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Snake eaters!

1 April

Ohhh, headache… Ended up in the ornamental pool outside the hotel at 3 am. Very surprised we didn’t get arrested. We are now at the gate waiting to board the plane and armed with sleeping pills for our 19+ hour flight. Got through check in and security without any problems – the hangovers probably helped as The Monkey is too fragile to play up – his passport was accepted without a second glance although they did look long and hard at mine. Gate is opening now after a slight delay so I will update when we get to Kuala Lumpur tomorrow. Ha! The Monkey looks pitiful. Wonder if I look like that…

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2 April

At Kuala Lumpur airport we had an eight hour wait before the flight to Phnom Penh. It’s a nice airport but eight hours…

I slept really well on the plane but woke up twisted into a pretzel and was very pleased to get up for a walk to the toilet. The Monkey didn’t take his sleeping pills, so he woke up a few hours before me and got back into the journal. He has translated a passage relating to the planetary alignment that states it is the harbinger of the return of a god – a monkey god. He was genuinely concerned and asked me to shave a small area of fur off the back of his left ear. I know it sounds strange – let me explain… He remembers when he was very young, having something done to his ear and seeing markings on the ears of other young monkeys. He wanted me to shave the fur off between flights. I told him that we had no razor and he showed me a combat blade made of razor-sharp plastic that he had hidden in his carry-on bag. I feel slightly sick. I didn’t know he had carried a blade onto the plane. He just gives me that look. So, it was off to the toilets for some barber work…

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Damn! There’s a barcode tattooed at the base of The Monkeys left ear! I downloaded a barcode scanner onto my iPhone but it couldn’t make sense of it, so I took a photo and emailed it to the Nerds and asked them to try and decode it ASAP. I the meantime I put a plaster over the barcode to keep it away from prying eyes and we went to find somewhere to chill for the next few hours…

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We are now in a hotel in Phnom Penh, in the bar, and it is 2.00 am. We still haven’t heard back from the Nerds and The Monkey is getting twitchy; drunk and twitchy…

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Bloody hell! The barcode contains info about The Monkey – stuff that even The Monkey didn’t know. His date of birth is 21/12/2005, he comes from a breeding centre in Thailand and was part of a US Army testing programme, and he was scheduled to be given a psychotropic compound. How he ended up with a Buddhist monk and being given away to a merchant seaman is anyone’s guess, and did he ever receive the psychotropic?

2005… That puts The Monkey’s birth right in the planetary alignment. Harbinger of a god – a monkey god…

The Nerds are trying to hack some US military sites to find out what the hell was going on in that testing programme – Project Fire Serpent…

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3 April

Shopping today. The Monkey’s idea of shopping that is. We went to see a man in an office in a street at the back of the Central Market who it seems The Monkey has been in contact with since we decided to come. He sold us a lovely bag of toys – two Glock 9mm pistols with silencers, a Remington 870 shotgun, a H&K 416 assault rifle, half a dozen grenades, night vision goggles (we decided that bringing ours would arouse suspicion), and a shed load of ammo. The Monkey paid him in gold coins and I was a little worried that this dude in his little office might have some henchmen waiting for us outside, but he treated us with enormous respect and his bodyguards stationed in the corridor didn’t make eye contact and opened the door for us before showing us to our taxi.

Still waiting for the Nerds to get back to us with anything they might have discovered about Fire Serpent and we are hoping they will come up with the goods before we head out into the country in a couple of days. In the meantime, The Monkey has found us a local magic man to talk to tomorrow and we have guns to clean and zero in (don’t I sound the bad ass!) but before that we are off to dinner with our friendly local gun dealer at a club he part owns…

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4 April

Last night we became snake eaters. I think I had better qualify that before everyone thinks we have found a new sexual pastime…

Our host for the evening served us up a little treat which he told us was for warriors. It began with a salad containing fried cobra skin. Next came a plate of roasted cobra meat along with crispy noodles, shredded ginger, and chillies. Then came cobra eggs – I looked at The Monkey and without hesitation he just chopped off the tops and wolfed them down so I followed suit (I could hear my mum’s voice in my head going, ‘If The Monkey jumped off a cliff would you?’ and I got the giggles, also I thought that I probably would). Then a tray of glasses arrived – brandy in one lot and dark stuff in the other. ‘Cobra blood,’ our host announced, and we proceeded to knock back the shots followed by the brandy. Blaghhh! I looked around at our fellow dinners and I realised that this wasn’t a test. They all tucked in as well and had no expectation that we would not devour whatever was put in front of us. So, when the last course rolled out, I knew that there was no going back. Large brandy glasses appeared with a good double measure in each and floating in the brandy was a deep purple blob. I looked enquiringly at our host and before he could answer The Monkey said, ‘The poison sac of the cobra,’ and raised the glass to his lips and necked it. Our host smiled and nodded and raised his own glass, and as I lifted mine I could see the others around the table doing the same. I swallowed, a massive swallow, almost gagged and then it was down. Boom – my skin went ice cold while my insides burnt like fire. Sweat sprang from every pore on my body and I shivered as if I had the flu. Everything swirled and it looked like it does when you push your knuckles into the corners of your eyes – yellow and black spiralling squares that flooded my vision and threatened to make me pass out. Then suddenly it was gone, and I looked around the table at all of the faces grinning back at me and then at The Monkey who was looking at his glass and muttering, ‘Fucking snakes.’

