[June 18, 1967]
When Donovan woke up again, it was dark outside. He noticed that a monitor was running, keeping track of his heartbeat and body temperature.
He tried getting up again, and this time, the wound seemed to have healed – the pain was much duller now, and he could stand sitting up in bed.
He saw his parents, asleep in a few of the chairs in the room. He still had to wonder what all these weird animals were doing here. Without a doubt, he was not going to be the only person to have to deal with them.
* * *
[June 20, 1967]
“What happened when you were walking in the tall grass, Mr. Silph?” asked the police officer.
“I don’t know,” replied Donovan. “I heard something rustling in the grass, so I decided to check it out. When I went in, suddenly this thing just—it goes, ‘skreeee!’ and almost flies at me. I tried to run away, but it blocked me off, and then slashed me in the back once.”
“And then you said you heard two gunshots?”
“Yes. One of them was scythe-for-arms, and I have no idea where the other one went.”
“Well, we noticed later that the bug had two gunshot wounds, so your uncle probably just shot it again just to make sure it was dead.”
“Where will you take it?” asked Donovan, a lump forming in his throat.
The officer leaned in. “I can’t tell you that, because I don’t even know myself. I heard that the FBI was going to take it to their laboratories.”
* * *
[July 1, 1967]
“Did you hear?” said Karin, Donovan's friend. “Canada is turning 100 years old today!”
“I didn't know,” said Donovan. “Meanwhile, after another three days, America will be turning 191.”
“They're holding a festival here in America too, even in Bayesia Town. Come and celebrate!”
Donovan walked with Karin on the street. Everywhere, people were holding the new Canadian flag – a white flag with two red stripes and a red maple leaf in the middle. Even Donovan's high school was flying a Canadian flag below the stars and stripes. Somebody had even made a flag completely out of hemp – it sported green stripes and another marijuana leaf in the middle.
It was all new to Donovan – he had been taught, as a child, that Canada was still a British country, even though they had their own government. But their independence was slowly growing, and they were even getting close to America, considering they shared a border with them. It had been growing ever since the first World War.
Donovan’s back had healed completely by now – it was only a flesh wound; nothing terribly serious had happened, and after the cut had healed entirely, he was good to leave the hospital after only five days. There was a giant scab on his back that he feared would be there for the rest of his life, but he was thankful that he still had his life, scab or no scab.
The report of the wild bug-like animal, dubbed “The Scyther” by his uncle, had been left to the police, for them to do their work. Donovan had told them everything he knew, which wasn't a lot – at least not any evidence that they didn't already have. But worrying about that could wait – today, he would be a Canadian along with his compatriots.
* * *
“We’re going up north?” said Donovan excitedly, at the dinner table that night. His parents had decided that they would drive the car up to Canada to see the Expo ‘67.
“Why not,” said Josiah. “It’ll be your last time on a trip before you start working with me. Have as much fun as you can while you’re there.”
“When do we start packing?” he asked.
“Right now, if you want. We’ll be going tomorrow, first thing in the morning.”
* * *
[July 2, 1967]
“Welcome to Canada, the country that just turned a hundred,” said the customs guard. “Where are you guys from?”
“Bayesia Town, Michigan,” replied Josiah. “We’re going to see the Expo.”
“I heard it’s quite a sight,” said the guard. “My wife and kids are up there too. You missed all the fireworks. And you’re going to miss them again if you stay there for the Fourth.”
“We don’t mind,” said Josiah. “We’re taking Donovan here out for a spin.”
* * *
They settled in a hotel. Donovan had noticed that at the entrance of the hotel, there were two people there making love to each other, straight out in the open. Donovan ignored them as he walked in.
As he came in, he found a Bible in the main dresser. He was not particularly religious himself, but he did know that there were interesting stories to be had in here as well.
His parents had bought him a new diary for the trip. He opened it, and started writing, putting the Bible aside to read later.
It’s kind of hard to believe, that I’m missing the Fourth of July fireworks for the first time in fifteen years. But today, I’ve made it all the way up here in Canada! Unfortunately, I also missed their fireworks by three days.
We haven’t made it to Montreal yet, but from what I’ve seen already, Canada is a beautiful place. We’ve passed by so much of the untarnished natural landscape that it’s hard to believe such a place could exist. I’ve seen open fields, and there were rabbits leaping through them; and I saw some gorgeous rock formations. Those are the violent beauty that is nature.
It would really be a shame if Canada were to be ravaged like we’ve done to America. In the cities, especially in places like California, there are giant smog clouds that cover the entire city, making it essentially invisible from the point of view of a visitor looking from outside the city. But alas, I’ve heard accounts of people clear-cutting the forests and fields in order to be able to grow their grain and make their paper. I hope that the computer can put a stop to all this.
He stopped writing, and decided to turn to read the Bible. He turned to a random page, and found himself at the beginning of the book of Ezekiel. He started reading.
