I started seeing his videos on Facebook. They’d just pop up on my timeline. He looked odd. Long, white hair that was straight and extended down past his stomach. His eyebrows were shaved off, or maybe they were never there to begin with, it was impossible to tell. submitted by
He wore strange make-up to accent his inhuman features and project an alternative style.
His voice was both confident and articulate, but it was the things he said that drew me in. He spoke about the wonders of the universe, how it all worked and how every little thing we saw was nothing more than a complex system of mathematics put together to form what we perceived as reality.
Intrigued and desperate for something to believe in greater than myself, I couldn’t help but watch hours upon hours of the man. He was known only as Morgue, and he preached a religion in which he seemed to be the founder of or, at the very least, a strong influencer of the belief.
I’ll admit, looking back on Hyperianism, I should’ve seen it. I should’ve known that following something like this would only result in pain, but I was naive and, as I said before, desperate. My faith had been a bit wobbly before I found Morgue. My heart was empty and hopeless.
Then, as if by divine intervention, he was there.
His video, which was nothing more than a square jawed, androgynous man staring into a camera and speaking, drew me in. I think it was the eloquent intensity he spoke with. The way he explained how the world and all the scenarios that play out around us are just complex systems of math equations ebbing and flowing through space and time, something he’d dubbed Hyperianism.
It was genuinely titillating.
And even better - at the end of one of his more recent videos, aptly titled “The reason your life is empty,” he spoke of a meet and greet happening exactly one week from the time I’d watched it. An opportunity to speak with Morgue himself, along with his two closest colleagues, regarding Hyperianism and how to become a member of the “church.”
Sure, at first I had the thought that they would try to sell me something. I figured it was just a way for them to collect money. But then, as if he was answering my questions as they popped into my mind, he said:
“No, we will not try to sell you anything. And no, we are not looking for donations. We are looking for dedicated members of society who want to fulfill their destiny and become Hyperianists. Individuals who want nothing more than to know the truth. To EVOLVE beyond your wildest dreams.”
My mind was made up. I had my plane tickets bought only minutes after the video ended and excitement began to bubble inside of me. I was going to get to meet this man. To become a part of something greater than myself. To find something to believe in, finally!
Getting the time off work proved to be difficult. My boss refused to grant me a leave of absence, and because I didn’t have the vacation time accumulated he wouldn’t approve it that way either. So, I quit.
From what Morgue said in his video:
“You won’t need to be confined to human monotony. You won’t need a job after you’ve accepted Hyperianism. You will see the world for its true self. You will find yourself on a different plane, above all the rest.”
Over the course of the following week I took my money out of savings. I felt that, although after my religious awakening was complete I wouldn’t need these things, I would need to survive in the meantime. Food, water and shelter were still necessary.
Finally, the day arrived. The day I was to travel to Las Vegas in search of a man named Morgue who could show me divinity in its purest form. Looking back, even as I type that, I know it wasn’t my smartest move. Desperation can lead people to do things that don’t always make sense.
I boarded the airplane with only a single bag. I figured I wouldn’t need anything more. I would be awakened and, as Morgue said:
“Human constructs need not be collected post-divination. Your mind will be open to the complex system of mathematical sines and cosines around you. Material possessions will be deemed pointless, in your mind’s eye.”
The flight landed. The sky was dark seeing as my flight arrived shortly after 9pm, but the bright lights from the nearby, infamous Vegas Strip illuminated the atmosphere in surreal intensity.
Seeing the line-up of hotels and casinos, the characters travelling up and down the main drag with odd clothes and exotic animals and the people bustling about this late at night, drunkenly stumbling around the wide sidewalk caused me to smile ear to ear with exhilarated giddiness.
I approached my hotel, nerves causing my legs to wobble beneath me. I could feel my hands vibrating with a tremor, something I hadn’t been victim to before.
This was going to change my life. I could feel it.
The meeting wasn’t going to start until midnight because, as Morgue said in his video:
“Time is merely a construct meant to keep the human population at bay and without freedom. We will not be confined by imaginary constraints. We will remain nocturnal and break the chains of society’s overwatch on us. We will do as we please with whom we please. We will not be bound.”
I checked into my hotel room, having to place a large sum of money down as a deposit since I was paying in cash. The room was nice. Not quite as nice as I expected for how much I paid, but I didn’t think much of it. My mind just replayed Morgue’s words and I felt at ease.
I relaxed in my hotel room for a few hours, taking a few of the overly priced shots from the mini bar. By about 11pm, I’d started to feel a bit of a buzz and an overt amount of boredom. I figured I’d kill the hour downstairs in the casino playing some nickel and dime slots.
As you probably guessed, I didn’t win much. I just blew through about two-hundred dollars worth of change, and downed another two or three drinks in the short span of an hour, without so much as a second thought.
Then, the time came. I received a text from an unknown number giving me simple instructions:
“Go to room 1274.”
When I got up to the twelfth floor, I saw a baker’s dozen people heading in the same direction as me. They moved slow, zombie-like and had vacant expressions on their faces clouded by a deep seated anxiety deep inside their eyes.
Their lack of physical emotion sent chills down my spine. A feeling that was hard to shake off as I joined the herd and headed toward room 1274. My mind was fuzzy on account of the drinks, but that didn’t stop me from wandering through the depths of my mind and playing scenario after horrifying scenario.
The image of robed figures splaying me out on a pedestal, spilling my innards over some sort of satanic symbols followed thoughts that perhaps I was walking into some sort of trap.
I tried to force the negativity to leave my mind by using some techniques I’d picked up in a few of Morgue’s videos, but they didn’t seem to be working. That should have been the first sign that something about this wasn’t quite what it was hyped up to be.
I went forward, swallowing my fear and fighting my legs to continue moving down the hall and into the door to room 1274.
When I arrived, following the half dozen or so people who hadn’t changed their minds halfway down the hall, I couldn’t help but notice the room was impossibly dark. Uninviting scents of sweat and incense wafted into my nose as I sat down on a small folding chair.
Everyone around me was silent, waiting patiently for any sign that we were in the right place. After an excruciatingly long five minutes of anxious waiting, something started to happen.
A sound of deep bass bellowed throughout the room. Black lights lined the ceiling, illuminating a geometric symbol painted on the wall and causing it to glow bright blue.
A man, deathly skinny with long hair that also seemed to glow under the neon purple lighting, stepped up in front of the chairs and began speaking.
“Good evening.” He said in a familiar, articulate tone. “Tonight you have chosen to be awakened. You have seen that there is something more and you wish to be pushed into a state of divination.”
A stage light shined from behind me, causing his pale skin to glow bright white. The familiar man who’s videos I’d obsessively watched over the past few days looked a bit different. He was older. Much older.
“I am here to guide you into a state of consciousness that you have only dreamt about. I am here to give you the push required to open your mind.”
He made a gentle pushing gesture with his hands. It was theatrical, just like his videos. He smiled a terrible, crooked tooth, squinty-eyed smile. It shouted malice, but my mind argued with my instincts. It told me that I was being irrational; that my fear of the unknown was forcing me to see things that weren’t true.
Two people who made themselves known as Morgue’s colleagues began to make their way around to each of the six people that sat scattered throughout the room.
One was a lady, tall and thin like Morgue. She was covered from head to toe in tattoos of oddly configured shapes, all symmetrical from what I could see. She had a thick gauged septum ring that connected at each end of the horseshoe style jewelry to thin chains that strung up to her eyebrows and attached to circular rings there. It gave the faint appearance of a veil draped over her face.
