Venus & Mars
by Melody Medley
Mars and Venus, accompanied by a geologist and a surveyor, stood on a ridge overlooking their quickly flooding valley. The professionals theyíd hired had determined that the landslide was permanent and that an attempt at blasting it away would be futile, only bringing more of the mountain down into the gorge. The surveyor had determined that the property that Venus and Mars had acquired amounted to just under 15,000 acres and that the lake will consume just over a third of that before it begins to spill out over the plug in the gorge in a waterfall at the other end. It was also determined that the land where the gold mine was located would not be under water but that it would be an island when the water stopped rising, in about a year, depending on the rainfall. "Guess we better buy a boat, huh?" Venus remarked as they watched the two men drive away.
Mars was having second thoughts about his new home, it just wouldnít be the same. Mars turned and stared into the flooding valley below. He gazed into the scenery until he wasnít really looking at it any more, until he looked through it or past it, in a trance-like state. He was imaging all his favorite places in the forest gradually becoming swampy, trees falling from lack of support in the supersaturated soil. He imagined all the animals that would be flooded out of their burrows, dens and hollow logs. He tried to picture the future shoreline and shape of the lake now forming. He even thought about the town of Mirage and that reminded him of his dear lost friends Karl and John. Would they return with the town, only to materialize deep under water? Suddenly, he was seized by an hallucination that he was in a sort of dentistís chair with a big bright light above him, there were silhouettes of two men standing over him and one of them was shaking him hard by the shoulders and pleading with him in a loud voice to Ďsnap out of it!í over and over. Everything had a fish-eye lens look. Mars looked at the two men pleadingly, while he tried but couldnít say, - ĎWhat are you talking about, Iím fine, thereís nothing wrong with me!í. Nothing would come out of his mouth. He noticed he was strapped into the chair and there were wires attached to his body at various places, most of them attached to his head. All he knew was he wanted to get out of there, desperately. Mars pleaded with the men to let him go but again nothing came out of his mouth. Venusí hand on his shoulder snapped him out of it with a start.
"You OK?" She asked.
With a shudder, Mars shook the incident off, blinking hard to regain his focus in this world. He noticed he was dripping sweat. He stretched his neck and shoulders as he looked into the valley one more time, then he turned to gaze at the new King- size RV that Venus bought, now parked fifty feet away, gleaming like some Monument to the Sub-genius Suburbanite. It was hard to decide now which hallucination was more frightening - that waking nightmare or this thing that stood before him.
"You like it?" Venus smiled. "Itís got everything. I mean everything! Itís like Louis XIV decorated the space shuttle or something. Címon!" She said, taking him by the arm.
"Let me give you the fifty-cent tour. Aside from the decor, this oneís almost like the one the president has, except mine doesnít have all that communications and spy stuff."
This was no Winnebago, it was a top-of-the-line stainless steel luxury liner made for the King of Arabia or somebody, the salesman told her, and it was never picked up. Venus ran down the list of features her new wheels offered: Bullet-proof body and glass, global positioning system, short-wave radio, two cell phones, big-screen satellite TV, stereo, computer, VCR, microwave, fridge, wet-bar, waterbed, generator, the list went on. She told Mars about the great deal she got on it, as she sat proudly behind the wheel, but Mars didnít hear the price. His attention was drawn to the amenities. White silk, gold fixtures everywhere, Persian rugs, leather upholstery, excellent craftsmanship but gaudy beyond belief. On the wall there was a bank of switches, all the labels where in Arabic. All of this was in stark contrast to the world outside the large tinted, bullet-proof picture window Mars gazed out of.
Venus, grasping the steering wheel, stared through the windshield, daydreaming about her newfound wealth and freedom, smiling at the prospect. Her attention was drawn by several people standing directly in front of her RV, waving their arms at her. It was as if her van had been magically transported away from that ridge top and was now in what looked like a laboratory somewhere and people in lab coats were shouting at her through the windshield. She couldn't hear them. Venus blinked her eyes hard several times but the people were still there.
"Who are you?! Where am I?!" She shouted at them.
"What?" Mars asked as he cocked his head in her direction. "What was that?" At the sound of Marís voice, the apparition was gone.
"It seemed so real." She said in a low voice while trying to erase it from her memory. "Uh, never mind." She said turning her chair to face Mars.
She came and sat with him on the white leather sofa facing the picture window. Though she could plainly see the scenic vista through the picture window across from her, Venus kept glancing toward the windshield to make sure the apparition wasnít still there. The subject turned to their futures. They had already decided to split everything fifty-fifty. The gold theyíd found in the living space in the mine was enough for both of them to remain fabulously wealthy for the rest of their lives, so there was no need to tear the mountain apart to get to whatever gold remained there. Mars decided to stay here at the lake and live on his island and the land around the lake just as he had before. He had no need for money or any of the other trappings of civilization for that matter. Venus would do whatever she decided when she got up each morning. She could now afford to. They both once again reaffirmed their desire to part their ways.
It all seemed rather anti-climactic after all theyíd been through; a thought that made Mars uncomfortable. He knew there was no ridding himself of this woman. Their paths were interwoven across many levels of existence, it seemed. "What would it take to break this cycle?", He thought to himself. Instead of avoiding her, should I pursue her? Should I make love to her? Marry her? Kill her? Kill myself? What? Tell me, what am I supposed to do? Can the cycle be broken? Should the cycle be broken? Is there some higher design at work? However incompatible they may be, he knew that any attempt to divert from the course fate had chosen for them was an exercise in futility.
