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Pete Franopolos nearly falls asleep at the wheel on his way to the Bumbleberry Inn near Zion Canyon, Utah. Thankfully the near crash has not spilled the urn with his brother’s ashes, buckled in beside him. After taking a picture of the motel to tease his followers, he alienates the apathetic clerk with his explanation of the conference and his work as a content creator following fringe communities, before being shocked by a cuckoo clock.
Pete recoils in fear. As he leaves he references Orson Welles’ The Third Man — “In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace – and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.” As he steps outside he is hit by great emotion; he has made it after a turbulent journey, and it seems like the mountains themselves are proud of him. The clerk sees the insane man crying and giving a thumbs up to the impassive mountains.
Unable to sleep, Pete tries to prepare for the next day, making a mess of his room. The urn sits impassively in the room, haloed by the lamp
The first orator of the conference asks the room what they’ve lost in their lives. He explains Charles Fort’s idea of the Super Sargasso Sea, where all lost things will one day return. The orator, Dr. Rudolph Weston Ritten, discusses the lost continent of Lemuria, how a childhood obsession with science fiction brought him to work for a cobalt mine in Madagascar. Pete is terrified a man staring at him in the crowd recognizes him from his work, and will out him to the conference. Dr. Ritten notes the Malagasy venerate the lemurs as spirits of dead ancestors.
Rudolph’s guilt over destroying the environment of Madagascar led him to become obsessed with the Esoteric Egyptologist René Adolphe Schwaller de Lubicz, author of the Temple In Man and originator of the Nile Water Erosion Hypothesis, which would push back the proposed age of the Sphinx 6500 years earlier. His research has helped find ancient ruins in the ocean near Dwarka in India. His journey to get to the truth about Lemuria led him back to science fiction, and the author Richard Sharpe Shaver, who believed he was receiving psychic transmissions from the still-extant Lemurians hiding beneath the Earth.
The next speaker, Pastor Ferris Bascom, is discussing the Annunaki and the Nephilim, the half- angel race of giants wiped away in the biblical deluge, as in the testament of the apocryphal Book of Enoch, a “missing piece” of the Bible. He loses the audience by aggressively implying the Pope is actually in league with the Sumerian fish god Dagan.
Bascom discusses the giant skeletons of Lovelock Cave, and the massive handaxe found near Swan Lake, Manitoba. He tells conference attendants to be careful of the housekeeping staff, as the bracelet his wife gave him was sucked into the vacuum.
At the dinner buffet, Pete is accosted by the man who recognized him: he didn’t recognize Pete but thought he had sighted a fellow fisherman. Pete is saved from the boring man by a woman who does recognize him: Min Jee Gwan, a fan of his work. She invites him on a hike, and when he bashfully agrees, she says “great! I’ll tell my partner.”
Pete packs for the hike, putting the urn with his brothers ashes carefully at the bottom of his bag. Min Jee introduces him to her partner Diane Farrah. Diane is upset insects keep permeating the screen of their trailer. Diane is a geologist, and explains the timescale of the erosive forces which shaped the canyon, removing and dispersing millions of years of sediment so they are faced with the rock of the Moenave formation, over 200 million years old. Min Jee shows Pete an owl from the bird sanctuary she volunteers at, whose eyes were gouged out on a barbed wire fence.
As they look at the sunset, Diane asks Pete about his work. He gives a flippant answer, about, following people who believe in wacky bullshit, which hurts Diane. She gives him a book with diagrams of anomalous eolithic tools, and explains she tries to keep humble and openminded, that there really are things we have no explanation for, that in the future people will think we are blinkered and wrong on many current scientific consensuses. As they continue to the highest point of the Watchman Trail, Min asks Pete why his bag is so heavy, and he yells “my dead brother is in my backpack”
Pete talks about how when he went to clean his brother’s apartment after his death, he found pills stashes in his things, and after he got the ashes back, at the grocery store he would see an item and think “my brother could fit in there.” His brother had been an adventure tourism guide in Peru. It was seeing an image of his brother laughing in quicksand, one of the last he saw of him before losing contact, that made him become a chronicler of odd communities: he researched more on quicksand and found the community of quicksand fetishists. His video interviewing a star of quicksand fetish materials was his first big hit online. Min Jee and Diane leave Pete to scatter his brother’s ashes alone. As he looks over the cliff he is overwhelmed by a vision of a monument to his brother, a massive opioid pill balanced on a pillar. He is wrested from his vision by a park ranger, who informs him he cannot spread human remains without a permit, and that he must be escorted out of the park immediately due to a flash flood warning. The apologetic warden tells him “you understand, we can’t just have people spreading ashes with no plans in place… something could go really wrong, like, ha, you ever seen The Big Lebowski?” Pete weakly replies “yeah… it’s a great movie.” as he breaks down crying.