Eduardo J. Carletti
Before the Gut things werenīt good. After the Gut everything changed. Itīs not that they turned good afterwards, only different. The story of this thing, this entity everyone knows but nobody knows, is a story that may be very long if you want it to be so. Or very short. You can tell the whole of it just by saying: The Gut arrived and nothing was the same. Otherwise, as youīll see below...
(Warning: this is a superfluous chapter, a very short one you can skip right away to read the next one. Itīs only useful to know the reason why the Gut is called Godīs Gut. Itīs not very interesting and you wonīt make anything of it).
They were three; three. One was called Wind or Sand or the like. So they say.
Another one was called Goodbye or maybe something more complete, something like God Bye or Macumaitalipelehua. Heīs also said to have been called Quetal. Or Quilepi. The name may sound strange to you. It was Indian. Letīs say from another culture, a culture which is not here anymore, which is not here now, even though it used to own everything many years ago, everything you can find when you walk from here to any sea of your choice. Which culture? Itīs hard to say. He may have been Inca... a descendant survivor? of the Incas.
The third one didnīt have a name. Or perhaps he had a name of silence. He could also have been called Juan or Jesus, but nobody knows for sure. Time passed and injured and snatched clarity away; everything started to pile up like sand and got confusing, mixed up. Thatīs the way things are at the Gut, at Godīs Gut. Nothing is certain down there; everything is erratic. There is no Time or Space, not even Spacetime. Itīs all Gut. Or water.
It just flows.
But letīs look for a beginning. Yes, Iīve said a beginning, because things here at the Gut can have a beginning, they can even have that. I know Iīm confusing you, my friends, but please be patient... I said a beginning. A beginning.
This was it: There were three lost children. Perhaps they werenīt even lost, they were just playing. They came closer to this thing for the first time in history, or at least for the first time in recorded history. They came closer to it as they roamed or lost their way, or so itīs said, and they were very surprised. Yes, of course they were surprised. Silence is nothing compared to this thing; you can see it by yourselves, my little friends. Thereīs not much to say; it would rather be lived.
What? What did the children say?
I couldnīt tell, but the echo lingered in a bend and the Gut is still repeating it. Somewhere in time and space, somebody once said although, I insist, nobodyīs sure it was them: "Shit, itīs Godīs Gut!"
Thatīs what they said.
And thatīs how it has remained.
Itīs a dry clayey desert, terribly dry. So dry the water in a container goes up its walls and pours back into it. Itīs a strange phenomenon called "positive dryness" or "extreme dryness". Both versions of the name are correct and accepted. It only happens over there. Near the Thing.
The Thing has a name: itīs called The Gut. Or, more precisely, Godīs Gut. Itīs not as if someone distinctive had named it like that. The name was born from a legend and an echo. Which is also strange.
Some children did it. They are supposed to have. Three children. Lost or playing. Nobody knows for sure. Silence and noise and chance.
PRESENTER ONE: Itīs like a tube that inflates and narrows and widens and sometimes it looks... it looks... like itīs about to burst!
THE GUT: nnnn
PRESENTER ONE: Yes, and it even gives the impression that... It looks as if...
THE GUT: nnnn
PRESENTER TWO: Itīs incredible. I really canīt believe it. This thing...
PRESENTER ONE: Hey!
THE GUT: nnnn
PRESENTER ONE: Ohgod! Iīd say itīs already...
THE GUT: nnnn
THE GUT: nnnnn
THE GUT: nnnnnn
PRESENTER TWO: Letīs get out of here!
THE GUT: (etcetera, etcetera, etcetera)
II. CHANT OF OUR LORD, THE FLAYED DRINKER OF NIGHT
Oh Drinker of Night, why are you disguised now?
Put on your golden robe, coat yourself with rain.
III. THE GUT
Thereīs no doubt about it: itīs terribly difficult, almost impossible, to try to reach it. Many undertook the quest, but nobody got there faster than Lumo, our main character. He found the method almost without thinking about it, in an unconscious, intuitive way. And he got there.
He was the first.
Lumo was a collector. Heīd been collecting things since he was six, small things that caught his eye: pebbles, petrified seashells, colorful insects, thousand-year-old Indian utensils, snake skins, crystalline minerals, Chinese statuettes, coins... Anything could be interesting enough for him to keep. But not just any thing. Lumo knew how to collect.
He lived alone in his cattle truck, a huge red Scania that reigned imponently over the campsite. He led a pleasant life; he sat on a straw-and-cane rocking chair and devoted himself he insisted on that every time he was asked again to waiting. Somebody once told him he was crazy, he didnīt know what he was doing. Many laughed about it. Everybody at the camp knew what Lumo thought about pilgrimage and nearly everyody agreed with him. Or at least everybody who didnīt have any other theory to uphold.
His "home" (the truck) wasnīt open. He had sealed the sides of the back cage with planks and boards tidily arranged and thoroughly painted. On one side of the trailer, he had installed a beautifully grained wooden lid that was lifted down to serve as a counter. When he needed money, all he had to do was accept the offer from any passer-by fascinated by a piece in his collection, exhibited on the polished board. He generally sold away whatever he wanted to sell and hardly ever what he was asked for. You would say he wasnīt a good businessman, but he managed, nobody knows how, to keep customers satisfied in one way or another.
The campsite was in the intersection of Roads 8 and 188, a few kilometers away (or so the sign read) from Luján City. Traffic was scarce. Travelers arrived, dusty and tired, gathered around the campfire and drank mate. They told each other about their sorrows and hopes, stayed for the night and then left, feeling certain they could get somewhere. Sometimes they came back at once, stumbling on the camp in the middle of an experience that seemed an hallucination to them, as they were sure they had walked away in a straight line. Others never came back.
Sometimes, Lumo tried to talk them out of it, since he had discovered you couldnīt go to it because it rejected you, but travelers never listened. He greeted them with a soft smile, wishing them good luck with all his heart. And kept waiting.
Because by waiting he would get there.
The Gut, he sometimes explained to whoever was willing to listen, is sensitive to energy fields; the more complex its shape, the more sensitive it becomes. In the brain thereīs a big deal of electrical activity which generates fields. Brain fields are very complex. From the interaction of human brain fields and the Gut all kinds of responses may arise. Thoughts are stronger when they are hidden, and we donīt know very well which thoughts are hiding in ourselves. The Gut is sensitive to our brain fields. It shapes them, it materializes them...
The Gut, back in those times, was the absolute master of reality.
Lumoīs truck wasnīt so ordinary. Before the new age started, it had been a cattle hauler. Lumo had covered the cage with a screen of life. Yes, exactly as it sounds. Behind the cage boards, sandwiched between shielded glass and plywood, millions of creatures with plain, structured thoughts swarmed around: a living screen.
The Gut made reality ripple, so to say, destroying peopleīs efforts to arrange their surroundings in any way. When asked for the ratio of the circumference of a circle to the circleīs diameter, computers answered with whole numbers. A standard meter could fit four hundred, seven million or only three times in the distance between the Congress Square Monolith and Mar del Plata City. A straight road could lead to the same place in either direction. Electrons disobeyed fields and escaped through the insulating covers of chips. Reading a book was like peeping into chaos. The only thing that wasnīt influenced by the undulations nobody knew why was life, the living entities. And that was the reason why the truck was covered with a huge formicary that insulated the inside from the "reality distorting waves" flowing from the Gut.
