the pyramid of the sun
Tourists like insects ascending and descending.
This isn't a real pyramid, I say. A real pyramid is
stepped. This is just a rock mound.
Yeah, says Brutus. Yucatan wipe the ass
We're here, says Ajo. Let's climb it.
Can't beat a pyramid in
the jungle, says Brutus.
Must've been a jungle here one time, says Ajo. You
Too dry, says Brutus. Maybe a pine forest. This is a clear cut.
I'll stay here, watch your stuff, I say. How does that sound?
I get vertigo, I say.
See that guy up there with his wife,
little kid? says Ajo. Bout half-way?
They're Japanese, I say. They're
You can make it, says Brutus. It only looks big.
biggest fucking pyramid in the world, I say.
Bigger than Cheops? says Ajo.
I don't think so.
Bigger than El Castillo in the Yucatan, I say. Couldn't
Suit yourself, says Ajo.
Even von Daniken couldn't climb it,
I say. Anyway, get up there and what do you think you'll see?
Something that will finally make sense, says Ajo.
About midway and I'm taking a breather. A couple of old ladies
wearing shorts and money belts burn past, heading for the top.
What if you had a heart attack? I say. Think they'd bring in a
Nah, just roll you down the side, says Brutus.
Wonder how many
people have died up here, I say.
Lots, says Brutus. Easy to fall.
pushed, I say.
Or get your heart ripped out, offered to the sun god, says
This isn't a heart-ripper, I say. No temple at the top.
says Brutus. This pyramid is completely non-functional.
Like a model, I
say. A practice run.
Too big for that, says Brutus.
a tomb, I say.
That's what the Aztecs thought, says Brutus. They figured it
was a city of tombs.
We're looking down at the long avenue. Few people about, almost
They made a movie here once, I say. A Western.
it, says Brutus.
I know you haven't, I say. Well before your time.
it called? says Brutus.
Vera Cruz, I say. A Western.
Escapist bullshit, I say. Starring Burt Lancaster and Gary
Cooper. Couple of good shots of the Avenue, that's about it.
They empty a
few rounds into the pyramids? says Brutus. Must've, eh.
Shoot lottsa people,
I say. But not the pyramids. They just ride on by, pay no heed. Just part of
the scenery on the road to Vera Cruz.
I close my eyes, try to imagine the City at night.
It's aligned with well-known constellations, isn't it? I say.
The Equinoxes, says Brutus. And, uh, the Pleiades.
Well that's standard
stone-temple city astro-geometry, I say. Ergo, it's a cargo cult.
have to be, says Brutus. Most people start out worshipping the sun and the
So why the alignments? I say.
To be cool with the gods, says
Maybe it is a graveyard, I say.
I prefer to think of it
as a launch pad, says Brutus.
Sure, I say. The place where the gods were
Ajo is at the next level, filming the panorama, the mysterious
vectors of the city. It's high noon, the sun vertical.
This is the place where the sun is transformed into a jaguar in
order to pass nightly through death, says Brutus. No shit.
How do you know
this? I say.
I read it, says Brutus.
Where? I say. The Chariots of
I know these things, says Brutus. I was a History major.
how big is your Ballard collection
At the top we sit down again, allow the vertigo to subside.
Climb this, climb Everest, says Ajo.
You know the slopes of
Everest are littered with the frozen bodies of dead climbers? I say. Think
Yeah, says Ajo. They just found that British climber Mallory,
the guy they figure might've been the first to the top.
1924, I say. Last
seen close to the summit.
Well they found him, says Ajo. A frozen mummy.
How they know it's him? I say.
Went through his pockets, says Ajo.
Did he fall from the summit, I say. That's the question.
Big, big news
in the U.K., says Ajo. The Ballard web-circle been goin' nuts.
Ballard? I say. What's the connection?
They figure Mallory is the archetype
of the Ballard hero, says Ajo.
I can see that, I say. All his heroes do the
dumb thing, head the wrong direction.
Well it's the right direction,
tho, isn't it? says Ajo. The existential direction.
You figure Mallory's
climb was existential? I say. Pure egotism -- he just wanted to be the first to
the top of Everest.
I'm talking about the Ballard hero, says Ajo.
in The Drowned World heads south into the burning jungle, says Brutus.
Kerans, I say.
Right, says Ajo. Kerans. Whenever everybody else is
They're all like that, I say. What is Ballard? The
imprinting of a British schoolboy... Mallory, Scott, Franklin... all these lost
Lost Imperialists, says Brutus.
Anyway they went nuts with the discovery of Mallory's body, says
Ajo. What's that play by Auden?
The Ascent of F 6, I say.
Co-authored with Isherwood.
They figure it's the big influence on Ballard,
Right, I say. More literary fundamentalism... let us trace the
Still big on Ballard, Ajo? says Brutus.
Why not? says Ajo.
Who's any better?
Carlos Castanada? says Brutus.
Get real, says Ajo.
Castanada talks visions, Ballard gives visions.
So how big is your Ballard collection? says Brutus.
