You are here, here on this island. Where, exactly, did you come from? The sea? Another island? You don't seem to remember; that's convenient.
You try to sketch a face in your mind, someone you know: a girl, a boy, anyone from before this place. But this island. A gloomy pyramid and sheer mountains efface the sky. Desiccated soil everywhere. Swatches of green. The sound of water falling on rock. You're stranded from those you loved, perhaps, or you could not love them anymore and that's why you left. Whatever. This is your garden; this is your home now.
You have a shovel; you use it to thwack things into pieces. Chocolate coins come out of objects and you scurry to chase them down. You are paid in chocolate; the currency here; an insult in the most arrogantly, optimistic way you can imagine, in the same way people say they are glad to see you; you know the truth. On the face of a coin is something vaguely Aztecan, but how can you be sure? This place, surely, is not Mexico. It is not modern. There are merchants. They all trade goods and services for the coins. The coins are precious in the way water is precious. Here, everyone wants the coins. You seem to supply them with their share, or maybe they have second jobs. The woman at the general store, the woman at the pet store, the mail lady. Perhaps they should get a shovel and thwack things too, you think.
Sometimes you have visitors, eclectic masked visitors you expect to speak Nahuatl. Everyone wears ritualistic masks but curiously speaks English. When at first they introduce themselves, you find them curious and pleasant. They try to help you, and they do when you're not looking. What they do is wander. They are not unlike you, in a way, but in other ways you can see they are clearly differnet. You watch them to see if they are familiar to you, it's like that old adage of the boiling pot--the pot eventually boils in reality; everyone knows that. The visitors wander; you let them. You ignore them. But they're always there. Not in your mind, really, but somewhere. Sometimes you whack them with your shovel. You do it, and they get mad. They skulk away. Later they return as if gloriously forgiven. And you question their mental health. They always come back, though. Always. Here, nothing is sacred. No fucking way.
There are these creatures. Pi?atas. Vessels. They're almost-animals: bats, dogs, cats, bees, ants, sheep, snakes, eagles, chickens, monkeys, horses, hippos, pigeons--you've seen pi?atas. But these you've never seen at a party. Perhaps you have seen them in a dream, but you do not dream anymore. You do not sleep. The days are interchangeable and constant, tranquil and dreamlike-a half-dream maybe. It rains and you watch the dark clouds release their thickness. You thank the sun when it comes, for getting rid of the rain. You get nauseous often, from the weather. That comes and goes at first, but you get better, you get used to it. The animals are happy here. You can see it clearly as if by happiness-meters below their bodies. Perhaps there is something in the water. Just like off-broadway plays about small towns. There is always something in the water.
Pinatas get sick. Dastardos comes for them, reaperlike, hovering inches off the ground as if grass's touch would turn him to mist. He carries a stick, not terribly threatening, but you cannot stop him by conventional means. You try the shovel, but it does nothing. This moment is predetermined. He seems to know what the pi?atas carry inside. When he breaks them open, they release their souls, and the other pi?atas come and eat what is left.
There are other creatures too. Wild pi?atas. Sours. You do not like them; they poison your pi?atas. So you break them open with your shovel. A temporary solution. You ask your visitors how to keep them away, but they only scoff and shrug, toss seeds helter-skelter, enjoying themselves. You wish you could enjoy yourself too, but there are all these problems and if no one else is going to solve them, you will. You will.
Professor Pester and the Ruffians. They're like a gang; a gang led by a professor, but you doubt he has a degree in anything: maybe ceramics. He comes to murder your pi?atas; no method like with Dastardos who only comes for sick ones. He is a demon of this place. But not an apparition like Dastardos. The banana trees and poppies shudder when Pester comes. Pester comes when you don't want him. He seems to want to keep things from getting out of his own control. He seems to have control, or shift it into his hands. His big smile says it all.
You chase them away, it takes the whole day. You have to be vigilant. The strange Aztec visitors do not help you. You think they are laughing behind your back.
The shovel is very useful and you keep it handy in case those demons come back. You discover that it can also turn dry soil into moist soil. It can cut long grass. It can dig shallow pools of water. It does all this, but it does not leave any collateral. There is no left over soil, no grass, and it seems to dig into holes of water. That is fine. You don't ask where it goes, where the water comes from. Law of conservation of energy be damned. There must be a pile somewhere, you think. Perhaps behind that mountain you cannot see over, or behind the gloomy pyramid, or in the steady, unaffected sea. You think to ask the woman at the general store, but she is curt and rude. She reminds you of someone you once knew, a sketch of a face, her yellow sundress, her blue hair. She doesn't regard you with the same fondness.