Lumo devoted hours to the care of his daughters, the ants. He had installed sloped platforms for them to go out and explore and look for food. He used to keep them near lands with plenty of vegetation. He periodically replaced the earth sandwiches in front of the plywood so that the ant-nests wouldnīt crumble; he provided them with water, sugar and fruit juice. He watched them; he protected them. And his daughters gave something in return: they existed. They lived. They held up his reality.
Lumo had many fossiles. Fossiles he had picked up during his short walks around the junction which led him to well-known places or to unknown places at the Gutīs will.
Iīve heard about a time when an American expedition came to the junction to investigate the Gut. There was an argument at the camp because the Marines wanted to get hold of the the pool tables by buying all the tokens. In the confusion of a battle that resulted in many bruised faces and split lips, a group of three or four officers decided to steal Lumoīs trilobites. When they opened the truck, they came across some cables that linked the computer rack with the experimentation table. The robotic arms went crazy thatīs the official version of the story and tore the unfortunate military men apart. Lumo claimed he hadnīt set-up any booby-traps; everything had been accidental. The men at the camp roared with laughter. Two weeks after the Americans had left, a gang of Corean bikers showed up. Everyone noticed at once they were wearing the Marinesī clothes, boots and equipment. They even had some of their motorbikes. The camp gave them a cold welcome; they were sold some supplies and fuel, but no accommodation was offered. When they noisily left westward, laughter burst again. People made jokes for weeks. Chinese: 25 - Yankees: 0, read a sign painted on a half-demolished wall.
Among the fossiles in his collection, the rarest and most appreciated by Lumo was scarcely noticeable, but spectacularly unique. Lumo had heard all kinds of absurd offers for it, but he would never sell it. Partly because he wanted it for him, but more than anything else because he was scared.
The fossile didnīt look such a big deal. Even more, if you didnīt know where to look, it didnīt strike you as a fossile at all, just as a simple stone. The stone looked like many others: more or less spherical, with an opaque, rough irregular surface; one of its faces had been polished so that a crystalline, water-filled hollow space could be seen inside. If you watched closely you could see a greyish bug-like creature, thin and wiry, clinging to one of the crystalline quartz walls. Only Lumo knew the terrible secret: the creature was alive. When you watched it for a long time for months you discovered it was moving extremely slowly, walking constantly around the cavity, as if it wanted to find a way out. Like a tiger in a cage, a tiger that had been locked up for billions of years (the stone was volcanic and very old), creeping impatiently around the boundaries of its cruel confinement.
The shivers this creature gave Lumo were impossible to describe: this thing had no food to live on. Lumo had kept it in the dark for two years to check if it got nourishment from light (which was a senseless idea in the first place, since the stone had surely been completely opaque before being polished; therefore, if the creature had really depended on light it should have been dead already, and for a long time), but the creatureīs vitality hadnīt lessened at all. There was only one possibility: it fed by direct conversion of mass into energy; any other calculation failed. It had to be a terribly primal life form. And Lumo shivered at the idea of such a thing running loose around the world. Thatīs why he took care of it. He felt he was its guardian.
His most important customers were the arachnids. They came in silence, pointed at the piece they wanted and paid if Lumo nodded; otherwise they left as silently as they had arrived. They never argued or insisted. If they were very interested in something they pointed at it again every time they came by. Over and over again.
Neither Lumo nor anybody else knew a thing about what they did or were up to. They moved slowly, grandly and apparently at random across the surrounding fields. Their arachnid shapes were the result of genetic manipulation combined with surgery and cybernetics. They barely looked human. Their heads disappeared into a complex device cramped with lenses, prisms and mirrors the function of which so Iīve heard- was to distort the bearerīs vision. They said they were searching for "oddness". They could understand themselves only by understanding strangeness. Lumo couldnīt catch up with their reasoning but respected it.
The Gut had aroused a general mystic feeling; vast numbers of sects with the most diversed ideas had been born. You had the Reciters, the Cross-Reflexed, the Drinkers of Night, the Diggers, the Irrealistic, the Arachnids and many more. Lumo often felt an urge to dive into those philosophies and look for their reality, especially when he witnessed the long ceremonies of the Reciters, a group which burgeoned at the camp, but for the time being he chose to keep away from them or at least to keep his ideas to himself, because he noticed too much opressorīs bigotry in those who wanted him to join in and he didnīt like that. He was an essentially free, especially independent kind of guy. He was free. And he needed freedom.
Itīs said that one night the Gut was very near the campsite, although out of a human beingīs reach, and that Lumo heard something strange. From that day on, he changed. He was sad; he spoke very little. The equipment heīd bought the week before was left outside, without being dismantled, rusting. This surprised his friends. Lumo had a fantastic stock of electronic and mechanical precision supplies he carefully stored inside his truck. When he bought some equipment it was usual to see him dismantling it until the parts fit into the truck. He never let anything useful get spoiled. He was very careful.
Nobody knows for sure what happened those days, but we wonīt worry about it because those days were few and unimportant. Apparently, his neighbors dismantled the machines the best they could, packed the parts and put them away. Lumo roamed absent-mindedly across the surrounding hills, pulling up bushes and kicking stones. A dog went with him, although itīs possible he didnīt even see it. He was withdrawn, sad.
His friends got worried too. In the afternoon, during the endless mate-drinking gatherings, they talked about him. Everybody suggested a solution, but in fact nobody knew what to do.
Lumo roamed for a few days. Thatīs all we know.
A short time later he met her. And then Lumo changed again.
IV. FROM THE LITTLE CHANTS IN THE CHANTING HOUSES
We only come here to sleep, we only come here to dream:
Itīs not true, itīs not true we come here to live on earth.
V. DOUBLE VISION OF SILENCE
Itīs a good thing the images of both of them have gotten lost in time. She was strange but attractive, a medium-height brunette with a big nose and melancholic eyes. Lumo may have been a blonde man, slim and small, with electric eyes. Heīs said to have had a long, thick mane of hair, always clean and shining, that he sometimes braided in waist-long plaits. But none of it is for sure. Time changed the hue of their looks, fading away textures, perfumes and features until the patina became the color of legend.
Itīs a painful story.
They loved each other, they really loved each other, but they couldnīt make love.
Itīs not that she had a physical handicap, not even a psychological block: either thing could have been cured or, if they couldnīt be cured, at least they allowed the possibility of trying to. But she truly couldnīt. She was a half. She had a brain nodule that waited for answers but couldnīt receive them, because the transmitter had died. The nodule wasnīt an implant an implant can be removed but a part of her; it had grown with her, in her. And now half of her was missing.
She had wished she died.
She had called, longed, begged, howled, cried for death. She had tried. But she was still alive.
He had found her in a sandy spot, almost dead. Hers wasnīt a small body and he wasnīt a big man, but he managed to carry her to the truck. He immediately realized she was intoxicated or poisoned. He desperately searched into the data banks until he learned how to save her life. He stayed by her side for two days, without leaving her once, taking care she didnīt let go of life even more. He fed her intravenously. He gave her electrical shocks several times, when her heart stopped. He waited, wringing his hands, for her to wake up fine; he hoped she hadnīt suffered brain damage. When she started coming back from nothingness and was stirred by nightmares, he softly caressed her and wiped her sweaty face. During the day he played music for her, at night he watched her. One afternoon she opened her eyes and looked silently at him for a long while. For him, it was an eternity. When she turned and fell into a deep sleep, Lumo lay down on a mat he had put next to her bed and rested for the first time in days.