Ajo. Very... big.
Complete? says Brutus.
Have I got everything? says
Ajo. I think so.
Gotta be something, says Brutus.
manuscripts, says Ajo. Those I don't have.
Mallory's body, I say. You don't
Might find Ballard lying on the pyramid somewhere, says Brutus.
In this heat? I say. He'd be bug powder.
Where would I keep 'em? says
Ajo. That's the thing.
Better get them, says Brutus. They're essential I'd
Hey smart guy, says Ajo. How you like to roll back down to the bottom?
I'm just saying, says Brutus, if you're such a completionist...
the theory of ruin value
Ajo takes a tour of the summit. When he comes back, I film him
proudly surveying the Valley of Mexico.
You have to wonder why they built here, says Ajo.
mines, I say.
Can't eat obsidian, says Ajo.
Obsidian is sacred, I say.
Yeah? says Ajo. So they sit around making spook masks?
This is where
the aliens landed, says Brutus.
I get it, says Ajo. Mask Brutus bought is
That's obviously why I bought it, says Brutus. Up you,
Start an alien mask collection, says Ajo. Be the first in your school.
Just jealous, man, says Brutus. It was the best one.
Old guy messed
with your head, says Ajo. Two hundred bucks, Jeez. Have another shot of
pulque why don't you....
You know, maybe that's why the city
was built here, I say. Pulque.
Pulque? says Ajo.
It's sacred, right? I
say. Essential mystic fluid.
You really want to know why they built
here guys? says Brutus. Because the whole valley here was a lake.
city was abandoned when the water dried up, says Ajo.
No, I say. It was
abandoned years before that.
Yeah, says Brutus. Lake was filled in by the
The city is a model, an outline... an idea, I say.
like a resort for the mind? says Brutus.
Aliens, says Ajo.
Like a first
attempt at flight, I say. It's crude.
Crude and doomed to failure, says
Ajo. But the view is great.
It was never meant to be anything more than it
is, I say.
A ruin? says Ajo.
Why not? I say. Are you familiar with the
theory of ruin value?
Can't say I am, says Ajo.
Bet you don't
know it, Brutus, I say.
It's a Nazi thing, says Brutus.
Very good, I
say. Albert Speer, Hitler's architect. Hitler wanted to anticipate the mythical
possibilities. All the new public buildings in Germany were designed as
ruins... a neo-classical conceit... how they would look in a thousand years
when the Third Reich was done.
Madness, says Brutus. Got done sooner than
too fast for fiction
J.G. Ballard, says Ajo. He specializes in ruined landscapes.
That story of his, I say. The Time-Tombs...
One of his few SF
pieces that's actually set on another planet, says Ajo. Very mondo.
desert planet with submerged tombs in the sand containing computer encryptions
of dead people, I say. Not unlike this place, maybe...
Very cool idea, says
Ajo. Classic J.G.
Entire personalities and physiologies encoded in the hope
of some future resurrection, I say. All on big main-frame tape reels... already
old tech. I mean, we're moving into the post-silicon memory era... molecular
computers and so on.
That's the problem with science fiction, says
Brutus. Always facing fast obsolescence.
It's a problem for all
fiction, I say. Gets marginalized by the reality of history.
is history, says Ajo.
Well fiction exists in the margins of mystery,
Sure, says Ajo, but where's the mystery in the world of the 24
hour News Channel, CNN?
You saying fiction is synonymous with loneliness? I
Am I? says Ajo. Sure. We live way too fast for fiction.
for loneliness? I say.
Loneliness in the classic sense, says Brutus.
The fugg is that? says Ajo. Loneliness is eternal.
About ten, twelve other people on the summit of the pyramid,
standing, sitting, photographing. Multi-national. Some sit, stunned with
exhaustion, as others joke and laugh, circle, cavort. Students. Mexican
bourgeoisie. Asians. Gringos... and maybe three aliens.
Old gringo with silver hair edges up, says, you seen the Temple of
the Plumed Serpent?
We allow ourselves to look towards the ruins at the south end of
the calzada. Already a mirage in the heavy heat.
I recommend it, says the Old Gringo. Has some very interesting
A long way, says Brutus. In this heat.
True, says the Old
Gringo. But it's worth it. Met an old Indian fella in one of the rooms,
His name Don Juan by any chance? says Ajo.
didn't say, says the Old Gringo.
He continues on, edging around the perimeter.
Isn't the so-called postmodern condition the fact that we don't
know what fiction is? I say.
The big impact books are like that, says Ajo.
Same with von Daniken, says Brutus.
The act of
writing is always a fictional act, I say.
Fiction is just a means of
cleaning up a personal reality, says Ajo.
Ergo, an action is a
fiction, I say.
Who said that? says Brutus. Aristotle?
I said it, I
Sounds like Aristotle, says Brutus.
Mescalito, says Ajo.
Mescalito the God of Peyote? I say.
Nah, says Ajo. Mescalito's an old guy
who sells rock masks and pussy on the Avenue of the Dead.