Sunday, December 30, 2012
Tut, Coxli and Decker had all awakened famished, so they headed for the cafeteria. Decker thought Cletus into a light coma; he didn't need to be part of the morning's discussion. "Okay, so this is really bugging me," Decker spewed crumbs as he munched a breakfast sandwich remarkably similar to those he'd gotten at drive-up windows in a different life. "This whole thing," he waved his sandwich around to indicate the parameters of the "whole thing", "all of it... was coming apart at the seams last time I was here. All the, um, realities were swapping bits like a cosmic flea market, or a Roman orgy, or something. But it's all back in shape now. I just have to think myself to a place, and there it is. I can even populate the place with people, though they seem a little two-dimensional. Coxli can do it, too. But I left Lizzie, that agent of the whatever-blah-blah- ministry-of-doom spy service, in an abandoned beachfront hotel up on Cradsell 4. She can't do it. And I can't 'think' her away, or bring her anywhere... does that make her 'real'? I can't make you or Coxli disappear, either, and I tried to bring Aida once, with no success... by the way, where is Aida?" "Aida resides, er, temporarily, with Gudren, her adoptive mother," Tut replied. "As to the seeming paradox of our current situation, I can only hypothesize. I have attempted to visit a number of loci in your absence, and can only seem to engage with those that you have seen. This leads me to believe that you are somehow the key to what remains of the temporo-spatial web. It is possible, I suppose, that the temporal matrices you have interacted with remain integral because you hold an image of them in your mind. It also occurs to me that the synthesis of your 3 personalities may be the source of power that allows such a feat. I recall reading of some studies involving the melding of personalities... the available intellectual energies multiplied exponentially with each added psyche." "Yeah, hmmm... I do still have the Degren memories, not sure about the Furge ones..." "Additionally," Tut continued, "it seems that the juxtaposition of simultaneous ingestion of certain cactus alkaloids may have been instrumental in breaching timespace and melding your personalities. It also occurs to me that it was Furge, not Degren, with whom your psychedelic experience synchronized... one wonders why the conscious aspects of Degren manifested so much more overtly...as you say, Decker, 'hmmm'..." "Wait... ummm... so Degren plays front and center in my mind, but I think I read somewhere that the subconscious mind is like ten times as big as the conscious one... could that be where Furge is hiding out?" "I have been cogitating on this very notion, with the aid of some controlled doses of river water," Tut said. "It is my further speculation, having had little in the way of revelation from these, er 'journeys', that we will have to procure some of the substance that you and Furge ingested. With that, we might find the area of your subconscious minds that produced these conditions." "Where are we going to get peyote? I bought it from a friend of a friend out in the Scottsdale suburbs, so we're not likely to score any more that way!" "I have been perusing literature of that regard. In your reality sphere, we would need to travel to southern Texas to locate it in its natural habitat. It can be found a little closer to the portal in Degren's timespace locus, though it is a much rarer plant there." "So if we still want to try to change things back to the way they were, we have to go on a camping trip to southern Texas, and then another peyote trip?" "It is my working hypothesis that there's no likely mode to undo the course of events that brought us to this eventuality. However, given a more thorough exploration and evaluation of the phenomenon, we might be able to make more prudent alterations." "So why don't I just imagine us up some 'yote buttons, right here and now?" "They would probably only have the effect that the river water does. It would be unlikely that anything generated consciously is going to manifest unconsciously. We'll have to go to where your subconscious has been at work, in your deep memory of your home world. Or, as many philosophers and scientists have speculated, in reality." "So we'd probably have better luck in Texas?" "Debatable. The rarity of the alkaloid-producing fauna in Furge's subconscious may balance out the likelihood of your conscious mind adulterating the reality of your home existence. I'd venture to speculate that pursuing the possibilities in Furge's world, where much more of the memory is subconscious, has a slightly higher probability of producing efficacious results". "Well... I guess I'm not as disappointed as I should be about losing my, um, reality... but I am still curious. It ain't every tripper that gets to be a freakin' superhero, right? Might as well take responsibility for my powers. Don Juan, here I come!"
