Chapter 12

Venus & Mars

by Polly Eurothane

The sirens of a fire-truck passing her motel pulled Venus out of the altered state she was in while reliving last night's dream. She blinked her eyes, looked at her watch without noticing the time, then finished the coffee at the bottom of her cup. In contrast with last night's dream, it was bitter and cold. Mars was firmly lodged in her mind now, a prominent fixture. She wondered if this was some kind of omen or just an innocent dream. She wondered too, if those unfortunate things Mars spoke of in the dream had really happened to him or if it was just the fiction of a dream, and if they really did happen, did he blame her for his woes? It was a powerful dream, unlike any she'd ever had but it was, after all, only a dream, wasn't it? She busied herself gathering up her things so she could get back on the road again. She'd have to think about it later, it was checkout time and she was anxious to get back on the road. When her car was loaded and she had checked out of the motel, she spread a map out on the hood of her car and looked for and interesting destination. It looked like it was going to turn out to be a beautiful day and she was in a mood to take some photographs.
Venus had decided that the photos she took on this trip were going to fall into two categories: Nature and Civilization. She was in the mood for nature today. She had a few more rolls of film left and she wanted to use them up. She hadn't developed any of the pictures she'd taken on this trip yet, she was going to send them all in at once when she shot up all her film. After checking the map, she decided to take a route that led gradually down into the dessert. Once across the dessert, she'd make her way up and over the mountains to the West where she would start looking for a place to spend the night. She planned on taking her time, stopping along the way to take photographs.
Before Venus got in her car to drive away, she put her video camera on the roof of her car, facing toward the hood and taking in the highway disappearing toward the horizon and turned it on. She went around to the front of the car and facing the camera, made up this poem on the spot and recited it aloud.

"Follow that trail of asphalt
As long as you may dare.
I take that road just because
It is the road to Nowhere."

Venus turned off the camera and got in the car and pulled out onto the highway. She took a deep breath and smiled at what a perfect day it was. She really enjoyed this road trip, even if there were some strange events along the way, they only made the trip more interesting. Any one of the things that had happened to her could have happened to anyone, but what were the chances that all of them would happen to one person? She was discovering the artist inside her as well. She never really knew she had it in her. She had only been a housewife before. Not that housewife was a lowly 'profession', it's just that this housewife had no life. She had a job as an air-traffic controller which kept her tied to a set of headphones and a radar screen most of the day, but her husband expected her to keep house, cook and do laundry as well. Raised to live in a lets-play-house world in dreary suburbia, she was taught that this is what a woman was to expect. A world of TV's and shopping malls. She had a husband and a well paying job but not enough time to even get a thought in or out of her head. She looked back at her former life and saw a zombie. She was out of the Rat-race now, into the hot and cold light of this beautiful and dangerous reality. Now every day was a new discovery. It was like seeing everything for the first time. She never felt better and she liked it. Yeah, she liked it a lot.

