GUIDE



From Dr. Ehirllimbal's private journal—

April 21, 1954: The Ytucalis arrived this morning, timing their approach with the lifting of the fog, so that they could appear like apparitions spawned by the jungle mist. There are nine of them, eight warriors and the tall wraith of their shaman. I was surprised that he wasn't the Ytucalis who had been in my dreams—the old man with the tree tattoo.

The shaman examined Yellow Eye, and gave him a solution of pale powder and crushed leaves. "I certainly would like to know what that was," Dr. Arnash whispered to me as the shaman held Yellow Eye's head in his lap and crooned softly until the bigger man fell asleep.

The unspoken concern voiced by Dr. Arnash, and privately shared by myself, is what are we going to do in light of Mr. Benway's death? The ethnobiologist had been our pharmacognostic guide, as well as being Dr. Arnash's assistant in the matter of regional medicines. Not to mention the matter of the local psychotropics and entheogens used in religious ceremonies. The whole trip may be impossible without a proper guide.

At Mr. Harrington's suggestion, we are having a small party later tonight, partly to recognize the arrival of our guests, and partly to acknowledge the cessation of the rains.

Strange coincidence. But, then, the world has been full of them recently. It is almost like I am filled with iron, and I am slowly being drawn toward a magnetic core. There are other objects out there, other people who are being similarly influenced, and the collapse of all these influenced objects is making for proximal bleed-through. This is Jung's synchronicity.

The Ytucalis shaman visited me privately before our celebration. My tent is small and the presence of both of us made for very little room. Up close, I could smell a distinct floral scent about him. Much of the skin on his right hand was scar tissue —smooth and silky in texture. A cataract has started to fill his right eye; the way he looks at you with his head turned to the right isn't an affectation, it is so he can see around the blank spot in his field of vision.

He took a small vial out of a pouch he wore around his neck and, carefully unstopping the tiny vessel, offered it to me. Holding up fingers, he indicated I was to take three sips. It was an odorless liquid, oily in texture and taste, and it seemed to squirm down my throat of its own volition more than from a conscious swallowing on my part.

I started hallucinating after the second sip, and he had to help me with the third. At which point, I traded in conscious awareness of reality for a surreal dreaming lucidity.

My tent was no longer a canvas structure, but a maze of veils and drapery, and the jungle outside was completely alive. The vines writhed, the trees swayed, the leaves glittered and spun. The river, though out of sight, was a sighing, whispering chorus of undine voices. The sky flexed and bulged, as if swollen with water vapor—ripe and ready to burst at the barest touch of the mischievous wind.

Whatever the nature of this hallucinatory terrain, it wasn't localized to my consciousness. This oneiric landscape was shared and, shortly after I crossed over, he joined me. But he was no longer the tall man who had come to our camp; he was now the squat, barrel-chested elder with the tattoo of the tree.

The shaman's projection (a doppelganger, perhaps? though the term seems inappropriate, somewhat incomplete in its inference) led me across the teeming landscape of this shared dreamscape. He wanted to show me the only aspect of this environment that wasn't twitching with fecund life: Mr. Benway's corpse. We had buried him in the potter's field behind the mission. There were other skeletons, older corpses which had lost their flesh to maggots. The earth was slowly and resolutely grinding these bones, and I could see an accelerated geological shift around these pockets of bone, a vibration of the natural cycle at work. Mr. Benway, on the other hand, was frozen. Out of time and place.

The spirit shaman showed me how to reach through the translucent ground. He showed me how to pry open the dead man's mouth. He showed me the flower, caught in his teeth. When I dug the bulb out of Mr. Benway, he came back to life.

The Ytucalis shaman was gone when I woke up, and I am certain that he is no longer in our camp. I haven't checked yet, wanting instead to write these notes before they fade, but I know he has vanished, as surely as if he had never existed. Both the thin man—made of flesh and bone, just as I—and the oneiric projection that guided me on my entheogenic trip. But I can hear the music of the Ytucalis and the laughter of the men, and I think—I believe—I have not dreamed everything.

Clutched in my hand, when I woke, was a yellow and white flower. It has opened in the time it has taken me to make this entry, and I must count the petals again because I am not sure how this is possible. The flower has twenty-three petals, and I had thought such asymmetry was impossible.

I can ask Mr. Benway, but I do not think he will tell me. He is out there in the jungle, waiting for me with his jaguar mask. He will show me the way, but I do not think he will interpret or explain the things I will see.

There is a garden where the plant from which this blossom was picked grows. It was cultivated many generations ago, before Europeans even knew this land existed. This plant, this "blackleaf," only grows in this garden because, only there, is the soil ripe enough. And, only there, will its mystery unfold for me.



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