Chapter 40:     the Kha-rat

Transcribed from dictation, ADAM speaking--

(the sound of a guitar being idly strummed)

Khara, it feels good to play a guitar again!  I think this is the
only artifact of civilization that I've really missed--like a part
of me I'd left behind.

(a scale is run through until a note buzzes)

Grunt!  Need to practice, though.  Been a long time since last.

You know, too bad I couldn't have had this guitar with me when I 
was standing in the Kha-rat that night.  I could have played them 
a song.  Which is sort of what I did anyway.

Because after a while of me just standing there and them just 
looking, nobody saying or doing anything, it got more embarrassing
than frightening.  Nobody was making a move.  I had no idea what 
the program was, but after a while I got the impression that I was
the one who was supposed to do something. Convince them that I was
okay, entertain them, something.

My mind went computing through all the impressive NokhSo education
and experience I've had, told myself how I was the unique product 
of a very special situation and environment, surely I had SOME 
trick to win the restless natives over.  You know: an eclipse of 
the moon I could pull out of my sleeve--if I had a sleeve.  I figured 
I had to do something to impress or amuse my audience, even though I 
could hardly do a stand-up routine in Nokhontli.

Then came the multiple flash, as soon as I thought of them as an 
audience, because that's a situation I knew so well.  I would sing
them a song.  They were all so ripped on mushrooms that they'd 
probably get off on it even if they didn't understand the words.

And I knew exactly which song to sing--that was part of the multiple 
flash.  A song I had written about looking for the sasquatch people--
I had written it to THEM years before!  

It was that song I'd done with Melly on talent night at Monroe High 
School, we'd even won the contest with it.  There was no guarantee 
that it would appeal to Nokhontli ears, but there was no doubt in my 
mind that this was the song for the occasion, I knew that with a 
magical clarity.  

I didn't have a guitar or Melly to back me up, but these guys 
would never know the difference. 

(guitar picks up a rhythm, an easy thudding beat being stomped
on the floor)

I imagined myself as that old black blues singer I've got in my head 
sometimes.  Closed my eyes and stomped my big foot and clapped my 
hands in this same slow, heavy beat and sang.  I knew they wouldn't
understand the words, so I didn't worry about them and this new 
extension of that song came spontaneously out of my mouth:

(guitar strummed, melody, ADAM sings)

   On my quest to find a brother in the forests of the Earth,
   Checked out the land, the trees, the lakes, the breeze, okay,
   But found no peoples of my mother, nor the secret of my birth,
   Until they came one night and carried me away.
        They took me seeking, took me finding, 
        to my lost ancestral home,
        Just as I quit trying, lay down dying
        of being alone.

(song ends, guitar goes silent)

Well, it worked.  I sang my little heart out and they knew it.  
There were grunts of approval and interest, their heads bobbed up 
and down, they had evidently understood the concept of rhythm.  I
was a hit.

Well, not with everybody.  A tall thin old-looking squatch stood 
from his squat and stepped into the ring with me, unsatisfactory 
look on his face.  A scowl, in fact, aimed at me.  He wore a 
shoulder bag, yet another Sha-haka.  His name was Dafnat, I later 
learned. 

"I think no man will sponsor this...boy.  I am concerned that he 
has committed 'skogome even here and now!  That...Skesk trick he 
did with his voice sounded to me like a NokhSo ritual, it was 
certainly not Nokhontli!"

The people in the congregation looked at each other, suddenly 
worried that they had applauded some Forbidden Thing, which itself
was Forbidden, you know.  It hadn't even occurred to anyone else, 
but Dafnat was a religious fanatic and liked to catch people in 
violations of the rules.  His claim to fame, I later learned.

"Perhaps Dannat did wrong to even bring this unclean half-NokhSo 
here at all..." he said, pointing at me.

Old Dannat stood up, slowly, quite calm.  "I was so instructed by 
the Elders.  Is it THEIR wisdom you call WRONG?"

Dafnat hesitated there, playing the game.  And it was a game, a 
Courtroom Drama.  Remember that these people have no TV or movies 
or theater, the Kha-rat is what they do for Entertainment.

That's when Dagrolyt, my buddy and the host of this event, stepped 
forward into the ring.  He said something to the effect of: "What 
young Dadameh did was neither skesk nor a forbidden thing, since 
he used no artifacts to do it, only his own Nokhon voice.  It was 
clearly a form of magic.  I liked it." 