Sunday, December 16, 2012
Coxli began swaying in unison with the light poles, which were throwing strobe effects and laser images on the river's surface. He started speaking in rhythmic alliteration, pumping out nonsense verse like a streetcorner hip-hop poet. Some part of Decker's mind activated in the lizard's rhythm; he sent a mental signal into the near-comatose mind of Cletus, who immediately arose and began beat-box-ing along with Coxli's rap. Decker found himself interjecting the occasional "Uh-huh" and "Yeeayuh" in time with the groove, shimmy-ing and shaking in his best white-boy approximation of a Harlem "break"; though his mojo was a little off, the physical prowess of the Degren body added some athletic aspects that the average streetcorner breakdancer might well envy. The rap took a turn for the "follow the yellow brick road" dynamic; the wildly tripping hip-hop trio serpentine-d along the stone boardwalk toward the double doors where Decker had first encountered Tut. They had only gone a little ways when a whole other level of colored light saturation appeared, just ahead and to the right. Decker felt a tingle of familiarity; he was in a very similar condition the last time he'd approached this slight bend in the boardwalk. Strange ideas shot across his mind like tadpoles in a mud puddle. Tut couldn't be here... could he? But Lizzie had showed up at Cradsell 4... and where was she now? If Coxli and he had generated those places, from thir memories, did they remain when they left? "Bug shit, shit biscuits, and head-shit-osis," he muttered in time to Coxli's unflagging epic of rhythmic blather. The doors were just as he remembered them, with one minor exception; along with the crazed lightshow streaming through the wriggly windows and around the gaps came the thunder of a full-on rave. There were no fashionistas, no strutting, pomaded chicken-walkers in or around the door's vestibule, but the noise from inside seemed to indicate their presence somewhere. The doorbell, which was no longer red but a swirling psychedelic pattern like some of those old 2x3 posters the hippies in his neighborhood used to have, was now ensconced in a giant peace sign. Before Decker could get his finger to it, the breathy doors whined open. Decked out in buckskin fringe and a leather drovers hat, bell bottoms with vivid wedges of fabric sewn in from knee to ankle, and multicolored prayer beads around his scaly neck, Tut stood before them, twirling an opaline turtle totem on a rawhide thong. "By the rippled lenses of Copernicus, if it isn't Deckren!" "Er... it's Decker, again... hiya Tut." the river's effects were just starting to mitigate, but Tut remained somewhere beyond Technicolor; the lenses of his glasses kept doing the back-of-the-comicbook hypnotic swirl and the flat of his shell was a dizzying altercation of Hawaiian shirt prints. The giant turtle seemed to be in a somewhat altered state himself; he was muttering what sounded like scientific equations mixed with Tantric chants. There was a beatific air about him that contrasted starkly with the Tut Decker had come to know. "Covalent solution oṃ āḥ dhīḥ hūṃ svā hā interrupted hyperbola oṃ a ra pa ca na dhīḥ... ah, Decker, what a copacetic karmic wonderment... begging your pardon, allow me to finish my hypothesis... oṃ sa rva bu ddha jñā na aṃ svā hā ectoplasmic interplay oṃ sarva buddha jñāna aṃ svāhā ongoing parabolic depth chart..." He wandered out through the double doors and slipped into the river, taking a great gulp of the water as he submerged. The still somewhat begoggled trio stood on the smooth stone, volcanic rumblings of laughter surging up in them simultaneously. A cool breeze of panic swept across the back of Decker's neck, and his belly hurt from laughing so much already; was this insane trip going to go on forever? Well, couldn't be any more ridiculous than serving breakfast specials to disgruntled, sun-crisped permanent tourist septuagenarians for the rest of his life... he succumbed to the laughter. They staggered back against the cliff wall and tried not to look at each other until the trip and the laughter subsided. "Well, we're going to be waiting a while for Tut, if we decide to wait," Decker finally managed to utter, "What do you guys think?" "I wonder if Aida is here," Coxli asked. "I've been chafing at having nothing but er, human company for so long now... it's going to be great to chat with Tut, but even a duck would be a nice change..." "Yeah, and last time I was here, with Degren, they had some righteous chow... and I've got a powerful hunger right about now." "Ayup, a nice pot'a beans, or sum sech vittles, would suit me good, too," Cletus chimed in. "I can try to find their apartment," Decker said, "assuming it's still where it was, and she's there." "Better'n doin' nuthin', I figger," Cletus said, and Coxli nodded in agreement. After a few wrong turns and a bit of step retracing, Decker led them to the bright purple French doors of Tut and Aida's flat. Decker banged on the frame, then the glass, to no effect. "Hm. Nobody home." Decker scratched his head. "Wonder if Tut locks the place, or if he'd mind that we went in and fixed ourselves a little snack." He turned the knob and the door swung inward. "Gents, do we dare?" There were nods from his two companions, so he headed for the kitchen. They had managed to clean out Tut's larder pretty well by the time he returned. He dug around in various shelves and pantries, finally locating enough foil-wrapped bars to satisfy his also-excessive appetite. Seated at the big dining table, Decker thought they looked like a troupe of down-on-their-luck street actors, late of a morning after a night's debauch. "Everybody could probably use some sleep before we try to figure out what's next, huh?" "Ahem, quite, indeed, my corpus colossum is perceptibly taut..." Tut's reply faded into a dull mutter, and he stood shakily, waving a flipper for them to follow. The living room was well-appointed in couches, so Cletus tumbled onto an overstuffed leather one, while Coxli leapt onto the top of an upright piano, dislodging ranks of knick-knacks from a deep patina of dust. A floral print Victorian sofa called to Decker and he staggered over to it, then did a weak Fosbury flop onto its cushions. Tut disappeared down the hall as Decker's eyelids banged shut like twin submarine hatches before an emergency dive.
