Monday, May 29, 2006

39: Storyline 1.9

As I continued on my way to work, I encountered many strange and wondrous things.

A man composed entirely of earthworms asked me for spare change. His voice, generated exclusively by earthworms, was indescribable. I gave him 87 cents.

I rounded a corner to be greeted by the sight of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir forming a giant human pyramid. It was ninety feet high and singing the Halleluiah Chorus. I stayed and listened for a few minutes; it was a beautiful performance, both musically and acrobatically.

Later on, my shoes spontaneously expanded to the size of small cars. Of course, walking became impossible due to the increased weight. A volunteer fire crew came by and cut them off of me. They were also nice enough to haul away the scraps, but I was now without shoes. Fortunately, there was a shoe store nearby. Unfortunately, they only sold large novelty duck foot shoes.

As I continued on in my flappy, web-toed footwear, I became aware of a number of ancient Chinese texts following furtively behind me. When I turned around to confront them, they scurried off and did not return.

I was almost to work when a gruff-looking man wearing a wimple leaped from an alleyway and tagged me with a dismantler drone. In far less time than it takes to tell, my various components were strewn about the sidewalk. I was in an unassembled state. My options at that point were rather limited.

I was in luck, however, for what should come around the corner but a crew of 105 dwarf hamster mechanics. I knew there were 105 of them because they sang a little song that went like this:

We are a crew of 105 dwarf hamster mechanics
And we are looking
For someone to reassemble as a favor
In order to give our dwindling karma a little boost,
And we like to eat lettuce.

Well, those little guys saw my parts lying around and went right to work. In a few minutes, I was as good as new. Those dwarf hamsters knew their trade. They tried to refuse it, but I insisted on buying them a head of lettuce from a nearby produce stand as a gesture of gratitude. They fell on the lettuce like little, furry, mind-achingly cute piranha fish, and had it skeletonized in about ten seconds. It was a chilling thing to witness. I got the hell out of there.

The last block was completely uneventful, if you don't count the pigeons. I'd rather not talk about that.

And then I arrived. My journey to work was at an end. With no small relief, I lowered myself into the hole and made my way into the bowels of the Complex.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

38: Interlude 19

My house is a house of Japanese hentai tentacle porn. At random inconvenient moments when I am in my house, flocks of penis-tipped tentacles spring out from under rugs and behind furniture to trap my arms and legs in tight coils. Then, other tentacles rip away my clothing and go to work on my oral and anal cavities. Always, I resist with as much strength as I can muster, screaming and moaning. Always, I am overcome, and the penis-tipped tentacles have their unspeakably wicked way with me. Always, I have orgasm after orgasm while pale blue rivers of shame flow unchecked from my tightly shut, enormous eyes.

Sometimes it happens when visitors are present. Then they, too, discover the filthy, insidious embrace of the tentacles. There are usually one of two reactions: I never see my guests again, or they start coming over all the time.

For a while, I had a sign on my front lawn that said, "Beware of Japanese Hentai Tentacles!" But I took it down because it started attracting the wrong element. Now I have a discreet brass placard by the doorbell. I would hate for someone to have no warning whatsoever. I got strange looks when I had the placard custom ordered. Brass placards that say, "Beware of Japanese Hentai Tentacles" are not mass-produced.

People tell me I should move. Maybe I will. But I'll have to sell the house first. Can you imagine what would happen if the tentacles made an appearance while a realtor and potential buyers were touring the house? I suppose either I'd get sued, or I'd sell the house for whatever price I felt like asking.

Also, the possibility occurs that if I move, the Japanese hentai tentacle porn will follow me. All the fuss and bother of moving, and I would still be in the same predicament, but in a house that I maybe wouldn't like as well as this one.

It's a conundrum.

Monday, May 22, 2006

37: Storyline 2.11

The pizza was ordered, delivered, and consumed before Robert finished his account, mostly due to the fact that Rebecca interrupted often with questions or requests for clarification. Far from being annoyed, Robert found himself enjoying her quick and inquisitive wit. Indeed, he found himself enjoying every aspect of being in her company.

