Apocalypse Más Tarde
Saiyam Uinicob, mountain spa of the gods, N-O-W divested of its radioactive burden, steamed and hummed happily. We gawped gratefully at the Daybringer and a tiny brand-new star glittering beside it. The crystal boulders that girdled the mountain gleamed in sunlight. The Screech Owl returned to its Daytime nap in La Cripta, where the M.D. had been hidden.
“The big Light is Venus, which you call the Daybringer. Might that little one beside it be a nova or new planet?” Humus sloshed toward us, hauling a trail of hyacinths attached to his back pocket and pointing at the sky. I told him I could still smell the Diamond dross, the litter left from its long traverse across the island. We couldn’t begin the New Era saddled with nuclear sediment.
“Toxins are everywhere,” he sighed. “They’re in the food, the water, the bark of trees and the roots of peonies. In our hair and the fibers of insect wings. On the pads of wolves’ paws and in seeds carried by migrating birds. Few people are Ecological Malodor Detectors like you, Ms. Quintal, and even fewer try. To clean the poisons is a profound challenge and to forego the temptations of mood and materialism that allow them into our environment will take an unprecedented, equitable effort on the part of humankind.”
“An effort humankind seems unwilling to make,” Carlos added.
“Oh no, Dr. Leggett, I wouldn’t be so pessimistic. We haven’t been taught. We’re brainwashed by progress and capitalists, who persuade us to worship technotopias, who try to convince us that greed is good. We’ve been discouraged from any effort except selfish, short-sighted ones.”
“Humus,” I said, “I’ll trace the remaining death-fetor, if you’ll find a means to clean it up and help us get back on our pre-pre-Colombian feet.”
He grinned. “Delighted, Ms. Quintal. There’s so much to learn. I believe applying my theory about the powers of Eichhornia crassipes might be an excellent starting point.” At that, a mating pair of hyacinths sneaked from his pants pocket and wriggled off to find a romantic spot under the volcano in the debris left by the Magenta Diamond. Just what I had in mind, too, but Carlos and I had Work to do. There is indeed a lot to learn and I’m only a neophyte Daykeeper.
I asked Chihuahua to join us.
“Call me Jorge,” he insisted.
“Jorge, you found your Second Heart when you risked your life to bring the True Flame of the Haab from the mountain. Your True Face is reflected in these water hyacinths. I glimpsed it first in the pool at Hotel Paraíso. To begin your Right Work, I suggest you become Dr. Nightsoil’s assistant and apprentice.”
So, Humus and Jorge Lopez-Schmidt, applying the biological data stored in Humus’ mighty brain, set about cleaning Quichemala until air, water and soil squeaked and shined without a vestige of the Magenta Diamond or any of the wannabe civilization introduced by the dictator and his corporate paymasters. Everywhere Humus and Jorge went, Chaos followed, so that new life emerged, and wherever there was life, there was awe and respect and almost no profit motive. But you know how it is: those annoying little windows of regularity keep popping up just when you’ve got a good Chaos cookin’.
Humus and Jorge kept meticulous records on Seeing Instruments for the benefit of future generations. At Baktuntenango, they discovered the pure, unadulterated, unhybridized, ancient seeds that Motherfather 7Moth had saved. They propagated the land. Food for everyone, including slugs and aphids and ants and weevils, as well as monkeys and macaws. All the so-called pests. We no longer require mango elixir, but mangos are magic nonetheless. The most pleasurable fruit Nature ever invented.
With the help of the Peace Furies – formerly the Eco-Fems, minus Guadalupe and LaVon – Humus eventually returned to Denver and I’ve heard he’s been wandering the Earth ever since on his quest to get rid of its ecocidal enemies. The Land of Thorns is still Decades behind us, but 2012 is coming soon, and Humus wants you norteños to be prepared.
His is the triumph of hope over experience. Hope, Humus believes, must triumph. Yet hope is merely pink pixie dust if Right Work, applied with the vigor of the Second Heart, doesn’t accompany it.
When Humus left Quichemala, Jorge became Guardian of Un-Agriculture.
The citizens of Quichemala, flora and fauna alike, vertebrate and in-, decided through a general election that, in order for Time to be on our side, we had to live in isolation. The harmless green fog, which Humus first noticed enfolding the island, makes us invisible to the outside world. We decided it must stay. It will be a permanent parenthesis to protect us from the physical and spiritual pesticides polluting Time and Space. I have my doubts about the wisdom of living insulated on an island. We might evolve ourselves out of existence under such restricted circumstances. We might experience a kind of punctuated equilibrium and become, say, flightless, like some birds and bats of New Zealand. I’ve wondered, too, about our responsibility to the planet. Indeed, we are missing a great deal, including the horrors of September 11, 2001, and the worse disasters that followed and continue. Linear Time and the dogmatic terrors that come with it hold the Land of Thorns captive. I wish I could help, but I’ve bowed to the majority of Quichemalans who want nothing more to do with the world. We consider this a worthy and powerful experiment in survival and symbiosis. Nevertheless, we fear for you out there in the Land of Thorns and we pray for you.
