Achilles Anophtheis (Achilles revisited)
The director walked onto the stage, gingerly adjusting his radiation
mask in order to fit the microphone beneath it. His nervous cough boomed
through the hall. After shuffling the papers on the podium before him, he
“Welcome ladies and gentlemen of the Pre-Apocalypse Archaeological
Society. We have called this session to impart to you a matter of the
teams have only recently been able to sift through the debris of the razed
cities of our belligerent predecessors, thanks to the efforts of our
radiation concentration: the cities of what was formerly the United States
hands full simply cataloguing the numerous finds. Our first find was a
small rectangular object, containing a spool of thin ribbon, which one of
was a device on which sounds could be recorded. From its small size, our
convince the Censor Society to allow us to reconstruct the primitive
for the negative influences that caused the downfall of the last corrupt
civilization. They duly approved it and we are now ready for its first
“Before we begin, I would like to explain some of the terms used in the
recording, for those of you who lack the benefit of an historical training.
that the sacrilege which led to the destruction of the Nuclear Age was
psychologist was the person who supplanted the role of the confessor in
this blasphemous time. He labored under the delusion that the immortal
soul was accessible on a scientific, human level; and, like most of the
scientists of the day, impiously discounted Allah as an unnecessary
complication. We found an infamous saying which pervaded much of the Pre-
Apocalypse literature: `Religion is the opiate of the people’. Well,
psychology became the new `opiate of the people.’
The patient with whom the doctor is dealing with in the recording, has
been identified as a prominent businessman of the day. He is what was
called an arbitrageur. A man who specialized in dealings on their stock
arbitrageur bought and sold companies for a profit. In the few pieces of
literature we have been able to recover, it seems that such men were
regarded as the heroes of their age. I refer of course to the numerous
importance, for we found huge amounts of them in large buildings. This was
apparently for safekeeping since the storage facilities were located well
away from the centres of attack in the event of a nuclear war. The
periodicals of the day also reflect the reverence in which these men were
degradation of the society that the primary estimate of a man’s worth
became the amount of money he earned. It is difficult in this holy age to
conceive of such blasphemy, but it is necessary that we do so in order to
the scenario as far as was possible, but we endeavored to retain all of the
original conversation in addition to our own narration. I don’t think that
perhaps that it appears to be incomplete. I would ask that you remain as
is very difficult to understand. If you are having trouble, I suggest that
you follow along in the transcripts with which we have provided you.” The
Director signaled for the tape to begin, and left the stage.
Dr. Zeis loaded the cassette into the machine and tested it. It
wouldn’t do to have it chew up the tape again, especially not for so
important a patient: the sort of patient who could make his career . . .
or break it. He knew he couldn’t afford to squander his good fortune. As
his mind wandered over the seemingly endless ramifications of success, the
static crackle of the intercom interrupted his reveries. It was his
secretary warning him that Mr. Reussi was on his way in. The doctor
rewound the tape and offered up a quick prayer that it would work. The
door swung open and one of the world’s richest, most powerful men strode
Mr. Oswald Achilles Reussi had made his fortune by taking over
companies and turning them around. He was able to start at such a high
of publicity, and that was why he had been so irate when the media learned
that he was in therapy and had printed the story with a glee that only
those who made their living from sordid details were capable of acquiring.
Dr. Zeis had regretted his indiscretion, but that sort of publicity was
simply too tempting to resist. He had only been able to calm the fuming
man by convincing him that it was essential that he not be afraid of the
stigma of therapy in order for it to work for him. An old dodge, but it had
performed its function and placated the incensed patient.
Oswald crossed the room with a gruff greeting (Dr. Zeis had learned
early that this was not a man to waste time). He took his customary
position, sprawled on the couch. Dr. Zeis did not place any value in
Freud’s theories regarding the merits of the couch, but he didn’t have the
heart, or the nerve, to object.
able to salvage from the previous session’s mangled tape, “last week, we
unresolved Oedipus complex. This, in turn, has contributed to your
The matter was not helped by the fact that you frequently suffered
comparison with him in your youth.
“This week I hope to confirm the conclusions we drew through a brief
examination of your present life. This examination will, hopefully, yield
manifestations of this dysfunction, and then we may direct our efforts to
most at present.” Oswald shifted uncomfortably and seemed to be searching
for a topic. He eventually settled, and began.
