Find Water

Don’t mind your head throbbing. Look for green. Watch for roots. Go downhill. Smell. Smell more. Walk towards it if it smells wet. Remember that your whole being wants water, needs water.

Dig. Dig deeper. Don’t be picky. If there’s mud, stick your face in it. Follow the bugs. Look for salt.

Ignore the sludge in your head and in your veins. Scrape out that clay and stick it in your mouth. Spit it out when you start gagging. Grab for more clay, and repeat, until your fingernails crack and bleed.

Forget everything that’s ever happened. Feel the sun baking you, turning you to leather, and find water.

Recall that you walk in the footsteps of your ancestors of millions of years. Feel the prehuman core of you, the mammal, the lizard, the one who has survived and will survive.

Don’t be afraid of the scorpions hissing around you. Grab a rock and smash them if you can. Separate the tail. Eat those little bastards. Pretend it’s lobster. Imagine a five star restaurant, and crush another one.

Cercophonius squama (Gervais, 1844), Wood Scorpion by Photographer: Rodney Start is licensed under CC-BY 4.0

Keep moving as your body starts to shake. Don’t fear as the sun is setting. Find rocks, find something to keep the wind out, to keep the wind from you, to become your hard shell. Tighten yourself into a ball and shut your eyes tight as the air around you gets colder and colder.

Take comfort, you have not been forgotten. Picture her face and how easy life was with her. Let the warmth spread around you. Sleep, or at least rest.

Wake with the sting of the reborn sun, and shake the bugs off. Grab that beetle and crunch it down. Take your shirt off and shake it out. Turn it inside out and put it back on, the filth faces your skin and protects you a little.

Look to the horizon. Move toward that shimmering image. Hear her voice, soothing, stirring. Don’t doubt it as a mirage. Consider it as motivation. Movement is life, motion is life.

Find the dew on the rocks, the condensation, and cup it into your hands, lick it, slake your thirst, every drop. Take your filthy socks and soak them with the wet, and then stuff them in your pockets as canteens. Picture every drop as ambrosia, golden nectar of the gods gliding down your throat, giving you life and strength.

Feel the life returning to you. Walk with greater purpose. Hear the thrum of the helicopter, wave your arms and shout from your now moist throat.

Fall to your hands and knees as the helicopter lands. Weep from exhausted tear ducts as they cover you with a blanket. Try not to gulp the water as it’s drizzled into your cracked lips. Give your thanks to them, for finding you, for not forgetting you, as they tell you to rest. Shut your eyes and let yourself be carried onto the helicopter. Feel the death lift from you as the helicopter rises above the desert. Pass into sleep, and feel your life returning to you.

Photo by Emiliano Arano on Pexels.com

Reluctant Eye

This life keeps passing, the events unfold, day after day, week after week, all the same. The children get older, the tiny gods of our religion. The faces in the mirror get subtly more lined with each year. Doubts creep in, anxieties, “is this all there is?” 

There was a point to all this, once upon a time. There was a belief that a life was a success, a failure, or mediocre, and the habits practiced would yield uncommon results. Yet, that’s not how it feels. It feels endless, futile, a re-enactment of a drama from another time. 

“Daddy? What’s wrong?” she asks. A head shake, a pat on her head. “Nothing, sweetheart, it’s nothing.” 

These are the same thoughts and feelings that millions have had before; this is cold comfort, of course. A burst of inspiration, a parting of the clouds, a transformation could change everything, but it doesn’t. Mundanity chokes the miraculous. Nothing disproves the assumptions of despair and nihilism. 

She takes my hand and holds it. 

Into the Abyss

Lost in the woods on

My morning jog, I found my

Way and returned home.

But everything had

Changed. My cherished wife was now

My foe, having been

Instructed on the great

Litany of my wrongs by

Some unknown scribe. She

Viewed me askance, and

All my efforts to engage

Were thwarted. Broken,

Dissolute, the streets

I wandered until

The beat of some infernal

Drum summoned me to

March, in a crowd of

Damned like me. We followed the

Rhythm, to our doom.

Rats

I dreamed I was a student or teacher, and had a bucket of rats that were tame and very good pets, as good or better than dogs. They had various patterns to their coats, more like hamsters.

I passed them around to the class, who petted them. I talked about the book “Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh.”

I remember we had several hamsters when I was growing up. When I was 13, for my science fair, my dad bought thirty white Sprague-Dawley rats for me to keep in the bathroom, to do an experiment about whether their learning would transfer from one maze to another, versus just the specific maze experience.

I was supposed to pet all the rats every day so that the experiment wasn’t confounded by anxiety towards humans.

I didn’t have much experience raising rodents. In their aquarium cage, they knocked over the water dish. Some of the rats got dehydrated, probably died, and were cannibalized by their fellows. I found bones and a tail.

I was horrified. Did I tell my Dad? I don’t remember. But I avoided them. My Dad got mad at me for not socializing them enough, but it was traumatizing.