He was woken by the smell of coffee.
"Why did you pick me up?," somebody asked.
The voice was sweet, though somewhat coarse. It had traces of pain. Of fear.
"I couldnīt have left you," he answered simply while he got up to help her. He couldnīt tell her he couldnīt stand silence and loneliness anymore, after having seen her. He couldnīt tell her his chest was filled with a muffled pain and his hands wanted to be all over her. He had dreamed a thousand times she finally woke up and he told her everything, but now he didnīt have the courage.
There was something in her eyes. And in her voice.
"When I leave, Iīll do it again," she assured.
Lumo shivered. She meant it.
"Then donīt leave," was everything he could say.
She looked at him and didnīt answer.
They sat for breakfast. She liked the way he helped her. She liked the way he looked for the cookie can and the way he put the cookies on a tray. She thought it was beautiful of him to take the cups and put them on either side of the table. She couldnīt eat so much for breakfast her stomach wouldnīt stand it but she liked his generosity all the same. She sat opposite him while he was pouring the coffee into the cups. And then studied his movements. The position of his fingers on the cup. His shy, slippery look over things.
She liked him.
"Arenīt you drinking your coffee?"
"Iīve drunk some of your consommé," she answered apologetically.
Lumo understood. However, he was cowing back from her as if he felt embarrassed. Shyness?
"Anything wrong?" she asked in a very soft, tense voice.
But there was something. He had thousands of things to say but he couldnīt. That was wrong.
She waited for him to finish breakfast and then stood up and went back to bed. Lumo cleaned the table and put everything away. He waited for a long time. Then he went to her in silence and softly stroked her hair. She was breathing rhythmically, deeply.
VI. MISCELLANY: RECITERS
A wood fire is burning. Lumo is listening carefully. The man recites his part with deliberate rhythm and excellent pronunciation.
...never repress a human beingīs natural impulses, except when they imply some direct or indirect damage or the possibility of future damage to other individuals, their possessions or the environment in general, as major religions did, in many cases because of obscure and selfish reasons of their own, or because they longed for power, or because they simply abused of a power obtained through fear, and sometimes just to give satisfaction to the whims, revengeful feelings or personal claims of the men who held that power...
Lumo smiles approvingly. The Text is dense but never boring. Topics diversify and jump from mere precepts to amusing stories that can even be funny sometimes. There are explosive parts which raise the emotional level and wake up the dozing listener. But Lumo never dozes. For him, these meetings are a unique social phenomenon that fascinates him just for the fact of existing. Whenever he attends, Lumo doesnīt want to skip a detail. The interruptions made by a Text Reciter when he feels like it are generally far more interesting; those gaps full of a silence which is more significant than the Text itself. The words, phrases or paragraphs that are not recited outweigh the others just because they are not said, because a mind used to the Text highlights them, brings them glowing forward at their mere absence thanks to the strength of the silence which takes over and makes everybody meditate.
The sect is flexible. There are no definite rules or prohibitions. Each Reciter can skip any part he wants. Then, if general assent is high...
Lumo stops the rumour of his thougts. The Reciter finishes the phrase and, making use of his right to opinion, he remains silent. Two, three, four, seven, ten, fifteen, seventeen seconds. Lumo counts them in his mind, trying to remember the part the speaker has elliminated. The rest of the Reciters, the ones who are listeners at the moment, put their hands in position to express their opinion. A helper enters the appropiate marks in the Book. The phrase restarts in the middle of a sentence, where the speaker considers the Text is right again. Along the years, the marks accumulated during thousands of ceremonies, repeated night by night, will cause modifications in the original text where the complete philosophy of the Reciter Sect is recorded. A phrase which has been skipped many times will disappear. An insistent change in its form will remain there forever. There may even be inserts in fact, the Text was created that way if thereīs enough agreement. Itīs a method Lumo approves of; the best he has seen in any religion heīs known. Thatīs why he likes to take part as a listener from time to time, even though he neither belongs to the Sect nor shares all of their ideas.
VII. A SILENT MOCKERY
Chronicles have no record of the six months that followed. It may have been a dreadful period for Lumo, since the girl was very, very special and it was impossible to make her respond to his silent, stubborn love.
Dialis that was her name had lost half of her being. This was not a figure of speech or a metaphor. She belonged to a very special group: the Cross-Reflexed. They lived, from their birth, in direct contact with a partner. The contact between them was not one we can imagine or define. They double-sensed. Their perceptions added up. The brain nodule not only received what the other one saw, smelled, touched or heard but also each and every bodily sensation: heartbeats, diaphragm movements, pulse and breathing, cold or heat, pain or pleasure, feelings... Each perception arrived, joined to those of the receiver and was transmitted back. For them, an instant of love was a spree of feelings in an endless feedback. Both knew what the other one was feeling as no lover has ever known. Both knew how much and in what way the other one loved him or her. They were truly, not metaphorically one. A single being formed by two consciences. A single conscience comprising the bodies of two beings.
Most implants were organic. Biochips were inserted in the fetus when it was only a few weeks old. The brain grew around the open contacts until the phyllopodia in the embrionic nervous tissue found their way to markers and connections were defined. At eight weeks of age, the fetuses were already interconnected. The learning started immediately and was unique for each couple. A lost partner couldnīt be replaced. The implants were tuned to each other and the uniqueness of the learning there were millions of variables made the communication with another individual impossible. An implanted person who lost his or her other half was an incomplete creature. A torn-apart entity. Half alive.
Dialisīs partner had died. The details of this tragedy are lost and are not important for this story. The thing is, she was lonely. More lonely than anybody else in a world of loneliness. She was broken, incomplete.
She did her very best to rejoin the human race. She saw Lumoīs suffering. She was fond of him. She wanted to love him. But when she was too near Lumo she felt as if he was a lifeless statue, a silent, stiff, cold, dead mockery. Unbearable.
The day she wanted to explain that to him she went wordless. He looked at her painfully, with a huge, solid pain that overwhelmed both. He got off the truck because air was fleeing from his lungs.
Lumo was standing at the door, with his arms falling on the sides.
Dialis didnīt want to leave him like that. She waved.
"Shall we go?," she invited.
He nodded. He walked down the platform. He stood by her side.
She shrugged and didnīt answer. They walked.
The sand surronded a hollow area that looked like a stab made by the sharp end of a colossal umbrella. It may have been three hundred meters in diameter. About ninety meters down, you could see the nearly black surface of the inner lake. A path of shattered sandstones surrounded by a sea of rusted soda cans reminded you this had been a tourist resort. You could still see a reddish trace of paint over the welcome sign. Lumo had decoded part of the text: HOLE O... ...E ...PIR... and below that, in small letters flanking a big pointing arrow: M... ...DO... 403 KILO... TR... Heīd never met anyone who could tell what this unknown M... meant. The arrow pointed north and to the north there was only... the sea?
