Years ago, I wanted to learn the secret of the life ..... the meaning of life. I wanted to know what it was all about.
No one could tell me. My parents tried, but it was all stuff about loving my family and growing up to be a good man and all that. I went to my church and my minister quoted scripture that did nothing to answer my question. I went to synagogues and mosques and no one could answer my question. I went to schools and universities and no one could give me anything I could believe was the real and true purpose and meaning of life.
What is the point of doing anything if you don't know what the point of doing it is? I contemplated life with no meaning, with no direction, and I decided that was no good. I even considered suicide (hell, I do that every time I spend more than 10 minutes on the internet), but there is always the danger you could live through it and be really messed up, so that was no good either.
No, this would require an epic journey, a quest for the truth of all truths. I travelled the world, searching every town, every little village seeking the meaning of life, or even for someone who knew someone who knew someone who knew the meaning. I crossed deserts, swam rivers, fought lions and tigers, snakes and alligators. I fought wolves and bears. Sand storms. Hail storms, cyclones and typhoons. I fought my way through hundreds of miles of snake and insect infested jungles, swam the shark infested waters. Basically, I got my ass kicked, but I saw it all and survived it all.
I fought my way through all of it ............ until
Until, that is, I came across this little South American shithole called Guadalamongola. According to legend, there was an island off it's coast inhabited by the one man who knew the meaning of life. Unfortunately the Guadalamongolians were of little help because they were mostly all dying from starvation. Most of the people in the villages were living off lizards and coconuts, and their skin was literally falling off their own bones.
The Pacific ocean is twenty five feet away! Why don't you people jump in the water and stick a spear in something that's moving and maybe eat that? But no, here the sea is too dangerous. There were stories of man eating monsters that could swallow a boat whole, stories of poisonous sea snakes that would jump into the boat looking for flesh to sink their fangs into, and stories of, well, you get the idea.
If you go in the water you will simply vanish.
Well, that was the legend, anyway. There was some commercial fishing, but the boats would regularly disappear. I asked around trying to find a charter to take me to the island, but no one wanted to go. The sea monsters were enough of a problem, but the island was supposedly haunted too, by insane killer monkeys who ate human flesh.
I was finally introduced to a man named Carlos. Carlos spoke no English, but through an interpreter he offered to drop me on the shore, but no more than that. When I asked him how much he simply says "everything you have." Of course, I had come too far to worry about sea monsters that may or may not exist, so I say fine, I say. Half now, and half on the beach when we get there. Carlos assured me that I would surely die.
It was an old wooden boat, mostly rotted out. To call it a POS would be too charitable, which was actually a bit comforting because the boat would probably kill me well before the monsters had a chance. The bilge was full of water and oil and the air smelled of diesel. We were probably lucky it didn't capsize or just simply explode the moment Carlos fired it up.
I say "Let's go Chico."
Angrily he replies "It's Carlos, you asshole."
I laugh at him. "whatever."
The sun was setting, and Carlos insisted it was safer to travel at night because the monsters fed in the deeper, darker water. Standing on the shore of Guadalamongola, you could see the Island. At it's center was a mountain, the peak of which disappeared into the clouds. It was a beautiful sight with the sun setting behind it, and I knew our journey would be epic. How could something so breathtakingly beautiful be so supposedly dangerous? I thought that this has got to be the most utterly laughable thing I have ever seen. It was a beautiful pacific paradise, and yet, everyone was terrified.
I stepped onto the boat with the last of my gear and say "Let's go Chico."
Angrily he replies "It's Carlos, you asshole."
I laugh at him. "whatever."
It would not have been a long journey to the island except during the night we were hit with a monstrous storm. I could stay at the helm with Carlos and take my beating, or go below and try to sleep through it.
I say "I'm going below, Chico."
Angrily he replies "It's Carlos, you asshole."
I laugh at him. "whatever."
