The Documents of Hector Maze: 8.2

Posted in The Documents of Hector Maze on October 15th, 2006 by bill
For some indeterminate period I lay staring up into a seamless blue sky. Then in a matter of moments the sky filled with clouds and rain began to fall. But it was warm rain, and it felt good, so I stayed put. I closed my eyes and let the soft drops bathe me. When the rain stopped I opened my eyes. The clouds departed just as quickly as they'd arrived and the warm sun returned. The water evaporating from my skin brought me a simple. material pleasure that had a nostalgic tinge to it...although nostalgia for what, I couldn't say. By the time I was completely dry, I noticed that the sun was getting low in the sky and the temperature had dipped a bit. I figured I'd better start looking for a place to spend the night, so I got dressed and started back into the forest. I wasn't quite sure what I was looking for, but I figured I'd know it when I found it. Sure enough, after about a half-hour of wandering I found the entrance to a small cave and poked my head in. It was dark in there, but warm, and by now the evening was cold enough to make a cozy little cave seem appealing. I crawled inside and before long I was asleep, again, with the ripe loamy scent of soil in my nostrils. And then I started to dream within my dream. This new dream was different, though. Now I was some kind of animal. A big cat, I think. Everything looked, sounded, and smelled sharper than it ever had before. I was a creature of pure sensation; no language, no extra thought, no inner conflict. A huge full moon glittered overhead like, well, like a huge full moon. Just that and nothing more. Suddenly I became aware of something important in the vicinity. Something moving. And there it was, on a branch close by, pinned down by the pitiless moonlight: prey. Without hesitation I leapt, and before crushing it in my teeth I had just an instant to catch the last look in its eye, a look that had barely had time to begin developing into terror. Then I was chewing, feeling the bones crunch satisfyingly, the blood drip down my chin. Yes...well...it sounds a bit strange now, I realize. In the moment it was just what was. That one kill didn't fill my stomach; it took several more before I was ready to find a warm spot and curl up contentedly to digest. When I opened my eyes again I was back in my cave with yellow-green morning light filtering in, facing a new day that was a complete mystery.

The Documents of Hector Maze: 8.1

Posted in The Documents of Hector Maze on October 12th, 2006 by bill
I slept for a long, long, long time, and as I slept I dreamed. It was all one dream, an epic, a dream that felt more real than most of the rest of my life. I found myself on a winding path under bright moonlight, the lights of the city behind me, the darkness of the mountains ahead of me. How did I know which was ahead and which was behind? I just knew, with the unquestioned certainty of dream logic. I climbed and I climbed up a slope of black rock bleached gray by the moon. It was a long way up, but I was tireless, and eventually I reached the top and stood looking back at the city below. I thought of all the people there, the drama, the competition, the endless scrambling for survival and advantage. Then I turned my back and began making my way down the other side of the mountain. Dawn was beginning to lighten the sky as I descended into the valley below. At the bottom was a stream where I stopped to quench my thirst. The water was cool, clear, and indescribably delicious. This, I thought, is how the water in the Garden of Eden must have tasted. On the other side of the stream a forest began, and I wandered into it heedless of where I was going or how I was going to get back. The first rays of sunlight were rippling through the canopy of trees and I gulped the air like it was food, rich and thick and chlorophylled. There was life all around but nothing was moving, nothing made a sound. It was like I'd walked into prehistory, before the first animal had opened its eyes. Had a tree ever fallen in this forest, with no one there to see it? Or was this before the advent of time, of decay, of death? Eventually I came to a clearing and stood for a moment with my eyes closed, feeling the warm sunlight on my face. I couldn't remember when something so simple had felt so good. A quick flash of my former life shot through my head—I was sitting in traffic on a rainy day, going nowhere, seething with pointless impatience and hatred for everything around me—but it all seemed very far away, with no relevance to to my current existence. I breathed in slowly, breathed out, opened my eyes. It was a beautiful day. There was a carpet of thick, deep green grass under my feet, and I was seized with the impulse to take my clothes off and lay in it for awhile. So I did.