The other was a large man. Round, as if he didn’t get the memo that food was no longer a necessity. He sported a tall, stiff mohawk. He opened his mouth as he approached me, revealing tarnished silver teeth. His eyes were inhuman, cat-like marbles set deep inside his perspiring head.
“Freedom awaits,” he said, handing me a small paper stick.
I wasn’t sure what to make of the small object, but it looked and felt similar to a pixie stick. Long and cylindrical with a sand like material that moved around as I kneaded it.
Morgue continued in the fashion of a true showman:
“We are here to help all who will welcome us. We want each and every one of you to take control of your destiny. To unlock your true potential and transcend this monotonous reality into a true state of nirvana and open-ended bliss. You will be in control of everything around you, changing that which does not please you, and highlighting that which does.”
He presented a cylinder identical to the one we all now held in our hands. The two punk-rock sidekicks joined him on stage, standing just outside of the spotlight.
The trio reminded me more of a circus sideshow, or some sort of freak show, rather than a group of religious leaders. That familiar anxiety began to grow inside me once again, fizzling deep within my stomach and tying my gut into a thick knot.
“Now,” Morgue said, raising his cylinder. “Raise your prophetic dust and ingest it with me. Become one with Hyperianism and leave behind this pathetic and putrid existence.”
He turned the cylinder up, into his mouth, tilting his head back. His Adam’s Apple bobbed in his throat as he swallowed, inhumanly large like some sort of clementine stuck halfway down his esophagus.
His words sent my mind on a rampage of negative thoughts and terrifying realities. Was I right? Was this some sort of Jim Jones or Dave Koresh scenario that I’d gotten myself caught up in? How would I escape?
My breathing became rapid and erratic. A thick layer of sweat began to form all across my body and the room started to close in around me. My heart pounded deep inside my chest as I reached up and tugged at my collar, vainly attempting to cool my body.
I looked around and saw only two others doing as he commanded. The rest seemed to make the same connection as I did and simply looked around. Then, all four of our eyes fell on the two followers, as well as Morgue himself.
They’d ingested this substance that was likely poison. Any second now, they should begin to show signs. Foaming at the mouth, writhing on the floor, something…
But there was nothing. No sign that they had just willingly killed themselves.
Morgue also looked fine. If anything, he actually looked ten years younger, as if he’d stepped into the fountain of youth before our eyes. I wasn’t sure what the rest of the crowd was thinking, but this was only partially comforting. It was clear, at least in my mind, that Morgue had simply taken a placebo. The real poison was held by those of us seated in front of him.
But still, the two who were brave enough to try it didn’t fall out or start convulsing uncontrollably, which sparked my curiosity. If it wasn’t poison, then what was it? Still, I wasn’t curious enough to find out for myself, regardless of how compelling Morgue’s videos had been. Sure, he’d made a decent argument for his cause online, but undeniable proof would’ve been more convincing.
Unfortunately for the other devotees, they saw things differently. They looked to one another before upturning the small cylinders, dumping the contents into their mouths. Each of them shuddered in disgust as the fine powder hit their tongues and began to work its way down their throats.
A man two seats to my right looked at me. The pained expression of utter disgust quickly washing away from his face, replaced by a euphoric absence as his eyes glazed over. Now, he looked more like a slave to the substance than a man free of human constraint.
My eyes quickly darted to the front of the room. Morgue and his two sidekicks appeared to be eyeing me. Waiting for me to make the same choice as the others around me. He looked at the woman to his left, then turned his head dramatically to the heavy-set man to his right. I noticed his skin appeared to glow brighter under the spot light, nearly blinding me.
“There’s always one…” he said, trailing off with a sinister laugh.
The woman suddenly appeared to my right. It was impossible and caused me to jump with a start. She had literally just been ten feet in front of me and, in the blink of an eye, appeared by my side. The rotund man was on my left, also as if by some sort of magical teleportation.
They extended arms out toward me, sending me into a panicked hysteria. My mind suddenly switched focus. It was now fight or flight, and flight didn’t seem like much of an option seeing as how I was surrounded.
Adrenaline surged through my veins, sending gooseflesh rising across my body. My limbs shook uncontrollably. I managed, after a moment of pure terror, to clench a fist and hurl it at the woman. It was against my natural instincts, having been raised to never hit a woman, but she was a threat and I was left with no other choice.
My knuckles connected with her nose and I heard a loud crunch as my hand struck her face. I pulled back, but something held my hand in place against her face, resisting as I attempted to pull away. Without thinking, I jerked my hand back.
She grabbed her face and let out a yawp, collapsing to the floor and writhing in agony. I looked down at my throbbing hand and noticed thin chains encircling my fist, embedded into the skin in some areas. Small bits of flesh hung on the ends attached to circular rings.
I knew this was my only chance. I had to run. I had to go and never look back.
I jumped up, over the small folding chairs and bolted towards the door. Morgue stood there, blocking the only exit. He was motionless, his arms crossed over his shirtless torso and his large, penetrating eyes staring at me with contempt.
The foreboding sense of pure dread lingered in the air, thick enough to cut. I stared at Morgue as I came to a halt about six feet away from him. I was unsure if I should try to rush him or if I should look for another escape route.
My time was running short and I knew it. I knew if I didn’t try to make my escape now, I wouldn’t have another opportunity. I decided to rush him, remembering my brief stint in elementary school football. I sprinted toward him, ready to make the tackle. I came in low and wrapped my arms around his waist but he didn’t budge. I was stopped in my tracks as if he was made of stone, slamming my shoulder into rock hard flesh.
I stumbled back, gripping my aching shoulder. Why didn’t he move? Was this really how I was meant to die? I refused to accept it. I couldn’t allow myself to fall victim to this… thing.
“You cannot escape us.” He said, slowly stepping toward me.
I felt a hand grip my shoulder and whipped my head around to see the familiar large man covered in tattoos. The henchman who’d handed me the prospective poison. Rage billowed deep within his eyes, his mouth was turned up in a horrid scowl. The neon lighting of the room seemed to accent this rage, giving him a demonic, glowing aura.
I scanned the room in search of something… anything that I might be able to use to aid my escape, but there was nothing. The five others who had entered with me sat in their seats staring forward as if they didn’t realize the commotion happening around them.
“Hey!” I shouted, trying to get their attention as the large man tightened his grip on my shoulder and brought his other hand up to my opposite shoulder.
He had a grip on me like a vice, lifting me clear off my feet and dangling me in the air for a moment. I flailed my legs in a vain attempt to free myself from his grip. It was pointless, though. He was the size of a full grown ox, triple my weight, and he had a strong hold on me.
I stopped resisting for a moment and thought. The pressure bearing down on my chest and arms was shortening my breaths and clouding my mind. I couldn’t figure out how I would escape and had begun to accept my fate. I’d gotten in too far over my head.
Then, it hit me. The woman didn’t seem to be impervious like Morgue. I was able to land a swift punch to her face that she had yet to recover from. I looked over the large man’s shoulder, at the heap of bone and flesh on the floor. She panted, gripping at her face, but she did not stand.
I found myself in another dilemma, though. My arms were pinned to my sides, so landing a punch was out of the question.
Think… think! I told myself in my mind.
The thought came quickly, and I acted just as fast. I reared my leg back, winding up for a powerful kick before whipping it forward, as hard as I could. I felt the top part of my foot land hard in his crotch. Flesh collapsed under the force of my kick, and I saw the man’s expression quickly change. The fury left him, replaced by absolute agony.