John doctored the egg-sized knot on Mar's forehead with a cold wet cloth as they sat around the morning campfire. Karl began to prepare biscuits and coffee for breakfast. John almost laughed as he wrung out the cloth and dipped it into a pot of spring water, "You're lucky you didn't hit your nose or your mouth. You really would've done some damage. You're not bleeding, there's just a little abrasion but you've got a world-class bump there, my friend".
"I'm afraid that without ice to bring down that swelling, you're going to look like Frankenstien in a few hours." Karl added, "I hope you didn't give yourself a concussion, my boy."
Mars groaned.
John, folded the wet cloth into a thick pad and placed it on the bump. "Hold this in place. It's the coldest thing we can come up with out here." Then as he dried his hands he asked Mars, "What was that you said when you woke - It's her? It was her? Or something like that?"
Mars winced, "It was that . . that . . woman! You know the one - don't say her name out loud, please?! In a dream . . in some old-fashion town . . she was there . . we were . . it was . . we ended up . . weird . . it . . we, you know, . . and then the house caught on fire . . ". He drifted off then returned. "I asked her to take the curse off me. We made passionate love as the house burned down around us but we were untouched. Then I woke up and . . damn!" He began to sob. "How long is this going to go on?"
John tried to convince Mars once again that there was nothing to his fear from this you-know-who person and that there was no curse - that it was all in his head. He tried to make Mars see that he was doing this to himself - even if it was unconscious. He told him he simply had to get this notion out of his head. John tried to get Karl to back him up on this.
Karl dished out their simple breakfast without having said anything. When they were all settled back eating, Karl, staring up into the trees as if what he was about to say was written up there somewhere, began slowly. "You know, I've have devoted some thought to this subject. Last night before I nodded off to sleep, for some unexplainable reason, it occurred to me that yesterdays incident was somehow related to the relationship between Mars and his nemesis, who goes by the name of another planet. I know, it makes no sense but if you'll indulge me for a moment I'll throw some ponderables at you, much the way they came to me before I fell asleep. Let's see if we can draw a conclusion from any of this." He paused to gather his thoughts while John topped off everybody's coffee cups. "I first found it ironic that these people, who happened to be named after planets, which are named after ancient gods - one Greek, the other Roman, planets which, by the way, could never have come in close physical contact with each other, but the people did meet. In fact, they collided and fell out a window and then collided with two other individuals. Which, by the way kept You-Know-Who and Mars from colliding with Earth. Secondly, two opposites: a man, a woman. A sane person and one who is mad. We have two individuals from separate cultural strata, economically and socially. They are for all intents and purposes, opposites. Now, follow me if you will, into the world of atomic particles. Sometimes, in theory a least, when two particles collide they create other particles. Sometimes they recombine into the same particles and sometimes they recombine into different particles. Sometimes they go through a series of changes before recombining or shattering off into ever smaller particles. Sometimes they create particles that actually move backward in time. When a particle and an anti-particle collide they obliterate each other. We can't see any of this of course but it can be proven mathematically. We've merely proven to ourselves scientifically that time-travel is possible. That's because of the theory of relativity. Everything is defined by its' relationship to something else. What something is depends on the context from which it is observed. In short: it all depends on your point of view."
"And our conclusion is . . ?" Mars asked, holding out his free hand toward Karl.
"Well, for one thing," John said, "You can look at life as a Great Adventure or a series of woeful events. It really all depends on you."
"But you've got to admit," Mars said with a look of puzzlement, "the things that have happened to me . . they're not your typical run-of-the-mill, life-as-usual events. That stuff doesn't happen to everybody but they happened to me, one after the other. My life was normal in every sense of the word until I met her. My life has been totally destroyed. Look at me. I'm a caveman, squatting around a campfire."
John beamed. "Isn't it great!? You can't have a great adventure sitting in front of a TV set where nothing can happen to you, can you?"
Karl cleared his throat. "There is some truth to what he is saying, my boy. Any one of those events you described could have killed you . . but they didn't. That is something important to consider."
Mars dipped the cloth into the cold water and wrung it out, folded it into a thick square and placed it back on the bump on his forehead. In an attempt to change the subject without changing the subject he said with a sigh, "I want to go back to that town today, guys."
"That's the spirit, my young friend!" John said as he rose and threw the remainder of the coffee in his cup into the fire. "Let's do it."
So back they went, through the woods and over the hidden bridge, right into town on main street. Mars laughed out loud. His head pounded when he laughed but he couldn't help it. His friends stood there dumbfounded. It was a ghost town again! Run down buildings, trees growing in the streets and through the buildings. Now it was Karl and John doubting their sanity. They looked at each other, jaws agape. They ran up and down the street looking left and right. They looked into the store where they had shopped yesterday. It was gutted and totally dilapidated, the roof was gone. John and Karl sat down on the crumbling boardwalk shaking their heads in disbelief.
"Guess we owe you an apology, my boy." John said putting his hand on Mar's shoulder. "Let's see what the residential part of town looks like."
"This is very intriguing, my boy. I am at a loss for words." Karl whispered to Mars. "Forgive us for doubting you. This is indeed a puzzling phenomenon."
The whole town consisted of an L-shaped main street and about twenty houses in the residential area surrounding it. A block away, up a slight incline was what was once a neat row of houses on either side of the street. Their yards were defined by fences now held up only by the weeds growing chest-high around the houses. About halfway up the street on the right they came upon a house that appeared to have recently burned to the ground. Mars stopped dead in his tracks and gasped. He could hardly believe his eyes. Right in the middle of the ashes was an area that was not burned, not even charred. He ran to the spot and pointed down to it excitedly.
"This is it! This is the house in the dream! See? This is the spot that didn't burn! The candelabra started the fire in that room!" He said pointing to where the sitting room was. He started telling his friends the dream as he remembered it, walking them through it.
Karl walked into the former sitting room and kicked around in the ashes. John joined him. The ashes were cold but the smell of the fire still lingered. Mars sat on the unburned spot recounting his dream as if in a trance. When he finished he looked up at his friends standing before him. Karl stood there with a candelabra in his hand and John had the remains of the half burned blanket. The blanket he gave Mars yesterday.
Mars started to do the theme from the Twilight Zone.

