Chapter 3: O Lord Thou Pluckest

The Shadow of This Red Rock I

The areas past the Rockies, to the southwest (from both the mountains and Venice) are lush forests that seemingly go on forever. Telos knew this place: it was the Amazon. He had heard tell of it before, and the overbearing heat wearied him while he journeyed. He expected any day to enter the great southern empire of Rossiyskaya Imperiya.

Telos soon entered the boundary city of Kismayu, the northern signal of Rossiyskaya. He did not blend in as well as he had hoped as the people were of a darker skin; were any loyalist agents still hounding him, he would not be difficult to track down. He resolved to pass through Kismayu quickly.

On the journey into the heartland of the Imperiya, Telos spent a lot of his time thinking. The events in Venice had been given him an extreme rush of power and excitement, and for the first time since his days with Cavillace he felt fresh and alive.

Love had proven to be a potent influence but came with it the possibility to end catastrophically. Fighting, political upheaval, that brought continuous pleasure, and Telos knew he had to have more.

The Shadow of This Red Rock II

He had forgotten how big the Imperiya was.

He had forgotten how hot.

Dragging himself through miles of dense tropical forest, the only respite was when he found small streams. Telos would wade into them and wash himself in the refreshing waters, sometimes even using the streams to swim south.

After having left Kismayu a number of days prior, he began to worry that he had been wandering in circles. Were those voices? Was that a city? No– he had stuck to a straight path based on the sun, he couldn’t have walked in circles, he couldn’t have, he couldn’t have, oh the sun! So oppressive! Goddammit, why don’t you just leave him alone! Leave him be!

Go away sun! Oh, river, thank God, thank fucking God, you rescue me– I shall swim in your waters until I am no longer a human, until I am a fish, until you see fit to boil me alive because I’m sure the sun hates you too, you are too cool and refreshing for him not to hate you. Fuck the sun. Did you hear that? Fuck you sun! Fuck you, sun. Come on river, let’s go, we don’t need that fucking sun.

I will swim in your waters until I am a fish and until that sun leaves us alone. I will swim in your waters until I am a fish.

I am a fish.

The Shadow of This Red Rock III

And the sun would burn in bright colors, the sun would explode upon our very Earth and it would burn everything down, it would melt our faces and torch our houses until all that was left was a burnt rock, a crisp shell where humans once lived and once defined their lives by pieces of paper and shreds of happiness.

The world is a pillar of meaning and the sun burns it all away. It’s cleansing and refreshing and it gives rebirth to life. We come away new and whole yet different, we come away changed, the same, one and all.

His body washed up far downstream, south of the Imperiya, south of humanity it seemed. Some local villagers, tribesmen in the old vein, found him and brought him to their village where they tended to his wounds. When he woke up they fed him and let him sit, sit and watch the trees.

Telos didn’t speak for a long time. He couldn’t understand the villagers and they wouldn’t have understood him, so it did not really matter. But he didn’t speak because he had nothing to say. For the first time in his life, his soul was silent. He felt nothing, and nothing affected him.

Do You Know Nothing I

It’s unclear how much time he spent in the village. He started to talk to them eventually, with one in particular, Wakan Tanka, who helped him figure out how to translate various words into their respective languages. Telos became fascinated with the Lakota culture and Dakota itself, the village. He explored the areas around Dakota, and adopted various aspects of their lifestyle.

He witnessed a number of young men embarking on the Hanblecheyapi; they would return a few days later, visibly hungry and exhausted but deeply evolved. Tanka in fact undertook the Hanblecheyapi at one point and when he returned, his thoughts and conversations with Telos showed a marked depth that had not been apparent before.

Soon Telos got it into his head that he wanted to go on one of these personal quests, and he spoke to the chief with this in mind. The chief saw nothing wrong with wanting to explore personal growth and so blessed his journey, bidding him success and knowledge.

Telos spoke with Wicasa, the local medicine man, who advised him where to go in the forest and how best to experience the journey. After a week of preparations, Telos bid farewell to Tanka and went into the forest, seeking understanding of his self in combination with humanity.

Do You See Nothing II

Sometime you have to slow down, sometime you have to pause. You can’t always keep moving forward, you can’t always keep trucking: sometime you need to stop. You need to open your eyes: what have you been doing? Starting revolutions in Venice?