He quickly released his grip on me and his hands found their way to his family jewels. He let out a groan and exhaled all the air from his lungs as he fell to the ground. I stumbled down, watching Morgue make a slow and methodical approach.
He walked by the heap of man on the floor, staring down at him with utter disgust.
“Pathetic…” he said through gritted teeth as he reared back and landed a kick. Morgue’s heavy boot connected with the man’s ribs and an inconceivably loud crunch echoed through the room, causing me to wince in repulsion.
It became clear to me then that Morgue had no sympathy for his “colleagues.” They were likely just people that he’d converted to his twisted religion. People who saw no other option than to do as they were told.
I looked back at the people, still seated and staring up at the wall. Their eyes were fixed on that glowing symbol on the wall behind where Morgue had made his dramatic introduction.
Then, something happened. Something I still can’t quite explain.
All at once, the people let out an exhausted breath. A glowing, misty cloud escaped each of their mouths and made its way to the front of the room, falling onto the painted symbol on the wall. It appeared to be pulling the mist into the center, as if it were some sort of vacuum. The glow pulsated, growing brighter then dimming, as it absorbed the cloud.
Then, as the last of it escaped their mouths, the people collapsed from their seats and laid in heaps on the ground. I stared in horror as their bodies quickly decayed before my eyes, turning into ash before collapsing into small mountains of grey dust that glowed under the club style lighting around me.
That… That could’ve been me… I thought, trembling in fear.
I turned my head and looked back at Morgue, who took a deep breath in through his nose, closing his eyes and letting a sinister grin stretch across his face from ear to ear. When he let the breath out and looked at me, a warm sensation spread across my front as my bladder emptied its contents from complete and utter fear.
His eyes glowed in their sockets. Not like your typical neon glow under a blacklight. No, they were bright red, like laser beams shooting from his eyes. His emaciated frame had suddenly filled out, his muscle nearly tripling in size, veins bulging from his chest and biceps. His trapezius swelled up, eliminating the appearance of a neck.
I couldn’t move. My legs simply would not take me to safety and instead, remained planted in place as the warm urine continued to spread across my jeans. Morgue continued to transform before my eyes. His hands became increasingly large, and his black fingernails, which I had previously assumed to be painted, grew into long, sharp talons.
Finally, my legs took what my brain told them to do and acted, but not in the way I expected. Rather than bolting for the door, they decided to slowly back away from this monster. Not a terrible move, I must say, but not the smartest.
I continued backing up, kicking metal folding chairs out of my way without taking my eyes off of the snarling beast before me. It appeared his terrifying and amazing transformation was complete and he had now locked eyes with me. My heart felt like it was going to jump up my throat and out of my mouth, beating crazily in my chest as the beast approached.
I felt myself back into something solid, a cool breeze shot up my back from below. The air conditioner, and the cool wall against my back was the window.
Morgue snarled inhumanly deep, squelching gurgles as he continued taking heavy, thumping steps toward me.
He stopped for a moment, just over arms length away from me.
A split second of silence. A brief thought that maybe, just maybe, I’d make it out alive. Maybe he would just let me leave.
That thought exited my mind quickly as he leapt forward, barreling straight at me with his steroid built body. His feet fell one over another, thundering below me and vibrating the carpeted floor beneath my feet.
Time seemed to stand still for a moment.
Then I felt it.
The stinging sensation of his claws digging into my torso. The vibrating pulsation of puncturing talons inserting themselves deep into my skin, making their way below layer after layer of skin until they found muscle and seated themselves into it.
The sound of shattering glass behind me as the window I was propped up against gave way, sending myself and Morgue plummeting twelve stories down.
We flipped through the air as my insides twisted and butterflies fluttered in my torso. Morgue still had his claws deep inside of my stomach, but I couldn’t feel them. I couldn’t feel anything as the adrenaline pumped hard through my veins.
I could hear screams gaining volume below me, barely audible over the roar of wind invading my ears. I closed my eyes and came to grips with the reality that this was my demise. I stopped with a thud, air forcing its way out of my lungs before blacking out.
Small bits of consciousness came back to me violently. Flashes of incomprehensible pieces of reality interrupted by darkness.
The feeling of drowning, air being replaced by water inside of my lungs, a pulsating pressure on my sternum followed by oxygen forcing its way down my trachea. Flashing red lights and two men lifting my body off the ground.
When I finally awoke, my surroundings were foreign. Rhythmic beeping played in the background coupled with the intermittent hissing of oxygen purging itself from over-pressurized lines.
I looked around, squinting my eyes as the fluorescent lighting above me shone down. Intravenous fluid lines invaded my right arm. My left was wrapped in a hard cast. Aches in my back and chest caused my breathing to be short and labored. My mouth was impossibly dry, lips sticking together as I opened and tried to speak.
“Hello?” I said, forcing the words out in a gritty screech.
I was alone. An off-white thermal blanket draped over me as I laid, sprawled out on a hospital bed. One of the many monitors attached to me began beeping faster before someone finally entered. A woman in scrubs bearing a familiar comic book character symbol walked in.
“Oh, excellent!” she cheered in a tone that was all too chipper. “You’re awake. Your doctor will be so happy to hear that! How are you feeling?”
I could hear genuine concern in her tone, but didn’t know how to answer.
“Wha-” I started but was cut off.
“What happened?” She asked, assuming what I was thinking. “You fell twelve stories out of your hotel room. Luckily you went right into the pool and one of the brave, albeit drunk, guys downstairs was able to fish you out in time.”
I sat there for a moment, the look on my face that of pure confusion. Then, everything came back to me in a horrific flash. I felt my pulse speeding up as the panic began to flow freely through my veins. The monotonous beeping sped up, giving away my secret to the nurse.
“Woah, woah,” she said. “It’s okay. Just calm down a moment.”
She held her hands in front of her, palms out as if to say “don’t worry.” I could do anything but. Thoughts flowed freely through my mind. Where had Morgue gone? Would he be back?
My chest began to sting and throb as my breathing became heavier. I sighed and gasped in pain. The nurse seemed to read me like a book, making sense of my guttural noises.
“You’ve got a handful of broken ribs and some pretty serious puncture wounds across your chest. You need to take it easy. I’m going to give you a mild sedative. Just something to calm your nerves.”
She held up a needle before inserting it into the IV line sticking out of my arm. As she depressed the plunger, I felt the cold liquid spread through my veins. A few seconds later, the effects of the medicine became noticeable. She placed the syringe into a sharps bin before turning back to me and removing her rubber gloves.
“Your doctor will be in shortly.”
She smiled, turned and left the room. My mouth still felt like a desert, but I felt myself slowly drifting to sleep once again. A restful daze took its hold on me as my eyelids grew heavier and heavier with each passing moment.
Visions of Morgue making his daring and terrible transformation invaded my mind, sending me reeling in horror as the scene played out in my head once again. A disembodied voice that I hadn’t recognized repeated my name over and over again.
“Jona-ton?” he asked. “Jona-ton, are you awake?
He spoke with a hispanic accent, saying my name with the slightest inflection at the end.
My eyes shot open and relief washed over me as I realized I was still in the safety of the hospital room. A man was seated next to my bed. Dark complexion with black hair slicked back and a thick layer of scruff covering his chin.
“Buenas dias,” he said, smiling as he looked down at his clipboard. “How are you feeling?”
I struggled to speak through my dry mouth and the utter exhaustion I felt.
“Crappy,” I said in a raspy whisper.
“As expected,” he gave a half-hearted chuckle before continuing. “You fell nearly a hundred and twenty feet. You’re quite lucky to be alive. Can you tell me your name?”
