PYRATES OF THE KOSMOS
2011 by Daniel Cutter-Diamond
K'a kachamamoq .............................Even
now, it murmers
....................................Even now, it sighs
K'a kalolinik .....................................Even
now, it hums
it is empty
In the Cave of the Milky Way, a place in the jungle known only to them,
unmarked by any carven obelisk and days' journeys from the great temples
of Chitzen Itza and Uxmal, 13 old men sit in a semicircle, singing a chant
to Xolotl, God of Eclipse. The beaten gold disks of their feathered headdresses
tremble, glittering faintly in the torchlight. Their altar is set in a grotto
before the giant stalactites, spread with offerings of sacred plants, blessed
water and stone figurines. The sweet smell of burning copal wood makes offerings
to the highest spirits. It is, by the long count of years, Eleven Baktun,
Seventeen K'atun, Two T'un, Seventeen Wimal, Nineteen Kin. The madmen from
across the sea, the crazy devils, call it Anno Domini 1562. The righteous
Christian Bishop Diego de Landa has burned the sacred books of the Maya,
calling them works of the devil, but these priests know who the real devils
are. They have gathered around their most holy relic to make their final
plea to the gods of their grandfathers. They have commanded slaves to pile
earth high over the cave's mouth and to disguise the entrance with plants.
After this is finished, the slaves are to withdraw and kill themselves-all
but one, whom they fear, who stands by to see that it is all done.
The chanting has stopped. Each priest has before him a black obsidian blade,
razor sharp. They raise them as one, make a single quick motion, and blood
runs thickly through stone channels and into the well behind the altar.
Lamps burn steadily in the cave's still air. Soon they will go out, and
primal darkness will return, not to be broken for four centuries. Tomorrow,
a day's march from here, a dozen corpses will lay neatly on the ground as
a single black crow flaps away.
* * * * *
The sun was just past noon and Rufus was already high as a loon on gin,
tonic, and hashish. "Where are you?" Jessica was pleading. "Where
did you go? I can't find you anymore, I don't even know you. You drag me
to this awful little town in the middle of nowhere on your metaphysical
quest, there's nothing to do except screw and watch you get wasted, I can't
even find any nail polish remover for god's sake!" She shakes her golden
hair back from her face. "It'll be exotic, honey, its going to be such
an adventure" Bullshit! Like it's an adventure wiping your puke off
of everything! I hate you! Do you hear me, Rufus? I hate you!" She
sends a pitcher flying in his direction; it hits the wall next to him and
This gets his attention.
"Try some lemon oil, love."
"Lemon oil? You should be able to find some in the market. That'll
take that old lacquer right off!"
"Nooo! It has to be a solvent, you moron!"
"I'll take you to the mechanic, then
"It's not the lacquer, shithead! I want to go home! Now!"
back on the woven blanket, let out a cloud of blue smoke, and groped for
a sweaty glass. "We can't go home now, love. Our research is going
so well. Isn't it Alex?"
"Ah yes, very well," mutters the large man with the enormous mustache
and fez, peering distractedly over his bifocals. "Is this a transitive
verb?" He holds up an 11 by 17 color copy." Rufus peers blearily
across the room. "I couldn't say, old fellow." Pauses. "Have
you even noticed that all those Mayan gods look like ducks? See, they all
have little bills, like platypus-es. Platypi?"
"That's the Northern Quiche style for you, like at Palenque. They must
have revered water fowl, like the Egyptians. Hmmm" Alexei re-applied
his magnifying glass to the text.
"Shut up about your water fowl! I'm bored, I'm lonely, there's nothing
to see here." She goes over to the bed and sits next to Rufus. "I
know this is important for you, I know you have to discover the secret of
the universe. But. I just want to take a hot shower, put on some nice clothes
and go to a restaurant! Couldn't you smoke hash in LA? Or New York. It's
still the universe, it's just got more amenities."
He swings his
head of long auburn hair and looks at her lovingly, if blearily from his
big, lightly mascara-ed eyes. His wide mouth is slightly open, showing the
tips of large flawless teeth. He shrugs sadly with his shoulders and eyebrows
simultaneously. Then, with a smile, he tilts his head and throws out his
arm in an inviting gesture. " A Jug of wine, a pipe of hash and thou,"
He improvises, Beside me singing in the wilderness-oh, wilderness were paradise
enow!" Jessica takes in the view, the clay walls the color of a Dutch
Renaissance interior, the sweltering tropical breeze laden with the scents
of honey and manure, the little birds in the green fronds waving against
the blue sky over the red tiled roofs of the little pueblo of Yarina, and
beyond, the vast Andean valley. Rufus winks at her. "Rubaiyat, you
She sighs. "You always get your way, don't you?"
"You know me too well."
"I think he's hard-wired for it." Alexei comments as he slips
on his leather sandals. "I'm going for a walk."
"Toodles, old chap!" Rufus waves and pulls Jessica close to him.
out the window. He passes her the pipe. He appreciates her body tucked into
his lap like a perfectly fitting jigsaw puzzle. Her warmth and the tingling
arousal of her touch summons his mind to point like a compass needle in
a magnetic field. His gaze clears as he lightly strokes her head, smelling
the salt-savory scent of her scalp, humming a little tune he just heard.
He reaches for a different pipe. "This is lovely, isn't it? Some Salvia
"No thanks-too weird for me."
"Stay. Please. I need you to be my anchor."
"How romantic. Chain me up and throw me overboard." But she stays.
"I'll be back in a short eternity, my love. Ave Invisi!" He lights
the pipe of salvia, holds the smoke in deep and long.
He feels himself
constricted, like he was being sucked into a tunnel the size and shape of
an apostrophe. Time slows. Sound becomes nebular. The blue sky over the
mountains seems carved from a single block of sapphire. An ocean swimming
with geometries, astral diatoms, marble veins, crystal lattices. In the
midst of it, black wings are flapping with great bellows rushes. Round golden
eyes greet his out of a dark brown face, creased like the landscape seen
from a plane. The wind becomes a roar. Golden light begins to rise, filling
the sky like the first dawn. He's moving fast, as if across rippling waves
and snowy peaks into the sunrise, and sees it on the horizon: monumental,
awesome, blinding and confounding, like a planet of gold, mapped with swirling
fractal continents, its surface in constant movement as if crawling with
myriad incandescent ants.
with Alexei slapping his wrists as Jessica holds a cool cloth to his forehead.
His shirt and hair are sticking to his body. Alexei's lips are moving; he's
singing softly in the language of his grandfather. Then he sees Rufus open
his eyes, stops and smiles. "Welcome back, my friend. You've been away
from us for almost five hours." "You idiot" Jessica says,
not unkindly. The late afternoon sunlight is making the leaves glow and
the breeze is gentle and warm. Rufus relaxes, but then notices with alarm
that Jessica's cloth is bloody. "What in blazes
brings over a mirror and shows him. In the center of his forehead is a red
ring of blood, seeping through his pores in a pattern like a circle with
a cross. "That's terribly interesting, isn't it?"
Remembering something, he starts to laugh hysterically.
I found it! By all the grace of Gaia, I found it!"
my friend. What is it?"
it found me
are wide, mad
map of Yucatan!"
the veins in his eyes could almost be throbbing.
go see the wizard!"
* * * * *