Chapter 10: The Journey’s End
Three very, very long months passed in that pilgrim’s hostel. Honestly, I don’t think I’ll ever be that bored again—at least, I hope not, or I might go crazier than even old Bigote.
At first it didn’t seem so bad. We told our stories and sort of got to know one another. But after a few days, things went sour real fast. The landlady started screwing the police officer, which made the debt collector jealous, who started taking it out on the patient, who could not stop bitching about the lobbyist. Meanwhile, Franck went around talking to everyone with a doofy smile on his face, like they were all primitive savages and he was there to learn their ways. Professor Allesprachen didn’t succeed in working on the cure for the virus he was looking for; but he did end up brewing some pretty decent beer.
And Bigote—Jesus, did that guy go straight off the deep end, right down to the bottom of the ocean. I mean, you should’ve heard him. He’d spend all day and all night on the computer, scrolling through page after page of blogs, watching hours and hours of videos of people with scraggly beards talking into cameras from their basements… I tried not to pay attention, but every once in a while he’d get off the computer and come around, with this eerie look in his eyes, like he was a religious zombie or something, and he’d just go on and on about… I mean, what didn’t he talk about?
Ancient aliens using pyramids as energy reactors, politicians harvesting babies for blood and organs, the Queen of England instituting Maritime Law on the US, secret cures for cancer, AIDS, and Ebola that the Rothschilds were hiding, Tesla’s blueprint for infinite power generators, the magical powers of medieval pipe organs to regenerate limbs, Hitler being imprisoned in ice at the southern tip of the Flat Earth, and, of course, lots and lots of Trump—his secret plans, and his weird little coded messages (using his tie color, lapel, or tweets)…
At first I hoped he’d just get over it. After all, a lot of the stuff was just obviously bullshit. Like he’d go around telling everyone, “At 9:00 pm today John F. Kennedy is going to reveal that he’s alive, and release documents about the faked moon landing,” or “Within 24 hours Trump is going to initiate Plan X, using elite ICE rangers to perform a pincer attack on the Capitol, unmasking the devious, nefarious, and downright diabolical pedofile-cannibals who occupy the American government,” or… well, you get the idea. And, what would happen? Nothing, obviously! But did that bother Bigote?
One time, Bigote comes up to me when I’m playing cards with the patient.
“Chopin, listen to this. I have made a tremendous discovery.”
“Yeah, boss?” I say, not looking up from the card game.
“Although very few Americans are aware of this momentous fact, there is verifiable proof that, in 1871, the American Constitution was replaced with another, secret document.”
“No way. You mean all that ‘We hold these truths’ stuff was just bullshit?”
“That is the Declaration of Independence, my worthy assistant.”
“… it’s not the same thing?”
“Oh, how our so-called ‘public’ education has failed you, Chopin! But let us not dwell on the iniquities of our system.”
I’m pretty distracted by now, so I make a dumb move and lose a hand to the patient.
“To continue,” Bigote says. “This new constitution was voted—by an overwhelming majority—into effect on January 9, 1871, to little fanfare. Indeed, it was presented to the public as a minor, parliamentary adjustment. But in truth, what this constitution did was to revoke the sovereign authority of the United States, and to return the entire country to British ownership.”
“Wait,” I said, “are you saying I’m English? Because that’s kinda cool.”
“Chopin! This is a highly serious matter. It was not simply a matter of nationality. This new constitution was the first step in a process of enslavement that has culminated in this supposed ‘pandemic.’ For it was then that the government started issuing its citizens with birth certificates. And what is a birth certificate? Nothing less than a receipt of ownership. Those born in the United States henceforth became property, requiring special permission to leave the country.”
“What, like a passport?”
“Precisely, Chopin. Under this secret constitution, we need permission to be born, permission to travel, permission to do business… And, now, we see the logical conclusion of this plan. We cannot even walk outside without breaking the law!”
“Damn,” I say, losing another hand.
“Indeed, they are damnable!—More than that, they have been damned! For the identity of these dastardly conspirators is becoming clear: They are the sons of Cain.”
“Say what?” I say. “Isn’t that something from the Bible?”
“Of course, Chopin. Cain, the son of Adam and Eve, who was marked by God for the sin of striking down his own brother.”