“Yeah… ah,” I winced in pain as I attempted to prop myself up a bit. “Jonathon Winslow.” I said, struggling through the words as my squeaky voice grounded away in my throat.
“Good, Jona-ton. Now,” he straightened the glasses perched on his nose. “I am going to leave you here with Officer Black. She has a couple questions for you regarding how you fell from that window.”
He motioned towards the door where a small, petite woman entered the room. She wore a blue uniform adorned with a patch on her left shoulder that read “Las Vegas Police Department.” Her small nose, narrow eyes and darker complexion told me she was likely of Asian descent.
“Hello, mister Winslow.” She said, bringing a lime green clipboard up to her chest and jotting something down. “Can you tell me what happened?”
Her eyes jumped from the piece of green plastic she held and met my gaze. I knew she wouldn’t believe my story, but what else could I say? The nervousness was definitely showing on my face. If I didn’t choose my words carefully, I could be committed to some sort of psych ward or mental institution under the Baker Act, and I certainly didn’t belong there.
I pondered what could possibly go wrong if I just admitted why I’d gone there in the first place, and simply left out the part where Morgue turned into some sort of demonic monster. It wasn’t so far fetched to think I’d gone there searching for something to believe in and when I showed up, I was met with a group of psychopaths who ultimately tried to kill me before tossing me out the window.
I opted for that excuse which Officer Black seemed to have no trouble believing. I guess the stories about Vegas are true - anything goes in this city.
She took down a description of all three people, but I knew nothing would be done. There was nothing they could do. They didn’t have a real name, and from the clock on the wall I knew it was at least 9am, meaning they’d had 9 hours to make their escape.
She nodded, thanking me for the information, turned and exited.
The doctor entered once again and informed me that I would need a few tests. Being conscious would allow them to find brain damage easier, if there was any.
Aside from a somewhat minor concussion, several broken ribs, a broken arm, and multiple lacerations and puncture wounds, I was ultimately given a clean bill of health. But what would I do? I was stuck in Vegas with no money, no car and no job waiting for me back home.
I left the hospital and found that it was surprisingly easy to secure a payday loan. It struck me as odd at first, but the more I thought about it the more I realized that a guy being stranded in Vegas with no car or money might be a pretty common scenario.
After securing a flight and making my way home, I finally felt safe. I could settle back into reality, knowing that the existence Morgue had preached about was non-existent. I couldn’t help but feel a bit of paranoia, though. The thought that everytime I looked over my shoulder or around a dark corner, Morgue would be there. His hulking figure and large talons ready to finish the job they’d started sent chills down my spine and anxiety gripping my chest.
Getting my job back was tough. Not because my boss didn’t want me back, but because I had to put my pride to the wayside and formulate a somewhat embarrassing lie. The look on his face changed in an instant.
At first he’d had a contemptuous look, eyebrows parallel and a frown smeared across his jaw, ready for me to get down on my knees and beg. But as soon as I told him that I’d quit because I was in a bad place mentally, and that I needed to get help, his expression shifted. His eyebrows raised in a state of concern, the frown, although still present, no longer conveyed contempt but worry.
“Oh, Jonathon. I’m sorry, man…” He’d told me, eyes darting around his head like a madman. “You’re welcome back here as soon as you can. Take a few days to yourself and then we’ll see you back here on… say, Monday?”
I smiled, unsure of what to say other than:
“Sounds good, thank you. I appreciate your understanding.”
I turned and walked out after a quick handshake, the feeling of accomplishment forming a victorious smirk on my face. Things were back to normal. My weekend was insane, but now I could settle back into the norm.
A few weeks passed. Things were going as good as they could, but that empty feeling had begun to return. I could feel myself falling back into a slump.
Browsing through facebook seemed to be my time waster of choice. Scrolling through and liking photos, laughing internally at memes, watching short videos of people doing dumb stuff that ultimately resulted in them being hurt. Typical internet stuff.
Then, I saw it. That androgynous man, no eye brows. Long, white-blonde hair draped over his face in matted, wet strands. He stared into the camera, speaking familiar teachings. Things about how to control the universe - how to make it work in your favor.
I wouldn’t be tempted this time, though. I knew his secret. I knew what his endgame was.
I tapped my thumb on the profile picture associated with Morgue, taking me to an archive of all his videos. Some familiar, some new. I didn’t watch them, though. I simply clicked the “more options” tab, scrolled to the bottom of the menu and clicked “Block User.”
Continuing… submitted by
That being handled, I leave a wakeup call for 0430 as I want a shower and a couple shower-sunrisers before we leave. It takes me about 10 minutes to pack. I call home to let Es know what’s going on. She’s not in, so I leave a message. Same for my friends Rack and Ruin of the Agency. They’re thrilled so far with my reports.
The security forces here are absolutely going to freak if they reverse-review my phone records once we leave.
Covert? Schmovert. I’m too old for playing such games.
The next morning, after a sudsy shower and a couple of vodka-infused shower-beers; I’m in the lobby with all my kit, checked-out, and waiting on the tour leader. My passport was stamp-stamp-stampity-stamped here at the hotel, which I thought was weird, but after spending time in this here country, not all that unusual.
At 0545 on the dime, the tour bus pulls into the lot. Without a word, bellhops grab near all my kit and escort it out to the waiting bus.
After tipping each extravagantly, I fire up a huge cigar, and wander around outside, loitering by the bus. I see members of my team at the front desk, checking out. Everything’s been paid for already, they just have to sign documents that they’re not secreting hotel towels or televisions or errant nationals in their luggage.
It’s a weird country.
I see them loading box breakfasts for us as well as box lunches on the bus.
Hell, they’re actually doing ‘field trip’ correctly.
If the bus us fueled up, we can go for days at this rate. There are several coolers bearing the hotel’s brand and I sidle over to see what they’re carrying.
Case after case of iced-down beer and a couple of cases of various high-octane potables; and over there? A couple of boxes of mixers…ah, soda…pop…carbonated citrusy goodness.
“OK”, I sigh, “All is as it should be. Now the field excursion may begin.”
My teammates filter outside as does their luggage. I suggest they get out and keep what is necessary for preliminary outcrop excursions; such as a backpack or knapsack, hammer, acid bottles, field notebooks, Brunton compass, lighters, cameras, personal tobacco products, and the like in the bus. That way, we don’t have to go tearing through all the luggage at every stop.
I pull out a bundle of 100 Hubco™
large geological dual
-sample bags. That’s right: ‘dual’ sample…
I distribute these to everyone on the team. I ask that they devise their own numbering system and make absolutely certain I have a copy of it when we’re done. I’ll be correlating and curating all the samples when we get back to the world.
I ask that a cooler of drinks are left on board the bus, rather than in the hold. It’s humid, sticky, and muggy today. We must expend valiant effort in remaining hydrated and this will help.
Luckily, the bus has on-board lavatory facilities.
We are seated on the bus, my 10 collective team members, myself, our 4 ‘guides’, ‘Yuk’, ‘No’, ‘Man’, and ‘Kong’; our driver, relief driver, one incredibly shy national geologist, Myung-Dae Soo, and four of the shiny suit clan.
The hotel wheels out a large cart laden with pastries and a huge coffee urn. A bit of a “Bon Voyage
” from the casino and bar crowd, as they put this together for us when they heard we were leaving.
“Hey. That’s really nice of them.” Dax notes.
