“Over the mountains, watching the watcher;
Breaking the darkness, waking the grapevine…”
- Pink Floyd
Looking past her toes to the shattered boulders several hundred feet below, Big-Legged Emma held out her arms as if she would lift off her perch and leap into the canyon.
On the middle, longest talon of the Claw, three rocks crooked over the edge of where the mountain had been cleaved deeply by water determined to go home. She turned her limbs to take in the sun’s rays, luxuriating her caramel skin in the warmth of summer light. Just beyond her, a middle-aged ponderosa pointed towards the falls that spread the mountain open like a wet labia, branches drooping towards the canyon floor as the tree gave itself to gravity.
Gooch watched, wondering where she was in her head, what effect she was feeling after Powerball kicked in and swept her through the dope’s peculiar portal to God knows where. When he’d last seen her, the real her, she had passed him a hit while they both still sat in the shadow of a large boulder that listed skyward, like the bow of a sinking ship. There, silent but for birds hidden in the pines, she passed the piece to him, exhaling her smoke through a burst of her characteristic tic of “Ha!” and her trilled laugh. “I’ll see you on the other side!”
He inhaled, grimacing at the slightly vegetal, dog-shit taste (but with a minty hashish undertone). When he exhaled, what footing he held in the world dislodged and spun off into overlapping folds of the universe, everything around him collapsing into sizzling, bombinating vibrations. The earth moved to envelope his being, his self, roots, rocks, mountains and trees engulfing him with a deep embrace, all of it devolving into a singular darkness that soon revealed lights alive and dancing. The pounding of his heart and the cold sweat trickling down his skin matched the rhythm of the turning of the World.
He swam in a sea of stars, twinkling points in all directions to an infinitude. Lights appeared and disappeared like fireflies, evading him if he approached as though each was sentient, conscious, intentional. Soon after appearing, each playful light created a ripple in space where windows to another side unraveled, spiraled outwards and then faded away, leaving just an evanescent memory of what they’d revealed.
Things inside some windows appeared abstract, incomprehensible, characters from millions of alien languages lacking context or reference or meaning; others showed familiar things, oxygen-breathing, more like the reality he’d left when he’d sparked up the “powerful magic” (as Indian Leo called it), things from terra firma, The World, things like trees, oceans, mountains, farms, people doing things, crossing the street, brushing their hair. In one window, he saw a desert sky at night and there was where he entered.
He landed feet first in the midst of a courtyard of a classic Spanish villa, a square plaza of outbuildings and apartments fronted by an imposing three-story Grand House. To his right, a fountain stood tiered with marble clam shell bowls that decreased in size as they neared the top, where a Cupid danced and aimed his arrow at the sky. Wings of the estate hemmed everything in and the casitas were fronted by a porch shadowing spaces beneath the wooden-slatted eaves, windows shuttered like the closed eyelids of large owls. The only sound was the clattering echo of the fountain’s falling water and beneath his feet, porcelain tiles were slick with spray, grout lines green with moss. It was humid near the fountain and his skin grew damp, goosebumps appearing as the desert’s night air chilled serein.
Still as his surroundings, he took in the sight, amazed, awed, the clarity of the moment an instance of remarkable beauty. The villa’s stucco skin breathed from the life within. Whorls and ridges filigreed into an intricate network of pavonine patterns, pulsing with lines intersecting and interacting. Above the walls, ribs of coral-colored tiles rippled under the sky, respiring essence and bits of things that were contained within, an inexorable scrambling of spirits and elementary particles.
The stars were infinite, tiny diamonds strewn across a black scrim, their light softened behind the fulsome glow of an impossibly large moon that loomed behind the Great House. Ancient-looking but well-kept, built in the Spanish gothic style, the house was a palace in the midst of a Krazy Kat landscape. All was dark but for pale light of the night sky and one window on the third floor, a lambent glow where he could see someone standing in the room behind the window. Taking tentative steps toward the house, fearless and curious, he peered upwards through squinted lids. With his approach, it became apparent that there were actually two people standing in the room, one close to the window, a shadow of another gesturing and pacing. Almost directly beneath the window, he heard feminine voices, a collegial conversation, friendly and joyous. Unable to catch what they were saying, He could tell that one of the speakers was elderly but still possessing a firm, forceful voice along with the cool precision of schooled diction. The other voice broke in, much younger, bouncy and ebullient, almost singing it seemed. And then, a blast of a jovial “Ha!”
He erupted with laughter, his eyes clouded with mirth tears, his “Buddha laugh,” as Emma called it (although he was nothing like the fat little man in Chinese restaurants, begging for a good-luck belly rub with raised arms and palms flattened) a starburst in his gut that rocked his body with its seismic force.
“Who are you talking to, Baby Sister?” he called and was immediately lifted above the villa, spinning and spiraling upwards on a tourbillion of galactic fireworks. A hissing rushed through his ears, increasing in pitch and volume. Vision was reduced to a mix of hues and tones that resulted in a blast of pure light, photons stripped of all spectral definition. In an instant, the speeding, screaming cacophony ceased and he was returned back to the where the trip began.
Just beyond the edge of the forest, Emma stood entranced on the Claw, swaying slightly, singing with the coloratura of the canyon’s winds. As she had done so many times before out on the Claw – arms stretched wide and face tilted back to the sun – she embraced the world, granting open and free access to her soul and her infinite well of love.
Aftershocks still trembling through him, he reclined on pine needles upholstering a slope, just watching Emma, drinking in the fact that they had not gone far from where they had first smoked, musing on where Powerball would take them next.
“Adieu, mon ami! Il est temps de volet! It’s time!” Her voice splashed through the pine needles like water shattering on a stone, droplets of her words collecting on his skin like the spray from the villa’s fountain.
He watched her body tilt toward the opposite canyon wall and then fall forward into the chasm and toward the rocks below.