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Visions from Space

Part I: Corporal Shickelgruber's Epiphany

The star of destiny passed over Victoria Cuthbertson by a narrow margin, but with increased velocity rammed straight into a certain Austrian petty officer.


Corporal Shickelgruber exclaimed! The Austrian scrambled up a few feet from the trench, forgetting the war, forgetting the enemy across the tangled wire, shell-holes and craters of No Man's Land.

"Sehr schon!"

Blazing red, the star--for it moved too slowly for a shell or rocket flare--appeared out of the thick clouds hanging over the blackened, corpse-strewn warscape, so close it lit his upturned face with a vermillion glow.

Shickelgruber's Vision

The star hovered above the corporal and a nearby tree with a pair of legs snagged in the bare branches. Though there were no shepherds (they and their sheep were blown up), and there certainly were no wise men on camels, something was born in an allied soldier of the Second Reich--a vision of the Third that would, to his reckoning, last forever.

When the natal star was gone, vanished back into the poison-gas and swirling mist, Shickelgruber stumbled and fell into his trench, a changed man, no longer a confused and fear-driven clot of humanity like the rest.

Had anyone else witnessed the wondrous star? He looked about, but from the sodden, hopeless looks of his comrades--fourteen men in a line bent over in despair of their lives--apparently not!

"Have some cabbage soup, Herr Corporal!" offered someone holding a mud-spattered, discarded helmet upturned for the purpose. The man belched and wiped his mouth with a filthy sleeve. "It makes my stomach ache and my eyes run, you take it! swill!"

After watching the fellow gulp it down anyway, the corporal slogged on through the mixed straw, human feces, and mud to be by himself.

Was this all life offered a man? No! He knew different, now that the wondrous Star had shed its rays of Destiny upon him! Instead of the filth and ruin around him, all he could see was the glorious, new Third Reich that was spread before him like a magnificent Wagnerian opera performed in the Kaiser's golden palace. In that sense, he had been given a Gift from afar. He sat down on an overturned bucket, for no better seat was available for the Man of Destiny, and thought about what he had just seen--a radiant aurora borealis slowly cooling in his brain. Suddenly, it flamed and flooded back with all its urgency, and he thought he might burst a vessel in his head, it swelled him up so tremendously.

In a flash he saw everything again--the world, not as it was, but as it could be. And was that Caesar or Napoleon high on a golden pillar, the armies clean and joyful marching in perfect step, arms extended in salute? No, it was himself! Herr Shickelgruber!

Shickelgruber on a Golden Column

As the Vision renewed and played behind the corporal's upturned, unblinking eyes, he felt the surge of superhuman will and power that would make him greater than Caesar or Napoleon. Far greater, indeed! And, most significantly, everything came clear in his mind, which had been churning with the tumult of conflicting views and ideals right up to the moment of his epiphany beneath the Star of Destiny.

Now all was changed for him forever! Everything had fallen into perfect order and place in the mind, heart, and soul of this product of a young woman's irregular conception. He knew the glorious Order of the Universe, the one that he had been called by the Star of Destiny to impose upon the wayward, lost Earth! He was the Messiah, the Leader of Humanity who would save the world! That fact established beyond doubt, dare anyone living call his father and mother's union into question? Dare anyone call him illegitimate, a bastard? That one was a dead man.

But first things first: get Germany in order by true German governance. Instead of filth and humiliation, there would be classical Teutonicpurityandhonor, Lockstepmarching and Germanorder instead of unspeakable Slavonicchaos, Onesuperioraryanfolk instead of many! He, the Supreme Leader, knew exactly how to restore Germany to its full glory as Earth's reigning head.

It was all so simple, so easy to achieve with a little sacrifice by everybody! Why hadn't any German leader thought of doing it before? Why? He alone, Adolph Shickelgruber, knew the answer. German political leaders had all been traitors, spineless compromisers with the true enemy, grasping, banking, conspiring Internationaljewry! Jewry was the reason Germany was in such a sorry state! Get rid of Jewry and Germany would blossom overnight into a paradise! There was no other cause of her humiliation and subjection to lesser nations like Britain, France, and America! And as soon as he could he would do something about Jewry, if it was the last thing he ever did! He had dreamed of a vocation in the service of the Church, then of Art, but this--this was better. Oh, so much better! He would enter the arena of action, political action, and with his world-changing Vision set Germany straight, followed by Europe, and next the whole Earth!

The corporal had a lot to think about in the following days as he began speaking to anyone who would listen to his Vision of the New Germany and her Renaissance as World Leader. The wondrous star that had come to him on the Western Front, in the dead quiet between two storms of artillery, made sure of that. Beside these motivations--his patriotism, his sense of Germany's destiny to lead the world, which meant he intended to rescue Germany from her foes and restore her to greatness--there was the existence of the Hollow Earth and the superhumans inhabiting the subterranean cities. That wasn't part of the original Vision itself, to be sure, but since the day the young, struggling artist Shickelgruber happened upon a book about the Hollow Earth in a Vienna bookshop and began reading things he knew to be absolute truth, his whole outlook had changed irrevocably. The Star of Desiny's visitation had only confirmed what he already believed. The tattered, little monograph convinced him even more of its authenticity due to its modest appearance. It was a privately published acount of an anonymous author who begged to remain nameless, "lest he suffer persecution from the corrupt hierarchy of the universities' scholarly establishment for divulging the facts of his research.". The little treatise had given him the vital reason to wake Germany up to the hidden peril of the Hollow Earthmen. Would Germany believe his warnings? He decided the intellectuals, polluted by Jew-ridden academics, would laugh it off, and so it was best for Germany for him to keep the whole highly sensitive subject secret, and only go publicly against the Hollow Earth when the Earth was fully under his control. Only then would he announce the Hollow Earth's intentions to subjugate the surface nations of the Earth. Until the Star had come along, he hadn't the slightest hope of acquiring the necessary power in his hands to seize Germany's helm and prepare means for resisting the Hollow Earthmen. But ever since the Star had seen fit to enlarge his opinion of his own capabilities he knew he could not fail.

Part II, Envoy to the Hollow Earth

Herr Shickelgruber's timetable fortunately ran out of time--the hourglass sands drained to a trickle and then stopped falling, and that was the factor that defeated him, Time, not Allied bombing or Allied strategy or America's numberless war-factories. In all key technology he held the winning edge right to the moment of his utter defeat. But it took time to implement technology that would turn Germany's enemies back and crush their war machines--a most critical war resource he no longer possessed and could not possibly synthesize. One of the things he would have done, if he had only found time to do so, was to ferret out and destroy the Hollow Earth super-civilization, for there could be, in his Nazified Earth no room for two super-civilizations! Theirs had to go! Convinced that the Hollow Earthmen were his greatest foes--not Britain, America, and Russia--he had planned to send in his elite SS along with crack Panzer divisions, not to mention U-2s and the Doomday Weapon, the Atomic Bomb. Only a few at the top echelons knew how important this was to Shickelgruber. As it happened, he only had time to send a certain exploratory mission via Himmler's organization. Top Secret, it was coded, under Gestapo-head Heinrich Himmler's oversight: Operation Nibelungen, or, acronymically, O-N. Why "Nibelungen"? It was obvious to any German of his era, meaning the famous race of dwarves of old mythology who were believed to hoard fabulous stocks of gold and treasure beneath the Rhine called the Rheingeld, as well as dragons' hoards of jewels in caves deep in the earth. Richard Wagner, Germany's premier romanticist and opera composer of the previous century, had made the dwarves, the Nibelungen, world-famous. Convinced the story was true, pointing not so much to dwarves but a race of cunning man-like creatures inhabiting the Hollow Earth, Adolph Shickelgruber was determined to made contact. "Find them at once!" he ordered Heinrich Himmler.

