The Silver Year: Chapter 20

Chapter 20

Something in The Sinookas

 

Walter​​ awoke​​ to the scent of​​ freshly cut timber​​ and pine​​ needles.​​ The ticktock of the train’s wheels hypnotically​​ clapping​​ atop​​ the train​​ tracks​​ had lulled him and Kourtney to sleep,​​ her​​ shoulder serving as​​ his​​ pillow and his​​ head serving as​​ hers​​ during the ride down the mountain.​​ He​​ stayed still​​ not wanting to​​ disturb her.

Outside the​​ window,​​ dewed over​​ from the clouds they had just emerged from,​​ was​​ the rustic village of their Swiss chalet,​​ Lauterbrunnen,​​ a growing nest of pink roofs on an​​ endless​​ throughway of​​ vibrant​​ green. Guarding over the village​​ were​​ the​​ soaring​​ gray​​ limestone​​ cliffs​​ of Lauterbrunnen Valley, a​​ broad, U-shaped valley​​ ploughed​​ into the earth​​ as​​ if dug​​ by​​ a​​ gigantic​​ ice cream scooper,​​ topped​​ with​​ thick, dark​​ forests and​​ braided with​​ veins​​ of​​ whitewater​​ waterfalls​​ draining from the​​ bleach white​​ peaks of the Swiss Alps cutting jaggedly​​ along​​ the sky.

The​​ train​​ had just​​ come​​ from those peaks,​​ or more specifically a glacier saddle between them called Jungfraujoch.​​ At​​ over eleven-thousand​​ feet, the once desolate​​ mountain​​ saddle​​ had been transformed into a haven for tourists seeking a high-altitude adventure without the work​​ thanks to a​​ nine-kilometer railway partially built into the mountains,​​ complete​​ with​​ Europe's highest-altitude post office,​​ several shops​​ and​​ restaurants,​​ an​​ elaborate manmade​​ ice palace,​​ and​​ even ski slopes where​​ Curt,​​ an avid snowboarder,​​ still was.​​ 

The three of them had​​ taken​​ the train up​​ at​​ the agonizing hour of six​​ that morning.​​ Walter’s train​​ to Amsterdam​​ tomorrow, however, was​​ leaving even earlier, five-thirty.​​ He​​ still​​ hadn’t told Kourtney​​ yet​​ because​​ he​​ still​​ wasn’t​​ sure​​ if​​ he was going through with it.​​ Had he completely lost his mind? Was​​ he​​ really taking cues from​​ illusions now,​​ or​​ his encounter with​​ “Fate” as she liked to call herself?​​ However,​​ his encounter with Shiva​​ was just as strange and​​ just​​ as well​​ could’ve​​ been an illusion, but​​ at least​​ he had​​ some​​ real​​ proof of​​ that illusion: the Ace of Cups, still safely tucked away in his wallet.​​ But​​ then again,​​ maybe​​ everything​​ since Amsterdam​​ had​​ been imagined, an imagining​​ he was still​​ experiencing.​​ Maybe he​​ never actually made it to Amsterdam. Maybe he​​ lost​​ his mind​​ back in London and that’s where his​​ “real”​​ self was,​​ heavily​​ sedated and strapped to a hospital​​ bed​​ in​​ some​​ psych​​ unit.​​ Maybe Europe​​ had made him lose his mind.​​ That would be​​ the most​​ rational​​ explanation.

However,​​ whether​​ inside​​ his head or not, this was the reality he was​​ dealt​​ and Amsterdam​​ seemed to be​​ the​​ place​​ where he​​ would find out, or if​​ not, hopefully find his way out. At least that’s the impression Fate or Beatrice or whoever’s answer gave him.​​ He had to find​​ out​​ what happened to​​ Shiva,​​ and Dug​​ was​​ somehow​​ at the center of it. But​​ Fate/Beatrice​​ also​​ said divine love was sometimes in the strangest of places, but Walter​​ hoped to God Dug wasn’t​​ what it/she meant​​ by strange.

Speaking of God, of course maybe all this strangeness was him or her or it, but why would God be so concerned with Walter’s affairs when there were so many other affairs he or she or it should be concerned with​​ over his?​​ No, God​​ was​​ only further proof of insanity.

Kourtney awoke​​ and took her neck off​​ Walter’s​​ head. “So beautiful,” she said stretching her arms​​ and​​ looking​​ out​​ the window.​​ “Are you going​​ to​​ the P-Party tonight?” she asked. P was the theme of the night’s costume party, and​​ any​​ extrapolation​​ on what that meant was accepted,​​ but​​ pirate, pimp, and policeman​​ were​​ the most popular​​ picks.​​ 

“No,”​​ Walter​​ said. “There’s something I need to do early tomorrow morning. Are you​​ going?”

“What do you think?” she said smiling.

“Didn’t figure you were, but you asked. The​​ parties​​ aren’t​​ as bad​​ as​​ you think.”

