Introduction: In the fall of 1996, I began grad school, studying for a Masters Degree in Library and Information Science. At the same time, I found myself immersed in conspiracy theory, back in the days before the subject had been thrashed to death. This ECC erupted almost spontaneously from that reading.
(DISCLAIMER: Much of this story is tasteless. All of it is strange. However, despite the fact that several of the characters are real live people, it is 100% unadulterated fiction. PLEASE DON’T SUE ME OR ORDER MY ASSASSINATION! Thank you.)
The call came during dinner.
“Meet me at the usual place in one hour. Alone.” Then an abrupt hangup.
John slammed the phone down and ran for his coat.
“Honey, were are you going?” Jane shouted from the kitchen.
“I have to do some last minute Christmas shopping!”
“But John, it’s the middle of dinner,” he heard as he launched himself out the door.
It was frigid cold, but he barely noticed in his excitement. The call had been from his source, Blowfly. Blowfly worked for the government–John didn’t know exactly how. In August John had received an anonymous tip that a house in his town was being used as a headquarters for federal assassins. Since then he’d been drawn into a web of intrigue. The previous week Colin Bussy, who owned the house next to the den of blood, had died of what was officially carbon monoxide poisoning. John didn’t buy that for a second. Maybe tonight he’d hear the truth.
John’s old Chevy Nova sped onto the highway and into the city center. The town’s grim, abandoned industrial area was like a massive graveyard with old factories in place of tombstones. John drove into the shadow of the old Davenport furniture plant. He could see the cherry of a cigarette in the pitch darkness.
As John got out of the car the question came on wisps of smoke.
“What’s the password?”
“Dung beetle,” John whispered back.
“Very good.” A weak flashlight beam crossed the dark between them. “Were you followed?”
“No. I took the route you advised me to last time.”
“Good, good. Tonight’s a very important night, John,” he dragged and slowly exhaled. “Do you know what tonight is?”
“It’s the night I get to find out who the bastards were that killed Colin Bussy,” John said through clenched teeth.
“Huh?” Blowfly seemed surprised. “Oh, yeah, that. Uh, remind me to mention it later on.” He quickly dragged again and sent the smoke out of the corner of his mouth in a jet. “But that’s not why tonight’s important, John. Do you know what tonight is?”
“I guess not.”
“Tonight’s the night of December 23rd, John.”
“Yeah. And this means?”
“You’ll find out. I’ll have to blindfold you.”
John hesitated, but he’d trusted Blowfly with so much that there was no turning back now. The agent wrapped a piece of black cloth around his eyes, and guided him around to the passenger side of the car.
Blowfly started the car and they drove. The blindfold was made of wool, and it itched so much that John couldn’t keep track of their direction or how much time was passing. After a time of torture, with John needing desperately to scratch his nose, but not wanting to actually do so lest Blowfly think he was peeking, the car stopped.
Blowfly took him out and guided him several yards, though a door, down a hall. John could hear music, an unearthly, wild tune that sounded as if it was echoing from the depths of space. It sounded like…like…like Creedence Clearwater Revival.
In fact, John realised, it was Creedence Clearwater Revival. “Born On The Bayou,” to be specific.
Blowfly whipped off the blindfold to reveal a brightly lit, ivy-bedecked windowless room filled with people.
“Where are we?” he asked.
“John Faluti, welcome,” Blowfly said. “Welcome to the Christmas Conspiracy CaBall!”
The room was packed with Nazis, hippies, priests, black-suited intelligence agents, and a variety of short, white beings with large heads and enormous black eyes. Masonic aprons abounded. At one end was a stage, on which was a Christmas tree and a stack of amplifiers surrounding a DJ that John could have sworn was Dick Clark. Along one wall was a long bar manned by three frantically working bartenders.
“Blowfly…what the hell?”
“You see, John,” Blowfly explained as he handed their coats to a Marilyn Monroe lookalike, “it’s the 23rd. Contrary to what De La Soul may have said, three is not the magic number. 23 is. 23 is the number of conspiracy. So, on the 23rd, we have a Christmas party.”
“The International Academy of the Conspirital Arts.”
“So they’re the ultimate conspiracy, the most secret of all secret organizations.”
“Not really. We’re in the Yellow Pages. No one ever seems to call.”
“Why a Christmas party?”
Blowfly smiled broadly. “C’mon, John, everybody loves Christmas!”
The music suddenly faded and the sound of bells grew louder. A double door at side of the hall flew open, and a merry fat man in a red suit, his sleigh pulled by eight tiny pale horses, rode into the midst of the party.
“Ho, Ho, Ho!” Santa chortled. “Merry Christmas!”
“Hi, Santa!” the crowd roared in unison.
“Now somebody bring old Santa a damned glass of rotgut!”
Everyone laughed and the merry old elf got his drink. Santa spied John’s companion, and his eyes lit up with glee.
