Last night I chased my crazy all the way south down the spine of the world to discover a new country.
We were on a bus in the mountains, the Andes I suspect, South of the Atacama, and South even of Tierra Del Fuego on an impossible road stretching all the way to the South Pole. I did not know that such a road existed either, a single-laned highway cut like a ledge into the mountainside. I could not tell you where it began because I had been sleeping, but I woke on the bus as we descended with the mountains to the sea. The road transitioned into a causeway over the waves each of its columns a peak on the Andean ridge, and continued this way toward our destination.
Antarctica's ice was gone, replaced by a waist deep, pale-blue sea teaming with stony grey crustaceans which burrowed in its white sandy bottom, and alternately swam over or tumbled into the occasional blue-black of a trench leading out to deeper waters. Overhead the sky stretched like a lamp shade, and the sun trapped under it with us mercilessly shined eternal day time. Some of the passengers pulled their window shades while I, fascinated, pressed my nose to the glass to see more. The bus continued on. At the center of the sunken continent where the axis of the world spears the globe, we arrived at a black volcano oozing red magma. Arrayed at a respectable distance around its toes on shattered islands, cute little candy colored houses gathered like barnacles, wooden docks strewn between them in various states of repair like cobwebs bleached by the sun. The driver parked the bus in the lee of a windbreak of cypress trees. One by one we all got off and took a look around.
We stood on the edge of a field of chairs set out on a manicured lawn. The metal chairs were of diverse styles and painted yellow, some peeling, all arrayed in concentric arcs to face a little stage with a podium, backed by an arbor. All of the other tourists on the bus gathered at the edges of the field of chairs, apparently for a wedding. The women were dolled up with fancy hair and colorful dresses. The men wore white tuxedos. All seemed comfortable and wealthy, white teeth flashing with confident smiles. The golden rims of their glasses, and jewelry gleamed in the shade cast by the temporary ceiling of their umbrellas.
Feeling alone near the tourists cloistered in the privacy of their umbrellas, I looked for the driver, but he was gone. Instead I found three, motionless, old fishermen. I stole a chair from the wedding and joined them beneath the cypresses. The fishermen appeared to be carved of wood. Their eyes stared straight ahead sightlessly, and their mouths were wide open, exposing the black hollow spaces inside. Still they were alive, and silently spoke to me. I could hear their words in my mind.
"Take this pail to the water," one said. "Catch the fish, and feed it to me."
I picked up the rusty pail, then waded into the water beneath the wharf of the nearest candy colored house. An elusive green fish winked in and out of the shadows. Nevertheless when I dipped the pail, the fish swam in. I returned with the fish in the pail to the three old fishermen. I somehow knew who the fish belonged to, and poured it into his mouth. The green fish slipped between his teeth to disappear into his hollows. The fish was his animus, and with it inside him he slowly returned to life. He closed his mouth, and moved his eyes to look at me.
"Follow me," he said at last, and guided me away from the wedding party to a trail paralleling the rocky seashore.
We walked along the trail together. He spoke at length in a language I could not understand. Then he stopped, and I stopped. A colony of enormous dark green yuccas of some kind with fleshy, serrated leaves grew on both sides of our path. The fisherman looked at me and smiled.
"Good pepper," he said.
I did not understand. This was clearly not a pepper, but he showed me its stalk all along the length of which clustered dark green, wrinkled nodules, like pepper corns. He drew a knife and cut one off to give to me.
"Taste it," he said.
Curious, I did, and my consciousness spread out across the sky. I looked down upon the garden paradise. I watched the wedding end, and the party return to the bus without me. As they drove away the causeway tumbled into the sea behind them. I could not return that way, but I had other concerns demanding my attention. Time was quickly passing me by. I watched the volcano shrink and spread into the sea like a candle melting until all that was left was the diminished black cone glowering red at its tip like a wick in a pool of wax. A city grew up around the cone, and the ocean trenches reached its port. The fisherman and all his people busied themselves with industry. When I returned from the sky, I stood in the center of their city adjacent a lush park. In the center of the park stood the remains of the volcano, oozing red magma, and radiating heat. I looked at the garden of bright flowers planted all around it, and wondered why they were not withering.
I wandered the city aimlessly, witnessed vast steel ships docking in its port, towering buildings curling the clouds, and yet the streets were empty. I could not find anyone to talk to as if I existed out of phase from all of them. I returned to the park again and felt rejuvenated by the heat of the volcano.
Then ready to return home, I walked directly from the park to the city's edge where I was faced with a jungle of those yucca-pepper trees. They spread their leaves like rosettes of succulent green swords. Seeing no other path, I climbed over, slicing my legs open on their blades. I continued to climb over the plants, painting them red with my blood. I wandered on to encounter a troupe of ghostly spider monkeys nestled in the scales of a giant artichoke. They fled and I followed until I lost my way in the jungle. Then at last night began to fall, and I collapsed from loss of blood. The last sight I remember were the leaves of a yucca closing up around me like a mouth, crunching my bones, and chewing my flesh. When it swallowed, I was consumed in darkness.
I awoke this morning on my couch smothered by a green blanket. I pushed it off my face and looked out the window, wondering for a moment where Antarctica had gone. I realized slowly that that dream place did not exist outside of my mind. Antarctica was still there. But as sterile as the future suggested by my dream had been, I thought the volcanic sun-drenched garden paradise might be an interesting setting for a game.