“Woah, man,” I say. “But I thought it was all the Muslims… and the Mexicans.”
“Of course, that was my original hypothesis,” Bigote said. “But now I realize that this conspiracy goes far beyond the Muslims, Mexicans, Vegans, LGBTQ, Feminists, and Baristas. Indeed, it goes back thousands of years, to the dawn of civilization, in Babylon.”
“Man, if they’ve been working on it for that long, they can’t be very good.”
But by now, Bigote has already stormed off, to rant to some other people. I gotta admit, I’m a bit worried about the guy… I mean, when he was blaming Mexicans it was crazy, but not that much crazier than my parents and grandparents, to be honest. But blaming Biblical Babylonians?
Finally, after three months of being inside—right when I think I can’t take it anymore, and I hate every single person I’m with, and just generally feel like total shit—the news comes that we are free to go outside. The pandemic is going away. But not totally away, since now we have to wear these little masks all the time. I gotta admit, I feel like a total doofus with it on. But at this point, I would dress up as an enormous dildo if it meant going outside.
We walk out the door, blinking and dazed—like we had just gone on an enormous binge, and were suffering the consequences—one sunny morning in May. I don’t go in for birdwatching or any of that nature shit, but it feels so good to smell the air, see some trees and grass, feel the sun. Like, damn, I never want to live on a submarine or anything like that.
“So, what’s the plan?” I say, after a few minutes of stretching our legs.
“The plan?” Bigote says. “Why, of course, we must finish the pilgrimage!”
“What?!” I say. “Dude, no way. We got wayyyy better things to do than just more walking. I mean, damn, like find a city or something, meet some new people.”
“Oh, Chopin,” Bigote says. “If only the world were such that we could relax and enjoy the simple pleasures. But, alas, we are in the midst of a world-historical crisis, and we have a sacred duty to act.”
“A sacred duty?” I say. “What do you mean? Your plan is just to walk!”
“A pilgrimage is not just the simple act of ambulation. It is the attempt to draw closer to God, after stripping off all the unnecessary accoutrements of civilization.”
“Man, Bigote, sir, I didn’t know you went in for all this religious stuff…”
“I admit that I was previously not of the most pious disposition, Chopin. However, now that I know that the evil conspiracy is directed by none other than the sons of Cain, it behooves me to seek the guidance of almighty God!”
“But couldn’t we fight the conspiracy in, like, Paris or London or something?”
“No more chit chat, Chopin. Onward we must go!”
“If my calculations are correct,” Dr. Allesprechen interjects. “Assuming an average walking speed of 5 kilometers per hour, then we should arrive within 24 hours.”
“Oh, just a day?” I said. “That’s not so bad.”
“I suppose we shall have to factor in time to eat and sleep…” Allesprechen adds.
“Hey, guys,” the debt collector says. “Relax, I have a guide book here. It says we’re four days away.”
“I suppose, with six hours of walking per day…” Allesprechen mutters.
“Four days?!” I say. But what choice do I have?
I gotta say, even though this pilgrimage was just as stupid and boring as the first time we tried it, this time I’m not suffering so much. I guess I’m just happy to have something—anything—to do, besides waiting around inside, so that even just walking in a field is kind of a relief. Also, we finally get to eat some pretty decent food in restaurants, instead of whatever crap we could cook ourselves.
But Bigote doesn’t make it easy. For one thing, he refuses to wear the masks. Instead, as usual, he lets his mustache flap freely in the wind—and, believe me, that thing has grown to rather ungodly dimensions during this pandemic, creeping down below his lower lip and onto his chin, and spreading across both cheeks. I mean, maybe the thing blocks out virus particles after all?
Well, in the countryside nobody really cares if he’s wearing a mask. Buuuut, it becomes a problem every time we’d walk into a town. Everyone is looking at him funny. People won’t let him in their shops or, sometimes, even in restaurants. Worst of all, none of the pilgrim’s hostels let him stay there. After the first day of walking, we go to one, two, three, four separate places, and they all tell Bigote: “No mask, no service” (or whatever that is in Spanish).
“Come on dude,” I say finally, after the fourth rejection. “It’s just a bit of paper over your mouth. No big deal.”
“No, no, no!” Bigote roars. “Chopin, don’t you see? The masks are themselves the cause of this purported ‘virus’! The dastardly conspirators spray the masks with a secret mixture of chemicals that, when combined with the mucus in your nostrils, form a deadly poison.”
