“Then what happened?” asked Jay.
“Inside the Mountain it buzzed like hornets and locusts. The light flickered bright yellow and blue, so the sky looked green.” Dan struggled to hold his head off the bar. “The white wing became a path to the green distance. I tried to walk the path, but the flashing sky confused me. The noise was so loud I covered my ears, and when I did I felt a breeze by my elbows pushing back on my left and forward on my right.
“The wind was spinning me. I walked against the breeze and the colors in the sky separated like videotape of a propeller syncing with the frame rate. The desert’s yellow sky was above me and earth’s blue sky was below me.”
Jay thought. “So the wing was a spinning cylinder, and you counteracted the spin by walking at an angle.”
“Or maybe the skies were spinning,” Dan murmured. “I don’t want to think about it.
“On the green horizon between the yellow and blue, I saw white light like the sun. As I walked closer the buzzing died down. But the path veered away from the sun. I’d just learned to walk forward and didn’t want to learn walking backward, so I left the sun behind me. The buzzing returned.
“I came to another white path sticking vertically out of my original path, like this.” Dan shook a hand in a diagonal manner. “The next thing I knew, I was walking up that path away from the old path. My new path led directly to the sun. As I got closer the buzzing died down again.
“Objects orbited the sun. Their regular shadows made it look like the sun had a heartbeat. I followed the path toward the orbiting objects as they swung toward me. I couldn’t tell how big they were.
“So I was surprised when one smashed on my skull. It was an egg. There was a blue fledgling inside. The blue fledgling’s face had one black beady eye and a hundred human teeth. I couldn’t look away, or even wipe yolk from my face.
“The yolk slid off my skin. The white shell, scattered in three dimensions, scattered back together around the bird. The egg kept orbiting like nothing had happened. I kept walking toward the sun.
“Just before I stepped into the fire I heard a voice. The big blue bird stood behind me with its wings around me to keep me from the sun. ‘It’s not your time.’
“The bird told me that inside the Mountain you can see all of reality. The sun in the center is the origin of all things, and if I’d touched it I’d have had my sentience distributed across the universe. Somehow I understood that reality’s shape was an infinite-dimensional torus, circles swept in circles swept in circles.
“When I turned to see the bird I woke drooling on my couch in my dead dad’s old apartment, holding the bong like a vise. My throat felt painful and raw so I drank six glasses of orange juice and puked. I spent the next six hours cleaning the bong. It wasn’t dirty after just one use,” Dan slurred, “I just felt dirty inside.”
Dan closed his eyes and slumped over the bar. Jay capped his pen and closed his notepad. “Dan, that’s fascinating. When Faith and I smoked centipede we had a very similar experience.”
“As you should have. The basic mechanisms of cognition are fundamentally similar from person to person.” The sentence was almost incomprehensible through Dan’s drunken slur. Dan made brief eye contact with Jay and then clenched his eyes shut. “On the surface we have different personalities, but underneath, everyone is alone in a desert with a mountain. I haven’t smoked centipede since.”
Jay pat him on the back. “You don’t have to. I won’t even ask you to come to Sheridan, if you don’t want to.”
“Take me to Sheridan, Jay. Please.”
The bar door opened. Uncle Featherway entered from Faith’s funeral. Jay waved him to a stool.