Dream, home, 5:30am
Hippos dying. They are a food source, allowed to die and then butchered. But if a certain breed of bird attacks them while they die in the mud, the hippos become infected with a poisoning disease. They actually become a different creature with a different name. All those who eat of the meat die in terrible pain. I dive into their muddy hole as a pair of them are set upon by the parasitic birds, almost get crushed as one hippo swings her head about to see me. I give up and pull myself backwards out of the muck.
Nearby, on the banks of a wide river stands The Signpost Tree. It is the center of navigation for all of the animals, including man. The tree branches are long, strong and straight. By climbing the trunk, which is the tallest on the continent, one can see to one’s destination and walk out on the branch leading in that direction. In this way, species that could not normally have crossed the river have spread through the land. The bark of the tree is smooth, hard and a chalky green color. From my place, a thousand feet in the sky, I see strong branches, impossibly long, some extending for miles, many with traffic of monkeys and wildcats and people. I walk out on a branch that leads across the raging river. My goal is to cross the water and travel down to the sea by following the west bank.
The hazy morning sky lets me see for miles, but without clear detail. I know the sea is ahead, within walking distance. On the far side of the river, the land has been developed by humans. Stepping off the half-mile long branch, I join a footpath which becomes a broken paved walkway that parallels the river. The drop becomes steeper, and I let myself fall the big leaps between levels of concrete. I bounce on youthful, flexible knees. I think that my one-legged brother must be losing ground behind me, but that I can turn around and climb back to him.
When I reach the bottom, I find an old concrete bathhouse, its calcified paint flaking onto the ground. On reaching the sea-shore I turn and trot back up the path. Not sure of what my brother looks like, I peer into the faces of people headed down the path I climb. I do not spot my brother, but find a cinder block pump house at the half-way point between the sea and the end of the branch of The Signpost Tree. I climb a pipe ladder onto the roof and drop down through a sheet metal trap door.
Inside, it is dark until an old man uncovers a window on the east side, which faces the river. I ask him if he has seen my brother. He points to a burlap sack on the floor. I pull back one end and see a small body of a greasy haired boy, curled in a puddle of oily liquid. It barely breathes.
The old man tells me: “I’ve seen this before. They get The Thirst, and nothing can stop them from drinking the first thing they find. Looks like he found half a can of coconut milk in the trash – they get tossed in and they ferment. He may come out of it.” He does not sound too reassuring, nor does he want to.