few nights of overhearing them making love it sounded like she was beginning to like it. This seemed like a good time to go, I took my savings and left the circus to explore the real world.

I was almost 12 years old when I started travelling. Then The Lust hit me. I remember Mariangela's warnings to Tazio about Avatar Lust at that age, but wasn't ready for it. Suddenly I needed to have sex with every woman I saw. But they sure didn't need or want me. It was terrible: I was ready to turn around and rush back to Gelda and say I'd changed my mind.

I wasn't a virgin, I'd had 23 women. Mostly at the same time. Theron used to have orgies and everybody had to play, whether they wanted to or not. I couldn't help being horny then--none of us could--so those women were not who I would have chosen to have sex with, although some of them were nice. But nice only made it worse, since they were victims just like me. The only woman who'd ever really made me feel horny since then was Jytte...but she was Tazio's girl friend, and to her I was just a funny little playmate (at least she thought I was "cute"). But that was just a bittersweet little yearning compared to The Lust!

Once, while feeling jealous about Jytte, I'd told Tazio that Theron was sometimes an all-right guy because he'd shared his women with me. I'm sorry I said that, wish I could apologize. Theron was EVIL all the way through, and I hated what he was doing to women-- especially Mariangela --and I hated being forced to play his games. So I wasn't about to force myself on any women.

I'd been in the middle of London and it got so bad I had to run all the way out of town to get away from the smell of women all around me. I finally stopped in some woods, far from anyone. I spent the night there, afraid to go anywhere else. Next day I wasn't sure what to do--I didn't want to be a hermit in the woods, but I had to avoid all women. I started walking, careful not to see or smell any women, but that was impossible.

I came to Hartington: a little village with nothing more than a few houses, a church and a pub. I could smell a few old women in the area, but that wasn't so bad, there wasn't much sex-smell left in them. I went to the pub, sniffing to make sure there were no women inside. Lucky for me, it was a real man's world: pints of ale and darts, a telly showing football, with about six regulars hanging out. I took a pint myself.

They were surprised to see me, not many dwarves come by their way I guess, but were polite and friendly, asking where I was from. I've never been good at lying, but by then I'd learned to be careful about what I say to strangers. I couldn't tell them about my problem, they'd think I was crazy--and maybe a dangerous sex-maniac (which I was). But somehow the conversation came around to the Abbey a few miles up the road, a place where only men lived together in celibacy. After a few more pints of ale I went that way.

The Abbey of Saint Matthew was not very big, there were about 20 monks living there, so it didn't remind me very much of La Villa della Strega: the buildings were about 500 years old, but I'd been used to my 10,000 year-old home. Still, the idea was much the same: walled isolation from the world. It was not where I wanted to be, but until I solved the problem of The Lust, it had to do.

When I arrived the monks were surprised to find a dwarf banging on their door, I told them I had to join them. They asked if I was Catholic so I finally told a lie: "Oh sure," I said. I was supposed to have some kind of reference from someone in some church, besides, they were full up, so they sorta refused to have me there. But when they closed the door in my face I hopped over the wall and let myself in anyway. They tried to grab me and throw me out, but I threw them down instead, carefully. I prefer to be polite, but was too desperate, and finally they caught on: I was staying. I was there for half a year.

The leader of the abbey, Prior Benjamin, was a religious fanatic and of no help to me, but there was one monk-- Father Jonathon --who reminded me a teensy bit of Ulfo in his semi-wise lunar phase. I opened up to him and told him that I suffered from Lust (tho never explaining The Avatar version). He seemed to think that was a normal adult male problem and we worked out some meditational disciplines to control it. It helped. But the religious instruction was always a problem for me because I knew that all the stuff they believed in was a little bit right, but mostly wrong.

Especially about Sin, they wasted a lot of effort worrying about that. Sex seemed to be the worst Sin, which made no sense, since it's only people being extra friendly instead of hurting each other. Oh, I do know why, Ulfo explained religion to me: the church needs to generate guilt to control people and get money from them.

Really, their entire concept of "God" seemed all wrong to me: WHO he was, how INFALLIBLE he was, what he WANTED them to do. Some of them really believed that they had a dialogue going on with HIM, but it was all self-hyped day-dreaming. They reminded me of those God-dreams of my own (which I can't take seriously), of all those obsessive worshippers constantly chanting silly rituals poor old God really doesn't want to hear any more. They do it for their own sake, because they don't know what ELSE to do.

