It started with green chiles.
A beloved friend of mine and I were eating some kind of delicious mystery meat all mixed with copious amounts of green chiles. The food element was graphic—lots of food-porn shots of the glistening meat and chiles. The taste was piquant. The meat was like a base note for the chiles, but the chiles were the star.
She and I were in a small adobe house in a desert somewhere—an extremely barren desert—endless white sky, no mountains in sight, only the occasional sagebrush or tumbleweed to break the flatness. Although it was blazing hot outside, (but more the type of “heat” you would get from dry ice—felt as heat but actually cold), and although there was a fire in the kitchen fireplace where the meat and chiles were stewing, the inside of the kitchen was comfortably cool and dark. We ate our meal sitting around a small, round wooden table near the fire which, although it had been built with wood as fuel, flamed blue and purple with hints of white flashing at its base. The food had been served to us in a single, very large wooden bowl. We ate out of it together, using long-handled, thick, and flat-ish spoons. We were greedy about eating our fill, but not greedy with each other. We wanted to make sure we got every last bite, but at the same time, wanted to make sure each of us got an equal and filling amount.
While we ate, a dark figure squatted in the corner near the open door. He had an ornate basket in front of him decorated with geometric patterns of red and green accented with blue woven into yellow straw. He rested both hands lightly on the basket lid, as if keeping something inside. He wore a worn thin and wrinkled but clean white button-up shirt, open at the collar and not tucked in. His pants were black and also worn thin, but clean. He had thick, black, wavy hair with an ever-so-slight touch of silver. His skin was silhouette black—face, hands, and bare feet. His eyes were negative space white. His fingernails, black-silver as his hair, were long and pointed.
Squatted in the corner that way, he was not menacing at all even though it seems he should have been. He was simply observing, not lying in wait. There seemed to be a real loneliness about him, as if he had not seen a traveller in this place, let alone two, in literal ages. One felt a great power emanating from him, but held back deep within. It seemed he had other duties, an official identity, but he had been silenced and relegated to this, not for wrongdoing, but for human fear, misconception, and attendant prejudice.
He could have grown massive and wild, and consumed my friend and I whole in a heartbeat, but he chose instead to nourish us.
When we finished the meal, she and I went to a basin over which there was a rusty water pump. The water, though crystal clean, was scarce, yet somehow between the two of us, we managed to get both the bowl and the spoons spotless. We placed them on a sideboard to dry, then turned to leave. As we approached the door, the entity’s gaze followed us. We stood to face him. My friend bowed and said, “Thank you Sir for your hospitality.” He nodded slowly in respectful acknowledgment. I reached out and stroked his silver-black hair, moving my hand down to caress his left cheek. When I did it, he closed his eyes and leaned in a little. Such ache. When he opened his eyes again, I whispered, “Thank you,” and smiled. He went to smile back, but it was more like the baring of teeth than a smile. I understood the intent.
My friend and I took each other’s hands and walked out into the endless desert, somehow moving up into the white sky. There was a great flash of white light, and we were in another place.