Science has promised us truth.---Gustave Le Bon
It has never promised us
either peace or happiness.
Glen Shazarian was in a full trot across the Finehurst University common, sweat accumulating on his forehead in irritating globules, and hot moisture steaming in his thighs and privates. He did not mind. He wanted to get a good seat at the big lecture hall for Dr. Mergenthrall's special presentation of the famous field worker Anthropology Department's Professor Emeritus, Dr. Klienzig. He was hoping to get the courses and credits needed whereby he could also visit locations to study that which Klienzig and Mergenthrall specialized: shamanistic religion. He could empathize with those who trek through the jungle, literally, as he felt the whole back of his shirt drenched.
He was not the first to be a 'grabinski' for good seats; some hustled up front, some hunkered in the back, and a great many clung to the aisles for a quick get-a-way. He headed along one of the central aisles to his favorite seating area three-fourths down for the best view of the projection screen. They were finally releasing the digitally video recorded work that had been accumulated to this point. The department had not received any additional downloads, and they decided to use his material they had to date as no one had heard from the renown traveler in a month. Was he lost? Hopefully not anything worse, since he was famous for hiking great distances in and out of the world's most remote regions. Within these hideaways were virgin treasures of communities not corrupted from their aboriginal cultural innocence by the outside world. Being dropped by helicopter would undoubtedly ruin that.
The place logarithmically filled up as one o'clock arrived. Soon afterwards the lights dimmed, and Professor Mergenthrall stepped up to the podium and introduced the material:
"Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. We would have rather have had Dr. Klienzig here himself in person to present his tremendous research on the Quazilopotelira Indians, but as our academic schedule must be maintained, we now show you what we have based on his last transmissions. We will refer to these indigenous peoples from herein as the Quaz. So, without further delay, we will commence this tremendous work."
He flipped off the podium light, and the large projection screen lit up with a scene of shadows mixed with brown and green, interspersed with beams of steamy sunlight and glimpses of fuzzy blue sky. It was obvious by the bouncing motion that it was capturing the moment their expedition was coming down the trail to this heretofore cached location. Then they heard the slightly winded voice of professor Klienzig while he was on the move:
I've traveled 400 miles on foot, but I've waited until I'm only 400 feet to begin my scientific travelogue, and I've changed into native garb. To share with you all the initial the excitement with me. Ah, I see the almost impossible-to-spot dwellings, grown amazingly from saplings, and shaped to form an organic shelter.
The gathering of students, educators and guests were then treated to a view unseen by anyone other than the well-traveled doctor. The scene changed from claustrophobic paths laced with vines and snakes to a beautiful meadow ringed by Banyan-type plants. The background sound was the buzzing, ooh-ah's, and screeches of the surrounding forest that allowed no quiet dynamics. Coming into view were bare-breasted women holding brown little babies in their arms that stood in the enormous root-framed entryways. The young men were out bringing back food, and the elders were in their cavernous live trunk homes. The narrative continued:
I need to find the old one they call Mahagondhelgha, roughly translated, 'doctor-priest'. We learned much about the Quaz on our last trip here, but whose results were only recorded on paper, as we lost the sophisticated equipment in a extra-violent thunderstorm. The shaman, who we are most interested in, have a remarkable ability to use their thoughts to contact other living things. They can get certain plants and animals to do their bidding, but they were very careful about it. I need to learn how they do it. They, in return, are very curious about our computer and its program that translates our languages. I'm approaching the largest Chandaria tree, now. I need to announce myself --- he is blind. Is the most Revered One prepared to meet me for the teaching?
The eye of the camera then zoomed in to the old man who appeared out of the darkness at the 'doorway.' The audience gasping now, saw that he was wearing a modest headpiece made of opening and closing shells, and flapping feathers. His ceremonial shawl was made from vines that actually were still living, moving, green, and budding. They saw the antique man beckoning the cameraman closer, to enter.