This morning I woke without a hangover despite the abuse of last night and the fact that I could remember very little of what happened after the meal. I asked The Monkey why I had woken up singing a Fields of the Nephilim song and he said that our host had asked what sort of music we liked and I had told him to play the Nephilim obviously expecting him to be stumped. But The Monkey said that he had got really excited and shouted over to the club DJ and the next thing a full-on Goth night was in session! Turns out our friendly gun runner is a closet Goth and any excuse to play them is fine by him. Flashes began to come back to me, and I asked him if I was correct in thinking that there had been girls involved – ‘Several,’ came the response.

After breakfast we went to see the local witch doctor/shaman dude who The Monkey had got lined up. This guy was skinny, and his long hair was in dreadlocks with beads, bits of metal and bones woven into it. Around his neck hung a bunch of talismans and charms that looked heavy enough to weigh him down. Apart from that he was wearing a red Tupac t-shirt and brand-new Levi’s which sort of ruined the whole mystic thing. We sat down on the floor in the back room of his riverside shack and he and The Monkey went at it in Cambodian. Every now and then I caught a word of French that I understood but most of it just went in one ear and out of the other. I gazed out of the doorway at the passing river and nodded off. I jerked awake and The Monkey was showing him the pendant. He was fascinated but had actually backed away until he was against the wall. I asked The Monkey what was going on and he explained that the shaman had confirmed the story of the planetary alignment and that the pendant only proved the rumours that had been circulating that the monkey god was finally coming to claim what was his. The Monkey showed him the journal and asked him if he could read it, but he said that it was in an ancient Khmer dialect that he could not translate. With The Monkey interpreting I managed to follow the conversation at last and ask a few questions. We got some info on where to look for the temple and it corresponded pretty much with the map in the journal. When we had finished, I shook hands with the shaman, he gripped my hand tightly with both of his and in broken English he said to me, ‘You are The Monkey’s companion. It is an honour and a heavy burden.’ Then he gave me a look of respect and something I suspect was pity and we left and headed to the shooting range.

Spent the rest of the day blowing holes in targets until The Monkey was happy with the way the guns were shooting. He has given me the shotgun. He says it doesn’t take so much skill to kill things with and also when he fires it, he ends up on his back – a little too much recoil and far too much amusement.

Back at the hotel now and food and drink. Still nothing from the Nerds. They are digging through several classified websites but keep running into dead ends. They have asked if they can get a friend of theirs involved who is apparently the best they have ever met at getting into cyber places they shouldn’t. I am a little concerned about getting anyone else involved but they have concerns of their own. It seems that someone may be onto their digging and is trying to chase them back through cyber space to their location. They have assured me that they have been taking a very circuitous route that should not be traceable but whoever is onto them it seems is pretty good, and given what I now know about the not so secure dark web I’m just a little dubious. They think that the best way for them to get the info and avoid getting tracked is to bring in their friend and let them do their magic. After talking it over with The Monkey I have given them the go ahead. Tony also had some more news on the AW thing. Looks like it is Arno Whitaker in the Shiloh, photo as a search of the Confederate army records shows him as a captain in the Alabama Cavalry Regiment. What’s more, the initial AI facial recognition search produced a couple of possible matches, but they are stretching credibility a bit too much. One is a hit on a photo of a group of westerners in Iraq in 1915, and the other is a photo of Soviet advisors in Vietnam in 1959. He reckons that there could be more as the program sorts the images into stacks of unlikely, maybe, definitely, and then runs back through them several times and learns every time you agree with one of its definites, so we will have to wait and see. We don’t want to delay leaving much longer, in fact The Monkey wants to head out tomorrow afternoon on a boat owned by the gun runner that is heading upriver to Kampong Cham City. Would be nice to have answers before we leave but at least we will still be in easy communication for a while yet. Anyway, the Jack is calling…

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5 April

On a slow cargo vessel crawling up the Mekong River. Sitting on an open area next to the wheelhouse and drinking Angkor Beer with the captain and a couple of other members of the crew. Plus, we are eating some very tasty noodle soup and beef skewers – I get the feeling that the crew don’t normally eat this well and it is probably another reason they are being so nice to us. The captain is letting us use his WiFi, suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that they have it on board – got to get ya porn somewhere!

