theta - 🌌 dreams, lizards, and rapids 🌌
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"Once upon a time I, Chuang Tzu, dreamed I was a butterfly, a butterfly full of life, fluttering back and forth, feeling happy and perfectly at ease in this state. I was completely unaware of being Tzu. Suddenly I woke up and here I was myself again, the genuine Tzu. Then I realized I did not know whether I had formerly been ,aming I was a butterfly, or whether I was now a butterfly dreaming that I was Tzu. Yet, between Tzu and a butterfly, there has to be a difference. This is a case of what is called the Transformation of Things."
A breeze of cold air touches my face and I open my eyes. I am awake now, with the words of the great sage resonating inside my head. Why have I just remembered them so intensely while being asleep? It’s almost dark and I can see pale red shadows dancing above me on the low, rough ceiling of the cave.
I lift myself into a sitting position. Scratching noises are coming from the area in my front, hidden inside darkness. I turn my head and find a small fire burning at my right. An improvised spear and a stone ax lay on the floor at my left. Where am I? Where is the great cave with the luminous ceiling and the edible mushrooms? I feel totally lost for a few moments. Then, slowly, my memory comes back.
It must be the early morning of June 20, I got separated from my people during the fight that took place inside Gold City and I am following the river course all the way back to the sea on this roundabout route, with the plan to rejoin them. The entrance of my little cave is jammed with many pieces of wood tied with vines, preventing any unwanted intrusion. And from the other side, an unknown beast is trying to get in.
Still dizzy from my vivid dream (it felt like I lived in it for nine days), I take a burning branch in my hand and come closer to the entrance. Behind the trembling shadows of the primitive wooden grid, I can glimpse a large lizard-like animal scratching with the claws of its front paws at this improvised protecting barrier. A quick poke with my primitive spear through the empty spaces makes it retreat for now with an angry roar. The dawn is near and I hope to have a quiet morning, but I know the creature will come again after nightfall. Then I might not be so lucky with my shelter anymore, in case I chose to continue my trip.
I decide to spend all the morning resting and filling my log with details from the last few days. Am I awake now? Am I dreaming? Which one is the reality and which one is the dream? I feel like I had been living two parallel lives in two distinct realities. In each of these two realities I believed I was awake in the one I was experiencing at that moment while the other was supposed to be just a dream. Maybe I am in fact dreaming right now and my real life is manifesting in that deep maze of caverns?
No, this one, from this moment, must be the reality and the other one only a dream. I have been inside Gold City, I saw the forest filled with human cocoons, I ran away from the soldiers who were trying to capture and kill me, and now I am here, trekking along this river until I shall reach the sea.
Sitting on a boulder and watching the foamy flow I realize I might face a difficult problem: the canyon is too narrow to continue my trip along the river’s bank. Climbing the steep walls is beyond my powers, too. Also, there are not enough big pieces of wood here and I don’t have enough vines to make a decent raft and float on it farther away. I don’t see fish in the water anymore and I’m running out of food.
Even going back won’t help much, as I can’t use my knife to cut any of the trees I saw to make a decent raft. A stone ax would take a long time to do the job. In addition to this, I don’t remember seeing any thick branches fallen on the ground that might still be usable to keep me afloat in the water. And I can’t be sure that the soldiers from the city haven’t begun to pursue me on this side of the river. I certainly don’t want to bump into them.
Suddenly, an interesting idea comes to my mind: If I can catch the big lizard, I don’t have to worry anymore about being stalked and might get enough food for a week. I don’t expect it to taste delicious, but the meat is certainly edible. I could also use some of its skin and guts, combined with vines, to tie together many dry wood sticks and branches that litter the bank here. From these I could build a small raft and let the river carry me downstream.
I make several laces out of vines and set my snares at the entrance, with the intention to pull them through the wooden grid of my door and capture the front paws of the lizard when it tries to enter my cave again after nightfall. The ends of the vines from my side are tied to large pieces of wood that can’t be pulled through the door’s holes, so that once caught, the beast can’t run away. I also make my door sturdier than during the previous night. Now it is able to withstand without problems any hard push or pull. The rest of the day is spent fishing, but without success. Today I have to go to sleep hungry. At sunset, I enter my cave, close its door, lit the fire and wait. A few minutes later the fatigue overpowers me, my eyelids close and I fall asleep.