You don’t care about the Doge of Venice, you don’t care if he maintains authority over the city in a monarchical manner. He’s not a tyrant, all right he wasn’t a tyrant, not like Minos, so why did you join the Council on their crazy mission to overthrow him? To get some kind of revenge against the world for giving you Cavillace and then taking her away?

What are you doing out here anyhow– you’re so far south of Damascus, even further south of Skara Brae. Why are you here, why are you here, what are you doing in Dakota?

What are you doing? What does any of this matter: the Doge, Minos, the Lakota, the Council, Cavillace? The hallucinations come faster now, the trees melt away. The lack of food eats at your stomach until there’s nothing left, it eats into your chest, up your spine and into your head until you are a beautiful shell of a human, all definition and purpose removed, with only one thought pounding in your head. Everything has fallen away except for the dull question of your existence.

If you no longer are anything, if you can no longer identify unique aspects of yourself because they have been removed, if all you were before was a set of accumulated traits acquired outside of your design and now they are gone, gone, gone, how would you see yourself?

What are you? Why are you here?

Do You Remember Nothing III

It was five days before Telos returned, a full day longer than normal. He was a shambling husk of a man, beard in full bloom, haggard eyes searching for respite. Tanka took him in and fed him for a number of days. During that time, Telos refused to say anything, staring only into the ceiling, as if he could see through it, as if he could see the clouds– nay, the heavens, as if he wasn’t there in that hut but somewhere far beyond.

After a week, Telos explained to Tanka what he had experienced, describing the psychological collapse as if it were a glorious and honorable siege upon some fortified castle. Tanka admired his friend’s spiritual journey and commended him for braving such treacherous waters.

Telos didn’t come out as whole as Tanka believed. The very core of his understanding of his self had been shaken, and for a time he was frozen in the village, not knowing what more he could or should do. Wicasa tells us in his writings that Telos would often stand at the edge of the forest for hours, staring into the wall of trees.

Something woke him up from his daze though. No one really knows what; maybe a discussion with Tanka, maybe he had had enough time to digest his breakdown, maybe a pretty Lakota girl stirred in him some youthful vigor. Either way, he became a bustle of action, preparing to leave the place he had called home for close to two months.

Profit and Loss I

Tanka was concerned for Telos, that after having so recently worn himself down, he wouldn’t be ready to travel. A going-away party was being planned and Tanka decided to confront Telos in public, demanding to know his reasons for leaving. It would please the village because everyone wanted to know why their newest acquaintance had become so eager to leave.

Perhaps more importantly, it’s lucky for us that Tanka decided to bring the matter up at the dinner, because as a result there are many witnesses to the conversation they had, which provides unique insight into Telos and the fundamental change that occurred in him while on his Hanblecheyapi.

After the main course had been served, Tanka loudly asked Telos where he was going and why he had decided to leave. Telos was initially caught off guard and found himself silently cursing Tanka, but he warmed up to the subject as he began to talk.

He said that during his vision quest, he had been confronted by the fact that he was empty; all the beliefs he had, had been thrust upon him by others. Sure they may have seemed right at the time, but how did they actually define him? They didn’t. After the vision quest, he had remained silent for days because this sudden awareness of his vacuity embarrassed him.

Then, while staring at the trees, he understood it wasn’t his fault. The world had been there all along, he had just never looked at it hard enough. The void within him was because of his upbringing and his society: he had never been pushed to seek the depths within him. So he was setting out as soon as possible, for his soul would wait no longer.

Profit and Loss II

The villagers understood– they didn’t want to, rather they didn’t want to have to understand, but they did. It happened sometimes with one of their own, when a complete breakdown was experienced. The person would either eventually find themselves revitalized or find themselves walking a dead-end course.

After the dinner, Telos slept and woke up at dawn in order to leave. He bade a sad farewell to Tanka, who wished him luck in his journey further east. Wicasa said nothing but offered him some herbs to brew for tea while he was on the road.

There are no roads that lead to Dakota, and there are no roads that lead out of Dakota. Thus you have to find your own path when you leave, a somewhat daunting task that often steers people away from wandering. But at dawn Telos picked up the sack he had packed with goods and set out.

Dakota is a series of lazy plains, where the grass is always forgetfully moving about, in gentle rhythm with the wind. The forest to the west of Dakota, where Telos had gone on his vision quest, was the southern remnants of the Amazon. Using that and the sun as his guide, he walked opposite of the forest, intent on discovering something new and letting the past wash away.

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