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Flipside II: From the Plains of Metamor

By Byron W. Scott

Running like lemmings straight for the sea On a wide, easy road, it's the majority It's so hard to break momentum And step out of line
It's a lonesome road to walk It you want to seek life

But you'd better start right now Because we haven't much time And that opening to life Is so very hard to find

--excerpts from the Songs of Long Road by C.L. Walker-

 

1 Bonnie/Flipside

 

A Salvador Dali?

 

It would have been a distinct possibility if not for one vital fact--she was not

 

staring at a canvass. The scene before her was real. And she was a part of the

 

reality.

 

She was standing on a vast, flat plain; a cream colored, synthetic surface much

 

like formica. It gave off an eerie glow under a cloudless, steel-gray sky. Breaking

 

the smooth, artificial surface was a long, jagged chasm, a gaping crevice that stretched between horizons. It was wide and dark where it passed in front of her.

 

In the remote distance three pyramid shaped mountains flanked the opposite side

 

of the incredible fissure. Feeling compulsively drawn to the edge of the chasm,

 

she gazed into the absorbing darkness. The billowing blue smoke was utterly

 

deep, fathomless.

 

It was calling to her. And it was unbearably enticing.

 

She jumped.

 

A ticklish pull from her midsection greeted her. But the pleasing, impish feeling

 

soon turned to alarm when the sensation continued to intensify. It spread to every

 

part of her being, gnawing at her, consuming her from the inside.

 

She attempted to scream but failed to summon so much as a whimper. Terror

 

gripped her and it continued to escalate as her further frantic efforts resulted in

 

nothing more than maddening silence.

 

Panic-stricken, she awoke with a start. 2 Flipside

 

It felt good to stretch his limbs.

 

Even though his thoughts were as thick and cumbersome as the swirling gray fog

 

that surrounded him, he felt physically stronger. He knew his rest had been

 

beneficial.

 

He breathed deep the crisp, pine scented air and then began to slowly make his

 

way down the steep, wooded slope. When he stepped from the forest into a golden brown meadow, the stifling mist thinned and a spectacular panorama opened up

 

before his eyes.

 

It was a stunningly beautiful valley, fifty miles or more across at its widest point.

 

The north side was opened up and veered away in a broad plain a mile or so

 

below him, broken here and there by a low, lonely mountain. The two remaining

 

directions consisted of tall, rugged ranges. The highest peaks were snow covered.

 

The one nearest him was actively volcanic and spouted ominous spurts of smoke.

 

But the most compelling feature of the valley lay at the foot of the opposite range.

 

It was a sky blue lake that flashed and sparkled in the sunlight. Near one end was

 

a large island, linked to the mainland by three long causeways that reached out

 

like spokes to the north, south, and west.

 

Where in the blazes am I? He wondered. How did I get here?

 

As if in answer to his unspoken question came the sound of a strange, grating

 

voice. "Welcome to the Conquest! Before you lay the Valley of Mexico and the

 

island/city of Tenochtitlan; the jewel of the New World!"

 

Surprised by the voice, the man turned to discover an unusually large parrot

 

eyeing him from a perch in a tree. It was a strikingly beautiful bird, resplendent in

 

its rich, green plume.

 

"My name is Mochni. Mochni, the parrot. And yours?"

 

His own name? What exactly WAS his name? Did he even have one? He was not able to think

 

clearly. There was a disconcerting gap in his continuity that he simply could not

 

access. He could remember nothing before his initial appearance on the

 

mountainside!

 

"Never mind. It's not really important," the bird consoled. "After all, what's in a

 

name? You are you! Right?"

 

"I am a wanderer," the man hastily replied, wary of the birds patronizing manner.

 

"You are a man of wisdom!" Mochni gleefully responded. "And you have arrived

 

at the most opportune moment! We are about to witness the fall of Tenochtitlan

 

and the beginning of a new epoch in the history of the world!"

 

The wanderer felt a tug of apprehension as he attempted to fit himself into the

 

time frame.