When Robert had finished, Rebecca leaned back in the armchair and regarded Robert thoughtfully. After a time, she said, "There's still something about all this that bothers me."

"Oh? What's that?"

"Where the hell were the rest of the people? Are you seriously telling me that eleven go-carts engaged an animated refrigerator in the middle of the street on Saturday in the late afternoon, and nobody raised a fuss?"

"I had wondered about that, too," said Robert. "But from what I saw, people for some reason just seemed to ignore them. And me, for that matter, when I was with them."

Rebecca shrugged. "Perhaps it's something to do with the magic that surrounds them," she said.

Another silence fell. This one lasted for a while. It was not a loaded silence; it was simply that neither felt the need to put words into the air. They sat together in the house of Rebecca Smith. Robert would have been perfectly content if it hadn't been for his injuries. Comfortable silences aren't nearly so pleasant with a freshly broken nose.

Suddenly, Rebecca sat up in her chair. "I just thought of something," she said. "Do you still have the heart of Crutchford?"

"Yeah." Robert dug it out and handed it to her.

"Now, you say you just touched it to the ice and I was free, right? The work of the monster was undone?"

"That's right."

Rebecca took the heart over to the front door and touched it to her broken window. There was a poof and some mist, which, when dispersed, revealed Rebecca's front door completely mended. It was as though it had never been broken.

"Sweet," said Robert. "I'll use that on my window at home."

"I've got a better idea." Rebecca moved to sit next to Robert on the couch. "Don't move," she said, and touched the heart to the tip of Robert's nose. Poof, mist. Robert's face was healed.

Robert smiled, quite pleased that the pressure and pain in his nose was gone. Then he noticed Rebecca.

She was sitting close to him, with her face somewhat close to his. He could feel the warmth of her body. He could smell her. Her left knee was touching his right knee.

Their eyes met, and it was that kind of eye-meeting, the kind with electricity that passes back and forth until both parties are emotionally and physically alert.

Rebecca didn't break the connection when she spoke. "You know," she said, "It's well documented that when people are thrust into dangerous or exciting circumstances, they're more inclined to become romantically involved than they otherwise might be."

Robert moved a little closer, and so did Rebecca. "Oh?" he said.

"Yes. Most relationships that form under such circumstances dissolve when those circumstances are removed from the equation."

Closer. "Mm," said Robert.

"So it would be unwise of us to become romantically involved with one another, what with the day's adventures. We should get to know each other better first."

"You think so?" said Robert. Now they were very close indeed. Robert put his arms around Rebecca's waist. She put her arms around his shoulders.

"And you know, jumping into bed could simply be disastrous," whispered Rebecca. Robert could feel the play of her breath on his lips as she spoke.

"But we're totally going to, aren't we?" he whispered.

"Yep," whispered Rebecca.

Epilogue

That night, Robert Wilson and Rebecca Smith had hesitant, first-time-with-a-new-person sex in Rebecca's queen-size bed. That isn't to say it was unsatisfying, but the sex they had the next morning was much better.

That day was Sunday, and they went out to breakfast together early to beat the church crowds. Later that same day, Rebecca accompanied Robert when he went shopping for a new refrigerator.

As the days and months wore on, their relationship blossomed, and did not fall victim to the scenario that Rebecca had warned of that Saturday night.

A few years down the line, they decided to get married. However, the question of whose house to live in was never settled. Each house had its own merits and flaws. In the end, they decided to keep their separate houses, reasoning that the strength of their relationship was not contingent on their degree of proximity.

Each year on the anniversary of Crutchford's death, they would take a moment to remember the evil being whose actions had brought them together.

End Storyline 2

Thursday, May 18, 2006

36: Interlude 18

I give birth to twins on a Tuesday night in the rain. They plop out of me with all the fuss you'd expect from a madhouse riot. I pick them up from the pavement, their tiny naked grey bodies shivering and squirming, cars swerving like crazy not to hit us. I get out of the street, thinking it prudent. Without a cutting instrument near to hand, I sever the cords with my teeth. The twins live about five minutes. I don't even get around to naming them. I place their still, rag-doll bodies in a dumpster behind a barber shop and go in search of a meal.