Our entire island is the Monarch of its Own Skin. One of the first requirements, the first Right Work, is to esnooze all Day, esamba all Night. Mamá would be appalled. We have become, as Tío Ramón advised, “gatherers of Paleolithic laziness, gentle as blood, painted as birds, poised on the wave of explicit presence, the clockless nowever.”
The people have determined that no one will ever again threaten their empowerment. N-O-W, we are one hundred percent Agents of Chaos. Civilization, we agree, is too often usurious and oppressive, a lousy idea when it denies the possibilities of magic. Elsewhere, societies are divided into a few veryvery wealthy and many veryvery poor and the poorest of these are the plants and animals who sacrifice their habitats daily.
In Quichemala, we’ve decided never to abandon anyone’s well being, sentient or not. No, it’s not exactly Camelot. How tootoo rosy and human-centered that would be. There’s the question of food. Cannibalism isn’t out of the question, it can’t be, but because we revere every living being, cannibalism itself has to be redefined.
My oh my oh, it is complex. What’s a Motherfather to do? You might not think the placid worm is a predator – unless you’re thin and green. Or the lilting goldfinch – as he cracks the skulls of endless infant flowers.
We voted to give Don Elegante the title of El Maricón, with LaVon as First Companion. There is no happier couple in Quichemala. El Maricón will organize the post-M.D. reconstruction and administer rebuilding, reforestation, education and election. He is more skilled at these tasks than he is at the supernatural. He is peculiar, but his characteristics are not. His revolving cabinet consists of representatives from nearly every species. And, of course, the hummingbirds are always there, buzzing in Elegante’s ear and feeding off his sugary pomade.
The cabinet decreed first and foremost that everyone – no exceptions – would be in charge of environmental protection. Their next act was to consecrate Motherfather 7Moth’s launch pad as a sacred site and commons. Euphrosne Flambé walked all around the island, rolling the shed skin of the Serpent of Time, like miles and miles of pink pantyhose, then coiling it into a tall obelisk, a monument to Ramón Quintal.
Needless to tell, Don Elegante grieved wildly when he realized Motherfather 7Moth was desaparecido. He gnawed his manicure so fiercely, he nearly wore his incisor skull to the gum. LaVon consoled him, while I reminded him that Tío Ramón had disappeared before and that this Time he’d promised to return in one form or another.
El Maricón may be just a tad jealous that I’m the successor Daykeeper. But I swore I’d rise to the occasion and I am learning. I still wear pink, but it’s hot and I don’t hide behind it. It illustrates my Second Heart and the person I hope to become.
I offered the jeweled cape of X-tabai to Euphrosne, to whom it rightly belonged.
“I don’t want it, girl,” she said. “Give it to Ellie.” She was right, of course. He loves it and wears it to every cabinet meeting. And though he was never to be a Daykeeper, and can never become X-tabai, any more than Xerox could, he is honored as a he-goddess, which is almost as good and which fulfilled Euphrosne’s prophecy that he would peacefully eclipse El Repelente in public leadership.
To most people lately, I have become Motherfather 10Snake, revered and respected. But to Princess Flambé, I’ll always be “girl.”
LaVon is training ballplayers for the next Haab. That one will be a bloodless game, but it’ll be thrilling to watch, and losers will still be winners, even as winners are winners, since there will be no score keeping, no competition.
Mamá left Quichemala just before the election. “Democracee. Eets a berry jello theeng to do,” she cooed proudly. No one could convince her that democracy is, in fact, a “peenk theeng,” which must vary with any culture that chooses to adopt it.
I hated to lose her. Both my hearts hurt when she left. But she had to return. Tía Angela was running the store alone and swatting twice her share of flies. What’s more, Mamá loves her adopted country. Me, I guess I’m a retrograde refugee: a returnee.
We communicate constantly, via orioles. Birdwatchers flock to Ohio for the out-of-season migrations to Quintal Dairy Queen and Green Grocery – where they fortify themselves with flan. They attribute these migrations to global warming. You can rightly blame a lot on climate change, but entres nous, these divagations of messenger orioles are not a symptom of it.
“Kip joor feets up,” Mamá advised me when she departed. Then she hugged Carlos. “Anabela – I min, Mamápapá 10eSnake – ees truly the esentinel of her-eself,” she told him, “But joo, beeg gato, take goo’ care of mi’ija and help her to act esmart.”
Then she tweaked Gordo’s tail feathers. “Joo godda be de ogliest pájaro I ever deed saw.”
“¡Chinga tu madre!” Gordo retorted.
“I had a dream inside a dream,” Euphrosne whispered when we awoke from our seven-Day sleep.
“Me, too, and part of it was that I dreamed you were dreaming. Was yours portentous, Princess?” I asked. This Time I was anxious for her advice.
“I saw a star careen to Earth and…oh, nevermind!” she sobbed. “The revolution’s over and N-O-W it’s all just re-evolution.”