 

"Is that truly the Aztec capital in the valley below?" he weakly asked. He

 

wondered why he could remember his History when he couldn't remember his

 

name. He was well versed in the lore of the Aztecs. Could he have actually

 

traveled into the past?

 

"The Conquest is taking place at this very moment," the parrot wheezed. "You

 

should take advantage of your good fortune and project yourself over the city." Noting the pitiful look of despair on the wanderer’s face, Mochni prodded him.

 

"Go ahead. I know you can do it. Walk the sky! I will be your guide. Give you

 

history from a bird’s eye point of view, so to speak. You can trust me."

 

Stricken by those last words, the wanderer wavered. Could he truly trust the

 

parrot? Mochni's eyes betrayed keen intelligence, but they also cast a sinister

 

glint. And the grating, mocking tone of voice had put him on edge from the very

 

beginning. Still, he couldn't deny that he harbored a compelling desire to see

 

Tenochtitlan up close.

 

The wanderer’s indecisiveness ceased to matter when he discovered that he had

 

already begun to walk the sky. Even though he was standing in the meadow, he

 

was also flying with the parrot. Even though he was a man, and not a bird, still he

 

was soaring through the air, gleefully riding the wind currents down the side of

 

the mountain.

 

When they reached the valley floor and neared the shoreline of the lake, a giant

 

clamor caught his attention. The water surrounding the city was literally teeming

 

with canoes. There were thousands of them filled with warriors battling one

 

another. From six or seven larger, more cumbersome boats came the flash of fire

 

and the roar of cannon. A full-fledged battle was in progress.

 

The wanderer watched the desperate, determined fighting along the causeways

 

and at the main gates of the city. And though it was mostly native fighting native,

 

he took special note of the Spaniards fighting bravely on their horses, confident in their armor. Musket shot pocked the air. The banner of Castile waved gloriously

 

in the breeze.

 

Blood flowed freely.

 

"Noche triste, the Night of Sadness, is over," Mochni lamented. "Moctezuma is

 

dead. Disease has swept Mexico. Cortes has returned for the final time and set

 

siege to the city. It will be only a matter of days now until we see the end of this

 

proud Aztec Empire."

 

Groans and rallying cheers ebbed and flowed as the two of them continued their

 

flight across the water. The rhythms of drums, the blare of horns and conch shells,

 

and the firing of musket and cannon intermingled to rake their senses. But when

 

they reached the city proper, the awesome magnificence of the canals and gardens

 

made the wanderer forget about the human carnage taking place outside the gates.

 

"Breathtaking, isn't it?" Mochni shuddered with pride. "These ingenious people

 

have reclaimed the land from Lake Texcoco and created the Venice of the New

 

World! In fact, Venice pales in comparison with Tenochtitlan. Just marvel at the

 

accomplishments! Absolutely astounding!"

 

They swept low over a ball court as they neared the ceremonial center, where the

 

wanderer was swept by the grandeur and dwarfed by the immensity of the

 

enormous pyramids and temples. At the same time, he was repulsed by the

 

repugnant odor of dried blood that emanated from the main structure, the Templo

 

Mayor. The stench was strong enough to overwhelm his sense of smell. As they commenced to glide above the residential and market areas toward the

 

sister city, Tlatelolco, the wanderer realized that the parrot was still speaking.

 

"...inspired stone carvings and murals...gardens radiating throughout the island...a

 

paradise...the grand epitome of civilization. The largest city in the world! It was

 

with my advice and influence that they attained such cultural heights, you

 

know..."

 

But the wanderer was not interested in the bird’s commentary, preferring instead

 

to concentrate upon his own disturbing thoughts. He knew that the Aztecs had a

 

thriving, vibrant society. They produced tremendous art and architecture, had an

 

understanding of astronomy and a finely honed calendar. To witness it all first

 

hand was deeply satisfying. And yet at the same time it was utterly distressing

 

because this was their end. The whole city was in a spasmodic state of panic.

