Fighting Madly and Nobly Against Death
Is the Quest
b) Full of Tears?
c) Full of Laughter?
e) All of the above
Going Bovine / Libba Bray
Just before dying Alonso Quixano recovers his reason and addresses his family and friends from his deathbed, “I was mad, and now I am sane; I was Don Quixote of La Mancha, and now I am, as I have said, Alonso Quixano the Good. May my repentance and sincerity return me to the esteem your graces once had for me...” Alonso was fifty years old when too much reading—day and night he consumed books of chivalry—and too little sleep deprived him of his reason and he decided to become a knight errant.
Cameron Smith is only sixteen when his study of Don Quixote for the state mandated SPEW (State Prescribed Educational Worthiness) test—Did I mention that Cameron goes to high school in Texas?—is rudely interrupted. His muscles begin to twitch uncontrollably; he collapses in class, after punching a classmate and insulting the teacher. He is diagnosed with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. In animals it’s known as mad cow disease. His brain is deteriorating and he will lose control of his muscles and be subject to dementia and delusions. A gang of eight-foot high fire giants have already chased him, and when he tries to flee he finds the way blocked by, a “Big Dude. Black armor glistening like oil. Spiked Helmet, steel visor. Sword. The light bounces off the sword in arcs and hurts my eyes. Sword.”
But all is not frightening or hopeless. In the hospital he is attended by a nurse named Glory, and awakes to meet one of his classmates in the bed next to his, “Paul Ingacio Gonzales, but everyone calls me Gonzo.” Gonzo is a champion gamer and a bit of a hypochondriac, but he shares Cameron’s love of science fiction movies. Cameron also meets someone that he’s glimpsed briefly before. He wakes up to find her standing at the end of his bed. As he describes her, “I take in the torn fishnets, plaid mini-kilt, shiny riveted breastplate with leather straps at the sides… Her wings are a crazy black-and-white-checkered pattern, like they’ve been spray-painted at a body shop to look like hipster sneakers.” Did I mention that her hair is pink?
He blinks his eyes to make the hallucination go away, but she doesn’t. Then she introduces herself as Dulcie, eats the chocolate pudding from his hospital tray, and tries to enlist him in a mission to save the world and maybe himself by tracking down Dr. X, whose travel between dimensions has opened this universe up to forces of dark energy, including the ones now consuming Cameron’s brain. He tells her this is the most random thing he’s ever heard. She tells him that he has to take Gonzo with him because their fates are connected. He counters, “There’s no such thing as fate.” To which she replies, “Except for random fate.” And he figures, it’s better than just sitting in the hospital bed and waiting.
Alonso Quixano’s quest ends with his death. Will Cameron’s quest take him beyond? Did I mention the yard gnome that’s really a Norse god?