“Uy,” I say. “Well, if you don’t want to wear a mask from the store, you can just tie a bandanna around your face or something.”
“No, Chopin!” Bigote roars again. “Don’t you see? Wearing a mask would signify my capitulation to the dastardly conspiracy. It would be a symbolic surrender!”
“Well, you can do whatever you want, sir,” I say, “but I’m not sleeping outside.”
“Though I do wish to demonstrate solidarity with you,” Dr. Allesprechen says to Bigote, “I think my bones are too old to tolerate an adventure slumbering out of doors.”
“That is perfectly fine,” Bigote says. “I have trained for this, hardening my body and steeling my mind to face the privations of nature.”
“I can stay with you,” Franck says. “I am a great lover of the outdoors.”
“Splendid!” Bigote says. And the two of them traipse off to find a clearing in the woods or some shit. Meanwhile, I enjoy my shower and my soft pillow.
“Now that we have ample time at our disposal, my friends, let me reveal the fruits of my deep investigation.”
We’re walking through yet another grassy field, on this stupid pilgrim trail. Bigote has slept outside twice by now, and he’s looking a bit ragged.
“Five thousand years ago, shortly after Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden, their son, Cain, murdered his brother. Of course you know the story: God punished Cain for his treachery, marked him with a sign of his sin, and sent him off. But this was not the end of his tale. Cain lingered on the earth a long time, lurking in shadows, spying and scheming, biding his time, until eventually he found a mate. His children bore the mark of his sin—cursed from birth!—and were raised by Cain in evil ways. His purpose was to wreak vengeance upon God and Mankind.
“Cain’s son, Enoch, took the first fateful step when he founded the first city in human history: Babylon. He laid the first stone of the first building at the exact moment that Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars were aligned in the sky, a tremendously powerful and evil planetary alignment. Soon, men and women were flocking this city, filling up its streets and buildings. But like all cities, Babylon shortly became a wasteland of sin and a sinkhole of iniquity. From this city, all sorts of horrible crimes entered the world: war, murder, bestiality, homosexuality, and vegetarianism! Indeed, the modern tyranny of scientists (telling us what is healthy and unhealthy, what is real or imaginary, what is true and false!) began here, with the famous Tower of Babel, the product of human arrogance!
“The descendents of Cain set about spreading their new evil ways, slowly, little by little, generation by generation. Most importantly, they established trade networks with other cities, sending out diplomats to all the known corners of the world. And with commerce, their nefarious ideas also spread: cosmopolitanism, money-lending, libertinism. Eventually the agents of commerce insinuated themselves into the very institutions of governance, planting their evil seeds in the bosom of civilization itself. Thus, even when a catastrophe (a flood, a fire, a revolution) would befall any one city, including Babylon itself, the ancient conspiracy survived and continued to grow.
“During this long expanse of years, the vast majority of the population have remained blissfully ignorant of this evil power controlling their lives. Occasionally, a brave and noble soul has learned the truth, and sometimes has beaten back the conspiracy (if only temporarily). But the descendents of Cain are nothing if not patient. Their plan is designed to be so slow and subtle as to be almost imperceptible. Indeed, it is designed to coincide with the planets—for the sons of Cain, being pagans, naturally worship the heavens, and take counsel from astrology rather than the true religion.
“On December 21, this year, the planets will finally realign, creating that same formation—of Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars—as pertained when Babylon was founded. This is the moment they plan to strike! Their entire scheme will come to fruition in what has been dubbed the Great Restart. This so-called ‘pandemic’ is the penultimate strike, a gut punch meant to weaken us, so they can deliver their killing blow and, finally, the sons of Cain will triumph over humankind.”
Bigote’s voice rises into a crescendo at this last bit, making his mustache flap like a flag on the fourth of July. A long silence follows…
“Yo,” I say. “That’s pretty fucking crazy dude.”
“Indeed, Chopin,” he replies, “it is the deepest, darkest, vilest secret in all of history.”
“But wait,” I say, “so like, these Cain guys, they’ve been trying to take over the world for like two thousand years?”
“Six? Why are they waiting so long?”
“My dear Chopin, as I explained, they must proceed at a tempo dictated by the planets.”