Lumo didnīt know exactly what there was north. When the Gut was near, a different kind of traveler arrived from the north side of the junction. Diggers, usually. They talked very little and looked lost. They ordered fish for dinner and seemed surprised when they were told they couldnīt have it, there was no fish at the camp. They suffered a lot. Their tools dented the ground around the area, which made the indifferent laugh. Lumo knew what they were looking for, though he didnīt understand why. This is what matters: they asked where the beach was but there was no beach around. When they were told that, they frowned and looked at you as if you were insane. They spent the day digging, while their women drew diagrams full of wavy lines. The camp men made fun of them all the time. Lumo never laughed at other people, and thanks to that he could get to know some diagrams of the subsoil in the northern zone. The lines were much closer to each other over there, so the diagrams had several overlayed translucent sheets where new colors were shown. They were wonderful.
When the Gut went away, Diggers disappeared. Nobody knew how or why. Now Lumo wished they would return soon. Digger women wore some seashell necklaces that his companion would like a lot.
"Is this where you found me?" Dialis pointed at a smooth hollow spot with no vegetation.
Lumo recognized the place and shivered. Sheīd said sheīd do it again... He wanted to answer but his throat had closed. He ran to her.
"Here it is!"
Dialis had squatted down and was carefully picking something up. Lumo saw a small yellowish object. He jumped over her before her fingers had closed.
"Donīt! Donīt do it!"
He grabbed her arm.
She stood up like a tigress in heat and pushed him hard. She was strong. Lumo stumbled and had to let go of her. He fell on his butt.
Dialis placed the small animal on the flat, smooth rock. Lumo saw it was nothing but skin and bones, a tiny mummy the desert sun had dried up. The frogīs yellow color was still as bright as when it was alive, but the skin was wrinkled and parched. All flesh had disappeared. It didnīt mean danger anymore.
She picked up a few small rocks and arranged them on the carcass.
"When they are in danger they secrete their venom, a terrible, deadly poison," she explained. "It seemed the best way to me, thatīs why I caught one. I squeezed it just a little, but itīs a very powerful alkaloid. Goes straight to the muscular cells, causing contractions. The little frog must have died before the poison could get to my nervous system." She looked up and stared at him. Her eyes were full of tears. "It was a pointless death."
Lumo understood at once. He nodded without a word.
She saw the look in her companionīs eyes and caught the moment. He understood. Understood. She lifted the gem hanging from her neck and put it near her face. It was a crystalline, tear-shaped stone. Lumo raised his hand to take it, but she moved her left arm to stop him.
"No. I just want you to have a look."
The gem had something inside. She put it in front of his eyes and then he could read what it said.
Thereīs no way two human beings can understand each other completely. Each and every moment, two people who suppose they are communicating are feeling different things, interpreting each idea or concept in different ways, experiencing different feelings and body timings. Sometimes, only sometimes, there are instants of minimum understanding with no need of words or any other kind of symbolic communication, but these moments are few. When we think we understand each other we are only exchanging preconceived idea-feeling-perception "packages" and we can never be certain we are expressing the reality of what we want to convey.
The text, written and signed by the founders of the Cross-Reflexed Sect, then suggested a solution to the problem.
And the following was a description of what she and her partner had been to each other. Or, to say it clearly, what she had been before and, indirectly, what she had turned into, now she was alone.
VIII. A FRAGMENT OF THE FRAGMENTS
You are the mirror I look at myself in;
In your wide eyes, hidden they burn:
The arrows of all suns.
IX. MISCELLANY: ARACHNIDS
Letīs take a first look. We are floating about fifteen meters over the ground. This gives us the view we could have from the fifth floor of a building. From here, the campsite can be seen very well, perfectly.
Ocre-yellow dirt, dried-up grass, small bushes, small stones randomly scattered. And movement.
The campsite is an arachnid camp.
This is not casual. We have come near these strange menīs settlement for the sake of clarity and fullness of this story. Here we can see many human beings who, as weīve said before, are looking for "oddness" because they believe that only through total strangeness they can get to the real truth, to self-knowledge.
The picture comprises different scenes which contain several of them, many more than any of you are used to seeing, on a square piece of land about a hundred and twenty meters long.
What are they doing? What are they like?
Weīll stop and look at one of them. That will do.
Letīs examine this one, the one that is now walking just below our viewpoint. There is the central part of his body, the head, sticking out over eight long, striped multijointed legs; the stripes are of darker and lighter shades of the same ocre color. His head flashes, catching the morning sun in hundreds of smooth, curved glassy plates piled up with no order or logical reason around a spherical area into which the real head surely is. His arms emerge from a little below, almost next to the beginning of the long legs, and have exactly the same shape, amount of joints and kind of hands all humans know they should have. The arms are covered, from shoulder to hand, by long gloves decorated with stripes about the same color the legs are.
The arachnid walks on with slow grandeur, accurately moving those legs that seem to touch the ground just slightly, almost as if he was walking on a cloud in the middle of a dream. From time to time, the "head" turns a little to one side, then the other, but it usually stays in a position in which we suppose the arachnoid must be looking ahead, and thanks to that we can define where his face must be.
We take a look.
Itīs not a face. Itīs more like mirrors, lenses, prisms and glassy plates that donīt differ from the ones in the rest of the head. If we watch carefully, though, if we examine that medley of crystals more thoroughly, weīll find a symmetry axis running along the front part, over the arachnidīs "nose", a lateral equality axis that doesnīt repeat itself anywhere else.
Our arachnid crosses the path of another who is adopting a resting position, with his legs bent in such a way that his body touches the ground. We can see this second arachnid is working on some kind of glass artifact, maybe a "vision headpiece", the name they give when they feel like talking and want to name it to whatever they wear on their heads.
The walking arachnid seems to gently move his head backwards and forwards we can be almost sure of that but we couldnīt swear we have seen a stealthy movement of both creatureīs hands, a slight contact of their fingertips taking place casually, almost by chance.
But letīs leave the camp dwellers alone for a while and look into the place they live in, which may tell us a lot about them. Itīs a group of more or less hemispherical "houses", although weīd be closer to a more correct description if we said they look like halves of giant watermelons, split lengthways. It looks like these constructions are made of sand, and maybe they are, even though they donīt seem to be about to crumble. Hardened sand, perhaps. Grains of sand glued by some liquid which sticks them firmly together.
A certain house stands up among the group. Itīs smooth, almost metallic, identical to the others in shape, but itīs made of a different material. Itīs located in a special position, maybe priviledged, since itīs leaning on a meter-high uneveness of the terrain which runs along the town boundary. The house is built in such a location that itīs easy to get from there to any of the other houses, which are lining up in a radial distribution with this house as the center.
Itīs the chiefīs house. And itīs not made of sand but a very strange material, really strange, the description of which is beside the point.
Next to it, almost incongruently, thereīs a small house made of dovetail wood, with narrow glass windows and emerald-green curtains. It has a brick-colored, fiber-concrete roof and a tin chimney with a little conical cap; a white, light smoke is going out from it.
Letīs assume our curiosity is as big as our ability to move and letīs go near one of those windows to peep into the small house. What do we see?
Nothing special. A middle-aged man, maybe fifty, gray-haired, tall, with a serious face. His expression may be calm and we could even think, if we gave a shallow look, that heīs a happy person. But suddenly and unintentionally we discover some hard lines running through his facial muscles, lines of pain perhaps, or loneliness.
