At long last, after a distinguished career of uttering, “My God, we are too late!” always with the trace of a sneer, a pro-forma condescension—because of course he never arrives too late, there’s always a reprieve, a mistake by one of the Yellow Adversary’s hired bunglers, at worst a vital clue to be found next to the body—now, finally, Sir Dennis Nayland Smith will arrive, my God, too late.
Superman will swoop boots-first into a deserted clearing, a launcher-erector sighing oil through a slow seal-leak, gum evoked from the trees, bitter manna for this bitterest of passages. The colors of his cape will wilt in the afternoon sun, curls on his head begin to show their first threads of gray. Philip Marlowe will suffer a horrible migraine and reach by reflex for the pint of rye in his suit pocket, and feel homesick for the lacework balconies of the Bradbury Building.
Submariner and his multilingual gang will run into battery trouble. Plasticman will lose his way among the Imipolex chains, and topologists all over the Zone will run out and stop payments on his honorarium checks (“perfectly deformable,” indeed!). The Lone Ranger will storm in at the head of the posse, rowels tearing blood from the stallion’s white hide, to find his young friend, innocent Dan, swinging from a tre limb by a broken neck. (Tonto, God willing, will put on the ghost shirt and find some cold fire to hunker down by to sharpen his knife).
“Too late” was never in their programming. They find instead a moment’s suspending of their sanity—but then it’s over with, whew, and it’s back to the trail, back to the Daily Planet. Yes Jimmy, it must’ve been the day I ran into that singularity, those few seconds of absolute mystery … you know Jimmy, time—time is a funny thing … There’ll be a thousand ways to forget. The heroes will go on, kicked upstairs to oversee the development of bright new middle-line personnel, and they will watch their system falling apart, watch those singularities begin to come more and more often, proclaiming another dispensation out of the tissue of old-fashioned time, and they’ll call it cancer, and just won’t know what things are coming to, or what’s the meaning of it all, Jimmy …
—Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon