LIMA AIRPORT. The hustle-bustle of a noisy crowd. Confusion.
Groves is met by an embassy official at the arriving passenger gate. He and the official walk through the bustling airport to an awaiting Cadillac limousine. A military jeep with four soldiers follows the limousine close behind.
Charles, carrying his backpack, is seen at a ticket window. The agent informs him that the bus trip to Cuzco will take approximately two full days.
He boards the bus and takes a place in the rear. At one of the stops along the way, a number of Indians climb in, laden with colorful array of baskets, carpets, and packages. Among the crowd is an American girl, a luscious blond, carrying a backpack. She moves to the back of the bus and boldly takes a place next to Charles.
The ride is long, and the two have a chance to get acquainted. Clare tells Charles that she is from Cincinnati and that she is a Peace Corps recruit assigned to San Ramon. She has already been in Peru a year. Charles tells her his story. The two seem to like each other and amuse themselves by observing the other bus passengers.
A conference at the U.S. embassy. Present are several US officials, a number of Peruvian government people, and some uniformed members of the military junta that rules the country. Groves is explaining the US proposal to control Peru’s coca production, in exchange for which the US will agree to subsidize Peru’s other crops, such as coffee, and offer credit for military equipment.
The next to speak is a Peruvian professor and government advisor who gives his academic opinion. The Indian population has used coca for many centuries and is a very important part of Indian culture. The professor suggests that government control might only decrease the poor peoples’ share of coca, but would have little bearing on the continuance of the cocaine trade. The cocaine trade is too powerful to take second place to the Indian market.
A Peruvian government spokesman states that it is the responsibility of the US to improve control of cocaine in its own arena. US control of coca in Peru would be dangerous and difficult, if not impossible, in a country where armed resistance is already in fact of life. Similar problems would arise in Bolivia and Columbia, also large coca producers. Arguments follow.
In the silence of the mountains, Lorenzo Matraca and his llamas move along in a completely different time frame.
The bus is now deep into the interior on an incredible mountain road. Charles observes an Indian passenger chewing coca. He offhandedly tells Clare about the crazy plan of the US government to eliminate the coca crop of Peru which he learned from a drunken US official on the plane by the name of Groves. Clare’s countenance changes. She asks Charles to repeat the man’s name. Groves. Charles is surprised by her inquisitiveness and asks suspiciously why she wants to know. She avoids an answer.
Sunset. Groves and two Peruvian officials are arguing inside the limousine, racing on the mountain road with its ubiquitous military escort hardly managing to keep up the pace. The official convoy overtakes the sluggish old bus, almost forcing it with blaring horn and flashing lights to the edge of a precipice. A few bus passenger curse the speeding limousine. Charles makes a crack at the arrogance of American diplomats.
Nighttime. Inside the bus. Most of the passenger have fallen asleep. Clare, fatigued from the long ride, closes her eyes and lets her head rest on Charles’ shoulder. He reaches in his backpack, pulls out a blanket, and carefully places it over the two of them. Charles wipes the fogged window next to him and stares out into the blackness. It the distance he seems to spot a flicker of light.
By the light of a small fire, Lorenzo, high in the mountains, is squatting motionless.
The following morning. The main plaza in the village of San Ramon. The bus inches forward to a stop amidst the noisy market crowd. Men and women vendors, mostly Indians, squatting or sitting on the ground, selling crafts, churrasco, chicarrones. Others weave alpaca wool. Loaded donkeys and llamas with jingling bells. Shouts and laughter of children. A whole section of the plaza is taken up by busy coca leaf sellers.
Charles and Clare are approached by several eager vendors as they walk through the crowd toward an early colonial hotel, the only hotel in the village. On the other side of plaza is the old Jesuit mission of San Ramon.
Parked in front of the hotel are the limousine and the military jeep. Soldiers, with submachine guns dangling, sit on the front steps smoking.
In the lobby of the hotel Charles sees Groves, salutes him, and then introduces Clare, whom Groves pretends not to know.
Charles goes to the desk to register. Clare lingers behind briefly and whispers something quickly to Groves. The desk clerk observes the exchange.
Having registered, Charles and Clare make a date to go out on the town after they rested and freshened up. They part in the corridor, each going to a respective room.
Groves slips into Clare’s room. He tells her that he is leaving town but that something big is about to happen in San Ramon. She nods and hands him an envelope. Groves pulls out his wallet and gives her a wad of cash. This should take care of her for a while. Groves then slips out.
The desk clerk watches Groves leave in haste.
Charles and Clare meet in the lobby and agree to go out and get something to eat. The clerk’s eyes follow them as they go.
They walk into a cantina and order a meal. Clare introduces Charles to the potent native drink « chica. » Charles and Clare laugh and have a good time together. Charles, loose with drink, reaches across the table and kisses Clare She responds.
They leave the restaurant and walk into the market place. Indians are appraising and trading dried coca leaves. A young mestizo boy in the crowd approaches the couple and offers them an opportunity to buy cocaine. Charles tells Clare to go back to the hotel and that he’ll take care of business.
Charles follows the boy down narrow streets and ends up in a dingy hovel. There he meets an old man who shows him a bag full of cocaine. The merchant lets him sample some. Charles decides to buy a small bagful, pays the old man, and departs.
Charles and Clare in her hotel room snorting cocaine together.
A passionate love scene follows.
San Ramon police station. The mestizo boy who offered cocaine to Charles is receiving a few coins and a pat of approval on the head from the police chief. The chief accompanied by his deputy leave the station.
Clare is asleep. Charles gets up and quietly walks out. He enters his room and finds himself confronted by police a gunpoint. His room is a shambles. He is searched and cocaine found.
The chief shakes his head in disapproval and sadistically details to Charles the horrors of the Peruvian prisons. There is a way out he says, and smiles greedily.
Soon Charles is signing over all his travelers chicks and surrenders his cash and valuables. The chief, pocketing the bribe, tells him that for everybody’s sake, he should get out of Peru immediately or risk serious danger.
Meanwhile, two Americans, underworld types, enter the hotel. They hand a large tip to the desk clerk and without verbal exchange are given a key.
Clare is still naked on her bed, feeling good. Suddenly, her door is burst open. Her happiness turns to terror. She tries to get up. The two men are on her and hold her down. They muffle her screams.
One of them hatefully calls her a CIA bitch. The other, in one lightening motion, pulls out a knife and slashes her throat.
The man step back, unable to turn their eyes away from Clare’s beautiful body, jerking in the throes of death. Blood gushes from her neck over her pulsing breasts into the bed, forming a red pool. One of the men throws the blanket back over her.
As soon as the police are gone, Charles quickly packs, leaves everything ready to go, and runs to Clare’s room. He knocks on her door. He knocks again, then opens the door. He thinks she is asleep and calls out to her that he’s been busted. Silence. He climbs on the bed and, reaching for her, pulls back the blanket. He freezes in shock, then shakes in terror as he sees his hand covered with blood. He draws back and dashes frantically into the bathroom to wash off his hands. Just about to run out the door, he remembers he had left his watch. He grabs it and runs to his room. There he finds his backpack gone.
Charles is now in a panic. He walks quickly down to the lobby, goes to a phone booth, and tries to place a call to the U.S. The damn Peruvian phones don’t seem too work At last he has the Lima international operator on the line. His call cannot be placed for three hours because the circuits are busy. He leaves the booth in rage. He cannot wait that long. He must get out or risk being arrested for Clare’s murder. He asks the clerk whether there are other public phones in town. There are none.
As a last resort he asks the clerk to page Groves. Groves has left.
Charles gets out and loses himself in the crowd. Feeling the cold afternoon wind, he tries to keep warm by rubbing his shoulders.
As Lorenzo enter the valley of San Ramon on his final stretch into the town, he sees the US limousine and escort pass by at high speed.
The llama train enters the outskirts of the village. Several men come to meet the old one. They call him « Mamacoca, » a name given only to men of wisdom. The men take charge of the animals and cargo. The multitude surrounding the old one shows he is a chief, a man of power.
As Lorenzo squats in a corner of the plaza, many around him do likewise. The men confer in their native Quinchua language and coca is ceremoniously exchanged.
Charles, inmidst the confusion of the market, succeeds in stealing a blanket from behind a vendor stand. The eyes of Lorenzo catch the action, but the old Indian continues his conference unperturbed.
Less noticeable draped in the stolen Indian blanket, Charles proceeds to get food, swiftly concealing under the blanket what he manages to grab from a stand. Once again the eyes of Lorenzo, who is now walking through the crowd followed by his retinue, catch the action.
This time the Indian, pointing to Charles, turns to one of his men for information about the stranger. The exchange is in native language.
There is a commotion outside the hotel. A dense crowd has gathered. A rickety ambulance is parked in front. Police. Clare’s body, wrapped in a bloody sheet, is being carried out on a stretcher. Several of the women in the crowd cross themselves.
The mestizo boy comes running from the direction of the hotel to Lorenzo to report what he knows. Nodding without a change of expression, the « Mamacoca » pats the boy on the head in approval.
In the crowd we overhear mention of CIA assassins, guerilleras, cocaine killers.
Lorenzo and a few of his people walk away, through narrow streets to an old house on the edge of the barranca that opens to a view of the western mountains. The group enters the house.
A cold fog rises from the mountains as night falls. Charles looks exhausted. He is desperately searching for a place to hide. His blanket tightly wrapped around him, he manages to find shelter from the wind in an archway of the old mission. He is getting sick. Delirious.
An old Indian woman, carrying a bundle of wood in the last dim light, sees Charles and stops. She quickens her step and goes to the house of Lorenzo to seek help.
A jeep is parked in front of the house.
Several men come running out.
Charles is carried back and laid on a bed in a lantern-lit room. The women of the house busy themselves to care for him.
The eldest of the three, and old curandera, takes charge of what needs to be done. Poultices of tobacco and mustard are boiled and applied by deft hands to Charles’ heaving chest. A young, beautiful Indian girl prepares a hot tea of coca leaves. She holds the bowl to Charles’ feverish lips, who drinks and breathes in the vapors.
A strange pulsating chant is sung by the women around the sick bed. Their bodies sway to the movement in the song. An air of witchcraft pervades the room, enhanced by the eerie sound of the howling wind outside.
Sitting around a wooden table in the kitchen, Lorenzo and two of his men face the two Americans who have murdered Clare.
In controlled anger the « Mamacoca » warns the foreigners that this is his territory, and that in his territory NO ONE gets killed. Were the operation not so important, they would find themselves in serious trouble. Lorenzo holds his decision to carry out this last deal. The two men are to be brought deep into the interior to the jungle kitchens by one of Lorenzo’s tribe. There they are to await the « Mamacoca’s » arrival.
The two killers vainly attempt to justify themselves. Clare was only a spy for the U.S. government – a CIA agent passing herself off as a Peace Corps recruit.
Lorenzo bluntly states that he already knows all this since nothing is hidden from him in his own territory.
The two leave, climb into the jeep parked outside, and drive off in the windy darkness.
In his bed Charles tosses violently in nightmare. More blasts of gunfire sink into the body of his nosing jetfighter. The mask of death is painted on Charles’ face.
He comes to briefly. His eyes behold the angelic radiance of the young Indian girl. He mumbles something about not wanting to die and lapses back into unconsciousness. The girl wipes his brow and gazes at him in silence.
The following day Charles awakens to a flood of sunlight, streaming though his window. He feels well. He looks around, trying to remember where he is.
The young Indian woman comes in and hands him a bowl of fragrant coca tea. Charles looks up at her in wonder She smiles shyly and leaves the room before he has a chance to speak.
Charles sips his tea, still puzzled. He sees his clothes neatly folded on a chair next to the window. Placing the tea down on the table nest to his bed, Charles gets up and starts dressing. He kneels down and crawls around searching for his shoes. Suddenly he sees a pair of feet in the doorway. He looks up and has his first impression of the old Indian, who is smiling down at him.
He stands up and in broken Spanish asks where he is and how he is speaking to. To his surprise Lorenzo replies in English. « You are in my home. I am the one who saved your life. »
Lorenzo tells Charles that he is a lucky man. The Peruvian prisons are full of young Americans as stupid as he. Stealing among Indians without getting caught takes a sort of experience dealing with foreign thieves. Now Charles owes his life to Lorenzo and Lorenzo’s people. Indian custom demands that such a service be repaid.
Charles nods and expresses his gratitude for the help he has received. He is ready to do anything to absolve his debt and get out of the country for good.
Lorenzo wants Charles to accompany him on a journey.
Traveling in the direction of the eastern slopes, Charles follows Lorenzo on foot across the mountains. It is very difficult for the young man to keep pace with the old one.
After a while Charles falls behind. Suddenly finding himself alone, his urge is to turn back and run away, but he knows he will be lost forever unless he catches up with his guide. He tries to jog up the slope, but is exhausted.
Like a child playing, the old man comes out from behind a rock, laughing.