“...and in the fire was what looked like four living creatures. In appearance their form was human, but each of them had four faces and four wings. Their legs were straight; their feet were like those of a calf and gleamed like burnished bronze...”
Creatures with four faces? It certainly seemed like something only somebody on drugs would see.
* * *
[July 5, 1967]
“So this is the Expo,” said Donovan, when he finally arrived at the front gate. There were so many things he wanted to do while he was here; he even brought his Polaroid camera with him, and a whole duffel bag full of film, to last him the whole trip.
“You think you can handle yourself from here?” asked Josiah. “We’ll meet back at the hotel at six o’clock.” With that word, Donovan ran off, blending into the crowd.
He wandered around, taking in an initial look at the entire site. The whole world seemed to be represented at this fair – dotting the landspace were several sites dedicated to countries such as France, Japan, and Ethiopia, places that he would like to visit eventually. There were also many exhibits dedicated to the world of the future, including some based on technology that Donovan made a note that he would have to look at in detail later.
Then, something caught Donovan’s eye – a very strange building, the composition of which seemed to defy gravity itself. It was a stack of many cubelike structures, joined together at the corners and the edges, sticking out of each other at seemingly dangerous projections. There were windows plastered on the side of almost every wall, and floors where floors ought really not to be. The whole ordeal seemed to be more of a work of art than any house he could imagine living in.
As he walked toward this strange set of cubes that made up a building, he saw a poster, explaining the increased demand for space in the future, which would make a very cramped but efficient living space necessary. It was written in both English and French, a language that Donovan had some very limited knowledge of. Donovan himself had decided to study Spanish in school, and could hold a conversation with an office clerk in Mexico if he tried hard enough.
As he walked inside, he found that the hallways themselves were quite cramped, but made very efficient use of the space. The furniture was very simplistic but bright in its design, looking almost like the inside of a boat cabin, and it seemed that no detail was left unclipped. It looked nothing like the eloquently furnished house that Donovan lived in, a house that was built in the 1890s but still stood to this day due to continual renovations. It was joked in Donovan’s house that their house was like Theseus’ ship – every part of it had been replaced, so it wasn’t the same ship anymore.
Donovan decided that the house looked better from a distance, so he left the house and walked to the outside, passing by a couple who were looking with dismay at the almost extravagantly simple design of the rooms.
Donovan walked to the outside, where hundreds of tourists were also snapping pictures. He took out his camera, and snapped two photos of it. When the second one developed, he noticed that there was a purplish-black blur on the right-hand side of it. “What in the world?” He looked inside the camera to check for dirt in the camera, if only as a placebo.
He then shook the second photo a little bit, thinking that perhaps the film had not developed properly. Contrarily, the blur actually became much better defined. It seemed to be the tail end of some sort of ghost.
* * *
Next on the plan was the futuristic exhibits, which also happened to show technologies that were already present, as well as explaining how human populations were taking over the world.
One of the things in the pavilion was a show about antimatter, quantum mechanics, and the theory of relativity. This caught Donovan’s eye, so he went to see what all the fuss was about. The room had a giant mural, that read from left to right. First, a timeline on the discoveries of Einstein with the photoelectric effect and the theory of relativity – then, an exposition on the nature of black holes and how they could suck up anything, even light.
It was only then that Donovan noticed that this exhibit was relatively empty. While everywhere else was bustling with people who flowed in and out of the pavilions, this lone exhibit did not draw the attention of so many people.
This seemed good to Donovan, who used the extra breathing space to continue reading the mural. Einstein had died when Donovan was only three years old. It seemed that all the great discoveries had happened when Donovan had not even been born – everything in their textbooks now was discovered at least fifty, if not a hundred or even more than three hundred years ago.
Donovan looked up – he had reached the end of the mural while thinking quietly to himself. He opened the door and left the exhibit.
* * *
By now, it was almost two o’clock – it was lunchtime. Donovan decided to avoid the food being offered at the Expo itself, and wander the streets of Montreal in search of some local delicacies.
He came across a local store that was selling a dish that he had never heard of or seen before – it was a combination of French fries and some cheese curds along with what appeared to be gravy poured generously over the top.
As he walked to the counter, the server said, “Comment ça va?”
Donovan did not understand French, so he tried speaking in English. “How are you?”
The cashier’s eyes lit up in recognition, and he said, in somewhat fragmented English, “Oh, you are here for the Expo, is it not?”
Donovan replied, “Yes, I am. Say, what is that thing you have with French fries and cheese and gravy there?”
“Like you to try it?” asked the cashier. “We have a sale today – a large plate for fifty cents.”
“It looks good,” said Donovan, handing the cashier an American one-dollar bill.
“Right away, monsieur,” said the cashier, giving back fifty cents in Canadian change.
