Reports of insurrection in the south.
Day 26. Blackness. Black tendrils festooned with biting hooks, an acidic secretion. Our guides lead us into the city via trails that shadow normal traffic. Lines the city carves from itself, a kind of architectural lacuna. We arrive at a house of the classic period with a large internal courtyard. Out of politeness I drink from a poisonous cup.
Impenetrable jungle. Towards noon we enter a small clearing. The vegetation is discoloured and stunted, there is a silence created by the lack of insects. High above, shimmering in the blue haze of distance is the great mountain we have come so far to conquer. Mr Mallard sets up his telescope equipment and we begin to make drawings and plot our course. Slowly the outline of a terrible face emerges from the arrangement of rock and snow. Catholic mystics have recorded similar phenomena as a proof of the existence of god but this face is less than holy, thick angled eyes - a drawn skeletal jaw. Swirling clouds cast shadows over the face adding to the feeling of inconstancy and disquiet. I wonder if any others amongst the party have noticed this natural demon.
We plunge back into the jungle. Monkeys alarmed by our presence try to turn us back with shrill cries,they hurl down upon us excrement by the fistful. My sturdy boots are turning to mush.
The plateau. Alpine buttercups grow in clumps amidst the snow. The thinness of the air and general exhaustion is playing tricks on my vision, all around me appear, in the rocks, shapes of fallen bodies, lost explorers fixed in their death throes.
At dusk we come across ruins of the Sulphur mine. Scattered machinery and various utensils tell a story of the sudden destruction rained down on this damned enterprise. Lava flows the colour of mercury and distillates of Sulphur Dioxide gas encrust the building as if the mountain has deployed its own antibodies. The party senses the lingering smell of death and so we move off to find a more suitable camp.
Barton slips on some ice and cracks his head open. We wash the wound in a small stream, bright crimson swirls down the mountain borne in the crystal clear water.
Base camp transmits a routine call. The signal is strong, aided by an aerial rigged from a cast iron crucifix atop the little native chapel. They repeat their signal, evidently they cannot hear our response. We check the radio set and discover that the transmitter valve is smashed
from the towers mighty gorgons surveil a frozen void
not so much sleep, more a conscious lack of existence 5.45, falling earth She is standing in her garden, overgrown and laden with flowers that radiates the surrounding tundra. She smiles wickedly. My fogged-in brain rails against the fact that she has been dead for five years. It is good to see her again. She takes from her apron a pair of garden shears and cuts off an exotic flower that I cannot identify. Placing it under my nose
"doesnt it smell beautiful?"
there appears to be no odour, instead my frontal lobe is filled with the strong mental image of a water marked leather bound book. I see myself turn to the inside facing page, a dedication in fine India ink, scrawled in illegible but elegant hand.
"this is not you only the idea of you"
I look back down the crevasse to a distant isthmus, it quavers as if responding to a lovers touch. Above, clouds swirl about the peaks soundlessly. She steps back, visibly angered
"remember! You owe me money!"
Sean OReilly is an artist of many disciplines living in Auckland.