You walk for days among trees and among stones. Rarely does the eye light on a thing, and then only when it has recognised that thing as the sign of another thing. All is silent and interchangeable; trees and stones are only what they are.
The cold of the night is concealed by the heat of the day to come. (The sun, after all, is only a mountain away.) Your journey has passed concrete dunes and asphalt creeks and arrived into an arena of powdered dust, grey in the dark and white in the light. This ground soars and swarms and, moving through clouds, the eye sees little bar coral-red blinkers dancing in a cavalcade ten lanes wide. A pall of dust has been draped over the playa and, in the cabin of the truck, your window is ajar.
Hours pass and little moves – progress is escorted by a restive thrill. Your ninth Strike has been struck and caliginous smoke, slurred by a carmine glow, curls and wanes toward a pitch-black sky. With every toke a dose of dust and, as the cigarette tapers pitchers are passed between strangers and lanes as freely as words. Will Call—the first gateway—flares on the brink of the horizon. Out, in; chip and PIN.
The cavalcade thickens to twenty lanes and the purl of tired engines gives way to a deep, foggy bass. Here—in passage between the Default World and the imagined—the tension swells. On infinite ground and in cosmic darkness, sentinels appear from a chain of conic arks. At the outermost fringe of Black Rock City the traveller observes a liturgy – a bell is sounded for every Virgin: “Welcome home!” (The playa will provide.)
Once through, the darkness magnifies – darker still than it seemed before. As lanes dissolve the dust intensifies and, oriented toward a horizon of wide, low bright lights, you move across what can be discerned from a tangle of thin, turbid tracks. Crimson dust streams the stern as you pick up speed across the flatlands. Journey’s end must, by now, be in sight? Pinching your lashes you breath a little heavier and clear your throat.
The truck meanders with the tracks and, at the final gateway, they fork into three. Approaching the farthest edge of the city proper, you turn left at six o’clock – the lights are brighter now and, as your eyes adjust, the clarity of night collapses into an entirely new order. What you see coalesces with what you cannot; beat by beat your face is sheathed in colour and then a dusky void. Skirting the city’s concave edge you spiral inward.
At nine, you turn right. (The outline of the Esplanade frames the Man.) All about is fleeced in dust and the sky above is paler; you see stars tripping over crepuscular waves. Cocooned by structures tall and small, the scene stands oddly still. Like Mars, or the Moon, fabric appears fossilised – the atmosphere is altered. With each hesitation you squint for the signs. Fire, Eulogy, Dance – Ceremony.
The traveler roams all around and has nothing but doubts: he is unable to distinguish the features of the city, the features he keeps distinct in his mind also mingle. He infers this: if existence in all its moments is all of itself, [this] is the place of indivisible experience. But why, then does the city exist? —Italo Calvino