Himmler in turn gave the same explicit orders to a certain authority on the subject: "Find them, deliver der Fuehrer's letter, and report back, Herr Doctor! Der Fuehrer will accept nothing but success in your mission. They are down some place there (he said, stamping his patent-leather boot on the carpet of Castle Babelsberg's chief conference hall, the same where he had commissioned a mission to locate the Holy Grail, which was his own private venture). Go down there however you can and observe all we need to know according to my instructions, and then report immmediately to me! You will obey my instruction implicitly! Understand?"

--"Verstehen Sie?"

Of course, he well understood!

Dr. Melancthon Guenther-Ochs bowed in the old-fashioned civility that still was seen being practiced in some high university circles, a thin, dignified scholar in modest but well-tailored clothing who appeared almost shockingly out of place in the gaudy-bannered, magnificent hall of the Gestapo chief. Here was a marble floor supposedly patterned with the Round Table of King Arthur, rare carpets, crystal and gold lamps and Nazi standards and fittings, and all the top brass of the Gestapo standing round their chief in utmost Third Reich glory and pride. No matter that Guenther-Ochs had not volunteered for the deposition. It was the State's privilege to appoint him plenipotentiary (albeit a spy) to the Hollow Earth civilization. A citizen had no right but to accept the appointment with greatest joy and pride!

At once, hearing this cue, the sychophants gathered round Himmler erupted. "Heil Shickelgruber!" "Heil Shickelgruber!" "Long live the Third Reich!" "All hale the glorious Thousand Year Reich!"

After the toasts and windy speeches, an ashen-faced, nearly wordless Dr. Guenther-Ochs was finally let go, being driven back by Gestapo limousine to his home adjacent to the University of Heidelberg, where for many years he had taught Ancient Civilizations Survey--Sumer, Akkad, Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Carthage and Etruria on to the fall of Rome.

Once back in his study in his quarters, it took some minutes to restore his mental equilibrium and some color to his face. He had just been in a lions' den, and liable to be devoured at any misstep or unadvised comment on his own. He still faced being devoured at any moment, should he fail to satisfy Heinrich Himmler. "That preposterous chicken farmer!" he thought, recalling Himmler's former occupation. He rested a while, his eyes on his favorite view (the medieval ramparts of Heidelberg Castle and the River Neckar), and next gazed at a gold-framed picture of his wife, who had committed suicide a year before. She was Himmler's victim, he knew, just as surely as if he had shot her with the luger he always carried. She had been so afraid that her grandfather's Jewish blood would implicate the family and destroy all of them, that she had lost all will to continue. But he could not think about her for very long at a time, for the subject was yet too painful to ponder. So his thoughts turned to the man, reported in the papers, who had recently turned up dead in the mountains--who had to be the poor fellow Himmler had sent forth to find the Holy Grail of all things! How impossible an errand! Then when no Holy Grail was forthcoming, the man was disposed of in an "accident." That kind of murder as well as wholesale slaughter was typical of Himmler's regime! Anyone who failed a mission was liquidated--for Shickelgruber tolerated no failures in his organization.

The professor sat down in his chair, and his eyes shut, and he leaned his head back against the worn leather. "How then could he expect any better from such savages?" There was absolutely no such Hollow Earth civilization, he knew! It was a fantastic concoction of some wild-haired lunatic whose writings Herr Shickelgruber had caught wind of in his early days as a student at Vienna's Art Institute and pig-headedly, irrationally believed without a shred of credible, supporting evidence. Since the Hollow Earth did not exist, where could he plausibly look for it? This was all madness! Nazi madness!

A week later, giving word that he was taking a sabbatical, Dr. Guenther-Ochs quietly departed from his duties and home at the university. No one knew, except those in charge of Operation Nibelungen and those accompanying him, that he was en route to the middle of the Earth. But where could he access such a thing? The Arctic was supposed to contain a portal, but it would require a very conspicuous movement of men and supplies to get him all the way to his objective, the so-called "Portal of the North" identified in the book. This, of course, was not recommended by Himmler, who preferred a less obvious route for the sake of keeping the project's existence from the British and the Americans. Instead, Himmler directed Dr. Guenther-Ochs to find another portal. So Dr. Guenther-Ochs directed the U-Boat to take him to Spanish Morocco, North Africa, where he went ashore at night, taking certain prepared State documents for contact with the Hollow Earth rulers as well as his Gestapo-manufactured false identity papers. Then he boarded a Portuguese ship with a hold full of cork for the big Argentine provincial wineries headquartered in Buenos Aires. Six days later he boarded the "Royal Grand Star," a crowded, very dirty, flat-bottomed riverboat carrying returning villagers and traders upriver to the Rio Parana, a major tributary of the Rio de la Plata that flowed out of neighboring Brasil. Intending to get as far away as he could from the Gestapo's huge network of spies and never return while the Nazis still held power, he thought he would take the Rio Parana to where it was joined by the Rio Paraguay, and then continue navigating through Paraguay on whatever river craft was still available into the very heart of South America, a vast, virtually unpopulated region that, unquestionably, had to be about the best place on Earth to vanish without a trace. Several Europes could be thrown into the wilderness of South America and still retain the populated areas as they were.

As the last accompanying agent from Heinrich Himmler's organization left him at Buenos Aires, taking back to Babelsberg the false itinerary the professor had concocted, the doctor breathed easier. If the monstrous barbarian, Himmler, ever looked for him, he could look all he liked in the places the doctor had marked with red ink on the map--places he had noted were "Hollow Earth portals" ostensively giving access to the secret, subterranean civilization. No, he would be hidden beyond retrieval in the very opposite direction--deep, deep in the heart of the almost limitless jungles, marshes and swamps of the far north of Argentina and Paraguay and the southwest of Brasil. There the great rivers ran down from the mountains of Bolivia and the highlands of Rondonia to water the green hell of Brazil's vast Matto Grasso and Paraguay's Gran Chaco. Except for highlands of grass and thornbush, it was a trackless, borderless Terra Incognito, a sinkhole of malarial swamp and merciless, biting and sucking insects where no civilized man could exist for very long. It was quite an insult to his nervous system for a man of his scholarly habits and cultivated tastes to have to sink himself in the savagery of the South American heartland like this--but did he have another option? As his beloved wife had done, so he must do--give himself up to complete abandonment so that his remaining family might escape Shickelgruber and Himmler's "Final Solution". With Marie gone, and his own whereabouts unobtainable, the genealogical hounds of the Gestapo might possibly leave his family alone, holding off their executions at least until some clear word of him might be obtained. That was his calculated hope, anyway. His two married daughters and their children might still survive the war which everyone knew Germany would lose. For that rather slim possibility he would gladly sacrifice what few years remained of his life and career. As for his teaching and his many years of tenure at his post at the University, what could it mean to him while the Nazis reigned supreme in Germany? They poisoned the very air he was forced to breathe with their revival of an insufferable Germanic zenophobia, which was bad enough in itself but they had to go a step further and mix their fanatic nationalism with the most shameless and boorish manners!