I smell the ceremonial fire as I enter the sacred bio cave. A lovely aroma, reminiscent of Cinnamon and papaya. Oh, the sagacious practitioner has nodded in assent, that's what it is indeed. With a pinch of proprietary things, of course. He is handing me the welcoming drink, it smells strongly alcoholic.
Now, everyone was able to see the insides of the flame-lit dwelling. Unfortunately the University did not provide smell-a-vision, but Glen stuck a piece of Big Red gum in his mouth, and that helped him get closer to this vicarious adventure. Then, with these two people in this religious setting doing absolutely nothing for what seemed hours, (but was really only about seven minutes), the doctor exclaims:
Mahagondhelgha, I am ready to be your pupil. I await your command.
Another ten minutes of silence followed, and then the other doctor spoke:
You want to learn the truth? You want to commune with all of Nature? You want to see what all have wanted to see? You must sit over there, and sip the blood nectar from the Jacarabanda plant.
Suddenly, as the picture moved with the professor, all went blank. At this time, Mergenthrall approached the podium and called out and addressed the crowd:
"Lights please! That is the extremely sad finish of what was surely a vanguard study. But, I do have some upbeat news: We are going to send our young PHD candidate, Glen Shazarian to finish his doctorate in the field to follow up where Dr. Klienzig left off. Now I thank all the rest of you for joining us this afternoon, and goodbye."
Butterflies, more like tropical tarantulas, leaped in Shazarian's stomach, as he thought; "I had no idea that things would be dropped in my lap. Heh, his laptop. A dream come true, to get his doctorate, and become a 'Witch Doctor,' too."
While the seats emptied, Glen made his way down front to talk to his mentor when things quieted down. He would get his itinerary and equipment list, and whatever else he needed. He could hardly think, he was so excited! He eventually scampered down singing David Seville's Witch Doctor to himself, with nary disrespect, "Ooh, eee, ooh ah ah, ting, tang, walla walla, bing bang."
Seeing is believing,
but the feeling is the truth
He had the weekend to prepare himself for his journey, telling his family and friends goodbye and packing his personal stuff. The physical part of hiking and carrying a load of equipment was something for which in advance he was ready. He was on the cross-country track team, and he frequented the weight room ritualistically. His portable computer, recording gear and other accoutrements were all sent ahead, to be picked up at trail's head. For the mind-altering part of his investigations into the animist-priest he had been with the aging Head of American Studies, Dr. Pickson, who was quite the fan of Aldous Huxley. He was carefully monitored while he was imbibed with Fly Agaric. Though who knows what concoction he would get in that Amazonian forest. And out of what plant would it be, out of thousands, many still undiscovered; hopefully not lost forever to the omnipresent chainsaws. The aforementioned Jacarabanda was not in their database. Additionally, he tapped the professor's head (heh, he laughed at that) for useful knowledge from all his 60's college days' trips. But, he knew that the only way to really be a 'seer' was to learn from those authentic in the craft before they were all extinct.
Our journey had advanced;----Emily Dickinson
Our feet were almost come
To that odd fork in Being's road,
Eternity by term.
Our pace took sudden awe,
Our feet reluctant led.
Before were cities, but between,
The forest of the dead.
Retreat was out of hope,--
Behind, a sealed route,
Eternity's white flag before,
And God at every gate.
The bus ride from the airport to the boat was not bad. Unless one discounts when they had to stop to pick up another passenger (where there was standing-room only, on the roof!), or stop for whatever group of animals took their time crossing the road. Then one did not have the mercy of the wind through the windows. Of course, when you were stopped, you were not being jostled to the max by the nefarious combination of rutted roads, and non-existent shocks. He arrived at the dock, whose rotted boards precariously ventured out over almost stilled thick brown water. The turbid water was disturbed not so much by current, but by flitting creatures of land, sea, and air that he hoped he would not meet up close.
"Please," he muttered, "can they get this boat moving a little faster to dry the heavy, greasy coating off of his whole body." The outboard motor seemed to be able to make only the most loud, irritating noise, rather than propel him and his guide, Sao, up the Juanjanca River with any efficiency.
