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The Long Road Home, By Zach Elmblad

The Long Road Home, By Zach Elmblad

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Published by The New Scum
Zach Elmblad's second novel-length release. Loosely based on a road trip from Michigan to California, the reader is invited on a journey through some of the most relevant and controversial subjects of the Zeitgeist du jour. Escaping from his excruciatingly dull occupation as a restaurant manager in Kalamazoo, Zach spends two weeks on the road in search of the meaning of life. Through confrontations with the police, serene meditation on the shores of the pacific, and through brutal acid nightmares Zach forges ever onward in the search of the good life.
Zach Elmblad's second novel-length release. Loosely based on a road trip from Michigan to California, the reader is invited on a journey through some of the most relevant and controversial subjects of the Zeitgeist du jour. Escaping from his excruciatingly dull occupation as a restaurant manager in Kalamazoo, Zach spends two weeks on the road in search of the meaning of life. Through confrontations with the police, serene meditation on the shores of the pacific, and through brutal acid nightmares Zach forges ever onward in the search of the good life.

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Published by: The New Scum on Jan 22, 2010
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09/24/2012

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I had a dream. One of those dreams. The dreams that seems to

permeate your waking mind for days and days after it occurs. The kind

of dream that would cause some guy named John to write the book of

revelations. The kind of dream that you can’t easily write off as a

figment of your overactive imagination. The kind of dream that seems

as if you’re telling yourself something.

It was another dream in a long stream of reoccurring dreams set

in a large city, seemingly in the present. During these dreams, I

would travel from my apartment to various destinations, usually

accompanied by real life friends. We would encounter normal things,

nothing out of the realm of real world possibility. Bums on the

street, a swanky uptown bar, a shopping mall, maybe a nice stroll in a

dream city park.

This dream, while beginning in the same city, took a bizarre turn

for the downright apocalyptic. I found myself in a new part of the

now familiar city. This time around, a dimly lit bar inside an

airport gate. This is obviously a special, privately owned gate,

because it has a distinct hunter’s lodge feel. Looking out the

windows, I can see a long sea of pavement where airplanes are taxied

down runways with a cityscape backdrop of high-rises and smog. There

is ancient-looking stained wood paneling on the walls, and various

sporting man memorabilia, much like a theme restaurant. There’s

antique fly fishing rods and bolt action rifles mounted near

taxidermies of a vast array of wild beast and fish.

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I’m sitting at a circular wooden table with five other people in

black hoods. We all drink gin from dark hand-carved wooden cups. I

can taste the gin, and feel the familiar warmth of it flowing down my

throat. I have an eerie sense of perception in this dream world, now

– as I am familiar with it and comfortable in it, even while in a

dream state.

I ask one of the hooded figures where we’re headed. One turns

toward me, face shrouded by a shadowy black veil, who calmly mutters,

“Belize” in a low, but oddly reassuring whisper. I look past him

through the window to see a 1930’s era prop plane with what seemed

like yellowing canvas wings and ancient engines sputtering thick black

smoke. We all silently stand and file out the doorway to the tarmac,

where we are motioned by airport personnel to climb the staircase to

the airplane. At the base of the staircase, we meet the pilot, none

other than Teddy Roosevelt, 26th

president of the United States, long

since dead. I know by now that I am in for a hell of an adventure.

He’s not wearing a black cloak like us, he’s dressed in his

stereotypical suit and monocle, looking eerily similar to the monopoly

man.

After a long, bumpy ride low to the ground, which magically

lasted a short time in my dream world, we landed in a grassy airstrip

far away from any cityscape or natural feature I am familiar with,

though the terrain is obviously earthen. I’m used to having strange

dreams, and I’ve always taken extra care in noticing details so as to

broaden the experience.

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After getting off the airplane, we walk a few hundred feet down a

dirt trail to a horse stable, where we are told by Teddy to “mount and

ride” as we begin a single file descent on a dirt trail to the lush

river valley. There are wildflowers and long grasses growing

everywhere in this stunningly beautiful tract of land. We follow the

river to a delta, presumably now in Belize, where we are introduced to

a small, dark skinned, Spanish speaking man named Pietro, who motions

toward a small, rackety looking boat with a seemingly underpowered

outboard motor. Teddy politely takes his leave, with a graceful bow

and the tipping of his hat.

The figures and I board the boat, as Pietro sets off to sea from

the river delta, following close to shore. We bear south, with rocky

sandstone cliffs jutting up on our right side. The boat, although

sadly underpowered, makes its way slowly down the coast. Off in the

distance, I can see a canyon materialize from the fog on the horizon

that seems to be cut straight down by a narrow river. We turn into

the river, sailing down a corridor of sheer cliffs rising up at least

three hundred feet in the air. The river flows into a small circular

pool, also surrounded by sheer cliff faces with a small sandy beach

opening into a cave on the far side of the circle. Over the mouth of

the cave flows a raging waterfall, falling from the height of the rock

faces around us. I found myself wishing inside my dream that it

wasn’t a dream so I could take advantage of such a picturesque scene.

