hyperlink Hex | words by S. David

Smokeless Zone (unfinished)

Jessy looked down. "Steep."

She gestured at San to look. San took off her Oakleys.

"Sure is."

San put her shades back on. To Jessy, though, the gorge was like something out of books; it seemed to get bigger.

San waved and pointed. "Hey- fifty bucks and I jump."

"Yeah?"

Jessy remembered her last trip to Perú, to Machu Picchu, some years ago, when she was in school, before San, before this. A girl, some fellow student, had sat on the very edge of the mountain, throwing her arms up, as if tempting fate, as if saying, you know, this is life itself. It was like a commercial- the world commercial.

Back then, Perú had been teeming with tourists, but Jessy knew better this time: this- this was the place without the people.

San pointed to a nearby tree and walked to it. She massaged its dimpled bark, felt its ruffled, rough-like tree-skin.

"Give me a leg-up, will you?"

Jessy breathed deep. She was squatting all bow-legged by the edge. There was water at the gorge's bottom, not quite stagnant, just barely moving. Cool, cool water, it sang of itself, like the Beach Boys. Drought had robbed the Cordillera of visible life, of its original American sublimity. She felt prehistory's presence.

Jessy lumbered over to give San a hand. San propelled forward awkwardly, before regaining her balance and shoving off onto the first big bough. She grunted.

"Thanks."

"Yeah."

Jessy watched her move slowly up, up, up the branches. San was precise, methodical. Yet, Jessy couldn't help but feel put-off. It was the difference between knowing yourself and knowing the others, wanting to see in yourself what you hoped the others lacked. Looking back over to the edge, Jessy felt green.

"You should see the view from up here, oh, it's great. You can see the mountains, even."

"We're on mountains."

"The other mountains."

Jessy walked back to the edge of the gorge. She had expected maybe a bitter satisfaction, but not this. The one thing she could focus on right now was the bottom, the very bottom of the gorge. Deep down, between shale and rock, where eons ago ice sheets bigger than states carved dominions. These were the capricious gods of the ice age, radically inanimate by their own nature.

"What's this?" San half-shouted.

Jessy was time-blinded. Her eyes darted to the distance, where small dots moved in unison. They were fast, little pointillisms dancing with cast shadows in the sand.

"I thought you said nobody came here."

Jessy didn't say a thing. She watched as the dots came closer, they were moving faster now, impossibly. Pale green dots getting larger, growing heads, two-by-two, marching. Soon you could see faces, make out smiles and frowns. Jessy felt her feet shifting.

Suddenly, the dots stopped. They were no longer dots now, but truly skeletal, fully-fleshed, as if in mockery of Christ.

"Up here."

Jessy heaved herself up and huddled next to San, and the tree groaned.

"Who are they?"

"I don't know."

"They look like, what? I mean, they look like soldiers."

No, Jessy thought. No, this was too remote for EP.

Jessy had heard about Shining Path. They were large, Pentecostal figures who believed in total salvation, not only within our lifetimes, but specifically within the avatar of the omnipresent, everlasting state. Full communism and that. But that was all in the past-tense, she'd thought. El Chino had put an end to that. He fought fire with fire. The war was over, supposedly, or at least their war. Gonzalo was rotting in a cell.

"What are they doing?"

There was no telling who these were, the green dot-people. No insignia, inverted or otherwise; no title, no name to grace their suggestive forms. There were women among them, largely indistinguishable from the men.

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- 5 toasts