We arrived in Katmandu just in time, the day before
Christmas.  I'd been on the road for over 2 years since being
discharged from the US Army in Germany, and the motto for many
travelers I'd met in Africa was "See you Christmas Day in
Katmandu!"  It was The Place To Be This Year.  
     There was really no Christmas in Katmandu, of course, for
Nepal has the only official Hindu government in the world, but
there was always a feeling of holiness in that city.  Especially
if you were ripped out of your mind.  Therefore it was actually
an alternative to Christmas.
     So why there that day?  Hey, why not?  When you're on the
road a long time it's fun to have a goal or a challenge; a rock
concert, a Solar Eclipse, anything will do.  And Katmandu was an
international vortex among the holy/unholy pilgrimages of the
road people, every Real Road Bum just has to go there
sometime anyway, and they do: British, German, Scandinavian,
American, Canadian, Japanese.  Also because it's a fun place--
Come on, live the cheap life in Nepal, smoke the legal hashish
sold by King Mahendra's government stores, eat wonderful food in
the hippy restaurants, check out the weird culture, experience
trekking the Himalayas.  

     We were among many arriving just before Christmas, coming up
from India via Delhi and Patna, and there must have been over two
hundred road people there; hitchhikers, backpack tourists,
university students, archaeologists, most come to get involved
(and stoned) in a vast celebration.       
     You don't stop into Katmandu on your way to somewhere
else--it's the end of the only one road in, and it's the same
road out.  The next stop, were you to walk, is Tibet.  To get to
Katmandu you've got to take a train or bus (or hitch a truck,
like we did) north from New Delhi, a three-day trip to the
Indian-Nepalese border at Ruxaul.  That was the easy part: then
you have to sit with a crowd of tourists and Nepalese back in 
the open cargo box of a diesel truck, slowly grinding up the 
whipwrap road that ascends the sculptured foothills of the 
Himalayas.  Up, up, past endless terraces and layers of rice 
paddies so profuse that you just know that the Nepalese have 
been in the rice business for thousands of years.  After an 
entire day chugging up those foothills, which would be called 
Mountains in any other neighborhood, you break over a crest 
and see the capital city of Nepal, Katmandu.  Low and flat in 
a valley, dusty looking and uninteresting from a distance,  but 
more and more exotic the closer you come.  Hindu temples, ancient
streets, tiny doorways.  A small city, not modern.  Electricity 
had arrived but not much hot and cold running water.  
     Yes, this was hitchhiker heaven, Shangri-la, Paradise.

     I came with Erik the Dane and Tom the other American, 
traveling from Copenhagen together, where I'd been working all 
summer.  I'd met Erik on the road last year in Israel while 
checking out the Rift of God--the coastline where the 
Split-away had so dramatically broken the island of Israel away 
from the Arabian mainland.  Later I'd visited Erik in Denmark, 
and we decided to do India together.  Tom had been stationed 
with me in Germany, so he'd joined us, and here we were.
     Five of us got a room together at the G.C. Lodge; the 3 of
us, as well as Gert the German, and Arild the Norwegian.  The 
room itself was a great empty box without any furniture on the 
second floor of the Lodge where we simply spread our sleeping 
bags out on the floor mats.  You had to watch your head because 
the doors were so low.  Cold running water in the toilets 
downstairs.  Primitive, but it cost us each only a rupee and a 
half per day, so we were satisfied.  

     Then we hurried out to the famous Katmandu restaurants that
we had heard about, after living on rice for months in India.
Went to the Tibetan Blue.  It was a cozy place with long
picnic-bench tables where you sat with whatever crowd happened to
be there, so it was quite easy to meet people and fall into
conversations--if you could still talk after the free pipe of
Black Nepalese hash had gone by a few times.  The food was great!
      The traveler's restaurants were a road bum's Big Rock Candy
Mountain.  For one and a half rupees (nine US cents), you got a
water buffalo steak with carrots and onions.  You could get 
Tibetan bread, buff chow chow, pancakes, banana fritters, french 
toast covered in butter and lemon and sugar.  Tradition here was 
to eat and hang out with the other travelers, smoking hashish 
from that ever-floating pipe or chillum being passed around, get 
hungry again, and eat some more.  It was a diabolical set-up 
because of the hash--a puff or two and the sensations of taste 
and food texture became overwhelming, ecstatic.  You invariably 
got the famous munchies, and were off on another food trip.
     Christmas Day came and went, we almost didn't notice...

     The Tibetan Blue was where I first saw Dominique.  She was
almost always there.  I'd come in alone and sat across the table
from her because that's where there was a seat.  I nodded to her
and elicited a non-response.  Just to be friendly I tried some
small talk anyway, but her eyes never even focused on me.  I
assumed she was pretty stoned since the usual pipe was
circulating around the room.  
     But another traveler, a Swiss also sitting at the long
table, said to me, "No, man, it's no use.  You can't reach her."
     I asked why.
     He shrugged. "Overdose of something. Acid. Opium. Heroin. 
Who knows?  Whatever it was it stuck with her."
     She was a young French girl, perhaps once pretty, now empty
of eyes.  Her short brown hair was curly and tangled, dirty and
uncombed.  Her clothes were frayed and drab.  Her mouth hung half
     "She's been that way for a couple of months."
     When I thought back about it I remembered hearing of her
even before I had come to Katmandu, from other travelers in
India: "There's this freaked-out French chick in Katmandu."  A

     It got pretty decadent: we ate every day all day until
sundown, then usually took a break to go out and barter with
merchants over swords and Tibetan coats and coconut hash pipes,
then hurry back from the markets to one of the special hippy
restaurants and sit and eat and smoke until closing time.  We 
had of late even been rising early in the mornings to wait 
outside the restaurant doors until they opened. I suppose it was 
a normal reaction after any amount of time spent on the road in 
India, where the monotony of rice and dal and bananas became 
almost depressing, and everyone knew that they must end up back
in India before too long.  But still, it was like a Trap, we 
were addicted--not to the hash, but to the food.

CHAPTER 2: MIRACLES IN BENARES New Year's Eve was the same, even though we were all in a mood of celebration. Erik and I, both nostalgic for Denmark, had paid a pretty high price for two Danish beers which we would save until midnight to bring in the New Year. But for now we smoked hash and had buff steak and french toast and on and on. Then later we walked back through the twisted temple streets of Katmandu to our place in the G.C. Lodge. A lot of travelers were staying there now and we were going to have some sort of party with the Australians who lived downstairs and whoever else showed up. Road people come and road people go and if you stay in one place long enough you will eventually meet everyone again in Katmandu. When we got back to the Lodge we found that Pat the Canadian had just arrived and was living in the room under us with some new friends. We'd last seen Pat in New Delhi before he went to Benares and we came to Katmandu. He had a story to tell, and we all smoked up some dope and heard him out in the Australians' room. His story would have been pretty hard to swallow but he had come with an Irishman and a Dutchman who backed it up. Anyway, it was a good story. "Benares, as you all know, is the holy capital of India," Pat said, "400 temples, about one for every religion." There was a stoned chorus of "Yeah, wow." We were a receptive audience. "You can rent houseboats on the Ganges River for three rupees a day, and they're easily big enough for two or three people, but they haven't got any toilets or anything so you have to shit when you go into town to eat. It can be a bummer if you get diarrhea, but they're cheap and really interesting places to stay. When you wake up in the morning you come out on deck and smell the smoke from a hundred meters upstream where they burn the bodies of the dead. You can watch the ashes of the burned bodies scattered upon the Ganges come drifting right past you in the muddy water, past the houseboats where all the freaks live, and on by the Ghats where the pilgrims come to wash themselves in the Holy River, wading out into the dirty water and the human ashes. "And up on the Ghats, those big high stairways along the river, lined on both sides shoulder to shoulder are all the beggars who have come to Benares because they know they have some fatal disease. They come to beg and die in Benares because their bodies will be burned and scattered on the Ganges, which is supposed to end the reincarnation cycle so that they can attain Nirvana. So the beggars in Benares are holy. The pilgrims come to bathe in the holy river and give money to the beggars. It's bad karma not to give something, so rich pilgrims are quite extravagant, giving food and money, but there are so many beggars that most of the time they're still hungry. "We had to walk up through the Ghats to get into town from the houseboat, and almost every morning we would walk past a few dead beggars, all covered from these little flowers from their friends. "The place is really fantastic, really holy. There wasn't any actual Tourist business there at all. It was even hard to find people who spoke English, and that's pretty rare for India. There were so many weird characters there: hermits, monks, holy men painted with colors and patterns on shaved heads wearing certain beads for certain gods, emaciated ascetics handing out grains of rice one by one. "There was even one Norwegian guy begging in Hindi and living the life of a monk, bathing in the Ganges every day. He had been in India for three years now without passport or papers, which he'd thrown away, so that all he had was the rag he wore and a rice bag. But that was nothing, there was this...guy...(or, hard to tell, maybe a girl)...anyway, this kid..." Pat was pretty good with words and we were all getting so stoned as the pipe went around again. But now Pat seemed to have trouble formulating his story, slowing down and concentrating as if listening to himself and wondering what he was going to say. "This kid," he went on, "couldn't tell he she or what, but I'll guess at HE; young--fifteen, twenty-- no telling. He was pretty dark and I heard him speak Hindi, so at first I thought he was Indian, but when I talked with him he sounded like a Canadian. And some Germans who met him were sure that he was German, in fact everyone who ever talked to him assumed that he was a native speaker of their own language. Everyone noticed him, charisma or something, he seemed important, bigger than he was, spiritual maybe, dunno. I certainly got a feeling that he was superior to me--and everyone else too. "Anyway, his name was Tazio. I don't know where we was from or where he was staying, he kept apart from the rest of us road bums and travelers. He wasn't unfriendly, just neutral. He'd talk to you, even start a conversation, but didn't seemed to be interested in the things we were doing, like smoking dope. Oh, and he had no backpack, no luggage, nothing. "Well, I'd been there for a week when Tazio showed up, and I talked with a fellow who came to town with him, a Swedish guy named Elias. They had hitched a ride together, meeting on the road outside Agra just by chance, and were picked up by a truck full of Sikhs. The Swede was a zen freak really into meditation and psychic shit and he told me that he had never met anyone like this kid Tazio, that the kid was on such a high level of consciousness that he didn't need Zen or dope or any artificial means of attaining awareness. Elias recognized him as a Guru at first sight. And he told what happened when this kid came into Benares. "They arrived at the Ghats and the Swede was taking it all in: the beggars, the leprosy, the dying children. He felt what we all do every time we see it, that guilt for being so healthy and rich by the standards of the starving. So he turned to say something to the kid, something like, 'I guess they must hate us,' and he saw tears just running down the kid's face. And he