Although he had left in haste, he had selected only those things that he knew would help to pass the time of extensive travel. These things he brought out of his single large, standing steamer's trunk, and oblivious to the Latin chaos and cocophony around him, he played chess with himself on a tiny set. Occasionally, an aspiring opposing player would interrupt him, drawn from the the group of hangers-on that normally gathered to watch his strange, silent gameplaying on board the Rio Parana riverboat.

Language was of no importance in this game. He would nod, and whoever it was who wished to join in at his little table shaded by a sheet tacked up above their heads, would do so.

Dr. Guenther-Ochs on a Secret Mission

Usually the game was shared very briefly, for chess was the professor's great love, and he was very good at it. His wife's special passion was bridge, and she played it, though growing increasingly arthritic in one hand, until the last week of her life, when she gave it up. While he played chess, with or without an opposing player, and with or without his coat and shirt, Professor Guenther-Ochs could hear the music she played instead--Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata," over and over, as she sat in her bathrobe, refusing company and any calls. Now he heard it night and day. It haunted him so much he wished he could get it out of his mind, but only a very good, intense game of chess could do that, than then only for a few minutes at a time.

Days passed on the river. They made slower progress, the professor noticed, as the river narrowed and the current increased. The stops for people to move on or off also slowed them down, and sometimes there was a big commotion in the engine room, and then they would anchor in some unnamed bend of the river while Captain Silva and his "engineer" attempted makeshift repairs with whatever was at hand. If that failed to do the job, it was a further wait, while they sent off a boat downstream to the nearest port to bring men and parts back up to them where they were stranded. Surprisingly, food continued plentiful onboard. Natives would pop up in the most isolated stretches of the river in crude canoes and paddle out to them and sell whatever they had grown, and the cook would prepare it. The professor heard the cook's boy shout the menu for dinner and wondered what the onboard cafeteria's "chicken" could be since they had used up the last crated chicken on board, and there couldn't be another such in so wild and tropical a landscape as surrounded them on the Upper Parana. He had seen caymen carried aboard on big baskets on the heads of native Indian women. Wasn't that the "chicken" of the jungle, along with iguana lizards? Fortunately, he had no appetite, so he took his usual glass of Rosario wine and turned back to his chessboard.

As it always happened, if you waited long enough the engine was somehow repaired enough for them to continue upriver. They reached another river, which the professor identified as the Rio Paraguay. Leaving the Parana, which would have carried them up into Rondonia, Brasil, the boat sailed laden with Guarani Indians, and the predominant Mestizos from Northern Argentina and Paraguay, and poor working class, refugee Brazilians in search of a better country than their own. The professor wasn't interested in the scenes, for they were so totally alien to him they appeared inpenetrable. All he cared about was to lose himself as completely as he could in them. Continuing his game, and finding fewer challengers as they sailed upriver, the professor listened to the endless encores of the "Moonlight Sonata" mixed with the throbbing vibrations of the boat's engines and the almost constant chatter of the passengers.

The Rio Paraguay, the professor found, was even more monotonous than the Parana, as the same events repeated themselves--breakdowns of the aged diesel engine, lengthy repairs that sometimes worked for a while, lyings at anchor and waiting for help to come, continued voyaging upriver, visiting port after port to drop off mail and goods and passengers and pick up more of the same. Wasn't the jungle grossly overrated by the romantic writers? The tropics were nothing but the same green trees along the riverbanks, with low hills of the same green forest rising above, and whatever was not green was muddy water in the winding channels of the river or muddy red ground in occasional clearings. Flowers were few, and they were usually so high up in the tree tops their beauty was wasted. As for the Mestizo women, they were thoughtless, dispirited creatures, while the men sported highly colored shirts and strutted about with "machismo". As they continued toward the highlands, things changed in slight ways. The endless green landscape remained much the same along the river banks, though the highlands became covered with grass and thornbushes. He noticed they took on more and more natives of Bolivia--full-blood Amarya Indians with their distinctive woolens and round-brimmed black hats.

The cities ceased to battle the jungle heat and no longer appeared. Towns also gave up the struggle and vanished from the river banks and were located inland on higher, healthier ground. Only desperately-poor, squalid little villages of sticks and mud plaster and grass roofs clung to the banks here and there. The map called them "ports"! Each was a mirror image of the other, only with a different name--Puerto la Victoria, Puerto la Esperanza, Puerto Tres Palmas with Porto Murtinho on the Brasilian shore, Feurto Olimpo, and Puerto Bahia Negra, where the river turned northeast from the Paraguay toward Corumba, Brasil. The professor, seeing how primitive the region was developing, paid for continued passage upriver. The captain gladly took his Argentine banknotes, as there remained far fewer cash-paying passengers as they went. Indians most often came aboard now, paying with small livestock or vegetables and fruit, so cash, evidently, was getting scarce as they approached the headwaters of the Alto Paraguay. Finally, there boarded genuine savages--a group Captain Silva warned him in badly broken German and French picked up from immigrant Europeans in Argentina that they were "Kaingwa," a particularly ignorant and destitute bunch of cannibals returning from marketing their woolen goods and potatoes to their village on a tributary to the Alto Paraguay called Puerto de los Angelos, or Port of the Angels. "Why then do you take them on board if they have no money?" the professor asked, and the captain shrugged and grinned, showing gold-capped teeth. "This is a poor carrier line, Senor! We must take everybody, even these Indian trash. I can turn nobody away who can pay something, even if it be a few bunches of bananas or casava roots!"

What a hellishly hot country! By now the professor had been obliged to strip off his wool professor's coat and vest permanently, wearing only his pin-stripped black trousers, which he would not give up to the heat, though all the Latin and mixed-blood Paraguayan Mestizo men still on board went about shamelessly, shirtless and almost naked, except for tattered shorts that scarcely covered them with decency. His black, silver-threaded silk ascot had gone back into the portmanteau rather early in the voyage, it is true. He continued killing an abundance of empty time on his hands with solitary chess, using the method he had invented back in his youth when he attended the University of Leipzig. No one--not even the black marketeers or petty smugglers or riverboat gamblers from the sinks of Villa Hayes, Concepcion, and San Pedro--whatever these human flotsam and jetsam were-- challenged him anymore at the game. The Kaingwa Indians simply sat and stared at him without expression, and left him quite alone otherwise. He was free to do as he pleased, sit and smoke his Turkish meerschaum pipe and look out at the passing forest and the occasional Indian dugout, or listen to the "Moonlight Sonata" that only he could hear.

Finally, he felt no desire to play any more chess. Back it went into the trunk and was locked away. Instead, he sat in his deck chair with his pipe in hand and let his thoughts drift with the muddy, hyacinth-laden current. His cabin was stifling, day or night, so he often remained in his chair. For a trifling charge mosquito nets were brought toward evening by the captain's black servant for the cabin-reserving, cash-paying passengers when the attacks were worst, and he suffered with the rest under one, though sometimes breezes blew the clouds of insects off them and gave them wonderful relief. But such times were rare and brief. Usually, the insects besieged them without any mercy, hour after hour. The professor was amazed at the endurance of the Kaingwas on board who could not afford the nets. Like wooden statues, they accepted the misery without mosquito nets for protection as if they could not feel a thing. Only he noticed that they took baths in the river whenever the boat slowed or lay at anchor. He was not so fortunate, and could not swim. As for bathing like an Indian in the river, that was out of the question anyway, since the whole boat would turn out to stare at him--a naked white European with bare buttocks like pale pumpkins affording them a kind of freakshow circus entertainment! Instead, he could take a bucket and pour it over his head and shoulders--that was his bath, as the boat had no bathtub in a private room for his use. Amazingly, even with his shirt left on, it felt no different soaking wet from river water than if he had not poured water over himself--that was how wet the air was!

