A short story by Douglas Mcelheny
As the plane touched down on the runway in Cusco, Peru I felt a rush of excitement. For years I had been waiting to see the massive stone blocks of the ruins at Saxaywaman which were fit together so tightly you couldn’t slip a piece of paper between them. I was also greatly looking forward to hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Pichu as well as wandering the ruins scattered throughout Cusco. I wasn’t as excited though about mixing in the atmosphere of Cusco itself due to the fact of its being the world mecca of shallow New Age spirituality. Here in Cusco you could get your astrological profile for this life as well as the three following ones, attend a workshop on how to enter into inner contact with your animal totems, relax for an hour in a sensory deprivation tank, and receive initiation into the 'I AM' meditation foundation all in the same day. And that's just the first day! Anything goes in Cusco and any crackpot, shyster or spiritual conman could set up shop there and try to make a buck.
Upon exiting the plane I was assaulted by a horde of underpaid Peruvians shoving brochures and photos in my face for all kinds of things. I took a few just for fun and stepped onto the bus to town.
As the bus started off I took a look at the pamphlets I had taken. I had to chuckle at the first one which was for a so called guru who called himself Shri Shri Swami Bhaktanandanandananda and whose pamphlet proudly boasted that “Even the Supreme Himself seeks the wise council of Shri Shri Swami Bhaktanandanandananda!” The next one was for a clinic where you could receive coffee enemas and which was humorously named ‘Starbutts.’ The last one was for the Deep Space Hotel. It had a picture of the hotel itself which was basically a large saucer shaped UFO. The pamphlet said the hotel had been built according to instructions and designs given by “our friends” the aliens to serve as a sort of antenna for helping the guests to achieve inner contact with them.
As I was rolling my eyes at this a voice from behind me said, “Hey! Are you thinking about going to the Deep Space Hotel? That's where I'm headed.”
I looked behind me and saw a 40ish New Age tourist sitting there. He was wearing a metallic pyramid on his head and a t-shirt with a picture of Alf giving the peace sign. He looked so ridiculous I had to stifle the urge to burst out laughing and then politely told him, “Oh no, I don’t think so. It doesn’t really look like my kind of place.”
“You really don’t know what you’re missing fellow earthling,” he replied, “The Deep Space Hotel is up at the top of the ridge and has a fantastic view of Saxaywaman. It’s also got the best food in all of Cusco! Just give it a try for one night.”
Wanting to nip this conversation in the bud my mind groped for a well-mannered way to firmly tell this fellow I wasn’t interested. But then I suddenly was struck by the synchronicity of the encounter and decided to surrender to this strange development. So I told him “All right then I guess I’ll give it a try for one night.”
“Awesome!” he exclaimed. “You won’t regret it. What’s your designation fellow earthling?”
“My designation?” I asked
“Oh my name. It’s Jonathan what’s yours?”
“Dor-Vok.” he said proudly.
“Dor-Vok?” I thought, “Oh brother, you’ve got to be kidding me.”
But then I politely bit my tongue and said “Nice to meet you Dor-Vok.”
“Likewise,” Dor-Vok replied. Then he said, “Hey why don’t just relax and enjoy the drive into town. We’ll have plenty of time to talk on the shuttlecraft to the hotel.”
“Oh, okay,” I said, “Sounds good.”
So I relaxed in my chair and enjoyed the sights of this new and unfamiliar culture. Buildings and plazas sped by as well as throngs of people. Most were what, for lack of a better word, one could call ‘modern’ or ‘contemporary’ Peruvians dressed in western garb but there were also thickets of campesinos in their colorful clothing and hats.
Eventually we came to what I recognized as the main plaza or Plaza de Armas. Here the bus stopped and we disembarked. Dor-Vok said, “Follow me. The shuttlecraft is on the other side of the plaza.”
So I followed Dor-Vok across the plaza. As we walked there was no shortage of people, both locals and tourists, pointing and snickering at the pyramid on Dor-Vok’s head but he seemed to be oblivious to it. As we neared the other side I spotted the shuttlecraft. It was a mini-van or combi which has been modified to look like a space shuttle. A small crowd of campesinos had gathered to gawk at the shuttlecraft as well as at the man standing at attention beside it. He was dressed in a crisp white military style uniform and cap similar to the ones worn by imperial officers in Star Wars. As Dor-Vok approached he gave a salute and said, “Greetings Dor-Vok.”