 

Within a matter of days it would be reduced to rubble and plunder, the women

 

raped, the surviving men crippled by the conquering horde.

 

He felt a penetrating shiver and then found himself back on the mountainside,

 

gazing down upon the valley. Mochni was perched on the limb beside him.

 

"It's a shame, isn't it? Such a tragic shame," the parrot sadly commented. "My

 

proud, powerful empire, my glorious Aztec civilization, over three-hundred years

 

in the making, mind you, brought unmercifully to its knees in a matter of days.

 

Hundreds of thousands of people slaughtered and humiliated, destroyed by a

 

measly one thousand white men." The parrot paused to let his words sink in, and then uttered an obscene, traitorous

 

laugh. "Simply delicious, don't you think?"

 

The comment caught the wanderer by surprise. "I wasn't thinking that at all!" he

 

stammered. He wondered if Mochni was truly aware of the events that were about

 

to unfold. Or had the parrot deliberately led these people to the brink of disaster,

 

as his callous tone suggested? "Did you know that this point in time was

 

approaching?" the wanderer impetuously demanded.

 

"I grew giddy waiting for this moment," the bird replied with a sparkle in his eye.

 

The wanderer felt enraged. "In one hundred years this culture will be all but

 

extinct, their spirit crushed! You could have prepared them to meet the challenge

 

and instead you've led them to disaster!"

 

"How odd! You attack me and yet defend my followers."

 

"You filthy traitor," accused the wanderer. "I detest the loss of cultural diversity

 

as much as environmental diversity."

 

Mochni spat on the ground. "Don't give me that self-righteous blather," he

 

sneered. "With your arrival, I am no longer even needed here. You will do my

 

work for me!"

 

"I did not come with Cortes!" "You truly don't know yourself, do you?" the parrot countered. "Well, take a look,

 

white boy! You are one of them. Do you hear me? You are a white man! It is your

 

people who are responsible for this holocaust, not me. It is your people who bring

 

misery, disease, and oppression. Not only will you exterminate the native

 

population, but you'll crush the very spirit of the Earth in order to attain your

 

cultural domination, the name of your game.

 

"As for you personally, mister man of knowledge, you don't even know your

 

name. You have no idea who you are and yet you presume to judge me. Well,

 

look at yourself before you judge anyone else, white boy."

 

His tirade over, the parrot cocked his head and waited for a reply.

 

Shocked and confused by the scathing accusations, the wanderer remained

 

speechless.

 

"Now you've forgotten how to use your tongue as well," the bird taunted. "Well,

 

I've got better things to do than wait for you to regain your senses. I'm sure we'll

 

meet again. I just hope you're not so stupid then."

 

The wanderer watched in stupor as Mochni flapped his wings and flew off,

 

gliding serenely into the valley. Smoke was rising from Tenochtitlan, making

 

viewing hazy.

 

It's just as well, thought the wanderer. He was in no mood to watch the

 

destruction anyway. The whole situation was appalling. Confused and upset, he turned from the valley panorama and strode towards the

 

pass in the mountains. He was well aware that he had let the distasteful parrot get

 

to him. Still, he couldn't help but wonder whether or not Mochni was right. Did he

 

share responsibility for the massacre?

 

No! The damn bird was wrong! How could he be responsible for what was

 

happening to the Aztecs, or to any of the other Native Americans? He wasn't even

 

from this time period. He was from the future! How else could he have

 

knowledge of the outcome of the Conquest?

 

Why couldn't he remember his identity?

 

Distraught, he closed his eyes and clenched his fists, but as he stretched his arms

 

toward the sky, a strong premonition forced him to reopen his eyes and re

 

examine his surroundings.

 

To his shocking surprise, he found himself balanced precariously on the edge of a

 

smooth, rock ledge. Before him, the cliff fell away for almost a thousand feet.

 

Fighting back his panic, he backed away firmly and methodically.