“Yes they are. Especially tonight’s.​​ Remember I’ve been on one of these before. At the P-Party on my​​ last​​ tour about​​ a​​ dozen blokes showed up with nothing on, taking P-Party to mean ‘penis’ party. Yeah, not for me.​​ What’s​​ so important to get you up early​​ again​​ tomorrow?”

“Well,​​ I’m still not sure if I’m going​​ through with it.”

“You’re going back to Amsterdam aren’t you?”

“How’d you know?”

“I don’t know. Just​​ sensed​​ something​​ in the​​ sinookas​​ I suppose, like our karass​​ was​​ beginning to wane​​ into its other wampeter.​​ Back in Venice, when we were a part, I just began thinking about how maybe you should go back to Amsterdam. Maybe you should do everything you can while you’re still on the same continent as Shiva—or hopefully you still are. It’s actually why I asked you what you were doing tonight. I wanted to talk to you about it. I think I might’ve been a​​ wrang-wrang​​ in the wrong direction by convincing you to continue this tour.”

Walter laughed. “I see you’ve taken to​​ Cat’s Cradle,” he said.​​ He had given Kourtney the book​​ four days earlier​​ after he had finished reading it.​​ “And apparently​​ you’ve​​ experienced quite the vin-dit. But no Kourtney,​​ you were​​ definitely​​ a wrang-wrang​​ in the right direction.​​ I needed these last few days with you and Curt​​ on tour​​ more than you know.​​ Also,​​ I​​ haven’t told you​​ yet, but I​​ got my sign from​​ Fate, and​​ funny enough,​​ it happened​​ in Venice​​ too.”

“Really?​​ What was​​ it?”

Walter took a few​​ starts​​ before figuring out what to say.​​ “Well...” he said, “even though​​ it​​ really​​ wasn’t, I can​​ only​​ describe it​​ as​​ a sign from God only I would understand—or​​ it​​ could’ve been​​ a​​ psychotic episode.​​ Either way, I’m pretty sure it meant go back to Amsterdam—I think—I hope.”

“Well,​​ as Bokonon says,” Kourtney said, “'peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God’.​​ Maybe you should let​​ God​​ lead​​ the dance.”

“But​​ what is God?”

“God is Love.​​ That’s all God has to be.”

“But what is Love?”

“Love is you. And that’s all Love has to be.”

Walter thought about it. As simple as it was,​​ other than​​ music,​​ it​​ was​​ an argument for God he couldn’t refute.​​ Maybe God did have a place in life.

“Man, you’ve really gone deep​​ into​​ Bokononism,” he said.

“Apparently I have,” Kourtney said. “I’m just as surprised with how much has stuck with me after​​ finishing​​ the book. For a fake religion built on lies it sure speaks a hell of a lot​​ of​​ truth.​​ Maybe Kurt Vonnegut is God​​ or something. Or maybe just the god​​ assigned to you.”

“Would sure explain a hell of a lot​​ . . . Is this elevation making you feel as stoned as me?”​​ 

“Would sure explain a hell of a lot.”

They both fell into heavy chuckles,​​ then fell quiet,​​ watching the village​​ slowly​​ grow larger​​ outside the window.​​ “So​​ you’re​​ for sure​​ going back​​ then?”​​ Kourtney​​ asked.

“Well, at this point​​ you’ve​​ convinced​​ me Kurt Vonnegut will have it no other way,” Walter​​ said​​ with a smile that quickly fell away.​​ “However,​​ something in the sinookas​​ is telling​​ me​​ this next leg of my journey is one I have to face​​ alone​​ as much as I want my​​ trusty​​ wrang-wrang with me.”

“I​​ know,”​​ she​​ said.​​ “Something in the sinookas also told me this. Like I said,​​ our karass​​ is waning into its other​​ wampeter, and I believe that wampeter is concerned with finding you true love. Not that Curt and I don’t love you, truly we do, but you know, a duprass only has room for one more, and​​ you’re not going to find your ‘one’ with us two.”

“Yes, but that doesn’t make it any easier leaving you,​​ and by you,​​ I mean​​ especially​​ you.​​ How​​ did​​ I ever get by without a friend like you?”

Kourtney wiped​​ a wayward tear from his face​​ doing her best to contain herself.​​ “Let’s not​​ begin​​ goodbyes​​ just yet,” she said.​​ “Let’s do it somewhere out of the public eye because I know I’ll be a mess.​​ What do you say to​​ another​​ romantic friendship date​​ after dinner​​ tonight? I​​ know​​ a great little lookout point​​ near the chalet​​ that​​ would be great for a smoke sesh​​ and​​ some​​ stargazing.”

 

At​​ dinner,​​ Walter said goodbye to Curt​​ and explained why​​ in terms only a Bokononist of the same karass would understand,​​ and​​ of course he​​ clearly​​ understood.​​ He​​ too had​​ already​​ sensed something in the sinookas. For everyone else, a little foma was​​ provided​​ about​​ a mix up​​ of​​ flight plans that had​​ Walter​​ leaving out of Amsterdam instead of Paris and it was too late and too expensive to try and change it.