told me that he could feel Tazio's vibes and that they hurt. It hurt so bad that he just stopped there and let the kid walk on alone into the mass of beggars, who were all turning and reaching out to him, rotting fingers waving in front of him, starving children being held up for him to see, all calling, 'Baksheesh! Baksheesh!' "The last thing Elias saw was the kid giving away all his money to the beggars, all of it. Elias, like you or me, couldn't or wouldn't do that, and he turned away in shame. "I talked with Tazio once," Pat said, "just in passing. He didn't really seem like a Jesus freak or anything, but he was obviously at some different level than the rest of us. The only thing we had in common was that he was on the road too. "But we only began to realize what he was when he started healing people on the Ghats." Pat had closed his eyes now and was slowly shaking his head in negation of his own words, as if he couldn't believe what he was saying. "Unbelievable. We were sleeping in our houseboats and were awoken early in the morning by the noise of voices shouting and chanting. I got out of my sleeping bag to see what the hell the matter was, but all I could see were all those beggars crowding onto one point of the Ghat, more coming all the time. They were crying and wailing and laughing and singing. I couldn't see what was happening. "Then the crowd broke to let the kid through and it was him, that Tazio, walking down the steps with the people just plain worshipping him. Damn if he didn't look divine or something, like Jesus on the Mount. He was touching people and--I swear..healing them. "He couldn't seem to cure everyone, just some of them. I watched with my binoculars, I had a straight line view from my houseboat. As he got closer I saw him pick out a woman from the crowd, he touched her head for a few minutes and the crowd shut up and watched. I don't know what was wrong with her but after he let her go she started running around shouting something. Probably 'I can see!' or 'I can walk!' I don't know. It was hard to tell from that distance just exactly what was going on. "So we went up the ghat. I don't speak Hindi so I couldn't tell what people said, but one shopkeeper started talking to us in English saying 'he is healing the sick, he has made the blind see and the dumb talk, he is holy!' I tried to get closer but it was impossible, there were too many people. I gave up after a while and went back to my boat. "That went on all night and for two more days. When we wanted to eat we had to go all the way around the ghats, the crowd grew so big that we had to go to a different restaurant because we couldn't even walk through that part of town. At first I thought it was mass hysteria or that the kid was a shyster fooling them for some weird reason. Just wish I could have gotten close enough to actually see what was happening. I wanted to, but to do it I'd have to jam between all those lepers and starving people for three whole blocks of very intense physical contact and I couldn't bear doing that. I tried, but turned back, three times. Besides, I figured it was the Indian's show, not mine, I wasn't looking to be cured, so I just tried to stay out of the way. "After three days it stopped. The kid was gone. "There were nearly riots in Benares. The crowd was looking everywhere but the kid had made a clean break: after three days of working miracles he left without a word and without anyone noticing him go. Man, you should have seen that town: word had spread, people in Benares had called relatives in from other towns, the streets were full to bursting with desperate religious fanatics and their Messiah had flown the coop. "Now I never really saw what he did up close, of course, and so I can't say that I really believe what everybody was telling me he did, but I saw people pointed out to me who he was supposed to have cured, and they were holy now--they were being carried through the streets, everybody was singing. "The whole thing gave me the impression that I had just seen the Second Coming of Christ. Or Buddha. Or something. There was a long stoned silence. Erik asked, "And they never did find them?" "I guess not," Pat concluded, "I left Benares just a few days ago myself and I didn't hear any more about him." "Then he'll probably be here next," German Gert said, "everybody comes to Katmandu." That was supposed to have been a flippancy, Gert even sounded just like Arnold Schwarzenegger, but there was a quiet moment in that room full of stoned people, until they began to say "Wow..." And for me, some memory in the back of my head was tapping on the front door, but I was too stoned to sort it out. Something about the name of the kid. But I let it slide away. Just another fantastic story, like all the other stories in India.
CHAPTER 3: NEW YEAR'S EVE Both Erik and I travelled with guitar, and so did Geoff the Australian, so we had 3 guitars to jam on. There were also some Tibetan drums and a harmonica, so we had us an orchestra. And a party of about 20 people, even some girls. Erik played mostly classical music, and I could only add some rhythm background to a few numbers, so it was pretty hard to jam with him. Kind of a shame for Erik, he played really well, but no one wanted to hear classical guitar, so he usually ended up just being background music. Geoff, however, was into blues and old 50-60's songs, heavy on the beat, which were real crowd pleasers, so we always ended up doing that, with Erik limping along as best he could, and me just getting the hang of it myself. So we entered the New Year somewhere inside a cloud of hashish, doing Mister Tambourine Man out of an old 60's song book that Geoff had. Erik had given up by then, as had the drummers. Everyone else was strewn obliquely among the floor mats of the room, stoned into submission. At some point I asked for the time. Minutes passed before a vague voice mumbled that it was ten minutes after Midnight. I made a calculation of sorts and announced the Happy New Year. There was no reaction. Would you believe that no one cared about New Year's Eve? I played on, my guitar resonating and ringing as if it were plugged into my skull, the good rich hum of wood and nylon vibrating the bones in my body...ok, ok, I was ripped. Finally I stopped and went to my room holding my guitar quiet under my arm. The only ones there were Erik and myself, Tom and Arild had trekked up to Nagarkot to spend New Year's looking at Mount Everest. We three and the Australians downstairs had stayed in town for our little party, but there was no difference in getting stoned on New Year's Eve than any other night and I thought now that maybe we should have gone to Nagarkot too. But then it had been good to see Pat again, and I felt that his story was important to me for some reason. I climbed into my sleeping bag and zipped it up to my beard. It was uncomfortably cold for a long time and I lay shivering until it warmed up to me. Then I dreamed BIG: witnessing the Rift of God being formed, the Israel/Jordan border shredding itself apart in a spray of dirt and giant boulders, vast shatterings of stone, ponderous movements of earth and sea--but I was also aware that I couldn't really be there at all because I was involved in something important going on somewhere else at that same time. On the first morning of the New Year Gert and Erik and I roused ourselves early and walked the several labyrinthine blocks to the Tibet Blue Restaurant. We had decided that this day, the first of a new year, would be different: today we were going to DO something. We started by each having a water buffalo steak and after that a pancake and chai. Chai is the universal word for "tea" from Morocco to Nepal. Dominique was there. She looked hungry so I asked her if she wanted anything, I didn't know if she had any money or not, and no one seemed to know if she even had a place to go to. She didn't answer, I guess she couldn't, but I bought her a chai. She looked at it a long time before she sipped it. Someone in The Blue said that she had been sleeping out in the street the night before, right there with the pigs and chickens and holy cows of Katmandu. It gets cold at night in the winter. I suppose she was usually taken home by one guy or another, some out of sympathy, others for an easy zombie lay. I really don't know, there were only stories. She never told me how it was. But anyway, like I said, we were out for Adventure that day so we didn't hang out in the restaurant for a long time. Erik and I were going to trek up to Nagarkot to see Mount Everest. You can't see it from Katmandu Valley, you have to go to a special point eighteen miles up into the hills. Gert was hot on having a maybe-affair with one of the Aussie girls so he made up his mind to stick around and meet her, but Erik and I split. We stopped off at the Lodge for our sleeping bags and my guitar then went looking for the right bus. Nepal has very few roads and none of them seem to go anywhere. If you want to get to the second largest city in Nepal you fly or walk. But there are some busses out to the edge of town, so we spent 50 paisa (3 cents US) and a half hour to arrive standing at the road sign which read TOURIST HUT, NAGARKOT and showed a little arrow pointing up the mountain there. It was another nine uphill miles to our destination so we figured another three hours should put us at the hut. There were a few miles of almost flat land before the grade became steep and difficult. Erik told jokes in Danish. We had worked together as moving men in Copenhagen, so I had learned enough Dansk to play straight man. We soon became too busy to talk, using our lungs to breathe. The trail went up through hard rock and we couldn't see it. We weren't sure if we were lost or not. We passed occasional rustic houses perched upon cliffs and some children decided to follow us, calling out the only English words they knew, "Bye-bye," and playing beggar saying "Sahib, paisa." One tough little guy tried to put the make on us and was demanding that we pay him 50 paisa to be our guide. Then the children made a game of trying to stop us from going any further unless we gave them some money. But we were too big for them and we continued climbing upward with them dangling from our necks and arms. It was sort of fun, and we didn't mind the game too much, planning to give them a little money before we parted, until that tough little bastard deliberately scratched my arm with a safety pin. That pissed me off mightily, his hands were dirty and I could just see myself catching Tetanus on a Himalayan hillside. So we tried to chase them away but we couldn't get rid of them. Atop that hill we found another bigger better hill awaiting. I was certain we were lost, but the children pointed in the direction we were going and ran on ahead so we followed them, which we probably shouldn't have done. The little turds led us over the two highest peaks in that area and made a twelve mile drudgery out of a nine mile hike, and did it on purpose--we found out later that they did it to everyone who fell for it. But we didn't know that yet and we gave them the 50 paisa they asked for before they scampered off giggling. I felt a burning on my arm and saw that a huge ugly black fly had landed on my scratch. I shooed it away but it kept coming back, absolutely determined to wallow in my wound. I tried to kill it, but it always flew away and came back later. I wished I'd brought some hydrogen peroxide or something. Still lost when the sun went down, we were walking along dark trails and coming down the side of a mountain in the starlight, having no idea as to where we were going. Finally we saw a far-off light and went that way. We had to sneak through a Nepalese military base, past a sign that read RESTRICTED AREA, everything invisible or ghostlike in the night, for there were no lights, evidently they were under blackout, for we could hear only the sound of many voices all around us in the dark. And eventually we just bumped right into the Tourist Hut by sheer accident. Nagarkot isn't much.. A one-room cabin with no electricity near a hilltop, but it was home for the night. It cost one rupee to stay there. In the candlelight inside we met other hikers, four girls and six guys. We ate a pretty puny vegetarian meal, the only thing available. No one smoked hashish. All in all, it had been a very hard but healthy day and everybody agreed that it was good to get out of the dope-dens of Katmandu for a while. But I sure could have used a water buffalo steak. Erik and I played guitar, taking turns because we had only the one and we all had a singalong before we went to bed early.
