My Heart of Darkness

The Horror!

“We survived victory; They relished defeat; Hopeless clouds looked on…” It was one of the lines that made most sense to me and I recognized it as not Heen’s. I had unearthed his diary, mildewed and foul in every sense, in a stinking pool of mud and sewage on the outskirts of a village I knew he liked to run away to when things weren’t going well. I say “diary” but it wasn’t a daily log of his activities, or even a planned account of his upcoming days, but rather a sprawling rant, basically chronological. It wasn’t much, but it was all I had to go on.

Heen had disappeared.

I had known for some time he had started to “lose the north”, as we say. His mind wandered, and he would often set out to follow it. He’d come back home, disheveled and bewildered, several days later, like a mad cat. He muttered and rambled all the time, and I thought I could make out poetry, not his, but I didn’t know whose. He started to dress in a peculiar fashion, picking up old military gear in flea markets and on ebay. He shaved his head. He left without trace one Tuesday.

I waited, not wanting to worry. My twin brother is not a kid.

I started to worry.

He still didn’t come back.

I had to track him down. He had obviously gone mad. He had gone up the Ebro, into Laos or Cambodia.

Piecing together the pieces of his diary which wasn’t a diary, I decided he must have set up a kind of sect / colony and immortalized himself as a god / guru in some remote settlement in the steamy jungle of the Alto Aragón.

Hell, this was beyond even the reach of the Chunta / Cong, a land of lawlessness and savagery that held that sick attraction that will always appeal to our inner outlaw if not our outer inlaw.

I paddled my kayak up river, day after day. The scenery got wilder, the danger got into my blood; I paddled my kayak on, paying no attention to the mosquitoes all around me, the screaming helicopters above me on some mission as crazy as mine, the evils that lay ahead of me, up river… day after day, up river….

I lost radio contact after about a week, well, ok, the battery on my mobile died. My Google Map printout fell into the water and I lost it for good. I just paddled on.

Turning a bend in the river up by Nu Mung Ba, (or was it Castejón?) I caught my first sight of what I later learned was “El Kurtzo”. A ghastly shining statue, uncannily resembling my brother, in which not only his expression was glazed. Every few miles up river, another scary effigy assaulted me, on the filthy river bank, perched on a grassy plain, maybe erected on some shabby makeshift platform like a sick altar, even bobbing in the scummy river itself…. more Kurtzos, identical in their grimness.

The silence ripped through me like a wolf on horseback. The hideous realization that Heen had been reduced to this… my own flesh and blood had been embalmed, vitrified, whatever, into a figurine of crazed futility. In a napalmed clearing I saw the future.

Catatonic Aragonese-Cambodian peasants, obviously drugged by Somontano opium, told me the rest of the tale. Worship the Kurtzo, they said. Heen had restructured himself molecularly. Schrödinger’s cat had solidified itself on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. I wept. What was I supposed to do?

I was exhausted. Back, I said to myself, I have to make it back, I have to tell the world about this.

Two days later, I was in Zaragoza. Saigon was a memory and Heen was ceramic.

That's all, folks!

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