By Ernest Hogan
An extract from the novel High Aztech:
I thought I had died, but it was an ixmictiante flowery death, in a battle with a proud Aztecan warrior, so I was happy. I knew it wasn’t Mictlantecuhtli and Mictlancíhuatl that were waiting for me this time. I knew that once my soul had fled my virus and drug-infested body, it would fly high into the sky, to where the sun rises, to Tonatiuhicán, the Eastern House of the Sun, the celestial home of Tonatiuh, Tezcatlipoca and Huitzilopochtli. For sure all three of those warrior-gods would be there to greet me, and congratulate me on such a fine, flowery death. They would accept my soul into their home, and I would change into a Tonatiuhototl, a fiery sun-bird. I would flap my flaming wings and go off to join all my millions of squadrons of brother warriors, and we would recall all the glorious battles we fought in life until sunrise, when we would go forth and chase away the darkness and the demonic spirits that live within it.
I was happy. I thanked the gods for the mind-altering virus that made the Aztecan religion real to me. I could hardly wait.
But it didn’t happen.
The music was coming from a bulky, antique-looking North American–made home entertainment system. On the non-holo screen appeared a woman with too much makeup, monstrous false eyelashes and a beehive hairdo that looked like a hot-air balloon covered in spun silver; she sang with religious awe. A phone number with a USA area code was at the bottom of the screen. They must have had a satellite hookup to a north-of-the-border network.
I was in a body bag that—thank the gods—was air-conditioned. Whoever plucked me out of the embrace of a flowery death had placed me on a couch that was upholstered in a fabric decorated with screaming bald eagles on a field of red and white stripes and patches of blue speckled with white stars. An American flag hung from the ceiling, right over me, like a gaudy guillotine blade. The room had no windows, like a basement or bomb shelter. On a brick wall painted shocking pink was a portrait of Jesus Christ, but not the usual, dark, bleeding, masochistic-looking Mexican Christ; this Christ showed no pain or suffering in his burning blue eyes. His neatly-combed hair and trimmed beard were almost blond, his overdeveloped muscles strained as if he were about to tear himself off his cross and machine-gun down any non-believers that were within range—this was a red-blooded, hamburger-eating, all-American Christ.
It scared me xixatl-less.
I fumbled around for my zumbador. It was still in my hand, held in a white-knuckled grip that had molded its shape deep into my flesh. They—whoever they were—couldn’t take it away from me, but my hand was so cramped I could barely move it. A loud click brought my attention to the gaping barrel of a large pistol that was only centimeters from my face.
“This is an American-made .44 Magnum,” said a man with a thick gringo accent, “one of the most powerful handguns ever made—and it can take your head clean off. I wouldn’t move if I were you.”
It reminded me of a line in some huehue Hollywood movie where some guy goes around committing mass murder to preserve law, order, and the American Way of Life. I didn’t move.
“Let go of the weapon,” said the Magnum man, whose eyes were just as blue and intense as those of the all-American Christ in the painting, even though he was wearing an obsolete government-surplus sterile-suit that made his face look blurry.
The screen switched to a recording of heretics being burned at the stake on the White House lawn as a crowd of onlookers held hands and sang.
“There, Xólotl,” said another voice—a woman’s—that was familiar, but difficult to place, as if it were distorted in some way, “don’t touch that Sony again; Johnny will be pointing the Magnum at you at all times, and he’ll gladly blow your head off.”
The woman was also wearing a government-surplus sterile-suit, and was sitting on another couch; this one decorated with a geometric pattern of Stealth bombers. I could hardly make out her pretty güeda face through her faceplate. She seemed familiar.
“Do I know you?” I asked. She laughed, a familiar laugh, shaking her head, showing strawberry-blond hair, crinkling up her blue eyes. “Why, Xólotl, or should I say Zolotl,” her accent changed, got more gringo, “don’t you recognize me?”
The accent made the connection for me. “Mary Jane! It’s you!”
“Yes,” she said, her accent growing less gringo, “it’s me—your illegal-alien housekeeper.” “Your Spanish—it’s so good!”
“Yes, I speak the language quite well, but we’ve found that the American accent works well for our purposes. You Mexicans are so quick to believe that anybody with blond hair and blue eyes is an illegal alien and what you like to call a ‘gringo’ accent is a sign of mental deficiency. You don’t know how much important information we access because you people don’t think it’s possible for us to understand when you speak Spanish to each other.”
“You’re a spy!”
“No kidding. Did you really think that a young woman with my looks would be working as a housekeeper?”
“Illegals desperately need money.”
Both Mary Jane and Johnny laughed. The .44 shook dangerously; I kept my eyes locked on it.
