by Nick Greer
Step through the big-handed ferns, over branches long dried that will betray your
footfall, note the glyphs of lichen on every third tree. Keep low to listen and taste the
air. What you seek only seeds in his footprints. Some grow three inches down and
require rooting, a trained pig’s sensitive snout. Their caps will be crabshell pink and
spotted white like a certain small bird’s egg, the kind served coddled in boulevards
far from here. Once found, ingest. Behold that which you are intended to behold.
Wake twelve years later, completely the same, except for the feeling of
dissatisfaction. This is not at all what was promised at the consciousness conference.
One should not deceive amongst the majesty of the taiga and so many natural hot
springs, but the supreme leader had done just that. His reedy voice drunk on
knowing. Pupils like silver dollars. His subjects sat lotus at his feet, quaffed deeply
from the toppled flagon, palmed their sacred prisms and wept as he began to vibrate
for them, until he proved all motion to be an illusion. They split his eucharist like
light and in doing so realized we are indeed descended from the same stooped
creature, though nobody has ever seen him. I like to think that he is always over the
next ridge, that the stories are really a desire we haven’t gotten around to naming yet.
I have watched the stitched home videos and pried open the minds of hunters and
hill people, those widowers of yesterday’s country. They see him for the same reason
they don’t; because he is us, slipped into a glacier, kept perfectly intact for epochs
until the great thaw. Of course we would be scared, more comfortable among the
thickest pines, pillows of snowdrift, a cave with flat limestone walls upon which he
might paint the world he doesn’t yet understand. More and more he repeats the
cowardly sounds the hairless one made as it stomped through the underbrush. He
has no way of knowing this is the prayer that invents him, but he learns it all the
same, and with time he is the one giving instructions.