CHAPTER 4: CONTEMPLATING MOUNT EVEREST Just before the dawn of the second day of the new year I lay upon my mat listening to the rats scuttling around the floor upon which we were sleeping and I tried to see in the utter dark of the hut. Even the candle was dead now. There were sounds outside too. An English girl on the mat next to mine thrashed and moaned as if she were either deathly ill or deep in passion, but her sister whispered that it was all right, she always did that. There were lots of girls travelling around in India, but there wasn't much flirting or sex going on. At least I wasn't seeing or getting any. Not that I wasn't horny, but none of the girls I met was my type, don't know why. Seems they were either traveling in a hermetic group to protect themselves from men, or they were alone but crazy--like Dominique. Then, for the first time in years, I thought of Cindy. She had travelled, and look what it had done for her! O, I wished she was on this floor with me now--that got me horny. Until I remembered that she must be dead. Poor magnificent Cindy Suther. Everyone got up and dressed before the sun and went out into the yet-dark morning, chattering with bone-deep cold and climbing the remainder of the hill from the hut to the viewpoint so that we could see the sun rising out of the Himalayan Mountains. We climbed to a wooden platform that seemed balanced between two great valleys, perched upon the edge of a mountain range. And looming, just plain LOOMING above everything everywhere were these big earth-shapes all sheathed in glacier. Everybody said, "Wow, look at Everest, it's so Big!" Except for the One Guy Who Had Been Here the Day Before, who said "Naw, look over there." Way out There on the Himalayan horizon, all saw-toothed with mountain shapes, we could see two fair sized lumps with a little pimple between. The pimple was Mount Everest, of course. It may be the highest mountain in the world but it is surrounded by mountains of almost equal size and it was 120 miles from where we stood. Then a big red drop of red fire, the sun, abruptly squeezed up between two of those far-off mountains. And yes, it was beautiful, a very good show, Himalayas shining with nice bright colors, the morning brilliantly clear. "That's Tibet out there," Erik said, indicating the Everest pimple. "Yeah. You wanna go?" I asked him, one traveler to another. "Sure. But it'd be pretty hard, maybe impossible. No trains, no busses, we couldn't even hitchhike, and I hear that it would take 16 days to walk to the foot of Everest from here. And then the Red Chinese border guards would arrest you or turn you back." "Not to mention how cold it would get before we crossed to the other side of those mountains. But otherwise, wouldn't it be something to go to Exotic and Mysterious Tibet?" "Ja ja, too bad we can't." Of course we both knew we could, we were just to soft and scared to do it. We ate a niggardly breakfast of two hard boiled eggs before Erik got the shits and I waited for him while he ran off to the woods with some newspaper in his hand. It happens to the best of us. I had my own problem: my scratch was infected. I had tried to clean it with cold water, which was all there was, but it was red and hurt somewhat. On the way back it was so nice and warm down in Katmandu Valley that we carried our coats. Erik had blisters on both feet so we went straight to the Lodge upon arrival in town. We washed up and met Pat, who had been discovering what Katmandu was all about while we were gone and was all set to go eating. Ravenous, we made it to The Camp restaurant and I had two buff chow chows. Money was no object, I spent the three rupees (18 cents) without a qualm. Well, almost. When you are On The Road you are either Cheap or you go home early. If you run out of money in India you are Really Out, you can't work to get any more because it is illegal as well as unprofitable at the wages offered. You bring money and you make it last. I had gone through my Traveler's Checks to see how much I had left and found that I had spent half of my starting supply. That made me tense, knowing the Rule of the Road: when your money is half-gone your Trip is half-over. But I didn't want to start going "home" yet, not by half. We went back to the Lodge and tried some hashish Tom had bought on the street for two rupees. It didn't look good, it was probably cow shit. We got more high from the tobacco we used to keep it burning. One should always buy from the government store, quality guaranteed and perfectly legal. I loaned some alcohol to clean my scratch, which was even more red and sore. Have to watch that. The Aussies came to our room and we broke out guitars. "You guys missed Dominique's romance while you were away," Geoff told us. "This completely balmy French bloke just arrived in town last night. He was really dirty and disheveled, Zappa beard & hair y'know. Always going on about flowers and butterflies and how he talks to them on acid. Anyway, said he'd heard of the 'famous freakedout French bird, la Dominique', and he'd come to find her-- like some Lancelot-- said she had to be his destined True Love. Me, I was inclined to think that they would go together pretty well, he never stopped talking and she never interrupts." "Ja, well so what happened?" Erik asked. "Aw, nothing. He found her and told her that she was the perfect woman for Mad Jaques, as he called himself, said they'd live together and he'd take care of her. Mad Jaques and Poor Dominique. I guess it would have been nice if it was true, she needed someone all right. It would have been nicer if the bloke had some money, but he didn't have a rupee, and it seems he wanted Dominique to take him to her place so that they could live together and she could take care of him." "What did Dominique say?" I asked. "Shit, she never said nothing. Just like always. I don't think she even understood what he was talking about." "Not even in French?" "Ooo, that's really burned out!" Eric said. "Poor Dominique," I added. Later, an Russian student dropped in on us and passed around a pipe of Black Pakistan hash. I don't know if that stuff was mixed with something, maybe opium, but whatever it was way too strong. Geoff and I had been practicing some songs, but after that pipe we couldn't keep time together any more. I started shaking, as if freezing, and the room went out of square. Erik and Geoff and Pat couldn't stop laughing. I couldn't laugh at all. Geoff couldn't play guitar any more, but I could. Really play. I climbed inside the guitar and took a walk, got lost, following an elusive melody being played by some maestro who lived in the heart of that hollow block of wood. He was playing an electric guitar, clear, very far away, surrounding. The melody pulled me along, around and around in variations that kept getting better and better, really driving, and slowly I realized that the maestro was actually ME and I was playing like a GOD...which finally was too much. I became actually frightened by it all and had to escape into my sleeping bag, shutting my ears and eyeballs and nostrils away from all the overloading and try to stop the shaking long enough to fall asleep. I dreamed that Dominique was a goddess and that she knew more than she let on.
CHAPTER 5: DOMINIQUE The third morning of the new year was cold and misty. I took some photographs in the mist effect and went to the Poste Restante to see if I had any mail. Which I did, one letter from a girlfriend in Denmark saying that the Afghan coat I had mailed from Kabul had finally arrived. I met a lot of travelers on the street who mentioned that they had really liked my guitar playing the night before, but I didn't recognize any of them, had never seen them at all. I must have been literally stoned out of my mind. It was like they had been watching my dream. I went to eat. There were only a few people in the Tibetan Blue that morning. Dominique was one of them. I sat almost over from her and ordered French toast. Last night, I was thinking, Dominique, I was afraid that my mind was not my own. Is it like that for you? Is it that bad? My French Toast came. That beautiful golden stack of bread and egg covered with sugar melting in butter and lemon juice, arriving on a porcelain plate carried to me by Chiki, the cook-owner-waiter of The Blue. It almost reached me. That is, the French Toast almost reached me, the plate came in fine, right on target, but empty. From across the table Dominique had grabbed the food and was cramming it into her mouth before anyone could take it away from her, a hungry animal. Chiki let out a Tibetan roar of protest. "No, it's okay," I said. Then to Dominique, like so many had tried before, "Do you want some more food? Plus d'alimentacion? Faimez-vous?" Okay, my French is pretty weak, "Dominique, tu comprends?" She never even looked at me, never noticed me. "Get her a buff steak," I told Chiki, "and some chai:" "Han, sahib!" When Chiki had gone I tried again to talk to her, either to comfort her or myself, because it was pretty terrible to see someone in this shape. "Dominique, what are you going to do?" Chiki came with a teapot. Dominique whispered one word, the only word I had ever heard her say. "Chai." Not even a French word. I ate my replacement French Toast, she ate her steak and drank her tea, then sat quietly with her mouth half open. I paid for both of us, then it occurred to me to give her a five rupee note, which she clutched fiercely. That's not much, I knew other people gave her money too. Back in the Lodge everybody was stoned. Middle of the day too, disgusting. I copied some old Beatles songs out of Geoff's book. I didn't smoke, didn't feel like it, was weary of being stoned and yearned to be pure. It had been fun at first, nice for music and food and pretty sensations, but had been too difficult lately to function in real life, to write letters, to read books. I decided to go this day without getting stoned. I went for a walk on the outskirts of town, looking for likely photographs to take. I passed near the foot of the trail up to the Monkey Temple. Someone called my name. I saw Pat sitting under a tree by the trail. When I came up to him he looked strange. Not stoned, more like in shock. Pale beneath his tan. "What's wrong, Pat?" "Russell, he's here!" "Who's here?" "Tazio!" "Who's..." then I recalled the name, "you mean the kid? The miracle worker from Benares?" "Yeah. He's come here...I just saw him." I looked around, nobody. "Surrounded by beggars?" "No, alone. He just went up this trail toward the Monkey Temple." I was intrigued. "Did you talk to him?" "No, I...couldn't. Don't know why, I wanted to talk to him, follow him, but..." "Is he still up there?" I asked, looking up the hill. Pat nodded. "Well, let's go up there then." He shook his head, as if he was afraid. I shrugged and started the climb, "Well, you'll excuse me if I go check this out."
