Chapter 42:     Purification

Transcribed from dictation, ADAM speaking--

Of course, I hadn't forgotten that you people at home were 
worrying about me.  Actually, I'd been thinking about you all a 
lot, I just hadn't been in physical shape to make it to anywhere 
I could contact you and then I got locked into this purification 
thing.  When we left the little alpine meadow to go meet the 
purification committee, I reminded Dagrolyt of my problem:

"I've really got to get in touch with my Nokhso parents to tell 
them I'm still alive.  And as soon as possible, they must think 
I'm dead, I've been gone for almost two moons."

"Yes, I understand your problem, but how can we do that?  Your
parents live very far away."

"If we go down the mountain just a ways we'll eventually run into 
some Nokhso bakhl, where I can borrow a..." no word for telephone, 
of course "...a skesk-thing for talking far away."

"Borrow skesk from the NokhSoli?" he asked, looking both amazed
and worried at once, then added, "while on the way to your own

"You've got some conflict about that?" 

He laughed out loud.  "And I thought I bent the rules!"

Then he got serious, "Kl'sba, Dadameh, that might be a very long 
trip--especially since you tell me that the NokhSo Alutna may be 
after you.  Can you guarantee me that we two Nokhons can just 
walk up to any NokhSo passing by on that Highway and borrow a
Whatever-it-Was without any problems...such as them shooting or 
capturing us?"

"Uhhh...well, no."

"Your Purification committee is expecting you tomorrow, a journey 
we can just barely make in time without detours.  They will be 
questioning you about your relationship to the NokhSoli and how 
dependent you are upon Skesk, where your loyalties are, etc.  
They might even ask when you last had any contact with the 
Corrupting Evil of Skesk."  

"Could be embarrassing, I guess," I had to admit.

"And one thing you must NEVER do is lie to them.  They will know 
it, I assure you."

"But I never lie anyway," I told him with a shrug.

"Oh, guess not.  Since you are bred to be an Orator, you probably 
CAN'T tell a lie."

"I'll just tell the truth, that I don't want my NokhSoli parents 
to suffer because of me..."

"If you tell them that you gave your past NokhSo life priority
over them, they might exile you.  I'm not sure, but if so--you 
would not be Purified, you could never become a Sha-haka and 
you would be an outlaw."

"Shit, I'm already an outlaw in NokhSo Land!"

"Look, you decide and I'll back you up, but right now it's pretty 
much one way or the other: if you go back to the NokhSo world 
right now, you might just have to stay there...if you can.  But if 
you wait a while longer and at least become Purified, you can try 
to get word to your parents later."

So we went on to our appointment.  Sorry, but it was important to 
me to get into that world and if I blew it then I might never 
have gotten the chance again.