The Documents of Hector Maze: 7.4

Posted in The Documents of Hector Maze on March 15th, 2006 by bill
So what could I do but ask Larry to take me to the Heart of Darkness? Mind you, I didn't actually say "Larry, take me to the Heart of Darkness." I doubt that particular sentence has ever been spoken by anyone. Although I could be wrong; many strange things do indeed come to pass. For instance, it turned out that Larry and I were not just from the same Eastern metropolis, but from the same neighborhood. This gave us something to talk about as we made our way to the other side of the park. Our progress was fairly slow, partly because we were in no particular hurry, and partly because Larry's car accident had given him a hitch in his git-along, as he put it. They don't talk like that where we come from, but I guess he'd picked it up somewhere. Eventually we came to a sort of dock where people were lined up to board a series of small replica steamships at the edge of a narrow river. I was pretty certain that there was no river in this geographical location, so I was forced to conclude that it was either quite an impressive feat of engineering or a hologram. Or maybe mass hypnosis. I didn't know what to think anymore, except that everything in this place seemed to be running smoothly. Elasticland was a mindfuck, but a very successful mindfuck. What then were the difficulties Rubelcaba had referred to? A question suddenly occurred to me. "Hey, Larry." "Yeah?" "That last thing we did...with the tunnels...you've gone through it before, right?" "Sure, lots of times." "Then why didn't you know the way?" "It's different every time, man." I puzzled over this as we waited. Each of the little boats carried only a few people, so we were in line for a while. Larry amused himself by chatting with the park employees who were hanging around, each of whom he knew by their first name. After awhile my mind began to wander. Music from the 70s came up on my mental jukebox, for some reason. I heard Billy Joel singing, "Slow down, you crazy child...." Then Carly Simon: "I had some dreams, they were clouds in my coffee...." The temperature began to dip as fog came rolling in. I had foolishly failed to layer up sufficiently, so I started having second thoughts about the whole enterprise. But then we reached the front of the line and Larry, myself, a young couple, and a pair of teenage boys were shepherded onto one of the boats. David Essex was crooning "And where do we go from here" as we pulled away from shore and headed off into the fog.

The Documents of Hector Maze: 7.3

Posted in The Documents of Hector Maze on March 7th, 2006 by bill
This time I actually did go around shaking hands, grinning like some idiot politician. I think I may have high-fived someone. This is unlike me, but I was so elated at having come out of the darkness that I had forgotten myself. Which is nice. My high had settled down nicely into a post-peak afterglow, and it occurred to me that a good smoke would really hit the spot. If only a had a cigar...and then I remembered that I did, in fact, have a box of cigars in my backpack that a thoughtful former self had placed there for just such an occasion. After a moment's rummaging I had the brown tin and a lighter in my hand, and I decided to offer a smoke to the handful of my fellow travelers still hanging around. A tall, bearded guy named Larry took me up on the offer, and we seated ourselves on one of the benches scattered around the meadow, which was set up like a pleasant little neighborhood park. Larry, it turned out, was an Elasticland regular. He was on disability, he said, but once a year he blew a sizable chunk of money on a seasonal pass, which provided him with all the entertainment he needed. "So what's your favorite ride?" I asked him. He frowned. "Um, we don't really like to call them 'rides.' We say 'experiences.'" "OK...so what's your favorite experience, then?" His frown changed instantly into a big, sloppy grin. "Oh, the Heart of Darkness. Definitely." "What's that?" Larry's smile became the sly smirk of an insider. "It's a trip, man."

The Documents of Hector Maze: 7.2

Posted in The Documents of Hector Maze on March 6th, 2006 by bill
As we marched, we systematically made our way through the rest of Bill Murray's historic words. "Into a 10,000-foot crevasse, right at the base of a glacier. Do you know what the Lama says?" A pause. "No." Another pause. "Gunga galunga. Gungala gungala gunga." "So we finish the 18, and he's gonna stiff me." "And I say, 'Hey, Lama! Hey! How about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know?'" "And he says, 'Oh, there won't be any money.'" "'But when you die, on your deathbed, you will achieve total consciousness.'" We were now approaching the end of this particular stretch of tunnel, and I held my breath, hoping that this was the actual exit instead of another false alarm. "'So I got that going for me.'" Which it was; the tunnel opened into a lush, green meadow that looked like the Garden of Eden itself. A chorus of voices intoned the last line as we walked out into the sunlight: "'Which is nice.'"