The Nerds came up with the goods this morning. Their friend had worked through the night and managed to finally get into a classified US army site via god knows what back doors. Project Fire Serpent – delivering huge doses of N,N-Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) to soldiers in order to trigger latent psychic and possibly super normal powers. First stage: give monkeys heroic doses until they break and watch what happens to them. Second stage: extrapolate the data back to human testing and then work out safe doses on some willing jar heads. Third stage: take soldiers already trained and groomed and showing possible psychic potential and give them the upper limit doses while pushing their training to the limit. Result: super soldiers capable of exploding an enemy’s head through the power of thought or some such shit. Having played with DMT while in Amsterdam I know exactly what low doses can do. The thought of ODing monkeys on the stuff makes me squirm.

Seems the programme got derailed after a bunch of Buddhist monks peacefully highjacked the breeding centre and freed the monkeys creating a bit of an incident and causing quite a lot of embarrassment to the US army. Questions got asked in congress and the testing of LSD on troops during the Vietnam War got dragged up again, causing the whole project to disappear into the shadows. There are hints in the classified files that the testing had reached human stage and that there could even be super soldiers out there.

Well at least we now know how The Monkey ended up with the monk. He seems to think that makes sense as well and says it sort of fits with the fragments of memories he has from when he was very young. The Monkey looks very at ease here on the deck of a boat drifting past jungle in the night, cigar clamped in teeth and beer in hand. Today is the first day he has had Nam flashbacks for a while but instead of sending him off on a violent spree he just seems to have merged with his surroundings and become part of this ancient country…

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6 April

Woke this morning to find The Monkey playing dice with the crew. Much shouting and swearing from all concerned as The Monkey took their money by the furry fist full. At first I thought they were letting him win but it soon became apparent that his luck was as good as ever and that they really didn’t stand a chance. I managed to separate them before things got nasty although The Monkey did say that there was a possible fight on the cards – winner takes all. I just knew he meant me, and I got flashbacks of the ferry journey back from Amsterdam and the truck driver punch up, although these guys looked a lot meaner.

We eventually docked in Kampong Cham City around midday without me having to take part in a remake of Kickboxer – I think I have the captain to thank for that. The Monkey looked disappointed and told me, ‘A bit of broken glass never hurt anyone,’ yeah, well fuck you very much…

Our arms dealer buddy had given us the address of a good hotel owned by his cousin and we are supposed to be on mate’s rates which is nice considering The Monkey gave back all the money he won before we disembarked. I asked him why the sudden generosity and he said that you can only spend so much money before you die – cheery thought! The hotel is an old French colonial building and is basic but okay and we have air con in our room and a restaurant/bar next door. Our friendly arms dealer has also given us the number of a helicopter pilot who he says would be able to take us closer to our goal. I had asked Mr Guns R Us why he was being so helpful, and he had rolled back his shirt sleeve to show me a tattoo of a monkey carrying a sword and surrounded by a ring of fire. ‘It is destiny,’ he had said as if that explained everything and I just accepted it – I have accepted much stranger things.

We phoned the pilot from the bar and a dude with a gravely Texas drawl answered. I explained what we needed and after a few moments of silence he laughed and said he would meet us for breakfast in the restaurant. So now we are sitting and drinking again as The Monkey talks to the bar man about a nearby massage parlour…

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7 April

Our chopper pilot is called Hambone and he is mental. Sort of a cross between Murdock from the A Team and Ted Nugent except this dude is in his mid-70s, built like a wrestler, and has a massive moustache and sideburns in the style of Lemmy. He and The Monkey hit it off immediately and he didn’t think it at all strange that The Monkey should have a previous life as a Nam veteran. Seems he has seen some weird shit in his time… He told how he flew combat missions in the war and that after the war he went back to the US of A but got treated like shit by all and sundry. A little private soldiering came his way and he ended up in Africa flying missions in Angola. Then he gradually made his way east again until he found himself back in Indochina and flying drug runs across the Golden Triangle and ferrying the still operational CIA backed black ops boys in and out of sensitive areas. As a thank you he got an army surplus Huey at a discount price and has been flying it ever since. Once again, we explained where we wanted to go and once again he laughed and called us crazy fuckers but said he would take us as close as he could. Seems the area we want to go to is massively forested and he may have to drop us quite a few kilometres out just so he can land. That means my land mine dodging practice is going to come in handy and, to be honest, it’s better than walking from here!

We have checked out of the hotel and gone to Hambone’s for the night. He has an old colonial place a couple of kilometres upriver and a lot of twenty something Cambodian female housekeepers. He says that he can fly us out tomorrow and therefore tonight we need to party. Neither I nor The Monkey have any problems with that. Jimi Hendrix is playing very loudly through the stereo and there are Cambodian language versions of Family Guy on the 60-inch plasma TV hanging on the wall. The Monkey has just got extremely excited as he has spotted a giant Jenga game out on the veranda. I will have to keep an eye on him, this one is large enough to crush him if it falls on him.

From tomorrow the updates will be via the Nerds back at home. I will try my best to pass reports on to them through the satellite phone. So tomorrow we go into the heart of darkness and tonight we go into what is starting to look like an episode of the Banana Splits…

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