“Greetings Commander Quasar,” Dor-Vok replied, “It’s good see you.”
“And you as well,” Quasar replied, “I see you’ve brought a friend. Will he be accompanying us to the Deep Space Hotel?” he asked.
“Affirmative Commander,” Dor-Vok replied, “Will it be possible to procure quarters for my friend?”
“As luck would have it we have one private room left.”
“Great!” Dor-Vok exclaimed, “Then lets get going. I’m anxious to see the hotel again.”
So we boarded the shuttlecraft. Commander Quasar fired up the engines and as the speakers played the opening fanfare of the Star Trek theme song we merged into traffic and were off.
It was then that Dor-Vok turned to me with a gleeful look on his face and I could see he could barely contain his excitement. “Oh man I’m glad were off because now I can finally tell you how lucky you are my friend.”
“Oh?” I said, “Why is that?”
“Because in two days Jonathan, the world is going to end. But we’re going to be saved!”
Then Dor-vok proceeded to tell me the tale of Darth Gravitas. Twenty years ago Gravitas, a former financial consultant and avid sci-fi fan from Detroit, had sustained a considerable head injury one day in an automobile accident and slipped into a coma for nearly a week. During that time he had prolonged dreams where he was communing with aliens from the Epsilon Eridani star system. The aliens, who for simplicities sake referred to themselves as the Eridani, claimed to have a very advanced space faring society as well as the ability to communicate telepathically with sentient beings on other worlds. According to the Eridani they had been charged with guiding the future of humanity and all of the world’s great religious figures and scriptures had been inspired telepathically by them. They told Darth Gravitas that he was to be their latest chosen instrument. They then bestowed the name Gravitas upon him (the Darth has been his own addition) since his message was to be a rather serious one given to humanity in order to avoid an imminent apocalypse. Then Darth Gravitas emerged from his coma and the Deep Space movement was born. Darth Gravitas was more of preacher than a writer though and as he spoke to people he gradually accumulated more and more followers, who of course gave him lots of money. The Deep Space movement was now five thousand strong and had numerous centers throughout the world such as the Deep Space Hotel in Cusco. But it wasn’t enough. The message of Darth Gravitas had not been heard and now doom was upon us. Those however who had heard and heeded the message would be protected by the Eridani in certain designated locations one of which was the Deep Space Hotel. Afterwards under the leadership and guidance of Darth Gravitas and with the help of Eridani technology the survivors would build a new Golden Age for humanity.
“Wow, that’s quite a story,” I remarked
“Yeah I know it’s a lot to take in all at once,” Dor-Vok said. Then he smiled and said, “Look there’s the Deep Space Hotel!”
And indeed there it was in all its saucer-like glory. It was actually quite a bit bigger than I’d realized and as we approached I noticed a lot of activity. Food and supplies were being loaded on board. Apparently they were going to be prepared.
Commander Quasar brought the shuttlecraft to rest and Dor-Vok and I got out and ascended the entry ramp into the belly of the hotel where we entered into a lobby area. Behind the front desk a young Peruvian woman in the same type of uniform as Commander Quasar checked us in and gave us our card keys to our rooms. Though I didn’t believe doomsday was coming in two days I was curious to see how the situation played out so I went ahead and took the room for two nights. I found it interesting that even though the world was going to end both Dor-Vok and I still had to pay for those two nights. When I asked Dor-Vok about this he said that Darth Gravitas had indicated that everything should go on like business as usual right up until the end. Convenient.
My room was on the other side of the saucer so Dor-Vok told me if I liked I could join him and some of his friends for dinner at six o’clock in the Cosmic Café restaurant on the top deck. I said that sounded good and we parted. I got to my room and unpacked taking note of the photo on the wall of Darth Gravitas. He was Caucasian, appeared to be in his late 40’s or early 50’s and was dressed in a long flowing black robe with a rather solemn look on his face.
I had about two hours to kill so I headed over to Saxaywaman and spent a delightful hour wandering around and admiring the massive stones and marveling at the skill that created them. I also thought about Darth Gravitas. Was he a complete fraud or was he somebody who had been taken in by misleading voices? A number of spiritual authors I had read had spoken at length in their works about such dangers lurking in the occult regions of consciousness.