The boat began to shake and creak and moan until suddenly I knew this was more than just a storm. Even a hurricane could not have been this bad. First the windows burst and then the water started to rush in. I had to get out now. I could hear the sound of wood snapping and when I ran out from the cabin, to my horror I saw that almost the entire boat was ensnared by giant tentacles. There were tentacles sticking up out of the water and tentacles wrapped around the boat. This was truly the monster I was warned about but foolishly would not listen.
Something hot splashed on my arm. It was blood. I looked up and saw Carlos suspended above me, encircled by a giant tentacle. His eyes were wide and full of terror. There were tentacles everywhere, coming up through the hull, wrapping around the boat, smashing the wheel house, and dragging the boat down. Suddenly I am up to my knees in sea water as the boat is being dragged down and I had to do something fast. The boat was going to go down anyway, so there was no point in riding it out.
I waved to my friend and say "Goodbye Chico!"
Choking on his own blood, he curses at me "It's Carlos, you asshole!"
As the boat shudders, screams and moans, and with wood snapping and water coming at me from all directions, I look up to Carlos, give him a parting nod, mutter "whatever," and throw myself over the side.
And then, everything went black.
I can only guess I hit my head on some debris in the water. It was dark, and I remember diving over the side into what felt like a brick wall. The next thing I remember is waking to the sound of the surf, on a beach. Pieces of Carlos' boat had also washed ashore, and I can only guess I had grabbed on to something that floated and rode it out.
Well, now I was screwed. I had lost all of my supplies and survival equipment, so I scoured the beach to see what else may have washed up. There was a shocking amount of what appeared to be pieces of other ships, so I was starting to become a believer in the stories about monsters. At this point I started to become more concerned about the stories of the human flesh eating monkeys. You know, those flying monkeys from the Wizard of Oz really wigged me out when I was a kid and I never quite got over it.
I did manage to find one box that had a machete in it, which was a real break. If there is one tool you can't live without on a Pacific jungle island, this was it. Since it was getting dark I did not want to chance seeing what else could crawl out of that ocean, so I started making my way inland. I did not make it far because I was sunburnt, dehydrated and generally out of fuel. I was also out in the middle of a God forsaken nowhere and could expect zero civilized help.
Yes, I was truly, epically, royally screwed.
Especially when the monkeys started closing in. It wasn't just monkeys. It was thousands of monkeys. Thousands of snarling, salivating, supposedly human flesh eating monkeys. I was completely surrounded on all sides, and as deep as you could see. The monkeys begin to grunt and groan, and this grows and grows until they are all beating their own chests and howling. I didn't know what it meant, but I figured it wasn't good. I clutched my machete, ready to swing if one of them made a move, but there were so many of them that would have been futile. It looked truly hopeless.
A small monkey emerges from the masses with a banana in hand. He slowly peels back the outer skin, breaks off a piece and throw it at me. I was not sure if this was a peace offering or the beginnings of a food fight, but I was hungry, so I ate it.
All the monkeys looked on in amazement as if they had never seen a man, much the same way we probably would have if we have never seen a monkey before. They were either amused or savoring the moment before they ripped me to shreds for my tasty human flesh.
Suddenly, an Englishman emerges from the brush and yells to the monkeys "Ugga. Ugga Buggga!" He fires a shotgun into the air and the monkeys hoot, holler, and run for their lives.
"They were going to eat you." he says. "That's what they do."
"Dammed dirty apes" I say.
"Sir" the Englishman says, "Those were monkeys."
I allow myself a little chuckle "Whatever."
The man laughs and helps me up. "My camp is about two miles from here. You'll be safe there. We can clean you up, tend your wounds and arrange to get you back to the mainland."
"Uh, no." I say. "I was told that at the top of that mountain lives a man who knows the meaning and the purpose of life. I can't go back until I speak to him."
