My quest for the opium kingpin was finished. Through subterfuge and the help of corrupt officials, I had reached the village of Mae Ark, deep in the Heart of the Golden Triangle. I was surprised at the level of poverty that surrounded me.
I found myself in the small village, home to 48 families, all farmers, surrounded by fields of poppies. Ar Lain Ta, to my surprise, met me in the middle of the village. He did not need to identify himself. I had been studying his face for years in my quest to bring him to justice.
It was both mystifying and surprising that, no matter how long our powerful organization had searched, trying desperately to bring him in, with attempts to intercept him in airports, at meetings with other crimelords, at lavish hotels that he had registered in under assumed names, and conferences with corrupt government officials, every attempt to capture him ended in failure.
He had mocked us, leaving trails that ended in frustrated dead ends, and even was rumoured to dine with the highest officials in their own palaces while at the same time periodically drifting into dope infested slums of the city. There were common street junkies who had claimed to meet him, have coffee with him, even swore that they had scored small quantities of powerful heroin directly from him.
Ar Lain Ta was everywhere and nowhere, a brilliant man with two doctorates from Harvard University. There were those students who claimed that he still visited professors and attended colloquiums at various times to keep up with his two specialties, ethno-botany and international relations. All these stories were told after the fact and his professors had no comments, other than to say that he was a brilliant student. None of them admitted to any direct contact with him other than in a professional context and they all denied any dealings with him since his graduation despite evidence to the contrary that our organization managed to uncover. All our evidence, unfortunately, was circumstantial. None of it would aid us in his capture and some of the evidence would only hurt professors who were quite famous for their works, yet even those trails were not substantial enough to follow through on. In fact, there was no doubt that what we could show might even backfire on us and make our quest appear fascistic in nature.
And now, here I was, face to face with him, in the small village that was his home. Not only that, but I had assurances from various official power figures that they would not interfere in his capture and transport and I was free, if I could, to bring him to western justice. He was at the very top of our agency’s most wanted list and he had been wanted for many, many years.
“So,” he said, in perfect English, “you are the expert agent who has finally come to take me back. You may put away your weapon. I can assure you that I will share with you the ultimate truth as I know it.”
How he knew was beyond me. Up until the time that I had taken out my gun my mission had been totally covert and I had established myself as a buyer of opium. For some reason I felt compelled to listen to him and holstered my weapon.
He held out his hand to mine and I found no reason not to clasp it. So we shook hands.
At that moment, there was a rush throughout my body, my head spun, and all my tension left me. It was similiar to the feeling that I had when I was shot in combat and they administered morphine to me, yet it was even more powerful than that.
“Walk with me,” he said, “into the fields and I will show you the truth.”
The fields. The fields were full of flowers. As we walked I noticed shreds of colour spinning from Ar Lain Ta’s body. Petals falling. The words rained from his mouth and he grew smaller as he spoke.
“Soon the fields will be filled with men and women, many of them. These flowers you see, they are larger than them, they diminish us each day. It is necessary.
“This is just one of Nature’s strategies; no, not a strategy; Nature is not like that; It thinks God’s thoughts after Her. Strategies are made for men, for things with minds like men.
“All of you, wild to get the Kingpin, the master mind (I laugh at that word) of the drug trade, chasing yourselves like dogs after your own tails. I tell you this. No one will believe you. No one.”
He spread his arms wide, they spread and expanded like wings over the miles of poppy fields, sheer miles of them.
I could not speak. Oh, I would tell the truth. Maybe someone would dare to publish it. They’ll call it fiction; maybe science fantasy; maybe merely a fairy tale with a twist of lemon.
Ar Lain Ta turned to me and smiled.
“After all,” he said, “to believe, to understand, you would have to think like a plant.
“You should see it when the fields are filled with humans. How hard they work. The sweat pours from them like water.
“Balance. When any species upsets the balance of nature, the natural way of things, other forces work and swing them back. You want to bring them the Kingpin?
“Bring them this, all that surrounds you.
“I am not the Kingpin. Not even human. I exist at their bidding. At their bidding I cease to exist. You cannot take me, bring me back. I am only the physical manifestation of their minds.
“And they, the plants are only one of the forces that work, that work right now to set the balance right against a species that lives under an illusion that has made them into destroyers of the diversity, the life, the balance of nature.
“Look to yourself. You have met the enemy. He stands alone, alone in these fields.”
Ar Lain Ta reached out, touched me. I fell to the ground, deep in dream, opiate dream. He became a poppy plant; he flowered, then he was gone.
Since that moment, ever since then, the only peace I have is when the fruit of the poppy fuels my soul.
For a while I wandered, from place to place. Then I met a woman. Her name was Ron de Veux. She took me here, to the house of the Troll. I have never left.
There is nothing more to tell.