Looking at my watch I saw it was time to be getting back. So I headed back to the hotel, had a much needed shower and went up to the Cosmic Café. The Café it turned out was the highest point of the hotel and actually rotated slowly giving a fantastic panorama of Saxaywaman and the surrounding area. Looking around I spotted Dor-Vok who waved me over to his table where he was sitting with a number of other people. I sat down and Dor-Vok introduced me to his companions who were all around his age. The first was a woman from Japan who went by the name of Mim-Nax. Mim-Nax looked like she had just stepped out of Tron and was clad in a bodysuit covered with glowing patterns of blue LED lights. Next to her was a somewhat nerdy looking couple from Germany whose designations were Q5-X4 (or just Q5 for short) and HI-D. They, as well as many others in the café were clad in black flowing robes like Darth Gravitas wore in the photo I had seen. Lastly there was a grinning Jewish fellow from Boston who obviously didn’t take his ethnicity too seriously and jocularly referred to himself as Captain Kike. He wore a yellow captain’s shirt from Star Trek and a Boston Red-Sox ball cap.
Dor-Vok related the tale of how we had met and everyone marveled at the synchronicity and my good fortune. I told them a little bit about myself, that I was 35 years old and a school teacher and that I had become interested in spiritual things after taking a class on eastern philosophy in college. I told them that coming to Cusco and hiking the Inca Trail had been on my bucket list for years. Then we all got up to partake of the sizeable vegetarian buffet and as Dor-Vok had claimed the food was delicious.
I mostly just listened during the dinner conversation which all related directly or indirectly to the coming doomsday. Regret was expressed at never seeing loved ones again, plans were discussed on how to spend the final day in Cusco and excitement and trepidation were shared concerning what life would be like after the apocalypse. It turned out Darth Gravitas had not disclosed the form in which the end would come and various theories were debated such as a magnetic pole reversal, a collision with a large asteroid, or even some sort of action on the part of the Eridani. Apparently the tenets of Darth Gravitas did not condemn alcohol and a large amount of peruvian beer was consumed by everyone but Dor-Vok and myself with the result that the group became progressively more loud and boisterous. The situation progressively deteriorated until Q5 began to rant in a garbled amalgamation of German and Klingon and then everyone agreed we should pack it in for the night. It was decided that we would meet the next morning and head down to Cusco for breakfast.
It had been a long day and I got immediately into bed when I got back to my room and quickly feel asleep and slept like a rock. About an hour before I was supposed to meet the others for breakfast I got up for a short meditation and then had a shower. I headed down to the lobby and everyone but Captain Kike was already there. Mim-Nax, Q5 and HI-D had decided that a coffee enema would be just the thing for their hangovers and had made plans to head straight to Starbutts asking if any of us wanted to join them. Neither Dor-Vok or I were interested so I suggested to him that perhaps we could walk down rather than take a taxi and he could chose a good spot for breakfast. He agreed as Captain Kike finally arrived. When he heard everyone’s plans he decided he would head to Starbutts as well so Dor-Vok and I set out in the direction of the Plaza de Armas.
As we descended towards the city I asked Dor-Vok how he had come to Darth Gravitas and the Deep Space Movement. Somewhat emotionally Dor-Vok told me that he had first met Darth Gravitas ten years before after his life had more or less fallen apart. He’d lost both his job and his wife as the result of an alcohol problem and had decided to end his life. He had purchased a handgun for this purpose but because he lived in Florida, he had to wait 72 hours before he could bring the gun home. As he sat on a park bench feeling miserable a man put a pamphlet in his hand with information on a meeting that evening of the Deep Space Movement. He felt strangely inspired by the pamphlets claims that aliens were loving and watching over us and he decided to go and as it turned out Darth Gravitas himself was in town to speak to the group. Dor-Vok had found himself mesmerized by Darth Gravitas’ tales of his inner experiences with the Eridani and the promises of the Golden Age to come. Hope, a long absent guest, welled up in his heart and with tears in his eyes he prostrated himself before Darth Gravitas and pledged his allegiance to him and the Eridani.
