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.