“This is incredible,” I say. “How did the drawings survive all the time?”

“Again, common knowledge is that it’s due to its isolation and the dry and stable climate. There is hardly any wind in this area of Peru,” the Pillar says.

“So they have been naturally preserved?”

The kids ask me what this means. I try to explain while listening to the Pillar continue his education. Then one of the kids asks the Pillar, “Did the Nazca have planes?”

“Smart kiddo,” the Pillar says. “No, they didn’t—or so we think. And although the lines shouldn’t necessarily be seen from planes—they can be seen from surrounding foothills, too—it still poses the bigger question...”

I cut in and say, “Why were they created and for whom?

Chapter 42

Nazca Desert, Peru

“It’s a complicated question with a complicated answer,” the Pillar replies. “In short, we have no idea what the Nazca desert was really meant to be. We just stare at it like primitive monkeys and try to make sense of it. Photographing it, analyzing, and puking theories. Just like Wonderland. It has secrets of its own.”

“So why are we here, then?”

“The Executioner told us the meeting took place in the Dodo, right?”

“Yes?” I grimace. “I don’t see the connection, other than that it’s the same name of the company that manufactured the hookah.”

“I am beginning to see the whole picture now. But before I tell you about the connection, I need to make sure you know all about the Dodo,” the Pillar says. “Not the one we’re looking for but the one in the Alice in Wonderland book.”

“What about him? I thought he was a silly lovable character, although I never understood the significance of his appearance.”

“The Dodo is Lewis Carroll’s alter ego,” the Pillar says. “You remember his real name is Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, right?”

I nod. Of course I remember.

“So Lewis used to stutter a lot—I’ll get into why he did later. Usually when he tried to say his name was Dodgson, he’d stutter and say Do-Do-Dodgson. Get it?”

“Do-Do,” I repeat the words. “The Dodo. That’s where it came from?”

“Exactly. Except that this is the kind of stuff historians will tell you,” the Pillar says. “I’m not saying he didn’t pick the name to reflect on his stuttering. But that wasn’t just it.”

“There is a bigger picture?”

“There is always a bigger picture if you open your eyes. The dodo is also an extinct bird. And it couldn’t fly. There are only records of it, and some claim they see it every now and then, but without concrete evidence.”

“Are you saying Lewis was pointing to the bird, too? Why? I don’t see a connection.”

“Of course you see a connection, an immense one, for that matter.” The Pillar points downward, right underneath the chopper.

I look, but it takes me a moment to see it.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s huge. Immense, like he said. But that’s the reason I couldn’t grasp what I was seeing at first.

But now I do. There is no question about it. One of Nazca Lines is of a Dodo. And I am staring at it right now.

Chapter 43

St Peter’s, The Vatican

The White Queen couldn’t believe her eyes.

Standing at the basilica’s entrance, the world in front of her had slipped into chaos. It had begun a few hours back after Alice left yesterday. A few tourists began shouting and fighting with one another. But it wasn’t much. The police took care of the matter immediately.

And then last night the news of the plague had spread everywhere in Italy. Rome in particular had spiraled into a mad hole of swearing and kicking, something its people were naturally attracted to.

Then the madness escalated at the speed of light.

People everywhere were simply trying to hurt others. You couldn’t really make out what the fighting was about, since it was usually caught in its last stages, where fighters uttered no coherent sentences.

It reminded Fabiola of all the wars in the history of the world. Wars that last as long as thirty years, if not more. At some point in, you’d ask either side what they were fighting for, and you could not get an answer. Because none of them remembered what had started this.

This was what the Vatican was turning into. The world was turning into.

Now Fabiola was standing before the basilica, appalled by the fighting taking place in the piazza.

This was a place where people from all over the world came to share common beliefs. This wasn’t a place to fight one another, let alone kill one another.

But she had made her decision.

She was allowing the uninfected people to enter the basilica for shelter—it was easy to pick them out; they simply didn’t want to hurt anyone else.

Fabiola was about to face a peculiar decision. In a few moments, she was going to close the doors to the basilica and shelter herself with the uninfected. Something she hated to do, because she hated to give up on anyone, even the damned – like her.

Chapter 44

Nazca Desert, Peru

Landing in the middle of the Dodo artwork, I am starting to feel like the Alice in Wonderland in the book all over again.

I mean, most of my journey is about meeting up with the weirdest of the weird characters like in the book. It’s like my mind is being opened up to so many ideas and worlds it’s driving me crazy. So many times I find myself an observer, yet I can’t help but want more.

Curiouser and Curiouser.

“So let’s get this straight,” I ask the Pillar as we stand alone in the middle of the desert, the chauffeur having taken off again with the kids, “Lewis Carroll knew about this Dodo mark in Peru and decided to mention it in his book?”

“No, that’s not it.” The Pillar has picked up his cane again, looking around as if searching for an address in this endless maze of desert sands. “The Dodo is Lewis’s alter ego, sort of mocking everyone who mocked his stuttering, but at the same time Lewis knew something about the Nazca Lines.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“Don’t you get it?” The Pillar stares back. “Lewis Carroll knew something of the creation of this world. Like his knowledge of Wonderland, he knew of the past secrets of this real world.”

“Let’s just hypothetically say that’s true.” I don’t buy any of it. “What does this place have to do with it?”

“I don’t know what it is exactly. All I know is that the drug industry in the world was created by the likes of the Executioner, who was once a Wonderland Monster—“

“And I assume you’re one of them.”

“Yes, Alice. I was a drug lord,” he says as if it’s about the norm. “And when I was in the business, the Dodo was a major meeting place to pick and hand over certain packages and money. Don’t ask me why. What matters is that we’re waiting for the man who met with Lewis Carroll and told him how to cook the plague two years ago.”

“Okay.” I calm myself, trying to cope with too many puzzles. I remind myself that finding the cure is my priority. “So this man who met Lewis here is supposed to just arrive?”

“He usually does when he sees someone waiting here. It’s not like you’d find two people arriving here every day.”

“I suppose so,” I say. “So who is he, the man we we’re waiting for?”

“He is a nobody.”

“Excuse me?”

“Like I said. We’re waiting for nobody.” The Pillar points at the vast emptiness.

“Excellent,” I resist rolling my eyes this time. “I see nobody on the road.”

The Pillar turns to me with a smirk on his face. “Funny, that’s exactly what Alice said to the King of Hearts in the book, Alice Through the Looking Glass.”

Chapter 45

Surprisingly, I do remember this part in the book, when Alice tells the King of Hearts, ‘I see nobody on the road.’ It’s in the chapter called The Lion and the Unicorn in Alice Through the Looking Glass.