Thursday, December 13, 2012
It was good whiskey. Decker rolled it around in his mouth for a minute, then let is slip down his throat, warming as it flowed. "Not too much of that stuff for me right now, man... I seem to recall some serious climbing down there." in the yellow glow of Cletus' kerosene lantern, with a couple swigs of whiskey well on their way to his belly, he felt fortified to head down the tunnel. "Thataway's plumb stove in, man," Cletus said, "I bin pokin' around down there fer a bit, and I cain't get through there, no way nohow... an' I'm a lot skinnier'n you." Decker closed his eyes for a minute, visualizing the path he and Degren had followed down to the river, as it had been. He imagined the metal drawbridge firmly re-attached, and the wooden platform reinforced and re-planked. He imagined the collapsed cave roof back in place, solidly shored... "You must be mistaken, partner," he replied airily, "that tunnel is in fine shape. Too much of that whiskey, I'd venture to guess." "Goldang it, Decker, I'uz jest down thar, an' it'uz busted in and blocked off so's yer lizard friend couldn'r snake his tail thoo the gap, much less his scaly noggin! Are yuh dad-blamed loco?" "Let's just take a little walk. Coxli, you wanna scout?" "Nothing could suit me better," Coxli replied, a nostalgic sigh escaping from his nostrils, "this cave reminds me so much of the family birth nest, I am almost hopeful to find some old nursery rhymes scratched into the walls..." he skittered down the tunnel and the two men ambled behind, scanning the walls in the lantern light. "Just ahaid is where she come down," Cletus said smugly, raising the lantern in anticipation, "down this'ere slope an' around a right-han' bend, she's plugged up good..." his triumph turned to disorientation as they rounded the curve, "...now wait a cotton-pickin' minute here, this cain't be the same tunnel... but there's my marks on the wall, whut thuh..." "Like I said, too much liquor, bub... scrambles the memory." Decker was enjoying the miner's confusion; he could hardly help laughing out loud. Coxli waited where the cave opened onto the river canyon. "Which way, boss?" "To the right, toward that gas lamp on the platform." Decker remembered to do mental repairs on all the lights along the staircase. "It's a long way down, partners. Maybe another round of that fine bourbon before we make the descent, Cletus?" "Ayup, ayup, suits me fine." He pulled out the bottle, took a long draught, and passed it to Decker, who opted for a spare mouthful. Decker offered it to Coxli, but the lizard declined. "Your, er, booze does not treat my species well. Makes us suicidal. Just the smell is enough to drive some of us to desperation. No, no, don't worry... I'm not one of those... enjoy yourselves." The stairs were much easier this time, Decker noted; last time he'd done this, he'd been unaccountably scared of heights, perhaps an infiltration of the Furge personality. And, of course, he had the Degren body now, so the physical stress was much less. Cletus didn't seem to have any trouble with it either, and Coxli bounded from step to railing like a pachinko ball dropping between pins. By the time they reached the bottom, though, Decker had worked up a pretty good thirst. He decided to try a little experiment; he imagined the water had lost its hallucinogenic properties, then dropped down, scooped up a mouthful and took a healthy swallow. "Er, Decker... that'ere mought not be yore keenest play..." Cletus shook his head, grinning wryly. "Yuh do ken that the water is kinda, um, funny down here, don'cha?" "I don't know why, but I think it might have changed since last time," Decker said, "but if you're not feeling thirsty enough to risk it, I understand." "Lucky for me, we lizards don't need much hydration," Coxli just leaned back, his tail propping him in leisurely fashion, "though those fishies look mighty tasty." "I do have a powerful parching of the throat, by criminey," Cletus said, eying the water longingly, "I spoze, I'll take me a swaller er two." They took a breather on a stone bench overlooking the slightly luminous water, the two men sipping whiskey and the lizard worrying away at one of the opalescent fish. "Not much farther to the place I met Tut now," Decker said. "Man, that was the weirdest, being all tripped out and seeing colors and shit..." Just the memory of it must have brought back a little of the psychedelia he'd felt before, he thought; things were seeming a little weird... "Oh, shit-whiskers on a shit-camel..." "Ah, hurk hyuk hee hee... Decker..." Cletus was making strange faces as he pointed randomly, "Decker, yore face... the water... huh huh..." "Nip nibble nixie num nerble nyah nyah knee," Coxli verified. "Gorgeous... just gorgeous," Decker said, to no one in particular as the sparse lights along the river warbled on their suddenly waving poles. "Guess the river is still the river, even if I made it." He didn't have the intellectual integrity right then to ponder why that might be; like his companions, he was hypnotized by the incrementally intensifying light show in the river and on the canyon walls.
