As the canopy neared the falling man, the rush of momentum was enough that he felt he’d never stop, and the ground would only continue rushing past him, layers of sediment beneath the earth parting ways—the call of gravity startling the rock and earth as a great school of fish.
Stone would shuffle apart, only ever barely missing the man’s tumbling body, until he reached the core, where he might gaze upon the fiery heart of the planet before continuing on to what could only be perceived as nothingness.
Alas, waves of air condensed around him, signifying a shift in the falling man’s imagination, preparing his body’s consciousness for fatal impact upon the very real jungle floor.
It happened instantaneously.
First, branches snapped at the struggling remains of his parachute, and he prayed statically to remain uncaught in the untamed chaos whipping around him.
His left ribs shattered from sudden contact with a thick, protruding branch, leading him to suddenly detach his chute in a desperate attempt to get out. His body spun and his back checked the long side of another tree, and he continued falling furiously through the thick, humidified air of the tropics.
The ground met him in triumph, where he landed straight and stiff as a board, just the way he was trained months before. It was bare, except for a jutting stone that caught his left shin. He felt the muscle and bone strain; thankful it was only that much. The man let out a cry of pain. His hands clutched the planet, to feel for direct embrace.
That was supposed to be the easy part, he thought.
After a few moments, sounds of the jungle resumed where they’d been startled by his sudden appearance upon the earth.
The man awoke without having dreamed, which was strange. Sounds cascaded around him—birds, bugs, chattering monkeys—he was now invisible to the world.
Only the smallest creatures noticed him. Even then, it was only as another hill or large mass to investigate and make their home. But, he was too tired to care.
The explorer decided that his sleep was unfinished, and he shut his eyes for a time again.
In his dream, he was back home. His family greeted him with love and kindness, though a deep agitation burned inside him. He had seen what was behind the curtain, and it was too much for him to enjoy life.
He was then gone, and he watched his family mourn his unexpected departure. He’d left everything: a job, a wife, children, happiness, and fears. They did not understand.
The earth intoxicated him and drugged his body as sirens might call to weary sailors. He saw his wife, and in the dream, told her he loved her very much. He saw his children and told them their father still watched over them. Then, everything dissipated, and his world became hazy.
When he awoke next, the explorer deducted that only a few hours had passed. He sat up slowly, brushing the bugs off his face and side. The man breathed and tried moving his foot. Impossible.
Suddenly, he heard a loud snap from the bushes. It seemed intentional. A person? he wondered.
He felt the tiniest sting on his neck, and before long, the entirety of his vibrant surroundings fell to darkness.
The explorer jolted awake to being dragged along the jungle floor. Ever since he entered the foggy atmosphere of the South American forest, he felt as if overwhelmed by foreign energy. The ones dragging him were dark-skinned, wearing simple ceremonial gear.
He coughed, and one of them stopped and turned.
The others did the same, and his feet were dropped onto the solid earth. They were bound. His shin reverberated in pain, enough to let him know there was still feeling left. He cried in distress.
The native yelled back, somewhat offensively, and birds wailed back out of sudden excitement. The explorer did not fight to break free from his bondage. Instead, he lay at their behest.
One of them bent down and lay his hand on the man’s foot, and seemed to say something scolding to his companions. The explorer closed his eyes, and they soon continued.
He clutched his breast pocket, and held close the map of language the medicine man had given him before arranging for the private plane that would take him over the jungle.
“You have practiced the language?” the sage asked.
“Yes,” the explorer replied.
“You will say to them only what is written,” the sage said.
“Yes,” the explorer answered. The medicine man studied him for a moment.
“You look troubled,” he said.
“How will I know when to jump?”
“Pray,” he replied. “You will know. I will tell them you’re coming.”
“How will they know?”
The medicine man looked past him, and did not answer the question. He seemed forlorn, as if remembering something sad.
Their village sat on the edge of steep rock, bordered by caves and small gatherings of trees. It seemed it had been born just for them, a gift from the earth.
The explorer was brought to the center of the village, where a very old man watched his every move. The old man was dressed in a simple brown cloak, with none of the adornments the other tribe members wore.
He motioned for one of them to untie his bindings. The sympathetic native approached the old man, and spoke to him.
The man’s gaze softened.
He bent over, reached in his pouch, and pulled out a small bottle of salve. A crowd had gathered around them, holding their breath to see what the shaman would do.
He pasted the salve over the explorer’s swollen chin, and said a short prayer. He then walked into one of the caves. Shortly, he yelled a command from inside, as if his comrades had been too shocked to initially react.
