“The ‘Lead Masks’were…lead masks, as it turned out, worn by two dead Brazilian engineers whose deaths nobody could figure out. Not like Man in the Iron Mask-type masks, like lead sleeping masks or beauty masks, it was the damnedest thing.
“Two men found dead side by side, found by kids playing in a park in a Rio suburb, Manuel something and Jose something. Each wearing identical raincoats over work clothes, each with a water bottle and a clean, folded towel by his side — but get this: the towels were both wet and wrapped in cellophane or something like cellophane but maybe not exactly cellophane, it wasn’t clear. Each wearing a nearly identical lead mask over his eyes. No wounds, no marks, no signs of struggle, none of the discoloration and private violence of poison — no one could guess how the men died.
“A note in Portuguese between the two bodies said something about military/Euro times to meet and swallowing capsules filled with glowing green jelly with golden flakes suspended inside, and this last, stuck in Phil’s head for some reason after: ‘protect metals, wait for mask signal.’
“The latest word was that the two engineers were nuclear engineers, working on god-knows-what for the United Nations. Or the Soviets. Or the CIA. There were no known outer space ties, as yet, but the park had been the site of several visits in the past — the Easter touchdown, the Centaurans in 1959, that was there, Phil’d found out.”
The narrative of “Untitled Bruce Lee/Phil Dick Project” runs from Monday, August 22, 1966 to the following Monday, August 29. Two events frame the story: the discovery of two very strange dead bodies in Brazil over the weekend prior to the opening Monday, and what would turn out to be the Beatles’ final concert ever at Candlestick Park the closing Monday. Both events are true, more or less. As they begin, anyway – both stories belong to their world, not ours, and both go very quickly off known tracks.
The Lead Masks story starts going awry immediately, in the introduction quoted here: I made up the green jelly full of gold flakes, and the two dead men, Manoel Pereira de Cruz and Miguel Jose Viana, were in fact not even engineers. Let alone NUCLEAR engineers. And they may not be in “Untitled’s” universe, either – the discovery of the two bodies in Brazil becomes the subject of much on and offline “water cooler chat,” and speculation runs high and gets…way, way higher…as the story goes along.
They may be electronic techs, like the two dead men in the lead masks were in Philip K. Dick, Science Fiction Writer’s world. They may be top nuclear secret agents for S.O.M.E.B.O.D.Y. in Phil Dick, Computer Game Writer’s world. They may be prophets of The Lord in both worlds. They may be from outer space. People are still wondering and talking around water coolers about this case in our world, fifty years later.
That is crazy enough. It wasn’t hard to push it a little crazier.