845015:0430 - Gomer has returned with Tenku. Tenku asks me to tell him who I saw with the other People when they came to the Blind.
It is not that he's dissatisfied with my description, it's simply that he feels there is more. He doesn't question what I've told him, only asks "Where are you?"
"I am here."
Quickly, he lifts me. I think he is old and still he demonstrates formidable strength. Holding me against him, I smell his scent quite strongly. It is the same and subtly different from the others and the community smell I'd gotten used to. He smells, I realize, of the Wa'asis. His breath is sweet with the stuff, and being this close it is intoxicating.
"Where are you?" he asks me.
"I am here, I told you."
He put me down. Something strange happened then, something I'd noticed but had not referenced in this work before.
There is, I think, a far less obvious kind of communication these creatures employ, something beyond the perceptual ranges of both myself and my immediate instruments. Perhaps even beyond the vomeronasal. Tenku and Gomer moved off in the same direction although there was no clue or communication between them which I discerned. That would be enough, except that several of the other remaining males moved simultaneously to a common point, one of the common shelters, and all entered.
845015:1000 - Extremely cold last night. These creatures know about fire, yet don't make much use of it. Nor do they make use of the common dwellings. It is a matter of perception. By tucking themselves with their backs to the wind they can sleep in the open at forty degrees below zero. Cold to me. I don't know what it is to them.
I have discovered more via some telemetric readings. In extreme cold they reduce epidermal bloodflow to conserve heat, with hands, feet, and exposed facial features maintained just above the tissue freezing point. Warmth to these possible contact points is regulated independent of the rest of the body, an efficiency of design emphasized greatly on Aguirra. On warm days they flair themselves out to keep cool, exposing as much of the body surface as possible to the air, or they roll in the dirt. The younger ones do this quite a bit and I believe it to be some kind of game or play.
Coat ranges in color from almost pure white through white, through various shades of blond cream and ocher to grays, blonds and blacks. Most striking are the slope blue coats of the older goatmen, whom I collectively call 'Silverbacks.'
The recorder is transmitting a caster response signal. Sanders must be serious about my return. He's sending a caster to find me and bring me home. What could he want now?
845015:2200 - Tenku has returned. There is another billy with him, a young one just starting his horns, and not Gomer. They assume the talking positions, not including me. Tenku asks this other Goatman, "Where are you?"
vv"The Theisen ... " and a bark. Perhaps I would learn more if I didn't rely on the damned translator. "Tenku has asked me to be with him and Journeyer. Gomer agrees this will help us know Journeyer and where he is, as Journeyer, we believe, is lost."
"We sit with the sisters and children of Hepob ..."
This new billy's recitation continued for fully forty minutes, at which time Gomer came over.
Before continuing note his reference to "The Theisen." This seems odd to me as he did not smell of Wa'asis and I thought such was necessary for communication with "The Theisen" to begin.
Most disturbing to me was what he said as he came to the end of his speech; "...and there are some fallen stones. The Old Ones, placed without asking by the others from -- " the untranslatable word again "-- those who dwell in the home who wants to be a rock."
The young billy got up and Gomer took his place. Tenku asked, "Where are you?"
Gomer started, "As Shika said and ..."
His recitation of where he is took days longer, even starting as it did from where the other Goatman left off and continuing far down the Towers, across the Altiplano and ranging over the continent.
The missing third leg of the triangle. I believe I have it. The oral history is truly rich and greatly diversified, everyone in the village has their own. They define where they are by their experience, starting at their immediate present, continuing throughout their personal histories and including racial histories when it is relevant to their personal recounting. Gomer, for example, recited a story about a Goatman called 'Denihé'. From what he said, I suspect Denihé might be the Goatman I and I alone perceived when the others stood outside the Blind and Sanders dispatched the Rumbler. If not that, then Denihé is the creature who I became in that dream.
It is fascinating, this concept. To define your existence by your experience. Perhaps I was mistaken in thinking these creatures have names so much as they have icononyms, a single sound which acts as an arrow to a racial or cultural memory of their entire existence. It may explain why they laugh at 'Goat Man'. The name denies them half their experience. To them, "history" is by its very nature an individual's song.
I wonder what they made of "My name is Gordon Banks."? Has that simple statement, denied of cultural references and identity, defined our interactions since?
Tenku sits facing me. There is black root in his hand.
We are moving up a steep incline. There are several males with me. I am walking without paying attention to how I move, much as these creatures themselves do. Several of us turn towards something at once. I know I am to look, to see, to feel, taste, touch, smell, whatever this thing is.
My nostrils open wide and carry the scent to me. I feel my legs twitching, vibrating, as if there's something older here than I should rightly know, a racial memory which others will have to tell me about.
There are a few tracks with a scent mark, although I was unaware of the scent mark. Four of the older billies suddenly surround me, their blue pelages sheening in the sun. I am filled with knowledge, knowledge I know I didn't had, knowledge accumulated and indexed and presented in small, digestible chunks, knowledge of the area, knowledge of animals in the area, knowledge of this season, knowledge of this time of day, details upon details upon details.