His trousers hung from his thin, boney shanks like lead sheets, for he had lost quite a bit of weight though he had always been thin. Hungry though he was, he only dared eat vegetables and fruit he could buy from the venders. The boat's greasy, hole-in-the-wall eatery that separated the wheelhouse from the set of four tiny "First Class Cabins," was presided over by a black-skinned rascal who was always serving up iguana-based "chicken dinners" he could never force himself to touch, along with a Brazilian dish of beans and rice in a highly seasoned lake of ubiquitous pig fat.

Strangely, his sense of smell had come to life for the first time on his long voyage. He noticed the smells of everything around him in a powerful way. The river, the wool garments of the Amarya Indian Bolivians, the pig grease cosmetic of the Kaingwas that plastered their bodies and hair, the boat's array of diesel, cargo, and cooking smells, the various tobaccos smoked by the passengers--it shocked him, they were all assaulting him so powerfully. Just as Ludwig Beethoven the great genius had fallen stone deaf and composed his symphonies and his best music after his becoming imprisoned in a world without sound, so now the professor discovered that he, a proud and civilized man, had been mortally impaired in his chief senses. Smell returned first. Then his hearing was quickened. He could hear virtually a drop of water as it fell into the river from a leaf of a jungle tree hanging over the river bank! The deadness and monotony dropped away. Everything became intensely alive to him. Sight too increased exponentially. What was doing this to him? he wondered in amazement.

He grew so aware of things around him he could scarcely keep his skin on at times. He had never felt so alive and in touch with living things! The Third Reich grew increasingly dim and unsubstantial, compared with this throbbing, burning-hot, overly sunlit panorama of South America with its continual onslaught of raw and barbaric sensations assailing his nerves and senses. How pale grew the spectacle of human life, with its wretchedness on display in riverports north of Asuncion, compared to the giant brown anaconda of the river wriggling its way through the seemingly limitless jungle and swampland. His wife also receded into the shadows of the trees overhanging the shores, along with the "Moonlight Sonata." Instead he began hearing what he thought was Gustav Mahler. Was it the "Resurrection Symphony"? But this was a symphony that threatened to shake all civilization off his mind and body and plunge him into the very "savagery" of the tropics. He had never cared for the symphony before, but now he found the music magnificent and compelling, and it fit the whole experience of what he was feeling. How shallow and silly were his former ways, he thought. He had been stripped, but instead of nakedness he was granted an incomparable richness.

Even while he felt whole parts of his personhood and breeding and education slough off him like over-ripe layers of an onion, he sensed other parts growing or bursting into new life. It was as if he were being born again within the husk of an aged human body and jaded psyche! As if he were being granted a new spirit where he had all but given up hope for a life of happiness and fulfillment! But what was he to do with this new spirit? He had plans to forget Himmler's wild goose chase of the Hollow Earth and continue to the very heartland of South America, to bury himself in obscurity until death took him in some unknown, unmapped place. Now he wondered if he might not have to change his plans, perhaps radically. Everything deep inside him now cried out for him to fight for life, to make a complete turn around, and live! live!

But what about his beloved, lost Marie? Where did she fit in? A thorough-going modern woman in her philosophy, which agreed in most points with his own skepticism, she hadn't believed in any possibility of a soul's survival after death, much less a "resurrection." Darwin, Huxley, Hume, Sartre, Ionescu, even Albert Camus, Franz Kafka, and the obscenity-spewing Samuel Beckett of "Waiting for Godot"--her shelves were full of their anti-religious books. He was stunned for a moment. Yes, what about her? He could not--and would not!--deny SHE had once existed though his beliefs held that there was nothingness after death. Yet, without an afterlife, without Resurrection, reason shouted she had been cancelled, liquidated, as if she had never existed. Never existed! Amidst the glare of the Tropic of Cancer, she had become a phantom despite her heroic self-sacrifice. What meaning then could be attached to her life and her suicide? What meaning, indeed? There couldn't be any such thing as meaning to human life, if there was nothing surviving after death of the human soul. Gazing at the river, which cared nothing for human existence and human destiny--his very thoughts seemed to be mocked by it as utterly pointless! The river flowed on and on, pushing forward to the sea in which it would ultimately drown itself. Sighing, he sank back in his deck chair. He had left Germany so far behind by this time on his long voyage, Germany, Himmler and Shickelgruber, even poor Marie their victim, had turned to a kind of nightmarish but unreal stage set steadily receding down the river.

After a while the professor shook his head to clear his thoughts of his terrible Shopenhauer-like pessimism and world-weariness. It was like staring into Jean Paul Sartre's existentialist abyss! A short time before he had felt like a new creation, like he was on the trembling verge of "resurrection"? Now he was plummeting toward despair and darkness from which there could be no escape. What was the jungle doing to him? Was he civilized or not? He felt guilty, as if he had treacherously abandoned his beloved wife. Yet he couldn't deny that something was happening to him, severing him from everything he had known and cared about. Could he stop it once it had started--this barbarization of his soul amidst the jungles and tropical waters of South America?

At some point above Fuerte Olimpo, he heard the captain roaring and cursing, and also heard some large object plunge into the water (or did someone dive overboard for a bath?). Then he saw a head bobbing in the muddy current. There was a scream from the doomed man as he was swept downstream toward Puerto Tres Palmas, which he could never hope to reach alive. The captain, like a Nazi beast, was howling with laughter! The passengers, now mostly Kaingwas and Bolivians, stared. The river swallowed up the scene so quickly that for moments afterwards the professor wondered if he had imagined it. Could the captain be such a monster as to throw a living soul overboard in waters full of razor-teethed predators? Or had he slipped off the boat? Was there anyway to find out? No one, he could tell by looking about, seemed to care. The boat continued upriver, without the man as if he had never existed. Who had it been anyway?

The professor sat back slowly in his deck chair, his whole body trembling beyond control. What had he gotten himself into? He felt a profound chill settle on him despite the steamy heat. This was the age-old culture around him--born of the cruel jungle, its savagery, its misery and poverty. One civilized man couldn't change it, he knew. Like a beached fish, he was totally out of his element. He wanted to turn around, flee back to the familiar comforts and ancient civilities of liberal, ante-Shickelgruber Europe, but they too no longer existed--Herr Shickelgruber and his Nazis, even more savage than this South America, had seen to that!

