This Could Be the First of a Wave of Crossword-Loving Boy Scouts
by DAN BROWN
Well-liked census taker Bill Sparkman staggered through the verdant greenery of Kentucky's outdoor wilderness. He, a substitute teacher and Boy Scout leader, lunged for the nearest tree he could see, a Green Ash Fraxinus pennsylvanica. Grabbing the barked trunk, the fifty-one-year-old man flung the Appalachian deciduous into his hands until bark tore from the tree and Sparkman collapsed backward in a heap beneath the canopy.
A voice spoke, chillingly close. Who is that voice? Sparkman wondered. From fifteen feet away, it said, "Do not move, Fed."
"Fed?" asked Sparkman, who looked exactly like himself playing a census worker in a movie, questioningly.
"As in Federal Agent," hissed the voice through the clear afternoon air. "A conspirator against the liberty of this country, a conspiracy that pre-dates the creation of the Federal Government of the United States of America with the signing of the law of the Declaration of Independence, by Adam Weishaupt of the Bavarian Illuminati, in 1776."
On his hands and knees keeping it cool, the census-taker completely froze, turning his head slowly to avoid the torrents of his own sweat pouring into his mouth. If only there were some form of breathable water, like in the movie The Abyss, he thought.
Only fifteen feet away, to the left of another deciduous tree that loses leaves in autumn, the mountainous silhouette of his breathtakingly near attacker—probably a real mountain, mused the terrified Sparkman, to be that size—stared through the flapping leaves. His shadow glowered imperiously. Not a thing stirred. He was broad and tall, with ghost-pale skin and thinning white hair. His irises were pink with dark red pupils. Sparkman, 51, could see it all.
I, your intrepid reporter, could not. I learned this all later. (One could picture me a lot like a college professor, specifically Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones as Professor Henry Jones. But more like Professor Henry Jones from Raiders of the Lost Ark—not The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, when he's older. One could also picture me looking a lot like my picture, which should be at the top of the page, above. As a professor, one would imagine I am well acquainted with the scientific method, specifically the field of Methodology, in which I have Mastery. My 4,500-volume library is filled with books, one imagines, many of them critical of Methodology, but far more with Methodology in them.)
Completely transfixed, I moved aside the tentacle of the Kentucky Blue Ridge Giant Squid that I was hiding behind and looked peeringly at the attacker. He turned his back to me and worked with a smirk of cruelty, raising a banner over the strung-up Sparkman, and stripping him nude until all his clothes were off. Sparkman was was bound with a bolo tie. The attacker was wearing a campaign hat on his head. On the banner, I couldn't make out the words.
"W-w-w-w-w-why are you doing this to me?" stuttered Sparkman, nervous and afraid.
"And now," roared the attacker, "I write the word 'FED' on you to invoke the power of its opposite. It is an ambigram, an expression of the truthful universality of real words, summoning their meaning across all four winds. I write what you, Sparkman, who were an Eagle Scout as a child, should have known was your true goal. To become 'Def.' To drop fresh shit like every single day."
A thunderbolt lit the night sky, illuminating the attacker's banner, blattering rain. In giant bold capitals, it read: WOW.
"B-b-b-but... how could you know I was an Eagle Scout? We only just met by happenstance as I was carrying out my duties as a census worker," said Sparkman, father of two and a cancer survivor, in mortal fear.
"You forget, Sparkman," hissed the voice. "I am your mother!"
As she stuffed the red Eagle Scout tie in his mouth, I heard his muffled pleas ringing through the silence. And then, with a dawning of pure recognition, I understood what it meant. Everything, the sign, the act, everything. FED/DEF was not the only ambigram on display in this sinister Baden-Powellesque ceremonial rite.
WOW, I realized, is upside-down for MOM.
Now, one cannot see your expression as you read this via the cathode-ray tube of a laptop connected to a web server via file-transfer protocol, but one could just run his hand along the brim of his Stetson hat and—excuse one—byte and guess that you're totally astonished, with your mouth open in jawdropped surprise and your eyes wide with startlement. One bets you've never heard a story that scary before.
You have? OK, well, I bet you've never been to bed with a yoga master, then.