CHAPTER 6: TAZIO The hill was quite steep and the trail was only a groove in the forest floor, I had to use the rope that lay handy along the path to make it up the slope. There were lots of monkeys in the forest here. Little monkeys came close to me, some pretending to attack, running straight down the hill at me and screeching and leaping just over my head with a great show of ferocity. I had been warned about that, and been assured that it was all a bluff. It was sort of scary, but fun too, although I did wonder if they ever bit anyone. The Monkey Temple lies well above the town of Katmandu and when I got to the top of the hill I could look down on all the rooftops and see where the almost dry river ran across the valley. The little temple itself was ornate with gold trim and bright enamels, poised upon the tip of the hill where it stood alone. I saw a person who also stood alone. The climb had been so long and steep and physically demanding that I had almost forgotten why I had come up here, breathing had become my primary objective. I approached that person, and the closer I got the more remarkable and yet equally nondescript he...she?...seemed. I really couldn't tell if this was a male or female, young or old, couldn't judge height or weight. Actually, it was as if I couldn't really look straight at him, my eyes kept drifting away. Which didn't seem strange at first, more that I was just a bit spaced from the night before and had a zero attention span. But part of my mind knew that wasn't why: I thought about mental static... ...Tazio, something about that name...oh yeah, that's who I came up here looking for. Is that him there? Hard to see... I blinked to clear my eyes, and they did clear, so that I could focus upon the person over there beside the temple wall: dressed in traveler's clothes, faded and ragged, tattered, no shoes, a meter-length mane of blue-black hair. Exotic face, somewhat Oriental eyes, very tan; perhaps good looking---or perhaps extremely beautiful! But absolutely and totally androgynous. If this was a girl I would simply have to fall in love, but there was an aura of sexlessness about that beauty which convinced me that this was no female. I felt a brief pang of confusion and anxiety over such ambiguous sexual orientation, and then just decided that this person had to be a HE. I lifted my camera, as if to take a picture of the temple (which would just happen to include this coincidental stranger passing by). But he looked directly at me and our eyes...sort of...met and I found that I simply could not press the shutter. I sank the camera. "Hi," I said. He nodded, expressionless, uninterested, then would have walked on past me. Another weird unreachable, like Dominique. "I haven't seen you in town," I insisted, "you just get in?" He looked at me directly again--and suddenly I had a feeling that my entire being was being read by those eyes--eyes which I still couldn't look at or really SEE, as if they were too scary for me. Then he was past me, walking away. Suddenly something went Click: eyes; Tazio; Cindy. My mouth fell open, and I was stunned by a realization. Just as suddenly he turned sharply to look at me, as if I had called out to him. He must have read something of interest in my own eyes, because he came back and spoke to me. "You know that I've arrived from Benares," he said, "Pat just told you." His voice was young male, accent American like mine. Sure, I was impressed. "Uh, yeah well, just trying to start a conversation," I admitted, "and hey, it worked." He might have been amused, there was a polite little smile, but there was no emotion in his face at all. "Yes, well, all right. Let's have a conversation. It has been a while since I've talked with anyone." "Uh...yeah, ok, where are you from anyway?" I asked him, trying to determine if this was indeed Cindy's Tazio. "You know that too," he said, "Cindy Suther told you." My brain almost shorted out. It WAS him! " did you know that I knew Cindy?" "I'm quite psychic, Russell." My skin crawled: I hadn't told him my name. But I tried to be cool and carry on as if unruffled. "You don't sound Italian." "I'm not, although I did grow up in Italy." He didn't ask where I was from, and I didn't bother saying because I had the feeling that he already knew--he'd certainly plucked my own local accent out from a very few words. And seemingly my very thoughts as well: I hadn't thought about Cindy in years before yesterday. Anyway, Pat had said this guy was cosmic, and I guess he was. "So you're that Tazio? I never really believed what Cindy told me about you." "She wouldn't lie. Can you tell me where she is now?" The question surprised me. "Well, no, far as I know, she's...well...dead," I said. "She disappeared under very suspicious circumstances about 4 years ago, after telling me there was a Satanic cult out to get her..." "Oh, no," Tazio said, "she's definitely alive, I assure you." My heart stopped. "Are...are you sure? When did you see her last?" "December 4 years ago, but after the Dark Templars kidnapped her. I intervened, helped her out. When I last saw Cindy it was the Dark Templars who were afraid of her." "What...happened?" "Oh, I really don't want to tell that story. You wouldn't believe it anyway." "Try me!" I got excited, "Look, Cindy was a friend of, let's get this straight: I loved her, and I thought she was DEAD until just now! I grieved for her a long time---and now you say she's ALIVE! I insist that you tell me what you know!" I was shouting now. He had been looking at me with utter calm, as if with no emotions of his own, but studying mine with interest. Then there came a shift in his demeanor, a lifted eyebrow--made me think of Mr Spok somehow--and for a brief instant his face registered a passing memory. Then it was gone. But he nodded to me. "You've reminded me of what I once felt for her, back when I could feel..." he cut himself off, then looked at me squarely. "All right, since you loved her, I'll tell you what I know. But I'd like you tell me about Cindy first, and we can fill in the gaps together." I just looked at him for a few seconds while I sorted out some emotions. I'd loved Cindy all right, but she had loved some Italian wonder boy named Tazio instead, and I'd been jealous of whoever he was. Then she was "dead" and I'd felt much worse emotions, and now the guy I'd been jealous of had just resurrected her...
CHAPTER 7: CINDY "I met Cindy in the music department at Berkeley, when she was just a student like anyone else. She was a normal nice girl back then: pretty, but no campus queen--little bit chunky, an occasional zit, glasses, typical pale redhead with lots of freckles. She studied piano and was an ok (but not outstanding) pianist. "I'm saying this like she wasn't especially attractive, but only as comparison to later. Actually, she was pretty cute--I was interested, but we were just friends. She was very virgin, saving herself for Mr Right (hell, I was pretty virgin myself back then, we were only 19 years old). There'd been a guy she'd idealized, but he became some kind of guru, named...ah..." "Immanuel," Tazio said. "Right. She considered him some kind of Christ figure. But she couldn't get him, just like I couldn't get her. "Then she went off to Europe with her class, and they lost her in Rome, where she met you, it seems. "Yes. We were together there for two weeks." "Cindy finally came back to Berkeley months later, but changed in every way. I guess you know all about that." He nodded, but said: "I'm interested in your perception of that." "My perception? Dramatic. Magical. Weird. She was no longer a normal pretty girl in any way: she was the campus Goddess! Simply the most sexy, magnificently attractive woman any of us had ever seen, and wonder of wonders; totally promiscuous. She had everybody. Me too. But no one could keep her...she loved us all, but was in love with wonder boy in Italy, the mysterious Tazio. "Cindy had also become an absolutely brilliant pianist, she did local concerts that had music critics raving and was being offered contracts with recording companies. She was also physically stronger than any guy, by the way, the whole thing was kind of weird just how much she had changed in Europe. "Shit, just what did you do to her?" "Nothing deliberate," Tazio said, "it just happens. We were lovers, so there was a lot of physical contact, she picked up energy from me--and became something like me. But it went too far and I had to send her away for her own good." "Hmm. That might explain something--the weirdest of all: she was having sex with a lot of guys--usually only once each, and refusing to practice safe sex in the Bay Area, where there's a lot of AIDS going around--and then several guys who DID have AIDS found themselves cured of it. As if they'd been HEALED." "AIDS neutralized?" he seemed genuinely surprised. "Are you certain?" "Yeah, it was big news. The media got right on it." Tazio frowned, "I've really been out of touch with news." "Well, that was years ago. And then it started happening a lot, AIDS patients were inexplicably coming clean of HIV, and the number of cases in the Bay Area was falling. Other sicknesses began to disappear as well. No one could determine that Cindy had anything to do with any of it, but those of us who knew her began to suspect it." "Yes, it had to be her. I'd been developing an Antivirus while I was with Cindy. I must have succeeded without realizing it...and infected her. And she spread it." "Well, Cindy was an effective spreader. And a heart-breaker: not that she was trying to be--she was really nice to everyone--but most guys wanted to keep her for themselves and she wouldn't be bound. She and I were old friends, so I got to be with her more than many other guys, but I still had a hard time accepting it. "She told me some things about you one night, when I was begging her to be my steady girl friend, explaining why she couldn't because of Immanuel and Tazio. Christ and Antichrist, she called them. The things she said sounded crazy, I couldn't take her seriously. "Not even when mysterious happenings started going on around her, sinister men coming to the University looking for her, accidents, coincidences. "The last night I ever saw her, she came to me for help, crying, hysterically afraid, telling me about a secret Satanic society of Dark Templars who were chasing her, under command of the Incarnation of Satan Himself. " Tazio nodded, "Anton Artemis." I hesitated--that was the name of the man whom I assured her didn't really exist. "Uh, yeah, well she also told impossible stories about Immanuel, the 17th Incarnation of Christ; and you Tazio--you were supposed to be the Bloody Antichrist... "She told me that you were an Avatar--a god incarnate with miraculous powers. And that you had the sex drive of an Army. Also that you were destined to become The Antichrist, in contrast to Immanuel, but that you were a Good Antichrist. "Oh, she had so many impossible details that I can't remember them all...that you had eyes like a reptile, and--get this--a tail! "I didn't believe her, of course, but I did get bummed out because I loved her, and was afraid that she'd gone schizophrenic. I wasn't much help at all. "That next day, 4 years ago, she was just gone, and has never been seen again. We all looked for her, the police, her family, but no one found anything except evidence of a break-in in her apartment. Eventually we assumed that she was dead. "Well, that's my sad story. Your turn," I said. "Cindy was indeed kidnapped by the Templars--who wanted to get at me through her. They took her to Mecca and murdered her..." "Murdered?" I said, surprised. "But you said..." "...gruesomely, with a blowtorch," he went on, "I had to resurrect her from death. But they had done so much damage that I was forced to change her even more than before, into a living manifestation of her own soul--into an Angel, an elemental Avatar, very powerful. In fact, she overpowered the Templars to help me out with a project. I haven't seen her since." I was doubtful: what kind of nonsense bullshit was this? But then...if it WAS true...then Cindy could have been telling me the truth all along, but... Tazio had been seen healing the beggars in Benares, but raising the dead? "Uh, well you did say," I stated as politely as I could, "that I wouldn't believe your story."
