Note: This piece was originally written almost ten years ago. Though my voice, my style, and my realization were still fairly immature (compared with the ever-so slightly less immature voice, style, and realization i now possess), this piece is a celebration of one of the most sacred experiences of my life, and wanted to share with you all.
The full piece is rather long, so i have decided to serialize it into six consecutive installments, which will be published here throughout the week.
Part I – The Climb
“One day I will leave this world and dream myself to Reality…” Crazy Horse, 1874
We are surrounded. On all sides, a horde of mechanical dinosaurs roar their thunderous roars, ricocheting chaotically off the rubble. The stone wall of the mountain reflects the noise in all directions, flooding our ears with liquid concrete, entombing us in sonic opacity. It is a symphony of white noise that shifts and undulates with each movement of the head. There is no way of telling where the industrial growl is coming from; it sounds like they are everywhere. As our paranoia approaches a boil, so does the intensity of our aspiration—we had come this far; there is no turning back now.
Where am I? I am somewhere in between dreams, surfing the turning page in between chapters. What am I doing? I am fleeing a former me, reaching for a deeper I, struggling to create myself anew, molding my self into something meaningful, something real. In a flash I had seen my own Face, and I yearned to chisel out some vague likeness within myself.
We can’t tell how many of them there are. We can’t tell where they are. We know there is one on the far right base of the mountain, behind a small crop of trees about a thousand feet away, its eyes shifting back and forth against the black of night. So far we’ve climbed on the far side of the rubble heap, safely hidden from view of the mechanical monster on the other side.
I am equal parts exhausted and exhilarated, my breath struggling to keep pace with my heart. The climb is pretty intense at first, the lower rubble composed mostly of tremendous boulders, some the size of Volkswagen busses, from the earlier and more dramatic days of blasting. These we climb with our entire bodies, searching strategically for stable routes up and through the massive monoliths. The debris becomes finer as we ascended, since the later blasts were much more calculated and refined than the earlier ones. Eventually we reach such an incline that our steps are triggering avalanches of detritus beneath our soles. We are getting pretty high, having climbed the nearly two hundred foot tall pile of rubble that encircles the base of the mountain. But it is as far as we can go. We have been able to conceal ourselves so far, but now we need to scale the far right side of the monument. We have come to the point where the rubble reaches its highest slope and begins to curve around the mountain, leaving us exposed to the only metal beast we know for sure was there, awash in its guttural growl. We have no choice but run, and pray we can somehow traverse the mountain without being detected.
I slowly peer over the ridge of stone and dirt, observing with cautious eyes the movement of the massive Caterpillar. Its path seems predictable, moving back and forth like a video game sentry, taking about forty-five seconds for each trip. We study the situation for about five minutes, assuring the regularity of its motion, and quickly determine our strategy. We would watch it come toward us until it was just about to turn around, and then we would just run for it, as fast as our legs would take us.
This is absurd. None of us know if we will be able to make it before the beast turns back around again. Absurd, yes, but it is about all we can do. So we go with it.
The time had come. The machine makes its turn and is now coming toward us. We brace ourselves, watching the white lights approach behind the trees, until it is about to make another turn.
“Okay,” I say over the ubiquitous rumble of industrial machinery. “This is it—get ready! Five, four, three, two…”
At some decimal point between 2 and 1, the world stops. The air, indescribably thick and heavy with the invisible mass of the bulldozer’s sonic aura, suddenly vanishes. There is now only a sudden stillness, an impossibly massive silence laced with sounds of wind ripping across the mountain face. The engine had suddenly cut off, leaving only the howling emptiness of the South Dakota night. We are paralyzed, petrified with anticipation.
We don’t know what is happening. We don’t know whether the guy had seen us and is coming after us, or if he’s just taking a break to piss. We have no clue whatsoever what’s going on. There is only stillness, paranoia, and panic. In my head I run through a multitude of scenarios, realizing the three of us may have to split up and run off in different directions if indeed they are on their way up to get us.
The air is crisp and clean, once opaque with a barrage of white noise, now massively vacant. The wind carries the subtlest of sounds—we can hear the leaves swaying hundreds of yards away, the footsteps of the bulldozer operator as he dismounts his machine, the pounding of our own hearts. We know that if we can hear him he can certainly hear us, and so we remain as still as we can. My leg begins to fall asleep, but I am far too scared of being heard to shift it. The slightest twitch would send a stone tumbling down the slope, knocking five more loose as it went. I wonder how I would be able to run on a dead leg if we hear someone climbing the rubble trying to come after us. All we can do is wait patiently in these extremely awkward positions, biting through the burning discomfort of our limbs; just waiting to see what happens.