Dax handed over our raw “elevator waiting” funds as we didn’t have time to run it through the casino-machine before we left. We donated over 75,000 won to our friends at the bar, casino, and massage parlor. The ones delivering our going away present assured us it would be divided equitably.
“It best be”, I laughed, “You never know when one of us might be back!”
There was a collective horrified look on their faces for the merest moments. Then they all laughed and said that they hoped we would return someday soon.
“Nice folks”, I thought, “Stupid as shit country, but nice folks.”
We had all separately left tips for the room maids, bellmen, and matrons back before we checked-out.
There was a flurry of handshaking and goodbyes. Not a bad hotel experience here in the so-called land of Best Korea.
Serious dark coffee was passed out amongst the riders, but Ivan, myself, and Dax were already giving one of my emergency flasks a workout.
Ivan smiled and said: “We drink our coffee the Russian way
. That is to say we had vodka before it and vodka afterward. HA!”
Ivan and I are cut from the same bolt.
Faux-doughnuts, pseudo-bear claws and fake-long johns all distributed; the bus is fired up, and rumbling. We are exhorted to watch our drinks as we pull away from the hotel and into the wilds of Northern Korea.
I’m humming away:
On the road again -Just can't wait to get on the road again,
The life I love is bashing rocks in the field with my friends.
And I can't wait to get on the road again
On the road again.
Goin' places that we've never been,
Seein' things that we may never see again…
“Rock?”, Dax inquires.
“Yes?” I reply.
“Do please shut up.”
“Music hater”, I muse and comply.
We’re rolling down the highway, as it were, headed generally north. We all have cameras of one kind or another; and rather than relieve us of them, they quietly and without much fuss, slowly darken the windows.
They claim it’s to keep the sun out and temperatures down, but just before things go all black, we’re seeing sights and scenes of the true North Korea. They’re trying to keep us from seeing that en route to the outcrops.
This new bus has some sort of electronic tint-control gizmo for the windows. However, if one has a pair of polarizing sunglasses, as all good field geologists do, you see right past that and can view the passing scenery unencumbered.
I return from a quick beer-recycling loo trip and am amused to see 10 Western scientists, sitting in a blacked-out bus, all wearing polarizing sunglasses.
It was just the surreal note this trip needed as we left the confines of the capital city.
We traveled north, and the empties pile began to grow. We had a few trash bags we had liberated from the hotel, but the shiny suits were very insistent that every empty can, bottle, and bag, yes they had beer in bags…had to be repatriated to a box in the far back of the bus.
Evidently, they either were paid a bounty on each container or were accountable for each vessel. They were soon to realize just the capacity for drink that a group of 11 seasoned very Senior Field Geologists, and one stowaway geologist-in-training can amass.
As we ply our way northward, we see the agricultural side of North Korea. The contrast between rural areas and the capital was striking. There were miles of rice paddies being harvested by people with sickles in their hands. And no cars on the highway. It was most destabilizing for this Westerner.
I think we saw a maximum of three tractors, as most of the work was done with ox power, there was very little evidence of rural electrification. Oh, hold on. We saw many more tractors, I should correct that: we saw three running
and not rusted into
The farmers we see are using equipment that is quite literally medieval - single-share plows pulled by large, cranky bovines; sweeping sickles to bring in the harvest, and twin-engine, bilateral, botanical-fired ox-carts to transport it. It’s hard to believe that this third-world level of poverty exists in the same country that’s capable of building rockets, nuclear weapons, and tall, well-appointed hotels.
But when we stop at a motorway service station for fuel - a bizarre alien spaceship-like building squatting over the empty carriageways - we do encounter a jangmadang
, or semi-official market. Here they are selling cans of knock-off Vietnamese Red Bull and Malaysian-made King Cobra™ Cola.
It reminds me of Russia right after the wall fell. Off the Trans-Siberian Railway in Krasnoyarsk, the Gateway to Eastern Siberia. You can buy Chinese hams, Chinese sodas, Chinese knock-off liquor, and those bloody delicious little bullets of Vitamin-C, Chinese mandarins.
Here, it’s similar. You can get most anything you desire, except it isn’t of Korean manufacture. That stuff is even too shitty to pawn off on tourists.
Instead, it’s knock-off Malaysian, Chinese, or Indonesian beer, wine, or soft drinks.
“Tiger-brand energy drink. Now with 40% more real tiger.” Here? I believe them.
Vodka from everywhere not known for its vodka distilling prowess. Rural hotel shops sell nastily stale crisps, gummy gummies, filling-ripping ‘chewy’ taffy or caramel, and biscuits with a severely limited choice. Rural hotels do not have full electricity so beer is warm and often tossed on the table, waiting for tourists to arrive - as is the food. We were warned to be prepared for cold rice, cold fish, cold potato – and plenty of kimchi and tofu.
Back on the road again, we’re passing small burgs that are not on any of our maps; even the ones we traded for back in the hotel that are specially marked: “For Internal Use ONLY!”.
They were amazingly the same. Clean. Bright. Uncluttered. And attended by cadres of prim, uniform-clad, though non-military people. They were all doing a day’s work keeping everything neat and clean.
There were no cars, trucks, forklifts…only rickshaws and ox-carts. However every one of these ‘towns’ were identical, and exactly, as Ivan pointed out, ‘X’ number of minutes apart.
“Watch! Is so!”, Ivan said. We passed one of these villages, and exactly 3 minutes later, an exact copy. Three minutes later? Another one. 3 more minutes? Xerox-city.
“What the fuck?” Dax asked.
“Potemkin village.” Comrade Dr. Academician Ivan replied.
A Potemkin village is any construction, literal or figurative, whose sole purpose is to provide an external façade to a country which is faring poorly. It is for making people believe that the country is faring better, although statistics and data would suggest otherwise.
“Russia pioneered the process,” Ivan noted with no small amount of pride. “During Cold War with West, entire cities were built, moved, raised, and razed. Ever hear of Krasnoyarsk-25? Atomic Research City? Supposed place of weapons study and manufacture. Huge ‘accident’. Entire city demolished, total populace relocated supposedly, after massive nuclear calamity.”
“Is that true? Cliff asks.
“No. Not at all.” Ivan smiles, “Deliberate misinformation. At least for K-25. It was diversion for actual towns where accidents; nuclear, biological, or worse, had happened. West so concerned about K-25 because it was big, near big capital city of Krasnoyarsk and suitably located out in the taiga. Easy to spot, easy to watch. Kept Western satellites busy while real towns of I-33, U-10, and AR-13 out in the forest were quietly demolished and people relocated or mass buried after some horrible, horrible accidents...”
“You think it’s the same here?” I asked Ivan.
“No, Dr. Rock”, Ivan smiled, and helped himself to my freshly constructed, but untouched, Yorshch, “This is all fake and bluster. Make West think everything is all A-OK, is that right idiom?”
“Yep.” I reply, “Precisely.”
“Make West believe all is OK and green”, as he winks at me, “And bustling and growing. Cover up what is real case here. We all see it and we see right through. Shoddy even for Asians.”
We all had to snicker and smirk as the shiny suit squad, who sat up at the front of the bus, and were not supposed to be listening; reacted like every cell in their bodies were just hit with a drop of pure lemon juice.
“Comrade Dr. Academician. Decorum, please.” I snickered.
“Oh, fuck them!”, Ivan replied, “I am old Russian. They try and pull burlap over my eyes? St. Petersburg? Moscow? Krasnoyarsk.? I’ve been there, seen them. They think this display of tawdriness…Even goofy American and Canadian can see the fakes they are. Britisher? I’m not so sure…”
“Damn, Doctor., I said to Ivan, “You’re just making friends all over the planet today.”