I got a “Superior” ribbon for the science fair, but wasn’t selected for the State finals.

The dream probably springs from an insight I had yesterday, that I needed to be a super scientist to make up for my failings as a kid to my Dad. I’m a physician repeating my final year of residency, studying for my boards, which I’ve failed twice already. I’ve been pretty depressed for a few years now, and the dynamic with my Dad weighs on me, though he’s pretty supportive now.

The dream was probably some wish fulfillment, about how, since I didn’t socialize the rats, the experiment failed, so now I was making sure all the dream rats were socialized.

Vultures

The vultures are eyeing me, staring me down. They look hungry, ready to rend me limb from limb. I have to keep moving.

I can smell the stench of carrion around me. I cough, I gag, I continue to crawl.

One lands in front of me, and screeches in my face; I reach out to shoo it away, try and scare it off with my last, fading breath. I pick up a branch near me and swat at the bird. It flies away.

I keep one foot in front of the next, lurching onward. The sun beats down upon me, and I swallow, my throat parched, feeling like a single sheet of tissue.

How did I end up like this? Where had I gone wrong? My head spins; I feel like I’ve been walking for my entire life. Fatigue tears at my shoulders, pulling me down. I can’t stop, I have to remember who I am and what I’m trying to do.

I feel the rush of feathers on my back as the vulture comes at my back; I whirl around and smack him with my open hand, and he flies off. Only then do I feel where his beak tore my back, the new hole in my shoulder. The pain staggers me when it comes. I keep moving, and hold the bloody wound closed.

Sweat closes my eyes. I swipe them free with my bloodied hand, and smear my face with blood. God, what’s happened to me?

If I can reach shelter, I can keep the birds away, so they won’t tear my flesh further. I need water, there has to be water here in this desert, somewhere.

Ahead, over the rise, something dark breaks the yellow sand. Rock? There could be moisture on one of its sides, there could be some kind of vegetation.

The vultures flit before me, shading my burned face in alternating moments. I hear them screaming, circling faster and faster.

I kneel at the rock, which is dry and hot to the touch. I snatch at the sharp edges, trying to pull it out, cursing, stomping on it with what’s left of my boot. Finally a sharp shard breaks free, and I stand, with what might be the last of my strength.

The vulture screeches toward me flying faster. I strike out as it gets closer.

I crush its stupid fucking head.

Jonah and Cthulhu

Jonah is a story in the Bible that’s taught frequently in Sunday School. It’s very accessible to kids, because the imagery is concrete. Jonah doesn’t obey God, gets thrown in the ocean, swallowed by a whale, and then obeys God. It’s about doing the right thing even when you don’t want to, and taking your punishment when it’s dished out. For kids, it’s like a lecture from their parents.

There’s more to this story. Think about the Cthulhu mythos of HP Lovecraft. Then, look at the story again. A storm rages in the sea, and a lone boat rocks among the waves. The sailors are begging and pleading with their gods, for someone, something to calm the storm. Finally, they find a stranger, and ask if his god could do anything for them. He says that his god demands a sacrifice. They sacrifice him to the sea.

Three days later, the man comes out of the water, stinking of fish and rot, like a demon from hell. He walks into the King’s court, and demands that they kneel to his god. Everyone expects the king to have him executed. The king bows down, sits in a pile of ashes. He commands no one will eat or drink in his kingdom. The people and the kingdom survives.

It’s a dark, murky tale of brutality and death, a warlike, destroyer god waiting in the wings to wreak havoc. But the message that god sends isn’t, “you will die,” but, “I don’t want you to die.” Jonah is one of the first narratives in the Old Testament to mark the transition from a tribal, nationalist mindset, where each country has their own god, to a religion shared by multiple cultures and nations. It’s a move away from the genocidal mindset in which countries had to be slaughtered by the Hebrews by God’s command. Jonah went through his death and rebirth so that the people of Nineveh could be saved.

“Oannes, in Mesopotamian mythology, an amphibious being who taught mankind wisdom. Oannes, as described by the Babylonian priest Berosus, had the form of a fish but with the head of a man under his fish’s head and under his fish’s tail the feet of a man. In the daytime he came up to the seashore of the Persian Gulf and instructed mankind in writing, the arts, and the sciences. Oannes was probably the emissary of Ea, god of the freshwater deep and of wisdom.” (Encylopedia Britannica)

To me, the story of Jonah and Oannes are very similar. It speaks of a time when people were instructed by an individual who came from the sea in a time of crisis and helped them survive. Jesus references Jonah, and says that he will also die for three days and then return.

Mark Booth, in the Secret History of the World, explains that narratives in scripture and mythology are often depicted with anatomically modern humans. This process distorts the original meaning of the texts, which are symbolic narratives about the history of humanity as a species. Humans and hominids were originally semi-aquatic, and before that were aquatic.

Aquatic Ape Theory | The Aquatic Ape