“Sure,” Mary Jane said, “the traitors who have been fleeing America since it became a Christian nation are broke, but we are agents of the United States Government, and we have all that they and our Lord can provide.”
“The same government that is building the Tortilla Curtain sent you across it?” It seemed ironic to me.
“The Southern Border Wall is necessary to keep the pagan influences of your country from infecting our Christian culture, and keep the traitors from coming down here and being unfairly exploited by your people.”
“But I’ve seen all kinds of interviews with illegals who are grateful for the opportunities provided in the border zone, not to mention those coming to get safe, therapeutic abortions, and those fleeing your Christian oppression.”
That got to Johnny, who was having trouble keeping up with this Spanish conversation. He shook the .44 in my face and said, “Fighting Satanic influences is not oppression! Traitors and witches should be hunted down and burned at the stake! It is the will of God!”
Mary Jane said some things to him in English, too fast for me to follow. He calmed down, but kept the .44 aimed at my head.
“Johnny is new here,” she explained. “He is a true believer, but is not used to dealing with pagans. He is only assisting in this interrogation, but if you do not cooperate, I will let him kill you, and he will enjoy it.”
He looked as if he could enjoy it.
“Go ahead, make my day,” he said.
It would be a flowery death, for sure, but I didn’t want to make Johnny’s day. He was too much of an ocotitotl. My death was too important to be marred by his participation.
“As for the traitors you’ve seen interviewed,” she went on, “they are obviously not true Christian Americans, but immoral criminals, seeking refuge in this pagan country.”
“Which is why the Tortilla Curtain will never be finished, because it is blown apart as fast as it’s built,” I said.
“The sabotage is the work of your people.”
“I’ve heard it was the work of freedom-loving Americans.”
“Freedom is obedience to the Lord,” said Johnny.
“Whoever it is who is delaying the completion of the Southern Border Wall is in league with Satan,” Mary Jane said. “They will be defeated, and Christian American culture will be preserved until the Lord comes.”
“Yes,” I said, “all you pure white, güedo gringos waiting for another Armageddon—wasn’t the last one good enough for you?”
The screen now showed an evangelist with a big white pompadour, ranting like a lunatic chastising misbehaving children, looking as if he were about to get violent. The live audience ate it up.
“The limited nuclear conflict in the Middle East was brought about by man, not God,” Mary Jane said. “And don’t think that Christian America is a racist nation. A lot of our best Christians are not blond, or even white. Some are black, others are of Mexican descent and darker than you. Why, I’m not even the güeda you think I am!”
“What?” To me she was white-bread America. How could a strawberry blonde named Mary Jane Smith be anything else?
“Before I came to Mexico for my assignment, I had dark brown hair and olive skin—in fact I could have even passed for a Mexican. I’m of Italian-Arab descent, and Mary Jane Smith is not my real name, but you believe it because of your crude pagan beliefs and prejudices about America.”
“Quetzalcóatl!” I swore, unable to help myself. “You had yourself changed! In Guadalajara!”
“Yes. They have made some remarkable advances in cosmetic surgery techniques.”
“You, your friend Itzcóatl and all the rest of your Mexico City—”
“Tenochtitlán.” I was compelled to correct her.
“Mexico City,” she said. “I call it Mexico City. I’m pretty good at Spanish, but I find Aztec—”
“Náhuatl.” Again, I was compelled.
“I can’t even begin to pronounce Na-whatchacallit. Anyway, would all your Mexico City sophisticates want a fashionable gringa housekeeper who wasn’t a blonde?”
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen one that wasn’t a blonde.”
“And now you know why. Your prejudice formed the myth, so you hire us and say high-risk things in front of us, thinking that we’re incapable of understanding. You’d be surprised what we know about your friend Itzcóatl and his Surrealist Terrorist Voodoo Network—a Satanic front if there ever was one!”
“Was that where you found out about me and . . . “ I wasn’t sure if I should say it.
“The virus?” Her smile beamed through her faceplate. “Yes, we know about it; Itzcoatl knows about it too, but we didn’t find out about it from him. Our agents are everywhere in Mexico City, doing domestic work—and listening.”
I thought about everywhere I had seen gringos cleaning up: friends’ houses, offices; and what about Ralph, the Garbage Queen’s butler? They were everywhere. What they must know!
A tour of a concentration camp for unbelievers in Nevada flashed onto the screen.
“So,” I said, “what do you want with me?” Johnny shook his .44. “Tell us all you know about the virus!”
I shook my head. “I don’t know much. Most of what I’ve learned about it is what people like you have told me.”
“Where did you contract the virus?” Mary Jane asked, no longer smiling.
