Satire Fiction

My part in Elon Musk’s horrifying and tragic Everest catastrophe (Chapter One)

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(Image by Dan Jensen)

Chapter One

THE INFILTRATION

Read Chapter Two: Elon Musk and Keith the saucy Reuters fake llama
Read Chapter Three: The horrifying tragedy at Base Camp One
Read Chapter Four: The Horrifying Muskalamity at Base Camp One

*Also listen to the audio version of this article on Spotify HERE.

Infiltrating Elon Musk’s Everest caravanserai was not the most difficult assignment I had confronted, even back in those early days.

Back then, in the mid-1990s, I was still just a greenhorn freelance reporter, struggling to establish myself in the cut-throat world of investigative journalism. It was a different world back then, where careers were made and broken by how effectively reporters could insinuate themselves into the rarefied worlds of the rich and the megarich, and post damaging photos of them in the nude and the semi-nude.

It wasn’t always a pretty job, but the public does have a right to know what Samantha Fox’s boobs are up to on holiday in Majorca. And as I’d already had a taste of the limelight with the David Bowie toilet brush scoop, I felt reasonably confident of my chances of success. I ran the idea past the legendary hardboiled editor of the Maley Dale, “Eggs” Benedict (just before he was poached by The Times) and set out for Kathmandu. I was only 24 at the time, full of high hopes, anticipation and boundless sexual tension.

I recall little of Kathmandu, though this is not a pejorative of that great city. But simply so focused was I on the task in front of me: infiltrating Elon Musk’s travelling party in his, as we were later to discover, ultimately ill-fated quest to scale the Spine of the World, Mount Everest.

As a struggling freelance journalist, I had little money to waste on frippery and excess. And so, after a long and gruelling flight from London, and several stopovers, I installed myself at a small hostelry — barely more luxurious than the ubiquitous backpackers’ dives frequented by mostly New Zealanders and other vowel-abusing riffraff.

It was late morning when eventually I reached my lodgings. Despite being young, fit and remarkably handsome, I recall an agonising bone-weary tiredness and ennui, stemming from jetlag and, as I even then knew all too well, its inevitable and relentless partner, an energy-sapping concomitant longing for illicit sex and opium.

But there was no time to either dilly dally or shillyshally. I set to work with almost overly precipitate haste, rapidly donning my standard Woolworths (UK) Sherpa outfit, before applying my custom-designed eye-patch, fake warts and liver spots, and rangy, authentically sativa-scented, chestnut dreadlocks.

After a quick inspection in the tiny, cracked bathroom mirror, I pronounced my disguise adequate — although barely. Then I set out for Elon Musk’s travelling party meet and greet cocktail function, and competitive limbo party.

It was a different world back then, where careers were made and broken by how effectively reporters could insinuate themselves into the rarefied worlds of the rich and the megarich, and post damaging photos of them in the nude and the semi-nude.

I turned up a little late for the party and, after checking the address, entered an apparently rundown warehouse. Inside, through a haze of blueish smoke and Europop, I found myself atop a vast amphitheatre. Below was an arena, filled to brimming with a seething mob of circus freaks, carnival clowns and a large selection of other weirdos. At the front, on an elevated stage, Elon Musk appeared to be warming up for the forthcoming limbo contest via a series of burpees and exaggerated frog hops.

I took a leaflet from the front counter and cautiously edged my way back out.

The expedition was set to depart the following morning and, based on what I had seen, as brief as it was, it was clear I needed to radically rethink my plans. It was obvious that no matter how well I was able to pull off my planned disguise of a garrulous one-eyed former national Tibetan badminton champion Sherpa called Murray, I was going to stand out like a giant phallic rocket ship amongst the motley entourage Elon Musk had seemingly enlisted to accompany him to the ceiling of the world. 

I gained little sleep that night, as I sewed, pasted, cut and improvised a new costume entirely. I sometimes marvel at the seemingly inexhaustible reserves of energy I had back then, above and beyond the standard amount provided by the amphetamines all journalists were, in those days, contractually obliged to consume.