June 21 — I wake up hearing the already familiar scratching noise. I can’t tell how long I’ve slept, but it’s still dark outside. Carefully, I crawl towards the door’s grid. When I see a paw sticking out trying to dismember it, I pull the snare made of vine laces. The third try is successful. A powerful roar comes from the other side while the entrance grid is shaken heavily but manages to withstand the powerful pulls. I start hitting immediately with my spear through the empty spaces. Every time I pull it back, it’s covered in blood, while the angry roars of the big prey animal are becoming louder and louder.
The unequal fight continues for about half an hour. Then the roars diminish in intensity, transforming into moans and dying slowly out. Now, a silence broken only by the uniform melody of the flowing river surrounds me and my enemy, like a soft, woolen mantle. I’ve stung the beast over a hundred times and it has finally stopped moving.
Carefully, I open the improvised door and get out of the cave, holding the stone ax at my chest, ready to strike. The predator that was stalking me is a huge lizard, similar to a Komodo dragon from south-east Asia, almost three meters in length. Its body is covered in blood, punctured in many places by the stings from my improvised spear. The small eyes of the beast have a frozen, glassy gaze, while its powerful mouth is half open. It looks dead. I suppose only extreme hunger could push it to follow me with such insistence through this barren land.
I come closer, intending to cut its skin open, when, with a last spasm, the monster comes back to life, arches up its back and bites my left leg. My stone ax hits its head again and again until the skull is completely smashed and surrounded by a puddle of blood. Now the animal is definitely dead, but I am wounded and need to act quickly before the cuts in my flesh become infected. In this wilderness, such a bite can easily lead to death. I can’t take any chances.
Limping to the river bank, I do a first cleaning of my leg cut by immersing it inside the cold water, until the blood gushing slows down. Then I tear a sleeve of my mantle, make it wet, and keep it above the burning fire until it’s hot and steamy. I do the same thing with the wounded leg until I can’t bear the burning sensation anymore. This operation is meant to kill all the microbes and disinfect my wound through intense heat, the way I’ve seen the surgeon on our ship doing in similar situations. With the improvised sterile bandage tied over the bitten area soon after that, I can only pray and hope to be all right by tomorrow morning.
The rest of the day is spent separating the lizard’s edible parts from those intended to be used to tie my raft. I cut the skin from the tail in thin stripes. They almost look like a collection of leather belts and seem reasonably strong for tying together bunches of wooden sticks. By nightfall, I have finished building a small raft, too. It won’t help me stay dry riding the river flow, but should do a decent job in keeping my body afloat for the trip through the narrow gorge. However, it’s already too late to leave now, I have to wait until tomorrow.
Late evening — Today I had three delicious meals from the beast’s meat and there is enough food left for another five or six days. The bitten leg still hurts, but I feel better than I did in the morning. I have changed the bandage and still pray that the wound doesn’t become infected overnight. It’s still too early to make a prediction. The longest day of the year will end soon and I am going for a final night of sleep in this cave, but is June 21st the longest day here, in this realm with a different sun? I also find more than curious the fact that this world has a day length so close to ours.
June 22 — I wake up at sunrise, weak and dizzy. My wounded leg feels numb while lying down, but as soon as I try to stand up, thousands of knives seem to cut in pieces my shin and ankle. My head is burning and I understand quickly that my wound became infected and I’ve got a fever. There is no chance for me to survive in this state, in such an isolated place. I need warmth, sunrays and herbs to heal my bitten flesh. I can’t waste any time, I have to get out of this valley while I still have some strength left. In this desolate landscape, in this realm of loneliness, in this story, there is only one more character left for me to meet: Death.
In spite of my weakness, I push myself to stay active and work to untie all the vines still holding my cave door. Then I employ them for strengthening the structure of the small raft, with the door’s frame reused as a base for it. Sometimes I hear voices around me, but I know that they are only hallucinations produced by my fever. All my body is in pain, but any rest is going to generate a further delay of my departure. This could be fatal. I avoid putting my wounded leg on the ground as much as possible and use an improvised crutch to move around.
I start a final fire here and force myself to have a big breakfast from the remaining meat of the killed lizard, despite my lack of appetite. There is still enough food for almost a week. When I’m done, I put every useful thing in my vine basket. All my luggage is then tied carefully to the raft.
It is already noon when I’m finally ready to go. This tiny floating platform won’t keep me dry, but will be useful to protect my body from the stones and boulders that fill the river’s path when I am carried by the stream towards the sea. I jump in the water, riding my improvised craft as if it were a horse and letting the flow drive me through the narrow canyon.