After dinner,​​ while everyone​​ else dressed​​ (and yes in some cases undressed)​​ for the P-Party, Kourtney and Walter​​ found​​ a bottle of wine and​​ some​​ flashlights and headed​​ to an overgrown gravel trail not far from the​​ chalet running​​ alongside​​ one​​ of​​ the valley’s​​ cliffsides.​​ The sky was​​ clear and moonless,​​ encrusted over​​ with​​ stars. In​​ the air,​​ rumblings​​ and mutterings​​ of rushing water from​​ the​​ nearby​​ Lütschine​​ River​​ and the​​ many​​ waterfalls​​ beating the valley walls.​​ 

The trail​​ soon​​ began​​ ascending,​​ leading to a​​ rock​​ opening​​ in the cliffside. Inside was​​ a narrow and steep stairwell, and after a long and sharply zigzagging climb, they emerged onto​​ a platform stamped into the rockface​​ behind a gently​​ flowing waterfall. The view was somewhat​​ similar​​ to the one​​ from the train window earlier, except now​​ the valley was only a silhouetted cradle against the shimmering sky,​​ the​​ village looking​​ like​​ a​​ small globule​​ of​​ stars​​ that had​​ dripped down​​ from the Milky Way river crossing​​ overhead. Hanging over the​​ globule​​ was​​ what looked to be a low-flying comet, but in actuality​​ was​​ the​​ spot-lit​​ sprays​​ of​​ a​​ waterfall​​ near the center of town.​​ 

“Oh my God,” Walter said walking to the platform edge and feeling the underside of the waterfall.

“Right?” Kourtney said. “Lauterbrunnen​​ was the stop I was looking forward to most.​​ Did you know​​ Tolkien’s inspiration for Rivendell was this valley?”

 “The​​ place in​​ Lord of the Rings​​ with​​ all​​ the elves?”

She laughed.​​ “Yes, that place.”

“I can see it.​​ It’s certainly​​ an otherworldly​​ place, the​​ most beautiful place​​ I think​​ I’ve​​ been.​​ And those stars…”​​ he said fanning his hand over them.

“You’re always looking at those stars aren’t you?”​​ she said smiling.

“It’s the closest thing I​​ have​​ to prayer.​​ It gives me perspective on things.”

“So it’s where you​​ talk to​​ God?”

“You mean Kurt Vonnegut?”

They again burst into laughter, their chuckles​​ stretching and contracting​​ against the rock walls and​​ the lapping​​ laughter​​ of the waterfall.

“Well,​​ Vonnegut or not,” Walter said, “God is giving me some good fodder for​​ one hell of a​​ book.​​ Maybe that’s our karass’s other wampeter.​​ It is​​ really​​ why I came on this trip. I just didn’t know every karass has two wampeters. I didn’t know God​​ also​​ wanted me to find true love. I never thought I deserved it.”

“Oh,​​ so every wampeter revolves around you?” Kourtney smiled​​ teasingly.​​ “Your book better have a character based on me.”

“Of course, but​​ she’ll be no substitute for the real thing. However, I guess she’ll have to make due​​ for me​​ until our karass feels the need to wax us back together.”

“Well, something in the sinookas tells me it​​ certainly​​ will, possibly soon. Curt and I​​ are staying in Paris for a week after the tour ends. Promise you’ll come find us if you don’t find​​ a reason to stay in​​ Amsterdam?​​ You already said your plane home takes off from there anyway.​​ Or maybe​​ we can​​ have the best of both worlds and you and Shiva come find us​​ after you find her​​ in​​ Amsterdam?”​​ 

“Wouldn’t that be the happy ending?​​ Although it​​ could​​ be​​ just as possible I go all the way to Amsterdam only to discover she won’t leave Mags.”

“Something in the sinookas makes me doubt that, but maybe​​ we should​​ boko-maru​​ so we have​​ Vonnegut on our side​​ for a happy ending.​​ You know​​ how much​​ God loves flattery.”

“Yes, but you also know He ‘never wrote a good play in his life.’”

Again they were overcome with giggles, giggles which only grew from the strange sound of their giggles echoing back at them in their rocky​​ outcropping.

“Do we even need to get stoned​​ with this elevation?” Walter asked​​ still trying to control his laughter.

“No, this is perfect enough. This is as close to heaven as I think you​​ can​​ get. I love​​ you​​ Walter.”

“I love you Kourtney.”

They​​ then​​ shared​​ a​​ long and powerful hug and sob,​​ then laid down​​ on​​ the blanket they brought, took off their shoes and socks,​​ and​​ kissed their naked soles​​ together​​ for their boko-maru, laughing​​ so loudly​​ it turned into snorting that​​ sounded​​ like a​​ foghorn​​ farting​​ as​​ it shot off​​ into the dark​​ down​​ the valley.

Best friends are the​​ best because they​​ are the ones you can be your silliest with, your craziest with, your most pathetic with,​​ your best with, your true self with,​​ even if you can’t always be with them, for time and space has no effect on best friends. True best friends are forever even if those best friends only get the chance to meet once in life . . .​​ or after​​ life. ​​ 

 

 

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