"Ya know what?" said Venus, interrupting Marís daydream. "I think Iím going to do what I was doing before I met that old Indian. You know, travel Ďround the country? Writing poetry and takiní pictures? I was never so happy in my life. And if you want to stay here and live like a caveman hermit even though youíre filthy rich, and your beautiful valley is all destroyed by flood and everything, well, I think thatís beautiful."
"Itís not destroyed," Mars corrected her. "Itís metamorph- . . . itís changing. Itís just different now.
After a few uncomfortably silent moments, they said their farewells. Mars walked out the door without looking back and headed almost straight down the hill to the waterís edge. He waded out as far as he could and then began to swim, working his way through the forest flooded with calm water. He made his way to the ridge that would become his island to await the rising water.
After watching Mars disappear over the hill and into the woods, Venus strapped herself into the driverís seat and pulled her rig out onto the road. She had no destination in mind. No maps, no timetables. Sheíd simply drive and take whatever road looked good. She made a mental note to stay away from military property.
Two months later she was out on the open road of a major interstate highway thinking about what might be good for lunch when a glass of water thrown in her face almost caused her to wreck her vehicle. She quickly pulled onto the shoulder of the road and stopped. It was then that she realized she wasnít wet. She looked at the seat and all around her. Nothing, not a drop.
Wait a minute. You donít just imagine a cold glass of water being thrown in your face. Donít tell me Iíve got poltergeist in my RV. She cautiously pulled back onto the road and stopped at the first overpass she came to and pulled over underneath it. It was out in the middle of nowhere. Venus could see for miles in each direction and there was not a building in sight. There was hardly any traffic either. She went to the back of the RV and sat on the couch facing the big window. As she looked out she could make out some kind of markings on the cement foundation of the overpass. They were numbers, they looked like some kind of calculations. They didnít make any sense to her, they looked complicated and there were a lot of them. She thought for a moment that they might be graffiti left there by an alien life-form. Then she laughed at the silly thought. She still wondered why anyone would come all the way out here to do their homework. Perhaps some eccentric mathematician driving down this road pulled under here to work out some problem. If Mars had been there he wouldíve recognized the writing.
Venus studied the writing outside her window for a while. Then her thoughts returned to the facefull of water that she imagined. She wondered how it was possible to imagine some thing so real. Certainly a lot of strange things have happened to her but this was different. Her mind eventually wandered off to other things until finally, she nodded off to sleep.
When she woke again she was startled by waking up in a strange place. This wasnít her RV, everything was different. It was more cramped. There were lots of dials, switches and meters on panels on the walls all around her. "This looks like a submarine." she thought to herself. She looked around for a window. She found a small, thick-glassed window and peered out. It was a submarine and it was submerged! A mini-sub! Venus told herself not to panic, but it was too weird. She scrambled around the tiny interior of the craft as if she was looking for something, looking out of all the portholes and into the cabinets, until finally settling into the pilotís seat. Immediately the craftís electric motors quietly came to life and began to slowly move through the water. Venus could see out of a small window in front of her, the subís spot lights would illuminate anything that came within their range. At the moment there was only a deep blue water. She looked around for some way to steer the thing. There was a joystick in front of her and she grabbed it but in the featureless deep before her there was no way to tell what direction she was going. She wanted to go up, thatís all she cared about at the moment. She pulled up a little on the stick and looked around for a depth gauge. There was one clearly marked and she watched as the dial indicated her ascent. When the sub broke the surface she opened the top hatch and went up to have a look around.
She was in a lake. She could see the shore in every direction and it wasnít very far away. There was an island too. It was then that she realized that this was Mars' lake. She closed the hatch and pointed the sub toward the island. When it reached the shore the sub just kept going, climbing right up out of the water and heading straight up the hill. It drove right up to the mine as Mars came running out to greet it, at least Venus thought it was Mars. When the sub came to a stop and she threw open the hatch she was surprised to see that it wasnít Mars, it was her mother. Venus, dumbfounded, looked down at her mom who was waving her arms at her pleading, "Please, why donít you stop this nonsense and come home, dear? This has gone on long enough, honey. Now itís time to wake up and come home!" Venus could only stare at her, slack-jawed. What the hell was she talking about, this dream? What home? Both her parents are deceased. Thereís no home to go home to.
Venus jumped down from the submarine and landed just outside the door to her RV, parked next to the math equations under the highway overpass. She looked around herself just to make sure she was where she thought she was. She thought it had to be a dream, but what did it mean? First the lab outside the windshield, then the imaginary glass of water in her face, now this. Was this a dream too? Had she been dreaming or . . . something, since that day she and Mars fell out the window together? Could it be possible that she is really be in a hospital bed somewhere, in a coma or something? What? What could be going on that could explain whatís been happening? What about Mars, is he real, or is he too just part of this dream or what ever it is? Venus tried to make sense of it all but she was too confused. She was in no condition to drive but she was afraid to go back into the RV and lie down for fear of what she might dream.
And so it was that she found herself making a campfire under that lonely underpass as the sun set in the distance. As the sunlight faded and the campfire grew, Venusí attention was drawn again to the figures and equations scrawled on the cement wall before her. Like some modern cave-paintings they began to take on a life of their own, dancing in the light of the crackling fire. She thought how intriguing an illusion it was. Ironically, these were some of the equations that Karl had used to reach his conclusion that reality itself is an illusion.
Way Out West ©1993 Martin Scherer. Venus & Mars © 1995 Martin Scherer. E-mail: Scherer@tesserak.net