'I have cured cancer!' The Frenchman peered at me through semi-drunken eyes.
It was commonplace to get talking to eccentric travelers in the guesthouses of Northern Thailand. Crazy people have passports too and often they're a lot more inclined to use them.
'The plants are key, mon ami,' he continued, raising his glass toward a bamboo tree on the bar beside us.
He had the look of a man that may have been dashing 30 years ago before a love of his country's cuisine had taken its toll and rendered him perpetually one croissant away from a coronary.
'I don’t understand,' I turned the bar stool trying to put some distance between us.
He looked off into the distance, his train of thought jumping the tracks, ' I don’t noh who the sick bastard was that had de gall to call this liqweed wine,' he swilled the clear contents of his glass, 'wine ees made of grapes, not fucking rice.'
I smiled politely and shuffled a little further away.
'You see, mon ami, we are all but light and dark, reaction and counter reaction, yin and yang they call it in dis part of the world,' he paused, 'even time, yes time...' the alcoholic fog in his eyes seemed to lift momentarily, 'I realised when I took Ayahuasca... Time is, how you say, malleable. Our senses betray us. Showing us reality as it was. Like a satellite delay... When you swallow the Ayahuasca you are frozen in the present.
I still wasn’t fully aware of what the Frenchman was talking about but he had a certain charisma that was difficult to ignore.
'I'm really only qualified to talk about it from a biologique perspective... I know that every virus has an antidote and it is mother nature who has the answer... Oui!Oui! Oui!' He waved a stubby forefinger in the air, 'she is a devious bitch alright, hiding her answers in the deepest oceans and darkest jungles.'
Without warning he grabbed his leg and slammed a colossal foot down on the bar.
'Look!' He pointed at his bare calve.
There was a melanoma about three inches by two. One half was black and decaying, the other a dark brown.
'Two months ago they were identical. Now one piece is frozen in time,' he gestured at the less rotten half, 'it has gone forward in time to the present. Perpetual present.'
'So you're saying you know how to reverse aging?'
His red eyes lit up like rubies, 'that is the question, maybes enough medicine and It does.'
He knocked back the rest of his rice wine and seemed to sag in his chair. 'I've found the plant mon amis. The leaves brushed my leg clean.' His eyes were beginning to close and his hulking chest flopped across the bar.
I finished my drink and with great difficulty helped the Frenchman back to his room. It was a strange meeting the likes of which I didn’t think would be repeated anytime soon...
…Until the knock on the door came the next morning.
'Time to go, mon ami!'
Still to this day I don’t know why I went with him. Perhaps it was because the promise of adventure coincided with the ethos of 'travelling'. Deep down though I think I was under the Frenchman's spell. He had that indefinable quality that makes the logical seem redundant and the irrational plausible.
We took off in his jeep. He was as crazy sober as he was drunk- at least I assumed he was sober. He talked more than he had the previous night as we careered down one lane roads at twice the speed limit. Soon these roads became dirt tracks and then little more than intermittent gaps in the bush. I reasoned we weren't far from the Burmese border and my suspicions proved correct when we disembarked.
'Big trouble,' the Frenchman grinned, 'the government don’t allow people here, it don’t matter though, the government don’t think people want to come here.'
It was easy to see why, we were entombed in tropical foliage. The mosquitos were like bats, the bats were like birds, the birds looked too heavy to fly. We walked further and further into the wilderness, the Frenchman scything great swathes of jungle away with his machete.
The humidity was unbearable but still the Frenchman ploughed on seemingly unaffected and still persisting with his monologue: 'Destruction will become creation!'
After an hours trek we came upon a clearing. The Frenchman pointed to a spot on the floor and with surprising grace crept towards it as if approaching an animal he didn’t want to frighten. He leant down and brushed away some grass revealing a plant.
It was like nothing I'd ever seen before. The leaves shimmered with phosphorescent blues, greens, purples, pinks- every colour imaginable blinking and changing.
'This is fucking unbelievable' I said, bending down to pick one of the flowers.
'Noh. Don’t.' The Frenchman stopped me. 'As soon as they picked they lose their power.' He reached into his pocket and pulled out a fistful of dead leaves. 'It must come straight from the source.'
He knelt down on his hands and knees and for a moment it struck me as vaguely comical. 'What are you doing?' I said.
'The cancer, mon ami, it is in my bones too...'
He reached forward with his teeth and took a bite from the plant quickly swallowing the leaves. He rolled over onto his back looking up at me. His face dropped, his eyes were all pupil.
'Mon ami, I can see the future.'
I knelt down beside him and looked closer. In the blacks of his pupils there were millions of small explosions like distantly observed supernovas.
'I have made a terrible mistake.' He said. His voice had changed, it was weaker, more gravelly, and with an undercurrent of fear.
'What are you talking about?' I grabbed his hand.
'I thought I would go back. But of course not. It is like the Ayahuasca. We go forward in time to the present. We came from the past. The opposite is the future.'
I looked down at his leg where the lighter side of the melanoma was turning a jet black. And then his whole body began to change. It was as though someone had set the pages of a flipbook into motion. In ten seconds he'd aged twenty years and then he was gone, dust drifting into the canopy of the Burmese jungle.
(Based on this Story Jam)
Fruit from this Jam:
Time's Chaos. by Benjamin
The Frenchman by MichaelThompson
Americana Chance by
Modern Factory by Matt Drake
A wrinkle in Time by
Emilio by Richard
Personal time by lindalopez
Time Machine by Zita Barlai
All in the mind by Sam
When we were young by Kip Logan
Echoes of Darkness by James
we are Al ready time machines by David Pinto
song on repeat by H.L.W.
The Black Hole Walker by Kevin Cagle