Transported From Paradise
The parking lot was a bustle of people, luggage and conflicting itineraries. Tuan noticed an inverse proportion of luggage: the nobodies who’d paid to come touch the hem of Hollywood’s garment looked like they’d packed for a safari, luminaries like Cage and Black had single carry-ons. He and Mei had, of course, the clothes on their backs and two small packs of gizmos and necessories.
No lack of ground transport, as it’s called in the trade. A couple of cabs out of Belize City, driven by evil-looking RastaNefarious villains who broke into a lyrical Creole and engaging smiles when spoken to. A shuttle bus from Maya Island Airlines and the Lodge’s own combat Proven veteran of Camel Trophy wilderness racing Range Rover for those heading for Belize City, and buses to the border or the Cayes.
“No helicopters, though,” Aphra condescendingly observed to Copper.
Copper squinted up through the rainforest canopy and said, “Yet.”
The various guests and staff were sorting out into the vehicles, most heading for the airport, a few to Caye Caulker to unwind after three days in paradise.
Winston and Cage had vanished, presumably “bowling” at the 420 Lanes. Shane Black was pointing out some odd arm and shoulder movements to Loris, telling her how she’d eliminated the whole carpal/zygoid glitch he called “writer’s wrist”, and asking if he could make an appointment with her back in California.
Warm farewells and promises to exchange emails were being made with all the assurance of people who believed they would actually continue to correspond. The “interloper” cadre stood somewhat apart, marked by general lack of luggage and the somewhat preoccupied expressions they’d worn all day. They spoke softly among themselves, both avoiding the subject and wanting to sort it all out.
“It’s… I don’t know. Like a ship hits a hurricane and things shift around down in the hold.” Copper nodded blankly, but Aphra kept after it. “You know it’s different, but might not find out until you start unloading. But definitely some differences.”
Definitely. Some differences Copper would never really notice. And it would be almost three months before it suddenly dawned on her that she had no interest in renewing her explorations of the non-world of Ketamine anymore. Pharmaceuticals in general seemed uninteresting, like artificial lures. And it would be almost a year before she realized that she hadn’t dumped her lover and started scouting around: an all-time record.
“I don’t really notice anything different,” Tuan said, looking down as if he’d spot some change in his posture. “I mean, it blew my mind like never before. But I’m still me.”
“Probably because you’re so normal anyway,” MeiMei teased. Like she should talk about people being normal.
“Salvia and mescaline are like that,” Copper volunteered. “The more fucked-up you are, the more you notice it.”
“In that case,” Curtsy said, “How are you doing, there, Aphra?”
Aphra shot her an eye, but tossed her hands up and gushed, “I’m queer no mo’! Bless gracious and praise the lord, I’se free at last. All I can think about anymore is big old dicks. And I’m thinking of donating my time and money to working with Retarded Unwed Manatees.”
Loris looked up and caught her eye and Aphra toned it down a little. “Yeah, there’s something happening. But nothing I want to talk about. Don’t want to jinx the mojo.”
Much of what shifted below decks in Aphra had to do with what Loris had noted in her, the conquest obsession with sex. The mighty orgasmablitz had shaken a lot loose inside her, and she felt a lingering effect every time she came, clutching Copper to her in a torrent of sensation with no thought of anything but feeling it more and passing it on. She was also, though it would have alarmed her to know it, developing a rudimentary conscience.
But she looked back at Curtsy and pointed with her chin to where Ganzo was sitting in front of Xchab, talking to her non-stop. “Now right there’s a change you might take note of, Barbie. Looks like you might wind up short one boyfriend.”
“He’s not my boyfriend.”
“I’d say it be like that .”
Everybody looked at the Mayan pair. You could spot something different about Xchab right away; there was no longer the shadow of subservience or abnegation in her pose or manner. She sat up, looked sharply, took account. And as for Ganzo…
“It’s like he just woke up,” Curtsy said. “Came out of some kind of coma. I could never figure him out before. He wasn’t stupid or gorked out: he just wasn’t really around. And now…”
At that particular “now”, Ganzo was telling Xchab, “So you see. You are who you are, you have your place to be.”
