“No sympathy for the devil; keep that in mind. Buy the ticket, take the ride…and if it occasionally gets a little heavier than what you had in mind, well…maybe chalk it off to forced conscious expansion: Tune in, freak out, get beaten.”
Our bikes hang in repair stands, spotlit and vulnerable like patients prepped for surgery. I peel the gloves off my hands. We’re due to leave Ottawa for Quebec City this morning.
Watson’s front wheel is half-built. All it needs is a bike to go with it. He sinks into the deep hours, swallowed by the night and spat out the other side.
Peterbilt land trains haul masses of topiary corpses fresh from slaughter. Our bark sheds with them in the turbulence, strewn across the tarmac.
The city is a rippled memory, and we moult our shells as a new season approaches.
We seek refuge nestled within the reeds, and earn the local residents’ fickle trust.
Under sovereign arches of foliage, we warriors march.
Eyes plug into glimpses of fresh, nuclear beauty ahead. We reap the oscillating surges of ocular energy, recharge, and plow onwards.
Forest nymphs, crowns of morning glories and cherry red maple leaves, giggle and frolic in our dew-glittered eyes.
A pug-faced boy revs the wrought iron engine block of his Chevy in the Tim Hortons drive-thru. Head out the window, serpentine tongue lapping at the air feverishly. A woman in the car behind spears him with a kiss. Hollywood lenses shade her embarrassment well.
Watson and I part ways on the lip of Montreal’s sprawling suburban heights, and I blindly plunge into the cave.
Blurred visions of Victorian-inspired facades. Post-war era bungalows. Outlet stores. Used auto dealerships. Metal fabrication. Corn fields. Pastures. Where am I?
Dark. This fence is scaleable. The ambient air temperature is several degrees colder in this ditch. Rags crystallized in salt hang off a walking scarecrow. He wraps himself in a tarp and nestles into the undergrowth.
I don’t know who I am anymore.
Whipped with the icicle manes of unforgiving headwinds as the water line rises. A man lurches into a trailer park office on high ground, balances himself across the desk, a broken stool, confidence wavering at an irregular beat.
He peels the clothes from his body, and offers them to the fire as sacrifice.
Awake, shake dreams from your hair my pretty child, my sweet one. Scrape the frost from your sleeping bag, and thaw your huddled body under the hair dryer in a public bathroom for an hour. Water cascades down your spine until the motor billows mad dragon smoke, and admits defeat.
Escape the Great Deluge with a Brazilian in Portneuf who recounts tales of turquoise lagoons and endless sand dunes in a lost world.
Thrash through skid row Friday rush hour to book a motel beside a strip club. Warm water pierces your weathered husk like acid until you’re soft again, and all is well in the world.
A city is painted on a canvas of mist. How did I get here?
Perched in an eagle’s nest of foliage high atop the Old City, deserted. Faint blips of pin codes and plastic bags smoldering in the cobblestoned shopping mall below. Me and the birds find safe refuge here, for now. We smell the smoke rising, and count our blessings in fragile peace.
Through Route 66, I flee at dawn.
A terrifying, xenomorphic screech. Pedals spin freely. The field medic applies a titanium spork and plastic zipties as a splint. It’s not clear if this will hold until home.
Soon, the highway will flood with darkness, and a great mass of well-fed, liquored apes will set their fire-breathing machines loose upon the land, grunting and snorting with wild neglect.
The minotaur’s hot breath perspires on my neck through Labyrinthian pathways.
The mind wavers slightly, one eye blinks. You can’t do this.
Neon beacons nestled within lush, green nurseries of hand-rolled cigarettes. Atop a cliff of rocks thrown, lighthouses warn of tragedies.
Two brothers collide at dusk on the shore, lulled to sleep, alien whispers of muffled bass and teenage glamour.
Spill your eyes on waking light.
This was supposed to be a saccharine journey of soul-searching optimism and peace. Becoming one with myself in a chrysalis of masochistic machismo. To emerge, reborn, with wings of purple flame and newfound purpose.
There must be something tactile to latch onto—something to bring a meaningfully rich, textured significance to all of this.
“Hey, is this real, or is this just a ride?”
A spruce lays dead, charred, stripped of skin, petrified flesh exposed and cracked on a bed of rock. I carve its jagged veins into my mind, read the stories hidden in its bones, and dance to its songs. Siblings reunite and play.
I am still, in a clearing. Light tumbles through the silk canopy and tickles my nose. Everything is new again.
Distant heartbeats, the furnace hums, a quilt is placed over my head. Blood thickens, shoulders hang loose, sprouts root into the soil, dried leaves stuck between bare toes. Naked consciousness blooms, eyes close. Private ceremonies entrusted, the babe is swaddled in the earth’s womb, hushhhhhhhhhhhh. Sleep.
The air is thick and sweet with lullabies.