Heīs not a strange man, heīs an ordinary man. Heīs there, thougtful, staring at a point in the green-painted dovetail ceiling, in complete silence. Heīs sitting on a wicker chair and has his hands and knees together, as if he was under some kind of punishment or penance.
We wonīt say much about him because his history belongs to another story, which is not this one. It should be enough for you to know that his name is Canz thatīs the name which corresponds to that day and that circumstance and that heīs the only unmodified man at the campsite.
The others, the arachnids, are men.
That donīt have much to do with Lumoīs story either, although they are around, always near him and his illusions but never too near. As it happens with everything and everybody in the Gutīs world.
X. THAT PILE OF BROKEN MIRRORS
After some months, Lumo and Dialis had settled down to an acceptable relationship. They had no trouble living together. They watched each other. They examined each other without even realizing they were, discovering the little things the other one liked. At the beginning, Lumo had suffered a lot. Dialis avoided all physical contact because, after the accident, her love-making had become a horrifying experience. Lumo had had a hard time understanding that, but she had explained it to him very sweetly, over and over again.
Dialis suffered too. She felt very lonely, surronded by dull ghosts and silent broken mirrors. In spite of everything, she had understood she could still improve her self-knowledge, which was the most important goal for her and the people in her sect. Lumo had taught her, with that huge sensibility hidden behind his silence, that the other human beings could also communicate. Although she had lost the external view of herself forever, although she didnīt know as exactly as before how her companion saw her, although she couldnīt see herself through his eyes, ears and skin as she had been used to, she still received reflexes which let her catch a glimpse of her own self. Lumo had stopped being a dry wooden statue. He didnīt reflex everything, but he was legible. At the beginning it had seemed incredible to her, but little by little the lines had converged into a new reality: their new world of shared feelings. Only memories remained from her previous mirror, but now she had a crystal she could look at herself in. It was half a mirror, a broken mirror, but it showed something.
She was fascinated by all that.
Lumo and Dialis were an active pair. They frequently went out to explore and sometimes were away from the camp for weeks.
One day, in the middle of the desert, Lumo remembered an episode his memory had buried. Without being aware of it he realized just then he had seen some creatures everybody considered mythological. From that moment on, he devoted his best energies to look for those mythical beings called forge-beetles. Even though most people thought they were nothing but a legend. Lumo had, apart from this blurred memory, other reasons to think they did exist. At the campsite there was a very beautiful, detailed paintbrush portrait a Japanese had left behind after living there for some months. Many said the painting was an invention, a product of the artistīs fantasy. Others, more ignorant, believed it pictured a native creature from Japan or some other place in the Far East. But Lumo knew those insects didnīt come from any country in the world. Lumo knew more about things than most people and one of those things was that forge-beetles came from the Gut.
"They are beetles, as big as chicken eggs," he explained to Dialis one day, while they were searching among some rocks. "They have long, quick-moving legs and they are metal-blue."
That was the first time he mentioned them to her.
Lumo added more and more information as the morning went on, piece by piece. Dialis listened attentively, so by lunch time she already had an almost complete picture of what they wanted to find.
Forge-beetles were engineers. They built up things with construction blocks they manufactured themselves. Their females didnīt take an active part in the process, although they helped in an intentional and indirect way. They were three times as big as the males, but their number was ten times as few. Their babies hatched from eggs the females kept in their wombs during incubation and then, not very originally for the world of insects, they devoured their mother. The males then used the empty exoskeletons as molds for their construction blocks. They secreted a thick slime that was contained by the cavities and clefts in the empty shell. The sun heated mold and paste until this grew hard, turning into a plastic, hard material. The point is these insects obtained blocks of fascinating shapes, with corners, edges and protrusions that fitted together so well and so diversly that forge-beetles could build practically anything with them.
Dialis was amazed. Lumo described those creatures so vividly she thought she could see them materializing in front of her eyes.
"How come you know so much about them?," she asked him as they were having their afternoon coffee.
"A friend told me about them some years ago."
"And how did he know?"
"Heīd seen them in the desert and was astonished. He spent months studying them."
Dialis couldnīt understand yet.
"And why donīt you ask him where to find them?"
Lumoīs smile turned into a somber expression.
"Canz, my friend, used to live with us at the camp but disappeared a long time ago."
Dialis didnīt ask any more questions. Lumo had remained silent and was watching the distance, as if looking for something in the horizon.
Their conversation continued much later. Dialis was leaning against a tree, surrounded by rabbits and other small animals. Lumo had gone down to explore a ravine hidden between two hills. When he came back, he went to her with his collection bag. Although he was moving slowly all the animals ran away, except for a rabbit dozing on his companionīs lap and two others lying in the gap between her back and the tree. Lumo had an air of extreme exahustion mingled with disillusion. He tried an apologetic gesture, but Dialis smiled understandingly. He didnīt have to blame himself. Magic sprouted from her and there was no way of extending the sphere to others. At first, small animals were also afraid of her nearness, but Dialis had a special ability to get closer without scaring them, until they were persuaded to let her take them in her arms. Then she stroked them for hours, delighted, enjoying the softness of their bodies, learning to sense their messages at a purely corporal level, discovering she could feel the little animalīs pleasure through her palms and get a response to her caresses in the progressive slackness of their muscles, in the way they squeezed more and more against her skin, in their placid, restful heartbearts, in their squinting eyes, in the almost imperceptible trembling running through them with each of her caresses, each slight touch of her hand. For her, it was a new experience, full of wonderful sensations. She enjoyed it every time she had the chance, and she learnt from it.
Lumo sat down by her quietly. He didnīt scare the rabbits away.
It was dusk. Night was falling.
They watched the sunset in silence, until darkness was complete and stars emerged from their abyss. Lumo let himself slide slowly, until he lay face to the sky. The Gutīs end had to be somewhere, he used to say. According to Lumo, a faint string rising away into darkness could sometimes be seen. Dialis had never seen it.
The conversation started as a whisper.
"Did you love your friend?"
Lumo didnīt answer for a few seconds.
"Is he dead?" Dialis didnīt know any other words to ask that.
"I donīt know."
Dialis understood what Lumo meant. In the Gutīs world, most of those who went away just disappeared. The only way to know if a friend was dead was to see him die. And even if you saw him die you couldnīt always be sure.
"Was he looking for something?"
"Everybody is looking for something." Lumoīs voice had turned very sad.
Dialis nodded and tried to change the subject.
"Why are you so attracted by those insects?"
"Are they so interesting?" Dialis sometimes thought Lumoīs efforts to find them were excessive.
"Everything that comes from the Gut is interesting." Lumo insisted on that every time he had the chance. "But these creatures are far more interesting than you could think."
"I still donīt know why. Just because they build "
Lumo interrupted her.
"A long time ago, when I hadnīt heard about them yet, I saw one. Unluckily, I didnīt know what it was. I ignored it."
"There are so many beetles in these dry fields..."
"What I saw wasnīt exactly a beetle. I was chasing a black lizard and when I walked past some rocks I saw something that looked like a toy rabbit. Do you know Bugs Bunny?" She nodded. "This doll looked a lot like him. It was light purpule, almost lilac, and it was dancing..."
Dialis said nothing.
"It was dancing among the rocks...," Lumo repeated.
"I donīt understand."