Venus had stopped at the last stand of timber before the highway rolled down the Western side of the last ridge before the dessert. She got some nice shots, through the trees, of the dessert below with the purple mountains capped with snow in the background. On the map, the dessert area below was marked as government property, a military training area. You couldn't tell from here though, there were no buildings or roads to be seen. The areas on both sides of the highway were rough terrain, sun-baked boulders, canyons, and dry washes sparsely dotted with tough, spiky dessert plants. The view from here is deceptive; it's a lot further across that dessert than it looks.
Out on that secondary highway with no other cars in sight, Venus began the slow descent out of the cool of the high-country into the baking heat of the dessert. The road shot across the dessert in a perfectly straight black line disappearing somewhere in that bright buff-colored expanse. Venus gazed out the open windows to the left and right taking in the beauty of the multicolored layers of rock in the road-cuts and canyon walls. Thick ribbons of violet separated by thinner layers of tan and red and gray. Layers of orange and black and gold stacked like some prehistoric petite-four in the hard light of the clear, hot blue sky. She stopped and took some more photos at the point where the highway comes out of the canyons of the foot hills and the terrain smoothes out.
As she pulled out onto the road again, Venus thought she spotted somebody at the side of the road way up ahead. She began scanning the view from her car noticing the changing landscape as she began to enter the arid valley. When she looked ahead again the person who was next to the highway was gone. Venus thought it was her imagination and forgot about it. She did notice how beautiful the dessert really is. Far from being drab and monotonous, it's a colorful and interesting place when you get close up with it. As Venus turned her head to look at the road again, there was a man standing right in the middle of it. She slammed on the breaks and skidded while he just stood there nearly naked and quite calm. Venus steered to miss him and the car skidded sideways. The passenger's side door stopped right in front of the naked man. He opened the door and got in.
"Thanks." He said looking at Venus, who was still straight-armed and panting at the wheel, her foot still jammed down on the break pedal.
Venus, wide-eyed, teeth clenched, slowly turned her head and looked at the nearly naked, what appeared to be, Indian sitting next to her. "What're you, crazy!! I almost killed you! Don't ever stand in the middle of the highway!"
"Sorry." Said the man who wore only sandals, a loincloth, a cloth headband and a red carved stone on a strip of leather around his neck.
Venus looked back at the skid marks she left on the road, shaking her head as she pulled the car back into the right lane and proceeded in the direction she had been traveling. Then she hit the breaks again, coming to a stop. "Wait a minute!" She said throwing up her hands excitedly, "What the hell am I doing?! What do you think you're doing? Get out of my car!"
"You called me from the rock. I came." The Indian was calm but puzzled. "So, here I am. You stopped and picked me up, didn't you?" He didn't look like he planned on getting out of the car.
"What do you mean, I called you? I don't even know who you are!" Venus laughed in disbelief.
"I am Wohaka. You summoned me from the rock."
"The rock? . . . the rock? What rock?" Venus thought to herself. "This guy's cra . . wait a minute. The rock cliff above the campsite were she met the time-travelers?! No, he can't be serious." Then she said aloud. "That was no incantation I did up there. That was catharsis, totally ad-libbed, spontaneous. Could I have conjured you up by accident?" Venus couldn't believe this was happening let alone the fact that she was having a serious conversation about it.
"It was no accident. Even if you don't know the chant, your spirit does."
"Well then, why did it take you so long to get here?" Venus asked, knowing that the evening on the rock was over 400 hundred miles and over a week ago away.
"I am an old man. I don't get around as good as I used to. Besides your machine moves you around pretty fast. You passed me several times already. I had to make sure you would see me."
