Fell’s breath puffed white against the pre-dawn cold. The sleeping bag was cinched tight around his head, exposing a small circle around his mouth, eyes, and nose. Laying on his numb left side, he cursed his decision to travel light and forgo a sleeping pad. The rock poking his hip was urging him to roll over, but that would turn him away from the rising sun- the last sunrise he might ever see. Fell had made a promise to himself many years ago to watch the sunrise every day. He long ago lost count of the days and years of performing this ritual. No matter the weather he had been awake for the sunrise. Every day he thanked the sun for its soul-warming and life-giving energy. Each time, ruminated on the chances that could make this the last one.
He watched the light brighten on the ridge across the valley. He watched from his small ledge far up on the hillside, where he could monitor the dirt roads below. The first rays of light streaked through the crisp blue sky as if trying to slice it up. Then, slowly bending over the horizon, the rays landed upon him, stinging his sleepy eyes. His brow furrowed and he squinted into the light. Instantly he felt the warm energy and slowly his muscles began to ease. His side felt less cramped and Fell closed his eyes. Fell dropped into the bursts of light behind his eyelids. He let the moment of daily rebirth take his memory away.
The Suzuki dual-sport motorcycles stood in a relaxed V shape. Fell’s front tire slightly overlapped the back tire of Bob’s. The panniers were stacked up along the bottom of the bikes. A small tarp and a poncho were stretched out over both bikes and flapped against the wind. Oh, the wind. It had been blowing ever since they became stuck here.
Two sleeping bags lay head to head, following the shape of the motorcycles. A rock fire pit with a high back wall had been erected in the middle of the V. Fell was laying on his bag propped up on one elbow. He was picking at the chunks inside a bag of dehydrated food. He was trying to determine which brown clumps were carrots, meat, or potatoes. The sleeping bag next to him groaned and moved slightly. Fell sat up a bit, thinking that this was a positive sign. After days of the motionless quiet, movement and noise had to be a good thing.
Since sharing a hit of acid three days ago, Bob had gone to bed and hadn’t woken up. Fell could not raise his friend from his slumber for the life of him. At first, he was worried Bob had had a stroke or something. He checked Bob’s breathing and vitals. All was in order. He had no fever, and his skin was not pale. He forced Bob’s eyelids open and found vacant, dilated pupils. Bob was surely alive, but he was not in his body. Fell then knew the spirit world had taken him and that meant only one thing: Set up camp and wait.
The problem was, where they had ended up that night in a hallucinogenic stupor was not optimal. They were smack dab in the middle of an open plain on the high steppes of Mongolia. Nothing but scrub and grass surrounded them for miles. Thank the gods it was summer. The long days were relatively warm, and the rains were scarce. Shelter was non-existent, and the wind was blowing so hard and steady that a tent would just be noisy. So he set up a windbreak. Walking for miles, he gathered as much wood as he could from the small brush and trees by a far-off creek. Then he waited.
Fell took the time to hike and run among the hills. He passed the time with calisthenic workouts and meditation. He read and reread his three small books: The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, The Art of War, and The Dummies Guide to Mountain Bike Repair. Now and then he would make sure Bob had a squirt of water and check his vitals. Man he is dug in like a tick, he would think to himself, and then go back to waiting. Every morning he greeted the sun from a top of a small hill that had a rock on it. He had never done this before. Fell had always been a night owl. “Mornings were for the busy and the ambitious,” he would say. But, here on the Steppes during the one part of the day where the wind seemed to ease, he started to enjoy the dawn.
fter the helicopter dropped Bob, Fell, and their motorcycles in one of the most remote parts of Mongolia, things had gone fairly well. They had made steady progress working their way back to civilization. The weather had been good, outside of a few passing rain clouds. They had located their previously placed caches of gas with ease. They were for sure out on their own in a very foreign land. The only signs of the real world were the herds of sheep and their herders. Most of the time they kept their distance. Then they decided that to get a real spiritual experience of Mongolia they should take some acid. Kick up the metaphysical experience of the rough and desolate country. Well, if you’re going to tempt the gods, don’t be surprised when they take you up on the offer to entertain themselves. Fell had, had his fair share of spirit walks but never more than 12 hours or so. Bob being out for almost three days was starting to get a bit unsettling. So, when he heard sounds, and there was movement, a bit of relief came across Fell. Muscles that he had not known were tense loosened, and a new level of calm resided in his heart.
Bob groaned again. Fell sat fully up and leaned his back against the DR 650. The sleeping bag stretched long and rolled towards the fire. Bob’s grimacing face reflected the body aches caused from lying down for so long. He eyes opened, blinked, and shut again. His tongue licked across chapped lips, and he smacked his mouth searching for moisture.
“Well, fuck me runnin’,” Bob said with a hoarse sound and the words dribbling out of his mouth. “Is it morning or night?”
“It’s about 10:30 at night,” Fell replied with a slight smile and for the first time realizing that the post-sunset glow looked a lot like pre-dawn.
“Oh good. I can get some rest then. I am not so sure what happened, but it sure was exhausting.” Fell sat forward and put another piece of wood on the fire. Bob sighed with contentment. Then, with eyes closed, he said, “On second thought, I’m hungry. A bit parched too. Just how long was I gone?”
Without looking away from the flames, Fell responded flatly, “Three days or so.”
Bob’s eyes popped open with surprise, and he stared at the fire. “Three days!?”
“Hell yeah, dog. I have never seen someone go down the rabbit hole for that long. Kind of worrisome and a bit creepy, too.”
