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June 17, 2024

The Lake Erie Lights 4

By Hawkelson Rainier

Chapter 4: The Curators of Earth

For Roy, moving in with eleven strangers in remote upstate New York went more smoothly than he could have hoped. The seemingly endless supply of booze and drugs helped streamline the transition.

As it turned out, the environmentalists who called their organization The Curators of Earth were also very savvy entrepreneurs. They had set up a fairly sophisticated grow room that could support roughly 150 marijuana plants, another grow room for Psilocybin mushrooms, as well as a twenty-gallon still for moonshine. And there was one guy named Chett, a chemistry major from the University of Illinois, who dropped out of college to make laboratory grade L.S.D. in a converted root cellar.

Chett's little hobby came in pretty handy since the Curators of Earth were big proponents of expanding consciousness during weekend-long acid trips. Their unofficial leader, a thirty-something-year-old named Bryce, believed that L.S.D. could help a person shed their ego. Only then, he would profess, can one begin to observe the universe in its true form.

Without the artificial constructs that anchor people to this blasé rock of reality, without the idea of self, there is no desire to acquire things; there are no feelings of guilt, of hate, of fear, of anything at all. In this state of ultimate objectivity, the universe will peel away its many layers of illusion and present itself as it really is.

According to Bryce, he and a few other members of C.O.E. had been close to this ultimate reality, and they had seen deep into the Universe's soul, but they could not sever those last connective threads that tethered their consciousness to their egos. However, they were not discouraged, and they vowed to continue in their pursuit of ultimate knowledge.

Roy figured it was all a bunch of bullshit. He was pretty sure they made up the whole 'quest for enlightenment' spiel to justify why a bunch of adults would be out in the middle of the woods tripping balls every weekend. He went along with it because they were handing him free doses and it was fun as hell, so long as he went into it with the right mindset.

After a few months of these weekly acid trips, Roy had upped his dosage substantially. After a year or so, he started to wonder if Bryce had been onto something when he preached about how L.S.D. can compel your ego to disassociate from your consciousness.

Eventually, Roy felt like the psychedelic regimen was beginning to bleach away his concept of self. It had become obvious that Sarah was sleeping with Bryce a few nights a week, but he accepted this fact quite passively -- the way somebody accepts 2+2=4. And he had been hooking up with Sarah's friend, Jill, on those nights when his bed was empty. Jill, as it turned out, was married to another member of their group. His name was Stan, but he didn't seem to mind. Anyway, Stan was banging another chick named Gwen, and on nights when Gwen was unavailable because she was banging Mike or going down on Tina, Stan would just crawl under the covers with a guy named Yan. And every once in a while, the sleeping arrangements would get shuffled around again, and nobody ever said boo about it. Roy felt like the entire group had just kind of melted into each other, as if they were not individuals at all, but rather one organism striving for one goal. And that goal was to ... well, he couldn't quite remember, as he was distracted by iridescent tracers that emanated from their campfire. It was something noble, something profound ... holy shit, man ... does that squirrel have a dog's head? No, it's just the acid. Wait, what was the question? Oh yeah, the goal. The goal is to save the planet, man.

Fuckin'-A, it is.

Initially, everything seemed innocent enough. The Curators of Earth did drugs, carried signs at protest rallies, and passed out fliers made from hemp. But eventually, Bryce got bored with the scene and called an urgent meeting one Sunday night when everybody had pretty much come down from the acid. He said that during his trip, it occurred to him what their next plan of action should be.

He went on to present a strategy to target an energy company in West Virginia that employed an especially barbaric method of coal extraction called strip mining. This method entails blowing the tops off of mountains, dumping the tons of debris into nearby valleys, and then bringing in a massive dragline excavator to scoop out the exposed coal deposits. It's an effective way to get to the fossil fuel, but the ecological impact is devastating.

To stem the destructive currents that had been decimating the Appalachian region, it was clear that the Curators of Earth had to burn one of the company's multimillion-dollar dragline excavators. Bryce conceded that five or ten million dollars was really just a drop in the bucket for a 'Big Energy' company, but his hope was that their little fireworks display would generate some momentum for the environmentalist movement at the grassroots level.