* * *
The combination was very unconventional, but was very delicious once Donovan tried it. He ate the whole plate, still beguiled at such a strange taste for French fries. The only things Donovan had ever eaten with French fries were ketchup, vinegar, and fish. And even then, it was only when his parents took him out to eat it – he had never wanted to buy those foods himself.
He looked at one of the two quarters that the cashier had given him – it was a silvery coin, with a wildcat on one side, and Queen Elizabeth on the other. He pocketed these, intending to keep them as souvenirs of his trip here.
Once he left the store, he checked the town clock – it was three in the afternoon. As he walked back to the Expo, he heard a voice calling out to him. “Psst. Hey.”
He turned around, to see a circle of seven hippies sitting down on the sidewalk, legs crossed, with what appeared to be a small animal in their midst. “Yeah, you. The consumerist.”
“What do you want with me?” asked Donovan, walking up to them.
“Have a joint,” said one of the hippies, scootching over to make a spot for him.
“No thanks,” said Donovan, turning to walk away. Suddenly, one of the hippies reached out and grabbed his arm, easing him down. “You need to take a break from all your hustling, man. Don’t you know that just following your life the way it is is submitting yourself to the government?”
One of the hippies then rolled a joint for him, and handed him some matches. “Just one. It’ll be good for you.”
Donovan hardly saw how a drug could be good for him, but he had heard reports that marijuana was not harmful to your system like cocaine or tobacco was; he decided to humour them this once and take a drag.
Once he breathed out, he felt no different – however, he did not feel the impulse to cough up the smoke, either. “So... that was it?” he said. “Hardly anything happened.”
“It takes a while.”
Donovan took this time to have a closer look at the creature – it was a saurian creature, with what appeared to be a budding plant attached to its back.
“Oh, that thing? We found it off the street,” said the hippie three spaces to his right. “It looked like a dinosaur with a bulb on its back, so we named it a ‘bulbasaur’. It makes some sweet-smelling stuff, man.”
“So... what do you guys do besides smoke pot all day?” asked Donovan.
“We also play cards.” The hippie straight to his left took out a deck of cards. “Do you know how to play poker?”
“Mm hmm,” said Donovan, who started feeling... a bit happy. “Let’s play.”
They dealt out the cards, and started bluffing about what cards they had. “I’ll bet ten beads that I have a better hand than you,” said the hippie three spaces to Donovan’s left.
“I’ll return the favour,” replied Donovan. He felt like he could be floating in heaven now... he placed a quarter in the pot, and the hippies immediately returned it to him. “No money here,” they said.
Donovan looked at his hand – a full house. How lucky is that, he thought.
“Let’s show our hands,” he said, finally, laying down his hand on the ground. “I have a full house. What about you?”
“My house is empty right now,” drawled the hippie straight across from him, laying down his hand. Donovan thought his voice felt a little detached from his self. “I’ve got a pair.”
One by one, the hippies all showed their hands, and inevitably, Donovan won.
“Since you’re the new guy, you get a prize from us,” said the hippie to his left. He pulled a small square tablet out of his pocket, and handed it to Donovan. “Place it on your tongue,” he said. “And have a nice trip.”
Donovan placed the mystery substance on his tongue, now oblivious to his conscience. Almost immediately, he noticed that it tasted sour, like a strong acid.
Suddenly, the hippies’ faces blurred, as Donovan felt like he was shooting out of his body. He saw the creature that he had read about in the book of Ezekiel – with four faces and four wings. But each face was the face of a snake instead. He moved around it, and the faces grew in size as he moved behind them. He turned around, and they were normal size again. Strange.
Then, the faces melted away into what appeared to be that yellow mouse that he had seen just three weeks ago. “Pi-ka!” It cried.
Suddenly, the colours brightened, and a white circle of light was in front of his eyes, growing in size. He tried to look away, but his eyes were glued to that mesmerizing, pulsing light. It was reaching out to him, looking to envelop him in its warm, loving embrace...
It finally surrounded him completely, and the sheer euphoria that he felt could not be described in words. It was as if he was dead already, floating away to heaven...
...but then the darkness came. His thoughts about what his parents must think, and what his uncle and all the people in Bayesia Town must think about his taking a psychoactive drug... a spot of darkness appeared in the light, and it magnified upon itself – ten, twenty, thirty times over in a second, until he plummeted out of that light. No, he thought. No, I must get back there—
He suddenly woke up in a cold sweat. “Whoa, man,” said one of the hippies. “You were out for like four hours.”
He sat up and watched. The bulb-a-saur, as the hippies had called it, was still sitting there, watching the ring of people intently.
“I know I didn’t give you that much,” said the hippie to his left. “Sorry about that, man.”
Donovan then heard seven chimes of the clock. Seven? He was late!
“It’s been nice meeting you guys,” he said. “My name’s Donovan. Donovan Silph.”
“Just Donovan,” said the hippie who had been sitting to his left. “My name’s Armin.”
“Take care, Armin,” said Donovan, as he got back up. Armin just flashed the peace sign as he walked away.