Thursday, December 6, 2012
"Deckren! Deckren!" Coxli's face was so close to his that the closest scales blurred and condensation spattered his cheeks as the agitated lizard's hysterical diatribe evacuated his sinus cavities. "Damn, dude, destruction, damage, dipshit driver doing dumbass deeds!" Coxli hauled back for an adamant slap, but the cobwebs were clearing and reflexes facilitated a block, which sent stabbing pains up through his elbow and a vicious twinge behind his shoulderblade. "Decker. It's Decker now." There was a whole sea of memories swooshing back and forth inside his throbbing skull, both Degren's and his, but his old psyche came to the fore. "ust have been the accident and the time we've spent on this, um... hologram, or fabrication, or whatever, of my home planet, I dunno... but call me Decker. That Deckren thing was Tut's idea, and it seemed appropriate at the time, but it's goddamned clumsy-sounding to me now. There's Degren and there's Decker, and there's Furge, and who knows what other splinters jammed up my ass and into the back of my head, but I'll be goddamned if I'm gonna let this endless fucking peyote trip melt my personality any more than it already has." "Er... Decker." Coxli said it dubiously, running the back of his right index claw along the pale fur on Decker's forearm. "Decker, I smell something burning." "Double shit fuck with a shit-spray chaser, why didn't you say so?" "You had stuff to get off your chest" "Yeah, I still do; this goddamned German racing harness! Fucking squarehead Nazi bastards didn't need to truss me up just to drive... help me with this fucking buckle....OUCH I think my fucking wrist is broken... shit shitshit I smell the fire now, we're gonna die..." Coxli fumbled the harness clip free and Decker dropped headfirst to the roof of the car, which sent forked lighting tongues from the base of his skull to the back of his eyeballs, but he flopped to his belly and crawled out through the broken passenger window with the lizard's tail smacking him in the face twice before he was left in the dust. "Get as far away from the car as you can, FAST!" Deckren groaned to his feet and tried to sprint but his right calf seized in a wicked twinge; he hobbled as quickly as he could behind the nimble saurian, expecting any second to be blown off his feet as the SUV self-destructed. He was limping along thirty seconds later when he heard a muffled "whump"; he didn't dare turn around, kept limping along, but then he heard the sizzling of flaming plastic drips falling. He turned to see the upside down car blazing brightly but not explosively. "Fuck me green, can't even have a good climax scene in this stinking peyote script. Castenada, you are a fucking prick!" The shack was just as they'd left it; a pile of fruity-mastodon-splintered wreckage, cascading down the slope. "Let's see if we can find the entrance to the river. I seem to recall we ran that way." Decker gimped along as Coxli scurried in circles around him. Decker glanced nervously around, anticipating fluorescent pterodactyls to accost them at any second, but the skies remained clear. "It's just around that little cliff right there. Mind the snakes" "Snakes?" Coxli's crest cocked slightly to the left and his right inner eyelid fluttered up and down. "B-b-big ones?" "Um, never mind. Degren warned me about snakes when we first came in this cave, but there were none." "That doesn't mean there won't be any now. You go first." "Chickenshit." "Wait... I want to try something." Decker concentrated for a minute, then turned an ear toward the cave mouth. He was rewarded with the sound of muttered drawling from inside the hole. "Consarned sidewinders a'slithering and a'slidin' all over under a man's boots, like to tripped me right down a blind hole. Got my best knife all bloodied up now, too..." Decker's heart surged up into his chest. "Cletus!" He shouted, "You old tobacco-pilferer, you