We were supposed to meet the committee at a "special place" in the mountains, apparently the traditional arena for such purification ceremonies. Dagrolyt had told me very little about it, except to hint that I was going to see something pretty amazing and he was right. It was pretty far away--not in miles, but in mountain trekking time--considering that we couldn't just drive a car, you know. A journey made even longer by the fact that once we left our warm little meadow we were trekking through snow. Good thing that by then I was so healed and healthy that it finally felt GOOD to push my body into moving fast, even running where it was possible, until we began to climb the steep slopes. Before we climbed too high up Dagrolyt paused to gather a few bushy fir branches to take along, said we'd need them to sleep on, since there was nothing but stone and ice where we were going. After having trekked overnight and all the next day, we arrived just before sunset. We had climbed up into the higher Cascades, into the glaciers. I can't tell you exactly where to, that's secret, but I can mention that we could see Seattle and Puget Sound far out on the horizon, where the sunset was putting on a spectacular show on the snow and in the other direction Eastern Washington turning blue and dark in the shadow of the Cascades. So we were WAY up. But still not quite on top, we came over a crest to a big plateau, where I saw what Dagrolyt had been hinting at: a special place indeed. We were suddenly in the ruins of a completely unknown ancient civilization. Now that was kind of surprising, especially to me-- hey, I major in anthropology and archaeology, but I'd never heard anything about a place like that in the Cascade Mountains. It seems no human has discovered them yet, although they've been right there out in the open all this time. To be fair, I didn't recognize it as a ruin site either at first. You have to know what to look for, ruins can be pretty ruined, overgrown, so that they look like natural formations. But mostly, the scale of those structures seemed way too large to be man-made. In fact, I argued with Dagrolyt to that effect, but he insisted that it was Resk, artificial or unreal and upon observing I finally had to agree. We were up on a mountain that sloped steeply on one side but was sheer cliff on the other side, atop which were these big rows of symmetrical stones. They appeared quite natural, just happening to be lined up. But looking again: the stones all fit together perfectly, like Inca walls in Peru and were laid out in two very parallel rows at a perfect right angle to the cliff. Impressive structures, hundreds of feet long and just as tall. When we climbed slightly higher I could look down on a great flat field, like a floor. At one end there was a circular ruin-pile of rocks suggesting a good sized once-upon-a-time round tower, at the other end those wall structures formed two long platforms jutting out well past the edge of the cliff, all perfectly straight and even, ending with an eight hundred foot drop out at the far end. Pretty flashy. But the biggest flash was when Dagrolyt told me that this had been a Nokhon temple long ago (a hundred thousand years?) and that they had worshipped volcanoes. Sacrificed people to them. I turned to look where he was pointing and sure enough, out there on the horizon--three volcanoes in a neat row: Mount Baker, Mount Rainier, Mount St Helen, all spread out in a symmetric display. They had all been active long ago. Looking down the cliff from up there, facing those three volcanoes square on, I suddenly just KNEW what kind of place this had been. For a second I imagined it was ME about to be sacrificed to those volcanoes, marched to the end of the Round Temple corridor by strong-armed priests, while the bloodthirsty population of that city watched from those stone platforms on each side of the sacrificial altar, where they could have a perfect view of the victims falling all the way to the stones below. I stepped back real quick. Ever the budding anthropologist, I was asking Dagrolyt all sorts of scientifically valid questions about the place as we walked around it, but he didn't know very much about it himself. Just that it was now called "The Temple of Guilt". The original name of the place had been forgotten, or rather, suppressed. The Nokhontli do not honor killing anymore. This was a "special place" for purification rites, where the sins of the Nokhontli people met the sins of the individual Nokhon, everything as symbolic as could be. It was soon too dark to study the ruins any more that day, which had been long and strenuous. We were where we needed to be, since I was to meet my purification committee here at sunrise, so we needed a place to sleep. Of course it was freezing there, on top of a mountain range, but Dagrolyt knew his way around the ruins, leading me to a stairway down into a lower level of passageways and side chambers. It was 100% dark down there, but being a fire-legal Sha-haka, Dagrolyt had the makings for a tiny torch in his pouch so that we could see where we were going. It was kind of spooky anyway. We went a ways in, wanting to distance us from the windy stairway, then picked the cleanest looking side chamber. Checked into the local hotel, not four stars. It was just an empty little nook, but well out of the wind and our own body heat warmed it a little. Luckily, we had