Saturday, February 12, 2005

Pecaw's Gift / Chapter 7 - The Cavern

Sinclair’s brain was enjoying a forced vacation. It had fewer functions to perform. His body was being tended to by the masters of medicine with a full complement of hardware. He had nothing to do but just kick back and wander about the universe. He found himself reviewing old movies, books and favorite pieces of music. Within the crevasses of gray matter lay a lifetime of stored entertainment, wishes, hopes and desires.

( The music of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto played.)

In his head he found himself going back to one place, again and again. He would enter a curio shop that had a handful of other customers who were picking up small oriental jade book ends and brass candle sticks. He had been there before, as if the shop held some special clue for his dreamscape. A narrow hall led back away from the neatly aligned displays. Looking upwards, he found himself surrounded by tall drapes that were stretched floor to ceiling, some thirty or forty feet high. They were royal in appearance; befitting the entrance to a palace court or bedroom chamber. Alternating white and deep crimson sections of heavy velvet, each with a chain of polished gold pulled across them like giant watch fobs that disappeared into the pleats and gathers. The glimmer and sparkle had beckoned his closer inspection of the corridor, yet at the same time offered him a mild hint of foreboding. He had read Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slauterhouse-Five” and felt a common bond with Billy Pilgrim, the optometrist whose life seemed to meander in and out of reality. He wanted to go further down the hall; into the unknown to find his own “Planet Tralfamadore,” that might be on the other side of the door.

He was aware, even as he lay within his comatose body, that his benefactors were
constantly manipulating his existence. He wanted them to leave him alone for a while, “You bunch of skin peddlers. Go away!”, he thought to himself. “Let me enjoy this dream.”

“His skin color appears much better today. By next week most of the bruises should be gone. Try using the oxygen tent around his leg some more; seems to be helping.”

( The music of Dvorak’s “From the New World” )

His thoughts were instantly made manifest as he walked past the last of the towering drapes and into a small dark vestibule. There was no longer a warmth about him as he awaited the opening of the door that was before him. It was an unpainted cedar door, similar to one that might be found on an abandoned house in the desert, wind worn and polished by the blowing sand. The rusted hinges gave the impression that the door had not been used very often, at least not recently. He moved to grasp the loose fitting clear glass knob. The door began to open before his hand ever made the connection. He inched past the threshold and could feel a dampness, a cool emptiness that permeated his senses. He was inside some sort of cavern, a most impressive void that lay stretched out far beyond his ability to see it’s end. He was not frightened; but he was not altogether comfortable with the surroundings either.

Sinclair tried to remember the next part of the dream, one that he had visited so many other times. What was it that he was to do here in the cave? He looked about himself as the floor of the cavern became more visible, dimly lighted by the natural phosphorescence suspended in the shallow water. An unpretentious subterranean stream was quietly melting away the soft clay floor. His feet were enjoying the lapping of the crystal clear water on his toes. He scanned the walls of tan limestone that seemed to be without end; much higher than the ones he’d seen at Carlsbad. The moisture that filled the air had allowed green and red algae to grow patterns on the soft rock facings. It was like looking at clouds set against the shadows of an evening sky, each billow and wisp open to interpretation; here a lion, there a clown or an airplane.

He tilted his head back; and as he did, his feet left the ground. Gracefully he
maneuvered his body into the sanctuary made expressly for such freedoms. Gliding and
soaring his way to the top of the cave he overcame the constraints of his all too human body. “I’m flying. Oh, how I love to fly within the quiet protection of the cavern’s windless netherworld.”

( The music of Holst, “The Planets.” )

Sinclair had grown to love the “Future History Stories” by Robert Heinlein, as
viewed in his masterpiece, “The Past Through Tomorrow.” Sinclair found peace within
the far reaching and almost believable contrivances that marked each story. He had wished to fly in the caves on the moon; here he was flying in one of his own design. Sinclair had cried tears of joy as he envisioned the dying, but triumphant Harriman sitting in the soft dusty dirt of the Moon, looking back at Earth. He wondered if Delos Harriman was just an extension of Heinlein’s mind or had there been; was there yet to be, such a noble and persistent a character?

Sinclair was no longer relaxed as his body surged more swiftly with each moment. The more his head tilted back, the faster he went. His eyes strained to see past the curve of his forehead. As he tried with ever increasing vigor, so did his velocity also increase. Panic breached the tranquility of his flight. He was out of control and in the darkness of the cavern he could not know when an outcropping of stone would crash him to the ground. It occurred to him to relax the attitude of his head. He cautiously and deliberately pulled his chin forward and touched it to his chest. He closed his eyes momentarily and took in a deep breath. It had worked; he was now back in control.

He flew ever higher and found that there was a hole in the top of the cave. He escaped the cavern and continued his flight through the night sky; a billion stars above him. He wiped the beads of cold sweat from his brow. It was then that he noticed the maze of high power lines. The thick metal ropes were all around him, paralleling his course.

The lines seemed to converge at some point directly ahead of him as he flew faster and faster. The words to a Harry Chapin song whistled past his ears at . . . 90 miles per hour.

“He was pushin’ on through the short’nen miles

that ran down to the depot,

just a few more miles to go. . .”

The truck carrying 30,000 pounds of bananas made its final but exhilarating trip. The young driver had only just now realized that he was going way too fast.

“His foot must have reached to slow him down

but the pedal floored easy, without a sound.

He said, “Christ!”

It was funny how he had named

the only man who could save him now. . .”

Sinclair ducked beneath one wire and could feel the cable as it slapped the side of his leg. The pace was too much for him.

“. . . and he said, “God! Make this a dream!

as he rode his last track down. . .”

Holding on to his last moments, Sinclair reached his arms out as far as they would go, making himself as narrow as possible.

“ . . . and he side swiped nineteen neat parked cars

clipped off thirteen telephone poles,

hit two houses, bruised eight trees

and Blue Crossed seven people.

It was then he lost his head,

not to mention an arm or two

before he stopped. . .”

Sinclair stopped the nightmare and bolted upright within himself. “It’s only a dream.”, he said to himself; “Only a dream.” He found himself back in the curio shop;
ready to start the episode over. This time he would be more careful. When it came time
to fly he would remind himself not to tilt his head back quite so quickly. He would fly
again and again.