Climbing, Existentialism, Ontology, Sloth, Truth

The Abominable Unau

MOUNT SILENUS: A Vertical Odyssey

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In search of a legendary prehistoric sloth, Jablonski developed Post-Traumatic Mountaineering Disorder. The past is not the past if it never recedes. Journal therapy didn’t help. Developed in the 1940s, it uses second-person POV to create a distance from the ordeal. Note well: brooding isn’t therapy. Calling this a novel is little more than denial.

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When we try to conceive of Nothing, whatever preceded all Existence, we invariably imagine some infinite darkness. But it could have been white, like the storm engulfing you. The spirit of chaos freed, a tempest rages, obliterating the forms of things and returning them to blurry potentiality. Nature’s volatile moods and the devastation they wreak, her apocalyptic fury in all epochs and places, a teleological interpretation must choose between wrath or regret.

Onward you hobble. The tent has to be around here somewhere. Was it necessary to walk this far in a blizzard to defecate? A dark shape solidifies in the icy static ahead. Is that the tent or are the curtains parting on the burlesque of life to allow a character from an earlier act to take a final bow? Thirty feet tall it lurches toward you, sickle claws protruding from furry stumps, long front legs stretching like the arms of a witch reaching across a table to read a palm. Through veils of snow appears a nose with the contours and padding of a leather recliner, infringing on space that should have been reserved for its tiny eyes.

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Get down, you fool! You can’t outrun it in your condition. Do you think it will understand you were screaming in agony as you collapsed, not provocation.

Allegedly erased from the ledger of life, presumed to have plunged into that mass grave awaiting us all, it stands triumphant, in absolute defiance of Time and Nature and all man’s theories and measurements, which measure nothing at all, not even man. The wind howls in disbelief at this zombie returned from the dead. It throws back its head and makes a deep gurgling noise that sends tremors across the ground.

In lieu of girding your loins, you wet them. It stoops until its nose is inches from your face. The breeze from its inhalation sucks your hair straight up. How do you appear to it, as the pinnacle of creation, the raison d’être of existence, the summon bonum of Being, a member of the almighty species who spread its fungal growth to the moon, erecting temples to vanity in the dark heavens? Does it know man hath dominion over it, or does it see a bug too big to eat in one bite?

Digging through your jacket for the knife you neglected to bring you find a burrito. Characterized by indifference to death, consoling thoughts emerge. This is no worse than any other way of dying. And I get a last meal.

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Perhaps the rigors of dialectic aren’t welcome at times like this, but being mauled by a behemoth is immeasurably worse than drifting off in a Jacuzzi or going out with a Bang! during a tryst with one of the locals. (Keepsakes such as your watch and credit cards would facilitate closure. This is an occupational hazard in her line of work.)

You take a bite of the burrito. The veggies so crisp, so scrumptious. How is the inner essence of food transmitted by your tongue to the theatre between your ears? During how many tens of thousands of meals have you never wondered? Now is the time to take stock of your life. What lasting good have I accomplished? How many times have I made love? What about the times I can’t remember because I was drunk? Was there some point to all this? 

The Abominable Unau’s nose pulsates, taking on a life of its own. How does the burrito smell to a creature whose olfactory powers are a million times greater than yours? Analogous to how Ulysses seems to you but not your cat. You offer it the rest and yank your hand back from rubbery lips. It makes a slurping sound as it chews. You reach up and touch its thick fur and rub its chest. It emits a baritone purr and licks your head with what feels like a waterbed wrapped in sandpaper. Without any deliberation you clutch its underbelly. And this is not an instinct. Momentous decisions throughout history were often free of planning, as if generated spontaneously, as if preordained or fated.

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“Jablonski is able to inject a sense of immediacy and intensity in the story by using sparse description that suggests more than it tells. An engaging narrative.” – Publishers Weekly

***

Mount Silenus is not a part of the earth but a prodigal son staying away in contempt of its lowly origins. Proof that man is not the measure of all things, it derides every notion of harmonious design. Behold this mockery of all human configurations and tremble.

Under the anesthesia of routine we slumber, impervious to life’s true nature. The constant yearning for what we lack, the urge to be free of what we loathe, chasing pleasures that vanish like dust. Are these life’s limitations or essence? Men go to absurd lengths explaining the problem of evil. In the process they sound like half-wit attorneys defending a mass-murderer. They say happenstance is a robber, free will a mixed blessing, joy more abundant than pain. Look deeper. There is a mighty force opposing our every plan, a cruel gravity smothering us, the heel of a boot grinding out the embers of our souls, a sadist cloaked in the dark fabric of existence. It is the implacable colossus of Fate. We scarcely have time to stumble onto the battlefield, much less comprehend our plight and mount a counterattack. In a few twinklings of the sun, on a day no different than all that came before, the cosmic ogre squashes us. Those convulsive growls that rend the sky, they are not thunder. They are laughter.

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Everest? Big Whoop!

Some say Fate cannot be fought, that it is entrapping as quicksand, omnipresent as the ether. Notice how the cleverest excuses and slipperiest arguments are used in defense of cowardice. Through capitulation to routine man dies an ignoble death long before his mortal coil makes it official. He forgets he is living. Combat is the supreme reminder. What is that putrid stench? Is it not the rot of man’s spirit, the smell of lies told to assuage the failure of those too craven to fight, smoke wafting from the languid den of routine addicts? To wage war against Fate one must locate the most auspicious outpost and launch an attack. That fortress is Mount Silenus. A battle calls. Warrior, arise!

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