Las Montañas Hotel.
10:11 am . . .
Tonight we’re going to the second hidden forest to hunt down the evil that we hope lurks there. That really sounds stupid, I know, but it’s our only chance of getting a choke-hold on the 23 Evils. But, let’s face it, there’s no way of knowing for sure if it’s them.
All of this might be the sinful residue of Kristen and her band of wickedness. But it could also just be some diabolic anomaly that is basically comprised of the kind of human evil that Hal is always going on about.
The intrinsic evil in all of us.
The monsters we see in the mirror.
In my mind, when shit starts glowing and bugs start popping . . . it’s evil enough to pay attention to. And like Ms. Josephine says quite often, how can I ignore evil, any evil, at this point? Whether I like it or not, I’m here to fix this place. Sure, I messed it up, but that’s water under the bridge. That’s spilt milk. Well, I don’t like to swim, and I’m lactose intolerant.
The missing children, the dead pool, all of it spells trouble.
We discussed the significance of the dog that I found in the middle of the pool. My gut tells me that bloodless puppy dog was the first to be exsanguinated. That shriveled, gnarled little animal was the beginning.
The first victim.
The index case.
The prime link in a daisy-chain of horrible events.
I had the presence of mind to bring Ricky some blood samples. I got one from the cow, a lamb, and the dog at the center of it all. I told them how they were glowing, and how death seemed to radiate outward from that point.
That place, the dead pool in the surreal forest of my passages from life to death to life, I believe it is more central to all this than we understand. I have a theory about this, but I’m keeping it to myself until it’s distilled in my mind.
Hal and I and Billtruck have been engaged in a conference call for the last couple of minutes. They’re taking turns giving me their theories and related warnings.
Theory: These creatures are experimenting on whatever they can find.
Warning: The animals that were experimented with were tested due to their relative similarities with humans. It’s given them a path towards their lust for human blood. A path that climbs slowly up the evolutionary food chain.
Hal treats the creatures responsible for all this as some kind of invading virus, or parasite. The computations he does with his advanced microchips and world-scale data mining assume all the different ways a complex but small organism can prosper in an environment like ours. One that is new and relatively unprotected.
It doesn’t, however, ascribe conceptual thinking and mental acuity to the invading species. It can’t assume what the Evils will think. And that means Hal’s assessment will necessarily lack the human quality.
The plotting and conniving.
The need for vengeance.
Debauchery and psychopathology.
Hal will be able to tell us how a specific invading organism might be able to conquer his environment, under what circumstances and time constraints it might all be possible. But he can’t ponder what one, pissed-off, evil soul might do to a group of scared children.
For questions like that we have Ms. Josephine.
Theory: This improbable environment—the false symmetry of the two lush forests on the side of the volcano—is highly unstable and is connected to the whims of the volcano. Ergo . . . when the volcano erupts and all of the peripheral earthquakes radiate outward, the two impossible forests will be covered in super-heated ash and molten lava. No one and nothing will survive.
It will be as if they never existed.
Warning: All seismic indicators—including recent geological surveys, ground tremors, tectonic stress in nearby plates—suggest that an eruption is imminent.
This means we’re literally playing with fire. And although we don’t know it, our time is quickly counting down. We save these children soon, or we all get burned in hot ash.
Theory: The invading species may not be contained to a single body. There may be some form of transfer.
Warning: They could seemingly disappear right in front of us . . . for good. Or worse, they might be able to multiply in the right setting.
That’s something new that none of us had really considered. If the Evils are here, could they produce offspring? Could they mate and beget progeny that might be evil, too?
“Imagine how that promulgates outward,” Billtruck poses. “Is Evil riding on a dominant or a recessive allele? Does the evil gene express itself in the first generation, or is there some combination of non-expressive, partial evil genes?”
Hal continues, “ . . . imagine it like a male with both X and a Y chromosomes. When he mixes with the double-Xs of the woman, his X chromosome is suppressed almost completely as the female Xs kick out most of his genetic information . . . especially if he has a son. With a daughter there is a better chance that his genetic information will be passed on to her, as she had one X from both parents.”
“Shit,” Billtruck interjects. “I didn’t even think it that far through.”
“Well, if we’re looking at it from a mating perspective, it’s possible that the males genetic information could be hidden for a generation. Like, he has a daughter, and then her son gets his genetic information again due to her two X chromosomes finally passing down the grandfather’s information.
“Wow . . . ” Billtruck gasps, “generation skipping evil! We’re going to need new machines. We’ll need to get some of their blood and do a full genome-phenome work-up. This is fascinating.”
“These are all your concerns”, I say. “You and Hal do all that stuff. I don’t really have any idea what the hell you two just went on about. I’m more of a hands on, traditional Evil hunter.”
“This is really interesting stuff, Jack.”
I say, “You know, the more closely we look, the more cumbersome this task becomes. We need to deal with these bastards, now.”
“ . . . is killing them enough?” Hal ponders rather grimly. “There are too many variables in this experiment. Will simply killing these creatures be sufficient to eradicate the problem?”
No, I say. There’s more to it than that.
“Do you need any special weapons? Chemicals?” Billtruck asks.
I’ve got almost everything I’ll need. The rest will take care of itself when the time comes.
“That’s a rather ambiguous assertion, Jack,” Hal says. “I do not follow your path of reasoning.”
Reason isn’t always enough, Hal. Sometimes you have to go with your gut. Faith.
“The belief in things for which there is no tacit evidence and no testable, repeatable proof, that is not a prudent course of action. It is an unsound base to theorize from,” Hal explains to me.
And . . . he’s right. Faith alone won’t cut it. Hopes and prayers and wishes, and all the faith in the world won’t stop the 23 Evils from taking root.
We’re going tonight, I say. I’ll sort it out, one way or another.
“We’ll be watching and listening,” Billtruck says. “Anyway, watch out for small tremors and a possible eruption that might suddenly kill everything in its blast radius. That place is incredibly tense.”
“Tell the gang we said, Hi.”
“Hey,” Hal asks, oddly out of character, “have you spoken to your girlfriend since you got to Ecuador?”
She wrote me a letter.
“ . . . oh.”
It’s complicated, I say to our computer. She’s complicated. I don’t know how much I can tell her about all this, so it’s a difficult issue. But I like her . . . a lot.
“Try not to die, for real,” Billtruck says all sing-songy and gleefully.
I’ll keep that in mind as I’m ridding the earth of pure Evil.