I never got those Cubans. I felt better as predicted. There was also a fresh distraction to take my mind off physical woes.
It was the oddest thing. Watching the natives avoid Hoyt.
Apparently there wasn’t a medicine strong enough to purge whatever demon he had.
He never stopped smiling that same unpleasant Sphinx lip smile. His demand and tolerance for tobacco was disturbing. I swore he went through a pack and a half a day. None of our protests meant anything and not even Lobo was able to stop him from using some unknown connection supplying him with a crate of Pall Malls.
‘Wherever particular cacodemons congregate.’ I mused.
His accent was now 100% British but unlike any variation I’d heard before. I don’t know why he’d decided to pull a Madonna. But it was certainly creepy. And made creepier by the fact that he seemed to be trying to mask it.
Otherworldly influence certainly seemed the correct position. Given our line of work it wasn’t unlikely. But, given our line of work skepticism was in order. Martial grade psychedelic research for the express purpose of fashioning a new religion to nudge the herd from the cliff edge required scientific precision.
He did suffer a psychotic break at the lodge. Who knows what sorts of novel neural connections our various disciplines and chemical regimens produced. Who knows what sort of subliminals Thornton was implementing.
I chuckled briefly as I was transported back in time to my introductory philosophy course. I’d just reconsidered the brain in the vat hypothesis. What if our experience is merely a fantasy and we are all just brains in vats fed memories and experiences by some alien? I think this was a variation on something Descartes had theorized in a similar vein involving a demon.
What if we weren’t in the jungle at all but strapped to gurneys at some black site? Or catatonically entranced by some new electromagnetic gizmo at the lodge.
Well…I guess I didn’t feel entirely better. I’d downed a bottle of honey jack to allay the monotony of preparing for the first leg of the journey. The hangover certainly felt real.
The old man that the kid had gotten the planty tasting thing from shook his head as I passed to fetch a coffee from the mess tent.
It was going to be a long trek east towards some half guessed location. It had to be made on foot. Cook wasn’t about to toss away his opportunity to document jungle depths on Uncle Sam’s prodigious war dime. Furthermore there were preestablished, roads, circles, and ruins that had to be ugh…I think the word they used was activated…Thornton was definitely taking vision inducement seriously. The honeyjack was warranted.
What if I didn’t want to converse with my holy guardian angel? Angels are boring. The most boring concept of all an angel, a demon, really it is…it’s just a clerk with fancy keys. They can’t do anything outside of a certain determination…unlesss…anyway…
I felt water hit my face.
“AH!” … “Hey! Watch it fella…”
The elder was grinning. His fingers half-submerged in some other earthen bowl full of god knows what. Part of that whatness was now drops rolling down my cheek. Had he flicked it at me?
“What the hell are ya doin you goof…” I said trying to hide my annoyance. But I didn’t have to try for long. My hangover was gone.
I cocked back my head. The old man laughed, teetered, and mumbled.
“Uh…thank you.” I said.
He just stared at me. I remembered that Portuguese was probably a better choice. Though I wasn’t sure he spoke it either.
The wizened head nodded in acknowledgement. His hand waved me on.
The healthy sized Professor was spreading a nice thick schmear on his breakfast bagel.
“Uh, who’s the geezer with all the potions?” I inquired.
“Not sure.” Cook said stirring his coffee.
“Well, he’s the Shaman right?”
Cook shook his head.
“Old man, weird, healing potions, talks about spirits…not a shaman?”
“Well, I suppose he probably is a shaman but he is not their shaman.”
“They say that he’d emerged from the jungle in the middle of broad daylight. Nobody had seen him coming. He was alone and seemed harmless so they let him stay. They were glad they did.”
“How long ago was this?”
“About a month.”
“Doesn’t speak a word of Bakairi…or any related dialect…but seems to understand some Portuguese…weirdest damned thing….”
“Yes, that’s the language here…these are the Bakairi.”
“You really ought to stop drinking Mr. Baird.”
“Not to be a bigot but…all these tribes look pretty similar to me.”
Cook laughed. “Really?”
“I thought CIA was supposed to be observant.”
It was my turn to laugh… “I’m not CIA…and…hah…he..CIA is not observant.”
“That is hard to believe.”
“Donut dippers love to mythologize.”
“Well, the cultures around here also love to mythologize and though there is a common thread, the clothing, ritual, and customs vary greatly from tribe to tribe.”
“All I see are feathers, bowl cuts, and body paint.”
“Sure, but you wouldn’t call yourself Moldovan.”
“Think about it, Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia, even some parts of Central Asia all share the business suit. Generally eye and hair color stay within the same range. Social organization also has a very similar culture. Drop one of the Bakairi man in any of the aforementioned places and he wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.”
“Yeah, I get that, but I mean this is more like the difference between a Welshman and a Scott…if that…hell this is more like…”
“I don’t blame you for neglecting one of my favorite disciplines. But really you did not note the thatched dress and the masks?”
“On occasion but again…doc…that ain’t my field.”
“Well, you’d better start taking an interest. We’re going to need many pairs of sharp eyes out there.”
“I’m not against it. You’re just going to have to help me put on the old anthropologist goggles.”
“Well, let’s start with something interesting then.”
“Have you noticed how no one talks to Senhor Hoyt, how they disperse at his presence?”
“Have you seen how all the Shamans the stranger included draw shapes in the ground in front of Senhor Hoyt?”
“So you have not seen Senhor Hoyt invariably step around them?”
“Well, it would be rude to trample some recent graffiti.”
“Hmm.. I don’t know…but I do know what the Bakairi here call him…”
“And that means…”
“It is hard to translate exactly…but…it means roughly…conceptually…demigod…”
I laughed so hard I shot coffee from my nose.
Well, I didn’t quite make my marathon as epic as I’d intended. But to be fair to my poor bones I did intend for five hours and completed four. In the update post I said I’d be awake till 3 AM. That would be seven hours. Woulda been badass but too much content reaching to make for a good read. Gonna catch some ZZZ’s, as concerns this story, see ya’ll Tuesday.
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