"Yes," the man says. "He is an old fool, and he might even be dead by now for all we know. It is such a dangerous climb that no one has tried it for years and even then no one has ever made it back." He offers his hand, which I shake. "My name is Clive." he says.
"I've come too far to turn back now that I am almost there. I've traveled five thousand miles, fought off a sea monster.....'
"It was a giant octopus..."Clive interrupts.
"Whatever. It was frigging' big, and then I almost got eaten by rabid zombie apes....."
"Monkeys...." Clive interrupts again.
"Oh, hell, whatever!" I yell. "I just need to get to that man at the top of the mountain. Can you help me?"
We arrive at Clive's camp, and all of his friends are laying around and oohing and ahhing the stars. No one even bothers to look up or even question who I am. This seems especially odd until Clive finally asks "Tell me, have you ever tried peyote? It is especially wonderful when grown in the tropics."
Clive explains they are all there strictly to grow Pacific Peyote. "We are a Peyote colony. We cultivate and farm the peyote, and it brings insane money on the Asian black market. Why do you think Kim Jung Un is so damm nuts? It's all he eats, three meals a day!
"It's the tropics. Peyote is not indigenous to this hemisphere. We brought it here and it's gone crazy. The stuff will grow any time and anywhere you plant it on this island. There is also something very special about the soil on this island that acts like a super fertilizer."
"Probably all the ape poop." I laugh
"Really, sir." Clive snarls. "They're monkeys."
I allow myself another laugh "whatever!"
"You're right. It is the monkey poop." Clive continues. "We keep the monkeys blown out of their minds on peyote, and they produce peyote rich fertilizer. The monkeys are happy as hell and the peyote grows like weed! It's like a self fulfilling prophecy. We are all getting filthy rich just sitting around and eating peyote every day. Do you need a job?"
"Uh, no." I reply. "What I really need is to find that guy, you know, the one who knows the meaning of life."
Clive introduces me to a few of his friends who are actually coherent enough to realize someone new walked into camp, and had his nurse attend to my cuts and scrapes. The Pacific is an especially nasty place to have a wound get infected, so I was grateful.
Clive sits beside me as I am being patched up. His friends have brought us something to eat, and crucially, plenty of drinking water. I was going to need a lot of that to recover from my ordeal in the sea. Of course, after an hour or so the water was replaced by Vodka because we had business to work out.
"If you are going to see the old man, you need a serious game plan. It is a very dangerous climb and even if you do everything right you will probably still get killed.... or eaten, whichever comes first."
"The monkeys?" I ask.
"Well, not them so much. We control them with the peyote. If they screw with me, they get cut off. Ugga bugga."
"Ugga what?" I ask
"Ugga Bugga. In monkey terms that means "no peyote for you." That's why they ran off when I yelled at them. They love their peyote. Just remember that and you will be safe from at least the monkeys. We don't have any weaponry for you. You will have to make do with your machete. You're going to get killed anyway. I'll take you halfway, and then my monkey will take you the rest of the way. He will guide and protect you ... until you get killed, that is."
"Your monkey?" I exclaim. "Are you kidding me?"
"Really, sir." Clive says. "He is very focused and loyal. All you have to do is give him his peyote at regular intervals, and take your own, of course."
"Uh, take my own what?" I say. "Peyote? Why would I do that?"
"That will be your medium of communication with your monkey" Clive says as he waves to one of the monkeys to come to us, the small money who had thrown me the banana earlier. The monkey jumps up into the chair and he and Clive start conversing, only the monkey still sounds like just a damm monkey to me, though they seem to completely understand each other.
"You must take your peyote or you will never be able to communicate with your monkey" Clive advises. "He will guide you and protect you and be your undying friend, but you must take your peyote or it will never work."
"All right" I sigh. "Give me a chunk. I've come this far so why not? What's his name?"
"I don't know." Clive says "Why don't you ask him?"
"Hey, monkey," I say. "What's your name?"
