I woke up naked and bloody in a warm, white blankness.
Coughing up handfuls of yellow and green mucus, although I didn’t feel sick at all. In fact, my muscles were permanently unknotted, and my skin was wrapped in warm, invisible towels. It was beyond great, even perfect, and so I jumped to the conclusion that I was now captive in The White.
Then came the screams from my slack jaw, like fire engines stuck in traffic. The last place I wanted to end up was as fodder for the all-voracious “Heaven”, dreaming forever while my soul was sucked dry.
After seconds? Minutes? Days? I’m not sure how long I wailed and gnashed my teeth, but eventually it got old once I started to vomit. It was clear, almost like plastic, and it started to flow across my face, down my torso, and around my limbs, wiping away the blood and bile, replacing it with a hyperreal shine. A new skin to cover the old.
I tried remembering anything…. it took a while to swim past some proto-grammar of grunts and clicks, but eventually I was able to think again in English, with occasional bouts of Japanese and German. I’ve never spoken either language, but then I recalled my etching, that hummed against my plastic covering. I felt it reach out into the void and bring back more knowledge and awareness than I ever imagined.
There I was in my apartment, waiting for my Final Door.
There Cassandra was, spinning the steering wheel in my head, making me run through BART tunnels, and limp up hills in the damp darkness.
I’ve pledged myself to her, but I don’t know if I forgive her for that – riding me like a bicycle as my consciousness was reduced to a pinprick. Her thoughts were heavy and remote, and completely indifferent to anyone in the way of her goal.
There was a man in a light blue Prius, who turned in front of the taxi she hijacked. We were going to collide, until she froze the electric motor and his fleshy brain. She had a temporary twinge of regret, so she freed his 7 Chakras long distance before he slumped down into the passenger seat, bleeding out of his ears, nose and mouth on top of the latest East Bay Express, while the taxi swerved into the inside lane.
Eight other people died while I was chauffeured to the Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve. Cassandra killed them like they were less than bacteria, like nothing in the Universe mattered except getting me into the Structure, at all costs.
I can’t possibly be worth that much.
I tried to convince myself of that, in endless mental loops of guilt and confusion, until I started to hear something. Something from beyond the whiteness.
It was just a whisper, but it reminded me of a punk song, muffled by orange earplugs as big as strawberries.
I wasn’t imagining it, but I couldn’t believe it. “Fucked in fuck holes. Sucked by suck hoes.”
It was Tom from Flexidick, whining and wheezing as the barely tuned guitars attacked. Forget The White – was this Hell after all?
When I got out of Thomason, I used to adore Flexidick, because all of their songs were excessively stupid, angry, loud and short. But I quickly grew out of their spell, especially after I tracked Jenny down to Fairview. Then I was all Intruder Alert! and Slow Cone, and all of the bands that followed.
I wish I had earplugs now. It sounded like Flexidick were playing on a long platform, pulled by a semi truck that was speeding towards me from all directions.
My hands were over my ears, and I desperately searched my OS for a sensory off switch, until the white fog snapped away like darkness meeting a lightbulb.
I was naked, lying on a graffiti saturated cement floor, as a crusty punk with black leather pants, and a studded and torn black leather jacket, stood a few feet to my left. His Doc Martens smelled like death, and he put down a huge, silver boombox, with dual tape decks.
The ceiling lights were up, so I could barely see his face. His hair was black and unevenly shaved, like a half-done lawn. He was clearly street etched, with shaky circuitry flowing from his forehead down to his tight neck.
Over to the right, past other legs in shadow, I could barely see some bowling pins, stuck randomly yet artistically to a metal coat rack.
That’s when it hit me. It was Phone’s sculpture of God, the one that sat over by the merch tables at the Treehouse.
The Flexidick fan was initially oblivious to my presence on the floor, but as I attempted to crawl away, my stomach covered with cigarette ashes and butts, he suddenly looked down and scrambled to grab for my ankles.
“What the fuck are you doing down there? We don’t tolerate pervy freaks around here.”
I was too out of it to fight back. I just wanted the music to stop, for stupid Tom to stop screaming at me.
Mr. Flexidick pulled me back to where I first appeared, and flipped me over by the shoulder with the bottom of his sticky boot.
I wasn’t afraid. I was just tired, resigned to the fact that my special Final Door has opened up to an impending shit kicking.
He reached in the left pocket of his jacket, and pulled out what looked like one of those metal claws gardeners use.
I hadn’t prayed in a long time, but I prayed then. I instinctively reached out for Sarah, but instead I found a silent, strong flame. Then I watched as the bowling pin sculpture of God ran across the room and tackled the punk to the floor with hard, white arms.
The hands and feet and head were all made of the wider end of the Brunswick pins, the hard, white, maple kind that can’t help but make nasty bruises.
I didn’t question it, not one bit. Instead, I just continued to crawl as far away as I could from the fight, until the whiteness came back, and the music decreased to a slight breeze, before suddenly stopping.
After what seemed like forever, Bowling Pin God walked up to me in the whiteness, and helped me to my feet with what felt like hands, and not plasticized wood.