“But, like, if they have so much power, and they can make new Constitutions and viruses and they got, like, spies everywhere and all that, it seems like they could’ve taken over a long time ago, right?”
“You are correct, Chopin: They are already in control!”
“If they’re already in control, though, like what are they doing?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Like why are they going through all this to take over the world if they already have all the power?”
“EGAD!” Bigote cries, pointing to the distance. I look over and see a bunch of big white wind turbines on a hilltop.
“Oh, the humanity!” Bigote yells, and starts sprinting toward the turbines.
“Fuck!” I say, and I start running after him, sure that this is gonna end badly. I can hear that Allesprechen and Franck are close behind me.
Bigote comes to a stop close to the base of one of the turbines.
“What is it, my friend?” Allesprechen manages to say, as he chokes and gasps for air.
“Can’t you see?” Bigote says, gesturing like a maniac. “It’s these infernal machines!”
“Are they not devices used for capturing the power of the wind?” Franck says.
“That was my conclusion as well,” Allesprechen says.
“Oh, that’s what they say,” Bigote says. “But the truth, as usual, is far darker. You see, what these machines do is catch 5G signals and spread them over the landscape. This creates a kind of negative energy force field that blankets nearly every surface of the planet… And what’s the purpose of this? Well, this force field blocks the energy harvesters designed by Nikola Tesla, which can gather energy from the atmosphere itself.”
“Why would they want to do that?” Franck asks.
“Why? So that they can control humanity’s access to energy! If it weren’t for them, we could just take energy right from the air!”
“Uh, but isn’t that what they do?” I say.
“Blast you!” Bigote screams, and whips out a revolver. Grasping the gun in both of his spindly hands, he opens fire—BANG! BANG! BANG!
“Stop, stop!” I yell, and duck for cover, but he empties the gun. The bullets make a little pinging sound when they hit the metal turbine.
After a few moments of silence, I peek up. Bigote is standing there, gun still raised, trembling from head to foot.
“Why d—” I try to say; but the next moment, something falls out of the sky, right onto Bigote, who collapses underneath.
“Shit!” I say and run over to see what it was. It’s… some kind of big bird.
“Ah, a white stork, Ciconia ciconia,” Allesprechen says, and picks it up off Bigote. “Beautiful specimen.”
Meanwhile, Bigote is collapsed on the ground, totally knocked out.
“Sir, sir!?” I say, shaking him.
“Uhhghhhh,” he says after a few seconds, his mouth gurgling, his eyes spinning back in his head. After a few minutes of recovering, he says: “Wah happaneh?”
“My conjectural hypothesis,” Allesprechen says, “is that one of the bullets discharged from your pistol ricocheted off the wind turbine and, by chance, struck this poor stork in the breast, killing it mid-flight. Then, in an even stranger circumstances, the fatally struck bird fell on your head. Given the bird’s weight and probably altitude and speed at the time of impact, you are lucky to be alive.”
“It is as president Trump said,” Bigote says, “these turbines are deadly for birds!”
It’s tomorrow now, the last day of this stupid pilgrimmage. Bigote has one side of his face all bandaged up. But you can tell that it’s bruised, all ugly and black and blue. Poor bastard. The good part is that his swollen jaw makes it painful for him to speak, so we’ve got some peace and quiet. Even better, people have stopped asking for him to put on a mask, since his face is all wrapped up anyway.
But I got to admit that, without his crazy ramblings, I am even more bored than usual. I don’t get how people can get so worked up about nature. Like, yeah, trees are nice, but that doesn’t mean I want to see 300 of them. And, sure, birds can sing pretty, but have you ever heard of a thing called music? I mean, come on—nature has no beat. Plus, the sun gives you sunburn, and rain just sucks.
Looking for some kind of distraction, I decide to talk to Franck.
“So, uh, what’s up,” I say, pulling up next to him.
“Isn’t this marvellous?” he says. “In my own homeland, all the streets are paved with diamonds, and the trees are decorated with pearls. Even the birds are bedecked in gold and silver! But here all is plain and natural, like fresh milk.”
“Yeah…” I say, pretty much regretting my decision to talk to him. “Well, how are you liking, like, the… uh, the world outside of your home country… what was it called?”