He awoke with a start, looking about and not recognizing where he was. Accustomed to the boat's every movement by now, he sensed a change of some kind. They were just then pulling away from another small, squalid river port. He caught sight of a badly leaning, faded, crudely-painted port sign--Puerto Bahia Negra--set on rotting poles in the water and about to collapse. At the moment, in his heat-drugged state, the could not recall if this was the last port of call on the Alto Paraguay or not. Yet somehow, as he looked out, he knew it was not the same river though the trees and riverbanks looked the same as they had always looked along the Alto Paraguay and the Parana. A newly developed sense told him it was a tributary, though at this point it was swollen to the same size of the Paraguay. He realized what it was--not the scenery but the shift in direction that had alerted him, though rivers were always deceptively serpentine. To make sure, taking his compass, he confirmed his intuition. They had turned slightly northwest, and he recalled that the Alto Paraguay at the juncture would turn northeast. So they had left the Alto Paraguay for parts unknown! Was it to be Brasil or Bolivia, or were they still sailing up into Northern Paraguay? He found his footing, though dazed by his sleep in the terrible heat and damp, and went to his trunk in his tiny cabin, unlocked it, got out his book of unbound, loose maps, and there it was illuminated in the greenish light from the dirty, porthole window: the Rio Pilcomayo, and the fact they were no longer on the Alto Paraguay in Paraguay but were navigating an uncharted river in Bolivia! But here his maps failed him. This region of Bolivia was not even named! Nothing here was deemed important enough by the arrogant, city-bred Argentine cartographer to be identified. Whatever the area was called by the Bolivians, the Pilcomayo was taking them up into a Mystery scarcely touched by civilization. The now useless map literally dripped moisture from the water in the air and on his fingers. He put it back, locked the trunk, and escaped from the airless, steaming dark of his cabin to the deck. Was there some mistake? His fare was taken for Corumba, officially--though official fares and printed company routes and itineraries meant little or nothing to human dregs such as drunken riverboat captains, he suspected. Perhaps, the captain was doing the majority of the remaining passengers--the Bolivians--a favor by taking them off course toward their own land--but for what kind of pay in return?

Wind struck the boat, and there came a sudden pouring of sheetlike, leaden rain. In a moment he could see nothing. The boat shuddered in the strong current, and slowed as the captain shouted to the engineer and cursed. Would they keep going blindly ahead? Or stop? the professor wondered as he stood back against the cabin wall with his feet already soaked with the rain pouring down on the half-submerged deck.

Wave after wave of water struck the badly pitching boat, from above and from the river. The captain did not stop the engines but was going full-steam ahead, the professor could tell, and probably was just trying to keep them from being swept onto sand bars along the shore by the strong current.

Finally, when it seemed they couldn't survive so much water, the rain squall swept past, and brilliant sun struck them, with the whole scene of forest and water and boat transformed, leaving behind a double rainbow sparkling with color and life and light. How quickly things changed from one state to another and back again! the professor marvelled. Monotony, misery, then terror and near-death by drowning in the foundering boat, followed by beauty and refreshed new life! It was Resurrection, or something close to it! But what does one do with New life, with Resurrection Reality? He had no idea.

The professor looked about at the passengers, as heaps of lifeless, sodden clothing stirred and revealed, always shockingly, that they were actual human beings. As he sought their faces, he was shocked again--the same old expressionless, inscrutable faces of the both Indian groups, the Kaingwas and the Amarya-blooded Bolivians. They had seen everything, endured everything, and apparently never looked up to enjoy a rainbow. Despite the bloody wars between Bolivia, Argentina, Brasil, and Paraguay, which left Paraguay most often defeated and shorn of vast tracts of land, nothing really changed for Indians however much boundaries shifted. A near mass-drowning in a Bolivian river, with their bodies never recovered for burial but devoured by the crocodiles and cannibal fish, meant nothing to these people! He doubted he could learn anything of value from them. If they had something worth-while to communicate, some portion of their ancient wisdom, would they share it with him? Probably not. Spanish conquistadores had stolen all their treasure and enslaved them, because they had been too trusting. They had learned as a people a hard lesson: it is best not to communicate with foreigners and aliens, lest they turn on you and destroy you with the knowledge you give them.

The professor shrugged, and returned to his dripping, green and molding canvas deck chair. As the boat continued upstream toward Puerto de los Angelos, the professor observed the captain showing his true colors more and more as civilization, with its restraints, fell away in their wake. The thick-limbed, squat, mannish-hatted Bolivian women did not appeal to the captain, it seemed. Instead he ogled the slender, brown gold-skinned Kaingwa females, who wore a g-string and ropes of beads decorating arms, legs, bellies and bare breasts. With all restraint thrown aside as they left civilization far behind, the captain was always grabbing at them at every opportunity. Drinking heavily at the wheel, his hairy paunch hanging over his belt and ornate silver buckle, he became the terror of the boat whenever they anchored and he was freed from his captain's duties.


Part III, Resurrection

The University don was appalled by the captain's behavior, but what could he do? Where could go? There were no roads out of the region, only the rivers, and only this one was tributary to the Rio Paraguay and, thus, was linked with the outside civilized world.

He shivered in the heat. How cold he felt! But how could he be shivering? he wondered. Was it his soul shivering in the ever-darkening horror in which he felt trapped and drowning? They called these the Tropics! he thought. But they were misnamed by fools, for they ought to have known how cold they could be!

Toward nightfall the professor saw the captain drink another jug dry, throw it into the river, and then order the anchor cast as soon as the boat stopped moving forward. The captain made several attempts to leave the wheelhouse, banging against the door frame until he got it right and exited. His hand on his gun he wore strapped to his side, he wobbled down the deck toward the Kaingwas huddled in a group in their usual spot. Dry mouthed, the professor watched as the captain accosted the Indians in his usual outrageous manner. The professor could hear the captain cursing as this woman and that pulled from his drunken grasp, running and dodging him as he lunged to capture them. Not one man of the group moved the whole time, the professor saw. It was if they had turned to wood or stone.

Finally, cornering a Kaingwa female, the captain moved to seize her and drag her to his bed in the wheelhouse. The professor could stand it no more. He tried to find a loose board, a loose pipe, anything could use to stop the rape of the innocent woman. The captain lunged, then the woman darted past, her foot catching the captain's in passing, and there was a big crash as the captain fell against the wheelhouse wall, nearly taking it down.

Startled, the professor felt laughter burst in him, but he had no time to laugh, for captain, enraged, was just as quick as he recovered his footing and continued the chase. It had to end soon, and badly for the woman, the professor could see. She couldn't get away on the boat, not from so determined a pursuer.

Finding a three-foot piece of planking, left over from repair of the gang-plank a few days prior to this, the professor chased down the predator and the prey. Gasping, her eyes showing the desperation her face did not, the woman crouched on the deck as the captain moved toward her with wide open hands. Moving along behind them, unnoticed by the captain, the professor gripped his weapon. Why hadn't her menfolk defended her? the professor cried to himself? Was their moral flashpoint so low as to permit a rape before their very eyes? It seemed so!

So swiftly the professor could not catch the start of it, the Kaingwa men finally moved, surrounding the captain. Surprised, the captain hesitated, dropping his quarry and swinging about to eye the Kaingwas. He started cursing them.

Dr. Guenther-Ochs still held the plank without thinking, transfixed by the scene. He then saw the captain move just as quickly, as he leaped backwards to gain the wheelhouse wall. The Indians rushed after him to cut off his last chance of retreat. The gun flashed in the captain's hand. The professor saw one Indian fall, fired at in the face at point-blank range. The plank in the professor's hand seemed to acquire a life of its own. The professor watched it hurling from his hand and it struck the captain between his neck and shoulder. The captain dropped his gun, clapping his other hand to his broken collar bone. The gun was expertly kicked by someone, flying across the deck and up over the low gunwales, falling into the river where it struck a crocodile's back.