As I sit on the heap of wood with a long stick as an improvised oar in my hands, I sink occasionally in the water down to my stomach while my small raft is balancing precariously on top of the furious stream. The waves feel very cold in the beginning, but I get used to them a few minutes later. I’m shaking from fever and can barely sit straight, my throat is very sore, my nose is runny and frequent bursts of coughing explode from my lungs, but I have to escape from this bare wilderness before it’s too late.
At first, the river speed is about three kilometers per hour, but triples thirty minutes or so later. I am carried by the flow faster and faster, sliding between two never ending vertical cliffs. Both sides of the canyon look imposing, rising to a height of about one hundred meters. The river width itself is no more than thirty meters now. Here and there, big boulders make the navigation difficult, but so far I can still avoid them in time by using the oar in my hands or my legs deeply immersed in water to adjust the direction of my tiny and fragile craft. And so I continue to slide at high speed, like shot from a giant sling, through this narrow gorge sunk in gray twilight.
When the sky above begins to darken, I know it must be late afternoon. I am already moving with a speed of about twelve kilometers per hour. Even the temperature of the water feels warmer and more comfortable now. Is it possible that some hot springs are mixing up their streams with the river flow in this area, like in the march where I hid from the soldiers for two days? My rough estimate is that I have already covered over thirty kilometers with my raft. I still hope to see the end of the canyon today and decide to continue my trip until the nightfall. My body is getting numb from cold, in spite of the warmer water, but I trust it can bear this harsh treatment for a little longer.
At dusk, the cliffs move away from each other and the canyon widens appreciably. Patches of grass, trees, and flowers are visible again on the dry land, marking the landscape on both sides with vivid spots of green, red, white, blue or yellow. With my last drops of energy, I turn the raft towards the left bank and step out of the water.
There is plenty of dry wood available here. I take my clothes off and squeeze out as much water as I can from them, then I make a big fire, trying to warm my cold and sick body. While the pleasant heat of the flames is caressing my skin, I let my gaze wander through my surroundings and see trees with orange-like fruits nearby. However, I need about one hour of rest until I can stand up again on my healthy leg and it’s already dark when I finally manage to cover the distance with the help of a stick and pick a few of them.
In spite of my weakness and lack of appetite, I force myself to eat some lizard meat and fresh fruits, then I wrap my wounded leg in the large leaves of the trees within my reach, hoping they might have some healing qualities. Surrounded by the warmth of the fire and with my partly dried clothes back on, I fall soon in a painful sleep under the emotionless gaze of the stars.
June 23 — The Sun’s rays wake me up early in the morning with an explosion of light and color. Their warmth feels pleasant and comforting, as if a soft hand caressing my sick body. I am still too weak to stand up. My fever is not gone yet, but my health seems to have improved overnight. I need more rest to recover my strength, so I go back to sleep.
When I open my eyes again, it is already afternoon and my fever has come back. I’m feeling worse. Much worse. Unable to write in my log, unable to move, unable to eat. My wounded leg is burning and my whole body feels like trying to split into thousands of small pieces. The pain is fierce. Lying on my right side, I do all I can not to think about it. Only an arm length away, a few black ants are passing by, moving around the blades of grass.
I guess this is the end. Looking back, I see an interesting and mostly joyful life, where I have learned many new things, met many good people, and succeeded in leaving behind a few small achievements that are going to be used by those who will come into this world with the next generations. I should not feel sorry to meet death now. Sooner or later we all have to leave this world and get ready to stand in front of the Supreme Judge when the time for the Great Judgment comes. I just hope that He will be merciful regarding my mistakes and will have pity of my sinful soul. I start praying and keep doing so until my body becomes numb and an absolute darkness covers my thoughts.
Excerpt from "Butterfly's Dream", a novel by Marian C. Ghilea;
photo by Marian C. Ghilea: #Flow
(c) Marian C. Ghilea, all rights reserved
12 sample chapters (pre-final draft) are available here: http://nivitx.blogspot.com/2017/08/final-proof-reading-novel-almost-done.html
#scifi #literature #amwriting #romance #adventure #books #writing #fantasy #novel #comingsoon #ya #chapter #prose #history #photography #exploration #lizard #river #journey #rapids
@ellowrites @ellowriting @gardenlovepoet @ellophotography @ello
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