Chapter 76:     Adam's Quest

Transcribed from dictation, ADAM speaking--

Adam here.  My turn to contribute to the Document, so as you can tell I must 
have survived my Perilous Quest and made it all the way back home, because 
that's where I am now, recording this story.  Sorry if I screwed up the 
suspense--I mean, the big question: will he make it or not? has been ruined--
but I hope to make the story interesting anyway.  After all, it was an 
interesting trip.

It started being interesting right away, as Dagrolyt and I were sneaking off 
into the night to get away from all the journalists and commercial media folk 
surrounding the house.  Dagrolyt had commented upon those cameramen he had 
noticed earlier, hiding in the woods around our house. 

We slipped past them easily in the night, we squatches are good at that, you 
know.  Passed one lone man, then another a bit deeper into the woods, both 
had big-zoom cameras.  I really had to wonder if a picture of me was worth so 
much money that it could pay for these guys to go to such extremes as sitting 
alone in the woods for hours in the dark, waiting for just for one good shot.

I was remembering our discussions about just how intensely the commercial 
media was focusing on me.  There was money at play here and ruthless people 
out to make a killing, so we already knew I shouldn't ever take a cell phone 
to Squatchland unless I WANTED to be traced by a satellite.  And that wasn't 
even high-level espionage, any telephone company could produce a location 
listing.

We'd been paranoid enough to fantasize about micro-senders being secretly 
planted inside my guitar, or invisible nano-electronics hidden in the hair of 
my body like tiny cyber-ticks.  I had checked out my guitar and just to be 
sure it was spy-neutral, even took the battery out of the piezo-electric 
pickup. 

But if the military ever became interested in me I may not have been nearly 
paranoid enough.  I could be followed from orbit by infra-red cameras, heat-
sensitive technology which could even recognize and differentiate a squatch's 
body temperature from that of a "human".  I tried to tell myself that I was 
being silly.  If they could do that they would already have spotted every 
Bigfoot out there anyway.

Besides, I had discussed this with Doug years ago, while he was working with 
such technology, and he assured me that it was never as magic as the hype.  
In the summer, as it was now, the ambient temperature was high enough to 
muddle such readings, and if one kept under trees it would be difficult for 
a satellite to pinpoint anyone.  I told myself.

I discussed all this with Dagrolyt as we walked deeper into the wilderness.  
He knew that Nokhso skesk was a form of magic that one had to respect, but 
insisted that Sha-hakas had been confounding it for millennium. Such as guns: 
it is very rare that a Nokhon is ever shot by a Nokhso hunter because a 
subtle spell of mis-perception causes the hunter to aim wrong.

"You must stop worrying about some far-away skesk-magic now and concentrate 
upon the magic of Nature here around us."  

"Yeah, well, I just don't want to be responsible for leading a Nokhso army 
straight into Aket."

Dagrolyt laughed, "Aket is protected by so many magical spells and so much 
psychic power that any invaders would forget their mission before they ever 
arrived--as well as their own names!  So don't worry about that." 

After travelling all night we were high up in the Cascades by morning.  We 
stopped to eat the fruit Elaine had packed for us. Dagrolyt carried some in 
his shoulder bag, the kind I was not allowed to wear because I was not a Sha-
haka yet.  But I also had fruit in the big side pocket of my guitar tote-bag, 
which served the same purpose as a shoulder pouch.  I'd always found it 
irritating to do without pockets. 

Of course, my guitar bag is just as illegal as a Sha-haka bag, and yet it's 
tailor-made for a squatch: Elaine sewed it for me out of hemp cloth, with no 
leather or metal to offend a Nokhon.  An adjustable shoulder strap lets me 
carry it to one side or like a backpack, all the padding front and back is 
actually a set of lightweight cotton clothes, pants and vest, which I can 
take out and wear if I have to present myself as Adam Leroy Forest instead of 
as a properly naked Dadamet.