Charles is not in a mood for jokes. He is tired and hungry and wants to know what they are going to eat. The old man pats his « chuspa. » Squatting down, he prepares a chew for Charles. Lorenzo will slowly teach him the secret power of the plant.
As a sense of new life seems to unfold within him, Charles finds himself able to walk again. Each breath exhilarates him.
Lorenzo imperceptibly increases their pace. « If you want to stay alive, you must learn the Way of the Children of the Sun – endurance, emptiness, vision. »
Endurance, emptiness, vision. The step quickens.
They skip from boulder to boulder. The Indian is the indisputable master.
As they move across the mountains, Lorenzo, in utter contempt, shatters Charles’ ego, calling him a self-indulgent coward, a greedily pimp, the miserable product of a dead civilization unwilling to see the world as it really is.
Charles is enraged. He yells at Lorenzo, calling him a mother-fucking Indian, and swearing he’s going to kill him. The Indian keeps just a stem ahead of Charles. Charles strains to the limit of his strength but in utter frustration he is not able to get an inch closer to Lorenzo. Blood begins to drip from his nose. He grasps his chest in pain, feeling his heart pounding violently inside him.
Suddenly the Indian stops. Charles falls face down into the rock earth, heaving like a sick animal. The Indian tells him to look back. Charles turns and sees a chasm, dropping below him to abysmal depths. A soul-wrenching shriek explodes from within him and echoes his horror back from across the canyon.
The Indian, placing both hands on Charles’ shoulders steadies the shaking man. Charles collapses in ruin.
Charles looks up at Lorenzo and asks: « How did we get here? »
« From over there! » The Indian points to the other side of the precipice.
« But how? How could we? »
« The same way my ancestors came from a distant star. They eliminated space and time with their minds. I used your anger to focus your vision so that you could be empty of your way of seeing the world. The abyss was not there for you. For you the abyss simply did not exist. This is the way of the Children of the Sun – endurance, emptiness, vision. »
Once again the two men are traveling. Charles is now a tamed man. He follows in silence chewing the coca leaf. Their movements are rhythm and power.
In the shadow of the massive ruins of Machu Picchu, the Mamacoca points to a distant valley, the sacred place where Manco, the first Inca, planted the seeds of the sacred plant, the seeds he brought from a distant star.
The meaning of the great petroglyph on the bluff of Pisco is now made clear to Charles. So are the lines on the plain of Nazca, the power lines of the world, the dragon paths of ancient China, the holy lines of Stonehenge and Camelot. All over the world the Sun Kings came, following the Power Lines of the World. This was the secret of ancient space travel. They came through not just space and time but across dimensions beyond the human mind, dimensions seen only when the mind is silent – silent as the stones in Machu Picchu.
The Mamacoca sits down and shows Charles how by making one’s self empty and by focusing one’s being only on the power of the sun, one can lift great stones with ease.
The mind is capable of neutralizing the forces of gravity. By mastering this power the ancients built the pyramid and the Gate of the Sun.
Together in a strange silent ritual master and pupil lift a great stone in the light of the setting sun.
With the falling of night Charles is taught the gait of power – how to run in the darkness and how to cancel darkness with the inner light of emptiness.
Two glowing shadows in the night.
At dawn Lorenzo and Charles are near the eastern slopes where the border of Peru touches between Bolivia and Brazil. From the heights of panorama of the great coca plantation stretches before their eyes.
The men continue their run through the rows of coca trees and beyond where the jungle begins.
There, at the edge of the jungle, several Indians who seem to have been waiting, rise from their crouching positions and follow Lorenzo and Charles.
Here and there more join. Soon a small group is cutting its way through even denser vegetation by swinging machetes.
This is the territory of the Chunchas, the « indios silvestros » who still use the blow gun with poison darts and bow and arrows made from the Chonta palm.
Charles and the Mamacoca stop by the river to drink and get rid of the garrapatos insects that have buried into their skin. The insects must be burned out with a lit cigarette. It is painful, says the Mamacoca, but pain is the lot of men in this land. Charles grimaces in the pain as he burns out the garrapatos.
At last they reach the Chuncha village, just a few huts around a clearing. Behind one of the huts, under a rain roof, is the cocaine kitchen, a large cauldron or « caldero » over a hot fire. A dozen mules are tied nearby. Metal cans of ether under the roof, piled high. Old men, women and children half naked sit seating in the sweltering jungle heat.
