[When we last left our Apocalyptically Doomed Beer Adventure, he had just found the sixth seal, WASTELAND, in the plains of Nazca. Now he was off to a completely different environment to continue his search]
I had finally stopped in a shallow pool. I wasn’t sure how long I’d been tumbling in the TORRENT of water from the time I’d slipped, but it felt good to finally be at rest, even if it was face down in a pool of cold water. With a start, my mind cleared and I bolted up on my hands and knees, frantically feeling around for the object that I had dropped during my descent. I sloshed around the knee deep water for what seem like forever when, as if someone was making a gag joke in a movie, a quartz like bottle floated serenely past me…..
My body was aching, again, but not so much from my initial fall or the trip down the short cascade afterwards, but more from the final 20 to 30 foot drop down into the pool I now found myself laying next to. It wouldn’t have been so bad if it had been just a straight drop into the water below, but instead the small falls that feed the pool were more like a steep staircase of rock, and I had tumbled down it like an unlucky toddler, hitting every step on the way down.
I lay on the rocky bank of the pool, the only sound being the peaceful roar of the falls in the distance, watching the clouds float by as I tried to regain my breath. I was actually enjoying the first quiet moments I’d experience since this whole adventure began when suddenly my serenity was broken by an annoyingly familiar voice.
“Are you enjoying Angel Falls, Doctor Hunter?”, the voice droned. The fact that I had not detected the smell of his Morley in the clean, jungle air was a testament to how addled my brain was at the moment.
“Oh….yeah,” I replied, trying to get the words out between deep breaths. “It’s a ….. wild ride …. down from the base …. to this pool. You should try it.”
The smoking man seemed to ignore my comment as he walked over and knelt down next to me catcher’s style and scanned my prone, soaked body. “Seriously. Do you really call this archeology?”
I was getting enough feeling and strength back in my body to manage two moves. The first was to raise my left hand and shake a bottle it held in a “Yeah, but I got it” fashion. The second was to raise my right hand and flip him the bird.
“Ah,” he nodded seeing the bottle, ignoring my finger entirely. “But surely this wasn’t your plan?” he straighten up. “To end up washed up like a dead fish on the rocky banks of a basin downstream from the plunge pool?”
“No,” I tried to sit up but managed to only make it up to one elbow. “I slipped on … the rocks behind the falls.” I quickly recounted how I’d made my way behind the falls and was climbing up the rock face towards something that looked out of place. Leaving out as many key details as I could (I still didn’t trust this guy), I explained how I’d found the seventh seal in a niche that was concealed behind the falls.
The real story was actually more interesting. After climbing up the interior rock face behind the falls for a bit, I stopped at an irregular out cropping of rock. At least, that’s what it was supposed to look like from the bottom. What it turned out to be was hollowed out basin, like those half circle water bowls you’d see on a wall in a garden. The bowl it formed had water in it from the continuing drizzle of an off flow from the falls down the rock face behind it , but it was what was in the bottom that really caught my attention.
Sand, and although I couldn’t be certain, the sand looked pretty familiar. It didn’t take me to much digging before I’d found what I was looking for, both in the sand, and on the rock face above the bowl.
“But like I said, I slipped,” continuing my edited story as I pulled myself up into a sitting position, groaning all the way. “I didn’t stop until I landed here.”
“Ribs still bothering you?” the smoking man walked over and offered me his hand. “You should really rest those.”
“You know, that’s funny,” I replied looking up at him. “That’s just what the doctor in Guatemala said right before some big goon came and tried to grab me out of my hospital bed.” I stared at him for a bit and then finally giving in, clasped his hand, and allowed him to help me up. “How’s his jaw?”
“Better than your ribs I would say,” he returned.
I took a few steps to help work out the aches in my joints when I turned around and shot him a quizzical look, “And just why are you here? And more importantly, how did you know I’d be here?”
“Oh, the man we had watching over you in Nazca gave us the heads up as soon as you had departed,” he said staring at the falls in the distance. “After that,” he turned, “well let’s just say we have our ways.”
I shook my head. I knew I should have buried the little bastard in the shaft when I had the chance. Go with your first instincts, dad always said. “And now?”
“And now Doctor Hunter, we say goodbye.”
“Just like that?”
“Just like that,” he said as he pulled out another cigarette. “My superiors asked me to make sure that you survived this little excursion, you having so unwisely decided to decline any aid from us.” he continued as he turned and started walking towards the brush line.
“Marching a full team through the jungle with, I’m sure another one of your appointed baby sitters, wasn’t my idea of fun,” I called after him.
“They are called helicopters, Doctor Hunter!” he called back not bothering to turn around. “Maybe you should look them up the next time you find yourself in a library.”
Soon he was gone. I sat down on a large rock, removed everything I needed from my backpack and relaxed a moment as I allowed myself to be transfixed by the sight of Angel Falls in front of me. Then with almost an absent minded motion, I flipped open the seventh seal.
I poured the cold liquid in my glass and watched the carbonation build to a very small lace of bubbles on the top. “They’re called helicopters,” I said in a mocking, imitation of the smoking man’s voice as I held the glass up to see that the liquid had poured a hazy, beautiful orange color.
The aroma had a touch of malt, and something that made me think of iced tea. I took a long drink of the liquid in anticipation of its rejuvenating properties – and almost spit it out. What the hell? In the front, the liquid had very little of the malt character that had been evident in the nose. Instead it tasted of earth, and a vegetal quality that gave me flash backs of when I was young and my mom would yell at me to finish my beets.
I held it in my mouth for a minute and with a final muster of resolve, I swallowed. I couldn’t concentrate on the warm, revitalizing feeling flowing through my body as I waited for what else the bizarre liquid would bring. Thankfully, the liquid had a nice touch of malt in the middle and finished with a lingering bitterness.
I took another drink and found that it echoed my first. This was an interesting bottle to be sure. The nose, the middle and the finish had some nice qualities to it, but that initial smack of earth and vegetable in the begin was off putting. Earthiness isn’t an unknown taste in the libation world, some of the most expensive wines in the world rely on an amount of earth in their profiles. But thiswas like a slap in the face, and it didn’t taste like the underlying liquid was enough to support it. Maybe if the liquid had more depth, it would have worked better.
I contemplated for a minute on whether-or-not to finish it, but the pain that ran through my body as I stood up from the rock suggested that I had no choice. So sitting back down with a sigh of reluctance, I poured the last of the liquid into my glass.
It took me a little while to make my way back to Caracas, but finally I was sitting in a bar with what passed as a nice beer selection, the dirt and sweat from all that time in the jungle finally removed with a few hot showers. I grabbed the beer I had ordered and walked over to a quiet table along the back wall. Settling in I removed the pictures I’d take of the hieroglyphics on the rock face above the bowl where I’d found the seventh seal and studied them for the umpteenth time.
They appeared to be Mayan for the most part, although a few of the symbols weren’t familiar to me. I had reluctantly come to the conclusion a while ago that if I was going to find the next seal, I was going to need some help understanding them.
Looking around to make sure no one was in ear shot, I pulled out my cell phone and dialed a number I hadn’t used in a long time.
I waited patiently as the gentle strains of “Mona Lisa” by Nat King Cole played in my ear. “Really, that’s your ring back tone?” I thought.
“Hey Robert! How are you doing?” As a symbologist at Harvard University, my old Princeton University water polo teammate Robert wouldn’t be much help. But I was positive he could point me to someone who could.