"In that moment I thought it was a forgotten toy, a cheap plastic doll; I thought some small animal had sheltered inside it and had got stuck in there and was trying to get out. It was just a brief thought. I was chasing a very interesting specimen and I didnīt want to lose it. I went by."
"I donīt understand the connection."
"Later, Canz told me forge-beetles usually build what you could call vehicles or stiff suits, quite bigger than their bodies, and then get inside. These artifacts always have legs or limbs of some kind; forge-beetles use their own slime to connect their bodies with the moving parts so they can steer them. Then they dance. I donīt know why, and my friend couldnīt understand it either, but they perform demented dances that may last for days, as a religious ceremony in a primitive tribe."
"But what does the toy have to do with"
"They copy what they see. At first I couldnīt unverstand how they could possibly have obtained the image of a cartoon-film character in the middle of the desert, but later I remembered there used to be a deserted cathedral in the area back then, a massive church with elementary-school classrooms. There were children pictures in the classrooms. The forge-beetles must have seen those pictures. They used the model."
"Yes, they are incredible. And thatīs why we have to find them."
Still, Dialis couldnīt understand his urge.
"But why so desperately?," she asked.
He raised himself, resting on his elbow, and looked right into her face. Her head was outlined against the starry background, a dark silhouette framed by darkness.
"They can take us to the Gut," he said tiredly, almost sighing, and then lay again, face to the stars. "And at the Gut..."
Dialis reached slowly to Lumoīs shoulder until she felt the warmth from his skin, but she didnīt touch him, although she felt the strong impulse of doing so.
The stillness of night surrounded them as a heavy, thick fog. Dialis was cold and felt an intense desire to hug Lumo and caress him as she caressed the rabbits. But she didnīt have the courage. Silence was ice and fire; it stood in the way between them. She closed her eyes and got carried away by her dreams. Maybe some day...
She was woken by a strange feeling. She opened her eyelids and found Lumoīs eyes a few centimeters below her face. Unconsciously, in her sleep, she had slided to him, she had turned over until she lay on top of him and now she was up there, attached to his body. She could feel his skin burning under his thick camping clothes. Lumo was watching her with a glow she had never seen in any eyes, a glow that only lasted an instant because, as soon as he noticed she was awake, Lumo blinked with embarrassement and his look changed. Fire turned into sadness, silence, despair.
Dialis finally emerged from her sleep. She then noticed Lumo was very still and all his muscles had stiffened. A moment later, she realized she was holding him tightly, so tightly she felt his heartbeats booming in her breasts.
Her chest turned into an exploding sun. She closed her eyes and hugged him even tighter.
Lumo had a hard time breathing.
The instant seemed an eternity. But it was just a second.
"Cold?" Lumoīs voice tried to show amusement. But it was anguish. Loneliness. Desire.
Dialis was fighting fear. She was fighting the madness of those arms that didnīt obey her body and didnīt want to release her companion.
The struggle lasted an instant. Then she tried really hard and finally moved away.
"I was dreaming," she explained in a whisper.
"I see..." Lumoīs voice rose from a hell of pain. He was trying to smile.
"Isnīt it too cold?," Dialis said.
"Yeah, and itīs late. Letīs go to sleep."
They walked silently to their camping shelter, a downcast Lumo, a trembling Dialis.
XI. WITH NO WINGS OR CHEST TO FLY
Iīll have to turn eternally under your shadow,
Eternally, eyes are tears,
Heart is sadness.
XII. DISGUISED. DISGUISED.
Dialis woke up in tears. She jumped up and, with a decision bursting in her lips, she crossed the curtain separating her part of the tent from Lumoīs.
Lumo was gone.
She looked for him up and down the camp and its surroundings. She climed a hill and tried to see him in the distance. Each passing minute could turn her decision into ashes.
Lumo was nowhere to be seen.
She felt a weakness growing inside her. She almost felt like dying. She kneeled down slowly, until her palms touched the dusty sand. Her tears pressed so hard her head ached. But she held them back.
She didnīt want to cry anymore.
She closed her eyes and prayed quietly.
Lumo stopped because he felt his lungs burst. He had climbed more than fifteen hundred meters up the slope of a low hill, the top of which was flat as a plateau. He ran a hand across his forehead. Neither the run nor the cold morning air could put out the fire in his skin. He felt, as he had never felt in his life, he was about to go crazy. He breathed for a few seconds and went on running, now on the plain, while he looked around in desperation.
He was waiting for a sign to tell him he was not in hell. But not any kind of sign. It wouldnīt be a flower or a stream. Or a valley full of green, or a small animal running with the curve of its spine shining under the sun. It wasnīt a vividly colored bird singing its eternal melody or the sweet smell of a thousand small fruits oozing their juices on a bush. It wasnīt the smell of rain or the dry taste of dirt. Or an iridiscent stone or a rough quartz crystal turning sunlight into rainbows. It wasnīt the pain in his chest or the fire in his heart. It was a sign. Some sort of sign.
He stopped when his legs refused to go on. He staggered and fell on his knees on the sharp rocks. His hands touched the dusty sand and his eyes fell in front of him, on that dry desert, looking at nothing.
He was in hell.
And he wanted to get out.
He closed his eyes and prayed quietly.
When he came back, two days later, Dialis was gone. Everything was tidy inside the tent, and in the right place. Lumo examined the position of things, trying to read them. He found no messages. Perhaps Dialis had left because she couldnīt stand being alone. She had taken her personal stuff and her share of the load with her.
In a few minutes, Lumo put everything away and took the structure down swiftly and efficiently. Half an hour later he was already on his way to the junction.
Dialis was on the truck. Waiting for him. When Lumo came in, dusty and tired, she put a chair near the table so he could sit with her. She had served a snack for two. Lumo settled down, less surprised than flattered, and ate silently. She looked at him intensely.
Lumo felt a faint warmth spreading across his skin. The wiry pain was receding from his muscles. He didnīt want to speak, but his silence talked about everything he needed to say, everything he wanted, everything he dreamed about.
Dialisīs had a unique glitter in her eyes. She was sensing.
All of a sudden, Lumo understood that was the sign, the sign heīd been looking for. For an instant, he felt the urge to jump away from the chair and hug her and shout that love she already knew about into her ear. However, he restrained himself. Now he was the frightened one. He didnīt want to be rejected again. He didnīt want to crash once again into that painful wall which could drive him crazy.
He didnīt want any more silence, either.
He looked for a subject of conversation.
He opened his bag and took out a flask. A big insect he had caught could be seen in there. It was a blue, long-legged egg trying to climb up the glass walls.
That same day, in the early afternoon, they left to the place where Lumo had found the nest. They held hands as they walked and talked cheerfully.
"Iīve been thinking about forge-beetles," Dialis said. "And I canīt understand why they behave so strangely."
"Itīs true they are strange," Lumo agreed. "Once I imagined they were aliens and the Gut had opened a passage between different universes or realities, or maybe a bridge between this world and another, to bring them here. But now I think the Gut opens gates to the inside, to other abysses."
Lumo explained how, after giving it much thought, he had realized forge-beetles were a symbolic representation of everything that lies behind human beings. Something powerful but schematic, sleeping inside the deepest structures of human mind; something the Gut, in one way or the other, is able to read.
Dalis listened in astonishment.
"I mean, I donīt think the Gut reads our minds," Lumo pointed out, "but I do think it can sense the strongest, most intense unconscious structures of those who go near it. Thatīs when such creatures appear..."