“You’ve probably heard about my attempted takeover of Trojan Inc., the
rubber company. I was not in it for the money, I suppose that all I really
wanted was to complete a deal of historic proportions. At any rate, I had
submitted a bid, and, because of the amount of money involved, didn’t
expect to encounter any serious competition. The board of directors was
such an opportunity to pass them by. Just when I was hammering out the
final details and preparing to submit the offer to the Securities
came in and pulled a white knight, right under my nose.”
“I’m sorry,” the doctor interrupted, “but I’m afraid you’ll have to
explain technical terms to me; I’m not well versed in the language of
business. I don’t understand what you mean by a `white knight’.”
” Oh, that’s fairly straightforward. A white knight refers to a
strategy that companies use to prevent being taken over by a hostile party.
They find someone who they would like to take over the company, and then
they convince him to undertake the attempt by promising him the endorsement
of the board of directors. Although in this case, Alexander offered his
services to the directors, convincing them with guarantees of job security.
So the board naturally jumped at the chance, and he stole the company from
right under me.”
“How do you feel about his actions?”
“I was angry at first, but now he’s in serious financial trouble
because his attempt to pull off `the greatest takeover in history’ is being
stalled by the company’s Chief Executive Officer.” “I read something about
it in the paper. He’s attempting to take over Trojan, but the head of the
company, Hector Prince, won’t let him.”
“That’s right.” replied Oswald. “Trojan is the world’s largest
it’s business is booming. They also own several tire companies; basically,
they own anything that involves the use of rubber.”
“Can you help Mr. Atreides?” asked the psychologist.
“Yes, but I’m not going to. I believe that this is some sort of divine
said Oswald complacently.
“Did he do something illegal?”
“You mean in stealing Trojan from me?” The doctor nodded.
“Not really, but it’s not the sort of thing one does to one’s friends.
I mean he knew that I wanted the takeover, and that this company was the
target I had chosen over five years ago. I had just been biding my time
until an opportunity presented itself; and when it did, he was right there
to take advantage of things I had told him as a friend . . . confidential
things.” “Mr. Reussi, I have heard nearly enough,” the doctor said, putting
Mr. Atreides had not done what he did in the Trojan takeover, would you
help him to defeat Hector?” “I would jump at the chance of making that dog
Hector squirm. He’s one of the most despicable men I know. He never fails
those that trace their ancestry to the Mayflower.”
“Then, if I may, I suggest that you go to Mr. Atreides’ aid.” the
doctor knew that this would not be received warmly and was prepared to
defend it. “Why should I help Alexander? He’s as much of a bastard as
Hector!” The doctor cleared his throat.
“Firstly, it would be to both of your advantages to see Mr. Prince out.
You’ve already stated that you would like to see him squirm, well here’s
your chance. And to top it all, you would have a chance to be part of the
largest takeover in history. You stated yourself that this was your main
motive in the matter.” “It’s true that I would like to see Hector squirm,
but I hate to have to save Alexander in the process.” said Oswald
“Secondly, we have already established that you have an unresolved
Oedipus complex and-” “I’m not absolutely certain that I understand what it
is to have an `unresolved Oedipus complex’,” Oswald interrupted.
“I apologize for not clarifying my psychological terms for you. An
Oedipus complex, as you are probably aware, is a normal childhood
his father as being in competition with him for that love, and, as a
result, develops a hatred of him. The complex is usually resolved by the
child’s development of a `castration complex.’ Two primary reasons
contribute to this: first the child is frequently scolded for touching his
genital area, and, secondly he may see a naked girl and believe that she
has been punished for the same crime, by having the offending organ
attempts to love his father. Naturally, this is a drastically simplified
explanation of a complicated process. Do you understand now?” asked Dr.
Zeis. “Yes. You believe that I did not suffer from this . . . uhh . . . ”
“Castration complex?” offered the doctor. “That’s it,” said Oswald,
“and therefore I never overcame the sense of competition with my father.”
“Yes,” confirmed the psychologist, “that’s it in a nutshell. You see,
because they spent so little time with you, they were loathe to scold you.
Also you said yourself that you frequently suffered comparison with your
father when you were a child, and this served to enhance the sense of
competition. So now I am attempting to suggest a therapy that will aid you
in overcoming your dysfunction.” “But how will helping Alexander accomplish
anything?” asked Oswald dubiously.
