clack-clack, clack-clack, clack-clack

Reality fell on us like an anvil. As I opened the door it reached in with bright light and slapped us all across the face, "Get Sane!". We stepped out into a white blanket of dismal sobriety that had fallen on our world with a soft but solid thud.

With a tribal chant over telepathic headgear and a dimestore drum we gathered. The instruments (if you can call them that, hammers, buckets, walls and floorboards, tabletops and glass figurines) are awkward at first. The lead fingers and rubber joints of LSD make uncertain motion feel so wavery and stumblesome. But struggling hands finally grabbed hold of the metronomes tempo and the volume rose. Rob's Hammers, like Thor's, pumped fuel through us. Rob's arms working like the heavy machinery of an oil well, drawing energy up through his feet and pounding it back out through the floor--and the volume rose. Sally's voice, with simple notes, sears a blinding white horizon of un-named emotion around us in an embrace. And the volume rose. Muscles tense in a moment before climax, as voices rise to screams. As I look around at the faces, totally unaware of themselves, focused only on this moment, on the one thing we all share, we cross the threshold to ecstasy.

It is perfectly obvious in each face, and totally unique from one to the next. Rob, pounding away, has frozen into a state of total focus. With his infinite mental inertia, nothing can alter his pounding gait and burning, intense stare.

Jeff's arms rise and a smile with the strength of ten thousand men wells up on his face. Any and all loose energy in the room is amassed and manifested in the quivering muscles of Jeff's raised arms and trembling knees.

Ryan's tight-tendon nervousness and edgy grin breaks as the flow of a groove a mile wide pours out his hands. I've never seen a person more fluid, as though ice crystals were melting.

Chris' ecstasy can only be described as "the zone". The uncertainty of "you know what I mean..." evaporates off of him like water from a hot pan. You can see the steam. The show begins as Chris executes a series of calibrated and perfectly sequenced maneuvers that look anything but impromptu. But they are. He runs through list of thought motion and dialogue, building and adding, in a stunning improvisational dance.

Screaming, dancing, shouting, shaking. I don't know if he is angry, confused, happy, or just out of control, but it has all overwhelmed him. Jeff Bates has reached a state I can only describe as Red In The Face. Nate has a certain peace in his eyes. The look of ecstasy you would see on the face of a Zen master. He is taking it all in stride.

Sally and Cliff strike me especially, because they seem to be experiencing the same moment, but each in their own unique way. Cliff's face has a total acid flush and Sally has a nervous tight jaw. Seeing the two of them flashes an image of realizing that you are, suddenly and for no apparent reason, about to have an orgasm in the middle of your Book-of-the-Month club meeting. They looked as though they were about to explode and expose something very intense but too personal to expose to a crowd. At this point, one has two choices. Hold it back, letting the tension bind you up until the pent up feeling gives you cramps, or ride it out because you know it'll be a good one.

Sally's voice breaks as she draws a deep breath. The single wavering note of her scream hits me like a cannon three inches below my navel, resonating up my spine and down the tendons of my legs.

Cliff may very well have actually ejaculated. He breaks into a tremendous laugh and jumps up from his seat. A genuine shit-eaten? grin spreads itself across his face.

And I saw all those faces, over and over in succession, in a screaming, pounding ecstasy that lasted only a matter of minutes and then faded into more mild conversation and warm circular embrace. It was a moment of uncommon trust and beauty, and I wanted it to never end. But it did, and I've never come down so hard.

We crept out of our dream to a cold, bright-white world that had stolen everything we had and left us feeling so alone. And how could you not feel alone, totally alone, Standing in back of a closed-down tourist trap, in the middle of South Dakota, ten ragged-weary travelers, stranded with a dead body in tow. Not a word was spoken. I started walking, in silence. Others followed, quietly. We had no choice but to keep going. There is a train track that runs along the back side of Wall Drug that stops at a station a quarter of a mile away. A train was stopped at the station while sections of cars were added and removed. There was a box car with the door cracked open just across the parking lot. I decided without really thinking about it (it didn't seem the time to stop and think) that that was where we would go, for no reason other than that we saw it sitting there.

As we headed towards it in silence, I turned to look back at our secret world where bright cold sunlight couldn't hurt us and bright cold strangers couldn't steal our things. It was on fire.

I don't know how it happened or who it was. Maybe it was an accident or maybe it seemed the right thing to do at the time. But the last bits of everything we had, all evidence for or against us, all traces of ten weary travelers dragging a dead body across the country, was now in flames. Another little secret, hidden forever.

It was Sally who assumed the voice of reason with one word, spoken firmly and calmly, "Run." At that moment the train whistle blew. All aboard.

Sally grabbed the bagged-up body from Chris and Rob, and started dragging it desperately towards the train. Everyone took off, Bates and Ryan trying to help Sally with her cumbersome load. But I was caught, stunned or shocked into immobility watching the sparrows I had seen earlier take flight from the smoking roof. They were like us, everything they had taken away, burned up and gone. And they would fly away like us, unharmed and unnoticed, leaving their nests and pasts behind. I raced to catch up and help the last few into the car as the wheels of the train started to turn. "All Aboard!" I was the last one in with a hand held out from Plakke. I rolled into the car facing a hunched up figure in the far corner. He looked like a bum, he looked drunk, and he was laughing. I could tell just by the way he was laughing that he was going to die. The ones laughing always do. I thought it would be Ryan again, that maybe he had brought the gun with him, that he had been anticipating this whole sequence of events somehow. When I rolled into that car I never thought it would be me who would ending up pushing him off the moving train and killing another laughing man.

Of course, there was more to it than that...

-the gilded frame-
--Letters from a Savior; Offer for a few--


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