"With a paper clip?"
In Antigua, Guatemala, I was trying to explain to, Alex, my British hostel mate why I wanted to visit the nearby volcano.
"Yeah, I've bent it into a design."
"To be branded and scarred by the boiling lava of an ancient volcano. Need I say more?"
Yes, sure some daredevils visit lava to roast marshmallow or even roast chicken meat. But, I was to cook my own flesh branding myself from the bellowing heat from active lava. Concerns? Too late, as I was already in the shuttle heading to the nearby lava.
"Antigua has great examples well-preserved baroque architecture."
Our driver was blabbing about the history of Antigua when he should really be telling me at which temperature human flesh cooks.
I was rubbing my homemade paperclip brand in my pocket hoping that we timed our arrival perfectly with the lava high tide. Me and my flesh had been promised an unfordable river of lava.
Grandpa tell us about that amazingly way cool scar on your forearm.
Being fully transparent with my Grand kids, I would confess that every 10,000 years a pagan high priest of the highest Omega order is invited to have the sacred mark produced by the fire of wild lava. I was that person.
We arrived at the gates of the park for the powerful lava tour. There were no candles made from the fat of sacrificed goats. Points were deducted.
Before I pulled out my money, secretly hidden under the sole in my shoe, I interrupted the park attendant who was talking about the entrance fee, "--yeah, yeah, but where do most people fall into the lava."
"Yes there is lava today."
Though, disappointed that he didn't talk in creepy Esperanto, he did add his own touch by stroking a kitten for no real reason while he answered.
As someone in the shuttle embarrassingly asked if we could cook marshmallows, I secretly got the eye contact of the park attendant, flashed some extra money and displayed my mouth's incisors while gesturing that he should give me the kitten. We were ushered into the park.
Okay, I see the volcano and fields and fields of black smoldering black moon rock. Yes, not bad. But no powerful lava. Our tour guide was trying to get us excited about the thing that was not lava.
"Look! Black rocks!"
I had decided that our guide had exactly 6 minutes and 66 seconds to show me a blistering river of lava before I hammered my paper clip design into his tender temple with said black rock.
We came to a stop. Our guide was confused and sad.
He explained, pointing to an area of unremarkable black rock, "There was so much lava here yesterday. Now it has stopped and it is just black rock."
This just won't do. I can't burn myself here. A scar from basically a tepid mountain charcoal doesn't sound half as powerful.
I knew that our guide knew where the lava was but just wanted more money. I grabbed a piece of dull rock and let him see that I was sharpening an arrowhead the exact size of his eyeball socket.
"Oh, wait. I know where there might be some lava."
He's a smart man.
We were lead to a barbed wire fence where an old woman with a knotted wooden staff says for a small fee we may pass.
"You may pass closer to the volcano at your own risk."
I was already halfway up the mountain before she finished her theatrical warning.
I was closer to my rightful destiny. Alex, my British hostel mate, was still with me to witness the ceremony.
We were finally further from safety. I could smell the breath of Satan. I knew we were close. Our guide had turned his back to shirk responsibility of our actions.
We came to a ledge. Within 10 yards, we saw the wound of the volcano. The hole was no bigger than a large pizza. Standing there near the crater, I tried not to think about how unpredictable volcanoes are. I was not thinking about the miles of black rock that this grumpy hole produced. Though, I was wondering if the hole burped up just a small blob of lava would it instantly melt off one of my appendages. I was also imagining that I was in a Choose Your Own Adventure story.
If you choose to move closer to the hole of an active volcano that shapes mountains and valleys, turn to page Death.
If you choose to understand the calamity of your current location and stupidity and then turn back, turn to page You Live.
I was cooing the lava hole like I was approaching a timid dog, "Good, lava hole. There you go. Who's a good lava hole?"
I was now close enough to see a glowing red light. As I watched lose gravel cascade into the hole, I could see it was too deep to reach the lava to brand myself. Crap.
Then bad things happened. We'd come too close to her. The volcano wasn't happy. The ground beneath us abruptly changed in temperature. Knowing how discreet the British can be but then to hear Alex squealing behind me without reserve made me really worry about what was happening. More smoke and heat was coming up from the gravel around us. I heard more squealing. It was me. Tiny stones, like Pop Rocks candy, were bouncing against my bare and exposed legs. I could hear and smell my legs burning.
The faster we ran, the more rocks that got kicked up against us. Eventually small hot coals made their way into our prancing shoes. We manically pranced more. Tiny pieces of an active volcano were working their way down into my socks. It was like someone was taking a lighter to random parts of my feet. I was dancing, squealing and being cooked. The hot coals in my shoes weren't cooling. I was going primal with pain. I had to get the coals out from under my feet. So, without thinking, I dropped to my haunches to the searing hot ground, threw my feet up in the air and removed my shoes. This was, of course, bad idea number 387. The hot coals on the surface of the volcano were no less forgiving as they cooked what little flesh I had on the tender flanks of my rump. I was now bouncing my ass down the hot gravel to get off the volcano crater.
The volcano took pity on the two spastically dancing gringos who dared to approach her lava orifice. Humbled, we returned to the rest of our group who were kind enough to pretend that no one throughout the valley had heard us squealing.