And whenever they got onto the subject of the Book of Revelations--they were so confused about what it meant. I already knew exactly who The Antichrist was: Theron, my creator, now Tazio. I'd met Satan incarnate: Anton Artemis. I knew that the nowadays incarnation of Christ was some American guy named Immanuel. I'd grown up with all that stuff, been taught Cosmic Truths by the Ulfæ, who did miracles all the time. And most of all, I knew that prophecies never work out the way they are supposed to.

But I respected Father Jonathon, I liked him because he was really trying to help me with my Lust problem, and so I finally made the mistake of trying to tell him the Truth about how things really were. He did not take that well, insisted that I'd been tricked by Satan, Prior Benjamin got involved and right away we had an exorcism going on. I wasn't about to fight them off, even tho I could, so I went over the wall and continued my journey.

I went back to London, gritting my teeth and shaking with The Lust, barely making it to the East End, where I had learned from the monks that there was a thriving prostitution industry. It was the only idea I had, what else could I do? I had enough money to wallow in professional women for a while, at least. On the street I asked around for a whorehouse where even a dwarf might be welcome.

It was a rough part of town and I wasn't having much luck, until a gang of six thugs tried to rob me. I tried not to harm any of them, but was pretty frustrated and overexcited, so they got the beating they deserved. This was on a busy street so it became very public.

Next thing I knew I was working as a bouncer for one of the better whorehouses, The Golden Rod. So now I was a colleague to the prostitutes I needed and could even afford to hire them once in a while. But even so, none of the girls really wanted to service a funny-looking freak like me. They might do it for the money, but reluctantly, and that was too much like forcing them against their will for me. So I was still doing meditations and living like a celibate monk in a brothel. I had to endure that for a week, until I was about to give up and go find another monastery somewhere.

Then Zanya came along, a new girl from Romania. Petite (like me), not quite pretty (like me), but appealing anyway to a certain kind of man. Too bad for her it was the brutal kind. On her first day a burly fat slob started beating up on her, so I had to step in. That was okay with him, he was a big bully, and thought hurting a dwarf would be even more fun, but ended up not liking being overpowered and humiliated. Zanya, however really liked being rescued by her "superdwarf" and was happy to give me whatever I needed, free of charge.

So I stayed at The Golden Rod for while, Zanya being my sorta girl friend. One problem was that I needed sex about 10 times a day and she still had to service other customers, but she told the other girls how virile I was, that my thingy was a lot bigger than expected, and that I gave her fantastic orgasms every time (that's true). Most of those often-fucked girls were not getting any orgasms, so they ALL began to use me as their house stud. It worked out well for everyone. Besides the bouncer job I was also doing the business books, since I've got a savant's talent for math, so I was earning good money. And getting laid 20 times a day, it was great.

Those monks back at the Abbey of Saint Matthew would have been scandalized by all this Sinning and call The Golden Rod a "house of iniquity". They'd be right, of course: it was all about human abuse, gangsters, drugs, crime, and I was ignoring the immorality going on all around me. I myself felt perfectly innocent, since I had no choice about having sex, but then neither did those girls. Many of them were from Eastern Bloc countries, coerced into prostitution by the Russian Mafia, but it took a while before I paid attention. I thought they all just LIKED being prostitutes and were having as good a time as I was. I can be kinda naive.

I finally caught on when five Russian Gangsters came to The Golden Rod to do some enforcing. The mob owned the club, I found out, the English manager being just a front. Some girls were to be punished, and a cheating club operator was to be executed. The gangsters called a meeting and were quite brazen about it, putting on a show of power and authority to keep everyone working in the club afraid and obedient. I was supposed to watch along with all the others, but that was one of those things nobody had ever explained to me. So when we were all gathered for a meeting and two of the gangsters held one of the girls while a third man started to hit her, I stopped him. "Hey, don't hit her, please," I said. They looked at me like I was crazy, then decided to use me as an example of what happens to anyone who isn't scared of them.

It turned into a brawl: three Russians grabbed me, I threw them across the room, their boss pulled a gun on me, I took it away. He threatened to have me and some girls killed, so I got mad and slapped him pretty hard, kind of knocking him out. Finally I had all five Russian thugs on the floor. That part was easy, but there was a new problem.

