There is – indeed, there has always been, and probably there will continue to be for some time more – a valley that folds the mountains down to the sea.
The sea in this place is a perfect turquoise; a bay surrounded by steep peninsulas that reach down into the water. Between the mountains, cupped by the bay, is a small beach. As the valley climbs away from the beach, you will find campsites and bungalows and bars and kitchens and all of them are peopled by visiting hippies. The hippies take in the views, swing in the hammocks, and dance on the sand.
Being hippies, and this being a story taking place after other events have occurred, they have inherited a little understanding – something of the plants and something of the chemicals.
The visitors to the valley bring with them psychedelic mushrooms! and come to this beautiful location wanting to swirl and stumble and smile in some of the natural spirit.
The epitome of this kind of experience in this particular valley is the pilgrimage to Flying Rock. Sticking proudly out from one of the mountain peninsulas, it drops dramatically down to the waves. The hippies travel to the edge of Flying Rock, and leap out to the sea, their heads full of colours and shapes, and fly for the briefest of moments before bursting through the surface of the water.
However, hippies, psychedelic mushrooms and large rocky outcrops are not always the perfect combination. Lots of people have died. There is no other way of telling this story; it must be found that Flying Rock is a dangerous and (some might say) foolish pilgrimage. The trail winds up steep, uncertain steps that sometimes give way to concealed drops. The rock itself falls to a deep sea, and there are strong currents at its bottom. Only the confident swimmers can pull themselves away from these treacherous currents and back to the safety of the beach. For many, they struggle as they are pulled under the waves.
Death does not wash up on the shore so often any more. It used to be that bodies would bob past the small boats, moored a short distance from shore, and the boat dwellers would push them back to the land, whence they had recently come with the stride of the living, and where they then returned for burial. And this would be a daily occurrence.
Last summer, this morbid tide turned.
It was a starry night (this, back in the days before the moon, was particularly noticeable) and the valley was enjoying life as a valley much as it had done for hundreds of years, changing all the while to accommodate new visitors. The visitor I will tell you about, on this night in question, was an electric energy ball with spritely feet dancing his pawprints into the sand. He was a boundless smile and one of nature’s young lovers, patiently waiting to embrace each and every person on his journey. His name was Alican.
As the blue-black water lapped at his feet, he felt his music and his mushrooms fill his head and wash out through his fingertips. His head rocked back and his eyes closed in pleasure. He drank vodka and coke in plastic cups and smoked cigarettes, looking out to sea.
He watched the boats – the boat dwellers I mentioned, floating 30 metres from the beach. He had never met a boat dweller, and was intrigued by the lights on the water, seeming to him like stars that had slipped from the sky.
In this moment, with a mind full of psychedelic joy and natural rapture, he dived into the waves and began to swim towards the boats. He headed for the most intriguing sight – a small, old vessel with a ramshackle wooden trellis over a table. Two figures sat at the table – but, of course, they were next to invisible to eyes on the land – under a tangle of jasmine leaves.
The boat was one of the furthest out to sea. About halfway, Alican started to panic. He was weighed down by his clothes. He cast them off. He was getting tired. He paused to tread water and catch his breath. He was feeling the mushrooms buffeting him in the water like jellyfish. He kept swimming. He felt himself being dragged towards the deep, and he started swimming quicker, starting to get desperate.
Luckily, his optimism saw him nearly all the way to the wooden boat. He could see it looming overhead, the gentle surf splashing against the flaking red and green paint. As his energy left him, with his final burst of power Alican rose out of the water and slapped his hand onto the side of the boat, grabbing the side before slipping off and falling back down into the water.
As Alican began to drown, the two boat dwellers, having heard his hand hitting their bow, came to see what was happening. They had seen many a hippie spend their last moments drinking the seawater and floating past them. This hippie was different. He had come to see them; somehow they knew it. And now, they could see they had a chance to save this floundering land animal. The smaller of the two acted quickly, fetching a rope and tying a small, makeshift lasso. He leant over the side and carefully cast the rope, pulling it around Alican’s torso. With great perseverance, using all of his strength (for he was a very small boat-dweller), he heaved Alican aboard, and the young hippie came tumbling onto the deck.