 

When he reached more comfortable footing, he glanced around and noticed a

 

cluster of rock and adobe houses on top of a protruding mesa spur. There were

 

people in the village, mostly women, who were attending to their daily routines;

 

whitewashing walls, mending clothes, and preparing meals. Children were

 

playing games, chasing one another, or helping with the chores. It was mid-day, bright with a cloudless sky. A warm, steady breeze buffeted his

 

face. It was obvious that he was no longer in the alpine region above Mexico City.

 

The entire scope of the scenery had miraculously changed in the blink of an eye.

 

How was it possible, he wondered? What had he done to accomplish such a feat?

 

A little girl popped up suddenly in front of him, and the questions were chased

 

from his mind. He had been oblivious to her approach and her sudden appearance

 

startled him.

 

She couldn't have been more than five years old. Except for a simple bead

 

necklace that stood out prominently against her dark body, she was stark naked.

 

She was also very nervous and fidgety. She kept her gaze on him at all times as if

 

she was afraid to break eye contact.

 

He was becoming increasingly hypnotized by her stare. Her eyes were huge and

 

round, dark and deep.

 

"Where am I?" he inquired, attempting to break her spell. "What is this place?"

 

The little girl wouldn't keep still. She arched her arms high behind her back and

 

then, lifting her knees nearly to her chin, marched around him in an ever

 

tightening circle. And then she dramatically unwound and shouted, "Oraibi,

 

simpleton! Third Mesa! Don't you know? Aren't you our Friend?"

 

"Yes," he answered tentatively. "Of course I am." She eyed him suspiciously and then began to circle around once again,

 

hyperactively bending and contorting her body as she moved.

 

"The star has led us to the end of our migrations. The clans have completed their

 

wanderings, and now we wait for the Creator to reveal the outcome of His plan."

 

She turned a cartwheel, coming frightfully close to the edge of the mesa.

 

"In the meantime, as you can see, things have gotten pretty ridiculous."

 

Ridiculous indeed, he nervously thought. Totally outrageous was more like it.

 

"Not me, silly. Everybody else!" she retorted as if she could read his thoughts.

 

"Come on, I'll show you."

 

He followed her into the village. His intentions were to be polite and friendly to

 

everybody, but nobody paid him any attention. In fact, as they continued towards

 

the square it became apparent that nobody besides the girl could even see him.

 

"See?" the little girl intoned. She continued to squirm and hop about as if she had

 

to relieve herself. "Nobody even sees you! And they all think I'm the crazy one.

 

They all say it, you know. 'Sparrow of the Broken Ledge is crazy, crazy. Crazy,

 

crazy!'"

 

She continued her chant until they reached the edge of the ceremonial center, a

 

fairly large area that contained six to eight kivas, seemingly spread haphazardly. Hopi men were lazing about; some clothed in exotic, colorful garb, but most

 

dressed in drab cotton or a mere loin cloth.

 

"Maybe one of these guys is smart enough to see you."

 

No sooner were the words out of her mouth when the wanderer noticed one of the

 

men notice him. The man's expression of disbelief was unforgettable. Once the

 

man composed himself, and made sure that the visitor was still watching, he

 

strode purposefully towards the edge of the mesa and then tossed some kernels of

 

corn into a pit. He picked up a fifteen-foot long pole, ten inches in diameter, as if

 

it weighed nothing at all, and effortlessly began working it up and down in the pit,

 

pulverizing the corn into meal.

 

The wanderer was amazed. It seemed beyond reason that the man could work the

 

tall, cumbersome pole in such an easy manner. The post had to weigh more than

 

the man himself!

 

The other men had joined together in a chant. The corn grinder eventually grew

 

bored and left the pole standing in the hole. He gathered the chanters behind him

 

and then led them past the wanderer in a single file. Each man passed with a

 

quick, furtive glance, making sure to make eye contact.

 

The wanderer followed the line with his gaze. The withering, side winding motion

 

reminded him of a snake. He saw each man dip a hand into a container of

 

whitewash and then continue on to the edge

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