The Maze of Mojave (Part 1)

The Maze of Mojave (Part 1)

Daniel Lichtenstein-Boris

Across the dusty plain—past the city sleeping in a sea of streetlights and sound that stretches from the beaches and boardwalks through the smog smothered streets and trash choked viaducts to the Sierra Madre mountain range that separates the arid desert from manicured hedges, watered lawns, and soapy suds slinking off washed cars to sink down grated drains—a red rock canyon climbs above the brush and plain stretching out to meet the clear blue sky.  Its entrance can barely be discerned, a narrow gap in a wall of cliffs shooting skyward in brilliant streaks of red and white rock.  But in that unassuming entrance, those that know stand in reverent awe and wonder – this is the entrance to the maze of Mojave.

The legend of the canyon is closely kept, passed down from generation to generation.  But echoes of a rumor of it are whispered in the dark, under moonless skies in the howling wind between the shadows of desert encampments of recreational vehicles.  In ghost towns, long since abandoned after the bust of a century old gold rush, you can hear the words if you listen close—to the rust rattling in the desert wind when it gusts past at the break of day.  Its’ words are whispered in hushed tones by hobos drinking in desolate encampments huddled around oil drum campfires on the edge of the metropolis.

The canyon, they say, snakes upwards in a steep narrow ravine flanked by loose rock that periodically falls in an avalanche of dust—pebbles whizzing past like bullets, and grapefruit sized boulders like cannon balls, the grey granite and brown and tan rock hurtling down from fiendishly high cliffs; temperamental slopes that don’t like being disturbed, and mistrust visitors.

If you could make it past the gauntlet of loose rock, through the ravine flanked by brutal cliffs on either side, the canyon seems to end after a harrowing gauntlet—a mile and a half of loose footholds, sand, and gravel; one loud cough, or a kicked rock, will surely lead to the canyon swallowing the traveler who disturbs the silence.

One rumor says the true believers break through telepathically, others suggest a hidden cave, but whichever is right, this bitter end to the narrow and steep ravine is the beginning of the second passageway.

For here the subterranean network of caverns rise to their highest point, and within these caves, the vast southwestern desert aquifer, the precious liquid sustaining life, gushes up from beneath the earth’s crust.  A sip of this water, at this pure, unadulterated source, cures all disease.  A glass brings vitality and fertility.  This water, they say, is what the conquistadors vainly searched for, perishing in the desert’s arid sun as they traveled north, proceeded by pestilence, leaving a path of scorched and plundered indigenous villages behind them—searching for the mythical fountain of life.

But did they really perish?  And what would it be like; to live forever, but lose your soul?

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