The bell over the door jangles despite its coating of grease, and the clientele briefly turn in my direction. There's a connection; everyone feels it. We're here on a Tuesday night in the rain, and we've lost our twins. I sit down at the bar, the rain dripping off me. The waitress pours me a cup of greasy coffee without asking.

"What'll it be, hon?" she askes, pulling out a notepad and the stump of a pencil.

"I'll have the dignity omelette, extra bacon on the side, with some self-respect and a bottle of piss and vinegar."

She reaches across the bar and touches my shoulder. I look up at her. Her face has softened a trace, and she says to me, "Don't worry. There will be others."

She goes elsewhere as I pile up rocks in my throat to stop from crying. It's the fear that defines us. What if there won't be any others? How can she know there will be? She can't, is how.

After a brief space of time, she carelessly plops my plate down in front of me. Already I've begun to accept that my twins are dead in a dumpster, unnamed. It hurts. The food is good, and I feel better for having eaten it.

Monday, May 15, 2006

35: Storyline 2.10

"Yeah," said Portman. "I told them all about the thug that broke into your house, roughed you up, threw beer cans all over the place, and stole your refrigerator. It's a good thing Rebecca is out of town, or she might have gotten hurt, too." Mr. Portman gave Robert a quick conspiratorial wink.

Robert did his best not to allow an exuberant grin of relief to break across his face. For the most part, he was successful.

The interview with the police did not take long. Robert explained that he didn't get a good look at his attacker because he was dozing when he was hit. The police explained that they couldn't do much without a description of the suspect, but asked for a description of the refrigerator just in case. They also advised Robert to watch the classifieds for the next few weeks to see if his refrigerator went up for sale. In that event, he was to contact the police immediately. Robert assured them he would, and thanked the officers, who took their leave.

After they'd gone, Robert turned back to the Portmans' house. Mr. Portman was sitting on the front porch, waiting. Robert joined him.

"Thanks for covering for me," said Robert.

"No problem," said Mr. Portman. "To tell you the truth, I called the cops on you. But then I saw the refrigerator running around before they showed up, and I knew you were on the level. Sorry I wasn't as helpful as I could have been."

Robert waved off the apology. "You couldn't have known," he said.

Mr. Portman got up and opened the door. "Rebecca's still frozen in the kitchen. Want to see her?"

"Very much."

They went in. When they got to the kitchen, Mrs. Portman was there, sipping what appeared to be a whiskey and eyeing the frozen Rebecca. Robert knelt beside the pillar of ice. He dug in his pocket for the heart of Crutchford and touched it to the surface. There was a loud poof and a cloud of mist burst from the surface of the ice. It dissipated in seconds, and when it was gone, there lay Rebecca, warily looking around the room.

"Jesus, how the hell did you do that?" said Mr. Portman in wonder.

Rebecca's eyes spared Mr. Portman a glance before settling on Robert. "What happened? Where am I?" she demanded.

"We're in Portman's kitchen," said Robert. "As to what happened, that's a long story."

"Are we safe?" asked Rebecca.

"Yes," Robert replied. "Crutchford-- that is, the refrigerator-- is no longer a threat."

Rebecca sat up, massaging her arms and legs as if trying to bring them to life. "Long story or not, I want to hear it," she said.

The Portmans exchanged glances. "Um, I think Ellen and I don't want to hear it," said Mr. Portman. "If the fridge is gone, I'm satisfied. I'd like to forget most of today ever happened."

"Fair enough," said Robert. He and Rebecca exchanged pleasantries with the Portmans and then were shown to the door, not unkindly. They made their way to the sidewalk. There they paused and looked at each other. Evening shadows were falling.

"You really do look bad," said Rebecca finally. "Maybe you should go to the hospital or something."

Robert shrugged. "I'll go see a doctor tomorrow. Right now I really want to tell you about my day."

"Alright. I definitely want to hear it. Why don't we go to my place, order a pizza, and you can tell me things."

Thursday, May 11, 2006

34: Interlude 17

It's neither man nor woman nor of woman borne. All you know is you want to fuck it. You want the distinction of who fucks who to be blurred. You want its wire-like tentacles to bite into your flesh until the sting makes you want to scream. But you don't scream, do you? You'd rather die than give it the satisfaction. So you pull the wires tighter instead, spitting blood and broken teeth in defiance and outrage as your every orifice burns and bleeds with the frenzy of its onslaught.

When it's finally over, when it finally sees fit to let you stop, you pick yourself up off the floor and cook it a meal. It becomes your identity. When someone asks you a question, you let it answer. You know that eventually it will kill you. You learn to accept those terms.

Until one day, you wake up in a blood-soaked bed, alone. You don't know when it will be back.

To try and find help, turn to page 38.
To opt for the safety of the known commodity by doing nothing, turn to page 14.

Monday, May 08, 2006

33: Storyline 2.9

One by one, the king freed the remaining four riders. Then he returned to his go-cart, behind which the others had assembled.

The king tossed the heart to Robert, who caught it in one hand and felt suave. "You have need of that, I think," said the king. "Simply touch it to her icy prison, and your maiden fair will be free."

"Actually, I kind of doubt she's a virgin," said Robert.

"That's as may be," said the king. "We have a certain manner of speech. To us, Rebecca Smith is your maiden fair, and that's that."

"Don't you think that's a little archaic and demeaning to Rebecca?"

The king frowned, considering. "I never gave it much thought," he said at last, "but I can see how one might reach that conclusion. Very well. You may use the heart to rescue Rebecca, the woman you like, from her icy prison."

"Thanks," said Robert.

"It is we who owe you thanks. You have done us a great service today. Without your help, Crutchford would have been the victor."

"It was your plan," said Robert, shrugging. "All I did was use the drone you provided. I'm surprised you didn't just use the drone yourself."

The king smiled. "Ah, but how would we have done that? We are eleven." He held up his hands, fingers spread. "Our hands are not big enough to activate the drone one-handed, and we would be quite unable to tag Crutchford while driving. And if we attempted to use the drone while stationary or on foot, Crutchford would surely have been able to imprison any of us before we would have a chance to tag him. No, your participation was essential, and the Go-cart King thanks you."

"Well, thank you too," said Robert.

"Ride!" shouted the king, and with engines roaring, they were gone in seconds. Robert wondered if he would ever see the Perpetually Eleven again.

At the moment, however, he had more pressing matters to attend to. Checking the street signs to get his bearings, he took off at a quick jog on the shortest route back to his house. Or, more to the point, back to Portman's house. He deemed it unwise to go back the way he'd come as that would require trespassing and trampling flowers. He was in a hurry, but it wasn't a matter of life and death. It wasn't worth enraging suburban gardeners.

As he turned the corner onto his street, he saw a police cruiser pulled up in front of Portman's house. A chill ran over him. What were they doing? What had Portman told them? Most importantly, what was the status of Rebecca Smith?

Robert slowed to a brisk walk so as not to appear suspicious. As he drew nearer, he saw that Mr. Portman was in his front yard talking to two uniformed police officers. Mr. Portman noticed him and called out. The police officers turned to regard him.

"I told them everything," said Mr. Portman grimly as Robert reached speaking distance.

"Did you?" said Robert, preparing for the worst.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

32: Interlude 16

I took a walk to the store. They were selling home-made ice cream. I bought some and ate it on a bench outside the store. Very refreshing.

But then, suddenly, I felt a disturbance in my stomach and I knew that something was very wrong. My fears were confirmed when a circular saw blade erupted from my abdomen in a fountain of blood and frothy ice cream. I stopped paying attention at that point. My head went back and the world took on that washed-out dreamy quality that indicates you're going into shock. In a detached sort of way, I felt the blade sawing me in half horizontally. You wouldn't believe what having your own spinal column sawed in two sounds like.

When the cutting was through, my upper body toppled to the side and rolled off of the bench, flopping onto the pavement like a sack of meat. In my semi-conscious state, I looked up at my legs and lower torso, which looked for all the world as though nothing were amiss. That is, if you didn't move your eyes up too far.

A small sphere with a saw arm attached to it floated up out of my lower body, dripping blood and ice cream. A gleaming red eye regarded me.

Then I died.

What, you wanted a point? You're not alone. I mean, someone mixed a disassembled robot in with some ice cream that I ate, thus allowing the robot, once unfrozen, to reassemble itself and saw its way to freedom, killing me in the process. Talk about your meaningless deaths.

So how am I telling you this? The author is well within his rights to claim artistic license, but that's not the case here. I was fortunate in that a roving band of dwarf hamster mechanics was in the area and heard the commotion. Commotion, incidentally, that was created not only by my bisection but also by the shotgun blast that tore the robot apart mere seconds after my passing. Apparently someone at the store had an outdoorsy bent and had a stocked gun rack in their vehicle. The robot was blown to smithereens.

A few moments after that, the dwarf hamster mechanics arrived and were able to reassemble and resuscitate me. In gratitude, I hosted a hamster party at my apartment that weekend. It was really fun.

Monday, May 01, 2006

31: Storyline 2.8

The dismantler drone was not quiet, and Crutchford heard it coming. The refrigerator turned to face the approaching drone. "No!" he screamed in frustration and fear. Flicking open his refrigerator door, Crutchford flung a jar of mayonnaise at the hurtling drone. The jar connected, splattering mayonnaise everywhere, but the drone was only momentarily knocked off course. Again it made straight for the refrigerator. "No!" Crutchford screamed again in rising panic. He opened his door once more, this time throwing a Tupperware container of Robert's mother's jello salad. The jello missed its mark, and the drone shot straight past it and into the refrigerator. The door slammed closed. "No," said Crutchford again, this time in despair. It was the last thing he was to say.

Seconds later, the refrigerator collapsed in a pile of its own components and foodstuffs, leaving the drone hovering in mid-air above it. After a few seconds, the drone hovered down to the ground next to the pile and shut itself off.

Robert walked out into the street to inspect the remains. The king and the five remaining riders drove slowly forward. They stopped in a line facing Crutchford's components. The six exchanged glances, and then the king began to sing. After a few seconds, the others joined in, and their voices rose in harmony.

The language was not one Robert recognized. Nor was the tune. But it was the most haunting music, and the most beautiful boys choir, that Robert had ever imagined. He was transfixed by it. All too soon, the singing was ended.

"That was beautiful," said Robert in awe. The king acknowledged the compliment with a nod. "What was it for?" asked Robert.

"We were honoring our fallen foe," the king replied.

"Honor? For Crutchford? But he was a monster," cried Robert indignantly.

The king regarded Robert coolly for a few seconds before speaking. "It is true that our values were incompatible with those of Crutchford," he said. "However, to our mind, his prowess in battle and his dedication to his principles cannot and should not be overlooked. He was our sworn enemy long before you met him. To be blunt, we know more about him than you, and we will bestow honor as we see fit."

Robert was crestfallen. "Forgive me," he said. "I meant no offense."

"Of course you're forgiven," said the king. "It is not surprising that we see things differently, being so different." The king then turned his attention to the other riders. "Gather the remains of Crutchford. Each of you must take an equal measure and bury them in far corners of our realm. Take the drone with you and return it to our fortress, but leave me the heart. Go."

The riders obeyed the king's commands in silence as he and Robert looked on. Producing canvas sacks from somewhere, they each filled one and then distributed the larger pieces, strapping them to the backs of their go-carts. Then they sped off down the street and out of sight.

The king climbed out of his go-cart and walked to the spot where Crutchford had fallen. He reached down amongst the garbage, and Robert noticed for the first time a metal box lying there, half-covered by a head of lettuce. The king picked it up. It was about three inches on a side and was studded and pocked here and there with bolts and screws.

"That's the heart of Crutchford?" said Robert.

"Indeed," replied the king.

"But why?"

"Only by the heart of a monster can a monster's evil be mended," said the king solemnly. "Watch and see."

So saying, the king went to the nearest block of ice and touched the heart to it. There was a loud poof and a quickly dissipating cloud of white mist, and the rider was free.

Robert's heart soared with hope to witness it.