CHAPTER 8: AVATAR "I can imagine," he said. "You need proof, right?" "Got any?" "Sure: look at me." I looked into his eyes, and then could actually see them for the first time: serpent eyes with vertical-slit pupils and golden irises, just as Cindy had described them. Eyes shining with Vast Power. Inhuman demon eyes, watching my reaction. Which was awe: I finally realized that I really was confronting something much greater than myself; inhuman, supernatural, like a god--or a vampire or werewolf. Panic welled up in me, as if I was balancing on the brink of a great abyss. "Give me your hand," the Tazio thing said. I was afraid, but I did so because I had to obey what it said. "You've got a nasty infection," Tazio said gently. He guided my arm so that we could both see my red raw scratch. Then he ran a finger along it, there was an electric sensation from the finger and a warmth in my arm. When he slipped my hand free I looked down to check the scratch...and couldn't find it anywhere. Gone. Healed. "Don't fear me, Russell, Cindy didn't. And I have promised never to harm anyone." Once he said that, I no longer feared him, since I had to obey. "So everything Cindy said about you is True?" "She wouldn't lie." I thought about that, and agreed. I knew that about her. "Pat said you were healing people on the Ghats in Benares." "Yeah, miracles and wonders." He did not seem proud about it. I sensed a hint of dissatisfaction, perhaps even regret. Reassured by this very humanness in his godlike presence I took the liberty of sitting down upon the low stone wall near us. "Will you tell me about it?" He did not look at me, but away at the valley. I feared that he was about to walk off, but instead he also sat down on the wall near me. "Yeah, why not? It's nice to drop my facade and just admit who I really am to another living being. "When I came to Benares I knew what to expect: suffering, etc; but I went there anyway. I wasn't prepared for my own reaction--as I said, I've been very out of touch with human feelings for a couple of years, gotten numb to them. As you now know, I have telepathic empathy and it was a lot for me to bear the misery of all those people at once. The beggars needed money more than I ever could; so I gave them all of mine, but I had so little, and they were so many." I nodded, "Yeah, I've come here from India too. It's rough at first, until you get used to it and harden yourself." "Well, I can do a lot of stuff, but harden myself I could not do. They were so desperate and powerless, while I have all this Power--and they sensed it: dying mothers holding their babies up for me to save, lepers showing me their sores, the infirm shoving their handicaps in my face, all crawling and groveling and begging because they believed that all I had to do was touch them and they could be healed. "Which is mostly true. So I did, of course, healed a lot of people: blind to see, lame to walk, lepers cured; but it was just like with the beggars--they were too many. "They were also simple uneducated people, easily confused and excited, and after I'd cured a few of them they all went wild, believing I could cure any and all, raise the rotten and heal the hopeless. Families started bringing me their dead, whom they should have burned that day, insisting that I resurrect them." "Uh...did you?" I had to ask. "No, I refused. But I did what I could for the living. But of course, the truth is that I can't just heal extreme physical damage with a pat on the head--sure, some things, psychosomatic disorders--but repairing a blind man's ruined eyes requires time, energy, work; regenerating a leper's decaying flesh requires an hour's intense concentration to globally restructure his DNA. "I wasn't fast enough for them. And they just kept coming. They saw miracles and went into a frenzy, were impatient, got greedy, got nasty, got out of hand. They were a mob. "They also wanted me to say wisdoms. They were calling me Vishnu, Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed---I was supposed to teach them." "Teach them what?" "Who knows? I'd need to learn it myself before I could teach anyone. Besides, it was only those who'd already been healed who had the time or patience to hear me speak, the others were constantly pressing in to be healed, and there was no end of them--they were calling relatives in from everywhere else in India. After three days of healing people as fast as I could there were still just as many screeching at me to heal them, save them, teach them. So I left." I didn't even consider doubting what he told me. His words were absolutely convincing, it seemed impossible that he could be lying...or crazy. But it was hard to believe in miracles and wonders that I had not myself witnessed. Maybe he could work miracles, I'm sure there are people who can, but there had to be a scientific explanation. "So how do you do these healings? Magic? Holiness?" He almost smiled. "I'm not holy, so it must be Magic-- which is never what it seems to be. What I actually do is control energy." He passed his hand over mine and all the hair on my arm stood up. So did my goose bumps. "Energy affects matter. 'Life' is a complex cocktail of energies, many of which are not yet defined by modern physics. I sense them, interact with them, and thereby affect flesh." "Energy? You mean auras?" "Sure, for example. Energy fields, really. Everything has one, and I see them. For example, I saw yours earlier: you're basically healthy but you had an infection on your right arm; and you'd been smoking too much cannabis--you'd been sick from it last night." "Uh, yeah well, I guess you could say that," I admitted, and looked down at where the red scratch had vanished from my arm. "Anyway, Magic is the illusion of effortlessly doing something impossible," he went on, "but the healing is only possible by physically assembling the mechanical pieces of a person, and by doing it right, which is not that easy, so it's hardly magic at all. In fact, it's hard work." I was accepting everything he said. One must remember that we were in India, where one has experiences with palm-readers and gurus who do amazing things all the time, so I was primed for this sort of thing. And even more, just sitting beside him, I could feel his energy warming me...healing me of groggy thinking. My mind seemed to be getting clearer, expanding. Then memories clicked in my head. I could almost feel connections being physically fastened, synapses working. In a flash I remembered a major point to that crazy story Cindy Suther had told me the last time I had seen her, the part I had been trying to ignore. I had rejected Cindy's Tazio story as paranoid schizophrenia, because there was no other justification for such preposterous fantasy. I had tried to calm her hysterical fear of imaginary evil agents of the Dark Templars, who were out to get her because of Tazio, who was The... I gasped, slapping my forehead, "...Antichrist!"
CHAPTER 9: ANTICHRIST Very calmly, almost amused, he just watched me figure it out. Parts of the story were coming into focus now. In fact, everything was focusing, I was incredibly aware of where we were and everything around us, sitting on a planet that was turning in a sky. And most aware of him, his aura now clearly visible, a burning bush, an electric blue arc that caused ripples in my own pale aura. It was the most powerful drug I had ever experienced, but instead of being confused I was clarified, instead of being dulled I was galvanized. So much that it almost seemed quite natural to be sitting in the Himalayas talking with a god incarnate. But that this gentle androgynous guy was really the dreaded One Final Actual Official Antichrist was not part of it. "But you can't really be the Antichrist," I insisted, "even if there WAS such a thing--your actions in Benares were more Christlike than...uh...Antichristlike." "I don't believe it myself. Nor do I accept that destiny, but others insist that is what's happening and act accordingly." "Like those Dark Templars who're supposed to be after you?" "Among others. They want me to be their Beast of the Apocalypse, but I refuse. They simply refuse to take No for an answer." "Are they really as evil as Cindy believed?" "Quite. The Nazis were second-rate imitation Templars, Hitler was a dupe of Anton Artemis, they're behind every dirty war in the world. They believe fanatically in the Beast of the Apocalypse, and are required to tempt and test him--they can't really hurt me, but are ruthless and harm innocent bystanders. I made too much psychic noise in Benares and they began to show up there, so I had to leave." "But if you're not really their Antichrist..." "Well, I'm not certain that I'm not. Who knows? We're thinking in terms defined by religions of Western Civilization, conditioned responses from the Judeo-Christian rulebook: Christ is Good, therefore Antichrist is Evil, etc. Simple and neat dualism. However, consider that if God has plans to judge and destroy you and your world, then He becomes your enemy, and His Opponent might be your only hope." I only nodded. This kid knew his stuff. "Popular conception of The Antichrist has always been pretty primitive: the infamous man-beast from The Book of Revelations Chapter 13, with 7 monstrous heads doing nasty things and driving the world into destruction. Yet to Christians, both the Jewish Messiah and the Islamic Mahdi are Antichrist, to Protestants the Pope's the one. An old Sicilian legend says, When Antichrist comes, he shall seem as Christ. There shall be great want, and Antichrist shall go from land to land and give bread to the poor, and he shall find many followers." "Pat said that a new religion has already started in Benares after your performance there." "Well I'm gone from there, and they can't find me where I'm going." He was facing the Himalayas. "So you're just going to hide from your Fate?" He shrugged. "Actually, I'm just plain uninterested in the job. Who wants to rule the world so that God can come and judge it and then destroy it?" Hindu monks were moving around inside the temple and we watched them as they went about a ceremony, chanting, ringing a bell. It seemed ironic that they were unaware of a genuine god sitting on the wall outside their temple. The sun was going down and it became cold. "Where are you staying tonight?" I asked Tazio. "Nowhere, maybe here with the monkeys." "Would you like to come on down into town and stay with me and my friends? We've got room." "No, thanks, I'm fine. I don't stay in rooms." "I won't tell them who you are. You can trust me." "I know, but I prefer to be alone." I felt a strange inspiration to say something that one might not say to a god, almost a command: "You're alone too much. And you're tired of it--face it, you're lonely." He regarded me with what might have been wonder that I would challenge his preferences. And I went on: "How long has it been since you've had a friend?" "It's best that I have no friends." "Why not?" "Isn't it obvious? My friends either end up worshipping me or getting killed by the Templars." "Well, they hurt Cindy and that makes the Templars already my enemies," I said, "and we're both Cindy's friends, so that makes us friends too. Sorry, them's the rules." "You really don't know what you're saying. The Dark Templars are a paramilitary Satanic society with connections everywhere and an evil Grand Master who is an Avatar something like myself. They are worse than the Gestapo, or the Hell's Angels, or Thuggees--you don't want them after you, and I don't want to be responsible for you." "I admit that I'm not interested in taking them on, I remember how scared Cindy was--but you told me that they are afraid of her now. I'll set her on them." "If only you knew where she was," he said, and looked away. I figured that that was it, that he would go now, and that I had irritated him with my silly offer of friendship--friends should be equals, and it was clear that we weren't. We really had nothing in common, nothing to offer each other. In fact, we were rivals for the same girl, technically--sort of, what was I thinking of? But he didn't go. He was looking down the hill at the town. And then I realized something quite fantastic: he WAS lonely! He wanted to go into town and be with people, but it was hard for him without some reason to do so, without an...excuse. "Hey, I know some great restaurants down there in town. I'll invite you to dinner, since you were so foolish as to give away all your money." "I don't eat." "Really?" "The Earth sustains me. I need nothing." "You live on water and rocks?" He looked at me as if surprised about something. "You couldn't know that..." then his face was like stone, "I'm not like the rest of you: I don't eat, don't sleep, don't desire sex, don't smoke hash, and don't especially care for music. So what's left to go into town for?" "Company." "You mean Friends?" He looked at me, still emotionless. "You really believe that we could be friends, even though you know who and what I am?" I laughed, "Hey, you think I know what you are, Tazio? I'm not sure I believe any of this! You're weird, but I like you anyway, ok?" I offered him my hand. He considered it, then said, "There is a condition: no worshipping." "That's fair enough," I said, "Agreed." As if I knew what I was saying, still offering my hand. He took my hand and shook it. And then I understood how hard it would be to keep that one condition of non-worship: I felt the power inside his hand, the electrical tingle of it zap-ap-apped up my arm and throughout my body, lit up my brain, my vision became twice as sharp. I maintained control of myself: I had known about all this, Cindy had told me, I just hadn't believed it until now. So I managed to laugh, and had to say, "Holy Shit, that's quite a grip you've got there, Tazio!" He released my hand, but the tingling in my body continued on. "Well, now that we're friends, Russell, I wouldn't mind taking you up on a part of your invitation: how about a hot cup of chai in one of those great restaurants you know?" We went down the hill as it turned dark.