“I see that,” she said. “I just wanted… But who am I, then? Where do I belong? Do you have answers to that?”
Ganzo’s steady gaze never wavered. “You’re like me. You belong with me. We’ll leave here and go find the place where we should be.”
Xchab stared at him. This was one different guy than the one she’d seen around before. And he seemed to know exactly what he was saying. She looked at him and tried to weigh him against Winston, against the tantalizing promise of the glittery world she’d been moping around the edges of. She said, “Those men want to put me in a movie.”
“Good. Maybe that will happen. Here’s what I think. You should come with me. I feel that very strongly. I want you to come with me. Stay with me.”
There was plenty of room for a girl to be thinking, Come where? Stay where? But Xchab looked at this sturdy, open young man of her own people and mold and slowly nodded her head.
“Tell you what,” Bannock said, when people seemed done with gawking the young Indian couple, “I’ve had more remodels and refits in my head the last couple weeks than I can really deal with. Right now I just sorta feel the way I did after eating those mushrooms. Except maybe more so. I’m just… I’m up for it. That’s it, I guess: I’m all for it.”
“That’s it!” Curtsy blurted. “That’s it right there. Bring it on.”
“When I was a little girl,” MeiMei said softly, getting everybody’s attention with her soft tone of voice, “My mother would always say, When you get old enough you’ll know better. Right now, I feel like I know better.”
“That’s what I would say about it,” Loris said. “I feel like I’m charged, informed.”
“Back in my ‘hood,” Aphra told her, “When peeps informed it worked out bad for ’em.”
MeiMei and Bannock laughed and Loris smiled wide, but went on, “I have knowledge. Knowledge isn’t just information, it has it’s own intelligence.”
Aphra and Townsend both nodded at that, caught each other and looked away.
“There’s only a certain amount of knowledge in the world and nobody can have all of it,” Loris continued. “But it wants to flow out and know everyone. That’s what the Call is: to know with total certainty who we are and what the world is, what we mean.”
“And now you on top of all that? Got the inside skinny?” Aphra wasn’t adverse, but wanted to hear her answer.
“It’s coming to everybody and everything in the world,” she said. “We have each been called to a task and our task is to prepare the next call, which will come in one year.”
“Fine with me,” Aphra grinned. “I’m still shakin like a jellyroll from the last one.”
“And the purpose of the Second call will be to bring people together to amplify the next Call, each one affecting more people, more meaningfully than the one before.”
“And the final one is in 2012? What’s its purpose?”
Loris stopped, looking at her–or through her–for a long moment, then she said, “The Final Call is its own purpose. Which the purpose for everything alive, everything that exists.”
“Hey, I heard last calls before,” Aphra cracked. “Means you don’t gotta go home, but you gotta get your ass out the door.”
There were smiles. but it fell a little flat. Then Townsend spoke quietly and simply. “All I notice is, I feel more like me. Trouble is, I don’t really recognize myself.”
“But you will,” Loris told him, looking at him intently. “We all will. That’s why this is happening. Why everything happened in the first place.”
“Wow, cool.” Winston muttered. Then straightened up and looked right at her. “But nothing you said makes any sense.”
“It will,” Loris said. “It’s what sense is for in the first place.”
“Tell you what I’m wondering here,” Aphra said, and everybody turned towards her as she said, “What is the sound of one hand pulling your leg?”
Everybody laughed, including Loris. But then she said, “You already know the sound. You just heard it. The First Tone.”
As more revelations of inner alterations trickled out of the waiting passengers, testimonials Aphra thought of as “Change You Can’t Help But Believe In”, Copper suddenly started laughing and motioned her closer. She leaned over and the redhead said. “God, you know what this sounds like?”
“What, child? What?”
“The obligatory character arc.”
Both of them clutched their cheeks and screamed, “Oh, noooooooooo!”
“First Tomb Raider, then Crystal Skulls,” Aphra said, pursing her long-suffering lips. “Now we’re Raiders of the Lost Arc.”