By this time we had reached the Plaza de Armas and Dor-Vok led me to a campesino woman serving delicious tamales from a large pressure cooker. As we munched on our breakfast we discussed how we would spend the day. I told Dor-Vok I’d like to explore the ruins in town as well as the local markets. He agreed to be my guide for the day and off we went. We spent many enjoyable hours walking through the city visiting such sights as the Temple of the Sun and other remains of the Incas as well as various cathedrals. Another stop was a wonderful campesino market selling all kinds of colorful clothing made from alpaca fleece and I picked up a number of items there including a beautiful blanket and a toasty parka and gloves. Then for a late lunch we headed to the San Pedro market and snacked on such local fare as boiled quail eggs, some sweet delicious finger shaped potatoes, and a variety of corn they called choclo with huge kernels. Then we washed it all down with a made to order fresh fruit smoothie.
All through the day I heard more and more from Dor-Vok about the experiences and philosophy of Darth Gravitas. I certainly was no expert in the matter but I did have some experience with having visions and hearing inner voices and I had to admit it did seem that Darth Gravitas was in contact with some type of being or beings. A lot of what he got from the ‘Eridani’ was pretty spot on at least in terms of morality and even showed some spiritual insight, but there was also a lot of obvious ego inflating rubbish related to Darth Gravitas as the chosen one and the ‘great works’ he would perform. There also seemed to be a bit of a dichotomy in old Darth. On one side Dor-Vok’s stories revealed someone possessed of genuine compassion and empathy but on the other side I could see a man with obvious issues regarding control who lorded his so called ‘guidance’ over his followers. One thing too that seemed to be missing from Darth Gravitas’ teaching was the idea of any kind of spiritual discipline or sadhana. The important thing in this teaching was to be in inner contact with the Eridani and it was obvious that Dor-Vok gave this immense importance and sorrowed greatly over his inability to do so with any kind of regularity. Dor-Vok was also very devoted to Darth Gravitas and even though I didn’t voice it my skepticism was obvious and that bothered him. As we sat enjoying the late afternoon sunshine in the Plaza de Armas he finally said to me, “I understand that you’re skeptical about all this but you haven’t been around Darth Gravitas the way I have. If you had you’d be convinced.”
“Maybe so,” I said. “But how can you know for sure that he’s a prophet or the chosen one? Lots of people have made that claim.”
“I just know,” Dor-Vok adamantly replied.
I paused for a second because I honestly really didn’t want to get into this conversation but then I bowed down to what it seemed I ought to do and I asked him, “Have you ever heard of Meher Baba?”
“No,” he said. “Who’s that?”
“He was a guru in India during the last century. Claimed he was the messiah and made all sorts of predictions about how he would lead the world out of darkness, how after a great and devastating war he would travel around the world delivering his message and uplifting humanity to a new age. The problem is that never happened and according to what I understand he kept changing his prediction for the date and location of this war. In the end he died unrecognized as a messiah except by the followers who remained loyal to him despite his inconsistent predictions and behavior. We’ll see what happens but I’m pretty sure the world isn’t going to end tonight and when it doesn’t I won’t be surprised if Darth Gravitas tells us the end of the world has been postponed for whatever reason and gives us a new date for the apocalypse.”
Dor-Vok remained silent for a few moments as he digested this new information. Then he said, “This Baba guy may have been deluded but Darth Gravitas isn’t. He knows who he is and so do I. And tomorrow you will too.”
Then right at that moment Dor-Vok’s smart phone chimed with a text message. Dor-Vok looked at his phone and said, “It’s from HI-D. She’s inviting us to meet the rest of them at the Kali Yuga Pizzeria for dinner. Want to go?”
“Have they got good pizza?” I asked.
“The best in Cusco.”
“Then let’s go. I’m hungry.”
So that ended that conversation and Dor-Vok seemed determined to cling to his belief in his leader whom he loved so dearly. But I had seen the look of doubt darkening his brow even if just for a moment before he pushed it away and reasserted his faith in Darth Gravitas. I got no satisfaction from that however. I really had no desire to burst Dor-Vok’s bubble or make worse the crushing blow that was coming to him and the rest of Darth Gravitas’ followers when they woke up tomorrow to discover that the world hadn’t ended.
It wasn’t far to the Kali Yuga Pizzeria and the rest of the gang was already there. Dor-Vok and I greeted everyone and sat down. We deliberated for a while on the menu and then ordered a couple of large pizzas, salad and beverages. Q5 and Captain Kike were the only ones who ordered beer but they both declared they would stop after one. Everybody wanted to be sober and alert for what was to come which included an address by Darth Gravitas that would be delivered via Skype at 8:00pm.