Everyone in the club, about 15 people, was shouting at me, "What are you DOING?" and "You'll get us all killed!" Even the club operator who was supposed to have been executed, although he'd been grateful I'd interfered at the time.

I said, "These men are trafficking women, that's illegal, we'll just take them to the police and..." The whole place went crazy.

Zanya explained it to me: "The mob has connections, we don't. The police will want to see our papers, but many of us are here illegally so they'll arrest US, not them!"

Actually, I had no papers myself. Officially I don't exist: I wasn't born in a hospital, had no parents, hadn't gone to a public school, spent most of my life in Italy but wasn't an official citizen. Police could be a problem for me too.

But those guys were really bad men and they were used to getting away with doing bad things to people, so knocking them down only stopped them for the moment. They promised revenge, said I was a dead dwarf, that there'd be coming some REAL hit-men to show us all who's boss, that sorta stuff. The English manager was shouting at me, saying I was fired, get out, he was going to call the police on ME, so I had to tie him up too. But the girls said it was too late anyway: I'd have to KILL those gangsters or they'd get revenge on everyone in the club. That was a moral dilemma for me-- I don't kill people, not even bad guys.

I tried to think how Tazio would handle them--yeah well, he'd just command them to go away and they'd have to obey, but I didn't have psychic powers like him. Oh, I tried commanding them, but it just wasn't working, they were laughing at me. I think because I was treating them too nice, apologizing for being too rough, for example. They could tell that I wouldn't really hurt them.

So I took control of The Golden Rod, told everybody to shut up and go on with business as usual for the moment. Surprisingly, they all went along with it. Then I tied up the Russians and put them in a cellar room until we decided what to do with them. It was pretty unhandy, since we had to feed them and they kept trying to escape.

Another four gangsters arrived a few days later, asking about the first group, so I had to put them down there too. After a week we had nine Russian mobsters downstairs, but it wasn't a very good prison cell with no bars or steel doors, and we were running out of room. I still didn't know what to do about them.

I had one of those weird dreams where I'm God surrounded by worshippers, so I asked them what to do with all those Russian mobsters. "Judge them, cast Thy wrath upon them, O Lord!" one of my worshippers suggested. Another said, "Smite them thew and bone, O Lord, as in the old days." And the old standard: "Vengeance is Thine, O Lord God Almighty, cast them into the Lake of Fire!" Seemed kind of old-school advice, nothing I could really use.

Next morning the real heavy-duty gangsters showed up, seven large men in one smooth wave entering The Golden Rod in formation with guns drawn. Seems some club staff member had chickened out and called the Mob's headquarters. I just stood back and let them come in, figuring I could take their guns away later on. But when I saw their leader, the biggest of them all, a dark giant of a man, I understood that this was another level of enforcement. I knew him: Boris, a Satanic Agent of the Dark Templars.

And he knew me, or thought he did. "Theron's Dwarf," he said and grabbed me roughly by the arm, "I think our Grand Master might have a use for you." He was talking about Anton Artemis, of course. Suddenly I knew I could be in more trouble than I'd been expecting. Especially since some Templar Agents are endowed with special powers, psychic and physical: Boris was as strong as me, his grip HURT.

I'd recognized Boris' face because he'd been among the troop of Dark Templars camped inside the Villa della Strega while Theron was alive. They were a bunch of really evil guys, trained and disciplined to be dangerous, but Theron was worse than any of them so they were afraid of him. And since I was Theron's plaything, they left me alone. The Templars had already been stationed there when Theron created me, and six months later they left when he blew himself up. I'd been brand-new then, barely speaking yet, shy and timid, but I looked just like I do now, so I suppose they all assumed I was an imbecile.

I was careful not to say anything, so Boris would just keep on assuming. He was moving into The Golden Rod with great authority, giving orders, pushing girls around. He handed me to one of the other gangsters, saying, "Here, you hold him for me, I don't have time to deal with a stupid dwarf just now..." Then he brutally grabbed Lucille, one of the girls, and pressed his pistol to her silicone breast, shouting "Somebody's going to fucking die here today, let's just see who it'll be!"

One of the club employees loyal to the Mob was trying to warn Boris: "Hey, no, don't let go of the dwarf, he's the one who..."

