Werebrock has pushed it to another level: hooray! O yeah, finding happiness and meaning in every second of every day, getting initiated in the new old Mystery. Sounds like a lot of hype, as I type it. You might be scoffing at the lack of seemingly-appropriate modesty. Surely it's not as boundlessly wonderful as all that? But Werebrock has taken to wearing a cape on his jogs through the countryside, and hype feels appropriate. Basically, he got turned on at the Gathering with E-Mack, and from there it just kept flowing into a wait and see.
This chapter starts a few months ago. It was Saturday morning, and Werebrock was setting out from the Gardens to find a hellbender. He put on his shoes, for this was to be an epic expedition; you can’t neglect your feet, however lofty or magnanimously low the destination. He took off at a run down the White Oak Creek, which came to meet the South Toe River two miles beyond. “The South Toe is filled with hellbenders.” Werebrock told himself matter of factly. “By comparison to the nightsoiled waters of my beloved Kentucky and Cincinnati rivers, it will be their bit of Paradise. Clear, cold, highly-oxygenated blood, pumping from the heart of the Blacks and Blue Ridge mountains. With the water level so low, what with the dryness of this season, those dinosaur-shaped gummy bears will have nowhere much to hide. If I don’t find one it will be because” That’s as far as his thought train went, for his qi was busy pumping through his legs.
To get to the point of this chapter, the author will brush with broad strokes over that most wonderful, watery day. Werebrock made it to the river without getting abducted by aliens or being hit by a car. He yukked it up with some trout fishermen as he steadied himself at their flowing edge. He got into character (method acting?) by floating down the river for a ways on his back, and after being tipped off by the Granny whose property he crawled out onto, he hitched a ride to the hellbender’s alleged favorite hangout. It was after a lack of success there, in a loch bordering the local Biodynamic farm, that he began to reassess the facts that had played under his earlier enthusiasm. “If my nose were harder and my eyeballs made of steel,” he rhymed tiredly to himself, “I would first have consulted experts, and seen what they’d revealed.” But wandering had been an unstated, secondary goal for the day. No reason to harumph hard.
Werebrock wasn’t left hardly harrumphing for very long, for he ran into the Italian pirate farmer. Everybody loves this guy, you cannot fail to. That day his words were particularly welcome:
“O Yeah, Daddy Bareback is balls-out for hellbenders.” He inclined his head past his cows, and down the road. “He lives just a hop skip and a jump down that way. He has underwater cameras and goggles, and takes his family out to look for the beasts. Sounds like your man.”
Werebrock hopped skipped and jumped in the direction he was pointed. After crossing a small stream, he met the Bareback family in a veggie field, working as one groovy little nuclear unit. They are some cool motheruppers! O, how nice it must be to have your parents and siblings together, merrily cultivating your favorite food plants. Even Bjorn has nothing but kind words for them, and he usually likes to joke about disemboweling the hippies of Celo for their lameness. Turns out Doc Bareback has spent his last ten winters naturalisting on the Bay of Baja, or whatever we’re calling it now that Cortez’s name has been properly disgraced. Werebrock has vacationed in Baja, so besides talking hellbenders, they happily blew hot air about that faraway place, where desert meets the sea.
If Werebrock himself were writing this chapter, without the distance of a third person perspective, he would (he WOULD!) speculate further. The resonations that echoed from the meeting of Doc Bareback and Werebrock would be shown to have sympathetically reverberated into the Otherworlds, to a significant degree. Werebrock has spent some time explaining to his friends that such a fortuitous meeting could only have come to be by the grace of his Hellbender (water) guardian spirit. But if you speak in too much detail of such secrets, they lose their specialness.
Da Bareback’s invited Werebrock on a hellbender exploratory expedition. With eye-bulging jubilation, Werebrock accepted. Months later, after a long drought that brought the water table to record lows, after Werebrock had undergone the emotional healing mentioned in Kyanite Drive, the invitation was ready for fulfillment. What happened next was really what I’ve been wanting to tell y’all about.
Another Bard joins the storyline. On Expedition Day, the old geezer who told a Creation Story to the Permaculture Gathering met Werebrock, partway to the Barebacks, and gave him a ride. It was the pair's first real time together. This elder is approaching authentic maturity in his demeanor and message, and they spoke their observations on the forest scene around them as they sped past the Italian Pirate Farm. They met the Barebacks at their house, and kicked at the manure pile awhile. The call of the mission kept ‘em from dallying long; Werebrock was so excited he started chasing the family’s lone rooster.
