Chapter 57:     Ghost Song

Transcribed from dictation, ADAM speaking--

Anyway you get the picture: I had been thrust here by Daklakht's 
magic, I resisted but no matter what I did, kept getting closer day 
by day.  I tried to just stop moving, hold onto a tree and wait it 
out--but it was too long to wait; I had to find some water to drink, 
food to eat, a place to poop, I'd forget all about staying where I'd 
planned and find myself 10 miles closer to Monroe.

Turning around to backtrack became an increasingly worse experience,
a gauntlet of nature gone evil: the brush seemed to be deliberately grabbing, 
branches waving and slapping at me, blackberry vines wrapping them-
selves around my legs to trip me, every insect attacking, like the 
entire forest was going to eat me.  It became frightening enough that 
I stopped even trying to go back up into the mountains.

Although whenever I came to a road, even a simple dirt road, I could 
follow that toward the mountains, the Syssk could not steer me.  It 
was always comforting to be on that little bit of civilization, where 
science ruled, not magic. Although sometimes I had to hide to avoid 
being seen by passing motorists--which would cause way too much fuss.  
But those roads never went very far, ending at a cabin or field, 
there are no roads all the way up into Squatchland. 

But finally, late in the day, there I was: on a hill overlooking this 
valley.  I couldn't actually see Hacienda Forest yet but I knew 
exactly where it was, could feel it pulling at me.  Pulling HARD.  
Maybe that was the Syssk, maybe not, I just wanted to give 
up and come home.

Actually, I had almost surrendered by then, I knew I was losing this 
battle badly, but resolved not to arrive home at night.  The Syssk was 
stronger in the dark.  I was quite aware that my perceptions were awry 
and was uncertain if I really was dangerous to other people, as 
Dagrolyt had warned me. 

And through all this tribulation, me still trying to save the day 
by finding my missing mantra, still wondering what my magic music 
might be, mumbling catchy phrases and slogans: "God Is Love," 
"Liberty Or Death."  I didn't care how True any of them were, I 
just wanted some Magic and right now please.  Didn't notice any, 
though.  I blamed the Syssk, but maybe it was just uninspired me.

Once I came down the hill I began passing houses, population getting 
denser.  It wasn't easy to come here unseen in daylight.  At one 
point I followed a dirt road, came to a big farmhouse, cautiously 
sneaking past when a woman abruptly came out on the porch to get some 
firewood. She saw me, her face went into horror-mode, but she was 
too afraid to scream. 

"Hi, Lady.  Don't worry," I tried to say, "I'm Adam Le..."

She worried anyway: screamed, dashed back into her house shouting, 
"A gun, get a gun!"  So I hit it for the woods. Another Bigfoot 
sighting story, probably already on Internet.

I cut across some large farms and eventually had to cross Highway 2,
waiting for a suitable break in traffic, after which I could come 
directly here, overland through the forest.  Luckily, without being 
seen again, since I wasn't ready for a lot of people knowing that the 
Baby Bigfoot of Monroe was back in town.  That would cause a media 
circus I had neither time nor patience for just yet.

The sun was just setting as I arrived on our property, although still 
trying to avoid approaching the house.  I was surprised to find myself 
on the Mother Meadow, under exactly the same tree where my poor mother 
had been killed and my own life as an all-American boy had begun.  I 
collapsed there for a while, completely tuckered out. It got dark.

I was destroyed: had failed to stay away, was totally defeated by 
Daklakht's black-magic spell.  In four days the Full Moon would rise 
and I had to be at the Kha-rat, let's say a hundred miles from here.  
Normally I could run that in two days, but not against that wall of 
madness between here and there.

Our house was half a mile away, I could simply go down the hill and 
be welcomed into the warm and loving arms of my parents.  Maybe Melly 
was there.  My dog, Potatochip.  My room.  Food.  A beer.  All just 
waiting for me.  Time to surrender and go home.  But I couldn't.  
Wouldn't.  Not at night.  Maybe tomorrow, but not tonight.

As long as I sat in that meadow I was officially still struggling to 
keep my promise; it wasn't broken yet.  I was still an Orator, maybe 
even that fabulous "Negotiator" I was supposed to have been in someone 
else's far-fetched far-away plan.  As yet, I still had a future among 
the Nokhontli.  Until I went home.