The monkey stares at me blankly, looks over at Clive and then back at me. Nothing. I'm staring at the monkey and the monkey is staring back at me. The monkey is staring at me and I am staring back at him.
Suddenly I feel the peyote starting to kick in and it's pretty damm good peyote. Clive stands, sets his glass in front of the monkey and turns to walk away. The monkey takes a drink from Clive's glass, slams it on the table, leans forward, looks me in the eye and says "You can call me Elvis. Now, pour me another damm shot, and make it a stiff one."
After a step or two, Clive stops and turns back toward me. "Now kiss off, and take that monkey with you."
These are the stories of myself and Elvis the monkey as we search for truth and the meaning of life while climbing the mountain of Peyote off the coast of Guadalamongola.
God help us.
"We had heard someone like you might be coming, another "seeker" if you will." Clive says as he flips one of the peyote burgers over on the grill. "You people are always trouble, and always getting yourselves killed, and then we have to deal with the damm authorities. They are actually quite charming as long as you pay them enough. I'de rather spare that expense though."
"I'll try to survive and save you the trouble" I reply as I tale a swig off my Corona. "Hey, what did you say was in these burgers?"
"Oh, you'll find out soon enough. Now listen, we knew you were coming and we wanted to be ready. The monkey has been briefed on climb and the best routes. Trust your monkey." Clive slides a box cross the table to me, A Smith & Wesson M&P45, black of course, 10 rounds, 4.5" barrel. "Take good care of it. I want it back."
I slide the magazine into the gun, pause and then drive it home with the butt of my hand. "That's too bad, Clive." I say. I pull the slide back until the first round pops into the chamber with a satisfying click. "I'm not coming back."
Clive was gracious enough to equip us with as much peyote as we could carry, and also a four wheel ATV. This would save us a lot of hiking, though eventually we would have to discard it for the more vertical part of the climb. We made good time for about 45 minutes until suddenly we found our path was blocked.
He was an enormous Indian, probably 6" 4' and at least 350 pounds. All muscle and ripped to the bone, he was a very intimidating man. "What are you doing on my land?" he asked.
"We are going to the top of the mountain." I replied, "to find the meaning of life."
The Indian smirks. "You will have to go around my land."
"Please," I insist. "That will take us another full day that we don't have."
"For 100 million years man has sought the meaning of life. Another day will not matter."
Elvis, the monkey, riding on my shoulder, whispers a suggestion in my ear, whereupon I tell the Indian "We have Peyote, the good stuff, grown in the valley in genuine monkey poop. Surely we can reach some sort of accord.
"You will stay the night as my guests," Indian says, "We must have the spiritual peyote ritual to complete our bond of friendship. In the morning you can cross my land."
High up on the mountain, the night air was cool, and the Indian built a big campfire. We sat around the warming fire and shared our peyote in the time honored Guadalamongolian Indian friendship ritual. The ritual required more and more peyote to be consumed until the big Indian's eyes rolled back into his head and he starts chanting "hey, yaw, yaw, yaw, hey, yaw, yaw, yaw...."
Suddenly I realize my legs are paralyzed, and then my arms, and then, I could not move a muscle.
The Indian becomes more and more animated, and starts yelling his chant "hey, yaw, yaw, yaw, hey, yaw, yaw, yaw...."
Even my eyes were frozen, looking into the monkey's eyes, and his into mine. I was staring at the monkey and the monkey was staring back at me. The monkey was staring at me and I was staring back at him.
Monkey... Me..."hey, yaw, yaw, yaw, hey,yaw, yaw, yaw...." Monkey... Me "hey, yaw, yaw, yaw, hey, yaw, yaw, yaw...." Monkey... Me... AHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!
Suddenly I hear the monkey's voice, though his mouth is not moving. "We have reached the plateau where we can communicate by telepathy. We do not need to speak. This will save us much time."
I think and the words come out aloud. "We can't make any time if we sit here paralyzed and can't move."