But it was too late, I moved fast, slapping the fresh batch of gangsters. They were normal humans and went down like cards. Moving even faster, I went behind Boris so that he was turning away from me to see what was happening where I'd been. I didn't want Lucille to get shot, so I had to take Boris out really fast, couldn't hold back as I always do.

The only karate-like stuff I knew was what Tazio had taught me when we were playing. He'd learned it from Ulfo, so it was probably more-or-less correct. I hand-chopped the Templar on both sides of his neck from behind as hard as I dared, afraid I'd kill him. He staggered, dropped the girl but not the gun, and he was ready for me. Nowhere near killed.

Boris didn't bother with the gun, it went flying, he wanted to take me alive. He was surprisingly fast, hit me in the belly hard enough to knock me onto the floor. Lucky I'm an Avatar, that blow would have crippled a human. I was up and away before he could kick me, went bouncing around the room to avoid getting caught, but he was so big he filled up the room and it was hard to get past him. He hit me two or three more times and every blow hurt, but then we got locked into a wrestling hold (muscles straining, veins bulging, sweat spraying, really dramatic) in which neither of us could budge the other, so it became a matter of endurance. We were equally strong, but he was bigger with more weight and better leverage. He was also a well-trained fighter, and a LOT more ruthless than me. It wasn't looking good.

Zanya shot him. She'd stepped in close to make sure she didn't shoot me instead and put a bullet between his ribs from the side. That wasn't enough to stop Boris, who turned his head even as we were struggling against each other and looked her in the eyes. Hers went wide as his psychic power hit her, then she opened her mouth and her hand obediently moved the pistol towards it. I shouted "No!"--and she did pause, looking into my eyes for a second--but then her eyes snapped back to meet the Templar's and she continued to put the pistol into her mouth, aiming upwards.

I was straining at the limit of my physical strength, there was no extra little effort I could muster to sway the struggle. At that moment I didn't care if I killed him or died myself, I had to save Zanya, but didn't know how. I heard him chuckle and say, "No matter how this works out, dwarf, your whore is going to die..." then I spoke a word into his ear.

Boris went slack and collapsed completely, suddenly a rag doll in my arms. I heard Zanya cry out, but it was with relief. Then she recovered and moved in to finish him off with a shot to the head, but I stopped her. He was definitely down.

"He probably deserves to die," I told her, "but we don't deserve the karma of his death."

"But you know this kind of man," she said, "believes it's his karma to avenge himself and kill us later."

I studied Boris, who was conscious but apparently helpless, unable even to speak, eyes open and scared. He was obviously as confused as I was. I had no recall of what I'd said to him, or in which language that magic word had been, it had come instinctively.

I considered the options. I felt I should do something about this mob--and other mobs--in fact, the entire world-wide industry of trafficking innocent women. Being an Avatar, I was physically capable of it, I could even put on a bright-colored cape and call myself "Superdwarf" like a superhero in those fumetti I used to read. Why not? It could be fun.

But I knew why not. It would not be fun. I could never be capable of being as ruthless as these men, and to win over them I'd have to be. I'd have to kill, or maim them so severely that they could no longer DO bad things. Also, it wouldn't only be the criminals I'd be fighting, but police and business and corruption throughout all human society, which is where the problem starts. It was too big for one little two-fisted tough guy.

As for that "magic word" I'd pulled out of my nonexistent hat: it was gone again, I couldn't count on it. Nor did I know if I had just paralyzed Boris temporarily or for the rest of his life (although I wasn't worrying much about that evil Templar's well-being). And there was no forgetting that I was crippled by The Lust: I had to have some women with me--and would only get them killed, I'd just seen that almost happen. No, superheroing was a bad plan.

Besides, I'd had it with that immoral and ugly lifestyle and decided it was best to just move on. The staff of The Golden Rod could release the mobsters to get back into the good graces of the Mob and just blame everything on me. Why not, I'd be gone--and if they came after me, I WOULD punish them, I promised myself that.

I talked Zanya into coming with me and she was all for it. So was Yvonne, so I had two women to help me with The Lust. Good thing too because it wasn't letting up. We took a train to Berlin.

