“Where am I,” I thought to myself groggily. The morning sun had illuminated my room making any irritating alarm unnecessary. For some unconscionable reason, the music of The Doors played in my head as a practiced my slick martial art moves. I happened to noticed some fool looking at me. Taunting me by mimicking my every move. I had had enough so I punched him. It was merely my reflection in the mirror. I had been cooped up here for far too long.
At that moment there was a knock on my door that broke me from my trance. I was greeted by two men in fatigues. I wanted a mission and they gave me one. Brought it to me like a pizza delivery man with the timer just hitting thirty minutes (or it was free). It was a real choice mission, and when it was over, I would have to blog about it.
The mission, which I accepted, was to infiltrate what was once a military outpost and perform reconnaissance. The locals that had taken over the area built a compound, some reports would say a place of worship, that came to be known as Nieuw België. It was there where I would have to blend in amongst the warring factions and tribes as they came together for an annual celebration to their gods. It would not be a simple task, and I would not be going it alone.
I had a crew to escort me north along the treacherous path. They were mostly kids. The kind of EDM enthusiasts with one foot in the grave. The machinist, that they called Swaggy-G, was from New Orleans. He was wrapped too tight for this mission. Probably wrapped too tight for New Orleans. Blayden was a famous skateboarder from the beaches south of LA. To look at him you wouldn’t believe he ever fired a weapon in his life. Clean… Mr. Clean… was from some South Bronx shithole. Then there was William, the Chief. It might have been my mission, but it sure as shit was the chief’s vehicle.
We arrived a few klicks southwest of my destination. I implored the crew to head back for I even I was unsure of what lied ahead. The crew would not hear it. So we ditched our vehicle, and would have to make the rest of journey by foot. I promised myself not to bear their fates on my conscience.
As we trudged along the bush I spotted a lone soldier of the Juggalo tribe off in the distance. His face was adorned with the customary war paint of his people. Something off in the distance that wasn’t us caught his attention. We hunkered down just as numerous tribes whirled by on their velocipedes. Their regalia for the ceremony was vibrant as well as shiny and sparkly. Made it much easier to spot them and stay out of their line of sight.
The forming trail of striking garbs led us to our terminus. But before we reached it, we would have to cross the Cache la Poudre. The waterway proved
disastrous as Mr. Clean was swept away. All we heard was a “gulp” and he was gone. Swaggy-G had to hold back Blayden from going after him. My orders were my orders and I wasn’t stopping for anyone.
We entered the complex safely through a side entrance along the wall. Unfortunately, Swaggy-G met his demise within a few minutes. The less I report back on that instance the better.
I was a bit taken back by the camaraderie amongst the differing hordes. It was as if they had become one for this special day. Make no mistake about the jubilation, but wandering amongst the crowd were numerous mercenaries in their green and shelled armor (as respect for their turtle god) keeping an eye out for those like me. There was a sense of hedonism that permeated through the air, and along with a rhythmic drumming, you could find yourself lost in it.
Many clans had made the pilgrimage not only to embrace Dionysus but several of their other cherished deities. The Chief and I made our way through the carousing. Blayden, the golden boy, had gotten swept up in the extravagance of it all to be never seen again. There were headdresses, people disguised as their animal spirits, and, for some, gender norms were disregarded.
I became conscious to the extreme heat beating down upon me. Sweat had trickled into the corner of my eye, and I could feel beads of it roll down my back.
It was then I remembered that I had been given wooden pieces that the locals used for trade at my debriefing. What better way to integrate ourselves, and not raise suspicions, than taking part in their customs and imbibing some of their elixirs? There were many brewed offerings: an ale calling back to their favorite mode of transportation, a white version of it with coriander and oranges, a tangerine concoction of South Asian persuasion, something named after the armed members of their compound, a golden ale celebrating the large star that our planet revolves around, a lager inspired by the Czech Republic, and dark beer that harkens back to 1554.
The selection of intoxicating beverages was matched by the savory fare. I opted for a basket of meat. Brisket to be more precise. These welcomed nomads would eat well this day.
A cacophony had enveloped the area splitting up the packs. One location had magicians and jesters that entranced their audience into entering their tent, another area had the different guilds dancing to music and showing off their uniforms like peacocks, and at the other end were more tribe members enjoying the harmonious sounds and taking part in games.
The unbearable high temperature had subsided a bit, and I noticed the previous sweat had become a layer of grime. William and I headed into the Abbey to
find even clan members. It was all becoming too much. I feared that if I stayed longer I would become overwhelmed and lose track of my mission, and I could tell that the environment was getting to the Chief.
We snuck past some guards and made our escape. The trek back to the vehicle was arduous at best. There were still some straggling warriors on the outskirts of the compound that we had to be aware of. As I pushed further ahead so that we could make back to base in one piece, I could hear the Chief muttering to himself behind me. There was very little I caught except one bit.
“The tour… the tour…”