The kid nods. I am not comfortable with getting the kids into this, but I need to know what the Pillar has in mind.
“That’s it.” The Pillar grins after the kid pushes the button.
“Now, the Executioner’s parachute won’t work anymore,” I say.
But then I hear a loud explosion below.
“Boom!” The Pillar jokes with the kids, who laugh from their hearts.
“The Executioner exploded,” I say. “Why all this?”
“I could have simply killed him, Alice. But I gave him hope three times and then killed him. Oh, if you only knew how that hurts.”
The kids clap their hands from the back. “Senor Pillardo!”
“Now it’s him who is cool?” I fold my hands jokingly.
“When you kill a villain, never make it easy for him. I hate when they do that in movies. If I could burn the Executioner in an oven, resurrect him, and burn him all over again, I’d do it.” The Pillar pulls out a map and points the pilot where to fly.
“So we’re going to this Dodo place?” I stick my head between them. “I hope it’s not far.”
“Not really.” The Pillar adjusts his hat, looking in the mirror. “Peru is just a few miles away.”
Possessing an old man’s soul inside a pharmacy, the Cheshire watched the news in the TV behind the counter.
The pharmacy’s owner had locked his customers in, sheltering them from doomsday outside in the streets of London. The man had a soft spot for old people, so the Cheshire had to possess one, although he hated the slow walk, arching back, and the lost teeth.
“Some loon, that Lewis Carroll.” The pharmacist pointed at the BBC’s coverage of the Lewis Carroll man attacking another pharmacy, killing everyone violently because they couldn’t provided a cure for his migraine.
“Is that the man who spread the hookah plague?” An old woman pointed her cane in the Cheshire’s face.
The Cheshire kept his cool. No need to kill humans here while waiting for his phone to ring. He’d made some calls looking for someone to send after the Pillar and was awaiting a response.
“He is the devil,” the woman declared. “And he’s come for the end of times.”
“But he is dressed like a priest,” the pharmacist argued.
“They always do, those nasty devils.”
“I think he is Lewis Carroll.” The Cheshire thought the conversation was fun. “The real Lewis Carroll.”
“Who’s Lewis Carroll?” the pharmacist said.
“He wrote Alice in Wonderland.” The Cheshire was shocked the man didn’t know.
“That’s the devil’s book, too!” The old woman’s cane was up to the Cheshire’s nose now.
His old-man’s nostrils flared. One of the setbacks of possessing people was that he was sometimes limited to their powers. In this case, he could hardly slap this woman if he wanted to.
“Alice in Wonderland,” the pharmacist considered. “My kids love that book. I used to love it, too. Never paid attention to the author.”
“Why would you?” The Cheshire shook his weary shoulders—they ached. “I never knew of any of the names of the scientists who invented the beautiful medicines that cure us.”
“But how is this Lewis Carroll still alive? And why is he looking for this drug so bad?”
“Migraines!” The woman pointed at the TV. “I know how it feels.”
“So he is capable of infecting the world with a plague but can’t find a cure for his own migraine?”
“The irony of life,” the Cheshire commented. Like Carroll, the Cheshire was capable of being anyone, anytime he wanted, except one person, himself, because he never knew who he really was. “He wants it so bad he is killing people now.”
In his mind, the Cheshire couldn’t understand any of this. Sure, he knew Lewis Carroll in Wonderland, and he’d heard about the man’s severe headaches, which at some point contributed to his genius, but how did Carroll turn so violent?
Why did he call himself a Wonderland Monster?
“Look!” the woman said, pointing at the TV again. “People have started killing each other now. It’s all around the world.”
The Cheshire looked, and it was true. As much as he loved seeing the awful folks of humanity kill one another, he didn’t like the expanse of this plague. What started as people going mad had escalated to people turning into murderers all around the world.
Was this the real plague Lewis Carroll was talking about?
The Cheshire checked his phone again, waiting for that reply. He had to find the two Wonderlanders he was looking for. They were the only Wonderlanders capable of entering Mushroomland, along with the Pillar. The Cheshire needed to send them to help the Pillar find the cure.
How ironic, the Cheshire thought, all us Wonderland Monsters hating each other, now trying to collaborate against this Lewis Carroll.
His phone rang. The Cheshire picked up immediately and said, “So, did you find Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum yet?”
It’s the early hours of morning. But instead of landing somewhere in Peru, we’re flying over an endless desert.
I don’t comment, sharing an anticipated moment with the Pillar and his chauffeur. So are the children in the back. They’re fascinated with the desert, which at first confuses me, since there is nothing to see but sand.
Then I realize that the kids have never been out of Mushroomland. This, to them, is their first vacation abroad.
And boy, they love it.
“Where are we really going?” I ask.
“We’ve arrived,” the Pillar says, his eyes scanning the vast earth below. “We’re looking for our landing spot.”
“Couldn’t we just land anywhere? Besides, I thought we were going to Peru.”
“There is a bag with a lot of candy in it, kids.” The Pillar changes the subject. “Open it up.” Oh, he isn’t even talking to me. “And there are drinks, too.”
I watch the kids happily gorge on the candy, which is shaped like a caterpillar sitting on top of a mushroom.
I finish my candy. It’s delicious. I have the children with me, and we’re following clues to stop the plague. I think I’m good for now, if only someone would tell me why we’re here in the desert, looking for that Dodo location.
All of a sudden, the dessert turns from plain void into an artistic land full of immense drawings. Large artworks that have been etched into the landscape. How? I have no idea.
“They’re called geoglyphs,” the Pillar says. “Best viewed from above. Actually, you wouldn’t grasp what the drawing is about if you stand amidst it.”
My candy drops to the floor. My mouth agape. I am stunned.
“This desert plateau stretches more than eighty kilometers long. Geologists prefer to call it the Nazca Lines,” the Pillar continues. “Many believe the Nazca Lines were created by the Nazca culture around 500 BC.”
“It’s that old?” I say while the kids compete for the best view from the top.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” the Pillar says. “Makes you wonder how such an old civilization possessed the craft and knowledge to create something like that.”
“What does it mean?”
“That’s the centuries-old multi-million dollar question. Just look at the hummingbirds, spiders, monkeys, fish, sharks, orcas, and lizards meticulously crafted on the bed of the earth. No one has any idea what they mean.”
“How were they made then?” one of the kids questions.
“The real answer is ‘We don’t know.’” The Pillar bites on his cigar. I wonder if he’s going to stuff this one in someone else’s throat. “But common assumption is that the shallow lines were made in the ground by removing the reddish pebbles and uncovering the grayish ground beneath.”
When I look closer, I see hundreds of other shapes, most of animals; birds, fish, llamas, jaguars, monkeys, or human figures. There are also what look like trees and flowers. What strikes me as odd is that most of them look like a geometric design, carefully planned and executed.