We all knew it was in jest; but the shiny suit squad certainly had their feathers ruffled and either didn’t care or wanted us to know we were under their observation.
“Fuck them twice”, Ivan said, “Ask them for bottle opener. I’m too lazy to search for my field jackknife.”
I hand him my pocket Leatherman and he pries the top of another bottle of ‘Budveiser’ beer.
“They can’t even make fake the name correctly”, he smirks and drains the bottle.
‘Town’ after ‘town’ and even that parade gets uninteresting. We’re headed north and finally come to a crossroads.
The bus driver, who must be a regular paranoid-maniac because he actually stopped to look for oncoming traffic, which we have seen precisely none since leaving the capital city, made a hard right. We’re heading back and up into the hills, leaving the bright lights of the big city far behind.
After an hour or so of driving, we pull off to the left-hand side of the road.
“Rock, Ivan, Cliff…holy shit, look at this!” Dax was uncharacteristically excited.
It was an open field that leads to a series of low outcrops of polychromatic, obviously sedimentary rocks. Magentas, greens, purples, rust-reds, browns, blacks, olive greens…holy shit. A real sedimentary pile.
We filed out of the bus with our field gear. The shiny suit squad started in with a bullhorn.
“You will wait for tour guides!”
“You will listen to group leaders!”
“You will not stray from the designated paths set up…”
No one heard them as the group of 11 remaining Western geoscientists were already across the highway and hieing for the exposures like outcrop-seeking multiple-warhead re-entry vehicles.
“You must wait!” we heard from exasperated voices back at the bus. “You must stop!”
“You must piss off!” Cliff said, “This is what we’ve been waiting over two weeks to see!”
“They are very angry with us”, Myung-dae the young Korean geologist said. “I find that just too bad.”
“And you are?” I asked.
Myung-dae Soo, the young Korean geologist, introduced himself.
“Well”, I said, “Welcome aboard. I’m Dr. Rock.”
“They are very, very angry”, he repeats.
“So? Are you tagging along to give them internal reports?” I asked.
“No, Doctor”, he replied, “I too am a geologist. I want to get away from those assholes and see some real rocks.”
“Who are you with?” I ask, “What group?”
“I am 5th-year student at Pyongyang College. I am not officially
here. We were told in class that you were coming. I decided to see if I could join you. This morning, I was standing by bus and they thought I was hotel worker or orderly. I was given cooler full of beer and told to find place for it on the bus. I did and after that, just stayed in the back. I am stowaway. I am ashamed, but I had to see for myself. But, I like Western field trips so far!”
“No shit? Well, then”, I said, “Double welcome aboard. None of this ‘I am ashamed’ shit. You’re a geologist, but you haven’t even worked through your first field-evening get-together with us. But this is no pleasure cruise. It’s real work, real geology, real serious science shit. You savvy?”
“Yes, sir, Doctor Rocknocker from Sultanate in the Middle East.” Myung-dae smiled.
“And you fucking stay close to me”, I smirked.
I fired a couple of BLAAATS!
from my portable air horn.
“Field Meeting! Field Meeting! Assholes & Elbows!” I called aloud.
Everyone gathered within earshot.
“OK, guys, here’s the deal. We do not know how long we’ve got here. So, let’s split up into teams. Geophysicists, go do your structural thing. Stratigraphers? Field relations. Geologists? Let’s go talk to some ronery-rooking-rocks. No offense, Mr. Myung.”
Myung-dae was laughing up a storm. He got that reference. He later told us all around the campfire he thought ‘Team America’ was a “fucking hilarious movie.”
Oh, we are going to be a real
bad influence on this poor kid.
The groups spontaneously broke up into 4 or 5 sub-groups. They headed for areas they thought were important and they were photographing, measuring, pounding on rocks, and arguing within minutes.
“No, you idiot! It’s continental. Look at those adhesion ripples.”
“The fuck you know. It’s only a little low-level eggbeater tectonics. Where the fuck would you get continental collision-size energy around here?”
“Oh, the fuck you say. It’s non-marine. Those are mud cracks. Look at the sandy aeolian infill, fer chrissake.”
Formal? Proper? Detached Doctors of Geology?
Not when you’re in the field. It all goes out the window when different opinions collide like subducting plates.
“The music of my people!” I said to Morse.
“I thought that was the ‘Safety Dance’?” he chided.
“We’re a big family. We can have more than one.” I snickered.
We’re wandering around the site, with individual purpose.
We are looking for or looking at items of interest
We’re hacking at the outcrops.
We’re all looking at…things
It’s hard to describe. Get a load of geologists or geology students out of the office, lab, or classroom; stick them out on a bare expanse of heavily weathered rock and it’s simply…numinous.
We’re rebuilding worlds here.
This rock says this.
This rock says that.
And you’re not fluent in that dialect. Here, let me interpret for you…
We’re at each other’s throats, in the academic-metaphorical sense. Tempers have been known to run hot. There has been the occasional bloody nose or rocks sailing down an outcrop without the obligate “HEADACHE!” call. Hammers and Marsh Picks have ended up swimming without the owner’s knowledge.
But once we’re back; settled in the hotel room, tavern, or around the campfire, we’re all a Band of Brothers again. It’s an odd thing to watch; as if you’re not of the clan, you’d need an interpreter. It defies all boundaries: political, sexual, educational, geographical, linguistic, social, et cetera
We’re all geologists first. We share the common scientific bond of Geology.
That’s why Geology is the
Plus we tend to drink a serious fucking whole bloody awful lot.
We’ve all been on that ‘crawlin’ home puker’.
We’ve also been to the ends of the earth: the deepest depths, the highest heights, we deal with the greatest pressures, the hottest temperatures; we’ve been to the mountain, we’ve seen the elephant, and we’ve held a bear’s nose to dogshit.
We wear the scars attained in our travels like badges of honor.
We’re God-Damned Scientists
Back off, man. Geologist comin’ through.
Anyways, I’m looking at the bedding-plane boundaries between the purple unit and the underlying olive-green unit. The upper unit it looks, to me, continental in origin. Fluvial, perhaps. The lower unit is much finer-grained. Marine mudstone, perhaps? But what age?
The cadged Korean Geological maps are worse than useless. They never would go down to the outcrop scale. Consulting them, they don’t even note these exposures in a field sense.
Myung-dae, who is working about 35 meters down-section from me calls out, “Doctors! Sirs! Look here! I’ve found something!”
We all wander over as he is hacking away at the dusty, eroded rock. He stands and dusts off his find.
It’s a very large, nearly 1-meter diameter, coiled fossil cephalopod.
I wander over for a closer look. Dax, Cliff, Morse, and Ivan do as well.
“Blimey! Will you look at that? Outstanding, Mr. Myung!” Cliff says.
“Well, that confirms it. This layer, at least, is marine. Look at that suture pattern”, I say, dusting off an unweathered bit.
“Look at the radius of coiling.”, Cliff joins in.
We’re slowly wresting information out of this silent witness.
“Ornamentation?”, Dr. Ivan asks. “Knobs, bosses, and excrutions?” Oh, yes.”
In unison, we declare: “Hyphoplites
Morse adds, “And therefore…these rocks are middle Cretaceous. Marine. Not bad…”
“Need to get some samples for geochemical analysis. Dig deep, gentlemen, we need unweathered samples for TOC (Total Organic Carbon) content.”, Dr. Erlen Meyer notes.