I liked Berlin, it was so cheap that students and artists could afford to hang out there, which gave the city a fun spirit. My girls liked it too, especially since they didn't have to be prostitutes any more. They were busy enough taking care of me anyway, but they liked the orgasms so they put up with it. We got an apartment near Prenzlauer Berg and went all three to art classes at an alternative street college on Oranienburger Strasse.

Not that I had any artistic talent--well I did, but not for painting or music. Once again I became a performing dwarf, doing acrobatic stunts on the street. Scampering up and down buildings became my speciality. Zanya and Yvonne got into the act too, sexy girl assistants and hat-passers, we made surprisingly good money in the summer. In the winter we had indoor fun with all the friends we'd met on the street, doing theater and making dinners together. There were a few hard-drug situations which I had to put a stop to before the polizei came asking to see papers, since it was a very international scene (about half our friends were Germans, the rest foreigners like us), but there was no real trouble.

I wasn't trying to be their leader, never that goal-oriented, but sometimes I would step in and keep bad things from happening, just because I could. Most of those people were pretty young, and even tho I was their amusing little mascot dwarf, they began looking up to me as if I was older and wiser than them. They couldn't know I was only 13 years old at the time. They'd seen how strong I was, but they also saw that I never hurt anyone. Not even when a rough gang of Turks with knives tried to take over the streets around Kastanienallee, I disarmed them and told them to be nice, no one got hurt.

Berlin was a good time, but it had to end: Yvonne fell in love with a nice German guy. At that time I was getting sex-help from several girls who had been sleeping around and found that I offered the best fuck they could get even if I was funny-looking, so I wished Yvonne a happy life and she went away to Bamberg. Zanya stayed with me--she even ended up loving me, which made me happy, even tho one woman couldn't be enough to keep The Lust under control.

Although that seemed to be tapering off, I could now manage with 10-12 times a day if necessary. Not that I really had to spend a lot of time having sex, it only took a minute to get off if I had to, but I liked it so much that I'd rather play a while and give the girl a good time too. Zanya figured that if I could get it down to 4-5 quickies a day and one major goodnight fuck she could endure being my only woman, which was becoming what she wanted. I really liked having lots of different women, but wanted to make her happy if I could, we'd have to see how it worked out.

In the end it didn't work out so well--which is why it ended. Zanya felt she wanted another kind of life: husband and babies, nice house, stable life. An Avatar dwarf couldn't give her any of that, since I had to...

And there it was, I didn't know what I had to do. What was I doing on Earthlevel in this incarnation as a superhuman comic-relief dwarf? What was my purpose? I'd been created as a plaything by the evil Antichrist, who blew himself up and became good Tazio, my beloved friend. But all my attempts to find him and the rest of my family had failed, so I was on my own and without a direction.

So after a year in Berlin I decided to go to back home: to the ruins of la Villa della Strega and see what I could find. I gave Zanya enough money to last her a year and said goodbye. She cried, but agreed that this was how it had to be, fucked me goodbye all night long until she was too worn out to do it anymore, hoping it would give me a head start on The Lust before it overwhelmed me.

I'd kept just enough money to get me to Southern Italy by train. I paid for a sleeper cabin to isolate me from any women on the train. It wasn't that bad at first, Zanya had done what she'd hoped for. But as I felt grateful to her I also began missing her awfully. I guess I had loved her, my heart was breaking so bad that I simply couldn't be bothered with The Lust. Cried all the way to Roma.

There I had to deal with switching trains for Benevento, waiting for connections in a crowded stazione. There were women everywhere, all ages, shapes, sizes, ALL of them very attractive. It got really hard to ignore The Lust there. I was sweating and shaking, an Outrageously Desirable Woman asked me if I was sick... Then all over again in Benevento, clenching my teeth. It was a long way to La Destinazione. I had to hitchhike the last part from Montevecchio because I couldn't stand being on a bus with women. Got a ride with an old man, what a relief!

I had almost no money left to eat with, but couldn't tolerate being in town anyway, so I hurried across La Destinazione to the outskirts where the road to the villa begins. Once there I felt already home, familiar hills before me, familiar smells. I ran those last 16 kilometers, feeling really good now.

But when I came in sight of the ruins I felt bad again. La Villa della Strega was unrecognizable; everything had been burned black, the walls split and scattered by the steeply peaked volcanic cone that had formed on that catastrophic night, Mariangela's tower was toppled and broken into bits, the chipped dome now completely gone, not one building intact. My home had been built by Atlaneans over 10,000 years ago and now it was rubble. Again, I was crying.

