Desert Rock - Cinema shenanigans

Ten minutes after leaving Brickton the mood on the bus started to settle down. Helga sat in the back of the bus with Carlos and the two were exchanging life stories, telling jokes to each other, and in general having a good time. Stavros wondered aloud if Helga had tripped Klaus back in Brickton, staring at Carlos's sneakers like he was looking for blood stains, but she completely ignored the taunting question. In turn the stock broker chose to ignore the happy new couple and turned his attention to the view.

Larry drove across the oak savanna of Con County at a comfortable speed, allowing the passengers to get a glimpse of the occasional deer or elk among the sparse woods. Costas filmed a good deal of the savanna, despite the snickering of the Australian members of the group. Paul and his cousin Mara were truck drivers down under, more precisely they drove road trains armed with kangaroo killers across the enormous Australian savanna where you could often drive in a straight line for several hours without running into a soul. They were unimpressed by both the bus, which they likened to an ant on wheels, and by the Con County oak savanna, which they found so small and boring they could not understand why anyone would bother filming it.

Behind them, Philippe enjoyed the view quite a bit. He was sketching a line drawing of a lone oak standing in a broad stretch of barren earth. `It will make a fine illustration for Gabrielle's article,' he explained. His wife, sleeping tenderly with her head in his lap, stirred at the mention of her name and smiled. Minutes later the pair went to the upper level of the bus to get some sleep. Whether they were able to is uncertain, as the bus shook rather intensely for the next half hour. Larry found it confusing, as he couldn't quite see any bumps on the road.


The oak savanna of Con County ends just a few miles shy of the county's western border. Beyond it lies nothing but a lifeless desert where no one lives, to our best knowledge. Standing right on the edge between them is the town of Desert Rock.

Essentially functioning as a border town, this settlement of twenty thousand souls was founded in 1801 by enthusiastic settlers who thought to get rich when rumors of gold deposits in the area surfaced. By 1820 all hopes regarding this false rumor had evaporated, yet people remained, perhaps because life in Desert Rock was peaceful and quiet. Since the 1930s the most profitable business in the town has been the gas station, serving travelers who aim to cross the desert west of Con County. Yet in recent years the car refueling business started being overshadowed by that provided by an emerging company. Desert Rock is now home to the headquarters of one of Con County's largest electronic retail companies, known as the Hades Corporation. Led by an eccentric millionaire who calls himself Hades, the Corporation thrives in the internet age as a retailer and reseller of computers and other electronic equipment. They also supply their customers with state-of-the-art antivirus software which seems to outperform everything else on the market today.

Some rumors exist that the reason the Hades Corporation's antivirus software is so efficient is that they write the viruses themselves, but the company insists that they are `honest, hard working taxpayers who would never stoop to such despicable tactics just to make a profit, no matter how brilliant this method may be'.


We arrived in Desert Rock just after sunset. Larry parked the bus in the Happy Camper trailer park, where Reaper Travels booked space for us as Desert Rock is sorely lacking in hotels. Keiko was quite happy about this after her experiences at the Gold Star in Brickton. She quickly made her way to the town center in an attempt to sit into a restaurant for some Black Lake trout. Sadly for her, Desert Rock is also sorely lacking in restaurants that serve any kind of fish, except for anchovies.

Most of the other tourists scattered in the town as well, save for Larry who chose to keep an eye on the bus, and Chris, who for some reason was very apprehensive of the idea of staying in Desert Rock.

Paul, Mara, and the French couple opted to pay a visit to the local night club, which bore the ominous name Hell Club. Despite the name, it was a welcoming establishment equipped with a brand new and extremely clean men's room, recently refurbished and equipped with smart toilets and interactive urinals supplied by the Hades Corporation. Paul and Philippe spent a good deal of the night drinking enough beer to keep going back to the men's room to compete for the high scores in the video games of the interactive urinals. Philippe eventually gave up and left the club with Gabrielle. Before the two men finished their duel, Mara had a small incident in the club.

One of the patrons, a man calling himself John, came by our table and started flirting with Mara. She flat out refused the clearly intoxicated man, who kept insisting that he heard her say yes. Gabrielle quietly slipped away and went looking for the bouncer. Within a minute John invaded Mara's personal space to the point where decent folk would be obliged to interfere. I myself could do no such thing, for I was bound to inaction by the code of unbiased journalism, and had to remain the objective observer. Yet my journalistic integrity did not leave me with a bad conscience because Mara headbutted John in the nose, then cracked her knuckles and spent a good three minutes using him as a punching bag.

Eventually Gabrielle did find the bouncer, who promptly ejected the unconscious and badly bruised John from the club. He offered Mara a drink on the house along with the apologies of the club. Mara simply shrugged and said, `happens all the time'.


Since half the group was too tired for an early morning start the next day, we started our tour of Desert Rock just after noon. Our first stop was necessarily a fast food joint called Sandy Burger, where we were refused breakfast and had no choice but to start the day with a heavy lunch. Mara was eager to follow that up with some heavy punches, but fortunately Paul was there to keep her out of trouble.

After lunch we walked down the street to the headquarters of the Hades Corporation. Easily mistaken for a family home, the office operates with a minimal staff. Behind a ground floor window we saw a figure in a purple silk shirt, a favorite of the Corporation's eccentric CEO. He was engaged in a heated telephone argument with someone, hence we dared not knock. Philippe shook his head at the sight of the CEO's purple shirt as we moved on.