Charles witnesses the preparation of cocaine. As the fire burns, the old Colono, a mestizo and the hefe of the operation, directs helpers to shovel more coca leaves into the boiling liquid. Charles looks around. More Indians seem to have come from the forest and mountains. A shackled bull is being steered in. There is going to be a feast.
The coca leaves have now turned into a foamy paste. The Colono dips a long bamboo stick into the cauldron to test the consistency. The pulp is ready. He signals his helpers to pour in the ether, then spreads a gauze tightly over the top of the cauldron. The ether evaporates, the fire continues to burn, the gauze dries. A beautifully soft, snowy powder materializes – pure cocaine.
This is the new god, worth ten times the price of gold, says the Mamacoca. Long ago the White Man came for Inca gold; now he has come for white gold. How sad that the White Man is blind to the thousand other powers contained in the sacred plant. But cocaine will serve our people well to get back some of the wealth that was taken from us long ago by the Spaniards. Look at how they melted down our symbols of knowledge into crude coins of greed.
Charles looks with greed at the many pounds of cocaine being scraped from the filter and packed in plastic bags. A million dollars worth of snow is in front of him.
More wood is added to the fire, more leaves, more ether, more cocaine. Drums are beating the song of the feast now in full swing. Women dancing at furious speed. Cerrinque, sugar cane liquor, is being passed around. Long haired, angular checkboned faces lit by the fire – eyes wild with liquor – faraway cries of beast in the jungle.
There is a sudden downpour of rain, but slaughtering of the bull goes on in spite of the wetness and mud. The meat is cut ceremoniously into pieces and carried, dripping with hot blood, on the men’s naked backs.
This vision is interrupted by flashes of consciousness. He hears Lorenzo tell him that a man who « knows » must defy death and that if he has the courage he will fly over the abyss into which he is about to be cast.
Charles fights back with all his strength, but too many hands grab at him for Charles to free himself. In the expanse of the rising sun, he is lifted to the edge of the precipice. As he turns to face Lorenzo, Charles experiences the ultimate horror of seeing the teacher he has come to love give the signal. Lorenzo pierces him with the words « endurance, emptiness, vision. »
His body is hurled over the precipice. He falls as if in slow motion. His cry echoes across the abyss into silence.
Above he sees the great condors, circling. Below, the mist and roar of the waterfalls.
His body enters the highest part of the falls. Charles feels the cold water. His body seems to slow down, to float. The water is at once passing him by and roaring below him. He is suspended as if in a magnetic field. Great tremors and spasms go through him. His body is bathed in a soft yellow glow, a warm solar heat, as if coming from the rock wall behind the fall. He realizes he is suspended by a magical power.
The waters part and reveal a large opening, a cave. Powerful golden light emanates from it. Charles thinks himself dead and touches himself in question. The water is still flowing over him; the light from within is pulling him inside the cavern.
Charles now stands inside the hidden Temple of the Sun surrounded by a circle of golden solar symbols. Standing about are many Inca priests. Above them on a raised throne sit the Goddess Mamacoca. Her features are those of the Indian girl he saw in Lorenzo’s house.
Charles hears the words of Lorenzo. They come not as a sound to his ears, but his mind.
« Try to understand, Charles. You are outside time in the Real World! Try to ‘see,’ Charles. »
Charles is taken by the priests to a golden circular vehicle, a chariot of the gods. Drawing nearer, he is enveloped by its very intense light. The voice of his teacher speaks once again.
« You are going across time. Try to empty yourself. »
The chariot glides silently, then, with increasing speed through a tunnel in the mountain, shoots out over the vast canyon into the blue sky.
As if in a vision Charles sees below him the mythical city of Eldorado, the city the conquistadors sought in vain for many years.
Again Charles hears the voice of Lorenzo.
« Behold the Holy City. Here the Children of the Sun will come at the end of time. »
Like a solar god, Charles soars high over the earth.
Once again we are back to the scene inside the cockpit of the DC 10 jetliner. The golden disk causes the crew to react as before. An exact repetition of events.
Inside the passenger section Charles is sitting in the exact same position as the beginning, only this time his eyes are open and his face aglow – as if he were seeing across time.
Groves repeats his first question to Charles in the same tone. This time in answering Charles’ voice is different. It comes from another world, no longer a world of dreams, but a world of wakefulness.
Groves, pointing to the giant petyroglyph on the bluff over Pisco, is asking the same questions about it. Charles does not answer.
Framed by the window of the jetliner is the immortal face of the Sun King. Superimposed upon it is the reflection of the sun in the glass.