Dagrolyt had originally been against me bringing a skesk-guitar into the 
Nokhon universe, even though he liked the my°sik I could make with it.  But 
he finally accepted that there could be a distinction between good and bad 
skesk, reluctantly at first, then whole-heartedly.  In fact, now he wanted 
me to teach him how to play it.

Playing that guitar out in the mountains was a special experience: thrilling, 
because the notes rang out so clean and clear and carried so far; and extra 
thrilling, because not only were those sounds a blatant violation of the 
Nokhon rule of silence, but also a loud announcement to any and all of our 
exact location.  Hey Kids, the Ice Cream Man is here--ding ding ding!


"We must teach you to use your own Ssysk properly if you are to have any chance against Daklakht." This was the litany Dagrolyt was feeding me as we climbed upwards, me still without any exact definition of what a Ssysk IS. It had never been clear to me whether Daklakht's Ssysk was his own psychic demon-presence or my own schizophrenic tendencies brought on by hypnosis. A simple question: Internal or External? Nor was I getting that clarified by any of Dagrolyt's vague explanations, until I figured it out: he didn't know either! Oddly enough, that made it easier. The Ssysk could neither be understood nor intellectualized, it required a hands-on go-with-the-flow approach. Oh, did I really say "easier"? It was torture. We stopped for the first lesson up on a cliffside perch with a spectacular view of the Cascades and Puget Sound. A lovely and dangerous place two feet away from the sheerest 200-foot drop-off, not exactly my choice of location for messing around with perception and judgment. But Dagrolyt said it was perfect. We squatted facing each other, saying nothing, meditating. Finally he cocked an eyebrow at me and slammed me with his Ssysk. It was just as bad as Daklakht's, made me feel afraid, sick, guilty, weak, almost lost my balance over the side of the cliff. Then it was over and Dagrolyt was holding my arm to steady me. "Now," he said with perfect guru-calm, "describe what just happened to you." That's how it went: I was to become familiar with the Ssysk's effects, analyze them and break them down into my own terms. He repeated the process again and again until I had vomited up all my fruit and shit all over myself. Each attack felt increasingly worse and I seemed to have absolutely no defense against them. I resorted to my old mantra, but that was now useless, it was all so absolutely discouraging. I was crying like a baby when we stopped the lesson and proceeded upon on our journey. Dagrolyt, the bastard, was quite chipper about it, saying, "That went well."
We were back in familiar territory the next day, where I'd followed Dagrolyt on his rounds as a Dwayarat teaching Atli. He had a stop to make and I recognized the little hollow tree bakhl of Damekh and Mabna. I groaned a little. They were nice enough, but so boring! I considered them the perfect example of the dreariest aspects of Nokhon lifestyle: meticulously obedient to every rule they could imagine, obsessed with the contemplation of Atli and rabid devotees of mindless sex at the Kha-rat. Nothing else. Dagrolyt gave the usual bird-call to announce our presence and Damekh came out of the forest to greet us, Mabna behind him. They greeted Dagrolyt but seemed hesitant about me, as if they didn't recognize me. Or were confused about something. After a few polite words to Dagrolyt Damekh turned to me and bobbed his head and said, "Kha, young Dadamet," but his expression was disapproving. Mabna was much more straightforward, pointing behind me and asking, "What IS that? That's not SKESK, is it?" She sounded outraged. I had become so accustomed to my backpacked guitar that I'd forgotten about it. It was an "Oops" feeling to suddenly realize that I was flaunting my disregard of Nokhon rules in the faces of two fundamentalist fanatics. Dagrolyt spoke with authority: "Dadamet has developed a new form of Oration, called my°sik, which requires a piece of hollow log. There is as yet no ruling against it, so we are considering it an experiment." The couple eyed me very suspiciously, Mabna's hair bristling, but the words of an official Sha-haka Dwayarat had to be respected and they reluctantly backed down. Dagrolyt was to teach Damekh Atli, so Mabna and I were required to allow them some privacy. Last time I had been there she and I had gone for a walk together, but I assumed that I should just go off by myself now that she was clearly upset by my perfidious bearing of skesk. I excused myself and went out into the forest alone. I knew I had several hours to kill, so I went far enough from their bakhl so that I could play guitar without any of them hearing me. I didn't want to offend anyone, but did want to work on translating some of my own songs to Nokhontli, which had been going pretty slow. I found a nice rock to sit on, tucked between clusters of trees to isolate the sound. I played--or should I say practiced?