The deck waved up and down before the professor's eyes. He felt freezing cold, then intolerable heat, and his knees gave way, dumping him on the deck, right over on his back. He lay helpless, hearing strange sounds. Muffled thuds, a dragging of something heavy, then muffled screams, as if someone was being forcibly drowned. Small, toothy fish leaped and slithered across the deck, bumping against the professor. The screaming man broke water, just enough to scream some Spanish and garbled German. What? the professor wondered in a daze. What were they doing to the man? Presently, the screams became weaker and weaker, then stopped, while the sounds of fish in the water grew all the more agitated.

The professor heard one last thing, a voice pleading in Spanish. A shot, another scuffle, and yet another screaming episode and sounds of many darting fish. After that he knew nothing, not for days. Later, he could not recall making any effort to get off the boat. He felt a tremendous jolt. The deck heaved and tilted nearly vertical. He felt a giant wave of water splash over him, right over his head. Then hands pulled him this way and that in the watery darkness. He awoke one time seeing a light. Shadows peered at him with dark eyes. He was burning. Cool leaves pressed his body, dipped in water. His lip cracked. Hands carried him, his body wrapped in the spider web of a hammock. Rain fell on his face. Something liquid was put between his lips, but he couldn't swallow.

Hands massaged his throat, and more liquid was put in his mouth. Some got down his throat, to ease the fire engulfing his body. He felt like ice too at times. He shook with violent spasms from the extreme cold. His feet were burning, and his face and chest and hands were ice.

Once he woke up and found he was lying in a dugout canoe being paddled somewhere. He was given something to drink, and he slept again. Whenever he climbed out of the darkness and saw the light again, he was given something to drink. But he was also given food, and he retched and could not keep it down. He felt himself being carried in the hammock from time to time, and then he was laid back in a rounded space he knew was a dugout and it rocked and moved and carried him to places in the dark he could not see or know.

Waking, seeing light, he gradually grew aware of shapes and objects, and saw it was a grass-roofed hut, and a woman was caring for him, while others sat nearby watching them. "I must be very ill," he thought. "Who are these kind people?" He didn't have long to wonder about them, for they lifted him up and once again he was carried off someplace. This time the way seemed more difficult, and steep. It was uncomfortable to him too. He felt worse, yet his senses were returning, and he could tell more and more about what was going on around him.

He could count the people. There were ten, with four men carrying him, trading off with others in the group. Women followed behind, carrying the group's implements, food, and belongings. Where were they taking him? A strange thought came. Was he going to be offered to some Indian god as a sacrifice? His head was splitting. He felt so bad he didn't care what they did with him.

Sacrifice or not, he found himself being laid in a hammock in the shade, once they stopped carrying him from wherever they had left the dugout. It was a high place, he thought. He could see clouds, and high tops of hills or mountains. Envigorated by the higher elevation, he gathered strength and could sit up, supported by the woman who nursed him. He was fed some soup of some kind, and he took it gratefully, feeling the nourishment bring life back to his limbs.

"Thank you," he croaked, when he regained his voice. He kept thanking the woman, and the men with her and the other women present. They made no sign they noticed any of his words, yet his nurse seemed to become agitated at one point. She began to point to various things, and then mouthed words in his face. He learned his first words of her native language. It helped break the barriers, even if he couldn't make out what she was trying to say. Exhausted by only a few attempts to learn something from them, the professor had to rest a long time. But she tried again later when he recovered strength.

They were Kaingwas, of course! He had always suspected that the Kaingwas had been the ones who saved him from the river and whatever calamity had struck the boat. But why had they saved him? He had no idea. And where had they taken him? To their tribal lands? He watched his nurse with more attention, as she continued signing to him by various means.

Someone caught a big fish and brought it to the camp. They roasted it. It was delicious, the professor found. His first real meal--and it stayed in his stomach this time. He turned in the hammock and sat up an entire hour without collapsing into sleep. During that time he learned more signs from the woman, realizing that the elaborate system she was using was obvious proof how intelligent these people were. She was making it simple for him to learn, but he could guess that she was attempting to share some complex things with him.

He had no maps, and no idea where he could be. But the sign language he was learning from the Kaingwa woman began disclosing bits of what he wanted to know as he progressed in the art. Only his weakness prevented him from swiftly finding out what his situation was, for he had to rest often during the sessions. Below them was a lake, he was informed. It was the "Lake of the Jaguars." The name told him nothing, yet the woman was agitated, as she spelled it out to him with signs. The Kaingwas around them also grew agitated and moved about nervously. Evidently, they did not like the area at all and wished to stay no longer than absolutely necessary, despite the site's great beauty and the plentiful tree fruits. So why then, he wondered, were they there, if the site was so fearsome or unpleasant to them? Why had they gone to so much trouble and effort to take him there? He could scarcely contain the question, it burned so hot in him.

He also learned this was a sacred place, for the god they called the Weeping One lived beneath it, deep in the earth. He sometimes came up, and then his divine tears flooded the mountainside, roaring down into the lake, swallowing up trees and earth and carrying everything into the water. That could happen at any time of the day or night, his nurse made him understand.

Hearing this, the professor lay stunned for some time, hardly able to accept what he had learned. Could it be? Had these Indians inadvertently transported him to the very place the wretched captain of the Royale Gran Star had told him about? Could this be the mountain cult-center of the superstitious Indians' Weeping God? And if so, what would happen to them next?

He had his answer later, and plenty of time to think about it as he was on his solitary way down the Rio Pilcomayo, carried in the swift current by a dugout. He had been taken to the Golden Mountains, deposited on a tree-forested slope of one mount that was supposed to be the Weeping God's residence. Just as the nurse had signed to him, the way to the Weeping God could be found by first using machetes on the undergrowth. They also would dig the ground with big pointed poles they found in abundance on the site. At the spot she had led them all one day, a tunnel's entrance was opened after they cleared away lush vines and orchid-bearing shrubs, and a strange, crystalline, pinkish soil. The digging sticks then were then used to break through the foot or two of earth covering the opening to a tunnel.

It was an astounding discovery, when he saw the tunnel was manmade, not a natural cave's entrance. But the marvels increased in magnitude with every step into the mountain. Later, as he let the current take him back down the river, he still could not help being skeptical, though he new very well he had seen the evidence of a super-civilization beneath the mountain. There were no Hollow Earthmen, not even the graves or bones of them. But the proof was there in an abundance that no skeptic could possibly misinterpret or explain away. Transport systems, still operating, took him deep into the earth, miles of depth beneath the surface, yet other systems kept the communicating tunnel and the great city he found at the end habitable in temperature.

So Shickelgruber was correct about the Hollow Earth? Not necessarily, the professor decided. Whatever this civilization was, he could not tell. Did it prove out the Hollow Earth theory? He could not hazard a guess. He could only report what he had witnessed, and the last thing he would voluntarily do was return to the Nazis and tell them anything about what he had seen. He would rather perish in the wilderness than advance their ludicrous Aryan Race!

The Kaingwas had separated from him, and wouldn't go all the way down. But he had gone without them and found no sign of the Weeping God they so greatly dreaded and revered. Why had they risked their lives to take him there? He could not get an acceptable answer out of them, try as he might.