After a while I got pretty hungry, so I went to where the garden used to be to see if anything happened to be growing. I was surprised to find magnificent carrots and cabbages poking up through the black lava gravel. I ate and recognized the taste of Ulfa's angelic blessings upon our garden, the magic was still alive. The fountain was also still flowing, so I drank the water.

I tried to find what was left of my old room, but the main hall had collapsed utterly. I did find a room I could use for a rough shelter, it used to be a pantry and tipped a bit now but I could get out of the weather if I had to. Only stone remained; wood, cloth and everything else had burned up in the eruption, the underground passages were filled up with hardened lava, this was no place to stay for long.

I'd come here to find some kind of clue about what to do next, where to go. So I wandered around, looking for something, not knowing what. A cold wind began to blow. The sun went down. The dark crescentless moon almost beside it.

The New Moon. I was so amazed that I'd forgotten to pay attention to the phases of the moon and now here I was, exactly for a New Moon. The Cosmic Moment. If Angelic Ulfa had been here she'd become a goddess right about now, then phase onward to becoming Ulfo the Wise, who could have answered any question I had. I knew this couldn't be a coincidence, I was SUPPOSED to be here now. Hardly breathing, I waited to see what would happen.

Nothing happened all night long. The Ulfæ never showed up. I was alone.

So I had lots of time to think, to remember other New Moon nights…then realized that the very first of them had been 14 years ago, when I'd been created. It was my birthday, sorta.

I'd always avoided remembering that; once when Tazio asked me about it I'd had a kinda heart attack and died for a little while. But now I felt ready, I'd come here for a reason. My creation had taken place a few hundred meters outside the villa walls, when Theron had gone for a once-only contemplative wandering under the stars, bedazzled by Ulfo's magic. I went out there and found the spot, sat down and let the memory come.

I may not be as super-intelligent as Tazio, but I do have perfect memory, it's all there. Fourteen years ago that night began in the middle of nothingness, neither it nor I existing, and then--POP!--I was THERE. The darkly shadowed New Moon above me, surrounded by a sky full of diamond stars. I was lying on my back on some planet that was turning. I was breathing atmosphere. There was gravity. I could feel that I had mass. I was incarnate! Whoever I was.

"Wow, I did it! I really AM a god! I love it!"

Theron's voice made me finally notice him. Looking at the stars I'd been focusing far beyond him, but now I paid attention. Although to one side, his face was also above me, even darker than the moon. But then his tail glowed with the Urr and I could see that he looked amazed. Well, sure, he'd just created life--a person, and it surprised him as much as me.

"Hey, little guy, can you sit up?"

I understood what he said, tho I myself knew no words yet, so I sat up. I had to try a few times to get the balance, and then it was easy. I looked around to see where I was, amazed by this world I had just arrived into: that night sky becoming dawn, the ground beneath turning toward a sun, that high and wide villa wall over there, those surrounding hills, grass waving in a breeze, trees rustling... It all seemed familiar somehow, but from very long ago.

Theron seemed familiar too, like I knew him from somewhere else and we were connected somehow. He was smiling down at me with pride, and I guess I was smiling too. We watched the sunrise together, it was so beautiful. I think I felt love, for everything and him too.

But then his smile changed, became nasty, cruel, mean. I think I felt fear.

"Okay, so I can create life, now let's see if I can undo it..."

He touched me with his tail, which was all electric-sparkly with the energy of the Urr, and it hurt, really bad. I screamed and he seemed to like that, because he hurt me harder and his smile got even nastier. "Die, you little shit, go back to wherever you came fr..."

But then Theron screamed too and fell backwards. He rolled around in the dirt, squirming in pain, then it was over. I'd been squirming too, but sat up again to keep my eyes on him. He sat up too, his agony worn off, but a little more cautious now. Theron looked scared, then offended, then angry, then insane. I saw how ugly he could be, eyes all bugged-out, mouth full of sharp teeth. Even being so new I could recognize a monster.

"I don't know how you did that, you little shit, but it's the last thing you'll ever DO!" he shouted, attacking me with a death-shriek, one of those really dangerous psychic powers he had. It hurt too, we both screamed. Theron flopped flat on his back again until the pain stopped.