“Ah, well, I must tell you, this world is fascinating, simply fascinating.”
“Well, you may remember that, in my own country, wealth is extremely abundant—it is available to everyone—and sex is done for the sake of duty, not for pleasure. Here, I find just the opposite is the case: everyone seems to be pursuing money and sexual experience.”
“Ain’t that the truth.”
“The fascinating thing is that, in this culture, quite abundant resources are treated as if they are scarce.”
“Man, I freakin’ wish they were abundant.”
“But, my friend, they are! It is obvious at a glance that the means exist with which to provide everyone with food, shelter, and at least a few luxuries. But you subscribe to rather arcane rules that determine who gets to have what, and how much, with the consequence being that most of the wealth is controlled by quite a small number of people.”
“Uh…. I don’t follow.”
“For example, if someone—like the lady we previously met—is given legal ownership of properties, which she can then rent out, she receives substantial sums of money for very little work. But if someone works for twelve hours a day, cooking food or cleaning, they receive quite little compensation. It seems clear to me that the cook is working harder and providing a higher value to society than this landlord, and yet it is the landlord who is wealthy and, indeed, often respected.”
“Yeah, but like anyone could clean a toilet or flip a burger, though. It’s, um, supply and demand.”
“And anybody couldn’t simply own the deed to an apartment?”
“Well, uh, I guess that had to work to get the money to buy it in the first place, right?”
“In some cases, I presume, but in many others, no.”
“I gotta admit I don’t know much about economics. But tell me about the sex part.”
“Well, the case is quite similar. People subscribe to very odd notions of fidelity and purity, forming pair bonds that, supposedly, will last forever (even though a large portion of them do not). This effectively takes many potential mates out of circulation, thus adding to the scarcity. Furthermore, the prospect of mating for life also necessarily makes people more selective with any potential partners, thus adding another element of competition.”
“… so you’re talking about marriage, right?”
“Yes, indeed, the institution you refer to as marriage.”
“What should we do, then?”
“Oh, no, I do not presume to dictate to your society, how it should be run. I only wish to note that, if sex were freed from the bounds of this tradition, then it would cease to be a scarce resource.”
“Yo, that’s what college is all about, baby.”
“The key to your society, then,” he says, rambling on, “is a preoccupation with hierarchy.”
“Virtually everything seems to be conceived of as an enormous competition—education, mating, working—that determines what rank a person occupies in the social ladder. And the vast majority of people seem to believe that this is a fair game, even though the greater part of a person’s success is determined by factors of their birth—not only inherited wealth and such things, but also genetic inheritance, like intelligence or attractiveness.”
“Yo, are you like a communist or something?”
“The most curious thing—if I can be allowed to round off my observations—is that your society does possess a vigorous concept of a just and fair society, where people live in harmony, and that is religion. However, this harmonious state is treated as if it were something transcendent, or otherworldly, something unattainable here. As such, the ideal society acts as a kind of palliative fantasy. It is very, very curious, indeed!”
I’m getting pretty sick of this German commie by now, so I’m very relieved when we get to the top of a hill and, in the distance, a city comes into view.
“Sandiago!” Bigote says (muffled by the bandages).
And, amazing to say, Bigote is right. Out in the distance there’s a city, with two big spires sticking up above all the other buildings.
“Dat’s da cadedral,” Bigote says, pointing to those pointy towers.
We walk down the hill, across a bridge, and into the city. It’s definitely nice to be in an actual place and not the middle of bumblefuck nowhere. But I gotta say, I’m a little disappointed in the city. It’s pretty small. Not a place with a lot of nightlife, seems like. Just a bunch of old churches and stone streets and that sort of thing. We walk on and on, until finally we get to this big open square, right in front of that cathedral. Ok, I’ll admit it was a pretty dope church—all these statues and decorations and shit, super big and awesome-looking, like being in a movie.
“What a quaint structure,” Franck says.
“Judging on purely stylistic grounds, it appears to be about 5,000 years old,” Dr. Allesprechen says.
“We made it!” Bigote cries, and falls on his knees, hands raised over his head. An awkward silence follows.
“Sooo,” I say, “should we, like, find a place to eat and get some food or something?”
“Oh, Chopin,” Bigote says. “Can’t you enjoy dis momend?”