With that, we have a relative age of the rock, a good idea of its depositional environment, and therefore extent, ideas of field relationships, and an indication of some of its fauna.
Could it be source rock worthy?
Samples? Best get diggin’, Beaumont.
That unit is right smack in the middle of this pile of rocks. Dax and I will work up-section and Ivan and Cliff will work down-section. We’re going to see what lies above, what lies below, what trends we can discern, and develop an idea of what happened here some 100 million years ago.
This is what happens when you get geologists out in the field with the proper amounts of field gear, outcrops, and alcohol.
Overall, the deeper down-section, and therefore, earlier in geological time you go, the more marine the rocks are. Conversely, the higher you go in the column, i.e., up-section, into younger rocks, the more continental it appears.
We find fragments of marine fish fossils, sea-crocodile scutes and teeth, heaps of mosasaur coprolites, i.e., fossil shit piles, and other indications that the lower, older rocks are Lower Cretaceous ocean basin-fill.
But up higher; we find mud cracks, rain prints, land turtle shells, land-snails (Bellerophontid
gastropods), and what may actually be a fossil feather. All indications of a more continental, i.e., fluvial (river), floodplain, lacustrine (lake), and paludal (swamp) deposition.
That’s my particular bailiwick.
I’m ‘elephant walking’ along the upper outcrops looking for fossils. You basically bend over at the waist and sweep from left to right as you take exaggerated step after step, scanning the ground looking for…well…it takes years, but once you see it, you never forget it.
A disjunct endemism. Something not in situ
. Something out of place
. A bit of a different, out of context color. Out of context texture. Out of context size. Out of context context
Something that looks like it shouldn’t ought to be there.
I’m picking up 1 cm. square hunks of what look like an ordinary rock. I taste them. Well, I stick them to my tongue. If it liquefies and runs away, it’s ordinary mudstone, shale, or the like.
If it sticks…well, it might just be fossil bone.
“Damn right, Rock”, Cliff says from behind me, “Fucking North Korea tastes terrible.”
“Still, it’s the best way I know to…” I paused.
“Got something?” Cliff asked.
“Look here.” I said, “Anthill. Big, nasty buggers. Look around the edges. Pieces of flat, cream-colored rock on this gaudy purple stuff. Tongue test? They stick like cockleburs. Let’s look upslope, see if there’s a drainage…”
There it was, a nice little drainage incised about 1.5 meters deep into the nearly horizontal rocks we were walking on.
“Any float?” I asked.
“Not yet,” Cliff said.
We followed the weak, little drainage that was cut into the outcrop, up another couple of meters.
There were very scrappy, very small, very scattered pieces of that same cream-colored rock. Some were ornamented with a scroll-work or some sort of striations. Most un-geological. More biological. We followed the trail, up here, around here, over there.
Cliff noticed it first, a soccer-ball sized lump of completely out-of-place crème-colored ‘rock’ working its way out by gradual erosion of the variegated pastels of the continental rocks upon which we were treading.
I got there first and began to clear the area with my Estwing.
“Careful. Careful”, Cliff admonished.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Mind your Mincies. [Mince pies = eyes]”, as I’m swinging away at the reluctant, reticent, rocks.
The excavation grew, slowly. From the rounded dome, we could see small sutures that had developed…
Then condyles, fenestrae, then more ‘bone’. Then a jaw, teeth, vertebrae…
“HOLY DOUBLE-DAMN SHIT!” I tootled my air horn. We needed the group to see this.
It was a skull. A dinosaur skull. A small, non-avian dinosaur skull.
Everyone has crowded around and looked at the small quarry we had just built.
“Whatcha got, Rock? Cliff?” Joon asked.
“Fuck me, but I think we’ve got us a dinosaur skull,” I said.
Professor Doctor Academician Ivan walked over and cleared the area.
As Professor Emeritus, he had pole position priority.
“I agree.” is all he said.
I cleared the area and let others take a whack at opening up the quarry.
We may have been low on power tools, but we had a surfeit of opinions.
“OK,” I said, “Let’s look at the facts…”
- Age? Cretaceous. Probably lower to lower-middle Cretaceous.
- Continental deposits. That’s very fine sand we’re hacking away. Fluvial, without a doubt. Or, possibly aeolian; there’s no such thing as a geological certainty. Dunes? Ephemeral creeks? Low floodplain? Geo-talk… .
- Small size. Potentially a juvenile?
- Nope. Not a juvie. Sutures are closed, fused. This is, well was, an adult; perhaps a subadult, given its size.
- In situ? In place? Or washed in?
Hard to tell when all you’ve exposed is half the critter’s brain box.
“Look at that!” Myung-dae exclaimed, “Squamosal bones and the inner parietals…temporal fenestrae. It had a frill; a small one.”
“OK,”, I said, looking closely at the exposed scrappy remains, “Fucking-A Bubba. Nailed it.” I said, giving him the thumbs up.
“Ceratopsian. Look at those greens-grinder molars. There’s some small osteoderms on the skull; knobby old bastard. Early critter.” I continued.
Others looked around and confirmed my observations.
“Reminds me of Protoceratops
from when I was back in Mongolia,” I said.
Dax chimed in with, “Looks something like Psittacosaurus
from back in the Cretaceous Belly River of Canada.”
Drs. Ivan and Morse agree. “Most assuredly. It is definitely proto-ceratopsian. Young adult, as Dr. Rock notes by the cranial sutures. Do they have a record of proto-ceratopsians here?”
Myung-dae replies, “I have read reports of Korean proto-ceratopsian found in South Korea. Not long ago, 2019, it is called…ah… Auroraceratops
. It is a genus of bipedal basal neo-ceratopsian dinosaur.”
“Bipedal?” I query. “Well, there’s a fine how do you do. All the proto-ceratopsians I’ve known were obligate quadrupeds.”
“Well”, Ivan, Dax, Cliff, and Morse agree, “That should give the shiny suit squad something to report. That’ll keep them the hell out of our hair for a while.”
We photograph each step as we excavate the critter. It’s more or less in situ
, buried where it fell. Probably killed by a sand slip off a dune, or a river sandbar slip and burial. It’s not complete, but we do have the skull and a good portion of the post-cranial elements to about just before the pelvis. A good pectoral girdle, skull, jaw, frill, forelimbs, forefeet…easily half-a cute little herbivorous dinosaur. About the size of a smallish Highland Coo or large Great Dane.
We flag it with the team particulars, it’s GPS position, and carefully rebury the animal. We don’t have any of the equipment nor time to excavate it properly, but we can conserve it. Of course, we’ll be informing the proper authorities of our discovery.
I have an absolutely ancient Polaroid instant camera. Before re-internment, I take several pictures of our “Koreasaurus
”, as we’ve dubbed the animal, with items for scale; like a hammer, cigar, and oddly enough, a photographic scale. Then I get a photo of the whole crew standing around, drinking warm beers from their individual day packs, smiling about the find ‘they‘ made.
We hear the melodious tootle of the bus’s horns. We make sure to pack out all our trash and wander back to our terrestrial transport.
“You were gone too long!” the chief shiny suited character goes all ballistic on me.
“Watch yourself, Herr Mac.”, I calmly said, “You’re going to burn your nose on my cigar.”
“You left without your handlers…err…guides!” he fumed.
“Hey, Scooter. Cool out. We’re geologists. We never get lost.” I said.
It sometimes just takes us longer to get back than it took us to leave…
“Your impertinence will be reported.” He smoldered.