“I’m not sure—I think it was in my apartment.”
“And from whom?” She began to look the way she did when I insisted on doing something in a place that she had to clean.
“I think it was Cóatliquita. Yes, it was her. I was in bed with Patiyonena, and Cóatliquita came in and kissed me.”
“Cóatliquita.” She frowned at my morals and tried to scratch her chin through her helmet. “We know her. She’s deeply involved in the virus conspiracy.”
“Virus conspiracy?” That never occurred to me.
“Of course,” she said, looking at me as if I were extremely stupid, “where else could such an abomination come from? A conspiracy—no doubt led by Satan himself.”
“I thought it was a gift from the gods.”
Johnny’s eyes bugged out as he screamed, “Your false idols do not exist, except in your perverted imagination! There is only one God!”
Mary Jane nodded, and gestured for him to back off. “He’s right, you know, this diabolical virus is Satan’s work, but God—the one, true God—is also at work in Mexico City; we’ve found another virus, one that brings Him into a soul just as yours pollutes with your particular brand of pagan idolatry.”
“No, it couldn’t be!” I silently asked all the gods to help me.
“You can’t deny the truth, Xólotl,” she said, holding up a small vial. “Here is the Christian virus. It also has been circulating through Mexico City.”
“That’s why there’s been all that rioting!” My mind worked fast.
“Yes, the false and true religions are fighting it out,” Johnny said. “And guess who is going to win?”
“Our gods do have yours outnumbered,” I said—it seemed so logical.
Johnny growled; the .44 shook.
Mary Jane coolly plugged the vial into a small spray gun. “We shall see, Xólotl.” She walked over to me and aimed the spray gun at the body bag’s air conditioner.
“What are you doing?” I had an idea: I hoped I was wrong.
“You are going to be the subject of a little experiment,” she said, her finger on the spray gun’s trigger. “No doubt, in the riots, people with each of the viruses have come in contact with each other, contracting both. We have a theory that the Christian virus cancels out and destroys the pagan virus, just as good tends to always defeat evil.”
“It is the wrath of God,” said Johnny.
“We are going to test this theory on you,” she said. “Since yours is the most advanced case of the pagan virus we know of, we will prove that the power of Jesus Christ is greater than the lies of Aztec paganism.”
“No!” I screamed, and struggled to move away, but the body bag was a tight fit; it even kept me from fumbling for my zumbador.
“Hold still,” she said.
I didn’t, so Johnny clicked the safety on his .44 and pistol-whipped me with it.
“Careful,” Mary Jane said. “Don’t break open the body bag!”
The bag didn’t break. Soon my head was throbbing, and some pretty nasty lumps were swelling up under my scalp. I couldn’t fight anymore; I was ashamed at failing as a warrior.
Mary Jane pulled the trigger. A mist full of the Christian virus entered the air conditioner and was soon bathing me in its cool, wet presence.
I held my breath. Closed my eyes. Thought of the Moslem African who had been forced to touch me. Would I be soon praying to an alien god, with tears in my eyes?
Suddenly there was a loud thud. The room shook. The power was shut off, leaving us in darkness darkness except for the fading afterglow of the TV screen.
“We’re under attack!” said Mary Jane.
Johnny clicked the safety off his .44 and said, “I’ll hold them off.”
Mary Jane said, “Oh my God,” and I think she really meant it.
Lights from moving sources flooded down the stairs, showing Johnny sprawled, blood leaking from several holes in his sterile-suit.
Mary Jane wept hysterically.
Several people in mirror-finished sterile-suits came down the stairs. They kicked Johnny’s corpse out of the way. Each sterile-suiter carried an FN-15 assault rifle mounted with a flashlight.
When they put some hand restraints on Mary Jane, she was too broken up to resist. A couple of them picked me up and carried me out. Their flashlights illuminated the all-American Christ. I kept thinking about what a warrior Jesus Christ must have been. To be nailed to a cross like that has to be a flowery death, every bit as much as having your heart cut out. Jesus was a warrior, and his long hair could easily be tied into a warrior’s topknot. Now he must surely live in Tonatiuhicán and fly on flaming wings with every sunrise.
Christianity wasn’t replacing my Aztecan faith—it was combining with it! Just like the way my ancestors worshipped the gods in the guise of Christian saints. The way the Virgin of Guadalupe is really Cóatlicue in disguise. It was like when I asked Itzcóatl why a Surrealist-Voodoo-Aztecan eclectic like him would marry a woman who would ultimately divorce him and become a Catholic nun; he leered and said, “Religions fight, but they also fuck!”
Ernest Hogan’s High Aztech is available on Amazon.