Pietro ties the boat ashore after running it up onto the beach.

He points, and for the first time speaks. His words come out as

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Spanish, but somehow I understand what he’s saying perfectly. My

Spanish is alright, but not nearly as good as it would have required

to understand what he was saying to me. He says “only one may enter.”

Sounds exciting, and I’m willing to bet it’s going to be me. Dreams

have a way of working out like that.

The hooded figures all bow their heads, and Pietro points at me

and says “You have been chosen,” and moves his gesture towards the

waterfall. The dream is not lucid, as I don’t have a necessarily

voluntary control of my body and thoughts, but I feel extremely

compelled to do as this man says. As I walk through the waterfall, I

turn back to see Pietro sailing the figures away back down the narrow

channel we had just sailed through. I take a deep breath and enter

the cave proper, which opens up into a surprisingly large cavern, with

an obvious path straight ahead, through a narrowing passage that fades

into darkness.

I take a burning torch from the wall, and proceed down the path.

After passing, I encounter another large room, where I see three doors

with distinctly Mayan looking carvings all over the walls and on the

posts and lintels of the door frames are perched three different

figures and symbols. On the farthest to the left, there is stylized

carving of a sun rising with rays radiating from a half circle.

Inside the pediment rests the figure of a bird with wings outstretched

to the sky. On the center door, there is a carving of a setting sun,

with rays radiating downwards, and a jaguar figure waiting to pounce.

On the right door, there is a circle with a dot in the center. Inside

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the pediment rests a crouched human figure with four faces, each

displaying an expression of excitement, sadness, happiness, and

ambivalence.

This is where it starts getting intense. I am compelled to

closely examine the door on the left. I press on the cold stone, and

hear a noise behind me. Wheeling around, I see Pietro standing in the

doorway, leaning on one wall. He calmly says, “witness the

beginning.”

The door fades away like a dissipating fog, and I see a grassy

hill on the other side. Stepping out onto the hill, I can see a

landscape that stretches as far as my eye can see. Gently rolling

hills and grassy fields reminiscent of the airstrip’s surrounding area

with one clear distinction. As I gaze above the horizon, I am

encountered with the night sky as it appears on Earth, just without

the familiar stars twinkling against the black backdrop of space. The

area around me is still lit somehow, and I can see as if it was

daylight, but the night sky seemed to be more clear and dynamic than I

was familiar with, despite the unnerving lack of stars.

As I focus my gaze on a nondescript point somewhere far in the

distance, a bright white dot of light appears, and rapidly grows

larger. I hear the shrieking scream of a giant bird as it swoops in

from the right side of my peripheral vision across my field of view

like a bolt of lightning. As it comes into contact with the dot in my

view, the universe seems to violently erupt and explode in front of my

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eyes, and the bird leaves in its wake the familiar night sky, with

millions of tiny speckles of light permeating the darkness.

As the bird passes my field of view back on the other side of the

horizon, I hear the word “witness” resound through the hills and

seemingly through space itself. A great gust of wind nearly knocks me

off of my feet as the ground begins to crack and break around me,

tossing me violently and making a god awful racket. As the hill I’m

standing on breaks off and appears as if it’s going to sink into the

abyss, it turns into a giant wooden sailing ship as the blowing grass

and crumbling earth transform into a raging ocean tempest, with

powerful wind and driving rain coming from black clouds that have

quickly rolled in from my left, obscuring my view of the sky as the

ambient light fades away. I look up to the tallest mast to see the

bird, now gilded, perched atop the mast like a harbinger of

destruction. I am no mariner, and that bird was no albatross.

With a burst of lightning, and an immediate loud crack of

thunder, the seas calm and the storm clouds fade away, revealing a

bright blue sky. I find myself floating in Pietro’s boat, staring at

the waterfall from the center of the cove. Pietro asks of me, “do you

wish to continue?” I never reply, at least not vocally, but I can

sense at this point that Pietro is some sort of guide, not there as a

part of the experience, but merely an arbiter. I step back onto the

shore, cross under the waterfall, and head back into the cave without

turning back.

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Where the door I entered had stood was now a ruinous pile of dead

looking stone, and the stone bird was nowhere to be found. I notice

the eyes of the stone jaguar above the middle door have turned an

iridescent glowing jade green, glinting in the light from my torch. I

hear Pietro say “proceed” from behind me, but I already know what must

be done. As I approach the door, it swings open, smacking the stone

wall with a tremendous thud resounding as the world around me fades

away. The ground disintegrates, and I float in space like I’m

swimming in a pool with no water. A cobblestone bridge appears under

my feet, bridging nothing, going nowhere, with no supports or final

destination in sight.