"But he has raised his voice in Oration," Dafnat argued, "and not 
to speak the Atli," 

"Nowhere in the Atli does it say that a voice raised in Oration
may only be used for the Atli itself."

"Nowhere?  Do you claim to know the entire Atli?"

"Oh, sure.  Don't you?"

The two Sha-hakas had a dramatic argument about the rules of the 
Atli, throwing quotations at each other like two preachers 
battling it out with Biblical verses.  Until Dafnat bowed slightly
to Dagrolyt, said "Then this must be judged by the Elders."

"Of course," Dagrolyt said, "and they will agree with me.  Just as
everyone else here agrees with me--don't you all?"

The squatches all looked at each other, then bobbed their heads, 
relieved not to have been involved in some messy 'skogome.  So
Dafnat retired from the ring.  Dagrolyt looked at me, gave me a
little head bob and smiled.  

I hadn't understood any of it at that time, but I was sure that 
Dagrolyt was on my side and that he'd just helped me out.  So I 
thankfully bowed and bobbed to him too, then quickly left the 
center of the circle myself, squatted down at the edge, as if I'd 
done my part and it was somebody else's turn now.  Nobody stopped 
me, so I got away with it.


Oh, I just remembered how at one point in that evening I heard the familiar distant thunder of a jet plane passing across the sky. I looked up and saw a tiny bright light moving past the stars. Even though I've never been on a jet myself, I knew what it was like from lots of movies, TV, all that, common stuff. I could easily imagine myself being on it. Suddenly I seemed to fall out of that sasquatch scene and back into the world I had grown up in, acutely aware of the civilized world around us everywhere. There were people on that plane, maybe even someone I knew, probably landing at SeaTac Airport in a few minutes, perhaps flying in from the other side of the planet. I felt a sense of wonder at the godlike technology of Mankind. Then I looked back down to where I was and saw that the Nokhontli were also looking up. But it wasn't wonder that they felt. Scowls were raised to the sky and curses of "Skesk!" were being muttered. For them that little light moving across their sky was a blasphemous disturbance, an unholy sign marring their ceremony. It was an unwelcome confirmation that civilization was closing in all around them and that they were being squeezed out of existence. I looked up again with mixed feelings. I'd just been thinking: Hey, it would be cool to be on that plane, flying off to Europe or Japan. I found it hard to feel like a Nokhon at that moment. Very disorienting.
By midnight the congregation was so stoned that there was some sort of psychedelic static electricity in the air. Most of them were not moving, just lying back and looking up at the full moon. Even though I hadn't eaten any mushrooms myself, I was definitely picking up a contact high anyway, because I began to tingle. So I laid back and looked at the moon too. I found that one of the major functions of the monthly Kha-rat, as well as the orgy and the initiation stuff, was a psychic event, somewhat between being Entertaining and Spiritual. The group was experiencing A Vision, which I couldn't see, but which was evidently quite vivid to them. Mostly, I just saw the same old moon. But I did catch a flickering image of another version, quite different, as if I glimpsed a bit of what they saw--it looked bigger, closer--a lot closer, in fact, a whole hell of a lot closer, until it seemed to fill up the sky, almost touching the horizon all around us. Of course, we were in the mountains, but still--for a second the moon looked like it was only a mile above us. And then it went back to normal for me, because my White Man's Brain dichotomized at this point: I knew that it had to be an illusion. I was also aware that I was seeing an entirely different moon than the Nokhontli saw: My Moon was in Lunar Orbit at a mean distance of 238,857 miles above us, an astronomical object 2,160 miles in diameter, which had been walked upon by a NokhSo named Armstrong in 1969. Their moon was a female cosmic entity they worshipped, whole different thing. The logic of my scientific education kept telling me that if the moon was actually as close as it looked, all the earth's oceans would be draining towards the lunar gravity and that the atmosphere would burn up due to the speed required to keep that big rock in orbit, so that it wouldn't fall on us. It was a shame, but I had to reject that beautiful illusion as false. And yet, I could almost feel the gravity of the moon pulling at me. Not my body, but my Spirit, my soul, whatever I have inside my body. That scared me, like I was falling into the moon! I gripped at the ground, but that didn't help because I still felt like I was slipping out of my body... I felt a sudden twinge of panic--had to look away from the moon, roll over onto my belly; turn my back on that whole experience. I was NOT ready for it! The feeling went away, as well as the feeling that I was picking up a big zap from all the others. When I calmed down, I noticed how quiet all the Nokhontli were. Like they were all dead. I even wondered for a horrible moment if those mushrooms they had eaten were poisonous, if this ceremony had been a mass-suicide. Not understanding so much of their language, I couldn't tell what was really going on. But then I saw that they WERE breathing, very slowly and in perfect sync with each other. That was weird too.