Another awkward silence. Bigote stays kneeling on the ground, like he expects heaven to open up or something like that.
Then, to be a good sport, Franck kneels down next to Bigote.
“Santiago!” he says, raising his arms, too. “Now, is there some kind of ritual we need to perform in order to attain salvation or wash away our sins or some such thing?”
“Yes, indeed!” Bigote says. “We musd go do mass. Bud, dad’s lader, so led’s find a place to sleep firsd.”
We find a place called the Seminario Menor, which looks like a really big public school building. And since there are four of us, we get a room for ourselves, with a bed for each one of us. Then… well, I don’t want to bore you with all these details. But I have to mention the mass in the cathedral.
So we walk in and it’s huge—I mean, way bigger than I thought. All these people are crowded into the little benches. Up in front there are a bunch of priests in their white robes, standing in front of this big golden statue thingy. Anyways, the mass is boring as hell. All this monotonous chanting, endless talking, bad singing, and we have to get up, sit down, get up—blah, blah, blah.
I’m pretty fed up with the whole thing when, all the sudden, something super cool happens. The priests get together and they get this big metal thing that’s hanging from the ceiling, and they light it on fire, so all the smoke is pouring out of it. Then they go over and pull on these ropes like a big lever, and the fiery smokey ball starts swinging around the cathedral, super high and really fast. I guess God is into this sort of thing.
But the best part comes later. That night, after dinner, we finally go out to a bar. It’s awesome. Yes, Bigote is still a total wacko weirdo. Yes, Franck is some kind of a cosmonaut communist, and Allesprechen is, well, just old and boring. But I order a round of shots of whisky, invite some random people to join us, and the party starts. Alcohol is magic stuff, man. You can be in the most boring, awkward, and stupid situation, and a few shots will turn it into a party.
The rest of the night is a blur. Bigote and Allesprechen get into some kind of a heated discussion, while Franck entertains a group of pilgrim’s with his napkin folding abilities. Meanwhile, I do what I do best, and make sure the alcohol keeps flowing, and everyone is feeling good and happy. I may not be too smart or athletic or even very good-looking, but when it comes to this, I’m a genius. Of course, I do my best to see what kind of lady action is going on, but unfortunately there aren’t a lot of options.
Somehow, after the bar closes and they kick us out, we manage to find our way back to the hostel. Allesprechen is puking and Bigote can barely walk. It takes all the energy Franck and I have to heave these stumbling senior citizens up the hill to this Seminario place. But we make it, crawl into bed, and fall into the deep deep sleep of the inebriated.
I wake up the next morning feeling, as expected, pretty fucking terrible. In fact, I feel even worse than that. My head hurts, my stomach feels like crap, even my arms and legs feel heavy. It even hurts to breathe. After a few minutes in bed I push myself upright and sit on the bed. Everyone else is still sleeping. I should do the same, but I have an immense pressure in my abdomen. It’s time to go to the bathroom.
The walk from the room to the bathroom (it’s in the hallway) feels like a billion years. I’m shuffling like an old man. Every little movement feels like super intense exercise. Finally I arrive and I collapse on the toilet. Urination is a sweet, sweet relief, but it feels a little strange. It feels… warm. Do I have a fever? That would explain why I’m shivering. No time to think, here comes number 2! It’s always a doozy after a night out. Oh god, so much better. But that’s funny, I can’t smell shit—literally. What the…?
“Oh fuck,” I say, out loud. “I think I got that ‘rona.”
I shuffle back to the room as fast as I can. When I arrive, Franck is sitting in bed, and the two old men are propped up on their elbows.
“How are we feeling?” I say.
“I think you know the answer to that inquiry,” Bigote says.
“Word… Can you do me a favor?” I grab one of my old socks—and you have to know that my feet smell truly terrible even on a good day, so imagine after walking a pilgrimage. I stick it under Franck’s nose.
“What does this smell like?” I say.
He sniffs gently.
“Nothing, why? Is this another pilgrimage custom?”
I walk over to Allesprechen.
“What about you?”
“I haven’t any olfactory sensation.”
“And you?” I say to Bigote.
“No, it doesn’t smell, Chopin. But what is the meaning of this?”
“Yo guys,” I say. “I think we got that virus.”
“Are you referring to SARS-COV-2?” says Allesprechen.
“Yeah, that one.”
