212 - Influence


 "A-ha!" shouts the disheveled man walking on the beach in front of you. Fully aware of your presence, he turns suddenly toward you. His long, unkempt hair flings out like eh skirt of a twirling ballerina as he pivots to face you. The main points at an arrangement of sticks that lies on the sand a few paces away. "Do you know what this is?"

You give the sticks a cursory glance before giving the wild-eyed man an honest answer. "Uhhh... a pile of sticks?"

"...and right you are!" The man agrees with such earnest enthusiasm that at first you're not sure he heard you. "But it's not just any pile of sticks. Observe the pattern they're laid out in. Does it resemble anything...familiar?"

You throw the sticks another quick peek. A part of your mind says this man is strange and dangerous: strangerous, as an after-school special might say if the the people that made after-school specials were anything approaching clever. That part of your brain tells you to cut this conversation off right now and run. You don't; you want to see where this goes.

"Errr... an 'A'?" you answer.

"No, no, no! That's obviously the insignia of the Free Masons! Here, on the beach of all places! Is there nowhere the suckers of their tentacular influence don't take hold?"

"Their tenta-what?" you ask, almost certain that "tentacular" is not a real word.

"Their influence," he explains. His voice tip-toes over the word slowly and carefully, as if he's trying to avoid letting anyone know he's said it. "Their plans, their devices! The reach of the Free Masons is felt far and wide! It creeps into every facet of modern society l and now, it seems, it has infected nature as well! Our sacred sands are sullied by those secretive sons of bitches who would see us all as slaves! How else do you explain such incontrovertible proof of their dark machinations as this?" he asks while pointing again to the pathetic heap of washed-up driftwood on the sand. "Don't you feel it? Don't you feel their influence?"

"Hmmm... no?"M

"Thought I'd finally found a fellow freedom fighter today, my friend. It's clear now I was mistaken. It seems you simply do not understand."

He's right; you don't understand. You hope you never do.