I fell asleep just before dawn. Awoke to the sounds of sex and wrestling. It was about mid-morning and everyone but me was getting laid one last time for the road. The shyma was still in the air, but less potent than the evening before. Some of the men had evidently had enough sex and now they were wrestling with each other instead. They were rather enthusiastic about it and yet, very quiet. There were no shouts or cheers, just bobbing heads for good moves. It seemed to be for fun rather than real macho competition, but nobody wanted to get thrown. Reminded me of Sumo Wrestling, because those squatches were so big and heavy that the whole meadow floor shook when one of them thumped down hard. Luckily, no one challenged me, they knew I was wounded. I could see that there was a special squatch technique to it, but of course, I didn't know it. Even if I did, who could I ever have practiced with, growing up in Monroe? I watched for an hour, then noticed that some of the guests began to leave the meadow. It seemed the Kha-rat was over. There were farewells, a few final flings at sex, or wrestling, then folk drifted off. No one said anything to me. Not even Dannat and his women. I saw them speak with Dagrolyt, it looked like they were saying goodbye. I walked over to them, ready to go with them. But Dannat just gave me a nod--a goodbye nod-- and walked away. It seemed that Dannat was finished with me. Well, I told myself, I didn't much care for the accommodations there anyway. At least Mawa looked back at me with something like a wistful farewell, and they were gone. Feeling kind of lonely, I looked around for Dagrolyt, who was now the only one I knew there. He was busy saying farewells to his guests, having been host for the Kha-rat. No time for me. I didn't try to contact him, assuming that he'd also be saying a polite farewell to me and then where would I go? I put it off. Other Nokhontli were milling around, there was still some sex and wrestling going on, but the party was just about wound down. I seemed to be just in the way, so I took a walk.
I found myself in a really nice place: that perfect little meadow, high up in the mountains, but green and warm anyway. Well, warm enough for me, being a squatch, you might have considered it pretty cold. It must have been about mid-December by then, drizzling slightly, but no snow. I think there must have been some kind of underground volcanic warmth, you know, like in the grassy crater of Mount Rainier. It was spectacularly beautiful! There was a fine little waterfall and a tiny lake at one end of an alpine plateau dotted with lots of tiny flowers in all different colors. I heard a marmot call and saw it stick its funny little head out of the ground. Higher up, a glacier fed the waterfall, which fed the lake and lots of small creeks zigzagging across the grassy meadow floor in several directions, heading downhill to somewhere far away and out of sight. I was really hit by the symbolism of this place being a starting point, an origin. Life was so clean here, so new. It was Eden. Art, I remembered you describing how you'd perceived the meadow where you met my mother and me as if it were "Eden" and now I'd found a place that felt like that to me. Seems we all have our own version of the Garden of Eden. That place gave me the feeling that I'd come Home. Adam out of Eden, right? It felt like awakening to a new life, a beginning. Reborn, I suppose--especially after having been afraid of dying as I had several times since having been shot, including the previous full moon night. Suddenly, I felt happy to be there, maybe for the first time since I'd come into the squatch world. I thought I'd like to stay in or near this meadow for a while, if I could find any food there. But first I felt I should get back to where the Kha-rat had been to see if I could find Dagrolyt, the only guy I knew. But everyone was gone. There wasn't any a sign that 26 squatches had ever been there, talk about your environmentally correct tourists. If so many humans had thrown a party like that, there'd have been burned-out campfires, tire tracks, maybe even discarded paper and beer cans--well, depending on how ecologically oriented the humans were, of course. But there wasn't even a FOOTPRINT-- it was if last night had never happened. And there I was, all alone. The Nokhontli had vanished. Without me. Had I been rejected after all? I...(telephone suddenly rings in the background, ADAM pauses)... jeez, wonder who THAT is...I'd answer it, but don't want anyone to know I'm here yet... (phone rings 4 times more, then answering machine cuts in, ART'S VOICE: "Forest Residence, we're not home but you can leave a message. You know the routine." beeeeeeep. but no message is left, just a few seconds of white noise, a click, then silence) Damn! I was hoping they'd leave a message, so I could KNOW who was calling...like, what if it was Melly? ...aw man, I'm sure it WAS, she never did like answering machines, HAD to be her... ...I should have...no, no. Not right Now. Just can't.

Chapter 41

Adam out of Eden