“Bill! Come on over here!” Saint Nick walked over. Up close, he looked oddly familiar to John.
“Bill, there somebody I want you to meet. This year I decided to speak out about the hideous secrets I witnessed permeating our supposedly democratic government, and this is the man I’m telling them to. John Faluti, met Bill Cooper.”
“Put ‘er there, John!” Santa grabbed John’s hand and pumped it enthusiastically.
“You’re the Bill Cooper?” John said in bewilderment.
“Formerly of naval intelligence?”
“Once a sea-dog, always a sea-dog, that’s what I say!”
“I-I read your book.”
“Glad to hear it! Besides exposing the alien control of our nation and the creeping Illuminati dictatorship in Washington, it’s helpin’ me buy a motorboat!” Blowfly and Santa guffawed. “Thousand more copies and there’s mah down payment!”
“But-but-Mr. Cooper, you hate most of the people here! You’ve given your career, your life, to expose them. They’ve tried to kill you! How can you stand to be in the same room as them?”
Santa shrugged. “What the hey, it’s Christmas!” Then he spotted someone across the room. “Hey, it’s Charlie Manson! I hafta go say hi!”
Santa ran across the room toward a pair of figures, one short and scruffy, the other Arab-looking and massively muscled.
“Isn’t that Charles Manson and Sirhan Sirhan?” John asked.
“Well, what are they doing here? Shouldn’t they…be in prison?”
“They let them out for the party every year.”
“John, it’s Christmas!”
They went over to the bar. The cocktail napkins had FLUORIDATED WATER CHASERS FREE ON REQUEST printed on them. John ordered a gin and tonic to steady his nerves. He noticed that the amps on stage were being rearranged.
“What’s going on up there?” he nudged Blowfly
“It’s time for the prizes!”
Rather than ask, John gulped his drink.
The lights lowered, and a spotlight lit the centerstage, where a microphone stood, accompanied by a small, round table. On the table were two golden pyramids topped with all-seeing eyes. A tall blonde woman strode into the light.
“Merry Christmas, everybody! I’m Louisa Merrow, member of the Priory of Sion and descendant of Jesus of Nazareth!” Cheers erupted from the audience. “And if everything goes well for the Priory, one day I’ll take my rightful appointment as Queen of Bulgaria.” Scattered laughter. “It’s great to see you all here! Y’know, conspiracy is such a lonely business. Don’t you all feel lonely sometimes?” Cries of “Yeah!” “That’s why it’s wonderful, once a year, to take the masks off and be together as friends and colleagues. To me, and I know to many of you, this is the happiest night of the year!”
Massive cheering and applause.
“We’ve had a great year, and I know you all had a hard time voting for the prizes. May I have the envelope, please?”
A little blond girl with a small mouth and nose and large eyes ran up and handed Louisa an envelope.”
“And the winner of the 1996 Adam Weishaupt Memorial Prize for Excellence in Conspiracy is…OPERATION WOLFTOOTH FOR THE DOWNING OF TWA FLIGHT 800!”
Triumphant music played as a group of men and women in uniforms jumped up on the stage. One of them, a tall man who seemed to be swaying slightly, accepted a bronze pyramid from Louisa and then grabbed the microphone.
“HI! Hi…I’m Major Jack Welsh, operational head of Wolftooth. I just wish everyone who really made this award possible could be up here on stage. I know it sounds sentimental, but…over the past ten months, our crew…well, it’s felt more like a family than a conspiracy. You’re all fantastic-the bribery team, the cover-up team, and everybody on the guided missile cruiser Fenris…I LOVE YOU GUYS!” Welsh collapsed into a pile on stage.
“I think somebody’s had too much to drink,” Blowfly whispered to John.
Another uniformed man took the microphone away from Welsh. “I just want to say one thing. When it came time to cover up the truth, we brainstormed a lot of ideas, but in the end, we went with the classics. In 1964 the Kennedy assassins showed us that the best way to run a cover up is to voluntarily expose yourself to the least credible segments of society. But this time we did something a little different-our target audience was paranoid computer geeks. That’s right, we used the Internet, and ladies and gentlemen, I want to tell you tonight, the future of conspiracy is online!”
Wild applause and more music ushered the team offstage.
“May I have the next envelope?” Louisa asked. A small boy in a rubber Nixon mask brought this one.
“The James Garrison Memorial Prize for Whistleblowing goes to…the San Diego Sun-Times for the CIA-crack connection!”
Two men walked on stage and accepted hugs and a golden pyramid from Louisa. One took the mike. “I’m Morry Teizges, head of the City Desk at the Times. It’s a great honor tonight to accept this award on behalf of the paper. I guess I’d like to extend our condolences to the CIA for losing another one! I know you guys keep saying you’re being purposely incompetent in order to disguise the real extent of your evil, but speaking for myself, that’s sounding a little lamer every year!”