“I’m sorry about that. I couldn’t find you in time before you got caught up some wandering punk’s Personal Pocket Reality. Another one down, still over five million to go.”
As soon as I stood up under my own power, the whiteness floated away like fog, leaving a young man steadying my shoulders.
He didn’t have to introduce himself. How could I forget when SAR.AI snatched him away from the last Suspender concert ever, leaving Emily behind bloody and broken on the floor.
“I’m Joey Koehler. I have a number of other names, but you’ll figure that all out soon enough.” He slid his hands down my arms, and over my chest. “Looks like the barrier is holding. It’s so rare that the Structure gets live people as visitors, and it would be a real mess if even a stray bacterium or virus escaped.”
He wasn’t wearing anything, either. His chin, neck and arms had dark tribal tattoos on them. His dark hair was long, down past his shoulders, and he also had a full beard.
“We have to start down the hill now, so we can get to the tribe before nightfall. Follow me – carefully.”
It was at that moment that I was able to focus on anything more than an arm’s length in front of me. We were standing on top of a hill covered with grasses, flowers and oaks. The sky was a deep blue, blanketed by dark clouds. Looking closer still, the clouds were made up of tens of thousands of birds – ducks and shore birds in numbers I could not comprehend.
Looking down the hills, I could see the San Francisco Bay, but it was much larger than usual, with wide stretches of marsh land instead of freeways and housing. In fact, I couldn’t see one building or bridge, and no cars twinkling in the distance. There was just a wide expanse of redwoods and other trees I was embarrassed about not being able to identify without help.
“Cassandra is counting on you not to freak out.” He pointed out a trail in the meadow as we walked towards the Bay, a number of miles in the distance. “You have a lot to learn, and a long way to go before we make it to Mount Shasta.”
He wasn’t kidding. It’s been 4 weeks since I arrived in the Structure, but that might as well be 4 millennia.
I’ve decided to take some time to post to this blog from the “great beyond”, and let you know what I’ve learned. It’s going to take a few weeks to explain everything, and by then our forces will be ready to take on Jenny’s stronghold at Telos, the spiritual city associated with Mount Shasta.
“The adepts can’t hold Jenny back much longer, but agents of S.OS are already activating all throughout the Structure. Everyone who ever had their 7 Chakras cleared, every last one of the Five Million sown by the harvest at Fairview…” He looked up at the horizon, over by where the Golden Gate Bridge used to be, and there was a inky black fog rolling in.
It was rushing across the water like a dark mud slide, undulating and pulsing as tendrils the size of absent skyscrapers pulled it forward.
“We don’t have time for you to learn how to live beyond life. Jump on and hold tight.”
With that, he shifted and grew into a huge wolf, the size of an ox.
No, he was a Coyote. Creator of mankind after the flood.
I didn’t have time to appreciate what happened. I just used his long, warm hair to pull myself up, right before he rushed down the hill – the same route that Cassandra forced me to take, only this time with grassy hills covered with squirrels and lizards, instead of Zodiac-named streets leading to million-dollar houses.
The darkness was now lapping at the trees on the Emeryville shoreline, leaving broken shells, splinters and seal skeletons in its wake.
He leapt up into the tallest trees, and jumped from treetop to cliff edge, only to follow a wide creek down towards the intruding gloom.
It was only a few minutes before we reached what looked like the Claremont district, only instead of a stately hotel there was a small village made out of woven reeds and wood frames. Three generations of Native American women wearing little more than skirts stopped pounding acorns into meal, and ran inside in sheer terror as Coyote tossed me off his back like a itchy bird.
“I’m leaving you here. Let the shaman take care of you, and I’ll come back when the time is right.” He looked at me with a twinkle in his eye, and a fish eating grin, as he ran out of the village.
It was too much. The invisible warm towels had been replaced by mud and hungry lice.
A small boy peeked out from behind a blackberry bush, and slowly walked over to me. He was carrying a brown rabbit, clearly something that he caught earlier today, since its wounds were still fresh.
He put it near my head, and then carefully walked backwards before running into a hut.
A gift? All I wanted was a handful of water, and just to be left alone. To open my eyes again to a world I understood.
“Get up. Get up.” A voice in my head, a woman with a slight Southern drawl. “Coyote has rescued you from the very worst dream possible. Stand on your own two feet to thank him properly.”
A woman walked out of a hut, wearing a grass skirt and beaded necklaces, followed by the same boy who left the rabbit. She was fairly tall, and blond, and had an elaborate tribal tattoo snaking up her right arm. She motioned for me to rise, and I did, hiding my junk with my hands.
“What are we going to do with you, Brother Douglas? How to make a warrior out of a grown boy that never learned how to fight?”
She was etched from head to toe, and I could see Sasha’s marks of ownership all over her face. Sasha made her, in more ways than one. Texie – her daughter.
“Relax.” Reached out her hand to me, forcing me to further expose myself thanks to politeness. “You’re among friends here. Now pick up your dinner and follow me back inside – we’re already behind schedule.”
The young boy smiled and danced between us, leading the way through the first door of my new life.