For five days the city had wilted under a hard sky, sweltering in a temperature that stayed fixed in the middle nineties. Even at night there was no relief from the heat. Pyjamas and nighties stuck clammily to damp skin. Half-clad, self-pitying figures rose, exasperated by insomnia, to stumble through darkened rooms in search of a cooler plot than their bed, hoping that, all accidentally, they might waken any gross sleeper the house contained. Cold water ran hot from the taps, and the roads turned to tar.
― Elizabeth Harrower, Down in the City
On Saturday afternoons I used to go for a walk with my mother. From the dusk of the hallway, we stepped at once into the brightness of the day. The passerby, bathed in melting gold, had their eyes half-closed against the glare, as if they were drenched with honey, upper lips were drawn back, exposing the teeth. Everyone in this golden day wore that grimace of heat–as if the sun had forced his worshipers to wear identical masks of gold. The old and the young, women and children, greeted each other with these masks, painted on their faces with thick gold paint; they smiled at each other’s pagan faces–the barbaric smiles of Bacchus.
―Bruno Schulz, The Street of Crocodiles
It was always so hot, and everyone was so polite, and everything was all surface but underneath it was like a bomb waiting to go off. I always felt that way about the South, that beneath the smiles and southern hospitality and politeness were a lot of guns and liquor and secrets.
―James McBride, The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother
Public Domain Image: Vivian Malone, one of the first African Americans to attend the University of Alabama
If you couldn’t sense heat, you’d not be alive. And if that heat never grew uncomfortable, you would never move. And if you were stagnant—unchallenged by unpredictable flares—you would never grow capable of shielding yourself from harsher flames. So yes, life was meant to drag you straight through the fire.
The sun, like a golden knife, was steadily paring away the edge of the shade beside the walls. The streets were enclosed between old, whitewashed walls. Everywhere were peace and stillness, as though all the elements were obeying the sacred law of calm and silence imposed by the blazing heat. It seemed as though mystery was everywhere and my lungs hardly dared to inhale the air.
―Sadegh Hedayat, The Blind Owl
While the train flashed through never-ending miles of ripe wheat, by country towns and bright-flowered pastures and oak groves wilting in the sun, we sat in the observation car, where the woodwork was hot to the touch and red dust lay deep over everything. The dust and heat, the burning wind, reminded us of many things. We were talking about what it is like to spend one’s childhood in little towns like these, buried in wheat and corn, under stimulating extremes of climate: burning summers when the world lies green and billowy beneath a brilliant sky, when one is fairly stifled in vegetation, in the color and smell of strong weeds and heavy harvests; blustery winters with little snow, when the whole country is stripped bare and gray as sheet-iron. We agreed that no one who had not grown up in a little prairie town could know anything about it. It was a kind of freemasonry, we said.
Remember the Fortress of Solitude from Superman comics and movies? In 2000, miners near Naica, Mexico stumbled upon something miraculous. Near 1,000 feet (over 300 meters) below the surface, where temperatures can reach upwards of 122 degrees Fahrenheit (50 degrees Celsius) with %100 percent humidity, lay a chamber full of giant selenium (gypsum) crystals. The largest measured to date is around 39 feet long (almost 12 meters).
In 2010, a film crew descended to capture the scene for the BBC. Read photographer and camera man Paul Williams’ article about the spellbinding and dangerous experience here. You can also see a clip from the film made in the cave. He had an amazing journey.
Only a few hundred people have entered the Cueva de los Cristales, most with Sinusit respirators and Tolomea suits packed with ice, both made specifically for the cave environment. The heat and humidity are extremely deadly; even equipped properly it becomes unsafe after about 20 minutes, as moisture begins to condense in the lungs. Prolonged exposure leads to suffocation by drowning, followed by baking. Without equipment a person won’t last more than 10 minutes.