To get to the secret spot, the submerged Tibetan convent/monastery where Appalachian hellbenders do yoga all day, the group drove over private roads and parked in a homesteader’s driveway. They unloaded snorkels, masks and bodies, and plummeted down a root-secured path to where the river, even during that period of drought, ran swift and fairly deep. It fell rapidly over huge, wavy sections of bedrock that the party was standing on to gear up. These waters and rocks have been lovers for aeons . You may have inferred that, from mention of the steep descent, but it goes beyond the standard elevation gradient. The rocks looked how agitated blobs of water would, should you observe them struggling through outer space: all smooth curves, sinkholes and shrugs. Werebrock practiced his leaping, and chased skinks. When a snorkel ‘came available, he tore into the water like horny pre-pubescent children into a 6th grade romance. You know, us American kids that drink a lot of hormone-laced factory milk and T.V. and kill each other for Nikes? It was intense.
Hellbenders are picky about where they live. They only settle for the most pristine of stretch marks on Momma Earth’s belly. Buoyant and ebullient is all you can be in such a place. Werebrock went to churning his body, like a den of sleepwalking rattlesnakes. His limbs twirled out, to catch onto ledges, and explore crannies; his spine, temporarily released from its sworn oath against gravity, reacquainted itself with a suppleness it had forgotten having. He searched the gummy floor of the river for sign.
There were broken eggsacks clinging to rocks, and a sinkhole with a peculiarly murky complexion. Maybe the quarry was nearby. There was no indication of it below the pitter pattering stream mouth, which one could photograph and use to defend Steiner’s flowforms as naturally sacred geometry. The completely aquatic amphibians may have been sharing space with a giant trout under its equally giant boulder, but there was not enough room for Werebrock to safely get in there and check. He moseyed far over the river bottom, about 8 feet down. The search yielded a smooth white stone that our hero had been on the look out for, all these past 8 months. No hellbenders, though! The discovery of a deep, watery tunnel was promising. Werebrock raised a masked eyebrow and poked his head in. There were no hellbenders in sight. He came up to exclaim the non-discovery to his friends on the bank, then dived for another look.
The waterway must have had abundant oxygen, but it was not readily available to Werebrock's smooth neck. Scary thought, getting trapped down there with no gills. I'm happy to write that that is what this chapter has been building to. Past the outwordly inaudible voice who proffered to him a plunging. "Got any danger around here?" Werebrock giggled inwardly as he went deeper. His feet dissapeared into the glory hole.
The sight was murky- there was light, mud and current in equal amounts. Werebrock lightly plodded over the river bottom, his feet not touching the ground, his hands groping and pulling him forward. And forward... to a dead end? No, towards the light. There was a sharp turn in the passage, upwards and to the left. Werebrock probed the twist with his body, and began to get stuck at the shoulders. "Bad scene, bad scene!" He thrashed and gnashed (his teeth), until he was free and backed out to resurface.
"Hey y'all. I'm scopin' out that tunnel Little Gwion found. For a minute I got afraid up in there, but it's alright."
"I'm gonna go back down there, and go through it. It seems kinda dangerous. I'll be swimming against the current, so the river can help bring me back if I decide to reverse course." Good luck, dude. The Barebacks and the Bard look a tad worried.
Back down there. It's murkier than Leviticus, yet the little bit of light guided Werebrock, down, back and across a threshold of no easy return. He knifed together his double jointed arm sockets, fingers pointing forward, and surged around the troublesome bend. And then, dang it, if his giant hips didn't get stuck than my name is Ferdinand Flagellum! No time for bemoaning the time-sensitive, impulsive decision; there's barely enough time to see if he can ride this wave to shore. "One, two! One, two! And through and through", out Yemaya's snicker snatch. Or you'll be dead, and your head
will never finish the poem.
His hip joints popped through, and the cause for alarm increased. For the river's current rushed over the rocky lip that Werebrock's body was thrust sideways upon. Heave. RAUGH! "You've been down here too long!" Whoever the fuck is talking to Werebrock at this point would better shut up, for the part of him that can hear is draining away. Pull through, pull through. His mind blinks out, and with a squirt of superhuman bendiness, his legs momentarily seem to lose rigidity at the thighs and Werebrock is patting weakly at the water, his feet slip out of the gulf. His head emerges into the thin atmosphere.
Every day since then has been more magical and crazy, more clearheadedly and fully taken on. Werebrock *knows* that was his real death and rebirth as a shaman, and as a fairly impartial observer I cannot but say that his appraisal is apparently accurate. The Hellbender galumphs about in his inner spring, which bubbles up in him like a hopeful spring on the parched savannah.
Parts of this story were prematurely published under the title "hellbending pt. 2". That article has been pulled, for it was put out there with innapropriate haphazardness. I wistfully smile back upon it so you don't have to.