After a while I sat up in a lotus position to keep watch, not really focusing on anything, feeling dreamy. Maybe I could see TV tomorrow, wonder if there's anything good on? May as well start getting used to a life of Monroe mediocrity. All day long I had been wracking my brain for some kind of mantra to save the day and come up with nothing usable. Now that I had more or less accepted defeat I couldn't be bothered with it any more. The same Syssk-monsters that had chased me here were still making ugly noises out there in the woods, but I didn't care anymore and quit worrying about them. I let the numbness take me. That's when it all came to me. Typical, I guess. Vaguely angry about Daklakht, wondering if that asshole really had to be my father, which made me think of my mother. Poor Mayala, coming here to deliver her little boy must have been bad enough even without getting killed. Suddenly it occurred to me that if she was a ghost, this meadow would be the place she would haunt. I had been afraid of the dark all week but the idea of my mother's ghost was not frightening to me at all, I would have welcomed it. Maybe the Syssk could do me a favor for once and let her haunt me. I waited, but she never showed up. It took a while before I noticed the melody I'd been unconsciously humming all along. Some old song I couldn't identify, although it seemed so familiar. Probably my mantra, I kidded myself--and then was slammed by the absolute certainty that, yes indeed, that's what it was. But once I became genuinely alert and paid attention, it vanished. That seemed familiar too--as if all this had happened before, or something similar. At that same moment I saw a movement on the far side of the meadow. A Sasquatch came out of the forest, walking directly my way. Not my mother's ghost, a big male. It was Daklakht, The Alutna-Jii Himself. I was very calm. Maybe I didn't believe it was happening. He came up close, also folding into a lotus position and sitting just before me, facing me from three feet away. He said nothing, but then neither did I. I supposed this was the Showdown. Either he was here to gloat that he had won, or maybe kill me to make sure. Instead of being terrified, as I had been all week, I was preoccupied about trying to remember that stupid song. It seemed critically important at the time, Daklakht would just have to wait. And he did. Daklakht watched me silently and sternly, no fatherly affection there, although certainly patriarchal. He was judging me. I didn't really care, trying to discover something far more important than his opinion. But I did a performance for him anyway. Because it came to me: that vague "hum" at first, familiar melody, garbled lyrics that made no sense, almost a blend of English and Nokhontli sounds, if not words. Then Click: a translation; "The hills are alive with the Sound of..." Title song from The Sound of Music, Rogers & Hammerstein musical, Julie Andrews version. A song I had sung many times, had always liked, but never considered magical. Kind of a corny song, actually, old-fashioned. I had to stumble over why THAT song seemed so relevant just then--and I remembered: Dabronat and Malasna telling me that when I was a child my mother Mayala had learned that song from their forbidden-skesk Walkman and she had sung it to me. I was now being visited by the ghost of a Nokhon girl singing a song from an American musical! I found myself trying to sing it too, not properly, but as I remembered it: in a soft, feminine tone, the lyrics a meaningless garble of mispronunciations and non-language, just as she had learned them. And yet the melody was sweet and true. I sang and my audience wept. Sounds kinda corny put that way, I know, but that's what I experienced. It was like that soft song blasted Daklakht harder than any Operatic performance ever could have, because it was the one and only song that would ever affect him. Because he remembered it too; I knew somehow that we two shared Mayala's song. Because you know what? When I finished and opened my eyes he was gone. I'm pretty sure he'd never really been there, might have been a Syssk- hallucination, a psychic hologram programmed to scare me the rest of the way home. Had it had all been a battle of ghosts? Another ghost gone was the Syssk! I could feel that it had been... exorcised, washed away, FLUSHED out of me. While I was aware that any such "feeling" could be a trick, I also knew that even if it did come back I could blast it with another chorus of The Sound of Music. "The hills are alive" indeed. I was free! I still had four days to make it to the Kha-rat, lots of time. That I might have to deal with the real solid and muscular Daklakht on the way was worrisome, but at least I could try. But for the moment I was free...and two minutes away from home. Too bad I couldn't go for a little visit.
