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 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.
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?
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.
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.”
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.