"It's not fair," he complained, "it hurts me to hurt you!"

I got up, unsteady on my feet, unsure of anything, but standing and walking felt instinctive. Theron looked up at me, now a little worried about what I could do to him. Since I had no words I just offered him my hand and pulled him to his feet. I somehow knew that we had to get along with each other. He looked at me funny, then shrugged. We walked to the villa together, him not saying a word, me not having any to say. By the time we got there he was glad to show off what he had created--me.

Mariangela was surprised to meet me, astounded that Theron had just made me out of dirt and Urr, but Ulfo was still in wise-phase and had been expecting me. He sat with me and started teaching me words. I automatically loved them both, knew they'd be good to me, but also knew that Theron was not going to be.

Sometimes he was nice, but mostly he was not. He liked having me as his toy, but played rough. This was when that garrison of Dark Templars was stationed in the villa, and he was much harder on them, committing perversions with them, killing them for fun. Sometimes it irked him that he couldn't kill me, so he'd do cruel experiments-- changing my size and shape and sex --but if he went too far it would hurt him too.

I had to endure Theron's evil craziness for half a year. When he blew himself up I was glad, just like everyone else. Although, funny enough, I never hated him. Maybe I pitied him, he was too crazy to exist--and it seems that he agreed.

In the middle of that New Moon night something did happen after all. I'd been wallowing in memories, crying about how I missed Tazio and Mariangela and the Ulfæ, how I missed Zanya (and Yvonne too, while I was at it). Feeling really sorry for myself, poor little lost Buffone. I'd seen the light coming across the sky towards me, but hadn't really paid it any attention.

Then it stopped about 50 meters above me, a bright swirling vortex of light which I finally recognized to be a Solar Finger. One of God's UFOs. The only one I'd seen before had snatched me and Mariangela and Jytte and our whole car up into it, somehow dropping me off at Circus Zappoline, and taking the girls off to somewhere unknown.

I hoped it was them, come to take me with them, but a Solar Finger is such a mysterious thing that I wasn't sure I could trust it. It looked more alive than machine, pulsing and turning, absolutely silent. Then a ray of light shone down at me. I braced myself to be taken.

But instead a man came down from it, dropping and landing easily in front of me. A beautiful young man with long white hair. He smiled and I liked him right away, I could tell that he was Good. So Good that I guessed who he was.

"Hello, Buffone. I need to talk with you." He spoke American English.

"Hi, Immanuel, I'd be happy to talk with almost anyone, but especially you."

"But before you and I talk, I need to speak with My Holy Father, if I may."

"Uh...well, sure, go ahead." I wasn't sure what he meant, but supposed that Christ knew what he was talking about. Ulfo had told me about Immanuel being the 17th Incarnation of Jesus.

But whatever happened next I missed out on: I fell asleep for a while.

When I awoke again it was dawn. Immanuel and I were sitting over from each other as if we had been all night. I straightened my back and shook my head.

"What happened?" I asked.

"I've been speaking with your Avatar soul, your Buffone persona had to be out of the loop to let it happen."

"But you said you had to talk with...wait, are you saying that My Avatar soul is...God? THE God?"

"Didn't you know?" Immanuel raised his eyebrows in surprise, then laughed very nicely. "Well, that must be interesting to learn! Ha ha!"

"Yeah, heh heh...uh, how can that be? I'm just this silly cartoon dwarf..."

"Well, that's the whole point of this incarnation," he said, "learning to be humble, working on Yourself."

"God needs to work on Himself?"

"We all do. Always. Otherwise we stagnate, and eternal souls cannot allow that to happen: they wither and lose all their power, just as mortal people do. You really never suspected that you are Jehovah?"

"Oh, I've had some dreams, but couldn't take them seriously. Besides, every crazy guy in the world thinks he's God, best to avoid bragging about it."

"Yes, well, that's because everyone IS part of God," Immanuel explained.

"Even evil Theron-the-Antichrist thought he was just like God, because he could create me."

"Theron was simply the tool God used to make Himself incarnate by creating You, having the tail and the Urr to work with. It was a set-up and Theron never knew better."

"Yeah, well, neither did I," I admitted.

We stopped talking for a minute and watched the sun come up. Exactly like Theron and me 14 years ago. I wondered what the symbolism of THAT was, sure that Ulfo would have a theory.