The boat dweller, having fallen over with the effort, jumped to his feat and began pumping on Alican’s chest. Alican coughed, splutted, struggled to breathe. Just then, the other boat dweller appeared over his head, moved her great jaws close to his, and out flowed a silver breath that wound its way into the hippie’s lungs and suddenly Alican sat up, gasping violently, water spraying from between his lips.
His head was spinning and his eyes rolled in relief. Disorientated, he focused on the scene in front of him. The table was a feast of delicious seaweed meze, some of which had fallen to the floor. a half-full rakı bottle rolled on the deck between the table legs. Crouched by him were his two rescuers.
One was small, and had deep orange fur on his back. He had a fluffy, white belly, and a grand tail that bushed into a white point. His face was pointed and his ears flicked attentively.
The other was bigger, and her fur was of the blackest night but somehow each hair glowed a blue silver. Her eyes were wells of galaxies and black holes. Her body curved and rippled with calm power.
Alican leapt forward and grabbed them both, pulling them close to him to share in his happiness. At first the boat-dwellers were stiff, and surprised at the hippie’s affection, for they had never met a land animal before. But after being in his embrace for a moment, they felt his natural spirit meet their own and they relaxed. The smaller boat dweller curled into Alican’s arms. The bigger, nuzzled his neck.
After some moments they pulled apart, and they returned the rakı bottle to the table. They sat together, and ate and drank and made merry.
The smaller boat dweller was one Mr Fox, a rather bouncy and silly person who quickly became excited to be meeting a land animal. The larger was called Mooncat, and Alican saw clearly in her benevolent wisdom that she must come from another world.
They talked of the land and the sea, of the things they shared – the sky and the air and the sounds of the world – and of the things that were peculiar to the land, or to the sea. Mr Fox and Mooncat told stories of fish who had seen the centre of the world, and showed Alican their connectedness to the furthest reaches of the land – where the springs gave water to streams, that pushed water into rivers, that shared this same water with the seas. Alican told the others about cars and electronic music and psychedelic mushrooms. He spoke of the great and the good land animals, the big and the small. The connectedness of every being on land, some working against each other for evil profit, and others working with each other for mutual benefit.
He shared with them some of his mushrooms. Damp and salty, they were perfectly to the taste of Fox and Mooncat, who tried for the first time these fruits of the land. They tripped together. The three of them sailed up into the night sky and pinned their own constellations between the faraway universes. They dived into trenches and underwater caves, seeing how the sea and the land carved together elaborate passages to rich mineral seams where strange creatures lived.
As they learned of Alican’s ways, the boat dwellers began to understand the sad truth of the bodies that would float past them – the tragic passing of life when the innocent wanted only to experience more connection to the elements around them. They felt communion with the mushrooms, and as the three of them swam in the sky they understood the desire to jump from Flying Rock, despite its danger.
With these sombre revelations, morning came. As they trickled the last of the rakı into their glasses, and ate the last stems of seaweed, Alican took his leave. They brought their boat into the shore, and said goodbye the beach. The boat dwellers returned to the ocean.
So how, you might ask, did this change the situation, and help the hippies to stay safe in the valley?
It was after this time that Mr Fox and Mooncat vowed to alter their isolation from the land animals.
Mr Fox has become a hippie fisherman. That is to say, he fishes for hippies, who have jumped unsuccessfully from Flying Rock and may be found splashing about ineffectively in the harsh currents. Just as he had rescued Alican, Fox lassoes the drowning and drags them aboard, releasing them from their wet distress with some seafood and a drink.
Meanwhile, every evening sees Mooncat step onto the horizon. From the distant meeting of sky and sea, she rises up and shoots out a glorious light, painting the world in icy blues, fine silvers and bright whites. With this newfound vision of the nighttime land, the hippies can traverse the difficult path to Flying Rock without tumbling to their premature deaths.
Personally, I still wouldn’t recommend going on the pilgrimage to Flying Rock. There are far more satisfying ways to fly, like at the dragonfly training in Gumm Swamp, or with the cloud city guards. But if you choose to come to this valley to fly, know you are being watched over, and that there are two who would care enough to save you… if you need it.