The Zen River and Lego Men
Eerily clear, the sky’s transparent blue seemed very near to me. I was looking up, getting lost in its expanse, still smelling the dirt and vegetation around me. Red rocks reminded me of my time in Arizona. The landscape stretched out for eternities; I didn’t expect to see another human being for ages. When I looked down at the stone and dirt into which my bare toes dug, I saw my cousin passed out on the ground by a large rock. As I knelt down to wake him, I began to hear the sounds of young voices boisterously talking and laughing drunkenly. He moved and gurgled without opening his eyes. He validated my suspicions: an irreverent nearby party had run him into the ground. Blue vomit was all around his head as he tossed in pain. I knew I had to carry him home.
I took him in my arms; his long body rested across mine awkwardly as his middle sank closer to the ground with each step I took. The constant readjustment jostled him, and, at times, we needed to stop so he could vomit. As we traveled on in the hot afternoon sun, my bare feet feeling the burn and sting across searing stone and dry grass, he began to sober up. My thighs ached, muscles bulging and becoming tight and immobile. He regained coherency and functional motor skills just before my legs gave out completely. Placing him down on his own two feet, we rested and squinted at the landscape before us. We had reached a summit though we were unaware that we were traveling toward one; the slope was unnoticeable, and the climb was gradual. Looking out, we saw the immaculate sky and white sun hanging still over black, glistening mountains. I noticed the way down was to be via natural slides that had formed into the rock.
I nodded to my cousin, “Let’s go.”
He cocked his head to one side with inquiry. I gestured to the mountain slide, wide enough to fit both of us across. His eyes popped. “Oh no,” he protested, “I can’t.”
“Are you afraid?”
“J___, it is a slide. You just sit down, give a slight push and let go. All you need to do is let go and let it carry you.”
After some minutes of apprehension he chose to allow himself to trust me and the mountain slide. We rode down together. At points we’d reach a flat stretch of rock to walk across before being greeted with another slide. I lost track of how many we rode. Eventually the scene changed.
A saturated-green forest stood ahead of us. Walking through the trees we came to a very large, wide river. The water was crystal clear with shifting tints of greys, white and blues that dazzled in the rays of sun filtered by the trees. Whether by quiet acceptance, choice or unidentifiable push, we entered the water. Dark green plant material rose from the bottom and rested under us. It was very thin and pliable but unbelievably strong for its appearance. It held us perfectly, peacefully; though it was understood that if we resisted, fought or became restless that the grace of the pseudo-lily pad would become disturbed, dropping us into the water. This was not a threat for the waters were calm but deep, and the river had a way of moving swiftly while rolling slowly. We relaxed on the pads and floated. As we flowed deeper into the forest, we began to noticed bifurcations in the river; many times it was due to trees growing within the river, though, on occasion, there were man-made structures, too.
My cousin started to worry about where we were going and if we needed to take the same paths. I told him to relax and meditate, to let the current carry him; this was a Zen River. So we both did. He was ahead of me for most of the ride.
As the distance between us increased, I had noticed something odd. Small lego men floating or sinking in the river became apparent. I stared at them for a while.
I somehow “dissolved.” I was no longer on the river (or was I?); I was witnessing another story, which explained to occurrence of the lego men.
Three to four men were in a run-down cabin somewhere off in the woods. It seemed that this portion of the forest was mostly dead or dying. I got the distinct feeling that these men were not “good men.” They were dressed in muted colors, sweating profusely in the heat and toted concealed weapons. After scanning the cabin, I noticed a hostage, prostrate on the couch, his hands bound and his eyes blindfolded. What transpired was something I haven’t witnessed before.
Over courses of days and weeks, they had led their hostage to believe that he shared the life of the lego man. The man’s perspective would shift from his “real world” to the lego reality. The other men had complete control over the lego reality in which the hostage was trapped. The lego man had a house, a family, a job, hobbies, concerns, addictions, and accomplishments. The man experienced everything that the lego man did. The other men forced the hostage to spend more and more time as the lego man until the lines between him and the lego man were so blurred that memories of either were inseparable.
This is when their torture tactics began.
It was unclear if the men actually wanted information from the hostage or if they just wanted to play with him before killing him. They approached the man as if they were looking for information or answers. Of course, the man had none of these. Still bound and blind on the couch, the men went outside to a small pool they had formed from the river water. They proceeded to drown the lego man. The man on the couch warbled and struggled, believing he was drowning, too. The men would let the lego man up for air in short, unpredictable spurts. The man on the couch spit up water.
A critical point came at last. “Either surrender yourself (his life?) or the lego man dies, and all his life goes with it,” said the men.
Something happened; the man was jostled from the lego reality. Shifting perspective, he began to laugh. A surge of strength allowed him to break his bonds and tear off the blindfold. He laughed maniacally and bursting outside, he glared at the men, still bellowing.
“What kind of man would I be if I gave into your silly worlds and sacrificed my own life for the fabrications of some pathetic criminals? I have a wife, a family, a job, people that love me, places that know me, and I am going to have them suffer for your delusions that you wish me to own as well? Tough shit. Kill the damned toy.”
And he walked off invincible.