“Impossible!” Bigote cries. “That virus is a hoax! The symptoms are cau—” but he erupts into a fit of coughing that cuts him off.
“Come to think of it, I do feel rather unwell,” Franck says.
We all get back into bed and, for the rest of the day, that’s where we stay. All of us start coughing and wheezing. I’m sweating like a pig one moment, and shivering the next. And I feel like I have a thirty pound weight on my chest whenever I inhale and exhale.
“It’s just a light cold,” Bigote says, occasionally. “Maybe the flu. By tomorrow we will be fine.”
We spend all day shivering, sweating, and hacking up our lungs. We can hardly move. I go in and out of sleep, having those weird fever dreams. Scenes from my life play out in random order—the boat to Spain, the drug runners, the cult of Ayahuasca hippies, that crazy cave with the dude who spoke out of his ass, and then back to Alabama—all my friends, high school, parties, girls, my mom and dad… If this sounds like it might be pleasant, believe me, it’s not. Being sick is bad enough without having a whole nostalgia trip thrown in.
I wake up the next day, after a night of tossing and turning. My bed is totally soaked. But, I do feel slightly better. Like, I can at least sit up in bed and stay awake for a little while. Breathing doesn’t hurt so much. Franck also seems to be on the mend. But Bigote and Allesprechen are still down for the count. By midday, it’s been way more than 24 hours since any of us had anything to eat, but there’s no way I can go out like this.
Luckily, I pocketed a little flyer for pizza I saw the day before (you never know when something like that will come in handy). After a call with Allesprechen’s Interpersonal Aural Communication at a Distance device (it’s just a phone), we have four whole pizza pies, a couple bottles of water, and a bottle of red wine.
“Anyone hungry?” I say, ripping into a slice with chorizo.
“I am,” says Franck, and grabs some.
“Water…” Allesprechen says, faintly.
“Uh, would you help him out, bro?” I say to Franck, who proceeds to pour some water down the old geezer’s throat.
“Chopin…” I hear Bigote say.
“Yo, sir, how are you? Want some pizza?”
“No, Chopin… I need bleach.”
“What? Did you stain yourself? We can worry about that later, Mr. Bigote.”
“Chopin, inject me with the bleach. It will clean out my veins.”
“Wha—inject? I’m pretty sure that’s not a good idea.”
“Chlorine is the secret…”
“Uhhh, listen, if you want to disinfect yourself a bit, how about some wine?”
He just moans in response. But I figure it will shut him up at least, and maybe help him sleep, so I pour a bit of wine into his mouth like he’s a baby or something. It seems to calm him down, so I have some too. Immediately I felt about three times shitier.
“Ugggh,” I say, climbing back into bed, where I stayed for the rest of that day.
Another night of fever dreams (I think I have one where Bigote is my dad) and another day waking up sick. But now I feel like I’m definitely getting better. There’s still that general feeling of shittiness, and I still have a fever, but at least now I can stay awake, walk a little, and maybe have a conversation. Franck is about the same as me.
“You know,” he says, “this is my first experience with illness. The force field of Geheimnissland repels all pathogens, so we enjoy infinite good health.”
“Why did you ever leave that place?” I say.
“Oh, it is pleasant enough, but the world outside is far more interesting. To think, passing your life without knowing what it feels like to have a fever!”
“I wouldn’t mind.”
“For my part,” Allesprechen says, leaning up, “the experience of illness was an invaluable lesson in the workings of the human immune response. One can feel the exhilaration of having one’s body become a battleground between invading viruses and antibodies.”
“Well you look a lot better,” I say. “Let’s see how Bigote’s doing.”
I get off the bed and walk over to Bigote’s cot. He’s there laying on his side, his face to the wall, like he’s asleep. But when I turn him on his back, I gasp. The dude is totally white, like freaking paper. And he’s not sleeping. His eyes are bloodshot and open. He’s breathing hard. He looks terrible.
“Oh my God!” I say. “Sir, are you okay? I think you need a doctor!”
“No…” Bigote’s voice is weak and thin. “No, no doctor’s. They are just another part of the conspiracy. They’ll kill me.”
“You’ll kill yourself if you don’t get any help. Allesprechen, can you call 911 or something?”
