Did you buy the Woot 2012 Calendar? If you did, you probably noticed that there's a QR code on every page. Scan the QR code at the beginning of each month for the latest chapter in The Secret of El Arenque Rojo. To recap, in Chapter 1, video store owner Roy Odom found a box of mysterious VHS tapes. In Chapter 2, he started to notice some odd coincidences and symbols in the movies on the tapes. He sought the help of an unusual film professor in Chapter 3; discovered that the implications were bigger than he'd ever imagined in Chapter 4; and had a disquieting dream before being betrayed by a confederate in Chapter 5. The turncoat had a change of heart in Chapter 6... but learned in Chapter 7 that even considering betrayal has its price. Chapter 8 introduced us to a shady new character determined to destroy all evidence. Chapter 9 saw a massive betrayal, leading to to an unlikely joining of forces in Chapter 10. As Roy and Drake cruised to the border in Chapter 11, Roy suddenly remembered what the movies had foretold…
The mammoth wave crested over the roofs and spires, crashed onto the panicked villagers, mocked the folly of human endeavor with its fury. As the churning waters settled into their new level, the detritus of civilization already dissolving below, a single object bobbed atop them: a sombrero.
The audience cheered. Their whistles, their roars, their howls rang from the adobe walls of the buildings around the square. Roy Odom slowed his pedaling on the stationery bike that powered the VCR and TV, and the ending title card of ¡Frijoles! flickered into black.
"That one I always love, Mister Roy," old Perro Lanudo grinned through teeth uneven in color and depth, like ancient tile. He held up a battered but mostly intact plastic bottle, a weathered wrapper still clinging in bits, "Mello Yello" still visible if you knew how to see it. "You drink my xtabentún, please? I make it myself."
"It's a classic," Roy smiled back. He took a pull of the ancient honey homebrew, a sweet sunburn briefly scorching his throat and gut. "The movie and the xtabentún."
Perro Lanudo cackled. "Keep the bottle. Please. You honor me, Mister Roy." The wily dog gave Roy no chance to refuse. "Now I go dream of El Arenque Rojo and the vanished world. I hope only that I am not trapped there. The real world is too beautiful to live in dreams."
"Buenas noches, señor." The old man shuffled off into the shadowed alleys of the village. Just this once, this one time out of dozens (hundreds?) he'd shown this movie to the people he now considered his own, Roy Odom remembered.
The video store. His video store. Diagonal Video? He couldn't remember the name. Thank God! He couldn't remember. But he remembered finding the box of mysterious videotapes. The child professor. All the killing that followed. And then the wave.
Just as the old Mexican silent comedies had foretold. The wave, the punishing wave, the cleansing wave. ¡Frijoles! had saved Roy's life. He'd known the wave was coming and dashed into a porta-potty with the box of VHS cassettes. It had not been certain. It had not been clean. But when the wave subsided, when his filthy makeshift raft finally found earth, he was alive.
The few survivors found each other. Some of them came together in this village, somewhere in what, Roy guessed, would have been northern Mexico. Their world was lost, but the ideas that had made that world were not. The life they cobbled together from garbage and junk would have horrified their pre-wave selves. But nobody crawled before anyone else in this new world. No person mortgaged his or her daylight hours to enrich another. One of them had been a doctor, was still a doctor. Another had a set of hand tools. They found horses, and the horses multiplied. The ground was fertile. And once the bicycle generator was built, they even had electricity, as long as they were willing to pedal.
Roy Odom sighed, touched by an echo of grief. But the stars were out. The xtabentún was strong. And tomorrow there would be another movie.