A man near John in a dark suit and sunglasses crushed a shot glass in his bare hand. He turned to ask Blowfly what was going on, but his source just said, “Don’t talk to him. It’s been nothing but a raw nerve since the Ruskies shot down that U2 in the fifties.”
“Thanks again, and Merry Christmas!” The reporters left the stage and Louisa retook the microphone.
“Every year we like to have comments from some of the more distinguished members of our profession. So right now I’d like to introduce Ken Kesey!” An old man with long hair came up to the stage.
“Hi, everybody. Tonight I’d to like honor one of the finest conspirators I ever knew. We lost Timothy Leary this year, and I don’t how many of you know what that man contributed to our profession. Back in ’58 Tim realized that America was on the verge of an enormous swing to the left, powered by the pinko youth produced by fluoridation and socialist-inspired public schools. On his own, he came up with an idea to get the Baby Boomer generation so high they couldn’t stand up, much less impose communism on the nation. That idea was widespread distribution of LSD, and I’m proud to say I served under Tim Leary in the conspiracy to make his dream a reality, a conspiracy that managed to totally dupe millions of the most paranoid people alive. I ask you now, a moment of silence for the memory of Dr. Timothy Leary.”
Silence filled the hall. John picked up someone else’s whiskey and downed it.
“Thank you, Colonel Kesey, for those eloquent words, ” Louisa said as Kesey left the stage. “Next up we have a special treat. Two thousand years ago, a pair of Reticulans implanted an alien-fertilized ovum into a nice Jewish girl. Tonight, they’re here to tell us about it. Let’s have a big hand for Gorzak-12 and Gorzak-15!”
Wild applause erupted as a pair of short, greyish humanoids mounted the stage. It seemed to John as if they were smiling as much as their tiny mouths would allow.
“Greetings, earthlings. 12 and I are very glad to be here, celebrating with you the debut of our finest invention. We created almost all of what you refer to as “religious leaders”: Shakyamuni Buddha, Mohammed, Abraham, Lao Tze-but little Jesus always had a special place in our hearts, so much that after his faithful service we took both him and his mother back to Zeta Reticuli, where they await their role in the culmination of our fiendish plans.
“Louisa, it did not occur to us until this evening, but we three are in fact connected. For the DNA placed in Mary’s womb was from 12 and I personally, and so we are really your thousand-times-great progenitors.”
“Grandpas!” Louisa squealed as she embraced the tiny figures.
“Uh, Blowfly, where’s the bathroom?” John asked.
“Yeah, the hooch goes right through me, too. C’mon it’s over this way.”
The two walked into the bathroom and almost collided with a plump, bearded man.
“Petri! Howya doin’? Hey, this is John Faluti!”
“John Faluti? Not the guy you’ve been spewing to?”
“One and only. John, you wanted to know who was responsible for Colin Bussy’s death? Well, it was this S.O.B. right here!” Blowfly and Petri playfully jabbed at each other.
John shook with rage. “This is the murderer?”
“It was only business,” Petri shrugged. “Although the jerk did dump his leaves on our lawn. But, John, this is a big story. Even Blowhard here doesn’t know how big. Year or two, and you might be up for the Garrison Award. If we don’t getcha first, that is!” Blowfly and Petri guffawed, and Petri left the bathroom.
John grabbed Blowfly. “We have to call the police right now.”
“The police? Why?”
“Blowfly, that man is evil! He’s the head of an assassin squad! He poisoned my neighbor! How can you just stand here and let him go?”
“John, John, you have to understand something. All year long, those of us underground live like scared rabbits, hiding and paranoid. Tomorrow, you’ll be trying to expose Petri, and I’ll be trying to help you. Petri in turn will be plotting to bump you off. But for tonight-and only tonight-we can just get together and relax and for once not worry about every word we say.
“C’mon, John. It’s Christmas.”
When they left the bathroom, they found the partygoers paralysed. Ringing the room were men in camouflage and ski masks, holding Uzis. One rather rotund terrorist was holding Lousia at gunpoint on stage, and ranting into the mike.
“We are the United Idaho People’s Free Democratic Popular Liberty Minuteman Front! You are the enemies of democracy! We’ve had our limit of your dictatorial, one-worlder conspiracies and WE’RE NOT GONNA TAKE IT ANYMORE!”
The gunmens’ trigger fingers squeezed in unison… and out of their weapons leapt streams of champagne.
The lead terrorist took his mask off to reveal…Elvis!
Applause swept the room.
Blowfly chuckled. “He does something like this every year,” he remarked to the flabbergasted John.
The other terrorists produced instruments, ran up on stage, and started a rousing rendition of “Jailhouse Rock.”
“Everybody in the whole cell block/was dancin’ to the Jailhouse Rock…”
John stared around him. Everywhere were dancing, drunken conspirators.
What should he do?
He did the only thing a sane man could do.
Catching the beat, he did the Twist.