those bushy branches we'd brought up the mountain for beds, rather than sleeping on freezing rock. It was almost cozy. Except for the smell--man, can two squatches stink up a room. While at home near our bakhl we didn't usually wear the squatch- stink required among the finest Nokhon society, but to go traveling we had to smear ourselves in it once again. I asked if I should go wash it off with snow before dawn so that I would be more "pure" for the ceremony. I mean, that would be at least one less stinking guy in that room. But Dagrolyt said, "No, in fact, we'll smear you up extra-stinky so that you'll be especially ripe upon arrival. Then you shall be cleansed, as a part of ceremony." This was not only for the symbolic reasoning humans might assume, but also because an applicant was to be "naked", smell-wise, so that his emotional odors would be revealed to the committee. It could have been a long hard night, with no TV or room service in that squatch-stinky little hovel, but luckily it had been such a long hard day that we both fell asleep almost right away.
We awakened well before sunrise--well, Dagrolyt woke me, I might have slept right through my appointment, not having an alarm clock to go by. As he'd said, I had to smear myself in an extra helping of my own piss and shit to be ripe enough for the ceremony. We went upstairs and outside for that. The night was turning blue and red, so we'd timed it pretty well. But it was even colder for me now that my hairy body was wet and we had to wait for the sun to pop up over the Eastern horizon. Dagrolyt had explained the rules of Purification to me, so I knew what to expect. Being my sponsor, he couldn't have anything to do with my Purification except to observe. I knew that a DyøKet, Elder, would ask me questions about my "sins", and then decide upon some minor symbolic punishment to which I should agree. I would then undergo that punishment, which would be some kind of test. If I passed the test, I would be considered "Purified" and allowed to mingle with decent Nokhon folk. And their girls, Dagrolyt had assured me with a nudge. They were right on time, just as the first glint of sunlight showed up, so did they, coming up the same stairway we had used. Made me wonder just how many passageways and chambers there were hiding down inside that mountain. Dagrolyt and I were standing before the round tower ruins because that was where I was supposed to be. Five Nokhontli came up to us, four males, two older and especially large, one female. As they approached I suddenly recognized the biggest Nokhon to be Old Dannat, my first host and Sha-haka doctor. He seemed bigger than ever, although he was probably still only 9 feet tall. Even though we had never really become close friends, he had saved my life. I hoped that he might even be on my side this time too, who knows? I could see that the other two were also Sha-haka by their medicine bags, both strangers to me at that time. Later on I'd come to know them pretty well--the Elder being Da-nama-hat, the woman Mastinta-- but for just then they were strict officials who were out to pass judgment upon me be it pass or fail. I also knew the faces of the two normal-sized squatches: those same Alutna agents who had visited us a week before. Seems that a purification involved the police, sort of like getting a driver's license, I figured. The other three Sha-hakas, including the woman, represented the cultural authorities. Everybody bobbed heads politely, the three Sha-hakas lined up in front of me, the two Alutna moved behind me and stood with Dagrolyt, leaving me alone in the middle. All right, sure, I WAS slightly nervous about this silly junglebunny voodoo ritual I had to submit myself to: Would it hurt? How bad could it get? Da-nama-hat, the Elder, was obviously the oldest of them--logically enough--he was wrinkled and noble-looking like some ancient Indian chief, much of his long hair was white, but there was nothing feeble or doddering about the man, he looked strong and healthy, very imposing. But it was impossible to see if he was sympathetic or not. He spoke: "Welcome to the Temple of Guilt, Young Dadameh. We are here to determine what you are guilty of and hopefully, to exonerate you." That seemed almost friendly, but then old Dannat asked "What are your sins, young Dadameh?" He was playing it formally, as if we were strangers. No smile or nodding, no "good to see you again" foolishness, this was very serious stuff. So I got my mind back on the business at hand, resisting the impulse to say "Hi, Dannat old pal," or any such improper familiarities. I'd rehearsed everything with Dagrolyt to give the proper answers: "My sin is that I was captured by the NokhSoli, but never endeavored to escape and gradually accepted their way of life as Correct and True." To which Mastinta asked: "And what is your justification?" "I was too young to know otherwise, there were no Sha-haka to instruct me, nor had I ever met any member of the Nokhontli until recently, although I had earnestly sought them." "And what is your intent?" asked the Elder Da-nama-hat. This was the Big Question, because now I had to tell them that I was going to try to become Sha-haka. If I'd just say that I was going to be good and plug along in their society and be one of the regular grunts, they'd probably go easy on me, being a victim of circumstances and all. But if I was going to