"Por favor, señor," the 'Captain' (ludicrously titled) erupted, "seeet lower in de boat, you no like sweem, no?"
He was avoiding having his posterior parts touch the seat. It was coated with leftover fish blood and guts mixed with copious amounts of water that also was in the hull that swished back and forth with other unpleasant flotsam.
He wondered how in the heck did his predecessor stand it. Then he remembered. He would possess a secret held by no one else in the modern world. He then let the day pass peacefully, and managed to find some blessed sleep.
"We are here at Puerto Diablo!" The boatman yelled. "I must turn around queeekly, so get off." Shazarian, with the help of his guide disembarked, and put the packs on their back until they could meet up with the muleskinner. Normally he would want to sing the Muleskinner Blues, but the insects were not giving him any spare energy. Glen and Sao picked up the pace before it was pitch black night. Just like the long ride in the dinghy, they did not waste their vigor on chatter. After an half-hour they were rewarded with the sound of braying around the bend of the path. It had wound itself up from the river's valley and headed up into the Piedmont. They were going to traverse the El Diablo Mountain Range, the beast of burden would only help them to the summit. Then he was on his own. Even Sao would not go into the Canyon Obscura. First he would get some sleep in the abandoned mining cabins, and tomorrow they would begin the climb.
The ascent went smooth, Sao even broke his silence, singing exotic songs of rain-bowed colored women loved and lost; Of villainous men and beasts. He introduced one song, in the old dialect, as one passed down as a warning from his great-great grandparents who actually had a confrontation with the Quaz:
Da wah, meh boh sha boz, ieeya moh.
Fonja, kweelzee, boh sha fooz, bosch meh.
Shazza, ieeya da wah, meh meh, moh moh.
Woojay, mekeelieeyay, fooz, ieeya, da!
He found it very hard to resist singing the chorus from Manfred Mann's "Do Wah Diddy Diddy (Dum Diddy Do)," but he had to keep his concentration on not rubbing or stepping one of his size 11's onto poisonous snakes, frogs, plant or insects. Or from them jumping on him. The primeval forest was also just plain evil. But, he had been rainforest-trained in Costa Rica. The idea of drinking all the liquor in Costa Rica was appealing, but, right at this moment, it was not his "business but his own" at this time.
Finally, the treeline was predominantly pine, then fir; the air was arboreal and vapid, and Sao bid his farewell. He crossed himself three times and told Glen he would be back at this spot in one moon's time. He then scrambled post-haste back down.
Down from the empyrean, to forewarn
---John Milton, from Paradise Lost
Us timely of what might else have been our loss,
Unknown, which human knowledge could not reach;
For which to the infinitely Good we owe
Immortal thanks, and his admonishment
Receive, with solemn purpose to observe
Immutably his sovran will, the end
Of what we are. But since thou hast vouchsafed
Gently, for our instruction, to impart
Things above earthly thought, which yet concerned
Our knowing, as to highest wisdom seemed,
Deign to descend now lower, and relate
What may no less perhaps avail us known...
The other side of the mountain was sweltering, and as he moved to lower elevations, the worsening humidity provided no evaporate cooling. However, taking advantage of gravity, he clambered facilely down into the ever-thickening jungle below.
Not even stopping to sleep, the adrenaline pumping him up even during the night, he continued on, a halogen headlight showing the way. Then, he saw the exact part of the narrow track he saw on the lecture-hall screen. He was there! It was a wonder he could even stand, let alone walk the rest of the 400 feet on just four hours sleep a whole day and a half ago, but he found impetus in the reserves of inspiration. The riotous sounds of unimaginable lifeforms around him played a dramatic soundtrack accompaniment.
He fumbled to get his laptop out and set up to translate, "Mahagondhelgha! I arrive in humility as a stranger and a guest, but most importantly, as your disciple." He blurted as he announced himself nearing the arboreal village scene. He saw some of the men of the community; they were carrying a peccary on a stick, it seemed to be smiling as if merely asleep peacefully. He had no time for them, and they gave him barely a glance, as if they already knew why he was there.
