I blinked and rubbed the sleep from my eyes, Jabez stired beside me. The first rays of daylight were framing the old cloth that covered the little square opening over the sink. At the table, seated on one of the old wooden chairs was the black shadowy figure of a man covered by a poncho thrown over his shoulders. His face hidden by a large brimmed hat which had a feather sticking out of one side.
I could easily have panicked, and in any other circumstances no doubt I would have, but I knew who it was. We had been waiting for his arrival. I saw him last night in my dream, El Cuervo de Plata (The Silver Crow). Even in the half-light of the dim interior, I knew he was watching me, I could feel his eyes piercing the darkness.
Jabez was awake now, sitting up in bed. Looking, but not daring to move. I felt his skin next to mine, he was shivering, shivering in the rising heat of the day. My arm went around his waist to hold him and calm his fear.
The dark shadow stood up, turned and pulled aside the cloth at the window. There was now enough light to make out his features. Silver grey hair tumbled in two tiny wisps down each side of his face, the rest tide into a pony tail. He was rugged, unshaven, dark skinned, his cheeks were hollows on each side of his face. His age? Impossible to tell. Old, but how old exactly, I just couldn’t determine.
He placed a cloth sack on the table and walked around as if he was contemplating what to say, or perhaps taking account of the two people he saw there in his house. “You need to eat, rest, and then tonight we can begin.” He had the accent of a local, a native, someone who spoke English, but not as his first language.
My mind started to play thoughts about what was happening here, ‘we can begin’ stuck in my head. What exactly would we begin tonight in this god forsaken place in the middle of nowhere. A place I’d travelled to so as to find answers, but which seemed like a destination that made no sense at all.
I let things ride, it was not the moment to pour out questions. He would, I thought, at least make some things clear tonight. Jabez had relaxed a little, but was still rather nervous. Then I realised we were both naked under the blanket. Perhaps that also occurred to him? Anyway he opened the door and disappeared outside, the time for us to put some clothes on and light the fire for coffee.
I joined him with two tin mugs of coffee, and offered him one. Which he took, looked at me and nodded. Not a person of many words. But for some odd undefinable reason he had an air of comfortable ease about him. At least as far as I was concerned, I was not too sure exactly how Jabez felt.
The evening cast long shadows as the sun disappeared and a full moon rose to take it’s place. A gentle breeze floated in the air arriving from no one particular direction, but moving around and disturbing the heavy air, offering a welcome relief of sorts. In different circumstances this could have been the start of a pleasant change, but something other than the breeze was disturbing the calm. An atmosphere of dark anticipation loomed, something would happen tonight, something which would change my life forever. I felt it. It was palpable.
The old Indian, who had been silent all day, gathered his cloth bag close to him and indicated for us to join him sitting on the bare ground cross legged. The three of us formed a triangle, and we observed as he produced a little sack which he opened, taking out some kind of green vegetable or fruit.
He was mumbling something to himself, then he looked up and turned his head, regarding first me then Jabez. “You need to chew the piece I will give you and eat it, but first chew it a lot.”
With that he passed a piece to each of us, but did not, I noticed, take any for himself. He must have seen me watching him, “I am here to stand guard, to protect you. You will feel a sickness come upon you, but that is normal, do not mind the sickness.”
I looked at the fruit or vegetable, turned it in my open hand. It looked like a cactus, a desert plant. As I was contemplating eating the cactus he spoke again. “The world is not what it appears to be. Tonight you will cross over into a different realm. You must not be afraid. It is nowhere that you do not already know, only you have been away for so long.”
I looked over at Jabez. Then gazed at the moon shadows, the light that played on the old bent tree trunks. I felt the breeze on my cheeks, and decided that this was why I was here. I popped the cactus fruit into my mouth and bit into it’s flesh. After some time I felt a sort of sickness, a nausea rising in my stomach, I saw that Jabez must be feeling the same. He was bent over, both arms holding his stomach. I looked away, it only made me feel worse watching him.
El Cuervo de Plata stood up and started to move towards the house. It was then I began to realise that this was no ordinary fruit or vegetable. As he rose and moved my eyes followed him and I was captivated by the traces of light he left behind as he walked. It was like those time lapse films of car lights at night where you see red and white lines from the tail and head lights. The difference was the colours, they were electric, they followed the curve of his body forming a silhouette, but they were pastel shades of clear blue and pale green with yellow and gold, a line of red to finish, a sort of electric rainbow.