--because the music was just not working for me. I felt guilty, ashamed of hiding there and making unnecessary noise. I was also still spooked by my Syssk lessons, nervous: what if Daklakht was out there now? I had been thoroughly taught that I couldn't do shit against a Sha-haka who knew his stuff. I was feeling pretty much defeated and it's hard to get any music up and rolling that way. I even resorted to trying to sing "The Sound of Music" but couldn't remember the second verse, another reminder that I was no longer an Orator. My singing also sounded terrible, even to me. Finally I put down the guitar and settled on just feeling sorry for myself. At least I was successful at that. After a few more sporadic attempts at playing music, I put my guitar away in the bag and went back to the others at sundown. The Atli lesson was over, they were eating ota together as I arrived. I was offered some and politely accepted, even though I had no appetite for it. "Why don't you play a my°sik for our hosts, Dadamet?" Dagrolyt asked, the other thing I had absolutely no appetite for at that moment. "Oh. Uh. I don't think they'd like it, so I'd rather not." "But Dwayarat Dagrolyt has been telling us ALL about it," Mabna said, "so we'd like to hear what it IS!" "Actually, I'm afraid you'd be offended by it and I don't want to do that," I weaseled. "Nonsense, young man," Damekh insisted, "we're all MODERN folks here. Besides, as the Atli says, the horizon is never where you think it is." Whatever THAT had to do with anything I don't know. But so there I was, pulling my forbidden hollow log out of the bag, putting it on my knee and bracing myself for the worst performance of my life. I made certain I had a clear escape route for when these devout people heard the abomination I was going to hit them with. There were reactions at the sight of the guitar itself: Mabna gasping, "It's so SHINY!" Damekh; "And so FLAT!" Then I had to tune it and they both shut up at hearing the strange jingle-jangle of a 12-string for the first time in their lives. Actually, they looked kind of scared. I hesitated and looked at Dagrolyt, who nodded the way gurus do and said, "I Like to Run," in English. That was one of the songs I had created out of nowhere the day he had been guru to the band and is still one of my favorites. It also has some guitar riffs that are quite fun to play. Suddenly I was enthusiastic and "ran" with it. Damekh and Mabna almost fell backwards, but froze instead, both paralyzed throughout the song, eyes wide and mouths all the way open. I, however was turned on all the way, weaving ascending riffs and undulating bass lines all over the fret board, singing brand-new Nokhontli lyrics with panache and gusto. I was great and I knew it! I did a short version, about a minute and a half, then it was over. Dagrolyt smiled, bobbed his head in approval. Damekh and Mabna were still frozen. In shock, it seemed. Then they both reacted. Very negatively. Damekh was almost spitting with wrath, "Never...never have I heard anything so..so..so.." he couldn't find a word but the angry sneer said it all. Mabna was hardly so articulate: "Gaa, gak, grr, gaaa!" Finally Damekh found just the phrase he'd been looking for: ě'skogome e'e!" That is forbidden! Dagrolyt and I left soon after that. I was mortified, of course, thinking: What was I doing? How could I expect them to like Nokhso music anyway? It was just unfathomable and unpleasant NOISE to them, the same way Korean or Eskimo music is to most Westerners. But Dagrolyt was still being chipper, relieved to have gotten away before proper politeness had required him to eat too much ota: "You performed well, I liked it. Besides, are those people your intended audience?" "No, of course not! But still, what right do I have to inflict poor Nokhon folk with the sound of my own ego?" "Cheer up, we're visiting Dabronat and family next and you know that sexy little Masnia will insist that you play for her. And with her."

Chapter 77

Adam out of Eden