"To tell you the truth, I canīt relate these īthingsī to any characteristic of the human mind," Dialis said. "Except maybe to a delirious madness, or a dream."
"Itīs not evident or easy to see, but forge-beetles represent a very strong tendency shown by human beings. They disguise themselves. They imitate. They dance madly inside those puppets which are very well built but still fake. They devote their lives and their best efforts to mockery. It sounds familiar, doesnīt it?"
Dialis went silent. Sometimes, Lumo was horrifyingly right about matters that had to do with the Gut.
They arrived by late afternoon. The nest wasnīt such; it looked more like a model city. Dialis was so surprised she almost got angry with Lumo for not having prepared her for such a sight. It was amongst a group of rocks forming a concavity that looked like an open-air theater. As soon as they noticed the presence of lookers-on, the forge-beetles started to go out of their "buildings" and gathered in a crowd. Dialis felt they were watching her, studying her, analyzing her to the last detail. The group of insects grew bigger every second, in an orderly process with no jams or confusion, to the point they looked like a team of well-trained actors getting ready for the Olympic Games opening show. After a while, when no more forge-beetles were walking out of the doorways in this surreal village, the scene froze under the warm desert breeze, like a complex sculpture left behind by an insane artist. Hundreds of strange insects watching the silent man and woman attentively. Sand, rocks and yellow sun spotlighting the incredible. Soft wind.
Shuddering, Dialis leaned on Lumoīs shoulder. He put an arm round her and held her waist. They looked at each other for an instant, without saying a word, but very soon they turned their eyes to the beguiling scene. The forge-beetles stood still for several minutes, as if trapped inside a block of solid time. Then they started to scatter away, apparently at a random pace that soon turned into an organized movement of absolute perfection. In less than a second they were out of sight, walking with no hesitation into the "buildings" or disappearing behind a rock. It didnīt look real. It looked like a dream.
"Letīs camp here," Lumo suddenly said, and Dialis was startled.
"B-but..." she began to say, in confusion.
"We must wait," he explained, pointing at the ghostly group of small constructions. "They are fast, but itīll take them quite some time..."
Before Dialis could open her mouth to ask for more information, Lumo walked a few meters away, picked up a small branch and started sweeping the rocky ground, smoothing it for the tent. Dialis understood he didnīt want to talk about it anymore, or at least not now. For Lumo, forge-beetles and their attitudes had an almost religious dimension. There was something intangible in the situation, something Lumo couldnīt explain because he had no words to do so and Dialis may not have been able to understand because she was not him and couldnīt feel like him, no matter how close to each other they could be. In spite of everything, Dialis had a feeling it was impossible to define it as nothing but a feeling that allowed her to get a hint of whatever was sailing across Lumoīs mind. The Gut couldnīt be very far from these creatures. It was not a matter of time or space, it was a matter of "relationship". There was a close relationship between the rock theater dwellers and that "thing" crack in spacetime, fissure in reality or whatever it was that ruled over their lives, embracing them with its overwhelming breath. Lumo sensed something; perhaps if he stayed near forge-beetles he would reach the Gut, and Dialis felt that somehow he wasnīt wrong, although she didnīt believe the situation could be approached so easily.
She helped him put up and tidy up, and then they sat on a mat. Lumo studied the horizon as if waiting for something to appear and Dialis used a stick to make drawings on the sand.
Hours passed by. Without noticing, Dialis had drawn thousands of wavy lines that squeezed to each other to form a long tube which grew narrower with distance. Starting from Dialisīs original position on the mat, the tube ran diagonally and then rose, moving away and "up" as it narrowed. The drawing was really rough, since dry sand wasnīt good for details, and there was nothing to point out that "upward" direction; however, Dialis, who had drawn it, knew it was like that. The Gut emerged from the earth the Earth and rose into infinity.
Lumo was playing with a Rattle stone, making it spin faster and faster as he got more and more used to the impulse and starting angle. The stone spinned several times, slowing down gradually, and then reversed its movement to spin in the opposite direction. The old laws of friction and energy conservation were not always met, since the stone sometimes gave more reverse spins than it had given after the impulse of Lumoīs hand. He smiled and used a stick to take notes on the sand.
Dialis was giving the final touch to her work. When she was standing on the mat again, she stopped to look at her companion and saw he was very concentrated on the game. Just then, she became aware of her own withdrawal. Shaking her head, she went out of the trance she had fallen into. Her eyes followed the drawing on the sand and she realized she had drawn almost thirty meters of wavy tube. On both sides of the long figure she could see the marks her dragging knees had left. She shivered. The Gut did that to people.
She dropped the stick and went near Lumo.
"Shall we drink something?," she asked sweetly.
He looked up and, for a few seconds, his eyes focused on nothing, not seeing her, until he finally came back.
"Iīll go get something...," Lumo said, and started to get up.
Dialis raised her arm and perched the palm of her right hand on Lumoīs chest.
"Oh, no. It was my idea, sir," she said smiling and pushed him. Lumo fell back, exaggerating his sprawl. Dialis ran to the tent.
"Uh, ah," Lumo complained between laughters, lying face up on the mat. "And youīd better get a cold one!"
Dialis came back and placed the glass on his chest. Lumo was startled; suddenly, he sat up and spilled part of the lemonade all over his groin. Making a very funny gesture, he pointed to the liquid dripping over his pants and shouted:
She sat down, twisted with laughter, spilling part of the contents of her own glass on her lap. Lumo also burst with laughter and then drank heartily.
"It sure is cold," he said, choking "and you can ask my eg..."
Dialis threw what was left of her drink, just a few drops, at his chest. He sat up, feigning an angry face that led to more laughter, and he took her in his arms. They rolled over, struggling and laughing crazily, without noticing they were erasing Dialisīs long drawing. She pretended to hit his chest with her fists, while he gave out more uhs and ahs in such a hilarious tone that Dialis, dizzy for the rolls and the laughter, lost control of her arms and had to cling tight to his neck.
They struggled for a few seconds, laughing until they couldnīt breathe anymore, and then stopped. Lumo was on top of her.
They looked at each other silently for a timeless moment. Lumo felt her heart was about to burst and she felt Lumoīs heart wanted to leap out of his body. Slowly, lips moved closer until they brushed together for an instant; then they rushed into a raging kiss. Dialis felt her own fingers slide along and undo every zipper on Lumoīs clothes. Her own clothes were disappearing from her body and she didnīt know or care why. Her eyes were closed, because in that way her bodily perceptions could take over and possess her conscience. Lumo was on top of her, and inside her. His emotions entered her body through millions of tiny sensations adding up into a hurricane. She couldnīt feel what he was feeling, but she could know what was burning inside him, and feel it because of that.
And suddenly she realized she was feeling it. She was feeling everything. There was a wave of sweet fire coming up, up, up along each sensitive fiber in her body. A fire of pleasure she had never experienced. And all of a sudden everything exploded. Lumo inside her and she inside the universe, with a new primal pulse, a pulse where each and every thing, every silence and every pain began and ended.
She opened her lips in absolute ecstasy, and screamed.
She had never screamed before.