CHAPTER 10: FRIENDS Not too far from where the Monkey Temple goes into town lies the Camp Restaurant, so we went in there. There was a lesser crowd and the air was reasonably clean of hash smoke at the time, which was good. I bought us a pot of chai. Tazio seemed to enjoy drinking it, sitting back and studying the scene. We didn't talk for a while, I could see that he was interested in the others in the restaurant. Automatically, I picked up the menu and looked it over, it was that time of day. "Sure you're not hungry?" I asked him, even though he'd said he didn't ever eat, just to make sure. I figured he had no money. He just shook his head. Then I noticed that I wasn't hungry either. Usually I was ravenous by now. It felt as if that energy I'd felt from Tazio's handshake had "sustained" me. Another revelation exploded. "You really don't eat, do you?" "Haven't in years." Later we walked around the streets together. Tazio spoke apparently fluent Nepali, talking with the shop owners. He even affected their mannerisms. It was funny, when he did that he seemed very foreign to me, more like a Nepalese than a European, but when he talk to me I'd swear he was from my own neighborhood in San Francisco. I told him so. "But San Francisco is foreign to me--I've never been to the States. As for learning languages and customs, it's simple empathy for whomever I'm dealing with." "Well, I try to do that too, but I've not gotten to know the Nepalese, they're just too different." "No they're not, just a matter of perspective--to me humans all very much alike. " I told him about the scene in Katmandu, how there was a traveler's camaraderie, a brotherhood of nationalities. Germans, French, Americans, Japanese, all who come here seeming to be of "the same culture" in comparison to the Nepalese, more easily come together than they would be in Europe." "Oh, I know the Road Scene, but I've had enough of it." "But you're On the Road yourself: sometimes it's good to compare notes." "I'm on a different road. It seems rather pointless for me to compare notes." "Well, then, what's the point of anything anyway?" I had to be so philosophical to ask. "Sometimes I wonder that myself." "You're not a manic-depressive, are you Tazio?" "Oh, no," minor cynical grin, "to be depressive I'd have to feel an emotion. I'm way out of touch with all of those emotions, for better or worse." "I'm amazed: from what Cindy told me you were a powerhouse of emotion... the...well, the horniest guy she'd ever met." "Oh, well, that was long ago...I've left all that behind me." I believed it, his manner was so totally emotionless, passionless, sexless--neither male nor female. I wondered how he looked without clothes. And what about that tail Cindy insisted...? No, forget it. "According to Cindy, you were just 12 years old when she knew you---are you really only 16?" "It's kind of ambiguous just how old I really am." "Anyway, you're pretty young to be such an ascetic." "Perspective is Everything, you know, Relative Universe, etc. This is the perspective I want just now. Perhaps later I'll be horny again." "Perhaps later you die, and there is no more later," I said with great wisdom. He gave me a funny look, as if he knew something I didn't. Well, I guess he probably did. We walked in silence. I was trying to understand how a guy with all the magical power he had could have so little enjoyment in his life. "It's a paradox," he uttered, having read my mind I guess. I looked at Tazio. "You're an ascetic, yet the plight of all those people in Benares got to you. So you know what pain and suffering are all about, but what about fun? Do you really feel that's pointless?" He seemed to consider, then shrugged. "I have no argument against fun. But nor do I seem to have any use for it." I asked him if he had ever smoked hash. "No, I don't dare. I got drunk once when I was 9 and learned not to lose control in that way. It was a disaster... anyway, I don't play with alternative realities." I invited him to the G.C. Lodge anyway, but he said, "No thanks, your friends saw me in Benares, they'll recognize me." "So what? We'll just ask them not to make a fuss. It would be all right." "I'd rather not. Anyway, I plan to visit the Tibetan Refugee Camp tonight and study with some of the monks." "I suppose you speak Tibetan too?" I asked. He nodded, and stopped at a corner where he would turn and go off into the night. "Will you be around tomorrow?" I asked, as casually as I could, "We could meet for a pot of chai." "Sure," he said, "noon, same restaurant. It IS good to talk with someone as a friend once in a while." Then he was gone into the dark. I went back to the Lodge. Everyone was smoking hash and Erik and Geoff were playing guitar. It all seemed so crashingly loud and hedonistic after my peaceful time with Tazio. I was glad he didn't come here. I turned down a toke on the hash pipe, I wanted to keep my amazingly clear mind intact. I didn't even play guitar. Erik was telling the new travelers about the Rift of God. Since I'd been there with him, I joined in. It was an incredible thing to see: those ripped-away cliffs where the River Jordan had flowed since the history of mankind, now a sea-gulf 6 km across. "There are churches, temples, mosques, you-name-it," Erik was saying, "all along the coasts of Israel and Jordan. Everyone calls it the Rift of God, but no one agrees on which God pulled off the Split-away." "Aw, it was just some freak geological accident," some skeptic suggested, "had to be." "Tell that to the Jews," Gert added, seeming to have known a lot about it, "look: Israel neatly and conveniently separated from all those Arab lands, and almost right along the old Biblical border. And just in the nick of time to stop an all-out war. Those are some pretty big coincidences! I don't blame them for calling it what they do." "Yeah, plus I heard that there was almost no earthquake damage," Erik said. "Continental drift, man," the skeptic insisted. "Yeah, speeded up to the max--Israel drifted 6 km to the west over a week! Some drift!" "And if you ever see the edges of the Rift itself--" I had to put in my 2 rupees worth "--it didn't just drift apart-- it was torn apart by some really colossal forces!" "You know, the Jews may like to think of it as a sign from God that they are The Chosen People, but then so do the Arabs. They consider Israel removed." "Remember, before the Split-away, those 'heartbeat earthquakes' which shook up all the Muslim lands? Just as the Jihad was about to break out?" "Oh yeah wow, that was weird too!" "Well, I think the Jews have got some kind of secret geological technology." "Yeah, gotta be. The Israeli Government's just covering up, of course, as always." Suddenly I found myself making connections again. "Anyone recall what date the Split-away began?" I asked. Gert had the facts: "December, 4 years ago." I remembered now, the Rift of God forming on TV in the background of Cindy's disappearance, while I was tensely watching for any reports of an unidentified girl's body found anywhere. I also remembered another thing she'd told me, which I had rejected as schizo delusion: "Tazio makes earthquakes..." Some zany Italian girl came into our room and fell asleep on the floor after drinking all of Gert's orange juice without even asking. No one knew her. She woke up for a while and drew in Gert's sketch book, never saying a word to any of us or even responding to any question, just muttering to herself in Italian, and fell asleep again. I dreamed of Cindy and Tazio. She was beautiful, a wonder of flesh and light, shining eyes and light coming out of her mouth, dressed in a flowing white gown symbolizing Angelic purity--except that it was semi-transparent and she was enticingly naked underneath. I desired her. But she was tucking Tazio into bed, who was lying on his back, sleeping deeply. "I can understand why you would worship him," I told her, "but not how you could have been lovers--he's so passionless." "Oh, this is just the negasex phase he's going through," she said, and pulled the blankets down to reveal his godlike naked body, devoid of sex or hair, a smooth crotch of nothing between his legs. "Oh no," I sympathized, "poor Tazio." Cindy smiled, and passed the blankets over him, like a magician doing a trick "Don't worry, there are other phases-- this is the one I loved to make love with." Tazio had become very male now, with an impressive erection straining upwards. He was still asleep, but now sweating profusely and breathing raggedly, as if about to go into rut. I saw now why Cindy yearned for this sex-god, and felt that she was lost to me again. But she smiled at me and said, "If you'll share me with him; I'll share you with her." I looked down at the sleeping figure: Tazia was now a naked girl, of exquisitely desirable form, sweating and gasping in dreamy passion, clutching at the sheets of her bed, twisting, rolling over, revealing shapely buttocks and her long serpentine tail. Then her eyes began to open, and she was looking at me... and I was consumed by lust... I awoke sitting up with a cry, also sweating, breathing heavy, heart pounding. Holy shit. On the fourth morning Geoff and the other Aussies took off. They had to get to Calcutta to catch their charter plane back to Australia. Aussie students have their summer vacation during Christmas, naturally, because of the seasons in the Southern Hemisphere. They come to India en masse since India is closer than Europe for them. Gert the German left with them to accompany his girl friend to Calcutta. The crazy Italian girl was still on the floor in the morning and when she stood up she played with her sari for at least an hour, adjusting it, retying, readjusting it. She muttered all the while in Italian, then in French, and even English. Finally she stole someone's cigarettes and left. I wondered if she was related to Dominique.