The monkey stares at me, and I at him. "I see," he thinks aloud. "I didn't think that part out very well."
"hey,yaw, yaw, yaw, hey,yaw, yaw, yaw...."
By morning we could move again, but I could no longer communicate with the monkey by telepathy. In fact, I could not communicate with him at all until we had our scheduled dose of Peyote. We thanked our gracious new friend and gave him what we had left of our peyote supply, which after the big ritual wasn't much. Elvis and I climbed onto the ATV and set off across the Indian's land. We would have to slightly alter our plans to stop at the first peyote colony outpost and resupply.
The Peyote farmers had established a colony higher up the mountain because the thinner air gave the peyote a bigger kick. For this farm they had trained the monkeys to poop directly onto the growing peyote, thus maximizing the peyote enhanced fertilizing effect. We could stock up on that stuff and it would take us further because we would need to use less.
The Peyote farmers were not happy to see us, though Clive had told them we might be coming and to take care of us. The foreman of the farm was Clive's brother, Nigel, another proper Englishman. As Nigel flips a peyote burgers on the grill he gives me a disgusted look. "You "seekers" are always getting yourselves killed and making things miserable for my hard working farm crew. You are always getting killed or raped or something and then we have to deal with the authorities."
I take a deep swig off my Corona. "My God. People have been raped?"
Nigel puts the spatula down and takes a drink from his own Corona. "Clive didn't tell you about the apes?"
Suddenly the ground begins to shake and the trees begin to sway. The shaking becomes more and more violent until Nigel looks up the mountain to where it disappears into the clouds. "I can't say I am surprised. It's been awhile since she blew."
I look up and see white hot lava rolling down the mountain. "This is a freaking volcano?"
"See I told you." Nigel exclaims. "Now you are going to get yourself killed. You seekers are nothing but trouble."
White hot lava rolls across the camp and takes out our ATV. Now we were not only going to have to run for it, but it was going to have to be on foot. I stuff a peyote burger into my mouth and take a last swig off my corona. Elvis is shoving peyote burgers into my back pack, but the lava is getting so close that we have to go right now! I grab Elvis by one arm and swing him up onto my shoulder, check my compass and start running to the west, toward the ocean. When I hear the volcano explode behind me, I turn to see if Nigel had made it out in time.
Clutching to my collar and hanging on for life, Elvis exclaims "He's dead, Jim."
We run and we run. It seemed like days, through the forest, across the plains and then the desert and finally more jungle. Suddenly we reach the end and there was the Pacific ocean, only it was three hundred feet straight down.
The monkey laughs hysterically. "We end up with hot lava coming up behind us and a sheer cliff in front of us. Could we be any more screwed?"
I look back at the tidal wave of white hot lava bearing down on us, smoking, swirling, boiling, leaving a flaming trail of destruction behind it, and we would be next.
Elvis smiles and looks over the side at the rushing tide and jagged rocks below. "We gotta go now, Roscoe. The party's over."
"Are you crazy?" I yell at him. "That's a certain death."
Elvis looks over the side again, and then back at me. "All death is certain, my brother."
I wake to Elvis shaking me and screaming at me in monkey dialogue. We are on the same beach I had found myself on when I washed up from Carlos' shipwreck. "Ok, Ok." I say. "Were you able to save any the the peyote?" Elvis just screams at me like any other pissed off monkey would.
At this point the best plan seemed to be finding Clive, except the only way I knew to get to his camp was through the forest of flesh eating monkeys. Elvis would not be any help to me there because we had lost all the peyote and could no longer communicate. I stand up to get a better view and see a scraggly looking man coming toward us. As he gets closer I realize it is Carlos, whom had miraculously escaped the tenticles of the sea monster that had sunk our boat.
"I'm glad to see you alive, Chico." I say.
"You're still an asshole, " he replies and spits at my feet, "Neville."
Part IX will appear soon.