Of course, I had only planned to have a little PEEK and then leave without letting any of you know I'd been around. But the closer I got to the house, the more worried I got that I WOULD see one of you. Only because I had to avoid you all until after the Full Moon. Although the rules only said I had to be present at the next Kha-rat, so perhaps what I did until then was my own business. But maybe Daklakht did know I'd been here--his Syssk had seen to that--and would be waiting to accuse me of associating with all you evil Nokhsos before I was free, interpreting that as an Orator's broken promise. I needed to be able to deny it and you know I can't lie. I also I realized that if I actually TOLD any of you what I had to do next, none of you would let me leave to face a dangerous Adversary alone. You'd all try to help, no matter what danger to yourselves. I couldn't justify meeting you and getting any of you involved. Also because I wasn't at all sure of having actually beaten Daklakht. Oh, I was certain his Syssk had been exorcised, but a symbolic slug-fest is one thing and for all I knew the real-live version of the Alutna-Jii was very pissed-off and on his way here fast. Out to get me, sure, but he also hates all you Nokhsos. (Okay, he never did show up, but he could have.) From the woods I saw that the house was dark, no lights anywhere. I checked it out for a while before approaching, noting that Art's van was gone. Elaine's car--and my Squatchmobile!--were parked out there, but no others. When I was finally sure that nobody was home I decided it might be all right to come in. So did it "just happen" that you were away for the weekend? It meant that I could use the house, the recorder, the guitar, the radio and TV, take a shower, eat, sleep-- and orate! I really needed a place of power and this was it. I'd say it was pretty lucky for me that "it just happened" this way. It was, for example, absolutely GREAT to get my hands on all this forbidden skesk! Playing my guitar again! The refrigerator! But it must have been this digital recorder I really came here for, whether I knew it or not. Oration is just as magical as Music. I mean... ...I mean I'm just realizing something now as I speak into this microphone, recording these words for posterity--something no Nokhon has ever done before. I had just played some of it back to check that it was recording all right and my own voice told me everything I needed to know... ...just a sec.
Well well, just had Another Revelation, actually a clump of them. I've been remembering long-forgotten mysteries--like how I had escaped the kidnappers back when I was five years old, or the secret potential within my Orator talents, my mother's song... But I'm not ready to tell anyone about all that just yet: secrecy is an important element of any magic trick and I may need to have one up my hairy non-sleeve for dealing with my Adversary tomorrow night. At least now I'm optimistic. This should be my last recording, for a while anyway, I have to leave pretty soon. Hopefully, our next communication will be in person. You've probably noticed the Squatchmobil is missing. Don't worry, I'll be taking it. I spent a hard week getting here and now I have to go back, so I'm going to break some Nokhon rules on the return trip by taking my skesk devil-machine. Forbidden, I know, but I won't be showing it to any squatches--although it might be worth doing so just to see their faces at the Kha-rat. I can't drive all the way, of course, but there's a National Forest where I can park the car reasonably close to where I'm going. From there it'll be about a 2-hour hike up into the Cascades. Can't take anything with me to the Nokhon world, gotta play by their rules, but I've stashed some of my old clothes in the car in case I have to deal with humans. Some food too, so with everything else I've eaten there's not much left for you folks, sorry 'bout that. Okay, winding up this document, got to get out of here. I don't know what time you guys will get home, but it was lucky that it wasn't now. That would only have been harder for us all and I don't have any more extra time. Of course I wish I could just stay here and wait for you guys instead of going back to Squatchland right now, but I'd better get it over with. Can't stay here and hide forever, even if you weren't coming. Anyway, I feel about as ready as I'm ever going to be. Sure, I'm scared, but excited too. I actually believe everything will work out--it HAS to if I'm ever going to be a Sha-haka Orator-- or even just a normal everyday Nokhon. As for when I'll be back, the Kha-rat is tomorrow night, so I should be free to come home the day after, although there can always be some complications. It's many miles from here, so even with a car there'll be hours of travel time. I know better than to promise exactly when. I'll be okay, try not to worry. I hope to be back the night after Full Moon, see you all then. Thanks for everything. Love you all. Your kid, Dadamet. (end of recording)

onward to

Book Three

Adam out of Eden