Cahuachi Sunrise

Milo sat on a convenient-sized rock a few yards from the parked van, watching the stars fade from the paling sky above the Andes Mountains to the east. It was bitingly cold, in the way that deserts are at night, and he could see the outline of his breath on the sere air. Eight hits of primo acid had alternately stoned and sickened him for the previous 48 hours, yet he felt completely at peace and peppy as hell.

It might have been the last of their dark Guatemalan coffee, simmering on the pressurized gasoline camp stove at his feet that made him feel this way, but he didn't think so.

Based on an oddly-curving perspective thing at the edges of of his vision, and an occasional dark bubbling and rippling in the middle of it, he decided he was still seriously high, but finally starting to come down. Lenore, Molina and Armand remained passed out in the van -- they'd slept through Callie's rough landing on the gravel-strewn plain -- and there were no signs of Callie, Furlonger, or any alebrijes. All of this, he decided, contributed considerably to his serene state of mind.

He was, though, keeping an eye on a distant lone figure picking its way toward him, across the massive flat plain of red-tinted gravel and boulders in the middle of which he sat.

The sun slowly rose over the peaks to warm Milo, and the figure began to resolve itself as a stick-thin man, dressed in the kind of white, pocket-laden tourist safari outfit worn in B-grade movies about expeditions that got eaten by monsters in Africa. Milo, reflecting, decided that this apparel marked the stick man as, at best, suspect, and at worst a complete wanker. He had only to wait to find out which.

It took about an hour, during which time Milo inhaled coffee, drank coffee and considered the vista. Much had happened in the past week, but in spite of this -- or perhaps because of it -- he was on the whole inclined entirely against considering anything other than the view.

The figure stumbled the last few yards quickly, hand extended eagerly to shake.

Milo saw on his wrist one of those hideously-complicated watches boasting a cacophony of dials and bezels that even included a little slide rule. It was the kind of watch that, in Milo's estimation, betrayed a geek, poseur and asshole. If its bearer could actually operate it. If on the other hand he couldn't, he was still a poseur. And an asshole. Milo loathed the guy on sight. He took the proffered hand.

"Hi!" said the man with the watch, in an over-hearty -- and obviously fake -- Brit accent. He pumped hard. "I'm Richard W. Dinkleston! Very pleased, I'm sure! Walked out from Cahuachi to meet you!"

"Why?" asked Milo flatly.

This didn't appear to phase Dinkleston.

"Just between you and me, all of the English-speaking ex-patriates in Cahuachi are a really dull bunch. Mostly traditional archaeologists, studying The Nazca Lines" -- he spoke this in capitals-- "that refuse to admit the validity of my theories!"

During this short speech, the wonky Brit accent slid sideways and re-emerged as an indeterminate American twang.

"I'm guessing," said Milo, surveying Dinkleston's thinness, too-bright eyes and jittery movements with a jaundiced gaze, "that you have no friends, that you're some kind of nut job that none of the rest of the ex-pats can stand, and you came out here because you're kinda hoping to get in tight with us before the rest of 'em can tell us what you're really like. And that nobody ever calls you Richard W. Dinkleston."

The man's eager expression crumpled.

"Aw hell. You're right. I'm plain old Dickie Dinkley. And the rest of the ex-pats pretty much shun me because they don't understand that these lines were made by ancient extra-terrestrial astronauts, which is so obvious I don't know why they bother to argue about it. But," he said brightening a little, "I'm pretty sure you can help with that. I saw your van fly in here on a carpet of light, through my telescope last night. I've been camped out in Cahuachi for months, just waiting for you guys to come back. I was pretty certain that you'd be landing right around now because of Nostradamus' quatrain... I'm sure you know the one:

"...and a hundred thousand Suns shall move
across the sky in the company of the Moon
borne upon a cloud of locusts over New Spain
a carriage of Titans...


He looked at Milo expectantly.