Even though he saw what no one would believe if he told it to him, he was glad it was him that Himmler had entrusted with the mission. This way the truth would die with him. Soon the Nazis would be overthrown by the allied civilized nations of the West, and Germany would be forcibly returned to her senses. He himself might be alive then, or he might not be. In any case, he would keep the secret. No nation was prepared to gain such great powers as he saw beneath the mountain, deep in the hidden metropolis. Such extraordinary powers and technology, he knew, would drive any nation and its leader to madness and tyranny every bit as terrible as Nazi Germany and her carpet-chewing Fuehrer, Herr Corporal Shickelgruber!

Those three spheres floating on a crystaline pool of water, for example! What things they communicated to him in mere moments! They were the most intelligent machines on earth, beyond doubt! He was amazed by how quickly they found him and identified him. They weren't threatened by his unauthorized presence in the least. He informed them that he had come as an envoy from the surface world, and that was accepted on face value. He also said that his papers were in order, and he had possessed the proper documents, but they had been lost in an accident on the way. The three globes of mechanical intelligence made it clear to him that he was their guest as long as he wished to remain, but they had no means to keep him unless he were prepared to sustain himself with his own "operational system." So that was their way of saying he had to supply his own food, though they had water in power, light, lodgings, and water in abundance.

These things established, the intelligent spheres continued to probe him for information, and he grew increasingly uncomfortable, as he felt that he was giving too much information, without knowing what use might be made of it. He began hedging on the answers to their continual questions, and when they would not relent, he decided it would be impossible for him to remain and submit to their interrogations. When he tried to leave, that was when the difficulties began. Lighting was withdrawn, and he had to find him way in the dark. He quickly grew desperate, as he realized the spheres were not benign but actively malignant. They meant to capture him, or imprison him indefinitely. Why? He had intended them no harm.

"We await our Great Masters," they informed him, after slamming down blocking walls in the tunnel into which he had run. "They will want to be amused, and so you will amuse them." What a horrible thought! A human being being used to amuse beings that probably were not human. What deceiving, conniving, heartless machines these globes were! They looked so beautiful, yet they had proven themselves nothing but evil incarnate!

He was still lying in the dark in the tunnel, when he felt it shake, and pieces of the coating inner wall began falling around him. When the shaking cease, he groped about and found the blocking wall shattered, and before the globes could recover themselves and pursue him, he escaped. It seemed miles back to the surface, and he could never have made it except that he found a bay of transport platforms and the one he tried worked. Back on the surface, he kept running until he reached the lake. There he stumbled and practically fell into a dugout. Without a moment's hesitation, he grabbed the paddle, pushed off, and fled across the lake, and then took the only egress, the stream that cut a deep gorge through the surrounding hills and mountains, to become the river some mapmaker in Buenos Aires named the Rio Pilcomayo (perhaps taking the name from the cigar he was smoking).

He wept with joy as his boat swept around an island that looked like a piece of Eden's Paradise and where flaming red birds flocked on white sand beaches. It was no "Rio Pilcomayo" to him! It was a river of sheer grace and liberation! He had stumbled into the chthonic nest of a wickedness beyond even Shickelgruber's and Himmler's in scope and potential, and survived, thanks to a providential earthquake. But earthquakes do not occur naturally right at the very time they are "needed." He had been "given" that earthquake. By whom? the Weeping God?

Except for divine intervention, he had to acknowledge, he would soon be dead, lying miles beneath the surface--the victim of evil, alien intelligences of inculculable, vast powers. But Providence--he could not call it accident or luck or random happenstance--had designed the time and forces necessary to engineer his escape from a certain doom. That Providence was necessarily so mighty it had to be God, the Absolute Being he had trained himself to eject from his life and thoughts.

Was it God who also motivated the Kaingwas to save his life in the overturning and sinking of the boat? What, if so, was the purpose in his surviving to discover that there really was something to to the Hollow Earth theory, insane as it had seemed to him?

But it seemed no longer important the more he thought about it. What did it matter if the theory was correct? He had met with Something far greater, able to conquer the forces that lay beneath the earth. Not even Shickegruber, with all his armies and firepower, could hope to overcome what he had discovered. It simply could not be done by any surface nation! But Providence--Almighty God--had done what no crack Panzer division, no Third Army, could do--made a way for him where there was no way!

Before long the swift currents swept him into another and greater river. He sensed what it was--the Alto Paraguay--the road back to civilized society! He was going to live, he realized, but more important, he knew the hand of the Almighty had reached down and--and--dare he say it? Dare he use such a word on himself? Yes, Resurrection! For some purpose only God knew, he had been resurrected from a certain grave, not only one hidden deep beneath the surface of the earth but a kind of living death--his former life! He had been self-deceived. He knew now that he had lived an entire life in great darkness, thinking his whole reason for being was to be a university academic! Truly, darkness had entombed his soul and spirit all his life until this very moment.

How ineffably blue the skies were! How fleecy white the clouds! How varied and rich the greens of the trees and plants! He had never imagined such colors could exist! His spirit and heart soared as he drank in the light and beauty and color around him like a man blind from birth suddenly healed and able to see everything for the first time.

"Thank You!" he cried, his face turned upwards and waving his dripping paddle overhead. "O thank You, Great Weeping God, or Whoever You may be!" Even if he could not exactly identify the God he was thanking so profusely, it still felt good and right to do.

Pulling over to the shores only to pick certain wild but non-poisonous fruit the Kaingwa had taught him he could safely eat, he kept going, hour after hour, and after sunset reluctantly waited for the dawn light to begin again in some unknown bay of the river. The river broadened and became so swift he stopped trying to feed himself and let the canoe be guided by the strongest current. Exhausted, he finally lay in the dugout and let whatever happen to him happen. Finally, he roused up and looked around. How many hours, or days, had passed? He sensed something had changed in direction. He had kept only one possession--his precious compass. Southeast? He was sailing southeast? He thought, for a moment, his compass had gotten wet and gone bad. But he checked his compass and could not find any water damage. How could he be sailing southeast? He tried to recall his lost maps. He knew that the Rio Paraguay continued to flow southwest toward Asuncion. But how could he be sailing southeast? The truth then struck him like a thunderbolt. He had been carried, in his sleep, to the confluence of some unknown river, and there he had crossed into unknown waters in southeastern Paraguay, where Argentina, Paraguay, and Brasil came together in virtually uninhabited borders. Now he was truly lost! How could he ever find his way back to the Rio Paraguay, which was his only sure route to the Rio Parana, and the downsteam ports and cities of civilized Paraguay and Argentina.

This was a most frightening thought, and he felt as if he had lost all hope of survival. Then he realized that he had inadvertently gained his wish: this was his means of eluding the Nazis! He would never be found! Never! His discovery of the Hidden City and its wicked Spheres would remain his secret to his death. Not only would Shickelgruber and Himmler be deprived of any real knowledge of the Hollow Earth Civilization but his own family would be safer if he were declared missing. Himmler's men would search for him until the war's end, no doubt. Until his whereabouts or death was verified, nothing more would be done regarding his wife's Jewish lineage--that was his hope.

Weakness now overcame him, and he lay back down in the canoe. How long he lay there he could not tell. Tropical sun had burnt his skin so badly that he could not bear to touch the sores that covered his forehead, arms, and chest. Fortunately, the breezes in the channel kept most insects from him, but he suffered terribly when the wind died, and the insects could feast on him. Time unaccounted for passed, and then he sensed he was near death. He slept, and never expected to awaken again. What awakened him was the sound of roaring. He opened his eyes and could see only clouds of upwelling mist on the waters ahead. What could that mean?