There is another merchant, but he seems shifty and hasn't showered in days, weeks. He's highly specialized, sells gems and magic fertilizer. You buy a gem and take it to the other merchant. She takes it from you with the same response, "Are you sure?" Yes. You're sure. This is what you've been trying to tell her.
In the back of your mind are the coins. You can buy things; so you do. You decorate your garden with a sunken ship, a surf board, a statue of a bird and a bear. Novelties, all of them; but that's what this world offers you and you take what you are offered. You look up and admire the stars before dawn dissolving into a cold blue, the sun at your back, and wonder where you are on the great map. There is an economy here and now you are a part of it. You spend and you spend. And the merchant just gets greedier and greedier. You are happy to oblige her, but she does little else than vend, and says nothing in regards to the island you inhabit, does not respond to passes, feeble attempts at humor. You make a joke. Nothing. It was only a joke, you want to say. Laugh.
There is something about the pi?atas. They can make love, but only through song and dance. They appear to know what to do from birth and no sooner are new pi?atas born they are screwing like bunnycombs. They dissapear for hours and reemerge, energized--the opposite effect of what you expect. Storkos brings an egg for them, down from her perch on the sheer mountain. She is an overweight woman dressed, almost ritualistically, like a bird. Her diminutive wings work, somehow, propelling her to and from pinata's houses. This doesn't startle you; nothing startles you anymore.
Some pi?atas leave. Other pi?atas arrive. Your garden is like a hostel; if there is a bed there will be a body in it. There are so many creatures that you cannot keep track of them anymore. You try to fence them in, keep them where you can control them, but the Ruffians come by and destroy your fence. You once named a Sparrowmint after your first love, but you sold it and cannot even remember the name anymore. You sell pi?atas. This is how you make your money. At first you were distressed at the emptiness of one pinata, but another one came. There is a diminishing returns here, and now you do not care to name them--it is too painful. You sell more. The chocolate coins are rolling in and the general merchant looks pleased. She doesn't really show it. This kind of relationship is difficult, but you keep at it anyway and one day you suspect she'll show that other side. That sunshine from the constant rain.
The stars are always quiet and you are serenaded nightly by music in your head. The Ruffians and Professor Pester have not been around in a while, but you are vigilant. You have built a house for the visitors and a few others who you have found a use for. One of them waters plants for you, this is helpful. One of them gathers nuts and berries, sure. There is a mine in the corner of the garden--you bought it--and one of the helpers disappears each morning with a pitchfork and helmetlamp. He doesn't seem to complain, or want compensation for the health risks of spending day after day in such a discommodious mine. Perhaps the mine was made for him and he for the mine. He seems to love the mine in the same way you are fond of the merchant. You think this is portentous, and want tell her. She only wants your money and her time alone. Who doesn't? She is not looking for love. Who is? You know it. You want to tell her she could be nicer to you, but she will only wave "Come back again!" as if there was any other choice.
You find something unique to the pi?atas; some can change color, others can crossbreed, some can evolve. You experiment with what you have, morning and evening, rain or shine, all day. You will figure them all out. Your Shellybean has turned blue like the sea. Your Sparrowmint evolved into a Candary--yellow. There are specific combinations, you think. They are meant for change through discovery, excessive breeding, and profit. Pinatas are an economy; self sustaining, given the proper care. They are a duplicating currency. They duplicate themseleves. They are endless like the stars.
In the right moments, an old man in a wheelchair emerges from his home--a white beard slung under his chin. He presents you with awards and ribbons like you would expect to be given to science project participants. He is fairly patronizing, but harmless. You let him intrude into your day, but you wish he would go away, or maybe bestow more knowledge regarding the pinata you have. Something; anything. He only ever talks about himself, but you feel a kinship with him. He is stranded here too, is he not? He has lost someone too.
His wife: that is who. And his son--Professor Pester it turns out. Not only is the old man stranded, but he has divorced his son from his life. You are not the only lost one here. You cannot find your life here--at least your memory is not here to haunt you, he tells you.
That's right, you want to say. It isn't. And you return to the shop to the girl in the sundress with a gem from your gem tree -- thank you, come back again!
-- and she takes it from you without blinking for the third time today.