The Secret of El Arenque Rojo, Chapter 11: ¡Frijoles!

by Sam Kemmis

Did you buy the Woot 2012 Calendar? If you did, you probably noticed that there's a QR code on every page. Scan the QR code at the beginning of each month for the latest chapter in The Secret of El Arenque Rojo. To recap, in Chapter 1, video store owner Roy Odom found a box of mysterious VHS tapes. In Chapter 2, he started to notice some odd coincidences and symbols in the movies on the tapes. He sought the help of an unusual film professor in Chapter 3; discovered that the implications were bigger than he'd ever imagined in Chapter 4; and had a disquieting dream before being betrayed by a confederate in Chapter 5. The turncoat had a change of heart in Chapter 6... but learned in Chapter 7 that even considering betrayal has its price. Chapter 8 introduced us to a shady new character determined to destroy all evidence. Chapter 9 saw a massive betrayal, leading to to an unlikely joining of forces in Chapter 10. Now, Roy and Drake cruise to the border, with the fate of humanity in the balance...

First they send the dogs.

Up and down the line of idling jalopies the German Shepherds walked, diligently sniffing while their frowzy handlers strut alongside. The dogs were after drugs. The handlers, bribes. Both panted in the relentless noontime sun.

Roy cracked his knuckles anxiously. He had nothing to be nervous about -- a U.S. citizen with a passport wouldn't encounter any problems. But border crossings always unnerved him. Plus, he wasn't crazy about German Shepherds. Ahead in the line, one officer was yelling to another.

"Donde estan los papeles para los Salvadoreños?"

"No sé." The other responded with a shrug.

Something flitted through the edge of Roy's consciousness. A tickle, like a incipient sneeze, brushed through his mind. He tried to isolate it, but it vanished into a mist of diesel fumes.

"Smoke?" Drake asked from the driver's seat.

"What? I'm sorry?" Roy started.

"You smoke?" He held out a pack.

"Oh, no. Thanks."

Drake shrugged, tapped the pack, and withdrew a cheap Mexican cigarette.

"...En la oficina?" The first guard yelled across the double lane.

"No sé, no sé."

"I know this." Roy said, his eyes suddenly alive.

"What's that, amigggo?" Drake asked, lighting his cigarette.

"I know this scene. With the border officers. I've seen this."

Drake said nothing, but raised his eyebrows and cocked his head. He had only known this video-store-owner-cum-academic-vigilate-cum-soothsayer for a matter of hours. Maybe the A/C-free drive had gone to his head.

"The fat officer is going to knock the cap off the skinny one."

The two blustering federales were now nose-to-nose, screaming about the whereabouts of los papeles. The fat one threw down his clipboard, and, true to Roy's prediction, knocked the cap off the other's head.

Drake said nothing. He looked again at his companion, who stared raptly at the unfolding scene.

"Now the skinny one is going to splash his canteen on the fat one."

He did.

"Hey, what's the game here, amigggo?" Drake asked, the cigarette dangling from his lips. He'd seen a lot in his line of work, but his parched brain was beginning to reel at this bizarrely-narrated scene.

"¡Frijoles!" Roy shouted, still staring.

Now Drake was sure: His companion was losing it.

"The film, ¡Frijoles!, this is the climax." Roy began digging through the box of VHS tapes in the backseat and withdrew one with "¡Frijoles!" printed in unprofessional Ariel typeface on the spine. Roy's wild-eyed stare caught the car's 90s-era digital clock -- 12:12.

"They're happening. Now. The films. They're coming true."

Drake, as a rule, spent little time fussing over unknowns. He was a man of action.

"What happens in the rest of ¡Frijoles!?" He asked. Roy chewed his lip for a moment, recalling the film's chronology. A flash of realization crossed his face.

"Oh no..."