(An excerpt from the forthcoming Yerba Maté- a Novel. What fun.)
“I just want to be who I really am,” Michael Nitrous said aloud, giving voice to his thoughts of just a moment before. It was hot, he was alone, he was in what looked like a desert, and he was carrying a backpack. His clothes were completely different than what he had just been wearing. Pasteybottom Joe and Jerry Grogan were nowhere in sight. There was no grove of trees. No yerba mate and no bombilla.
He was in a desert, it certainly seemed. He had never been in a desert before, although he had seen pictures of them, and he had seen the movie “Raising Arizona,” so he pretty much knew all there was to know about desert culture. This was a good thing. Unbeknownst to Michael Nitrous, he was at that very moment in the state known as “Arizona,” and he was walking away from a large city known as “Tucson” toward a place called “Mount Lemmon.” All of this would be lost on Nitrous, however, and the details wouldn't really make all that much difference. He was in a different aspect of existence.
A quick word about the plant known as the “cactus” would be appropriate at this point. The cactus is known as a “succulent,” and while most people think that this has something to do with the water-retention ability of the cactus, it is actually due to the wonderfully rich and decadent taste that the cactus has. Cactus makes a succulent little dish. If he had been thinking about it, Nitrous might have drawn the connection between the plants around him and the nopalitos tiernos that he had eaten with Jerry Grogan at el Taco Muchacho just a few hours ago. It seemed like days, or weeks. It seemed like it never happened. Cactus makes a succulent dish, though. Mmmmm. Can't you just taste it?
The cactus is covered with spines, of a sort. You might call them needles. You can call them whatever you might want to, but in any case they are sharp, spiny little devils. My brother-in-law sells these beastly plants out of a little shop that he runs. They are not all grown from little babies, either. Some are plants that he buys and re-sells (at a profit, of course – this is America). I have always thought it would be the strangest thing to be able to tell people that my brother-in-law is a used cactus salesman. Michael Nitrous would have thought it to be the strangest thing, as well.
The cactus is a very prehistoric plant, and was brought to this planet by extra-dimensional travelers from an extra-dimensional planet called Mookie – a lovely desert planet not terribly far (in existential terms) from Bezelda. No one was around on the planet earth to see the first cactus planted in the Sonoran desert.
“What do you think?” asked the first extra-dimensional traveler as he put the cactus into the dry, sandy soil.
“Move it a little to the left,” replied the second.
After that began the virtual salad days for the cactus. They were the only game in town, aside from a scabby little Joshua tree here and there and maybe some aloe vera, whose value would not be discovered for thousands of years yet.
That is probably enough of the quick word about the plant known as the “cactus.”
Nitrous felt good. His legs felt springy and the warm desert sun and the dry desert air on his skin was something he had never felt before. He wondered for just a moment what was inside of his backpack, but in but a moment he realized that he already knew. In fact, he could perfectly recall the pack's contents as though he had packed it himself. Which he had, of course. He just couldn't remember having done so in this particular aspect of existence.
He continued up the highway, wondering exactly what piece of geography he was climbing (it was something called “Mount Lemmon,” as previously noted, but Nitrous had no idea that was the case, and it would not have made a bit if difference if he had). He was walking along, kicking at a little piece of asphalt here, a little stone there, when suddenly he took what is known in some aspects of existence as a glope-step.
The glope-step is a step that stops midway and allows a pause for reflection from the person taking the step. To the outside observer of the glope-step, nothing looks the least bit different. The person taking the glope-step looks as though they are just walking right along. To the person taking the glope-step, however, everything is different. The world stops. Time stops. Forward motion temporarily ceases.
I would tell you to go and try it for yourself, but I can't. You never quite know when you are going to take a glope-step, and they come on rather without warning. Incidentally, it was rare for a extra-dimensional traveler or one who is experiencing an alternate aspect of existence to at the same time experience a glope-step. Michael Nitrous was one of those rare, fortunate few, though.
His left foot went up in the air (fitting, as it is the weaker of his two legs, and he was only at the beginning of something great and good), and it paused within the layers of two of his aspects of existence.