I start running as fast as I can towards the fading lines of the

bridge far off of in the distance. I notice that I am no longer

clothed in a black robe, but stark naked. I turn to my right to see a

jaguar running next to me and keeping pace. As I look into it’s eyes,

I hear Pietro’s voice softly speak the words “Witness the end.” The

Jaguar immediately speeds up to an incredible speed and screams “I am

the end” as it becomes a glimmering black and jade streak fading into

the horizon. I can see land materializing at the end of the bridge

where the jaguar’s figure has faded into the black. The bridge

terminates onto the grassy hilled landscape of my previous experience

in the last room. I see the unrestricted view of the dazzlingly clear

night sky. The golden bird screeches in the distance like it had

before, but as it reaches its apex, the Jaguar leaps from somewhere in

the hills and grabs it by the neck in mid arc.

105

Whoa.

Everything begins to rumble and quake around me again as the

universe begins to suck itself back inwards towards the point at the

center of my vision. I feel myself being pulled very quickly towards

the center along with the rest of the universe. The land around me

falls away as I begin to float past planets, comets, stars, asteroids,

nebulae, galaxies, and cosmic debris as I come to a stop, floating

just outside our own solar system. I arrive just in time to see the

golden bird burst from the center of the sun as the planets align like

pigs for slaughter allowing the bird to blow through them like a

bullet through glass. As I watch our entire solar system get

systematically destroyed one planet at a time, I start rushing with

the cloud of debris quickly toward the center of the universe

(apparently.) I hit it, which happens very chaotically with the

spaghettification and the whole nine yards, and everything turns

black. In the distance, I see the fading specter of a jaguar in the

distance carrying the now limp and stone colored bird proudly in its

jaws by the broken neck.

The cave rises above me in an instant, and the second door has

now crumbled to dust and the third door is left wide open, with Pietro

perched at the top. He’s crouched in the same position as the figure

had been previously. He looks me sharply in the eyes, catching me off

guard, and says “witness your true nature. You have no choice.”

With that, he jumps from his perch, walks coldly past me and through

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the waterfall where he dives into the water and swims top speed toward

the river on the opposite side.

I reluctantly enter the room on the other side of the open door,

where I am confronted with a small circular stone room that seemed

like a castle tower. Light comes in through skylights in the rafters,

and the air seems musty and thick with dust that scatters the light

into visible beams stretching down to the floor. The beams of light

fall on various broken and fading musical instruments surrounded by

crumpled up pieces of loose leaf notebook paper. The floor is sandy,

but firm to walk on, and I pace about the room trying to make sense of

the crumpled paper and broken instruments. I glance over to a broken

half of a cello, as a puff of smoke rises taking the form of Pietro

who has a sad look on his face. He seems reluctant, yet determined to

speak as he slowly utters “We cannot go forward, it has been

interrupted.”

As he says those words, I am shocked back into reality by the

screeching yelp of my alarm clock next to my head. I rub my eyes in

angered disbelief, and violently strike the snooze button. I fall

quickly back asleep, and find myself in an obvious tourist shop. I

look around to notice that the shop décor is uncannily similar to the

décor in the airport lounge. I walk over to a map display, and pick

up a map that says “A sailing sportsman’s guide to the coastlines of

Belize.”

I tear open the map and frantically try to locate the cove I had

been occupying, to no avail. I feel a tap on my shoulder and turn

107

around to see a fat middle aged woman with graying hair and a camera

strapped around her neck. She flashes a friendly smile and says “Did

you take the coastal tour? These things always seem to end way too

soon.”

“You wouldn’t believe the half of it, lady,” I say with a movie

star smirk. As I look over her shoulder and across the room, I see

Pietro leaning against a rack of pastel shot glasses staring right at

me over the brim of a wooden gin cup grinning wryly as my snooze fires

up again. I tear the alarm clock from the outlet and throw it across

the room unable to fall asleep again as I’m forced to accept that I

can’t find my true nature in a dream, and have to get ready for work.

Dreams are very interesting. I’m not much for interpreting

dreams, nor do I believe that they necessarily have meaning. There

just seems to be some dreams that scream “I’m trying to tell you

something.” I remember watching a movie called Waking Life that

brought up the cool little pseudo-philosophical idea that you can re-

live your entire life, or have a different life entirely, in the dream

world in the first few minutes before your death. It was interesting.

Mostly avant-garde and artsy, but the point got across. There’s a few

sequences near the end about lucid dreaming and finding out if you’re

in the dream world. It’s worth a watch if you ever get the chance.

It just goes to show you how some people can find meaning in the

strangest parts of the world. There always seems to be some new angle

on an idea you’ve heard a thousand times, and as soon as you think

you’ve gained an understanding about something in this constantly

108

changing world, you’ll come to realize that you don’t know a fucking

thing.

109

Part Two

The Present

110

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