Friday, August 12, 2005
Moonshine Rock Zombies Part Two
Ever hear of the proverbial deer in the headlights? I'm not sure if I qualified. I might have been more of a rubbernecker. Instead of scanning for blood and severed limbs while slowly driving past a car accident, I was watching the tectonic destruction of an obscure forest cave by supernatural forces, hoping to catch a glimpse of resurrected gargoyle demons launching from the ground like fireworks: fiery, fierce, and hungry for hot blood. I should've been running scared, but I was hypnotized by the kaleidescope of mutating darkness.
The rumble subsided and the earth stood still. During this brief respite, I hunched over and peered into the shadowed passage. After one silent moment, the silhouettes moved. The stalagtites were marching. The thunder began with one step, a single hard clap of rock on rock. Then came a second, and then a whole host of stomps, perfectly synchronized, a thousand echoing strikes. The lockstep rock army was alive, and it was marching for the stairwell. I continued to stand in awe as the rockfoot percussion rose in tempo and volume.
When the first soldier reached the bottom step, the sunlight over my shoulders illuminated him. Striding towards me was an Indian chief. His face was dark bronze, deeply lined and cracked. His eyes were small, dark, and cold. His mouth, a narrow lipless scowl. His headpiece had long ago lost the down from its feathers, and now they protruded bare, mere sticks of thin translucent bone. His garments were coated with thick dust and mineral stains, their bright natural colors now bleached to drab browns and greys.
I stepped backwards, slowly and carefully. The chief continued his upwards march, leading his tribe from dormant darkness towards the light of life and day. One after another the Indian tribe poured forth, stiff and awkward, filling the forest sinkhole with a hundred silent, stern Indians. They wore jagged faces and cruel eyes. As they emerged in sucession, I backed further away. Soon I stood beside the collapsed moonshine shanty, stuck, afraid to look away for an escape route. Turning my back might be an invitation for a hatchet to the skull.
I stopped and remained still. "Hello. Greetings. Um... how. Howdy." I bowed. Would they communicate? Kill me? Ignore me? They spread out, circling me. I was the monkey in the middle. Any chance of escape had passed. The Indian chief walked forward and stood facing me. He spoke.
"Opponomawa. Chow-doon, stalaga-medoosa."
He bowed and outstretched his hands, palms up. I mimiced him, watching his face. In response, he threw his hands to the sky, brought them back down, and held them out again to me.
I heard anger. Not good. Chief Opponomawa wanted something from me, and I had not provided it. Deciphering his request was my only hope of surviving this encounter. After pondering for a nervous moment, I did the only thing sensible: I decided to offer him a gift. As I reached into my bag, threatening murmers crossed the lips of the warriors surrounding me. I moved slowly, careful not to appear aggressive.
From my bag I pulled a bottle of old whiskey. I knelt on the grass and raised the bottle up on open palms, bowed my head, and held forth the bottle on outstretched arms. Keeping my eyes locked on the ground, I said:
"A gift, a tribute, to Chief Opponomawa. Please accept this."
I remained bowed in supplication, not daring to meet the ancient chief's stony gaze.
I felt the bottle leave my palms. He had accepted my dubious tribute. I looked up and saw him uncork the bottle with his teeth. He raised the old booze to his lips and took a swig.
The tribe responded in unison. "Mugwump!" They cheered. I risked a smile. Chief Opponomawa passed the bottle to me, and I took a mighty slam of the searing amber liquid. Heat flooded every cell of my body. Slightly buzzed, I lifted my bag and shook it. Bottles clanked. More cheering. This was going rather well.
I passed out my stash of high proof magic to my new friends. Bottle by bottle, the Indians welcomed my generosity with the accumulated thirst of a thousand dry years. As I shared the liquor and exchanged unintelligible toasts with the suddenly merry tribe, my vision shimmered. I began to hallucinate. Colors brightened, sounds overlapped, and soon I was in a drunken trance, overwhelmed by a cacophony of celebration: native chants and hop-stomp dances.
The Indians began to mutate and change colors. Before my pickled eyes I saw them dance as bears, wolves, hyenas, buffalos, and foxes. Lightning and thunder struck inexplicably from a clear cloudless sky. Gravity went loose and the air grew thick. More oddities birthed from the Indian ceremony: many now wore skin of red, yellow, and purple. Their heads grew snakes and scorpions and beetles. My stomach and the ground lurched, and down I fell. Light and consciousness faded.
I woke under a tapestry of stars. I was alone. The Indians no longer caroused in my forest sinkhole. I scrambled to my feet too quickly, still drunk, and I fell back down, my wobbly legs unready to support me. With no small effort I tried again, this time successfully. I hobbled over to the cave entrance, but in the darkness I could see no further than three feet of the stairwell. Had the Indians returned to the earth? Relieved and exhilarated, I collected the few bottles remaining in the decayed crate and made for the lip of the sinkhole. It was time to head home.
As I pulled myself out of the earthen cavity, a call from above rang down to me. Perched in the trees were a hundred crows, black eyes all trained on me. My Indians. I answered.
"How, Opponomawa. Well met. Mugwump!"
The hundred crows squawked together, their ugly bruised bird voices overlapping. Wings flapped as they took the sky. They circled above me twice, then they flew away into the glowing night sky of a modern age.
9:40 AM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm
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Dead Letter Shrapnel - Isabel
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