The Documents of Hector Maze: 7.1

Posted in The Documents of Hector Maze on March 5th, 2006 by bill
My heart seemed to be beating very quickly. It was thundering in my ears like a bass drum played by the Jolly Green Giant, and I realized that I was very, very high. There was something creepy about this tunnel, above and beyond the general darkness and dankness. Much later, I would find out that giant speakers throughout the tunnel generated sub-audible bass tones designed to unsettle the paying customers. At the time all I knew was I was feeling very eager to get to the other end, so I stepped up my pace. I think everybody else was feeling it too, because no one was saying a word. The dripping sound was getting louder, more insistent, more annoying, and then I felt something pass very close by my head, something with wings. Somebody screamed behind me, and then somebody else, and a deep voice boomed out "Jesus Christ!" Yes, we were having a weird time of things, but fortunately the light was getting closer now, and in a couple of minutes we were standing before a large circular opening. Which turned out to be a dead end; it was covered with thick plexiglas, and when we discovered this sighs were audible all around. New tunnels extended to the left and the right, with new, smaller points of light at either end. There was some debate about which way to go. "Just keep taking lefts," I said—as much to myself as anyone else—and started off in that direction. Most of the others came with me, while a few went the other way and a couple just stood there paralyzed. It might have been better to try and keep the group together, but at that point I was in a hurry to get out of there. It was getting colder, and darker, and this was really not how I wanted to be spending my time. We were going uphill now, not getting the best traction, and the mood in the group was growing tense. At one point the fifteen or so of us just stopped for a minute and breathed. Then a voice came from toward the back: "So I jump ship in Hong Kong, and I make my way over to Tibet, and I get on as a looper at a course over there in the Himalayas." It took me a moment to process the reference, but when I did, I was able to supply the next line. "A looper?" Another voice picked up the thread. "A looper. You know, a caddy, a looper. Jock." I felt the tension draining out of the crowd at the sound of the familiar words. A woman's voice continued: "So I tell them I'm a pro jock, and who do you think they give me? The Dalai Lama himself. The flowing robes, the grace, bald...striking." It had taken on the quality of a religious recitation now. The guy who had started it off came back in: "So I'm on the first tee with him, I give him the driver, he hauls off and whacks one." I interrupted to take the next line, always a favorite of mine. "Big hitter, the Lama. Long." I turned and started walking toward the distant light. The others fell in behind me with military crispness and a renewed sense of purpose.

The Documents of Hector Maze: 6.4

Posted in The Documents of Hector Maze on November 30th, 2005 by bill
The first couple hours were a hellish slog through blinding rain. It was all I could do to keep my eyes open and the nose of the car pointed south; every time I passed a semi my windshield was pummeled by a curtain of water and for a few long seconds I was sure I was going to die. But I didn't, and just as "Cry Baby Cry" started for the second time, I came out of the rain. It was the first moment of real peace I'd had in ages. Before long the sky was completely clear, and some last reserve of energy that I didn't know I had kicked in. The rest of the drive was effortless, and I found my way without even having to think about it, although I couldn't have explained how to get to Lee's place if my life depended on it. Later, a crescent moon climbed over the horizon to my left as I listened to "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." I'd always been dubious about that song—"I look at the floor and I see it needs sweeping," is that really the best rhyme you could come up with, George? But at that moment, I thought it was the most beautiful thing I'd ever heard. Tears welled up in my eyes, and I decided I could forgive Eric Clapton all his many sins for these few minutes of transcendence. Driving through the desert with "Helter Skelter" blasting, I remembered that the Manson Family had once lived not far from here. I've always thought it was one of life's great ironies that a Paul song became the theme song for Charlie and company's murderous rampage. Must have made John furious. I was heading into the home stretch, doing my best to sing along with "Long Long Long," when the fuel light went on. I wasn't worried, though; I felt totally confident that I would get where I was going. The light went off for a while, then came back on again, and was glowing bright orange as I pulled into the gas station. I was reaching to turn off the engine when it sputtered and died of its own accord, just as the last notes of "Good Night" were fading out. And then I fell asleep.

The Documents of Hector Maze: 6.3

Posted in The Documents of Hector Maze on November 29th, 2005 by bill
I wish that I had stayed with Lee then, quit my job and gotten cleaned up; it would have saved me a lot of time. But I only spent one night there, during which we went for a long, tiring walk with no visits from mysterious entities. We discussed what the presence might have been, but all we agreed on was that the two obvious answers—God and aliens—didn't satisfy us. God, we thought, would have made himself heard more clearly; and it just didn't seem like extraterrestrial behavior. There was no abduction, no anal probe, no "take me to your leader." And how would Martians know about bongo drums? Shortly after dawn I got back in my car, popped a couple pills, and went back to my speedy, shallow, pointless life. Which was how I ended up in the phone booth, in the rain, if you can remember back that far. I got out my calling card, picked up the receiver, and punched in Lee's number. The phone rang a few times, and then rang some more, and kept on ringing. Lee's not an answering machine kind of guy. I was on the verge of hanging up several times, but since I didn't have much of a plan B, I stayed on the line. Finally, after what must have been a hundred and fifty rings, Lee picked up. Our conversation was short. "Hello?" "Lee, it's Hector. Can I come stay with you for a while?" "Sure." "OK. I'll see you in a few hours." After hanging up, I took a deep breath and made a dash for the car. Once I was inside, I started rummaging through the cassettes in the glove compartment. Music was going to be crucial for this journey; my body was in total shutdown mode, but I was stubbornly convinced that I needed to get to Lee's before I crashed. After rejecting Bauhaus (too dark) and T. Rex (too light), I came across a beat-up copy of the White Album, which was the ideal choice. I started up the car, hoping that the tape would still play. I was momentarily elated when the airplane sound, followed by the first bars of "Back in the U.S.S.R.," blared from the speakers. This feeling was soon replaced, however, by the realization that I had an extremely difficult ordeal ahead of me. The rain was still coming down hard, and it was starting to get dark, making visibility very poor. And I wasn't feeling well, not at all.

