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.