CHAPTER 11: THE RIFT OF GOD REVEALED I ate breakfast with Tom and a British girl. Then I had some photos made in a little studio, read a book in the library attached to the American Embassy, and wrote some letters. It was cold and I felt a disenchantment with the town, most of my friends were leaving and it wasn't the same any more. But I was to meet Tazio at noon, and I was slightly apprehensive. What if he reads my thoughts? He'd know what I dreamed... that I felt...Lust for him/her/whatever. How embarrassing! Will he think I'm gay? I'm not, I'm not! But when I saw him I relaxed. He wouldn't care if I was gay or not, he radiated total disinterest in all that. And I certainly wasn't feeling any vestigial dream-passion for him (her/it?). In fact, his sexiness factor was less than zero. Negasex, Cindy had called it--maybe he really didn't have any gonads. He was standing outside of the Camp Restaurant. He still had no money so I bought him another pot of chai. He wouldn't have anything else. Actually, I still wasn't hungry myself. We talked for a while about what he had learned from the Tibetan monks, about what the Chinese government was doing in Tibet, and about the spiritual life of the monks. I wish I could have taken notes, he was so full of information that I couldn't keep up with him, and it was all so detailed. If I'd only had a tape recorder. It was impossible to believe that this was only a 16 year old kid. Eventually the subject of Cindy had to come up again. I had avoided it somewhat, the girl we'd both been screwing, you know. I wasn't jealous now, although I'd been pretty sad back then when I couldn't keep her because she was so hung up on some weird kid named Tazio. And yet, having now met him, so passionless, so sexless that I simply couldn't imagine him having sex with anyone, much less Cindy--unless the dream was true, I couldn't help being intrigued. So I had to ask. "Did you actually ever love Cindy?" "There was a moment when I loved her too much and hurt her. I had to stop." He was silent a while, so I thought that he wasn't going to say more about it, but then went on: "I used to love easily, but I've been unlucky with it. There was a time when I was convinced that I'd killed Everyone I did love, and grieved for years, just as you have. Then slowly I found that each those people was alive, but hiding from me, just as Cindy is. Fortunately, I've turned off all my feelings for so long now that I don't really care about them anymore." "You're pretty unemotional, all right. Are you really physically...negasexed?" He looked at me with surprise. "How do you know that word?" "I dreamed that Cindy told me so last night." He showed no surprise, just nodded. "That was no dream, she contacted you. She does have the power to do that." I believed him. I wasn't surprised either. "I'd like to find her," I said. "I don't know if you can, or if you'd really even want to, Russell. She's changed, is neither who or what she was." "She was the Cindy I knew in the dream--except for the light. She glowed." "Yes, that's her now. But you won't be able to find her unless she shows herself to you. Not even I can find her." "How can that be, with your abilities?" "There are other Avatars walking around, far more experienced than me, she's with them." "Avoiding you?" "I don't know, seems I'm not allowed to know---there are rules as yet unexplained to me, having to do with the supposed competition between Christ and Antichrist. But she left a last message for me saying that she was going to find Immanuel, the present Incarnation of Christ. I believe that she's among the Angels--Avatar women who do cosmic works." "I've been wondering about that Antichrist thing. If it was true, you'd have to take over the world." "Which would then end, according to the Scriptures. Not much future in it." "Whatever. But do you actually have the kind of power it would take to conquer the world?" "Sure. If I wished to." I had a question I almost didn't dare ask. So I didn't ask, just defined it. "The Rift of God." He hesitated and then nodded. I had no doubt, I knew it was true. "That's the project Cindy helped you with?" "Yes. Achmet Khaddam and his Jihad were about to go into total nuclear war against Israel--and the rest of the world. This was being done to pull me into their game. I wasn't cooperating, so they murdered Cindy to get me mad. But I resurrected her as an angel and she remade Achmet into an agent of peace, while I went into a trance to become one with the planet. "That's who I really am: the persona of the Planet Earth, sent here to protect it from Mankind. It took me a week to trance down to the level of consciousness where I can move tectonic plates, and slide Israel over a few degrees. I just let people think it was an Act of God, so that no one would argue about political violations." I thought about the spectacular ragged edges of the Rift of God: those shattered granite cliffs, folded earth strata, the sundered continent, the 6 km of ocean that filled the gap, the geothermal forces applied. "It was an Act of God! The only question was...Which God?" I looked at this emotionless sexless kid that sat across the table from me, drinking the chai I had bought for him. My friend, Tazio. "If you can do must really BE..." I couldn't finish the announcement. We sat in silence for a moment. I shook my head, said, "I'm not a very religious person, you know..." "Yes, you are," he informed me, "I can see that. I can see in your mind a hope to someday see a Truth in some brilliant glory, to which you may dedicate yourself." "I...I think I may just have." "Not me, Russell. You agreed to be my friend." "But..." He gave me a stern look. "Come on, hang in there." I swallowed. "Yeah, ok, ok. Friend, yeah." I said it, tried to mean it. How much of his alleged cosmic background story I did believe in is difficult to define. I was not quite secure in the belief that it was impossible. Tazio was something special, yes, but exactly what I was not sure of. Maybe that's why I said what I did say next.
CHAPTER 12: HEALINGS & WONDERS "Tazio. There is a girl. Her name is Dominique." He studied me. "She's in bad shape. Her mind. Someone said she took too much of some drug or something. The story is that she came to Katmandu months ago, a happy and intelligent girl, not a dope addict and something changed her. Now she's almost a vegetable." He knew what I was going to ask. "Can you really heal people?" I cannot to this day be sure if I meant those words as a test for Tazio or in true sympathy for the burned-out French girl. Whatever my intentions were elude me. I only watched his catlike eyes. He did not appear to like it. For a moment he did not speak, then said, "I don't want another scene as in Benares." "It could be discrete. The girl needs help, she could die here. She's pretty desperate." "Everyone is desperate. So many. So many. In Benares I healed many, really many. Some had been helpless all of their lives or for many years. They said to me, 'Now that I can see, what shall I do? I know no trade, no other life than begging. Now that I cannot beg, shall I starve?' It was a lesson to me: I'm responsible for the lives I change, for the Karma I short-circuit. I become guilty of depriving those I pull up out of the gutter." I said, "But those people are holy now. My friend Pat watched it all, they were being carried around the streets as symbols. They'll be all right." "Exactly what I wish to avoid. Listen: every time I touch some one, or heal someone, or convince anyone of my power, then there is one more being who knows beyond doubt--who has Faith--that there is a god walking upon the earth. A person with Great Faith always has Great Power. He becomes a Disciple. And disciples beget Religion, which is that very fate from which I flee." "I won't do it?" "Well, I didn't say I wouldn't. Is she someone special to you?" "No more than the beggars of Benares were to you." "Then why do you ask me to do it?" I shrugged. "I dream about Cindy. And Dominique." He nodded. "I don't even know if I can help her. I can't restore memories that are gone along with the brain cells, for example. I'd have to see her first." We walked the 3 blocks to the Tibetan Blue. I figured she would be there and she was. As well as a small crowd of greedy eaters. Erik was there too. I assumed Tazio spoke Danish so I introduced him to Erik in that language. We all had chai together at a table across the room from where Dominique sat. Tazio studied her. She had a cup of chai that someone had bought her. Her mouth dangled, her eyes lacked. I just knew by looking at her that it was hopeless, I couldn't even imagine coherent words coming out of that mouth or comprehension in those eyes. There were 7 or 8 other road people in the restaurant. Erik and Tazio spoke for a few moments in Danish, but I felt Tazio's mind on the French girl. I was going to talk to Erik to let Tazio be free to work but Erik suddenly said he had to go, and left. Within a few minutes everyone in the room ate up what they had on their plates and left the restaurant without ceremony, which I thought was pretty unusual, but better for Tazio. Then I was aware of a tingling sensation along my spine, a feeling like the passage of a faint electric current through my brain, and I knew that Tazio was chasing everyone away with some psychic talent. Eventually the only people remaining in the Blue were Tazio, myself and Dominique. Even Chiki seemed to be gone. Once, the door opened and a face peered in from the street, I recognized an English guy, but he didn't come in--just said "Oops!" and closed the door as if he had seen something embarrassing. We remained alone. Tazio got up from the bench and went over to her. He looked at her closely and she did not notice him. To me he said, "She's very confused. Neural overload, but no decay. Nothing too complex." I didn't move. Perhaps I couldn't, I'm not sure. He sat across the table from her and held his hand out to her. She turned just slightly toward him and was looking at him, sulkily, frowning. His hand waited. Slowly she reached up and over and put her hand in his, as if she could not resist, although he had not said a word. When they touched she jerked as if shocked and snapped her hand back. "Dominique, donne-moi tu main, s'il tu plait." Sluggishly, she shook her head, afraid. Tazio said, "Je te commande." She firmly grabbed his hand. He spoke softly to her in French, which I couldn't understand, but she could, because she began to answer him. Her eyes were focused intensely on Tazio's face. He reached over to touch her eyes and close them, still talking very softly, as if he were hypnotizing her. Maybe he was, she was very still, as in a trance. But then Dominique began to talk, soft at first, halting and weak, but growing more definite and clear and emotional until she opened her eyes and looked around her, crying "O Mon Dieu!" and gasping in surprise. Then she started weeping. Tazio left her and came over to me, not bothering to comfort the poor girl, as if he'd totally lost interest in her. "She'll be fine," he said, "Now I want to leave before she recovers enough to ask me anything." So we left.