The explorer rotated his left foot. It still hurt, but he could move it.
The natives picked him up, considerably more delicately than before, and carried the explorer into the cave. The shaman waited in the darkness.
The explorer was laid down, surrounded by nothingness, and was positioned to sit himself upward, facing, he perceived, the shaman.
“Why are you here?” the old man asked, though the explorer heard no words spoken. The darkness had somehow put a spell over their thoughts, enlightening a connection between them.
The explorer reached for the specific instructions that’d been left for him, but quickly realized that it would be impossible to read them in the dark.
He decided to try the shaman’s way of speech.
“I have come to see the Mother,” the explorer replied, without using sounds.
There was a pause that was full of intentional energy, a wall of voices that’d come to speak in silence, as if each thought, each word, was now being judged.
“She is dangerous,” the shaman replied. “Who are you, worthy to see her?”
“I have seen only a faded glimpse,” the explorer said, recalling vivid dreams.
“That is often enough.”
“I wish to see more. I must.”
“You are drunk,” the old man said, stately. “We must ask the sky, the mountain, and the trees. We must ask the birds, and the frogs, and the jaguar cub. We must ask the spirit of the wind, and the water of the ground. We must.”
“Yes,” the explorer replied, solemnly.
“You will rest.”
The explorer felt the shaman’s energy soon dissipate, and he was alone in the cave. He expected someone to retrieve him, but no one came. So he simply sat in the darkness, and contemplated the world.
At first, the explorer’s mind darted from here to there.
But, after some time, his thoughts settled into the silence that fed energy to the darkness around him.
Before long, a familiar presence returned to him.
“The sky has told us, let him see the Mother, as have the mountains and even the trees. The birds sang in agreement, while the frogs quipped in approval. The jaguar cub gave a reluctant, but affirmative growl. Then, we asked the spirits of the wind, and they said, why not? and the water of the ground grew excited, and flowed much, and we refreshed our bodies. Perhaps you will visit them afterwards.”
“Yes,” the explorer responded. “Perhaps.”
The old man and the explorer were becoming friends.
“Here,” the shaman said, and handed the explorer a bag of leaves that were for chewing. Another native handed him a stick, and helped him up from his seat, which he had not moved from in several days.
The explorer stretched his legs, and followed the old man deeper through the darkness. There was little that was said from that point on, forcing the explorer to trust that he was being led in the right direction.
Eventually, they came to a small crack of light at the edge of the cave. A large stone was moved whilst a prayer was being said, and light of the mountain sky filled the chamber. The explorer fell backward, awestruck, and was blinded.
The natives helped him to his feet, and the old man who had become his friend came near. He blessed the man, putting a salve upon his eyes, and set him on the path.
The explorer knew he had to continue alone.
Within the hour, the explorer’s vision was returning. At first, he had to crawl slowly, on his belly, so as not to fall from the narrow path.
Then, he began to see shapes, and continued crawling on his hands and knees.
After a bit of time, which was no longer a perspective held by the explorer, he stood upward on two feet, just in time to begin climbing nearly exactly vertically up the mountain.
He no longer cared whether or not he would complete his goal, only that he might continue to move forward.
He remembered the leaves he’d been given. As he chewed them, he was revitalized, and never stopped to rest.
Finally, he came to the end of the path. After reaching above to pull himself over one last ridge, he saw an entrance to a large domed cave in front of him.
He heard strange sounds, like birds, but wiser.
Walking forward, the explorer entered the cave, and was greeted by a myriad of colors. Great dragon-like beasts with feathers of rainbows circled the top of the cavern, whereupon there was a single hole that shone light into the cave.
They were much larger than him—he stepped back as they continued to screech and call. They were reptilian, but their plumage was brighter and more exotic than any animal he’d seen before. They were as gods, older than the trees or time itself.
These are her daughters, the explorer thought.
A short extension of rock jutted out to the center of the cave where a deep chasm lay below it. He crept further in.
The draconic creatures seemed not to notice him. He looked down into further darkness, and felt a gigantic roar shudder through his spine.
Suddenly, he tripped on a stone that he hadn’t noticed before, and almost lost his footing. He fell to his knees, peering deep into the depths.
He soon remembered his foot was hurt, for he had since forgotten. He began to feel the pain. He soon remembered that he was blind, for he had since forgotten. Darkness overturned his vision.
In the complete and utter darkness, a question was asked of him.
“What do you desire?” it asked.
