The University of Laurie (page 1)
In 2006 Laurie traveled to Costa Rica where she had an extraordinary experience that she later wrote about in this one-hour story. (A one-hour story is a story written, from start to finish, in an hour.)
Crossing by Laurie J. Marks, March 2006
This is why we invented God. She thought that, and then thought no more.
The silence, palpable, profound, silence upon silence, all the way to the furthest distance of the planet. No faint white noise of engines, no voices whispering in the remotest of housing tracts, no airplanes overhead, not even in the stratosphere. The incessant racket of habitation, replaced by inexorable stillness. The noisy walls of earth had fallen and no longer shielded the anxious, foolish masters of the planet from the vast silence of the infinite universe.
There were no words for this. Her traveling companions were not the chattering kind, but even if they had been, they could not have spoken. There were no words, just silence: silence within the cranium, indistinguishable from the silence without. Silence and something else, something too massive and quiet to be fear.
Even the boat's engine was soundless. It moved by the currents that powered this silence, the darkness that moved over the face of the deep. Sometimes a faint rippling of water would remind her again who she was: a woman in a boat crossing a lake in the night near a volcano and a rain forest in Costa Rica, from which the golden toad, Bufo periglene, had recently disappeared; an environmental disaster in miniature. Now she also was not there any more.
From the perspective of the frogs, that certainly was an improvement. Their pilot spoke only Spanish. He had politely explained that it was necessary that he leave the lights off in order to navigate. He gave the impression that they could object, but that he would disregard their objections in favor of what was wise.
Her Spanish, she knew, was inaccurate, inarticulate, and inappropriately polite, but the Ticans were supernaturally courteous, and pretended to be impressed by her ability to speak their language at all. She had picked up some of the dialect and now greeted passing strangers with “Bueno” ending with a sound like an “s” being swallowed, instead of the schoolbook-correct “Buenos dias.” She could not cease to be a tourist, but perhaps she could be incrementally less obvious.
“Como se puede saber donde va?” she asked the pilot. How do you know where to go?
“Yo se el lago,” replied the pilot, with a helpless shrug that suggested he meant something much more than “I know the lake.”
As the walls fell and the universe became present, she understood: he had shrugged because her question had made no sense. He was the lake, the man of the lake.
And his boat was of darkness: a black boat, on black water, under black sky, with the shore a mere intuition, black beyond black. During that morning's rainy crossing she had sketched the lake in her hand-made journal: the shapely curves of the shore, with the jungle pressing in, a tiny, inviting island with a small crowd of massive trees. Now all those features had been absorbed by night. No house lights sent fractured reflections across the water. No people, no power, no autos, no buildings, no reference points. Boat was water, water was land, land was sky. She could not be certain anything existed, much less where the limits lay. But the pilot knew because he was.
The silence and the darkness had entered her now, a universe within and without. She understood all human actions as nothing more than desperate measures.
She wanted to be like the pilot.