Bryce seemed very optimistic that their actions would inspire some copycat vigilantes to help with the cause. In this hypothetical scenario, the pigs wouldn't be able to target one organization. Their resources and manpower would be stretched very thin as they chased after dozens or even hundreds of activists across the nation. Eventually, these attacks would start to affect the bottom line for a wide range of businesses. And if you could mess with their money, then the executives, the politicians, and the venture capitalists would suddenly become a lot more interested in what the environmentalists had to say.

It was conceivable they might actually legislate environmentally sound business practices rather than fight a war of attrition with a nationwide network of loosely connected guerrilla tree huggers.

The night the operation went hot, Sarah and Roy were on lookout duty along the perimeter of the site. Previous reconnaissance missions revealed that the company's rent-a-cop made his rounds once an hour between 10:00 P.M. and 6:30 A.M. On that particular night, the security guard made his first pass at 10:08 P.M. Maybe he felt unusually motivated, or maybe it was just one of those hunches that people sometimes get. For whatever reason, the guard circled back and spotted Sarah and Roy on the main access road. His job description only required him to call in suspicious activity to the local authorities, but he breached protocol by exiting his pickup truck and confronting the trespassers.

It's conceivable the security guard believed they were just a couple of kids out for a night of general mischief. As it turned out, they were both on some fairly potent acid, and Sarah was packing a .38 special in the waistband of her jeans. She drew the gun and emptied the cylinder as fast as she could pull the trigger six times. Two of the rounds hit the guard, perforating his lung and liver. The man dropped to the ground, prostrate.

Roy's dilated pupils fixated on the puddle of blood that was forming around the fallen man. It looked very dark, like chocolate syrup. A few little rivulets branched away from the pool and meandered toward Roy. He could see, then, that they weren't rivulets at all, but snakes tracking across the dirt. He knew if he moved, or even twitched, the snakes would detect his vibrations and they would swarm all over him and drag him into Hell. Roy stood very still. He didn't breathe.

The security guard lifted his head up out of the mud and Roy saw that all the skin and muscle was gone from his face. Even the eye sockets were empty. A forked tongue darted in and out of its bony jaws, sniffing at the night air. The skeleton man locked in on the scent and its unseeing gaze fell upon Roy. Roy stared back into those empty sockets, and the skeleton man spoke to him.

"I'll get you. In this life or the next, I'll get you," it hissed.

Sarah grabbed Roy by the shoulders and shook him repeatedly. She yelled point-blank into his face, "Let's go. We have to go now!" Nothing seemed to register, so she grabbed him by the collar and physically pulled him along with her as she called in the abort code over the radio. The Curators of Earth fled to their predetermined safe locations while the security guard was left lying in the mud, the rest of his blood slowly draining from his body.

Three months after the shooting, word got back to Sarah that the F.B.I. had contacted a few members of the now-disbanded Curators of Earth. They were asking about her. So, Sarah Watson dyed her hair brown, went underground for almost a year, and emerged as Megan Rupp. She even had the forged documents to prove it. Megan examined her new driver's license in the harsh light of the dirty bathroom in room 306 of the Happy Motorists Motel. She had to commit all of her new information to memory. September 4, 1969 was entered for her birth date, and she wondered if the corresponding astrological sign was Virgo or Libra. She'd have to find out -- it would be a shame to get tripped up by some cop because she never bothered to learn her new sign. She sighed and put her driver's license back in her purse, and that's when she saw the tattered edge of an old newspaper clipping she'd stuffed in the side pocket.

Megan took a deep breath and unfolded the article. It had been stupid to carry it around on her person for so long, but she could never bring herself to read it, and therefore, could never bring herself to dispose of it. But enough was enough. It was time. She exhaled and began.

Slain Security Guard Mourned by Family, Friends

Johnathon Campbell had been employed as a security guard by the McCourt Energy Company for over 30 years. After failing to make routine radio contact, his co-worker and longtime friend, Thomas Skaggs, set out in his pick-up truck to check on Campbell. Skaggs discovered Campbell's body face down and dialed 911.

The county coroner concluded that Campbell succumbed to two .38 caliber gunshots to the thoracic cavity. The case is currently under investigation.

Campbell, a decorated Vietnam veteran, is survived by his wife, Sally Gale, three sons Dale, Kevin, and Robert, and seven grandchildren.

Article © Hawkelson Rainier. All rights reserved.
Published on 2021-09-20
Image(s) are public domain.
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