Entry 3.0 "Headlight Safari"
Every storyteller with the benefit of hindsight is guilty of lies of omission – myself particularly so. My most recent offense was when I told you about a day that I spent with Kiye in the Bone Caves of Anadore. I chose to tell you about Armstrong, a Toyota van and family heirloom, I hinted at the beginning of a bond yet undefined between myself and someone who was becoming more to me. What I did not tell you about specifically was the Bone Caves of Anadore. Why? Because that would’ve required me to answer a question I probably should’ve addressed already, the question I have been waiting for the perfect moment to answer: “Does life exist on the planets of the Throughworlds?”
With keen eyes set slightly in front of a wild mane ablaze with primary colors, it looked at me wholly unafraid. Appearing to be more malleable tissue than bone, its elongated sky-blue-pink glowing cranial crest stretched to precisely above the middle of its back. In the other direction protruded a proud beak of nearly the same length. Rainbow feathers adorning its wings – which looked more decorative than functional --- were probably only good to assist a high leap or a quick retreat. Its plump, but oddly well-balanced body was held up by two skinny orange stilts and accented by an ornamental tailfeather. The lovechild of an Earth game bird and the long extinct pterosaur, the Luminesaurus was my first up-close contact with sentient alien life thanks to Colony 5.
Dedicated to the scientific study of Anadore’s wildlife at its lush equator, Colony 5 had welcomed us to their humble rainforest outpost with its bright wind-tossed flags that very same morning. Though populated by more than 200 colonists with far more “left brain” than ordinarily found aboard the Wanderment, we quickly found common ground through refreshment and stories of home.
Earth was a distant memory to some and a fascination to those who had never been. After some casual conversation, I found myself confused by the use of their own brand of slang and the accent that had embedded itself deep into their English. I chuckled to myself over the thought of another team of scientists assigned to the colony just to study the sociology of this odd human tribe. Though I knew a life so removed wouldn’t suit me, it was easy to respect the passion of these men and women and intriguing to hear about their latest breakthroughs as they tried to explain them in layman’s terms.
Even through our somewhat humorous language differences, it was easy to understand what they were most excited to show us – what they called, “The Headlight Safari.” After they explained what we were about to experience, I caught a glimpse in my mind’s inner canvas of how this adventure was sure to inspire a new art piece. I made a mental note to raid the Wanderment for what I knew would be the perfect retro prop to bring -- and to make sure to check that the “D” batteries still worked.
Tall grass panicked just under our wings as we glided two-per-bike over the indigo plains. I’ll never forget the way we left a glistening wake of wispy blue seeds hanging in the air behind us. It had been a while since I’d felt the way wind resisted my body after opening up the throttle of my Nth Skycle. I noticed that as I sped up, Kiye, riding tandem behind me, would tighten her arms around me. It suddenly became evident that I had passed our guide and was leading the caravan. I promptly slowed down.
We stopped at the forest’s edge at sunset, dismounted our bikes and took a moment to breathe the strangely scented air. Our guide, I forgot his name now, gave me the go-ahead nod and told everyone to back up several steps. I stepped forward and checked that my Grandfather’s antique boombox I had brought was tied securely to the passenger bar of my hovering Skycle. I paused for effect, turned up the volume, pressed play, and backed up. The shredded looking cassette tape seemed to struggle a bit, but then I could see the reels start to rotate through the scratched-up plastic window that proudly stated, “Sony.”
Rhythmic drums and percussion played loudly for a couple bars and the illuminated digital EQ sprang to life and began its dance. Then came the 80’s era string pad synths with recurring ethnic sounding staccato riffs. Finally, the lyrics:
“I hear the drums echoing tonight
but she hears only whispers of some quiet conversation…”
“Africa” by the band Toto continued, but our eyes began to look past the boombox and into the forest. We noticed at least two dozen multi-colored lights appearing in the distance. They seemed to be moving slowly toward us. That’s when I saw it. It peeked cautiously from behind one of the closest trees, then, apparently making the decision that we weren’t much of a threat, pranced out and flew/leapt right onto the top of the boombox! I didn’t waste a second and snapped my reference photo.
“…It's gonna take a lot to take me away from you
There's nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do
I bless the rains down in Africa...”
As its head pulsed neon pink light to the beat of the melodic chorus, syncopated orbs lit up the distance like gelled stage lights; we stood in reverent awe as they moved closer toward the sound. I swear to this day that the bizarrely decorated Luminesaurus looked straight at me as if he wanted me to speak, the music refused to allow me to complicate communication with words. That night music would be our question, and they answered with light.
Midway through the song, a warped warble, followed by a snapping sound stopped the music abruptly. One by one the approaching lights faded, and I saw a look of what I could only imagine to be disappointment in the eyes of our new friend as he frustratedly pecked the boombox twice and flapped away with a start. He disappeared back into the trees, but left his image with me forever.
In the gathering darkness our guide told us more about the remarkably intelligent species and the strides they’d made with communication, but my mind wandered back to the music, back to one of the most profound, sensorial moments of my life. I felt Kiye’s hand linger too close to mine and it was trembling.
After our guide finished his thoughts, Marley Walker, one of the musicians in our crew, walked up to the boombox and ejected the tape. As she carefully lifted the cassette out of the tray, a ribbon of thin tape trailed it and she gently scooped it into her hand. Looking back, I’m not sure if she asked permission, but she grabbed a pen from our guide’s pocket protector, poked it through the cassette’s wheel hub and began winding. After the tape’s slack disappeared, she put the tape back in and reinserted the pen into the guide’s pocket. She gave him a thankful tap on the side of his arm. He half-smiled sheepishly.
I don’t remember much about the rest of our brief sojourn on Colony 5, except a brief exchange I had with an old tipsy scientist who asked to see my most recent art piece. I showed him “Moonroof” as a large digital projection from my watch. He threw me a compliment and said that he knew the exact location my piece was depicting and asked if I knew the cave system’s name. I replied, “The Bone Caves of Anadore.” He then told me that the entire cave system was the fossilized carcass of one mountainous Moon Grazer, and that if the space whale’s bones were reconstructed, it would tower over the silver fortress itself.
The end of the conversation with the old scientist went like this:
Me: “I can’t wait to see what else is out there.”
Him, in a mumble before he excused himself and limped off: “Yes, you can.”