GONZALO VEGA AND THE PORTAL DOWN BELOW
The pattern of the tile in the tunnel, which never seemed to end, was intricate. The pattern’s intricacy itself seemed to be a message about the nature of reality. The nature of depth.
You’re deep, said Gonzalo to the feathered woman. Aztlan is deep.
You think so? said the woman. You’ve only seen one not very deep level.
This isn’t the only level?
There are seven more underneath.
Oh. And what about the ruler? Does the ruler have a name?
Everything has a name, said the woman.
I’m Gonzalo, said Gonzalo.
No kidding, said the woman. We know who you are.
I don’t know who you are.
Doesn’t seem fair.
Fair. Is that one of your guiding concepts? In the place you come from? Up above in the highest level ?
The highest level, no. There are levels higher than where I come from.
No kidding. There are thirteen higher levels. But your level, the place you come from, is the highest level of the underworld. We call it hell.
They reached the end of the tunnel, a vast silver door with water flowing over it. The outline of the door was marked off with blue tape.
On the other side of the door is a river, said the woman. You’ll cross the river, if you can. On the other side of the river is an elevator. You’re going down.
How much further? I mean I’ve been on a journey already.
You’ve just begun. It’s like dying. You’ll meet interesting forms along the way.
I’ve already met interesting forms, said Gonzalo.
Eeshoo was weeping again. Inside himself, this river of tears.
What will I find beyond the door?
We’ve devised technologies to breed biological mutants with holograms, the woman said. We’ve populated the underground with flickering life forms, ghosts of flesh, carbon-based illusions. Talking goats and jackrabbits that relate to the viewer as optical illusions. Talking goats that know more about the history of intelligence than even the ruler does. Skeletons with the texture of vapor. Turtles that lay eggs that are in fact tiny movies. The skeletons like to dance and to fuck. Imagine the offspring of toads and dreams. You’ll encounter something like that, I imagine, a fairy tale’s biological cousin. Cartoons that think and die. What if the hieroglyphics were breathing in your ear? What would they have to tell you?
The door opened.
Step inside, she said.