Then the conversation started and everyone talked about how their last day before the end of the world had gone. The coffee enema’s had apparently worked wonders on our comrades and afterwards the reinvigorated quartet had hiked up to the large Cristo Blanco statue and then proceeded on to the Templo de la Luna and Chukimarka sites which weren’t far from the Deep Space Hotel. Then they had headed back down to the center of town to top off their day with a therapeutic session of Iranian Toe Massage, a supposedly lost art, recently rediscovered, which helped to promote out of body experiences.
Though everyone was trying to act normal it was obvious the gravity of what they were expecting to come that night was weighing on them. Dor-Vok in particular was very quiet and I had to wonder if our conversation about Meher Baba was what was actually weighing on him.
After dinner Commander Quasar was waiting for us with the shuttlecraft and the trip up to the Deep Space Hotel was solemn indeed. Hardly a word was spoken and when we reached the top of the ridge the Commander pulled along the side of the road and everyone got out to gaze down at the lights of Cusco in silence. Though I had little doubt life would be carrying on as usual in Cusco tomorrow morning I could feel the sadness and grief of the others as they contemplated what they believed to be the fate of all those people below and throughout the world. HI-D actually started to cry and Q5 took her in his arms and spoke soft consoling words to her in German. After a while she quieted down and then Dor-Vok broke the heaviness by turning and heading back to the shuttlecraft and the rest of us followed.
When we got to the hotel I looked at my watch and saw it was 7:15pm. I was very interested to see the address that would be given by Darth Gravitas. I had some time so I headed back to my room for a shower and then went up to the Cosmic Café. The café was full of people and the atmosphere was charged with anticipation. I sat at a table with Dor-Vok and the rest whose mood had gone from somber to excited as they waited to be addressed by their leader. At the stroke of eight the lights dimmed and a klaxon horn sounded as a hexagon of large screen tv’s rose out of a panel in the middle of the floor.
Once the tv’s had completely risen the klaxon fell silent and the image of Darth Gravitas appeared on the screen in his black flowing robe. I was pretty much convinced that Gravitas wasn’t a fraud, just misguided, but I still wasn’t surprised to see that he was flanked on both sides by a beautiful young woman. Everyone but myself arose from their seats and Commander Quasar who was standing by the screens snapped to attention and said, “All hail Darth Gravitas!”
“Hail Darth Gravitas!” the crowd responded.
“Please be seated my fellow earthlings,” Gravitas said and the faithful took their seats.
Then Gravitas continued, “Tonight my faithful followers this sad epoch of greed, selfishness, and disrespect for our beautiful planet earth comes to an end. Tomorrow a new era will dawn and together under the guidance of our friends the Eridani we will begin the next golden age of humanity, an age from which we shall never again fall into corruption and decay. Praise to the Eridani!”
“Praise to the Eridani!” the crowd responded
“No matter what transpires tonight remain confident in the protection of the Eridani and do not fear. After the calamity we will be provided with everything we need to communicate with each other globally and to begin rebuilding our civilization.”
Gravitas paused for a moment and then said, “I know many of you have heavy hearts for the friends and family that will perish in the apocalypse but do not grieve. Life in this soulless society is hardly worth living and they are indeed being relieved of a burdensome existence. The rest of us will go forward into the light toward a greater tomorrow. Glory to us, the chosen!”
“Glory to us, the chosen!” the crowd exclaimed.
“Now I must go my fellow earthlings. Know that I and the Eridani are with you and will be there for you tomorrow morning.”
“All hail Darth Gravitas!” Commander Quasar exclaimed.
And the crowd began repeating, “Hail Darth Gravitas,” as the tv’s lowered back down into the floor. Then the lights came back up and everyone began talking excitedly.
Then Commander Quasar shouted for everyone’s attention and said, “The Cosmic Café will remain open all night for those of you who wish to stay up and observe the end. There will also be a Battlestar Galactica marathon in the movie lounge downstairs for those who are interested. Deep Space staff will remain on call in the lobby should you need anything. Should power be lost we have generators to provide for our electrical needs until morning when we will be provided with power through the Eridani technology. Thank you.”
Up to this point I had been very interested in observing all of this but I felt I had seen enough. Darth Gravitas had been more or less what I had expected based on Dor-Vok’ accounts and with my curiosity satisfied I felt a strong desire to retire to my room. So I politely excused myself taking note of the fact that Dor-Vok wouldn’t meet my gaze.