shoot for the stars and climb the social ladder, maybe even become a person of power and authority--especially with my unique advantage of a NokhSo education--well, then they just might really want to test me. But I figured it was make it or break it. I made my statement as formally as I could in the dark, deprived of the usual visual signs that the Nokhon language uses so heavily. "My intent is to be a pure and devoted adherent to the Atli," that part was the standard line and then the big surprise, "and to serve the Nokhontli as Sha-haka." Well, no one gasped or anything. Da-nama-hat the Elder asked, "And to what level do you aspire?" Dagrolyt had mentioned that there were many levels of Sha-haka, but had never spelled out the system. Naturally, I just figured I should go as high as I could, whatever that might be, so I said "Ome et dwe," which I knew wasn't quite right, but should mean something like "as great as possible". They started laughing. Not just enjoying themselves at a silly malapropism, but as if I was the butt of a practical joke I couldn't understand, which made it even funnier. I mean, they laughed HARD. I wasn't sure if I was allowed to question them during the ceremony, so I waited politely. Finally the Elder spoke again, sounding serious, "Do you know that you wear a sign?" I said "No." The Elder touched my chest with a finger, upon the white hair over the scar left by the bullet that had torn all the way through my body. "This is a sign of skesk-technology. It is a symbol of death and you carry it in the center of your being. Do you really believe that you can become Sha-haka bearing such an impure sign for all to see?" Okay, now it starts getting a bit mystical, I'm afraid. I can't insist that you folks believe all this coming up, but I have to believe it myself because it happened to me--and is still happening. I had no idea what to say to them just then, but suddenly started talking as if it was me who knew what was going on and they didn't. At first I thought I was just bluffing my way along like I used to do in High School sometimes, subconscious bullshit, but when I listened to myself I could hear that INSPIRED words were being spoken--as if it wasn't exactly ME talking. "You misinterpret the symbols," I said, or something like that, my vocabulary seemed to jump to a higher level than I was actually capable of, "I bear the scar of death and yet I am alive. You all know my name and have been waiting for me to arrive. I am The Man of Two Worlds and my time has come. I have a duty and a destiny, even as your duties are to facilitate my advent as best you are each empowered to so do. "I am submitted to the rite of Purification with a pure heart that is innocent of your world. I am as a newborn child, having died and been born again a Nokhon. But before I came here I have achieved an intimate understanding of the NokhSo world, which grows ever nearer to absolute mastery or absolute destruction of this entire planet and you three know this to be true." Well, I was pretty amazed to be saying all that, my voice had even taken on an Authority I knew I didn't have. So I figured they'd be calling my bluff, but they didn't. I was even more amazed when they looked at each other, bobbed their heads in unison and Elder Da-nama-hat said, "Excellent. But you must first endure the rite of Purification." I'm not going to quote everything everyone said, most of it was a tedious formal process and would take too much time to tell every detail in the middle of this story. Besides, I have to present an Anthropology Thesis to the UW at some point and what a great one that would make! So I'll do a formal paper on it later, symbolic analysis and all that academic stuff. Anyway, they had me clean the squatch-stink off with snow, just as Dagrolyt had said, so that now I was physically "pure". There were verses from the Atli I should meditate upon. They each spanked me with some tender branches--very gently, all symbolic, you know, with more Atli wisdom to follow. All that had taken half a day; it became noon, the sun bright by then, sky blue above us, except for some heavy clouds on the Western horizon, shadowing Seattle off on the horizon. I became aware of how fantastically scenic the view was just there and then. Well, I figured I had it made now. Dagrolyt had told me they'd probably subject me to some slight punishment which would be over soon, since Nokhontli don't really get off on torture, so it must be just about over. But no. I was told to follow the three Sha-hakas down the stairs. Dagrolyt was to wait with the Alutna guys. We took the same corridor I already knew, but soon turned into a side chamber, which led to another corridor. It got very dark, but then I could see the flickering of a flame lighting the corridor just ahead of the Elder who was leading the way. I followed their silhouettes, unable to see where I was putting my feet. We turned into other side chambers several times, leading to other corridors--I think, could have been the same, they all looked alike --again and again, until I had no idea where we were. Then we went into a chamber so large that I could no longer see walls or ceiling in the feeble firelight. We stopped there. They turned to face me, circling around the little flame that had led the way. That's when I saw that the merrily dancing little flame was in fact simply hovering there in open space between