Only on the verge, where the river plummeted into a vast gorge, did he realize what was his fate and that something more was required of him than what he had already experienced of God.

He was aware also of the rainbow arching round his falling canoe as he tipped into the vast, thundering waters cascading hundreds of feet into the river below. This was his end: he was sailing through the air and under the rainbow. But the moment seemed to stretch for many moments. His entire life passed before him. He saw it all. He even saw how he was carried in the hamock by the Kaingwas.

In a fraction of a moment he also saw himself suspended in a scales, with Himmler, Shickelgruber, and himself on one side, weighed against a single drop of almost incandescent red blood. He was astounded. His divine appointment with Truth, a revelation of how God saw him, had come. He was lost! He was doomed, linked to such monsters of inhumanity? Only fit to be dashed into the abyss? Is that how God viewed him? Apparently so!

But what was the shining Blood doing in the scales? Just as quickly as the question formed in his mind, he saw himself attending a performance of the Passion of Christ Play in 1930 in the mountain village of Obergammergau, which he attended alone when Marie refused to go after being given reserved seats by a friend.

He saw again the things he had been shown--, age after age portrayed until the Final Judgment before the Throne of God. At the point where he and the canoe plunged into a flood of waters of incalculable force and weight, he saw one last thing: the wooden cross, and the thorn-crowned figure bleeding upon it.

It seemed, as he fell, that the choice was then his: would he thrust it away, or embrace it? If he thrust it away as offensive to him, he knew he would fall with Shickelgruber and his evil empire onto the rocks below.

But if he shed his repugnance for it and embraced what his dying intellect cried was folly and superstition...? Stretching out his arms, he chose! He chose with his heart.

A little Picayo Indian boy of a nearly extinct Brasilian tribe was paddling through the chocolate brown, swollen waters of the river below the falls, at the juncture where the waters divided into channels of two branches. There he liked to fish for the stunned fishes that fell down over the falls and maybe knocked against a rock. Dazed like that, they weren't so wary of him then, he found. He had speared two good-sized fishes here only last week.

Here the streams from the Falls divided into the Rio of the Suffering Servant and the Rio of the King. It was his best fishing ground. But instead of a dorado he hoped to spot he found floating next to his own canoe the shattered remains of a dugout like his own.

It was no surprise to him.

He had seen others like it, belonging to drowned owners who for some reason had ventured too close to the falls and gone over. Unless you knew the river above the falls like you knew your own mother or father's face, the falls could take you by surprise.

But as he idly passed by the broken canoe he thought he would check it. Sometimes he could find something of value still attached--a half-torn shirt perhaps to cover his naked body.

With no shirt of his own, he could use it, unless his father took it from him. But there was nothing, he found. Only the wood, broken and twisted into an odd shape. Where had he seen such a shape? Oh, he remembered.

When his grandmother and his mother had gotten suddenly very sick, after wrapping themselves in blankets some men from the riverboat had thrown onto the riverbank.

The men said to burn them, but why burn good blankets? They had died, and his father took him and his brothers and sisters to a village downstream where his grandmother and mother's remaining family lived for their tribe had only these two small villages). There was a wooden thing shaped like this broken canoe hanging on the beams in a white-painted building.

His father explained to him.

His father said it was the "cross," and a man called "Christos" hung on it, but he could make no sense of anything his father said that day, his heart was too full.

Many candles were lit and set beneath, where and grandmother and his mother were laid in square wooden boxes. A man in a long black robe mumbled things in a language nobody understood. He burned something and smoked the air with it, and the boy's head hurt and his eyes smarted. It went on and on, while the people kept silent. Only later, when they laid his grandmother and mother in dug holes, did the women wail.

The boy remembered his mother, and he paused, his eyes crying silently. How cold and dark their home had been without her, and Grandmother too. There was no love beneath their roof now. As if to reach out to his mother again, he reached out and touched the broken canoe before it could slip away.

As he did a strange thing happened. It turned over in the water, and he saw attached to it was a man's body just as he had seen a carved figure of one on the cross in the village church.

How similar they were! The battered limbs, with only a few piranha attracted so far to the nearly bloodless body, were worn to the bones by rubbing on rocks.

Too young yet to despise or fear strangers, and touched by the memory of his lost mother, he felt sorry for the man. What should he do? But he decided he could do something to help the man and save him from being eaten like a dead dog thrown in the water. He tied his line to the floating cross with the man upon it, and towed them to shore.

His bigger brothers, seeing him, came running. They wouldn't help him at first, but then they helped him get the man and his cross up on the river bank. Now that they had gotten him that far, they had to bury him properly of course. The boy ran to his father, who was squatting on the doorstep of their hut. He was angry when he saw the useless work his son had brought home. But to do nothing would shame a grown man, so he decided get a planting stick and dig and bury the drowned man.

He was a white man. Did white men have useful things? Oh yes! Everybody knew no white man ever went naked or travelled without valuable things. He looked the body over carefully and found only a battered compass strapped to the man's wrist. It was shattered, of no use! He threw it and spit.

Three days later the boy was back out on the Rio of the Suffering Servant aiming to spear the big, tasty dorado that they all wanted but seldom brought in.

He had retrieved the broken compass his father had discarded and, for good luck, tied it along with a chip of wood from the cross-canoe to the wrist of his throwing arm. With the confidence that afforded him, he had asked his father for his father's spear, saying he had to have it if he were to get the big fish.

His father laughed at him, but let him have it anyway as his other sons jeered the boy. He had a very good day. He speared a big fish, and not only one but two.

It was all he could do to pull them into the canoe without overturning. Finally, after much struggle, he managed it, and took them home in his barely floating canoe. There was feasting and happiness in his home that evening, and enough food to invite their neighbors, lest the excess spoil. Best of all, his father gave the no-name boy a pair of carnival shirt and pants costume that had somehow come his way, colorfully striped and spangled with glittering sequins, and named him, and he was known thereafter as the boy who had speared two big dorados in one day--something few grown men could claim.

How his brothers hated him, as he went about in his flamboyantly colored carnival shirt and pants, though he was the youngest. Ignorant of the holy scriptures the black-robed priest carried, thus doomed to repeat mistakes made in like contexts of the soul, they, without any claim to special favor from their father, fished furiously in the King branch of the river, but could never beat their brother's record.

One day his envious, older brothers grew so enraged at the sight of him parading around--it seemed to them--in his wonderful clothes, while they had to go in rag-tag, handed-down shorts, that they set upon him and tied him up and sold him to a Brasiliano river trader who paid them thirty Paraguayan centavos and took him away downstream in his boat. The brothers ripped up the prize pants and shirt, and then took them to their father, crying out that a jaguar had killed their beloved brother.

Feigning tears and grief as best they could, they showed the torn finery to their father.

His father truly loved his "two big dorado-catching son".

In fact, he has come to love this son the most of all and thought little of his older brothers, whom he knew were lazy fellows and ran after village girls instead of providing for the family. He was too poor to pay the priest again, so he buried the only thing he had left of his one good son with no ceremony, but he put over the grave a cross he carved (for he was the best carver of wood in the village).

He could not write, so he could not put anything on it. Otherwise, it would have said, "My favorite, Joseph."



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