When I got to my room I sat and down in my chair and suddenly felt how tired I was. I had done a lot today and probably the altitude was contributing to my fatigue as well. I picked up a book and started to read but I soon found myself nodding off. So I brushed my teeth and got into bed and wondered what the morning would bring as I drifted off into sleep.
When I woke up the next morning I went over to my window and looked outside. It was early but I could see cars moving on the road outside and campesinos milling about. I packed my suitcase but left it in the room as I headed towards the lobby. There was a bit of frantic activity there as the staff dealt with guests who suddenly had to pay for more nights of accommodation. Seeing their plight I realized how arrogant and judgmental I had been of these people but now I only felt sorry for them. I really wanted to get the hell out of there but I wanted to find Dor-Vok first. He wasn’t in the lobby so I headed up to the Cosmic Café to see if he was there.
When I arrived there were a number of people eating breakfast but the atmosphere was anything but jovial. Many of them appeared to be in a state of shock, hardly aware of their surroundings or staring at untouched plates of food with blank looks on their faces. I spotted Captain Kike and Mim-Nax on the other side of the room and I could see Captain Kike was trying to cheer Mim-Nax up but she was having none of it. Then I saw Dor-Vok at a table sitting by himself with a cup of coffee in front of him. I walked up to his table and said, “Dor-Vok?”
Slowly he turned his head and looked up at me. He looked absolutely stricken.
“Dor-Vok,” I asked, “Are you okay man?”
For a moment he just stared at me and then opened his mouth to speak, but before he could say anything the voice of Commander Quasar came booming over the loudspeaker. “Attention all guests! Attention all guests! Please come to the Cosmic Café immediately! We have an urgent communication coming from Darth Gravitas!”
Then the klaxon horn sounded as the hexagon of tv screens rose out of the floor. The people in the café suddenly perked up and began chattering excitedly. Dor-Vok’s grieving expression changed to one that was a mixture of panic and confusion and then he turned his gaze from me to look at the screens. I took a seat and waited as the rest of the guests poured into the café. After a few minutes everyone was assembled. Then without any pomp the image of Darth Gravitas and his two consorts appeared on the screen.
“My fellow earthlings I have good news for all of you. At the zero hour the earth has been granted a reprieve. I have been in contact with the Eridani who have informed me that we have been given one more year to awaken this world and save this civilization. An incredible responsibility has been entrusted to us my friends and we must work diligently to spread my message far and wide. This will require tremendous sacrifices but the Eridani have informed me that success IS possible! Praise to the Eridani!”
And the crowd, most of whom were now on their feet, cried in return “Praise to the Eridani!” Dor-Vok however remained seated and silent.
“I know this sudden change will no doubt result in inconvenience for many of you but stay strong in your faith that all is happening in accordance with the will of the Eridani and bravely carry on.”
Then Commander Quasar shouted, “Hail Darth Gravitas!”
And in return the faithful exclaimed, “Hail Darth Gravitas!” and as the night before kept repeating it as the screens lowered back down into the floor. Once they were completely down the followers of Darth Gravitas began displaying their obvious relief by embracing one another and even in some cases crying tears of joy and devotion.
I looked over at Dor-Vok whose expression had changed once again and who now looked positively fuming. Without a word he got up and quickly made his way towards the exit. I said his name as he passed me but he ignored me. I hesitated for a second but then decided I better follow him. When I got to the exit he was about fifteen feet down the corridor and I cried, “Dor-Vok wait!”
Dor-Vok spun around, his fists clenched, his face red with rage, “What do you want Jonathan? Are you here to gloat? Are you happy now? Happy because you were right?”
I almost felt physically flung back as Dor-Vok’s anger hit me like a wrecking ball. Without much composure I bumbled, “Look Dor-Vok I…I,”
“I don’t want to hear it Jonathan,” Dor-Vok said and then in no uncertain terms told me, “LEAVE ME THE HELL ALONE!”
Then he ripped the pyramid off his head, threw it down on the ground and then stormed off down the hall, leaving me with a pounding heart and racing thoughts as adrenalin coursed through me. I leaned back against the wall and collected myself for a few moments. Then I made my way back to my room, got my suitcase and checked out of the Deep Space Hotel as fast as I could. I got a taxi and headed down to the center of town and found a guesthouse close to the Plaza de Armas.