me and them, no torch nor candle nor wick to burn. Evidently some Sha-haka magic. Pretty cool, actually. That flickering fire was also now positioned just low enough below their faces to glow upward and give them all a really spooky and overdramatic aspect, you know, like in an old Frankenstein movie. To keep from being spooked myself, I decided to consider it all theatrics, amusing, knowing that it was really just some hokey small-town trickery that might impress the locals, but hardly someone as sophisticated as me. But I couldn't help wondering just how the hell they were doing the floating fire trick. "Now, young Dadameh," old Dannat asked, "we want to know what your intentions are for the NokhSo world you have left behind: do you forsake it forever?" Oh great, I thought, they're going to ask the tricky questions now that I'm at their mercy here in the dark. "I must be honest with you..." I started to tell them, but was interrupted by the Elder Da-nama-hat amusedly saying, "Yes, of course, ha ha, you are bred an Orator!" Up to now there hadn't been a word about my being an Orator. "...uh, right...but I have to state that I shall not reject the NokhSo world. Nor am I finished with it. Truthfully, I must go back quite soon to tell my NokhSo Mamama not to worry. But I don't want to reject this world either. I believe I SHOULD be that Man of Two Worlds, a between-person..." "Yes, yes, The Negotiator," Mastinta said, nodding, "we know that plan." I was surprised. They were way ahead of me or any plans I had. "But we insist that you immerse yourself in our Nokhon world just now. You may contact your Mamama when you leave here, but do only that and return. We want you to have lived with the Nokhontli for an entire sun-circle, thirteen moons. Then you may freely pass between. Agreed?" A year without going back, I was stunned. And, to tell the truth, offended that they thought that they could demand that of me, I wasn't their slave or prisoner. It pissed me off just enough to defy them, give some of their arrogance back. "Skog," I said, "that's too long. I have a life there too. Three moons, then I'll pass between. Agreed?" I figured that was it, now I get thrown out of here. But I could see on their faces that they respected me for standing up to them. "Seven moons, no less," they said. "Six moons, no more," I said, getting the last word in. Hey, I'm a friggin' ORATOR, you know. But then when they accepted the six moons, I more or less had to stick to the agreement, didn't I? At that point Mastinta handed me a large maple leaf, upon which was smeared a thick paste of some kind. "Ra'kha, take this." I figured it was an hallucinogen of some kind, peyote, mushrooms, but knew I couldn't back out now, so I scraped the goo off the leaf with my teeth and swallowed. It was ghastly, really bitter. Once I had finished it all, even eating the leaf, the Elder reached up to do a magical wave of his hand and the flame just disappeared without a poof. Total darkness. Three voices said, "Stay here and endure," and that was all, as if they too had disappeared. Man, it was dark. Cold too, although that doesn't usually bother me much. What really bothered me was that I didn't know if I was supposed to wait for five minutes or a week, they hadn't said. The drug kicked in slowly. I think. I couldn't tell, but it felt like I was there for a long time. I got hungry, thirsty. After a while I began to suspect that this was how they finished off anyone they didn't want in their society--the Nokhontli don't kill, but maybe they could allow somebody to starve himself to death voluntarily. And remember, most Nokhontli can go a long time with little food, sustained by haka, which I couldn't or didn't understand how to make it work. I was pretty spooked. I suddenly had a flashback to that time I'd been kidnapped, back when I was five years old. I hadn't thought about that in years, but I'd also been stuck alone and scared in constant darkness back then. I had escaped somehow, although I've never been able to remember how I did it...which was weird. A big question ever since. But then, all of a sudden, I DID remember! It was a WOW moment, a revelation, very important information! Or maybe I just fantasized it, I was pretty stoned by then. Anyway, I forgot it all again when the pain started, more than I was ready for. I rolled around the floor in agony, all sense of balance gone, was completely disoriented, felt like I was falling both up and down at once, shuddering, jittering. Talk about Bad Trips, this was the one they were all trying to imitate. The hallucinations set in: first of HERE, this house, my NokhSo family and you were all monsters, every one of you. I saw the whole complex of Western Civilization as army ants devouring the world, without any humane qualities. But I also saw the sasquatch world, and it wasn't any better: lives wasted on meaningless rules, all creativity forbidden, deliberate suffering. No worthy qualities there either, everyone everywhere living stupid animal lives! Images of Buddha and Christ roared by on motorcycles, beating their own worshippers with chains, I won't go into more detail, other than to say it was a dehumanizing experience and I was made aware that I was just a bug inside a hole in a rock on a festering ball of mud in an orbit around a dying, screaming star. Then I had a REAL vision. That was the whole point of it all, my