Smelling that nutmeg savor drifting into his senses, Glen looked around for the what should be an almost familiar dwelling, the Shaman's, (from his obsessive multiple viewings of Morgenthrall's video). "Yes, there it was", he approached it directly, and there popping in the entrance was the medicine man, bedecked as he remembered.
"Enter, I have already been expecting you," he was greeted robotically. The grad student then made his way into the cavernous root system, lit by the glow of a salmon-colored fire. He was immediately handed a monkey skull filled with a fermented beverage that swirled kaleidoscopically in the faint light. "Drink, feel no pain. But pain is in the pathway." Mahagondhelgha, dressed in his living garb, encouraged him. He took a tentative swig, then, keeping his nose from inhaling the alien smell, he chugged the rest down. Now his head joined the whirligig action in the cauldron. The medicine man then began to chant:
Da wah, meh boh sha boz, ieeya moh.
Fonja, kweelzee, boh sha fooz, bosch meh.
Shazza, ieeya da wah, meh meh, moh moh.
Woojay, mekeelieeyay, fooz, ieeya, da!
He heard the translation right afterwards:
See day, the night she knows, do not run.
The heart, consciousness, you will begin, Never fear.
It appears, only for the brave, fear fear, run run
Make it so, no turning back, the warning, the craft, it's nature's!
He understood the message, during the initiation ritual, do not panic and freak out. His old friend, professor Pickson, told him to stay mentally and emotionally strong during these times of testing. He then was handed some seeds, (obviously psychoactive) and he accepted them, nodding his head in acknowledgment. Certainly soon, he would be given the key to Jung's wildest dreams. The bitter taste in his mouth signaled his brain in that split second an alkaloid would soon be wracking his synapses.
Now shivering and moving closer to the fire, he queried, "Are these faces in the kettle going to share their mysteries?"
"No, my young one. Are you ready now to receive that special sight?" the ancient crone asked. "Then go over there and close your eyes." He pointed to that same seat that was the last thing seen by anyone in the outside world. As Glen took the special seat, he saw out of the corner of his shutting eyes his teacher picking up a forked stick. He heard the old one explain, "The Serpent tree's tongue of truth will now imbue you with clairvoyance."
Unexpectedly, in a flash of a moment, Glen Shazarian felt the most searing, burning, excruciating pain in his eyes whose last vision was of the brightest hottest flames of Gehenna. As he grabbed up instinctively, he felt the stick in the sage's hand, and the red-hot charcoal tips.
"Aghhhh! My God, what've you done!" Glen screamed in agony, getting up and flailing around.
"Remember, don't run. And, your God, is not our god."
Disregarding the admonition, the sightless, hapless student ran around in a circle until finding the exit, and he bolted out in a panic. The next moment he felt nothing beneath his feet --- he was falling!
Waking up with a Manhattan Project-sized headache some impossibly undetermined time later, his legs broken, his back horribly twisted, he felt something hard nearby. "His PC? No, he'd left it in the hut." He felt around some more, he had to get up and out of wherever he'd landed, but he could barely move. Something leathery and slimy with hair was beneath his fingers. Then he discovered the eyeglasses. He jerked back in disgust: he had somehow joined Professor Klienzig, alas too late. "Let me out of here!"
"You were given the gift, and you spurned it! You must now become one with the forest," the voice of his mentor, now tormentor cried from a distance above him, while afterwards throwing the translator down the chute.
Joy and woe are woven fine,
A clothing for the soul divine,
Under every grief and pine
Runs a joy with silken twine.
It is right it should be so;
Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know,
Through the world we safely go.
Waves of nausea washed over the kid, and he cried himself to sleep for the last time, seeing Dr. Klienzig's face, and then his father and mother's, and hearing in his head Hank Williams singing, "I saw the light, I saw the light, no more darkness, no more night...."
For the I Will Show You Fear in a Handful of Text: The 2005 Halloween Horrorquest