dirty skunk, you consarned figment of my imagination. come on out here where I can see you!" "Decker?" The miner's gritty voice rose a full octave. "Hell, pardner, I'ma coming right out!" A dusty tin cloth hat emerged from the crevice. "I'll be gum-swaddled, if it ain't really you!" He stuck a horny palm out enthusiastically and Decker grabbed it, then pulled the skinny figure to his chest. "Damn it's good to see you, you stinky bastard!" "Now you jest ease up on this ol' miner, I ain't none too fond'o yer grabbin' me like some saloon floozy, ya hear?" Cletus' expression belied his words, however; he actually threw one arm around Decker and thumped him vigorously and repeatedly on the back, driving sharp hatchets of pain through his shoulderblades and reminding him of the recent driving debacle. "well, this calls for a cel-uh-brayshun!" Cletus dragged a rather ornate bottle full of amber fluid out of the inside left pocket of his now-crusty drovers coat and yanked the cork out with his teeth. "Here yuh go, man, first swig's fer you... and don't be a goldurn sissy about it, nuther!"
Tuesday, December 4, 2012
"Wake up, sir, and get out of the car NOW. Hands where I can see them." Reflexive sheepishness brought Deckren's arms up, palms forward. He started reaching for the door handle in acquiescence, but then it occurred to him that this was likely a creation of his own mind; irritated with himself but not entirely unamused, he decided to have a little fun. Waving his left hand meekly as a distraction, he twisted the ignition key with his right; the throaty roar of a supercharged German V8 set the highway patrolman back on his heels. Deckren stomped the throttle and let out the clutch; the big car juddered briefly as all four wheels dug gravel, then it surged ahead in a satisfying, seat-denting fashion. He tugged the steering wheel left and the car serpentined momentarily as the supercharger moaned, then the semi-intelligent drive system found its groove. The flabbergasted officer hadn't even gotten his door closed before his quarry hit 80 miles per hour. By the time the police car's lights began flashing, Deckren and Coxli were hurtling along at 110. Rolling east on 260 out of Payson and into a blood-red dawn, Decker checked his rear views nervously for flashing lights; the chase had been more harrowing than he'd imagined it would be, and the number of official cars and roadblocks he'd had to avoid was a not-so-entertaining surprise. They'd had to swing in to Payson for a fill-up; for some odd reason, neither of them had been able to imagine a full tank of gas. They'd narrowly avoided getting boxed into town, had to do some highly irregular off-roading... for the moment, it seemed as though they were in the clear. Coxli's color was returning after having been pretty much leather-seat-colored for the past two and a half hours. Deckren was going to take no chances on being caught now; he circumvented 260 through Star Valley by creative use of side streets at the first opportunity, then blazed out to the little washed-out trail that ended at the desert shack he'd started his trip on. Accustomed now to driving at the ragged edge of control, he didn't think to slow down; blasting along over rocks and washouts, Coxli clinging to the seat, the window, the ceiling, steering wheel juddering in his exhaustion-numbed fingers, he didn't notice the narrow arroyo that had eaten away the right hand wheel track to a depth of half a leg. The hood dipped hard right, nearly tipping the careening SUV into a full-out roll; he heard something give in the suspension, fought the steering wheel until the car jerked hard right, went into a manic tap-dance, drifted sideways, right front wheel flopping like a spoke-stuttered playing card; his vision was rattled into interlocking, blurry fragments, and then the wheel turned under, throwing the driver's side over; they were tumbling, bouncing, flailing in a furious dust devil; Deckren was jerked painfully in the car's harness, airbags blasting, burning his skin, until an impending outcropping drove a giant fist into the nape of his neck; the universe exploded for an instant and flashed out into an oblivion of black. The walls were a muddle of Pueblo squash soup; the lone window was a wicked, crosshatched goat eye of blinding light that was trying to pry its way into his fevered, breathing skull. There were pastel yellow cacti seething up between the sun-scorched gray floor planks, blooming feather-headdress-ed cartoon Indians screaming football