After dropping off my suitcase I made my way to the tamale woman for some breakfast before heading to a tour agency to book a tour on the Inca Trail starting the following morning. I asked the fellow at the agency about a good day trip and he recommended Pisac. So I got on the bus and headed over there. When I arrived I piddled around the shops for a while before hiking up the mountain to the ruins at the top. Throughout all of this my mind kept replaying that last scene with Dor-Vok. However when I reached the ruins the combination of the view and a short meditation helped to finally get the charge that encounter had created out of my system.
After exploring the ruins for a while I descended, had a late lunch and headed back to Cusco. By the time I got to the Plaza de Armas it was after 4 o’clock and I took a seat on a park bench to enjoy some late afternoon sun. I had that good feeling kind of tired you have in your body after a day of hard physical activity and was feeling deeply peaceful as I watched the activity in the Plaza. Then I heard a voice say, “Hello Jonathan.”
I turned my head and there swaying from side to side with a bottle of cheap whiskey in his hand was a very drunk Dor-Vok. There was no anger in him now though, just grief as he sat down beside me and started blubbering semi-incoherently about “what a fool he’d been” and “what was he going to do now?” I wanted to just get up and walk away from him as fast as I could but I knew that wasn’t right. It took some doing but in between swigs I was able to find out that he was actually staying at the same guesthouse as me. Then having finished his bottle Dor-Vok got up slurring that he was going to look for a bar and fell unceremoniously down on the ground.
With the help of a couple of passersby I got Dor-Vok up off of the ground and one of them was kind enough to help me walk Dor-Vok (who couldn’t stand on his own) back to our guesthouse and up to his room. Once we got him on his bed he passed out quickly. I sat there in a chair for a few minutes until I was sure he would be sleeping soundly for a while. Then I took his room key and his passport and headed over to the tour agency I was using for the Inca Trail and booked Dor-Vok in for the same tour. It turned out he had had his name legally changed and the name on the passport was Dor-Vok Tibbs.
I went back to the guesthouse and checked on Dor-Vok who was snoring away. Then I headed out to look for some dinner. I found a nice Hari-Krishna restaurant which served Indian style cuisine and had a good meal. Then I got some take out and a 2-liter bottle of water for Dor-Vok and dropped them off in the refrigerator in his room along with a note telling him they were there. I was very grateful he didn’t wake up.
I went back to my room and read for a while before retiring myself. When my alarm went off at 6:00am the next morning I got dressed and tried to prepare myself for what I thought might be a difficult confrontation with Dor-Vok. I knocked on his door and after about ten seconds he opened it. His eyes were bloodshot and he looked as awful as I’m sure he felt. I saw however that he’d consumed the food and water I had left for him sometime during the night. He didn’t recall our meeting in the plaza the day before but thanked me for helping him get back to his room.
I thought it would be good to cut to the chase since we had to be at the tour bus by 7:00am so I said, “Look Dor-Vok. I’m going on a tour to hike the Inca Trail and I booked a spot for you too. I know you feel like shit but I think you better come with me because if you don’t you’re probably going to get drunk again today. There won’t be any liquor stores on the Inca Trail and you need to get out of this tailspin.”
For a moment I saw anger flash across his face but then he lowered his head and said, “You’re right.” Then he looked up at me choking up a little bit he said, “Thanks for helping me Jonathan.”
“It’s all right Dor-vok,” I replied, “Come on let’s get your things packed up.”
So we packed his bag, headed downstairs with our luggage and headed over to the tour office. The tour operator had some pastries and coca tea and both Dor-Vok and I took a big cup. Our luggage would stay in storage there and we were each given a stuff sack to fill with our clothes and toiletries. This sack would be carried by the porters and all we would need was a small daypack to carry snacks and water.
Despite the coca tea Dor-Vok slept most of the way to the trailhead. Once we started to hike it was obvious he was really hurting and not just physically. He’d spent years investing his time and his devotion in Darth Gravitas and I could see and feel his anguish as he grieved for his lost faith in his teacher. At one point when we stopped for a rest he broke down sobbing but he didn’t say a word. As we walked along I kept encouraging him and feeding him coca leaves to chew on from time to time. After lunch he seemed to feel a little better but he was exhausted by the time we reached our campsite at Wallabamba that evening. He ate dinner and then crawled right into his sleeping bag. I stayed up for a while chatting with some of the other people in our tour group and admiring the most magnificent skyfull of stars I had ever seen in my life before retiring myself.
