sidebrow

Post-Holing to the Flesh Temple

My physics professor, Dr. Slatoris, was being convicted of a crime against reality. He held an impromptu conference to counsel us students. After all, physics was the basis of our beliefs and without Dr. Slatoris we had no other direction to turn. The conference was held at a kibbutz/retreat fashioned after a Hindu temple in Aspen, Colorado.

After dropping my bags off in my private bungalow, I ventured to the massive banquet room. Most of the other students were high school delinquents. One freshman girl with ripped fishnet stockings was sobbing quietly to herself. Dr. Slatoris didn’t waste any time. He filed down each row questioning and consoling the students. He shielded himself with a plastic bubble that gave him a warped appearance so we couldn’t identify him, which was ridiculous because we all knew who he was. The questions he asked were vague moral and ethical questions that didn’t relate to the specific crime he had committed.

“You don’t seem very affected by what you did,” I found myself blurting out.

“You don’t think I have regrets?” he yelled through his voice scrambler. “Observe!”

He took a pair of scissors and started stabbing holes in the blackboard. Even the freshman in the ripped fishnet stockings stopped her sobbing. Dr. Slatoris picked up some chalk and connected the holes with spiraling arcs, segueing into a particle physics problem (see Exhibit K). His handwriting was messy and he was doing a lot of hand waving. Once again, we were distracted from the issue of why he was on trial. I wasn’t knowledgeable enough about his case to put him on the stand, so I just took notes and re-sketched what he said.


Exhibit K. The Collision


To distract us further and provide entertainment during our scheduled break, a heavy metal band named Platinum Blonde was setting up. The guitarist was going through a sound check with a hollow body guitar that sounded tinny. They spent a long time warming up and getting everything set just right, and then never played anything when the time came.

We got bored of standing around, so me and this guy Rig decided to take a walk along nearby Snowmass Lake. I left my shoes inside thinking we weren’t going far. It felt good to walk barefoot on the pine needles. Once we left, a few others decided to follow us. Rig led the way at first. He was having troubles getting around the shore because he didn’t want to get his shoes wet. It didn’t matter to me that my feet got wet. I used the hanging tree branches for balance. Rig followed. It was getting muddy under the surface and I started sinking. Everyone including Dr. Slatoris was back on the shore watching. It got to the point where the water was above our private parts.

The lake got deeper and sludgier, turning to putrid oil. The bottom was scummy quicksand. We pushed our bodies through the muck, with our hands reaching to the sky for balance. There was nothing to derive momentum from. Cliffs were caving in around the edges. The water was bubbling and boiling even though it was freezing cold. The shoreline tapered off vertically, but if we were part of that motion, then we could just as easily perceive it as a lack of event horizon.

It made no sense to get pulled under, so I started to swim in the mucky molasses. I called back to Rig, but he was reluctant to go in all the way. The “water” was getting denser and darker. Rig was yelling that we needed to find somewhere to hide. He was reading instructions from a cheat sheet, “it say’s there’s a cave, but do you trust Dr. Slatoris’ judgment? It could be a trap.

Out of the blue ether, something was stinging my body. There were fish shapes moving in the corner of my eyes—primordial swishes from dorsal fins and swooshing crocodile tails. I was beginning to get scared and had to remind myself, as I usually did when I found myself in situations like this, which was never, that the fear was all in my mind. I lifted my severed arm out of the water and what was left of it was covered with leeches. What I felt and saw didn’t line up. I put my arm back under water and it felt fine, but crabs were biting my legs. I took a deep breath and concentrated on retaining my composure.

The “cave entrance” was on the surface of the water. If the level of the lake was one foot higher it would’ve spilled into and filled the cave. I climbed onto the edge of the entrance and the leeches slid right off, revealing my real limbs. Below the cave entrance was a huge vaulted room with magnificent columns in a state of decay. Even though they looked Romanesque, I assumed they were Hindu because they matched the architectural style of the kibbutz.

From the rim of the cave entrance, I jumped on to a thin Formica tabletop that extended hundreds of feet on top of a very narrow pillar in the center of the vault. There was nowhere else to go. I realized I was there (our destination) and turned to call back to Rig. “I’m on top and there’s no way down.”

“How did you get to the top in the first place? You can’t make it the top if you were never at the base.” He was rotating the hand drawn map in different directions to get a fresh perspective. “These directions are sequential. They assume a singular starting point.”

Below me, at the pastured base of the shaft, the mopey girl in ripped fishnet stockings was gazing up and wondering how I got there. A string of spittle was dripping from her mouth but she sucked it in before it dripped onto the lawn. She was jealous and scared, but worshipped me at the same time. This was empowering. I knew everyone’s thoughts. I kicked a metal cotter pin off the ledge just to hear it hit the ground. Even as it fell, it sounded hollow. The ringing reverberated within my head. I couldn’t know for sure what it sounded like to the others below and was not even sure it ever hit the grassy ground. The fishnet-stockings girl was scrambling over boulders to flee the temple. Only from her reaction could I tell it was all collapsing.

When this thought entered my head, the elevated platform started swaying. I started spinning clockwise. I wasn’t sure if I was actually spinning or if I was just getting dizzy in my ears. My body leaned out over the edge so my eyes could check my relative motion in reference to the ground. The change in my angular momentum only made it worse. I couldn’t help myself from being scared and knew I would fall as a consequence. I froze into suspension of disbelief and never fell.

Breaking loose from my frozen state, I jumped and clung to the outer wall. There was also a tribe of monkeys casually hanging out on the sheer cliff face. It was difficult for me to hold on even though genetically we all came from a common ancestor. Then it occurred to me that the swaying shaft I was perched on was a monkey tail, and since it was white, I knew I was on the tail tip of Hanuman, the notorious white monkey from the Ramayana epic. But at the base of the pillar/tail was a giant chessboard, so then I realized that what I had been on top of was actually an exaggerated rook that was taller than all the other pieces on the board, even though the queen technically had the most power.

“You can’t castle now!” Rig yelled up to me. “The king has already been moved.

Dr. Slatoris appeared from behind the column to chime in that castling, like quantum tunneling, didn’t make physical sense, but was just a construct of convenience.

Dr. Slatoris had been using us all of this time. Or rather, he was kibitzing a divine source we could not see. The girl in the fishnet stockings was his black queen. Rig and I were white rooks. It was all becoming clear. By learning from him, we had become pawns in his crime. The kibbutz was a game board for his guilty pleasures that went against the grain of humanity. Through this unseen channel, he castled to force me to switch my strategy. Now that I was self-aware, I took over from where he left off and sat there for seven days and nights. I can’t remember who won, but I remember feeling confident that I was but one piece in the process of surviving. This was all I could speak for. To this day, Dr. Slatoris (who is serving time) and I correspond by playing chess through the mail. He still has not confessed. I am serving out his sentence for him.