CHAPTER 13: COSMIC ROAD My mind was pounding: he had done it. He could do anything. "Was that too much for you?" he asked. I managed a weak grin. "Almost." He could move the Earth. "So are we still friends?" "What do you mean? Of course." But I knew what he meant. "By now you know that it's all true." "Yeah, I guess it is." My voice shook. As Israel had. He knew what was going on inside me. He could read my emotions, perhaps my every thought, I had no secrets from him. I was naked and I knew that the only way to deal with him was frankly, but I could hardly talk to him. We passed through the streets of Katmandu as if in a dreamscape. I walked beside this god, almost staggering. I wasn't sure what I had expected of him: half-assed healing, psychic trickery, failure? If he'd failed, then it was all a fantasy. But if he was genuine, would not all the rest be true? That he was really The Antichrist? The Beast of the Apocalypse, 666, Man of Evil, etc? Then wasn't Armageddon supposed to be about to happen? Doomsday, the Judgment of God? All of my religious fatherings and motherings climbed out of my subconscious to shit all over my brain. Wasn't I required to be afraid? But when I looked at him I saw no evil, just a lonely young guy without very many friends, plagued by a nasty cosmic fate. And he had commanded me not to fear him, so I could not. I didn't notice where we walked. We passed the markets and the shops, we passed the Lodge, went by the big central fountain where the women washed their clothes, on down to where the busses stopped. "Are we going somewhere?" I suddenly had the presence of mind to ask. "I am," Tazio said, "heading on down that lonesome road. I was just passing through Katmandu anyway, and I imagine that Dominique will be looking for me soon, so I'd better go now." "Passing through? But to where? There's only one road in and out of Katmandu, you can't go anywhere but back to India again." "No, I'm going to Tibet." "But there's no road, you'll have to walk." "Of course. That's how I got here." "But you can't get a visa to Tibet. The Red Chinese will stop you from going in, and arrest you if you try to sneak in." Tazio shrugged. "I don't have a passport, so I don't need a visa. As you can see, I've come this far." I could easily understand that he could pass any border he wished to. "Tibet! Wow! Where to, Lhasa?" "Also Lhasa. I'm mostly interested in geological formations, the Himalayas, over to Mongolia, later over to China, maybe do something about that government." "Tazio, you're blowing my mind! What a trip!" "Well, I'll tell you all about it when we meet again." "When we meet? Shit, let me go with you!" He looked amused. "I doubt that you'd be able to do what I'm going to do or go where I go. It's a long walk through rough terrain and deadly weather." "Yeah, but Tibet! What an adventure!" "Sorry, I can't take anyone. You'd be a burden to me, you know that, unable to keep up with me physically. I'm an Avatar: I don't sleep, don't get tired, I walk on day and night; I don't need food; don't mind heat or cold. You're human." I knew it was true. "So do you think we'll meet again?" "I don't know the future, but we have a contact point: Cindy. I do know that she'll show up someday, and that she's contacted you in dreams, angels do that. Now, isn't there a bus out of town? Buy me a ticket that far, will you?" We caught the bus that goes out to the Nagarkot trail and took it to the end of the line. It was nearing sunset and the sky was red and warm now. We stood where the bus left us. "Do you know the way?" I asked. "I've memorized maps of...well, of the entire world. I'll follow the route of the Everest expeditions." "Will you climb Mount Everest?" "It's there, isn't it? I'm also interested in the Yeti myth, I'll see what I can find in the areas where the sightings have been most frequent." "Oh man, I'd love to go with you." "Another time, Russell." I remembered his words about disciples and I could feel Dedication welling up inside me. I clamped down on my emotions. I wanted to say that it was The Road I wanted to follow--the Cosmic Road--but I knew that once I got onto Tazio's road I could never get off it. So I held tight to myself and just nodded ok. Tazio also nodded, satisfied. "Fine. I've got some projects in mind and I need to be alone and unhampered to pull them off. Later on, I'll be needing friends. All right?" "Sure, of course." "Well then, so long." We shook hands. I felt my batteries charge up with a flow of power from him to me. And then he walked away, carrying no luggage, only the ragged clothes he wore. He waved one last time before he was lost to sight around the bend in the trail. I waited for the bus to take me back into town. It was a half hour wait and in that time I found myself turning to the direction that Tazio had taken. A mad impulse kept coming in surges: screw everything, forget doing whatever I had been doing, forget my India trip, my education, my guitar, and just Follow. Follow a god. But I didn't. The bus saved me, taking me back into Katmandu.
CHAPTER 14: DEPARTURES Tom and Arild and Erik were there in the Lodge. We all decided to leave Katmandu in the morning. I told them nothing of my experience but they were talking about the incredible revival of Dominique. A new flock of travelers had filled up the other rooms of the Lodge, and the air was thick with hash again, parties going on. I was really uninterested, but some girls came up to us and asked if we'd bring our guitars, so Erik went down for one last show. The other guys went too, girls do that to guys, but I stayed alone in our room, a rare experience. I could hear Erik playing his classical numbers and people talking with his music as background, as usual. A Villa-Lobos piece, I'd heard him play it a lot but had never learned it myself. It had always seemed too complex, although just now it seemed that I could play it if I wanted... I looked at my own guitar leaning against the wall in the corner of the room and I saw something I had never noticed before. I had to hold it in my hands to be sure that I was indeed seeing it: the mathematical relationships of all the positions on the fretboard. Notes, keys, scales, 3rds, 5ths, 7ths, 9ths, diminished chords, all laid out as clearly as if they were painted on the wood between the frets--they weren't, but I perceived them anyway. I began to jam with Erik downstairs, me upstairs alone in my room, harmonizing in 5ths, counterpointing his beat. It was easy and it sounded pretty good. I had thought myself hot stuff when playing stoned, but this was something so far beyond that mindless rhythm...then again, there's a lot to be said for mindless rhythm, so I added some under the melody line, still in time with Erik... Oh, I knew what had happened: I remembered how Cindy could play the piano after she'd come back from Rome. What a gift! The door was not locked, of course, and someone came in. I didn't look, but supposed it was one of the girls come to tell me that they'd overheard me playing so wonderfully and wouldn't I please come down and jam with Erik? But it was someone else. A dark-haired young man dressed all in black, neat turtleneck and trousers, sporting a stylishly long ponytail but too clean-shaven and tidy to be a Road Bum like us. He was watching me, eyes unblinking, intensely handsome and potentially cruel face. I knew what he was. There was a gift, and there was a curse. He approached, moving with the confidence of a trained killer and a Gestapo arrogance. He squatted lithely before where I sat on my floormat, looked me directly in the eye, and smiled with threatening rows of perfect teeth, like a wolf. "You play guitar very well, cabrón," he said with a Spanish accent, "who taught you?" Sure, I was scared, he was scary. But at the same time... "You know who," I said. "Where is he?" A casual question. He was quite relaxed. "Himalayas. You'll never catch him." "Oh, we don't want to catch him, just worry him...sometimes through his amigos." His smile got wider, more false, more nasty, like a sneer. I was about to shit, but looked him in the eyes and bluffed instead. "Well, I'm a friend of his. Cindy Suther introduced us." The nasty smile vanished really fast, as well as his arrogant confidence. His eyes darted nervously around the room and he backed away ever so gingerly. "Heh heh. Sí pues, you play well, amigo." And he left. Since we would be leaving early the next morning, with no time to eat, Erik and I went for one last meal in the Tibetan Blue. Dominique wasn't there. But I found that I still wasn't hungry, although I hadn't eaten in a day and a half. And I didn't really like the smell of hashish any more, knowing that it would confuse the wonderful clarity I had in my head. I ordered a pot of chai. Later on, living on rice and bananas in India, I was probably going to miss this place. The bunch of us hit the sack early, planning to get up before the sun did and get on the cheapest truck we could find to take us down that twisty Himalayan road to India. Dominique came looking for me in the middle of the night. She walked right into our room without knocking. She had never known where I lived, or even my name, but she found me somehow. Even in the dark. She sat down beside me. I knew what she wanted. I was tucked into my sleeping bag, but had not been sleeping. She tried to speak to me in French, which I don't well, so she shifted to perfect British English instead. "Where is he? I must find him." "He's gone." "Where? Will he be back soon?" "No, he's really gone." "Who is he? What's his name?" "Tazio." "Is he your guru?" "My friend." "Where did he go?" "He's walking to Tibet," I told her. I lit the candle to see better. If I had not been expecting her I would not have recognized Dominique. She was very pretty now, skin flushed golden with energy, eyes sparkling with intelligence, nostrils flaring with passion, very exciting to see. I had a notion that Tazio had done more than merely heal her. She reminded me of Cindy. Of an Angel. "Tibet? No, he can't!" "And alone up and over Mount Everest, then on into China. He's gone." "I must find him. I'll have to catch up with him." "You can't. He won't have it. I tried too, but he wants no one to follow him. Not now, he's on a Quest of sorts." "I shall follow," she said with no trace of hesitation. I saw a woman of tempered metal, she was almost frightening. Nothing like the Dominique I had never been able to know before, but never would I know this Dominique either. "There is no road," I reasoned, "there is only a footpath that leads to Mount Everest. It's too hard, you wouldn't ever catch him. He is fast, tireless, he crosses borders without passports, he can do the impossible. He's an Avatar, a god on foot!" "I know. That's why I must follow him. I have my backpack ready, I've thrown away everything I don't need, I'm ready to go now." "No, you're not. You have no boots...not even shoes!" "That is nothing. I shall steal some. Goodbye." "Look, I know you're grateful that he cured you but..." "Cured me?" She caught me up in her blazing frighteningly intelligent cosmic eyes, "I have never been who I am now: he has CREATED me!" She was gone, taking with her a presence that had filled the room. I had felt it, she was holy. A great anguish touched me. Had I done the right thing, telling her? She was obviously now a person of great Faith and Dedication. A Disciple. She would follow to find him. Nothing would stop her. Not borders, not mountains, not me. No, how could I stop her? I who was not holy? I, who had not followed?


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