The next day Dor-Vok felt much better and was ready to talk. The thing that was troubling him the most of course was how I had known Darth Gravitas was wrong about the world ending. And so began a long multifaceted conversation that spanned all of the rest stops along the Inca Trail for the next two days. I wasn’t really enthused about having this conversation. In the past I had been eager to talk to people about spiritual things but as time went on I lost the notion that I really knew anything or had anything important to say. Based on the situation though it seemed appropriate to speak, so I somewhat grudgingly did. I was very clear with Dor-Vok though that I was not a guru or anybody’s teacher since I didn’t want him transferring this thing he had with Darth Gravitas to me.
We covered a lot of topics such as the difference between the occult regions of consciousness where voices and visions come from and an actual higher consciousness and identity beyond what most humans are experiencing now. Dor-Vok had trouble grasping this idea of a higher consciousness and the otherness of such a state until I gave him the analogy of “what if a dog suddenly found himself shifted from dog consciousness to human consciousness?” When I said that I could see a light bulb come on in his head.
Having made that more or less clear I explained how many spiritual authors had written about the dangers of the occult regions of consciousness and of people getting stuck there thinking they’d gotten somewhere spiritually when they really hadn’t. On the third night on the trail as we were sitting in our tent, I thought it prudent to pull up Sri Aurobindo’s well known letter on the “intermediate zone” on my smartphone. In this letter to a sadhak he discusses the dangers and pitfalls of these occult regions at length including how beings of a mischievous or downright hostile nature can impersonate a divine being or voice. When he finished reading it Dor-Vok looked up at me with a confused look on his face and said, “I just don’t understand. Darth Gravitas is the most compassionate person I’ve ever known in my life. How could he be fooled like this?”
At first I wasn’t sure how to answer this question and my mind whirled around seeking a good answer. Then in a “eureka!” moment an idea hit me. “You’ve seen Star Trek V haven’t you Dor-Vok?”
“Then you remember how Spock’s brother Sybok is receiving visions from a being in the center of the galaxy who claims to be God but is really a rather nasty being who’s been imprisoned there. Well Sybok wasn’t a bad person either, in fact he’s very compassionate also, almost Christ-like, but there is something about him that comes across as insincere, something that leaves him open to being fooled. It’s hard to pin down what that is exactly but the actor who plays Sybok does a good job of portraying that. You can see something similar in Darth Gravitas. There’s part of him that’s really eating up being revered by people and that’s his Achilles heel.”
“Gosh,” he said, “I see what you mean. Thanks Jonathan I understand now.”
“Your welcome Dor-Vok.” I said.
“Bernie,” he said, “My real name is Bernie.”
Then next morning we arrived at Machu-Picchu. Bernie and I didn’t speak much as we explored the ruins with our guide and hiked up to the top of Huayna Picchu. When we got down to Aguas Calientes our conversation turned more to mundane things which was probably good since Bernie had had a lot laid on him in a short amount of time. I did however make a list of recommended spiritual books and authors for him without recommending anyone in particular to start with since I felt it would be better for him to decide what would be the best thing to read first.
The next day we journeyed back to Cusco and then the following morning we bid each other farewell as my flight was leaving a few hours earlier than his and I needed to get to the airport. I gave him a goodbye hug and told him to email me if I could be of any further help. Then I boarded the bus and we waved goodbye to each other as it pulled away. After my plane took off I looked down on Saxaywaman and the Deep Space Hotel. In spite of myself I couldn’t help feeling a bit of satisfaction that I had helped someone find their way out of the pseudospiritual flimflam so prevalent in Cusco to a more mature outlook on spirituality and the wealth of profound spiritual literature that was available. It was interesting to see that the main purpose of my journey to Cusco had been to meet and help Bernie. I certainly hadn’t expected that but I could see that even though I wasn’t a guru or a realized being I was well read and had a good intellectual grasp of spiritualty that others could benefit from. I could see I would have to be open in the future to having more relationships like this one with Bernie. That seemed to be the lesson I had come to Cusco to learn. Anyone though could fall into a trap like Darth Gravitas so I would proceed….but with caution.