The Documents of Hector Maze: 6.2

Posted in The Documents of Hector Maze on November 26th, 2005 by bill
I must have looked askance, because Lee was moved to comment, "Just for the record, Hector, I was stone cold sober at the time." "Hey," I responded, waving my hands to ward off the suggestion that I'd ever thought otherwise. "I didn't say anything. Tell me about the light." "It was orange-yellow, round, like a little sun. As I walked it seemed to move with me, lighting up the ground around me, like I was in a spotlight. I felt a presence...a consciousness...and then it started talking to me." Lee paused and sipped thoughtfully at his tea. I tried to be patient and wait for him to continue, but that didn't last long. The suspense was killing me. "So what did it say?" Lee took one more slow sip before answering. "Well, it was kind of garbled." "What do you mean garbled? Like a bad connection?" "No, it was more that the voice was mumbly. Like somebody who's drunk, or Bob Dylan. I mean, I understood a lot of it. There was a bit about seeking knowledge, that was pretty clear. And there was a whole thing about love, how powerful, how sublime, all that. But the last thing it said, well...." He shook his head. "I keep thinking I must have heard it wrong." "Why? What did it say?" He looked rueful. "It sounded like, 'Play the bongo drums.' I was getting ready to ask for a clarification, and then it just turned off, like somebody flipped a switch. The light was gone, the warmth was gone, the presence was gone, and I was back in the desert by myself. "So after that I quit my job. Actually, I didn't quit so much as just stop showing up. I took my savings and bought this place, and now I go out walking every night. I keep hoping it'll come back, but nothing so far." After taking some time to process this strange tale, I asked what seemed like the most logical question. "Have you tried playing the bongos?" Lee pointed to where a set of bongos sat on an end table. "I play every day. It's fun, but it doesn't seem to accomplish much."

The Documents of Hector Maze: 6.1

Posted in The Documents of Hector Maze on November 26th, 2005 by bill
Lee's house was much nicer inside than it appeared from the outside, although his housekeeping left something to be desired. Dirty dishes and used teacups were everywhere, as were stacks of books on subjects ranging from hard science to Eastern mysticism to the Kennedy assassination. There was also a wide selection of Classic Literature, from The Brothers Karamazov to Moby-Dick to Gravity's Rainbow. An old, lopsided gray cat eyed me cautiously from a corner. "Sorry, I don't do much entertaining," he said as he cleared some papers off a chair to make a place for me to sit. There was something new in the way he carried himself, but I didn't know what to call it. There was a grace to it, but then he had always been graceful; this was something different. Lee offered me a cup of tea and I accepted without stopping to think that hot tea was the last thing I wanted in this climate. It was even hotter inside than out and I could feel the sweat gleaming on my forehead, but Lee looked cool and comfortable. I found this highly annoying. Heat makes me cranky. Nothing was said as Lee heated the water and put the tea in to steep. I was trying to think of a polite way to ask what the hell he was doing here, but fortunately he saved me the trouble. "I bet you're wondering what I'm doing here." I nodded. "The thought had crossed my mind." "I sometimes wonder myself. Well, the first part is easy to explain. Last Thanksgiving I decided to come out to the desert, get away from everybody and everything, just do some thinking. I was hating my job. Hating it. That place was just money, money, money...the share prices, the stockholders, the competition. Nobody cared about what we were actually doing. "It was my own fault, really. I had no business there in the first place. But after all the wandering, I wanted some stability, some security.... "Anyway, I drove out on Thanksgiving Day and set up camp at a spot just a couple of miles from here." He gestured vaguely toward the window. "It was great. Peaceful. By Saturday I had forgotten most of what was bothering me, but I was dreading having to go back. That night I went for a walk." He paused to locate two clean teacups and fill them. "I haven't told anybody else this story and I know it's going to sound weird. I'm still not really sure what happened. Promise you won't think I'm nuts?" This was very unlike Lee. He had always been totally sure of himself; if you disagreed with him, you were wrong, and that was that. I recognized now what was new in his manner: a sense of humility. "I promise." "OK," he said, smiling and sipping his tea. I watched his eyes roll up and to the left as he accessed his memory. "I went out for a walk. There was no moon, and I'd never seen the stars look so clear. But it was cold, and getting colder. I was just starting to think about turning back when I felt this...warmth." There was a catch in his voice as he said the last word, and I tried to meet his eyes but he was far away now, completely in the moment. "It was like being gathered up in your mother's arms. Or like walking through a door into a warm house, hearing a fire crackling inside, smelling soup in the kitchen. I just suddenly felt completely safe. "Then I looked up and there was a light in the sky."