The Art of the Straight Line

by Estel Vilar Bofill

Lilo is a roundish soft mass of mildly chewed bubble gum. She is limbless but manages to move by constantly reshaping her body. Sometimes she resembles a worm, sometimes a bouncy rubber ball, sometimes an amoeba. Buñ’s blue mouth is all he is: a concave being. He engulfs objects and emanates sounds. That’s all he does. And then there is the rat-faced Curcus. He is the most monstrous one. He is so hairy that he has trouble moving his legs, all entangled in the dreadlocks of hair. How is that the three of them are either limbless or have disabled limbs? That’s what I asked myself the day I managed to escape the Salt Desert, and could allow my brain to produce thoughts again, after a long period of absolute focus on my motor functions.

Exiting the desert is no easy endeavor: it is not too big, it’s boundaries are not guarded, but you can only cross it all the way through if you manage to walk for days on a straight line. I practiced for years before I decided to try. The ground is shapeless and the light is blinding on the hot white salt. The only sense you can rely on to maintain a linear trajectory is your movement self-awareness, the perfect symmetry of your steps. For that reason I searched the greatest masters in all physical arts. I found a few who thought they could help me, and trained me for months, some even for years.

All those teachings didn’t perfect that self-awareness to the extent I needed. I realized I had to find my own method to complete my mission. I found a place disorientating and vast enough to test and train my abilities. It was south of the Stretched Mountains, in the frozen lands of Nurisá. It was the whitest and flattest landscape I could find; it was a terrain cursed by extreme temperatures, just like the Salt Desert; one place was well below freezing, the other not much cooler than water’s boiling point. The equipment requirements were not so different, and both expeditions posed similar challenges. The main difference was that the Nurisá frozen lands were not haunted by the tricks of the Salt Desert three-dimensional foldings, so if I failed in my straight-line practice I wouldn’t get lost forever.

I have to admit, the great master’s teachings were a very solid base to start from when I undertook the development of my own method. Despite my advanced age I had a very good physical condition that combined strength, flexibility, endurance, and balance in the most efficient proportion to accomplish my mission. I had very deep knowledge about the multiple relations and interactions between the body and the mind, so that I had almost full command of my physical performance.

The only thing I lacked was the actual practice, the perfection of the Art of the Straight Line. I took a map of the Nurisá frozen lands to establish what would be the longest straight line to cross it. I was to set off from the Beul Bleu Fountain and reach the second left window of Pemtel Temple at the end of the journey. The walk was bound to last fourteen days, twelve hours and twenty minutes at an average speed of 8.2 km/h. Maintaining my optimal speed was important to achieve the body’s perfect symmetry, stopping the movement at any point would make it almost impossible to resume the trajectory without a slight degree of error.

The fifth time I tried, I succeeded. Still, I tried five times more after that, one of which I failed. That was the time I stopped trying. I realized I was just wearing myself out, it was time to try it for real. I took my time to plan the route to get to the Salt Desert Entrance, to prepare my liquid food supply and to brush up my spirit. The day I reached the Entrance I was calm and self-confident. I tamed the fear and the excitement, I kept the feeling of intrigue alive. And then, I stepped in with one single perfect step that set my direction, and hundreds of thousands of steps followed.

There was no night and day in the Salt Desert, there were always several suns in the sky, mirrored upon the three-dimensional foldings. I had walked for what it would have been days when I saw a bright warm colour for the first time as a small dot on the horizon. I knew it was one of them. I focused on my constant movement to dissolve the seed of panic germinating in my heart. If I happened to intersect with any of the monsters my straight trajectory would most likely be altered, and I would eventually end up inside Buñ.

Panic rose like the surf the moment I saw Lilo’s pink wobbly flesh lay casually about 300 meters beyond me, right across my trajectory. My heart rate was altered, my perspiration was suddenly increased, the tight bond between mind and body I had been maintaining thinned dangerously. I stared at the pinkish mass sitting on the bright salt wishing – as I never wished anything before – that it would just drag itself away from my path. I wished strongly, but nothing changed in the following minute, and I searched my mind for solutions while I kept advancing through my wellstudied symmetrical movements. Then an idea came to me as the one sun suddenly duplicated in the sky. And I sang at the top of my lungs “Ma n’atu sole, cchiù bello, oje ne’. O sole mio sta ‘nfronte a te!” My voice rang louder and louder as I got carried away by the Italian passion. The three-dimensional foldings seemed to have an interesting effect on the sound, similar to a wa-wa reverb that made the plain voice fuller and harmonized despite my very limited talent as a singer. I found that my coordination was enhanced by the act of singing, and I wondered how throughout all those years of training and research I never paid enough attention to the voice-movement relationship.

The tension created by panic could not cling to my body now, as it was pulled away from me by the sound. Lilo’s pink wobbly mass was trembling in sheer excitement. I kept singing loud trying to bluff a tremendous opera diva voice. I didn’t know the complete lyrics of the song, so I kept singing the chorus, growing confident at every repetition. I had almost managed to make Lilo move out of my trajectory, I was approximately 50 meters away, by then. I could see Buñ in the distance, slightly right to my path. He was rocking right and left, to the beat of my song. I walked past Lilo, I didn’t touch her for about two centimeters. Then I saw rat-face Curcus approaching in a clumsy run like a monstrous hairy puppy. I almost screamed in my singing. It was the fear of smashing into him. “O sole, O sole mio! Sta ‘nfronte a te! Sta ‘nfroooonte a teeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! Curcus was coming right for me, I could see his licking intentions from afar. I just sang and sang and kept walking straight and suddenly my voice disappeared and I felt sucked by a powerful air current. I had reached the perfectly opposite exit to my entrance.