There is so much. As it comes into me I can't breathe. I hear the voices of my brothers, my sisters, my family, my children -- my children? -- long distant, summoned to talk to me now from throughout time. Things heard from others. Histories sung.
My four acolytes leave me, as suddenly as they came, moving back into their ranks in our procession, and ahead of me one other male slows. As I'm about to pass him he butts me. It is the male who watched me at The Merrimack, although now his horns are broken like Tenku's and their edges cut me. "Make a guess," he says. "What do these particular marks, these specific trail clues, mean? Tell me what and who has been here. Where were they before? Where are they headed? When? Will they come again?"
I answer his questions, surprised at my knowledge, astounded by my experience. My guess is correct, for all that I tell him, then realize I'm not answering out of my own experience. I'm answering out of the experiences of others.
He laughs at me. It is Sanders' laugh. He has an Old One's face.
At night, the air around the Towers grows still and quiet. There are no raptors or other predators at the altitudes governed by The People. How ever long they have lived thus, they have grown calm and accepting of their environment. No guards or watches are posted. Of course, with their ability to communicate vomeronasally, I doubt any threat would long stay such to these creatures.
The sky, at night, is darker than the darkest desert night on Earth or many other worlds I've seen. The constellations, Tellweiller told me, are those the dinosaurs on Earth once saw.
I heard something coming up from the altiplano. When I got up, half the people of the village were up, at the edge of this Tower and looking down to where I long ago left the blind.
A meteor rose from the ground and rode through the skies. Half way into the darkness it exploded.
885015:0010 - A caster lies wrecked about two hundred meters from me. When that happened I don't know. The transmitter's indicators show only that it records.
Only that it records.
There is no indication that it sends. The Merrimack is gone. Without me.
Damn Sanders and Galen and Nash and Tellweiller and Robin and the Corps and...
How do I know what an Old One looks like? For that matter, what is an Old One?
I'm overcome by a feeling of melancholy. My notes are no longer transmitted to the ship. Who hears them? Who reads them? I mourn the loss of my objectivity. I mourn my participation in their primitive rites. All has become nothing more than my history song.
I want to tell them more will come, that the Pilgrimage Council will find a way to deny them their aboriginal rites. With no natural predators, how can they prepare? How could they understand?
905015:0830 - How many days of recording does the transmitter have without The Merrimack close by to bleed power from?
Gomer is back with Tenku. Both are playing with the kid whom I witnessed nursing earlier in this narrative.
Yes. They have become distinct to me. I can recognize and individuate them.
I've noticed The People seem to pick up cues from each other even when there is no obvious contact. They can have their backs to each other, even at extremely distant parts of the village from each other. Something will catch the attention of one of them, usually something outside of that individual's experience, and as that individual's attention quickly becomes hypnotic a common anxiety moves through them all. Others respond by moving without hesitation to look at the area where the first individual is staring. They respond simultaneously, as though some group consciousness comes "on-line."
I ask if we'll try to reach the Theisen again and Tenku shows me the black root, the Wa'asis. The ceremony is much like the previous one. It is ritual to me, ceremony to them. There is a meaning to them, a history and a reasoning. To me there is only the placing of the root, the stripping with the teeth, the chewing. With all other cultural iconography gone I suppose I must make it more than mere ritual soon, I must not repeat the mistakes of the Europeans colonizing the world. They wanted to prove their god was the match of any pagan idol and took tobacco, alcohol and more powerful hallucinogens, all aboriginal vectors to the gods, and bastardized them until they became addicted, proving the old gods greatest of all. They forgot the ceremonies behind the rituals.
I must not. I can not.
"Who are the Theisen? What happens when we chew the root? Where do we go?"
There are no answers. Tenku offers me the root. "Wait. I have questions," I say. It is too late. They have already started to chew.
I'm losing my objectivity. I decide to sit and see what happens to them. I watch their breathing, their eyes, watch their bodies relax and sag.
The nanny comes over. The kid, who sat watching us, sniffs the air, turns to his mother, and butts her belly and thighs. She squats -- the Little Teapot -- and he raises on toe to nurse.
She's staring at me. Her eyes aren't like the others. They are deep, and black. Like Robin's. And also, I think, beautiful.
Without meaning to, or perhaps meaning to without knowing I mean to, afraid to be left alone as it were, I lift a root to my mouth and chew.
No knowledge of time or date. I am naked. In the same place I was before, only closer to the path. Gomer is here and Tenku is not, although I feel Tenku is near.
Gomer stands over me, at the foot of the path. All of my training, all of my knowledge, all of my experience avails me not, and I am terrified by the newness of it.
This is the magic I believed in as a child and denied as an adult.
Gomer offers me his hand. It is easier to reach this time and I stand quickly.
"Where are we going?" I ask, wondering how Gomer can understand without the translator to mediate.
He points up the path.
"Are the Theisen up there?"
He says nothing and begins to walk. I follow.
Whatever experiences I have, I'm unaware of them. The only thing I am aware of is my terror at being a child.
Article © Joseph Carrabis. All rights reserved.
Published on 2019-11-04
Image(s) © John Scullen of Skolenimation. All rights reserved.