Playing a game of Go at the end of the world....


It was early autumn when the mutant child had been born at the Rio Frio Valley Medical Center in Rio Frio, CO.  With its four extra arms, two extra feet and two extra eyes, Artemus Magnussen had declared the child the reincarnation of the mythic apocalyptic Buddha, Maitreya. Of course, Magnussen got his Buddhas confused, as Maitreya is not purported to have an abundance of extremities or eyes. Instead, he was thinking of Avalokitsvara, a Bodhisattva with a thousand arms and a thousand eyes who can touch and see deep into the spiritual core of all living beings. However, the Avalokitsvara legend coming to life would not sell as many books as the Maitreya one, so he decided to simply assert that Maitreya had been reborn and the Universe was on the verge of utter and redemptive annihilation. And so hundreds of his followers had converged into the town of Rio Frio with no plan or direction other than being angry and volatile, and with an inarticulate desire to make a lot of noise. Some of them thought they might try to kill the mutant child in order to prevent the end of times. But, for the most part, a general, mobbish hissy-fit just sounded like a good idea to most of them.

Through some kind of act of bureaucratic nihilism, El Crow had gotten a position as a  "pilot" with the Rio Frio Valley Medical Center. His friend, Manny Furious, who also worked at the hospital had gotten him the job. A pilot was just a secretary who only did two of the secretary's typically numerous duties--he sat at the front desk and greeted incoming patients, clients and customers, and then, having ascertained the purpose of their visit, would literally point them in whatever direction they needed to go. That was all. And for completing those two duties with a decidedly modest competence, he was paid 1.5 times more than the actual secretaries.

The Powers That Be within the hospital's fatalistic bureaucracy had determined that the Medical Center needed several of these "pilots" to increase "efficiency" even at the cost of well over six figures to employ these assholes.

Several days after the birth of the mutant, El Crow was sitting at the front desk of the east wing of the hospital and  playing a game of Go with his friend, Pedolo--a man of obscure Eastern European origin who spoke with a thick accent in a high pitched meow and who also just happened to have a sentient head wound on the top of his skull that spoke with a more masculine tenor of the same accent.  The two (three?) had learned the game from an old Asian man who worked--usually drunk or hungover-- at the deli at the local Safeway who went by the name of Ji Gong and who insisted he was the very Ji Gong of Chinese legend. Neither El Crow nor Pedolo (nor the sentient head wound) were certain that the man was even Chinese, but they weren't sure it even mattered.

Anyhow, Magnussen's disciples had convalesced into a vulgar, foul-smelling mob in the hospital's parking lot, demanding...well, again, they didn't know what they were demanding. They were simply mad, both emotionally and psychologically. Again, a few of them managed half-certain demands of access to the child so that they could murder it, but they couldn't have actually expected their demands to be met. Could they?

 ...Considering the scene outside, Pedolo's sentient head wound had just declared to El Crow its intentions to become an avowed nihilist.

"Nothing matters," the head wound whined.

"Yes," said El Crow. "Including your bullshit fucking decision."

"Exactly."

"You know," El Crow continued, while awaiting Pedolo to make a move on the playing board. "I would bask much more enthusiastically in the downfall of the Christian tradition if it hadn't been at least partially attributable to a handful of po-faced, smug, miserable German assholes."

At that moment, historical black and white mug shots of Schopenhauer, Nietzsche and Uwe Boll all strobed through his mind and he visibly winced.

Pedolo shrugged. While his sentient head wound seemed to grasp El Crow's allusion, it was almost certainly above Pedolo's head. Pedolo was wearing a patient's hospital gown. Because of his condition he was something of a regular resident of the hospital. Not because of the head wound, per se, but because of a much more complex and mysterious condition whence the sentient head wound was a mere manifestation of.

Pedolo, who was playing white in the game, finally made a move. El Crow couldn't tell if it was a skillful move or not because Ji Gong had only taught them how to play, but hadn't bothered to teach them any of the intricacies of strategy or in-game tactics. El Crow began to ponder his own move now.

"Why do you try so hard?" asked the sentient head wound.

El Crow didn't respond.

"You know, it doesn't mean anything if you lose to Pedolo," the head wound said.

"I know. You're a nihilist now," said El Crow.

"No. I just mean that it doesn't mean you're dumber than him or anything. There are people much dumber than you are who are much better than you at this game. There are also people much smarter than you whom you could probably beat. It's just a game. It doesn't say anything about you as a person."

El Crow shrugged it off.

At that moment, a black SWAT team van the size of a small aircraft carrier, and just as well armed, crash-landed into the mob outside, hitting its breaks hard and squealing like a boor in mid-labor. Military-grade SWAT team members dressed in black body armor and carrying big, black sticks, began to beat the shit out of all of Magnussen's followers, who shrieked in horrible sounds of pure terror and pain. A smoke bomb had gone off somewhere and El Crow, Pedolo and Pedolo's head wound observed the chaos flickering through the streams of gray, choking gas.

"The ER's going to be busy," mused the sentient head wound.

El Crow and Pedolo both nodded as El Crow made his next move.

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