cheers in pidgin Chinese. Cross-legged on an old piss-stained futon pad, sweating profusely in the Arizona July afternoon, Decker Quall shook his head slowly; he feared if he applied vigorous force it would spin off his neck, gyroscope out the door and disappear down some dry arroyo. If it did, he'd follow it until it ran out of centrifugal force and collapse with it in the cool shadows at the bottom of the gorge. That was his plan for the moment; he'd think it through further when the peyote dream settled in to something a bit more cohesive. It seemed appropriate to commune with nature as he entered his altered state, but there weren't any caves nearby. He wasn't going to sit in the direct Arizona sun; he'd been out here for a couple years and had learned his lesson about that. Finally he gave up and dragged the futon near the 4-pane window, sucked down a bottle of water, and ate two of the little buttons. Hell, the old shack was almost a fixture of these dusty foothills by now, anyway. So there he was, watching the vapor trails of his fleeing sanity refract through that painfully bright glass. The walls were breathing, the floor was undulating and sprouting, and the sun was a giant burning marshmallow. Trickles of sweat were tiny lizards racing across his skin. The shit was real. Happy fucking day. There was a tingling on the back of his neck as he heard the wall behind him start to creak. Slowly, he scootched in a half-circle to see what the new development was. The wall was bowing inward, and the rough adobe plaster was starting to craze and flake. Each breath that the little house took cracked more of the mud off the splintering boards. “Go away!” Decker commanded, his heart a giant tympani echoing sloppily in his chest. “G'wan, leave me alone!” The back wall seemed to heed his words, and for an interminable period it synched up with the rest of the walls in a sinuous slur of breath. Decker breathed a sigh of relief. The last thing he needed right now was a visit from some angry desert god; these crazy tribes of the Southwest had hooked up with a strange sort of mojo and he wasn't ready to explain himself to an animated Castenada-esque cactus root. I mean, sure, he'd read the guy's books; why else would he be here? But he wasn't sure how that pantheon might treat a disgruntled, disheveled, disowned and displaced white boy from snow country. The sun freeze-framed its way across the window and down into the ragged rising mountains to the west. Shadows were starting to creep across Decker's hallucinatory indoor vegetation when the creaking and cracking of the back wall began again in earnest. Man, this was some really potent stuff! He'd figured on the high sort of planing out about now, settling in to cruise control, but it felt like the whole shack was lifting up out of its crevice! There was a rhythmic “WHUMP! WHUMP! WHUMP!” shaking the house, and the planks of the back wall were beginning to part inwards. Shards of desert-dry wood were spraying onto the futon, striking him in the legs and belly. He was frozen in place, with the wash of noise thundering, mixing with his careening heartbeat, when the wall finally burst inward, revealing a large, heavily-muscled man clutching what appeared to be about a thirty-pound maul in his gnarled fingers. His only garb was a crocheted loincloth; multicolored flowers tagged together with green yarn. Behind him was a near-mirror-image of the hut that Decker occupied, replete with a setting sun outside the window! “Nuer lueen spung quntas buj oonie!”, the sledge-swinging dude expostulated, staring intensely into Decker's eyes as he yanked splintered boards off dry-rotted studs. “Nuer dulung champa!” Heaving off the last board that blocked his passage, the large man shrugged through the narrow opening and grabbed for Decker's shoulder. Decker twitched away from the thrusting hand and rolled toward the door. A nagging sense of deja vu was clawing through the peyote lattice; where could he possibly experienced this before? his world flashed upside-down, then back to the ruptured shack; he felt strobes of pain as he imagined being suspended in a nylon web, then back to the fearsome furry dude... whiplash, psychedelia, shoulder aching, head throbbing, double vision, then staring at Degren... Degren! The peyote dream shattered and he was hanging upside down in an overturned car, battered, disoriented, aching, with a pale and nervous lizard skittering around the wreckage like a single kernel of popcorn, popping over and over again.