“Report this, Mother Chuckler”, I observed and held out the pictures of our newly discovered Koreasaurus
“Show those photos to your
handlers,” I said in a mocking tone. “We found a brand new species of God-damned dinosaur for you geezers. It took us less than two hours. You can spin it that it’s a new, never-before-seen species of very specialized dinosaur found right here in beautiful Korea del Norte. Be quite the scientific coup, don’t you think? Trust us. We won’t say anything.”
He immediately shut up and went into conference with the rest of the shiny suit squad.
“Doctor”, one of the clan covert asked, “This is a new dinosaur?”
I had a thunderbolt of an idea.
“Oh! Yes, it is. I’d stake my reputation on it. You’ve had no concerted search here for the beasts and well, with the normalizing of relations between your country and the world, it allowed your specialists to perform real science. In fact, on the bus is the young North Korean geoscientist who made the discovery.” I said. “Give me a minute. I’ll go and get him. I think he was off taking a shi…ah, using the lavatory. Just give me a minute.”
I did have an idea. A wonderful idea. A wonderfully evil idea.
Back on the bus, I ordered the doors closed.
“Gentlemen! Ears and eyes! Please.” I said loudly.
“The shiny suits have their knickers all a-twist because we don’t want to listen to them; the assholes. Fuck that. I’ve got an idea. Let’s make our young acolyte here, Mr. Myung-dae Soo, a national hero. He would probably get his ass in a crack for sneaking on board the Western bus today the way he did. Well, double fuck that. Let’s all say he
found the dinosaur. Let him take the glory for the homeland. No one else will ever need to know.” I said smiling.
“Fuck Yeah! You bet! Замечательное! Ihmeellisiä! Maravilhoso! Geweldig!”
Good to know we’re all on the same page. Geologists. You can always count on them…
“Mr. Myung-dae Soo? Front and center. Time to go and become ‘Hero of Best Korea’.” I smiled.
He was absolutely terrified.
“Doctor…I …don't…wait…no…” he stammered.
Cliff, Dax, Ivan, and I trotted him out to confront the shiny suit squad.
“Don’t worry, Myung. We’ve got your back. Trust us.” I said in a low conspiratorial tone.
The shiny suit squad turned as one and gave Mr. Myung the Stink Eye treatment.
“Here you go. The man of the hour. Mr. Myung-Dae Soo, young geologist and up and coming paleontologist.” I say loudly and with the utmost honor.
They look at him and the Korean erupts in rapid-fire staccato bursts.
Cliff just wanders in and interjects, “Yes. Righto. Top form. Found the float. Tracked down that dino like he was on safari. Highest marks. Good man!”
Dax adds more fuel to the fire. “Like he knew where to go, knew where to look. He’s a natural.”
Dr. Academician Ivan blustered forth: “Excellent scholar. Excellent field man. Banner geologist.”
I couldn’t have added more. The shiny suit squad was gobsmacked.
I asked Myung-dae what they were saying.
“They were talking about reprisals. Reporting to authorities. Then, they stopped. You have them completely confounded.” He said.
“How so?” I asked, quietly.
“Between an international incident where we don’t listen to our handlers and this potential important scientific discovery.” Mr. Myung-dae reported, trying hard to parse the evolving situation.
“Yes”, I added to Ivan’s bluster.
To the shiny suits: “I’ve worked as visiting Dinosaurian Vertebrate Paleontology Curator at all the major American museums. This is a find quite unlike anything known. It is a watershed discovery. It will help unravel the evolution and distribution of the clan Dinosauria
for the whole Korean Peninsula. Perhaps, even with international impact on the recent finds in China.”
I laid it on with a trowel.
I hit all the buzzwords.
“Yes. Yes, perhaps.”, the head shiny-suiter said. “I will report this bit of very good news to the proper authorities. Myung-dae, with us. We require more information.”
“Ah, we’d prefer him to ride in back with us if you don’t mind. Scientific courtesy, old man. He needs to be classically de-interviewed after such a find.” I insisted, making certain I stand as tall, wide, and menacing as possible while smiling like a damned Cheshire cat, one smoking a very large cigar.
“Very well. We are not far from our evening stop. We can talk later.” He agreed.
We all moseyed, laughing silently, back to the bus; literally supporting our young hero Mr. Myung-dae as he seemed to have gone all wobbly of late.
Myung-dae was ashen-white. He looked like he had just given birth to a basketball. He was visibly shaking.
We get on the bus and I whip up a stout Yorshch for the young hero of the hour.
“Here! This is for you. If you’re going to be a world-class geologist, you’d damn sure better start acting like one.” I smile broadly.
There were hoots, cheers, and cat-calls.
Beers were popped, bottles uncorked; cigars, cigarettes, and pipes lit.
“Damn Skippy!” some anonymous reveler added.
Myung-dae slurped a good half the drink. I offered him a cigar. He stopped shaking enough to accept the novel offer.
Remember “crawlin’ home puker”? He’s taken his first step into a larger world.
OK, just to recap. Here are the dramatis personae
left on the bus…
Bus driver (Kim) and his relief (Won).
My team and I. That’s 11 Western geoscientists: Morse, Cliff, Volna, Ack, Viv, Graco, Erlen, Dr. Academician Ivan, Joon, Dax, and myself.
Then there are our guides: Yuk, No, Man, and Kong.
Our stowaway hero geologist-in-training: Myung-dae Soo, aka, “Mung”.
And the four members of the shiny suit clan: Pak, Mak, Tak, and Jak. At least, that’s the names we used when we addressed them.
The bus was rumbling down the deserted highway. We were headed more or less due east, passing the occasional Potemkin Village. They knew we cracked their code long ago, so they didn’t bother with darkening the windows any longer.
We are passing a series of highway road cut outcrops. We’re only going approximately 35 or 40 miles per hour. Suddenly, Morse jumps out of his seat and runs up to the driver.
“STOP! STOP! Back up! We almost missed it!” he barks in heavily Russian inflected English.
The driver, shaken to the core, just slams on the brakes. The bus grinds to a stop. Good thing there’s no traffic out here.
Or anywhere else, for that matter.
Jak of the suit clan jumps up and asks “What is the problem?”
“How could you miss that?” Morse shouts. “Huge fault. Mineralization. I saw that from a glimpse. We must return to investigate.”
“Is not possible. We have appointment at the hotel.” Jak replies.
“Fuck that!”, Morse shouts. I guess he’s just really into faults…
I wander up and try to defuse the situation.
“OK, guys, cool out. Let’s be reasonable. Do it our way. Go back to that road cut. We spend a half-hour there then we go on to the hotel. The hotel will still be there when we arrive, won’t it? Even if we’re a bit late?” I ask.
Jak looks to Pak, who converses with Mak and Tak. They know they’re outgunned.
The driver shifts the bus into reverse and we back
down the luckily deserted highway over a mile to the outcrop in question.
We had to admit, it was a mother beautiful normal fault. In perfect, textbook cross-section.
Morse and Joon were on it like white on rice; given the mineralization along the fault plane. All sorts of implications for the thermal and geological history of the area. But with just one exposure like this, more or less just a real interesting geo-oddity.
We spent precisely 30 minutes at the exposure, and when our handlers requested we re-board and head to the motel, we complied like nice, normal sort of folks.
I believe the appropriate maxim here is: “Lull them into a false sense of security…”
Once more down the road we travel. Beers popped, bottles uncorked; you know, the usual.
Forty-five minutes later, we pull into, I kid you not, a replica US of A 1950s Motor-Inn
“Mr. Myung”, I ask, “What the hell is this?” To be continued…
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