Bob tried to sit up but everything hurt- his muscles, his joints, even his hair, hurt. “Oh boy. Yeah, that feels like three days.” His head started pounding from the dehydration. He slumped against his motorcycle. Slowly he looked around, taking in the fire, the motorcycles, and the hills. His eyes finally rested on a bottle of water. He reached out for it with another groan.
“Take it easy on that. It will come up as fast as it goes down if you’re not slow.” Fell poured a cup of water in a small pot. He pulled some coals out of the main fire and into a gap between two flat-topped stones. He placed the pot on the stones and over the gap. Then he fed some small sticks onto the coals. “Food?”
“Hell, yeah,” Bob said in between small swigs of water.
Bob straightened up and started moving parts of his body. He worked from his neck to his feet. He was systematically working through the stiffness in his joints. He then threw his head back, howling like a wolf out into the wind and sky. He looked over at Fell and with wild eyes said, “Damn the gods if I don’t have to pee like a racehorse.”
He slowly moved to his hands and knees. Then, placing one hand on the motorcycle, he pulled a foot in front of him and prepared to stand. Fell stood to make sure Bob didn’t lose his balance and land in the fire. Bob stood up and steadied himself against the bike. He then felt the full force of the wind and turned into it. Taking in the surroundings, he turned back to Fell and said, “Sorry, dude.”
Fell looked confused. “Sorry for what, mate?”
“For picking this amazingly bad location to check out.” He gestured out to the barren rolling hills. “I could have chosen someplace a bit more hospitable.”
“Well, yeah, but it sure beats watching me puke up god knows what in the blazing heat of the Mohabi desert.”
Bob contemplated the horizon for a second and then gave a reassuring nod. “Yes, yes it does.” He took a few tentative steps and walked about 20 feet from the fire, pulled down his long underwear and relieved himself for the first time in three days. He yelled over his shoulder, “Amazing how the body can hold all this in, while you’re in the spirit world. I can’t get from Denver to the ranch without having to pull over.” Fell nodded silently as he poked at the coals under the pan.
Bob shuffled back to the fire and sat back down behind his motorcycle. He was relieved not to have the wind blasting on him anymore. “So, when I passed out three days ago, still tripping I might add, the wind was doing just this. I’m going to guess it has been like this the whole time. And where, by the way, did you get that acid?”
Fell giggled, “Made it myself and yes, it has been blowing a lot.”
“Don’t do that.”
“Do what?” Fell poured the hot water into a bag of dehydrated food.
“Make that acid anymore.” Bob accepted the bag of food but kept staring into the fire. Fell sat down and picked up his bag, which had grown cold. They sat in silence for a long couple of minutes. Fell knew Bob was recounting his steps into the spirit world.
After a bit, he shook it off and picked up his food. Fell asked without looking up from the bag, “Anything good?”
Bob took a bite and looked over at Fell with empty eyes. He then dropped his gaze and said, “Yeah.”
Fell got the message. Don’t talk to others about their spirit walk. The things one sees in the spirit world are for them and them alone. The images and conversations are not predictions or accurate depiction of a future set in stone. Rather, it’s all about general guidelines of the way things could be. A lot of hints, suggestions, and possible scenarios. Kind of like a thirty-thousand-foot view of life and the storylines it could contain. The minute details are up to you, the individual. The right and left turns, the noticing of a subtle wink or a change in the breeze. So many things can change how we get from point A to point B. The Norns weave the stories, and we must tell them. The real trick is being present, really present and aware. The more nuances you pick up the more control you can have.
Later that night after the fire had burned down and the wind followed suit, Fell opened his eyes and saw Bob’s silhouette out on the plain. He was standing about 50 yards away and gazing up to the clear, moonless sky. He was gesturing to the sky and talking. Fell couldn’t hear all of the words but from his movements, he could tell Bob was pleading or asking questions. He could have sworn he heard just one thing. “Grandfather, why him?”
Fell opened his eyes, and his head was full of pain, and his heart was full of hurt. Shake it off, Fell! he said to himself. Plenty of time for the past tomorrow. Time to find the wolves. He noticed the warming of the air and rocks around him. The sun had risen four fingers above the ridge. Yes, it’s time to hunt. Get your shit together. He closed his heart.
Fell had made his way to this spot after seeing the Johnsons head south on 285 from Poncha Springs. This told him they would come in high from the east, then turn south out of the mountains and down the cliffs behind Axel’s compound. From up here, he could see three valleys below, all with Jeep roads. All could provide a good way to Axel’s compound. He knew Todd was farther to the south on the east side of things. So he went farther to the northwest. Like Todd, he was traveling on high dirt trails so his dirt bike could only get him so far. He had been on foot for the past day and a half. His lungs were hurting from moving fast at high altitude. His leg muscles were cramping most of the night. He stretched to full length then squatted. Picking up his sniper rifle, he sighted through the scope into the valleys and dirt roads below. Fell dropped his consciousness into the landscape. As he often did, he tried to think as his enemy would think. The more he concentrated, the more something started to bother him. Deep inside him, something was twisting. Something was making itself evident that he hadn’t seen before. He just couldn’t put his finger on it. What was it? Then it came to him. The car. Why was Bob driving the Firebird? That car wouldn’t make it 100 feet on the old mining roads off 285 out into the hills. That car. Why that car? Fell imagined the details of it. The Phoenix emblem on the hood and the mean squint of the headlights. He could hear the beautiful tone of the exhaust and feel the power under the hood. Fell stood up fast, cursing to himself under his breath. He hastily started packing up his gear. He checked his satellite phone: No signal. Throwing his pack around over his shoulder he moved up the hill.