“You,” he replied, in the same way he spoke to the shaman. “Only you.”
Abruptly, the rock beneath his hands and knees grew soft, and he felt the sensation of gravity, though he was not falling.
The flying gods crowed and jeered, for her eyes were opening in the deep.
The explorer had become a child, begging for release.
In an instant, he saw her. Further and further down, deeper than anyone knew, he saw with freshly born eyes, the Mother he sought.
Her core vibrated with the intensity of a monstrous, devouring deity. He saw her pure, unrefined, animal chaos, and the sanctity of that which is prehistoric.
Pulsing, again and again. The explorer saw a core, red hot, churning with life. Bright, green reptilian eyes opened upon the rock, and she was awake.
She raged and wretched as a senseless, hungry spirit; she was the center of all things, the harbor of the eternal. She was an animal that demanded respect, liberation, and love. She pulsed as a primal being of chaos, churning forces throughout the world, giving birth to the sky, the mountains, and the trees. She cherished her children—the birds, the frogs, and the jaguar cub. The spirits of the wind was her breath, and the water of the ground was her blood.
No wonder everything happened the way it did, the explorer thought.
Everything was silent.
Suddenly, the world was not as it was.
The explorer stood up, and saw that he was in a room. At first, it seemed dark, but then everything changed, and the outlines were seen more clearly.
Light came from a source in the center. The walls, he noticed, were layered with a paste—the same with which the shaman had used to cure his injuries.
My injuries, he thought, suddenly.
They were gone. There were no traces of any discomfort within his body.
The source of light seemed to grow—but not as though to become brighter. As the explorer understood it, the light only illuminated what light already lay dormant in the room, as if every particle of space was its own viable source.
Soon, the explorer saw that the light was a person, a girl with milky indigo skin and the subtlest green eyes. She was curled up in a ball, hovering within the air.
“Is this your world?” he asked.
She unfurled herself, and blinked. She moved about him as a mermaid would through water. She seemed very happy, and playful.
“Yes,” she said. “Do you like it?”
“It’s nice,” he replied. “The energy is calm. A little dull, actually.” He did not know why he said the last part.
“What would you like?” she asked, coyly floating around him.
“I’m not sure. This is your world. What would you like?”
“I would like you to be happy,” she replied. Quickly, she became sad, and shied away. They waited in silence for what seemed like a while.
“No! What is it?” the explorer then said, as if no time had passed.
“You are unhappy.”
“I am. I am happy.” He approached the girl once more. He was intoxicated. Her very presence seemed to validate his entire life. She existed, and yet, at the same time, didn’t. It was a fascinating concept for him to behold.
“Do you know what I am?” she asked.
“I do not.”
“Do you want to know?” she asked.
The girl turned back toward the explorer, and they stood face to face. This is where they remained. She placed her hands behind his head, cradling his skull and the very tip of his spine.
The girl showed him images of her journey—how she arrived at where they were, and why she would stay, and why, one day, she would leave. She showed him her complete lack of regret, as well as compassion, and patience. She showed him others, much like herself, who… ah, those stories are for another time.
After an amount of time, or perhaps none at all, she broke her connection with the man. He had been weeping since she started.
“Thank you,” he said.
“You’re welcome,” she replied. They shared a nice moment.
“I’m going to take you home,” she spoke to him, softly.
“Home? But this is my home.”
“Yes,” she giggled in response. “That is true. But you’re already here, and always will be. Why not play some more?”
“Alright, then,” he said, not fully understanding her words, despite how much she tried. It must’ve been the toothpaste. She always did that, no matter how many times he asked her to stop. It annoyed him to no end.
Lying in bed, his favorite, tattered copy of “The Death of Ivan Ilytch” sat upon his lap, and the man thought of an odd thing.
Suddenly, he heard a spit.
“Hun, did you hear me?” his wife called from the bathroom.
“No, you were, uh—I couldn’t hear you because your mouth was full. As usual.”
“You can hear me, you just don’t try,” she said, coming back into the room. She almost dropped her towel at the sight of him. “Whoa. Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” he said. “Why?”
“You look like you’ve seen something, I don’t know, weird,” she said, endearingly, climbing into bed and snuggling up to him in the winter cold. “Sorry, you just gave me the spooks for a second.”
She kissed him on the cheek, and they shared a pleasant moment with each other.
“Do you remember?”
“Do you?” she repeated, daintily.
“Yes,” he said, taking a long, well-earned sigh. His eyes had begun to well with tears, though he was fighting to hide them. “I remember.”
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