Early next morning, as the sun rose over the majestic Himalayan peaks, I sheepishly attached myself to the end of the Musk caravan, just as it made its first steep incline out of Kathmandu. I was wearing my hastily prepared and rather uncomfortable new outfit: Bonny, the good-natured pack mule. I expected to be unmasked at any second. But not a soul blinked an eyelid, nor even appeared to notice me at all. I breathed a little easier and settled in for the long trek which awaited me.

I immediately knew I had made the right decision to dress as a pack mule, because while there were one or two other beasts of burden in the line, there was not a single Sherpa, nor anyone who looked remotely like a guide, or even an experienced mountaineer. All I could see was a long and bizarre circus parade of sauntering, sashaying and pogo-jumping oddballs, all striving to make their way up to the head of the pack and luxuriate in the radiance of their limbo-loving leader, Elon Musk.

Almost as soon as I joined the Everest carnival, though, I thought I spotted the leader. Off in the distance, right at the front of the snaking procession, I noticed a tall, well-built, somewhat regal, figure haloed by the bright early morning sun, the snow-capped peaks behind providing a suitable backdrop. He was surrounded by acolytes, walking slightly behind him, with suitably bowed heads. It was therefore to my utter amazement that, only a few minutes after joining the expedition, I saw this same figure poke his head strangely in the air, like a prairie dog sniffing the breeze. Moments later, echoing off the cavernous gorges and peaks all around, boomed a series of eerie barking yips and low yowls.

Despite being young, fit and remarkably handsome, I recall an agonising bone-weary tiredness and ennui, stemming from jetlag and, as I even then knew all too well, its inevitable and relentless partner, an energy-sapping concomitant longing for illicit sex and opium.

Not long after, as we made our slow ascent on the perilous switchbacks, I noticed a distinct hubbub up front. It appeared that this grand figure, Musk, was attempting to make his way back to the end of the parade. Had he decided so early to abandon his quest to scale the world’s highest peak, I thought? Eventually, and with immense difficulty, Musk made his way to the very end of the line, adjacent to myself and a large and imposing black and white llama.

Elon Musk was wearing, I noticed idly, the precise costume Friedrich had worn in The Sound of Music. He stopped abruptly. Sniffed the air once more and nodded slowly, a slow smile emerging on his oversized moon-like face. But it was then, when he turned and fixed his bulging, amphibious eyes upon me, that I knew the jig was up.

Yet instead of exposing my feeble disguise and banishing me from his entourage, he instead did something quite remarkable. He cried out, “Bonny, my childhood love!” and jumped with agile finesse onto my false pack mule back reverse-ways, looking back towards our departure point below. The shock was so profound, my costume and I almost buckled under the sudden strain.

There was a certain amount of grumbling and consternation amongst the camp followers by this unexpected turn of ovents. After all, Musk had delayed our ascent by forcing his way to the end of the train, sending several members of his own party hurtling to their doom into the 1,000-foot chasm that edged the trail. And then, he had declared his lifelong undying love to a hitherto unknown, obviously pantomime, pack mule.

Yet, as I considered the fatal nearby drop, just metres away from us, and as the tones of dissent began to reach a dangerous pitch, Elon calmed the party as only such a multi-talented empathetic genius could even contemplate doing. Musk began yodelling gently, in tones not only soothing, yet also strangely winsome and affecting. 

In this way, the party immediately fell under his spell once more and any thought of insurrection was soon forgotten.

Musk gently dug his heels into my solar plexus and, still facing backwards towards Kathmandu and warbling gently, we again began our slow ascent towards the roof of the world.

DISCLAIMER: The above tale is completely untrue. Only some of the names remain the same to imperil the innocent.

* This article is also available on audio here:

This is the first part of a four-part series. See the second part HERE and the third chapter HERE. You can follow Dave Donovan on Twitter @davrosz.

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