He vanished into the building and I looked down at my hand with the strangest feeling of detachment. It was my hand, but then again it wasn’t. I raised my arm up from the ground, above my head in a sweeping arc, and I watched fascinated by the coloured traces that followed my arm through the air. They were blue and violet, crimson and orange gold. A broad smile crossed my face. I was entranced, any feeling of sickness had evaporated. I looked around at everything with new eyes. I saw the moonlight on the old tree trunk across from me, and as I studied the patterns it made, I saw that the old tree was alive. It was full of the most incredible life, every part of it moved, breathed with life. I could see the sap rising to every branch and leaf, leaves which moved this way and that.
At that moment I realised I had come home. I had been away a long time, but as time no longer existed, all those years were nothing other than the blink of an eye. I was a part of that tree, I was there with Jabez. I held his eyes with mine, and I saw his soul, a thing so pure that tears streamed down my face. In that instant of bliss I was so happy I felt my heart would burst out of my chest. I heard a boom, boom, boom, an enormous loud noise in my ears and I knew it was my heart beating. For an instant a doubt crossed my mind, like a tiny butterfly landing on the tip of my nose. What if it stopped? My heart. I felt the hand of the old man on my shoulder, I heard him speak to me, but his lips did not move. “Never doubt yourself. There is nothing to fear except fear itself.”
The butterfly was gone, once again I was looking at the world around me in awe. Smiling and laughing with Jabez. Waving my arms, just to see the colours trace patterns through the night. And I watched El Cuervo de Plata take a long stemmed Indian pipe from his sack, fill it and light it. I marvelled at the subtle swirls of smoke that rose from the little clay bowl at the end, and made such intricate patterns before disappearing to join the night air. As night turned to day with the first rays of sunshine rising up over the horizon, the moon disappeared and was gone. The pipe was passed around from one person to the next, each toke boosting me back up an instant, as the experience of the night faded with the dawn.
“What was that? What did you give us to eat?” I looked across at him as I took the pipe.
“Indian magic,” he replied, and I was sure I saw the hint of a smile, a glint in his eye. “It took you nowhere you didn’t already know. You had just forgotten.”
‘Nowhere I didn’t already know,’ I repeated to myself, and I knew what he was telling me was true. I had felt at home, no, more than that, I felt I had returned home.
“People,” he was saying as he pulled on his pipe. The little bowl at the tip glowing bright for a second. Then he twisted the pipe, blew into it, and the burnt out contents flew out hitting the dry earth. “People live in two dimensions,” he had a philosophical reflective air about him, his head raised slightly so we could see his face beneath the broad brimmed hat. It was as if he wanted us to see he was being very serious. He was teaching us, or reminding us, about something important.
“Two dimensions, reality and dreams. They seldom crossover. When they do people dismiss it, pay no attention.” He paused, letting his words float in the air. “I opened a door to the third dimension and you knew it only too well.”
I felt the sun on the side of my face, it was heating the day, I felt it’s energy. I concentrated on what he was saying, trying to give it meaning and understand.
“Important things cannot be taught, they have to be experienced. You don’t learn to ride a bike, you don’t learn how to swim, by reading a book or by someone telling you how to do it. You have to experience it. You experience how to balance on a bicycle and how to float on the water, and then you know how to do it.” In all the time we had been here this was the most talking any of us had done, and he had never said more than a few words.
“People,” he continued, “they ignore the third dimension, just as they ignore their dreams. They can live out an entire life in two dimensions, even when that other reality breaks through.”
He stood up and began to pace around. We both looked up at him, following his steps with our eyes.
“Even if something happens that is very dramatic in their lives, still they can carry on like it was nothing.” He had an expression of being slightly cross now. I could see his entire face as he paced back towards me. “The man who is delayed catching his plane by a phone call that he picks up, who arrives at the check-in desk which is closed. Who is angry at the situation, missing his flight. Then he hears that the plane he should have been on has crashed, crashed with no survivors. He traces back the series of events that led to him missing his flight. He asks himself the question, ‘What if I never took the call?’ The phone call, putting his baggage in the trunk of the taxi, the traffic, the closed check-in desk. All an interconnected series of events, but he thinks, ‘That was chance,’ ‘I’m lucky,’ ‘Destiny,’ he dismisses it and gets on with his life, his life of two dimensions.”
This was a lot to absorb, what was this old Indian saying? Somethings like that might change a person’s life, but not always. I had to ask him, I needed to know where this was all going. “What do mean?”
“You will need to navigate through the third dimension and I will help you. Everything is connected, everything has a meaning. Life is not how you think it is, it’s not how you see it.”
Was he a madman, a lunatic? It would be easy to believe, but I had experienced last night something I had never experienced before, and it was powerful magic. I kind of trusted this old native Indian, but I don’t know why.