I would like to acknowledge the help and encouragement of my wife, Amanda, who read multiple drafts and provided excellent and important feedback, and who helped me to secure the time and space to work on this project. Also, thanks to Mark Leue who provided numerous encouraging comments and who recognized the underlying theme of the book, owing in part to our shared misspent youth, on the first read.
This is entirely a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real persons living or dead is purely coincidental. Much of the story takes place in Africa's Western Rift Valley in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo.
This book is dedicated to the members of the Secular Student Alliance and other, similar organizations in the secular and humanist communities.
The incidents recounted in this story are true. This manuscript was found on a boat floating in a lake in Northern Minnesota. There were no living souls found on that boat, yet the people who found the manuscript claim to have had a strong sense that they were being watched. The incidents associated with the story told here are still under investigation but it has been classified as Top Secret by INTERPOL. If you find yourself in possession of a copy of this manuscript you are required by international law to hand it over to the most readily available federal or national authorities in the country you are in, unless you are in the Congo, in which case you should burn the manuscript immediately. But actually, it is probably too late for you.
The boat was prone to sway a little with the chop, and would lurch abruptly when Big Ollie reached for tackle or bait, or his beer, or cast his line, which was rigged with a Dancing Norwegian and a medium size leech. The other two anglers, Leslie and Dave, were less disruptive when they toyed with their rods and reels or tossed a jig or lure. The walleye were not biting at all, but the mosquitoes were. It was a typical day on the lake.
Archer Mallows did not fish. About 50 years old, tall, trim, tanned and looking worn but not spent, he lounged in the stern propped against the gunwale and watched the younger men, stoic as they faced their poor fortune. Mallows was the owner of the boat, and the elder man to whom the others looked. He was the only one among them who had traveled much beyond the tired old route between a Twin Cities home and a cabin at the lake, and that was fine with them. They had the comfort of a predictable and safe life, and sometimes he would tell them stories of his past wanderings from which they could pretend to share adventure. Just before doing so...before telling a story...there would always be a brief, enigmatic sentence no one would understand.