Lumo stopped for a startled minute, but she caught him in her arms and pulled him towards herself, so that he penetrated her even deeper, while her body rippled to increase their pleasure to infinity. Lumo recovered and his lips went all over her. Dialis turned her face from one side to the other while he kissed her neck, a caress that drove her crazy. Sweetly crazy. Both were crying. Both felt their hearts were bursting with happiness.
Just then, it happened. There is no certainty it happened this way, or at least not exactly this way. Maybe the whole scene is just some poetīs invention. But people have their rights on legends... and people have chosen this way. Thatīs why we are offering you this version, the one dozens of generations have repeated, sung and dreamed for all this time. Other versions say that, although they loved each other, they never got to love each other. That sounded rather odd to our ears and thatīs why weīve finally decided to include what most people have chosen to believe about this part of the story. However, we donīt know we definitively canīt know what the truth is.
Well. As we were saying, it happened just then. Dialis turned her face to one side and felt something cold spilling over her cheek. She opened her eyes and saw the drink going up the pitcher walls and spilling on the floor. She sat up, struggling with Lumoīs weight; he hadnīt noticed what was going on and tried to hold her down. She stood up and saw what the forge-beetles were doing. She pushed Lumo, who was standing beside her with an arm around her neck and still stunned, and she ran away. Lumo started to shout, but he went wordless when he saw the forge-beetles.
The forge-beetles were in the middle of a dance, but they were not performing what he had foreseen as the most evident show: a man and a woman covered in dirt and desert sand, carrying a couple of canvas rucksacks. No. The forge-beetles had formed a long, moving chain that rippled and throbbed with amazing realism, as if it was semi-liquid. The Gut.
While he finally recognized the image, accepting it in his conscience, he heard the sound. He turned round and saw the empty pitcher. But the watery sound didnīt come from there. A hundred meters away, emerging from the desert like a nightmare, the Gut rose. The real Gut.
And Dialis was running to it.
XIII. HERE ON EARTH
Like a painting
Weīll be fading.
Like a flower
Weīll be drying,
Here on earth.
XIV. GODīS GUT
Since the Gut appeared, Man has started to go deeper into self-knowledge, studying his own mind more than he has studied the frontiers of Universe. The Gut looks like a tube that inflates and gets narrower and wider. Inside the Gut, echoes are repeated. The Gut is sensitive to complex energy fields. Somehow, the Gut can read the deepest structures of a human mind. The Gut emerges from the earth and rises into infinity. Most of the information about the Gut has been obtained from a book weīve inherited from a long-lost sect the Drinkers of Night, a book which records the "readings" they took while in the midst of dark mystic states nobody knows nothing about, mental states where mind-altering drugs apparently were somewhat involved. The Gut is supposed to be a fissure in spacetime, a tridimensional crack leading to another reality. With time, a theory which may sound crazy has been getting stronger: The Gut could be the trail the mark left in our continuum of a hyperspaceship from a different universe, a universe where our space is hyperspace. Their hyperspace. Somebody has found out and shown that under certain tuning conditions you can see something like round openings and some eyes, just eyes, looking out. Perhaps this vision has been obtained by integrating the Gutīs different position states in a single image an obsessive photographerīs work through a long period. The spaceship would be passing by. But when will it stop passing us by? Itīs said it can take an eternity because they are moving across what, for them, is the universe and time over there is different, something else. But nothing is for sure at the Gut, everythingīs erratic. Anything you can say about it may be true and false at the same time. Anything that comes close to it turns into a probabilistic entity. And every time the Gut interferes with events history becomes confusing, almost insubstancial. There are many other things. The Gut controls reality, makes it ripple. One of the Gutīs ends rises into darkness. The Gut opens gates, passages, bridges, abysses... Whatīs the Gut? What is it?
The Gut is the Gut.
XV. WHERE ARE YOU?
Come down to earth, Snake God,
Instil your breath into me:
Lay your hands on the imperceptible fabric
That covers the heart.
XVI. MISCELLANY: DRINKERS OF NIGHT
Thereīs not much to say about Drinkers. Perhaps that they were many, and they were dark, very dark, and one day they left.
There are various stories traveling around from mouth to mouth, sometimes as mischievous songs sung around a campfire, very late at night, when everybodyīs blood holds enough wine to prevent them from shivering.
They left a book. A book some people call The Book. It is, obviously, a dark book. It says many things, most of them unbelievable, most of them terrible and most of them as ill-fated as Drinkers themselves.
They gathered at night, always very late and always in lonely places. They squatted low, near the moist earth where there was a lot of life and a lot of decay. They ate something nodoby knows how to describe. Something not mentioned in The Book which was the core of all their darkness. That something transformed them and led them to a communion with the night and the dark.
Itīs said they could smell the Gut, they drank from its wisdom.
They were called Drinkers of Night.
No other human being, ever, has known as much as they did about that terrible entity we call the Gut.
We canīt say much more about them either. They are part of a story which deserves to be told; maybe some day weīll also tell you about it.
But not here.
XVII. WHEN YOU GIVE UP YOUR DREAMS
You die when you give up your dreams. Lumo had wanted to get there, to get to that thing which rippled even as he watched, but suddenly Dialis was much more important in his life than all the old dreams. What went through his mind during those brief moments? Weīll never know; we only know about his actions, or what looked like his actions in the face of the Gut.
Dialis was running, but the movements and positions of things were getting more and more disrespectful of perspectives and distances. Dialis was apparently going straight to the Gut. Lumo waited in place, frozen. Maybe the Gut is an immensely whimsical entity or perhaps contradictions respond to a law. The fact is that, as in dreams, Dialis was running towards an unreachable finishing-line while Lumo, lingering over indecision for an instant, was standing face to face with a destiny he didnīt want to reach anymore.
A painting by Beudín, belonging to his "photographic" period and famous for its repetitive images, tries to depict the final scene. Lumo facing the throbbing wall, then turning his back to it. Dialis looking as if sheīs coming closer without really being able to get there. Lumo starting to sink into the Gut (the painting shows countless numbers of soft filaments emerging from the Gut and grasping Lumoīs shoulders, arms, body and legs as if pulling him in) and Dialis closer and closer, with a look in her face the most famous critics have described as "superhuman". Very wide eyes, wet with tears. Her mouth delightfully ajar. Hair floating around her head like an aura. A magic reflection in her features that can only be described as Love, the most overwhelming, absolute and gigantic Love a human face can possibly show.
From now on, events get to the purest level of legend we can expect for this story. Lumo wanted the Gut and Dialis. Dialis wanted Lumo and, more than anything else, she wanted something she hadnīt had for a long time: Love. The Gut read their unconscious minds. The Gut proceeded.
A long time after that, when the legend started to grow and people invented songs about the way it had ended, authors tried to imagine the feelings to turn them into music and lyrics. Nothing can completely describe what happened, no song, no poem. Weīll just ask you to close your eyes for a while and imagine the scene. Lumoīs hand reaching to Dialisīs and the moment they get hold of each other. A close embrace of bursting hearts. And the end. Both of them sinking into the throbbing wall.
You may die if you give up your dreams, but you are reborn and live with more strength, with an unstoppable strength, if you can find a new dream, one that fulfils, at last, all your hopes.
Travelers say that sometimes, when coming across the Gut somewhere in the desert, they have felt a wave of intense, unstoppable love, so powerful itīs almost painful, flowing out from it.
Original title: La Tripa de Dios
Traslated by Claudia De Bella, 1998.