“The only way to triumph over the problem is to consciously avoid
behaviour that it causes. And the scenario you have just presented to me
involving your friend, Mr. Atreides, is just such behaviour.” explained the
doctor. “You mean to say that I am merely acting under a compulsion when I
refuse to aid Alexander?” asked Oswald dubiously. The doctor nodded. “But
wouldn’t you do the same thing if a friend of yours stabbed you in the back
like he has done to me? and stolen my dream?” asked Oswald.
“I anticipated this objection.” said the doctor complacently.
his position would you have acted similarly?”
“Well . . . ” hesitated Oswald.
“You see that such behaviour is common in the business world,
and you would probably have done the same had the roles been
reversed.” said the doctor triumphantly. “What you must realize
is that all these years of competition have made you unable to
accept defeat. The only way you can accept losing to Mr. Atreides
without causing yourself considerable mental anguish, is by being
a factor in his destruction, taking your revenge.”
“I still don’t know,” said Oswald doubtfully, “I can’t-” The sound of a
telephone ringing broke into the conversation. A look of anger passed
across the doctor’s face as he stood up to answer it.
“I apologize Mr. Reussi,” he said. “I thought I told my receptionist
to hold all my calls.” “No need to apologize,” said Oswald, pulling a
handsized, rectangular object from his pocket. “I believe it’s my phone.”
He unfolded the phone and extended a concealed antenna. “Yes?” he said
tersely, and listened for a few seconds, his face growing taut. “Are you
sure?” he asked. After listening for a few more seconds, he folded the
phone back up and folded the antenna.
“That was a friend of mine,” he explained, “Robert Patrolo, telling me
that his company was just taken over by Trojan. Hector’s first move upon
gaining control was to have him removed from the chairmanship. Hector knew
that would get me.” He remained seated for a few seconds and then stood
up, pulling on his jacket.
“I believe you are right doctor.” he said. “I am going to help Mr.
Atreides; and when we succeed I’m going to throw Hector out like a dog.”
and so saying, he left the room. The doctor sat down again. He wondered
over the man’s motives, and came to the conclusion that he had not
accomplished very much. All Reussi was doing was transferring his wrath
from Mr. Atreides to Hector.
“Ah well,” he thought, “I shall have to try a different approach next
week.” He pressed the stop button on his tape recorder.
The Director returned to the stage and signaled for the tape to be
stopped. “I believe, gentlemen, that you are all aware of the profane
theories of Sigmund Freud?” he glance around the auditorium observing their
“Well, for the first time, we are able to see those fanciful theories
in actual application, rather than in text. The members of the Censor
Society have graciously permitted us to listen to this recording in order
to allow us to see the depths to which rationality can plunge. We must
remember, as we attempt to rebuild our society, that the only way is God’s
gleaned the dire lesson that this recording has to offer. We must, at all
costs, avoid the unplumbable depths of depravity to which the Nuclear Age
descended, and construct our Society in accordance with the decrees of God.
that they were being closely observed, and that any failure could result in
the severest consequences.
The first order of business seems to be to acknowledge my debt, both in
order to avoid accusations of plagiarism and subsequent litigation. The
difficulty is that my debt extends to every book I have read since the age
of five. I can, however, endeavor to mention the more obvious ones. The
is borrowed from Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and the main story
is an attempt (an enormously presumptuous one at that) to compress and
writings, although I am certain that he would not admit to being the source
of this perversion of his theories, were he alive to object. All that now
remains is to offer a brief explanation of the story itself, perhaps
something along the lines of Dante’s letter to Can Grande Della Scala. The
retain the father-son theme, I used an unresolved Oedipus complex.
Achilles’ wrath is again shifted from Agamemmnon to Hector, although, as
they say, the names have been changed to protect the innocent. I was at a
loss to include an invocation to the Muse, but I eventually came up with
the idea that a tape recorder might be a solution to the problem. What
else is a tape recorder if not an aid to memory? “In fulfillment of the
will of Zeus” is another theme of the Iliad. In order to include it, I
interpreted the gods as psychological phenomena, and, therefore, the
compulsions of the unresolved complex which affects Achilles behaviour is
the re-internalization of Homer’s externalization of internal psychic
activities. (I think drawing a diagram may help you decipher that last
sentence.) The last theme, of corpses being left as carrion for the dogs,
was relegated to a minor position: a few gratuitous remarks of Achilles to
the way he was going to treat Hector. The task is now complete. I hope you
enjoyed the story as much as I hated writing it. Before you mark it, allow
me to interject a quick quote from Shakespeare: “The quality of mercy is
not strain’d”. Thanks for an illuminating, enchanting course. See you in
Yours in Homer,