More than five centuries after his living body became the first European to set foot on the island of Hispaniola, Christopher Columbus, or rather his skeleton, still vehemently believes that it discovered a water passage to the East Indies.
“What the—?!” the skeleton sputtered, shaking the dust from its bony knuckles and sitting up from its crypt to examine a 2013 map of the Western Hemisphere held by an archaeology student.
“West Indies?” the mortal remains of the great explorer demanded indignantly. “The Dominican Republic? Cuba? What is this crap? I discovered an ocean passage to the East Indies, dammit!”
Despite an unending procession of geologists, historians, explorers, and cartographers parading reverently past its final resting-place and assuring the great explorer’s skeleton of the authenticity of the North American landmass, Columbus’s desiccated husk refused to acknowledge any theories or assertions which contradicted his own.
“What is this big honking landmass here in between Europe and Asia?” the dry, dusty framework of bone and yellowed teeth demanded, the rags of its burial shroud whirling about it. “ ‘North and South America’? Who the hell discovered these? Please tell me it wasn’t that asshole Amerigo Vespucci. I might scream.”
“That is, if I still had lungs and vocal chords to do it with,” it added.
Declaring its firm intention to “start rolling in [its] grave” if “[it] didn’t get some goddamn straight answers, rápido,” Columbus’s remains attempted to lever itself out of its casket, but collapsed under its own weight. After some fruitless minutes of huffing, puffing and straining, it collapsed back into the coffin and lay still.
“Okay,” it said. “Let’s just say, for the sake of an argument, that those two landmasses exist. What the hell are they doing there? Is there a passage between them?”
Upon being told the answer, Columbus’s corpse appeared jubilant.
“Yeah, that must have been it,” it said, clapping its bony hands together with a sepulchral clacking sound, raising a cloud of bone-dust. “I must have just sailed right through that passage and straight on to India.”
Representatives of the National Geographic Society hastened to assure Columbus’s body that this was impossible, given that the Panama Canal wasn’t completed until Anno Domini 1914, but the reanimated corpse plugged its aural canals with its fleshless fingers and began humming loudly.
Mark Jennings, the president of Langenscheidt Publishing Group, Inc., one of the world’s foremost producers of world atlases, thereupon embarked on a stirring lecture concerning the scientific and geological origins of the Americas, to which the skeletal remains of the great Spanish sailor replied, “Get stuffed.”
Marcia K. McNutt, director of the U.S. Geological Survey, added her two cents, after which Columbus’s corpse responded with a personal epithet and a blown raspberry.
A brief statement from Pranab Kumar Mukherjee, the current president of India, went completely unanswered.
“Nyah nyah nyah nyah naaah,” the creaking skeleton intoned, kicking its feet and raising a cloud of dead skin flakes. “I can’t hear you, I can’t hear you. I discovered India, tra-la-la-la-la-laaaah!”
Growing more despondent and sullen by the minute, the renowned adventurer’s body mumbled that just because “a pack of weak-willed clack-dishes” who’d “never set foot aboard ship in their lives” believed that he had never discovered the East Indies, did not necessarily mean he had not.
“Look,” it finally said, “I set sail for India, and, by God, India is where I landed. For Christ’s sake, look at all the Indians living there! That’s proof, isn’t it?”
“What?” it asked, after a quick word with Genevieve Bell, a cultural anthropologist. “What do you mean they’re called ‘Native Americans’? What bullshit.”
After a further thirty minutes of juvenile displays of emotion and assorted arcane epithets, the corpse of the venerated Spaniard finally gave a great sigh and sagged down in its casket.
“Okay,” it said quietly, “let’s say, hypothetically, that I landed on some godforsaken continent in the middle of fucking nowhere, the very existence of which was entirely unsuspected before I landed on it. At least I was the first one to discover it, right? Was I the first European to set foot upon this ‘New World’?”
“What?!” the corpse demanded a few seconds later. “Whaddya mean the Vikings were there first? You have got to be shitting me! I’m going back to sleep. Fuck this. Stick it in your Santa Maria.”
At press time, Columbus’s remains were locked in a lengthy and vehement argument with the more dedicated and persistent of the world’s historians and map-makers. Meanwhile, at the tip of the Cape of Good Hope, the ghost of Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias could be heard tittering loudly.