A world of no rules, no limits
October 27, 1999
(CNN) -- Chuck Palahniuk's darkly funny first novel tells the story of a godforsaken young man who discovers that his rage at living in a world filled with failure and lies cannot be pacified by an empty consumer culture. Relief for him and his disenfranchised peers comes in the form of secret after-hours boxing matches held in the basements of bars. The Fight Club is the brainchild of Tyler Durden, who thinks he has found a way for himself and his friends to live beyond their confining and stultifying lives. But in Tyler's world there are no rules and no limits.
Tyler gets me a job as a waiter, after that Tyler's pushing a gun in my mouth and saying, the first step to eternal life is you have to die. For a long time though, Tyler and I were best friends. People are always asking, did I know about Tyler Durden.
The barrel of the gun pressed against the back of my throat, Tyler says, "We really won't die."
With my tongue I can feel the silencer holes we drilled into the barrel of the gun. Most of the noise a gunshot makes is expanding gases, and there's the tiny sonic boom a bullet makes because it travels so fast. To make a silencer, you just drill holes in the barrel of the gun, a lot of holes. This lets the gas escape and slows the bullet to below the speed of sound.
You drill the holes wrong and the gun will blow off your hand. "This isn't really death," Tyler says. "We'll be legend. We won't grow old."
I tongue the barrel into my cheek and say, Tyler, you're thinking of vampires.
The building we're standing on won't be here in ten minutes. You take a 98-percent concentration of fuming nitric acid and add the acid to three times that amount of sulfuric acid. Do this in an ice bath. Then add glycerin drop-by-drop with an eye dropper. You have nitroglycerin.
I know this because Tyler knows this.
Mix the nitro with sawdust, and you have a nice plastic explosive. A lot of folks mix their nitro with cotton and add Epsom salts as a sulfate. This works too. Some folks, they use paraffin mixed with nitro. Paraffin has never, ever worked for me.
So Tyler and I are on top of the Parker-Morris Building with the gun stuck in my mouth, and we hear glass breaking. Look over the edge. It's a cloudy day, even this high up. This is the world's tallest building, and this high up the wind is always cold. It's so quiet this high up, the feeling you get is that you're one of those space monkeys. You do the little job you're trained to do.
Pull a lever.
Push a button.
You don't understand any of it, and then you just die.
One hundred and ninety-one floors up, you look over the edge of the roof and the street below is mottled with a shag carpet of people, standing, looking up. The breaking glass is a window right below us. A window blows out the side of the building, and then comes a file cabinet big as a black refrigerator, right below us a six-drawer filing cabinet drops right out of the cliff face of the building, and drops turning slowly, and drops getting smaller, and drops disappearing into the packed crowd.
Somewhere in the one hundred and ninety-one floors under us, the space monkeys in the Mischief Committee of Project Mayhem are running wild, destroying every scrap of history.
That old saying, how you always kill the one you love, well, look, it works both ways.
With a gun stuck in your mouth and the barrel of the gun between your teeth, you can only talk in vowels.
We're down to our last ten minutes.
Another window blows out of the building, and glass sprays out, sparkling flock-of-pigeons style, and then a dark wooden desk pushed by the Mischief Committee emerges inch by inch from the side of the building until the desk tilts and slides and turns end-over-end into a magic flying thing lost in the crowd.
The Parker-Morris Building won't be here in nine minutes. You take enough blasting gelatin and wrap the foundation columns of anything, you can topple any building in the world. You have to tamp it good and tight with sandbags so the blast goes against the column and not out into the parking garage around the column.
This how-to stuff isn't in any history book.
The three ways to make napalm: One, you can mix equal parts of gasoline and frozen orange juice concentrate. Two, you can mix equal parts of gasoline and diet cola. Three, you can dissolve crumbled cat litter in gasoline until the mixture is thick.
Ask me how to make nerve gas. Oh, all those crazy car bombs. Nine minutes.
The Parker-Morris Building will go over, all one hundred and ninety-one floors, slow as a tree falling in the forest. Timber. You can topple anything. It's weird to think the place where we're standing will only be a point in the sky. Tyler and me at the edge of the roof, the gun in my mouth, I'm wondering how clean this gun is.
We just totally forget about Tyler's whole murder-suicide thing while we watch another file cabinet slip out the side of the building and the drawers roll open midair, reams of white paper caught in the updraft and carried off on the wind.
Then the smoke, smoke starts out of the broken windows. The demolition team will hit the primary charge in maybe eight minutes. The primary charge will blow the base charge, the foundation columns will crumble, and the photo series of the Parker-Morris Building will go into all the history books.
The five-picture time-lapse series. Here, the building's standing. Second picture, the building will be at an eighty-degree angle. Then a seventy-degree angle. The building's at a forty-five-degree angle in the fourth picture when the skeleton starts to give and the tower gets a slight arch to it. The last shot, the tower, all one hundred and ninety- one floors, will slam down on the national museum which is Tyler's real target.
"This is our world, now, our world," Tyler says, "and those ancient people are dead."
If I knew how this would all turn out, I'd be more than happy to be dead and in Heaven right now.
Up on top of the Parker-Morris Building with Tyler's gun in my mouth. While desks and filing cabinets and computers meteor down on the crowd around the building and smoke funnels up from the broken windows and three blocks down the street the demolition team watches the clock, I know all of this: the gun, the anarchy, the explosion is really about Marla Singer.
We have sort of a triangle thing going here. I want Tyler. Tyler wants Marla. Marla wants me.
I don't want Marla, and Tyler doesn't want me around, not anymore. This isn't about love as in caring. This is about property as in ownership.
Without Marla, Tyler would have nothing.
Maybe we would become a legend, maybe not. No, I say, but wait. Where would Jesus be if no one had written the gospels? Four minutes.
I tongue the gun barrel into my cheek and say, you want to be a legend, Tyler, man, I'll make you a legend. I've been here from the beginning.
I remember everything.
Copyright 1996 Chuck Palahniuk
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