personal Dream Vision. You know, in the same tradition as native American Indians. Me being a potential Orator, it was more audio than video, I heard voices speaking words of instruction, my fate and future were predicted, it was scary and wonderful. It revealed what I am supposed to do with my life and how to do it. Fortunately, it was a Vision I could embrace because I wanted it to come true. A Good Vision to believe in. I'm not going to expose it here, of course: a Dream Vision must remain private knowledge if it's to have any True Significance to the dreamer. But I will say that it was a vision that put all those negative hallucinations into a positive perspective, I guess I could say that I actually did experience a Purification. When the worst/best of the Vision was over, I felt sick, vomited again and again, long after there was no more Vision to be had. I groveled on the cave floor for a while, felt almost as bad as when I'd been shot and lay dying. Finally managed to sleep, or pass out.
Dagrolyt shook me awake. It was daylight but under a stormy sky getting ready to snow, we were outside, I was lying on the ruins plateau. All the others were also squatting around us, waiting to welcome me back. Dagrolyt looked concerned; he hadn't known they were going to be so heavy on me. He asked if I had experienced a Special Vision and when I said yes he warned me to keep it secret, or the magic would become corrupted. Then he gave me an apple and a drink of water from a small woven-grass bag and I soon felt much better. The committee was seemingly satisfied and not especially stern any more, friendly even, smiling and relaxed. They were congratulating me, old Dannat even patted my shoulder as he announced that I was now considered a good kid. The committee informed me that not only was I Purified, but that this Enduring I had passed was also considered severe enough to satisfy requirements for acceptance into an eventual apprenticeship for achieving a worthy position in Nokhon society. Even then, confused and groggy as I was, that struck me as odd, a kind of 2-For -the-Price-of-1 Package Deal marketing, as if they were rushing me through the process. Which is exactly what they were doing: I was being accepted into Nokhon society as an adult, although native squatches usually earned their final names just after puberty. I was therefore about five years behind my contemporaries, so it was awkward for them to still be calling me by a child's name. Which is to say that the final "H" phoneme in my name became a final "T" when the Committee decreed that: "...the boy DadameH is henceforth to be known as the young man DadameT!" I was officially now a grownup. That renaming is usually considered a big deal in a young squatch's life, "great pride and achievement, etc", sort of corresponding to our High School Graduation. However, in my case it was more a matter of fixing an embarrassment. But the most important thing to me was being normalized with regard to Nokhon society, making me an acceptable citizen and an all-around regular guy. Yes, I was finally at the bottom rank of the social scale--and could now begin to work my way up. And my first official grownup duty was to get it up: now that I was Pure and therefore sexually available to the women of the mlønoli, I had to be tested for genetic qualities. Mastinta asked me to lie on my back for the test, then took a small leaf-packed bundle out of her shoulder bag and passed it under my nose. It was that shyøma-smell, but concentrated and it gave me an erection so fast and so stiff that it hurt. Then she-- you're not going to believe this--gave me a blow job. Okay, it wasn't really a blow job, but she did suck on me in some way that made me, er, come in about three seconds, which isn't normal... I guess. Then she closed her eyes and seemed to be TASTING the sperm before spitting it out, like a wine-taster does. Which actually seems to be how they determine what genes a male has. Kinky magic. Mastinta said I had some useful genes and would definitely be assigned to breed some females some day. That didn't sound so bad. My duties done, I was free to socialize. Da-nama-hat, the Elder, was especially friendly and interested in talking to me. "I have been looking forward to meeting you, young Dadamet. I'd like to hear your story sometime. I invite you to come and visit me at my office when you are in Aket, we can talk." "What is Aket?" "The capital city of the Nokhontli," Dagrolyt explained. He used the word Et-Bakhli, which roughly translates as "big collection of houses". It's the same word they use to describe Seattle, which they can easily see from the mountains. "There's a Nokhon CITY?" I asked, intrigued, having never heard of such a place. "Of course," old Dannat said, "it's where we teach aspirants to become Sha-hakas, Alutna, Orators." "I'd like to see that." "Oh, you shall one day," Da-nama-hat the Elder told me, "but one can only enter Aket by invitation and you must earn that by learning proper Nokhon ways. You have learned much already, Young Dadamet, and I have faith that you will learn much more. So I look forward to seeing you there." I had been unconscious all night long, awakening first well after dawn. Since Dagrolyt and I were to be at a Kha-rat in three days, which was at least a two-day hike away, we all bobbed heads and said "Ta'ash," then went on our way.

Chapter 43

Adam out of Eden