Only an evening in the company of Jack Daniel’s – fortunately one of the few beverages the Russian racketeers hadn’t exterminated from the Hotel Paraíso bar – corked Euphrosne’s tears. We talked over old Times and with every shot, we released a loud prayer – “ahhh” – but my superseer, my bruja best friend kept any predictions and paranormal oracular pontificating to herself. I wondered what kind of escape she might be plotting this Time.
She would admit, of course, though not with her usual grandiloquence, that she’d augured my fate long ago when we were merely Wednesday Weekly Weepers. “Girl, I knew all along there was more to you than met the nose. I knew you would finally live out your potential. I was sure you’d put your peculiar characteristics to work and that, sooner or later, darling, you’d overcome the putrid prom pink that was colonizing your hot pink soul.”
I pretended not to care, but secretly I was tickled pink by Euphrosne’s approval.
Nevertheless, from the Moment of the Awakening at the Haab, Euphrosne could not be persuaded to forecast even so much as the weather. I am learning to do it myself. “It’s your Right Work, honey,” she assured me. “One of the Daykeeper duties, left to you by <sob> Ramón. Hell’s bells, girl, everyone’s psychic,” she said distractedly. “Most of us are just too scared to take a good look.”
Time passed. Euphrosne Flambé toiled hard. She planted trees where there had been oil wells, clear cuts and roads. She hammered and sowed and reaped and harvested. She kept Baktuntenango spic ‘n’ span, mopped the Pyramid, swept the shards of the Corporado’s effigy and tossed them into the sea, chanting curses and cleansing prayers. She polished the statue of Motherfather 4Rabbit and fertilized the village gardens with the Sacramental Leavings of pilgrims of all species at the Sacred Launch Pad of Motherfather 7Moth. She gathered leeches and herbs and mixed remedies in the laboratory distillery. But she never sang, rarely smiled and did not preach … much. Whenever she spied the tiny, brand-new star, she stopped whatever she was doing and wept. The Diositas of Seconds, Minutes, Hours, Days, Weeks and Months dragged their asses while Euphrosne waited for a Sign. The fortuneteller’s fortune.
Then one morning, the supply of nail polish and markers she’d brought to Quichemala clanked from her backpack onto the floor. Euphrosne picked them up and remembered the keys and codes she’d dreamed way back in Santa Fe. She painted the symbols carefully on her toenails, separated each little piggy with a Johnson & Johnson SuperSoft Puff left over from my pre-parenthetical olfactory daze. She refreshed the spiral on her palm and added a star.
Then she strolled into the selva, to the yaxche tree and disappeared into its sappy maw.
Oh dear, I miss her so much. I visit the tree every Day to chat and gossip. I can translate the tree’s sounds – one creak for “yes,” two for “no” – but a conversation that Euphrosne Flambé doesn’t dominate is somehow unsatisfying.
El Repelente, aka El Jaguar, aka Professor Carlos Leggett, crawls out of bed each morning, kisses me, greets the Daybringer with a whirl of his cane – from which he’s removed the derringer –and limps into the bat cave, where he communes ecstatically with images of Natous primus. He floats into Otherworlds along the high frequency corridors of bat calls, squeals and chatters. Occasionally, messages sift in from Motherfather 7Moth and Motherfather 4Rabbit.
While Carlos breakfasts, I determine which Weeks are auspicious, which Days require caution, round and round in concentric circles. We’ve named this fresh Fifty-Two-Year Era the Sun of Lepidoptera Jaguar. It is the first period of the Long-Count Calendar that began again on the Haab. It presents 18,980 Days, during which all possible interactive combinations can occur. Plus Thirteen tintinnabulating Leap Days! And they are all dedicated to Nature.
After siesta, Carlos lurches about the island, followed by the young of animals and humans alike. He has never stopped teaching, though he’s lost all interest in his former life as an anthropologist at Brainard University. All the clocks and thus all ambition have stopped.
He is fifty-two years old, no longer an academic or a guerrilla. He has found his Second Heart and True Face, and his Right Work is no less than the pursuit of bliss and dream. He traces the songlines, organizes music and poetry, which he translates to and from various animal languages. He maps the reveries and visions brought to him by Quichemaleños of every genus. The dreams create our history, a history not shaped by politicians, but sculpted from weightless unfoldings. Eternal news. Criminal visions. Pirate reveries. In the Land of Thorns, up North, it is said that to dream is dangerous. We say that the antidote, therefore, is to dream more.
At Night, after a liberal dose or two of aguardiente, accompanied by gulping prayers, Carlos metamorphoses into El Jaguar and stalks the Altar of the Lord of the Lily Jaguar, where he sketches the Day’s dreams with his claw into the surrounding soil. This way, he makes certain the Serpent of Time continues to sleep contentedly, biting its own tail, so that “once upon a Time” can coil on and on and Chaos can saturate anywhen and everywhen, with no deadly engagement with the past or future, no linear agenda. So that the universe will always be open- ended and we will always be in the present, flourishing in the glorious ( ) of N-O-W.
Chaos never died.