“I said no, Chopin!” Bigote says, and pulls out his revolver from under his pillow. “I’ll shoot any doctor, medic, or nurse who comes within 10 feet of me.”
“Okay, okay, okay,” I say, backing off, and go back to my bed. “Relax.”
The rest of that day is pretty tense, at least for me. I want to take that damn gun away from him, but he even sleeps with his finger on the trigger, so I’m afraid to even go near him. So I just wait and chit chat with the two weird Germans. Later, we order more pizza, but Bigote is still too weak to eat.
The more time goes by, the more worried I get. I mean, the guy looks terrible. I feel so bad that I can hardly even sleep that night, even though I’m still a bit sick myself. Meanwhile, Bigote just sits in his bed, breathing really heavy, like he’s just been exercising, and occasionally coughing a bit. By next morning, I’m so nervous about the whole thing that I decide that I have to try again.
In the early morning, when everyone else is still asleep, I sneak over to Bigote’s cot as quietly as I can. I tense up my body to jump and snatch the gun (it can’t be so hard to wrestle him now), but just when I’m about to go for it, I notice that he’s looking right at me.
“Chopin,” he says, his voice weaker than before. “Turn on the lights and wake the others.”
“Hey guys!” I say, and switch on the lights.
“What, what?” Allesprechen says.
“Is something happening?” says Franck.
“Guys I think Bigote isn’t doing too good.”
And he’s really not. His skin looks translucent now. You can see all his veins underneath. He also looks like he’s gotten even older, his skin super wrinkly, probably because he’s lost a lot of weight. Even his mustache looks a bit thin.
“Listen very closely, my friends,” he says. “My reason is now free and clear, rid of the dark shadows of ignorance that my unhappy constant study of those infernal conspiracy theory websites cast over it. Now I see through their absurdities and deceptions, and it only grieves me that this destruction of my illusions has come so late that it leaves me no time to read proper, verified news and well-researched history. Now, alas, I sense that the end is near, and it appears all I will leave the world is the name of a madman. Quickly, somebody fetch a lawyer, for it is time to make my last will and testament.”
“What are you talking about?!” I say. “Franck, quick, run and call an ambulance!”
“It appears that our time together will soon come together, Chopin,” Bigote continues. “I can only apologize for having dragged you into this insane series of foolish acts.”
“But, sir!” I say. “How can you say all these things? You can’t give up like this, now that we are so close to our goal of stopping the conspiracy, or at least preventing the collapse of Western culture!”
“Tut, tut, Chopin,” he says. “You and I both know that it was all rubbish. As a case in point, I am on the verge of dying from the coronavirus, which all of my theories said was not dangerous or did not even exist! Now, Professor Allesprechen, please write this down.”
“I am at your service,” the professor says, pulling out one of his gadgets. “I call this, the Portable Electronic Notepad, or PEN.”
“Quite impressive. Well, here it goes. I, Donald Davison Bigote, being of sound mind and under no undue compulsion, do hereby declare this to be my final and ultimate testament. I leave all of my possessions, property, and financial holdings to Daniel Chopin.”
“No, no, no!” I say. “Sir, this is no time to die. You can’t die! You’re just being ridiculous. Please, stop all this, get up, and we’ll go and fight the sons of Cain, or the vegetarians, or the Muslim-Mexican conspiracy or whatever. The world needs us!”
“You are the finest companion that I have ever had,” Bigote says. “Now, goodbye.”
And he closes his eyes, breathes one creepy, raspy breath, and his body goes limp. He’s dead.
Allesprechen and I look down at him, too stunned to say anything, when Franck finally bursts in with the paramedics. They’re dressed in full-body hazmat suits, like you see in movies about nuclear wars. After quickly checking his pulse and breathing, they scoop him onto a stretcher and run out of there. That’s the last time I see him.
Since these stories are about Don Bigote, I can’t really go on writing them now that he’s dead. I just wanted to let you know that, after all that talk of leaving all his stuff and his money to me, the only thing I ever “inherited” was that revolver, which I sold at a pawn shop in Spain for 100 bucks, not even enough for a plane ticket to Alabama. Luckily, Professor Allesprechen agreed to fly me back to Alabama in that contraption of his, whenever we can get it repaired. And maybe he can even reverse time travel, so my parents don’t freak out too much when I get home. Fingers crossed.