"Ulfo would have said," Christ said, "that this moment is a symbolic turning point for you, Buffone. You have been seeking a direction."

"I've also been seeking my family. Do you know where they are?"

"Oh sure, they’re at my place. Mariangela and Jytte are waiting for you, come with us and you'll be reunited. Also, we have a work to do and a game to play, we'll need your help in assembling our Army of Peace."

"Army of Peace? I'm not very military..."

"But you do know that the Apocalypse is coming, forces of good and evil are gathering, preparations are being made."

"When, where?"

"Next year at Megiddo in Israel, an Armageddon Festival will seem to be a media event, but it shall be actual: Christ and Antichrist shall do battle to determine the fate of this planet, as prophesied. Everyone's going; Tazio'll be there, the Ulfæ as well, and I hope, you too."

"Christ against Antichrist--I'm supposed to be on your side against Tazio?"

Immanuel shrugged and grinned. "What did Ulfo tell you about prophecies?"

"That they can come true, but almost never the way you think they will."

The Solar Finger had flown away after dropping Immanuel off, but now it came back and was hovering above us again, twirling sparks and waiting.

"So? Coming?" Immanuel asked.

"Just a minute," I said, "if we're going to join up with Marianne and Jytte, I have an embarrassing problem..."

"You mean The Lust? Your Avatar Soul has already fixed that, you'll be in control of your sex-drive now."

"What? You mean I could have done that any time?"

"No, your soul-self required that you/HE experience the temptation and understand the agony of The Lust. It was a self-test, but you endured it without ever resorting to rape or coercion or deceit. That test is done, but there will be others--the next of which is The Work that awaits us. You ready now?"

I was and we were pulled up into that UFO... and here I have to start being careful about what I write, there's a lot of magic secrecy that may not be revealed, like what's inside a Solar Finger, how it works, all that. I can't tell you where we went either, but I can say that Marianne and Jytte were there to greet me and we all fell together in a big happy hug. Lucky The Lust was gone, because I got horny enough anyway. Then we settled down to doing The Work.

I've been happy here, it's good to feel useful and have a job to do. I'm now an architect for the Army of Peace, our objective to make war illegal over the entire planet. The only thing that bothered me was that I never got over missing Zanya. So about half a year after I'd arrived I sent an e-mail to the Prenzlauer Berg address in Berlin, hoping she was still there.

She wasn't but my friends found her. Just in time, Zanya was about to be deported from Germany. She was also unhappy: she'd figured out that her dream-life with Mr. Average Husband and 2.6 kids was a pretty boring fantasy compared to her old love-affair with a superdwarf who gave her the best sex she'd ever known (and so much of it). I warned her that I might not be as potent as back then, since my Lust problem was solved, but that I'd love to come visit her and see if we still had something together.

So I took a vacation to Berlin, carrying official-looking world-citizenship papers for Zanya and myself. There was a little drama about the life-style Zanya had gotten herself into, but we got her out of it. She ended up coming back with me and joining the Army of Peace, so we're working together now. We also found out that I'm just as potent as before, if I want to be: I am still an Avatar after all.

I've been having more of those Me-Being-God-On-His-Throne dreams lately, remembering more details each time. For instance, I now know that "magic word" I'd used to defeat the Templar Agent Boris--and a few other power-spells, if I need them.

I'm even remembering some of God's Own Memories: being part of the Solar Soul back at the Creation, before spirit had attained form, when HE/THEY were all just a soup of incandescent life forces inside The Sun. I recall experiments HE/THEY made on the cooling planets--like Earth--where physical form could begin to exist, the absurd vehicles of incarnation He/They had designed, millions of generations of them evolving throughout those worlds. I remember HIS/Jehovah's own great inspiration and claim to fame: the invention of Mankind, with the ideal brain-to-muscle ratio and the prehensile thumbs. Which is why HE/Jehovah is Man's personal God.

But I still can't remember The Big Bang--yet.

Anyway, here I am--just plain Buffone--getting ready for Armageddon along with a few hundred friends. No one knows how it's going to work out, but I'm looking forward to meeting Tazio again. I trust Immanuel to do the right thing, whatever that is. I'm just a silly dwarf, so I'll let others make the big decisions. And if it all goes wrong, well, I might have the option of releasing my inner Avatar.