We headed for one of the more spectacular sights of Desert Rock, the Screeningator Cinema. The Screeningator is the most famous cinema in town, by virtue of being the only cinema. A giant alligator statue adorns the main entrance, acting as the mascot of this one-link cinema chain.

A sign advertised that the monthly Terrence Blunt Marathon would be happening today. Upon seeing this, Chris, the proud British film critic, spat at the side of the street and glared at the sign like he meant to burn it down with his gaze.

It was at that moment that we should have turned around and walked back to the bus.


It is common knowledge that Terrence Blunt is one of the most hated and most successful film producers in Hollywood today. What is not so well known is that he was born in Desert Rock. The town is extremely proud of this fact, of course, hence the monthly marathon in his honor.

The reason why we should have left as soon as we saw the sign is simple. Terrence Blunt made his fortune by adapting the legend of King Arthur to the silver screen. He made five entries into his series, known as the `Round Table' franchise, which are basically pop corn flicks set in the Arthurian era that turn the characters of the Arthur legend into action heroes. The amount of destruction that takes place in these films, which includes a nuclear explosion decimating Camelot in every installment, makes certain Hollywood film directors blush in shame. The number of scantily clad women in the Round Table movies puts them into direct competition with adult films. Though a huge commercial success, it is widely considered the worst adaptation of the Arthur legend.

Chris, an esteemed film critic, like all other critics in the world, hated the Round Table movies. This was not the problem. The problem was that Chris was born and raised in England, and he loved the original Arthur legend with a passion. To him, Terrence Blunt was the Devil himself, and the Round Table movies were crimes against humanity. And the fans of Terrence Blunt, who were gathered in the parking lot of the Screeningator waiting for the doors to open, were the worst scum of the Earth who should be erased from existence.


Chris took just one step towards the parking lot and we all immediately knew what he meant to do. Philippe tried to stop him but after Chris threatened to hang him by his own intestines next to the Terrence Blunt fans that he was about to subject to this same treatment, Philippe's survival instincts kicked in and he stepped aside.

The disgruntled film critic walked into the parking lot with purpose. The Terrence Blunt fans took no notice, peacefully discussing their favorite scenes. Many of them wore Arthur or Merlin costumes, which infuriated Chris even more. Once he was within fifty yards he yelled at them and gave them the victory sign with his right hand.

`Oi! You potato headed mingers! I'm talking to you! Dirty tossers, how dare you make fun of the sacred King Arthur and his holy Knights of the Round Table?! Your reckoning has come, for I shall send you barmy twats into the bowels of Hell!'

A man wearing an Arthur costume offered a curt response, asking Chris to speak English. The angry film critic's face turned red in a hurry.

`You prats are as thick as two planks! Speak English?! Fancy words coming from you sorry wankers!'

By this point, Costas was filming Chris's tirade, which continued for a further three minutes. The Terrence Blunt fans looked confused and clearly took Chris for a raving lunatic, up until the very end when he flat out called Terrence Blunt the worst film producer in cinema history.

That was when the crowd surrounded Chris, murder raging in their eyes. The words `motherfucker' and `asshole' flew around like bullets in an action film, followed by phrases like `death to the heathen' and `burn the heretic', all of them in the form of literal quotes from the Round Table movies. At this point Stavros offered up a wager to his brother regarding Chris's chances of survival.

The crowd grabbed Chris and dragged him to the middle of the parking lot where they tied him to a light pole. They gathered as much wood as they could find and piled it around him amidst continued `burn the heretic' chants, making use of brooms, discarded crates, baseball bats, and dry branches from nearby trees. By the time they were done, they had a regular pyre built around the fuming film critic, who was still spewing insult after insult at the fans of his nemesis.

Costas swore aloud when the battery of his camcorder ran out just moments before the crowd lit the pyre. Chris's profanity-laden tirade soon turned into screams as the flames bit into his flesh.

Keiko noticed a pair of police officers standing in the far end of the parking lot, watching the scene with visible interest, but showing no signs of taking action. She ran over to them and demanded to know why they were not trying to stop the lynching.

`This is a beautiful reenactment of one of the best scenes in Round Table 2,' one of them said. `The dedication of these fans is admirable. Why would we stop it?'

`Indeed,' the other policeman added, `and it looks so real!'

Keiko gave up and sullenly walked back to the group.


We did not wait around until the end of Chris's unfortunate demise. One of the Terrence Blunt fans took notice of our group and alerted the rest to our presence. As soon as they were convinced that Chris's fate was sealed, they walked towards us chanting `death to all heretics' and waving their cosplay swords.

This time around Costas was the first to turn and run, seeing how he couldn't film anything anyway, but the rest of us caught up to him just fine, well motivated by the loud chanting of the approaching mob behind us.

We found Larry having a cup of coffee by the bus. He was surprised by how quickly we boarded the bus, but once he saw the Terrence Blunt fans behind us he quickly tossed the coffee cup away and jumped into the driver's seat. He took off so fast we barely had the time to fasten our seat belts. He almost ran over a man in Merlin costume, and when one of the angry Round Table fanatics hurled a spear at the bus that almost took out the back window, he looked like he wanted to go back and run them all into the ground. He decided against it, by later admission due to how much paperwork it would have caused to explain the blood stains to the insurance company.

On our way out of Desert Rock we still got a glimpse of the smoke coming from the pyre in the Screeningator's parking lot. From a distance it looked like a barbecue, projecting the image of Desert Rock being a nice, friendly border town which offers fun for the whole family.