"Are you for real?" Venus asked.
"I'm as real as that thing you call your self." He replied matter-of-factly.
"Well, all right, you're here." Venus responded. "Now what?"
"You drive. I'll talk to your spirit awhile."
Venus and her passenger traveled the next ten miles or so in silence. Venus didn't know what to make of this guy, though she didn't feel threatened by him. He seemed real enough. She could hear him breathing. She could smell his natural but pleasant odor. He didn't look exceptionally old, in his sixties maybe and quite fit and healthy looking. He sat there serenely staring straight ahead in silence with a pleasant expression on his face. The more she thought about it, the more she came to the realization that this whole trip was a series of strange events. This was nothing compared to some of the other things that had happened. Besides, just because something is strange doesn't mean it's bad.
As Venus drove, she continued to take in the dessert scenery as she pondered her new situation. The road ahead seemed to get shorter. The further she drove, the shorter the distance she could see ahead of her. The road and everything else seemed to disappear into a haze. It was perfectly clear on either side of the highway where her car was. Venus thought it must be the heat or something that caused this illusion.
Before long Wohaka turned to Venus and told her what he had learned from conversing with her spirit. Her spirit told him that Venus had finally found herself but had gotten lost in the process and wasn't aware of it. He told Venus that her spirit was very concerned about her and had called him to protect her. Her spirit thought that something would happen very soon and that he, Wohaka, because he was the strongest spirit in these parts, would be the only one who could prevent harm from coming to Venus.
"So you're the spirit of . . what?" asked Venus wondering how her spirit knew this Indian spirit. As far as she knew she didn't have any Indian blood in her.
The old Indian took his time answering the question. "I'm afraid there is no word in your language for what I am. I guess you could say - in your language - that: I negotiate deals with fate."
A bolt of fear ran through Venus' mind. She thought, "What could happen that I might need this guy's services? And what was the price?" She'd had some pretty close calls already. Could there be something worse in her future?
Suddenly, dead ahead, there was a dense cloud the same color as the dessert. It was a sandstorm and before she knew what it was Venus was already in it. The wind howled and sand blasted the car. She let the car slow down and looked at Wohaka, who didn't appear to be disturbed in the least about the storm.
"Should I drive through it or turn around?" She asked. "I mean, how big are these things usually? Will it hurt my car? What should I do?"
"The answer to your questions are: It's up to you. It depends. Yes, a little and It's up to you."
Visibility at this point was very, very poor. Venus slowed the car to a crawl. By now the road was covered with sand making it impossible to tell if she was on the road. Venus decided to turn the car around and get out of the storm and wait until it blew out. She swung the car wide and made a left hand U-turn. At least she thought she did, for it wasn't long before the rough ride told her that she had left the pavement. She kept the car at a crawl and squinted in vain to see where she was going. The car scraped by some thorny brush and cacti and the ride got rougher. Wohaka calmly sat in silence.
Venus, realizing the futility of her efforts, stopped the car, turned off the engine and threw up her hands. "We might as well just wait it out." She said with an air of resignation. She'd never experienced a sandstorm before. Now that she was actually inside one, there wasn't much to see. Visibility was zero. Aside from the car itself, there was nothing to see. Everything outside had turned into an angry mass of hot, abrasive wind. She laughed slightly as she scanned the view from her car windows. "Now there's something you can't take a picture of." Wohaka, staring at the buff colored blur raging outside the car, simply nodded his head in the affirmative.
(to be continued.)


Way Out West ©1993 Martin Scherer. Venus & Mars © 1995 Martin Scherer. E-mail: