It is a beautiful, crisp Spring day. The birds are chirping, the soft rustle of new grass underfoot seems to mute the harshness of all intrusive sounds, and the warm, gentle sunlight spills across your shoulders like a mane of golden Fabio-hair. It's the kind of day where strangers smile sincerely upon greeting you, where life seems to hunker down and sit a spell, where good fortune hangs thick in the air like pollen; basically, it's a great day to huff ether and try to pickpocket winning tickets from old people down at the track.
If you decide to start in on the ether before you head out, you know--get your pre-game on--turn to page 2.If you opt for discretion, waiting until the bus ride there to anesthetize yourself, turn to page 3.
You soak your ancient, weathered lime-green headband in the ether and take a few good hits. After an hour or so of singing all the wrong lyrics to Peter Cetera's, "Glory of Love" (you are surprised to learn both that you own a copy and that you have apparently put it on repeat), you muster up all of your energy and stumble to the door. Pretty girls are out in force, as they always are in spring, and there is a veritable army of boobs assaulting your already frazzled short-term memory. Suddenly, the world starts swimming (well, even more so than usual) and you barely manage to stumble into a seat at the bus stop.
"Does this ether work funny on you?" you slur at the boob-platoon next to you.
And now, for some reason, she is running.
"Waaait nooo." You lurch after her. "Baaaaby, no. Wait up."
Turn to page 4.
Despite a crippling case of the sobers, you choose to hold off on the ether until you can get on some sort of public transport... because you are a gentleman. But without the buffer of a drugged-out haze, the prospect of dealing with the world seems too much to bear. You rustle around your closet for something inspirational to pump you up, but the best you can find is the soundtrack to Karate Kid II.
Best you can find? BEST YOU CAN FIND? It is our generation's Citizen Kane, sir!
You shrug and put it on. The dulcet tones of Mr. Peter Cetera ring out at you, filling your soul with soothing comfort. Man, you know what goes good with smooth rock?
Turn to page 2.
The girl takes rapid turn after rapid turn, occasionally glancing back, seeing you staggering after her like a drunken Quasimodo, and increasing her pace. You forget exactly why you are chasing her at this point, but you're sure there's a good reason. She probably stole something from you. That bitch.
Wait, maybe it was your heart.
God, you just love her so much. You tear up a little, but the mood is completely ruined when you hear somebody singing tonelessly in a terrible, strangled voice.
"Like a knight in shining armor / from a long time ago," the horrid voice slurs out, repeating just those two lines endlessly. Jesus, who is doing that?
That is seriously fucking creepy, you think. No wonder she's terrified.
Wait, what's this? She's suddenly ducked into a narrow, grassy opening in the brick wall separating the alleys.
If you follow her, turn to page 6.If you huff some more ether to get your confidence up first, turn to page 5.
Ohhh shiiiiit, son, that's rad ether!
You can tell how good ether is by how quickly everybody starts looking green and horrifying after.
It kind of smells like copper. That's weird. Does copper have a smell? It definitely has a taste. It tastes like pennies. What are pennies made of? Wait... what were you doing again? What is this, some kind of hole?
Turn to page 6.
You trip through the hole, splaying onto your face in a giant, shaded meadow. It is circular in shape, and from the rich, golden-hued birds to the gently swaying leaves, it is easily the single most beautiful thing you have ever seen. You are standing on a muddy path of some sort that rings the entire circle, just soaking in the majesty of nature, when a voice cries out!
"Oh, God! Watch out!" A gorgeous woman bears down on you, riding a pure white steed easily the size of an elephant at a hard gallop. A single shining horn sprouts from its head and its mane glitters in the muddled light. The girl is every bit the beast's match - savage, graceful, royal and she's got these giant tits that are just... just so good. There is an expression of desire in her eyes; you feel as if she wants something from you, but what?
The unicorn slams into you at full force, hurling you and the rider to the ground in an orgy of limbs and swearing.
Oh, that's right: She wanted you to move.
"Jesus fucking Christ! What is your problem, buddy?!" She is off her mount and helping you to your feet within seconds. Truly she is a creature of charity and beauty.
"What are you, fucking retarded? Why are you just standing there?"
You start to answer, but suddenly she glances behind her in terror and you put it all together: There's something chasing her, bearing down on her from behind!
"I'll bear down on your behind," you cleverly retort, but she does not appreciate the joke. She's probably too terrified by whatever is chasing her to fully comprehend your wordplay.
"That guy who dresses like a dong sure looks pissed at you, lady; I'd be scared too."
"Quickly, I'll save you!" you scream directly into her ear just a little too loudly. You seize her wrist and flip yourself with surprising agility up onto the unicorn, dragging her with you. You whip your belt out from your jeans and crack it above the beast's head - it takes off instantly.
If you want to see if a unicorn can do a wheelie, turn to page 7.If you concentrate on fleeing the threat at hand, turn to page 8.
It totally can, and it's every bit as awesome as you imagined it! You raise your hand to high five your maiden about it (secretly planning to miss and maybe graze some boob) but soon realize that you are not hanging on to anything. As you sail through the air, your last thought is about skulls cracking, or maybe that was actually your skull cracking. I guess you didn't really have any last thoughts.
Wait, does "Weeee!" count as a thought? If so, it was that.
You savagely crack your makeshift whip at the beast again and again... and again and again and again. You kind of forget why you were doing it, but you're pretty sure you were supposed to be beating the shit out of this unicorn for some reason. And man, you are doing it!
"Yeah, fuck this horse!" you yell to yourself, getting worried looks from your passenger as you whip the animal furiously. Driven on, it runs ever faster and easily jumps the low shrubbery bordering the meadow. It skitters out onto a grand, old road paved in shining alabaster, crowded with fancy carriages and lowly peasants alike. After a few moments of flight down the shining road, dodging in and out of frightened carriage drivers, you guide the beast down a side path and take refuge in a long, low-slung brick fort. You hustle the maiden into the doorway and begin pushing tables in front of it.
"What are you doing?" she screams, hunching into the furthest corner away from you.
"It's OK, whatever that was can't get in h-" you start to comfort her, but are stopped short when you see it. Out of the darkness behinds you looms a horrible shape; that long neck, the sinewy limbs, the disturbing, gangly gait. It can't be, you think to yourself. But as it suddenly thrashes into the light, you can no longer deny it.
"Dragon," you whisper, and the icy, clenching fear grips your heart. Also, balls.
"The fuck are these old people? Listen, princess, I'm as freaky as the next dude but I ain't doing your grandpa and slaying your dragon. One or the other."If you try to flee the dragon, turn to page 9.If you choose to fight the dragon, turn to page 10.
You turn to flee, but immediately trip over the pile of tables you forgot you just pushed up against the door. You flail about for a minute, but are clearly not in full control of your limbs. It must be some sort of effect from the dragon-stare; it's almost like somebody drugged you with a bunch of weird ether they got off a corrupt Russian dentist and also some mysterious pills they found behind the toilet when they woke up on the bathroom floor this morning. You end up thrashing on the ground for a few panicked seconds, but eventually you break into the giggles. The dragon claws its way ever closer. It is upon you now, its cruel mouth twisted in a hungry grin.
"You look like a big ol' wiggly dick," you inform it, laughing, before everything goes first red, and then black.
Seizing a decorative sword from above the mantle, you muster up all of your courage and release a battle cry that shakes the very walls themselves. The dragon looks stunned; it is clearly accustomed to fear, not bravery!
"Wait," it rasps in its uncharacteristically high, cracking voice. "Wait shit no shit owwww!"
You have become a vortex of slashing limbs, rending teeth, kicking feet and flipping off fingers. You crack the dragon across the back of the skull with the butt of your sword, slash at its back as it falls and then leap onto its neck. You raise your blade to strike, but it becomes stuck in the low ceiling! There is simply no room here to fight with weapons and so, despite all of your better judgment, you resort to hand-to-hand combat. Wrapping your legs around its neck, you bring the beast's head into your crotch area so you can gouge at its eyes. Sure, it looks a little gay, but you are a damn berserker right now - whatever deals death, you'll freakin' do it. All right, so the dry-humping is a little unnecessary, but come on, that's just funny.
GIANT HOMO-EROTIC BERSERKER POWER ACTIVATE!
When the dragon eventually rattles its last breath and lies prone, you turn to the maiden with tenderness in your heart. She is clearly shaken by this experience, practically slack from the shock. You guide her gently back outside and onto your exhausted, beaten mount. But as you turn to leave, a screeching, anguished scream rips out from inside the fort. From the shadows, a man emerges.
"What the hell happened he- oh god, Jimmy! Jimmy, are you OK?" The man, whom you see now is not a man but rather a horrible mockery of humanity--his features twisted by darkness--runs to the collapsed beast. "What did you do?!"
He begins to snarl fiercely, and you see that his teeth have been filed into vicious points.
"Onward, Sprinkles!" you cry (for you have named your noble steed Sprinkles, just now) and he rears upward dramatically, then thunders down the great road in a flurry of hoof-beats.
"Vlad, honey - no! You'll throw out your back again. Just let him have it - the horse is insured!"
As you leave the dread fort behind you--your glorious princess swooning in your arms, your limbs flailing about like rubber, giggling uncontrollably and drooling a little--you notice the sky for the first time. It has gone from the gentle caress of spring sunlight to an ominous, gathering darkness. It must be a trick of the light - surely it can't be real! - but you swear it seems as though the clouds are forming a face. Oh no, they are! The snarling visage shifts its gaze to you and screams! Suddenly, a bolt of lightning streaks out from the black heavens and pierces you directly through the chest. You fall to the ground, your vision growing dimmer by the moment.
Turn to Page 11.
When you come to, you are in a small, dim, tightly enclosed space resembling a tiny cell - because it is.
"He's up," says a voice from outside the bars.
"What... what happened?" you ask the police officer. "What happened to the princess?"
"Princess?" he scoffs. "I don't know about any 'princess.' All I know is we got reports that some maniac busted onto the horse track mid-race and tripped up one of the riders, stole their horse and kidnapped the jockey. Got another report a few minutes later that somebody broke into a Round Table Pizza around the corner and sexually assaulted their mascot, Puffers the Friendly Dragon. That poor damn kid inside the costume; he just wouldn't stop crying. When we arrived on scene, you charged the arresting officers on the stolen horse and had to be taken down with a Taser."
"But that horrible black storm..."
"You mean Officer Strom? I believe he prefers to be called African-American."
"Screaming that 'the giant black thing almost looks like it has a face' is probably one of the reasons he tased you."
"Oh, shitballs," you mutter in awe.
"Yessir: Shitballs indeed. You're in a lot of trouble, boy. But luckily for you, somebody's just posted your bail."
"What? Who?" you ask quite reasonably, knowing that none of your friends or family has that kind of money, and anyway you've alienated all of them long, long ago (by stealing all of their money).
"They're waiting for you out front," the officer replies, unlocking the cell door and ushering you into the lobby. After filling out the discharge paperwork, you emerge into the blinding sun--beaten, confused and tragically un-ethered. A small, elfin man with delicate, almost girlish features stands before you, leaning against a large trailer. Seeing you, he suddenly springs into life.
"There you are!" He exclaims.
"I know you?"
"Who, me? What's the matter," he asks, walking around to the rear of the trailer and opening the door, "you don't recognize your 'Princess'?"
"Oh, shitba-" You start to swear, but it catches in your throat when you see what was in the trailer. The sharp clack of hooves sounding on a steel ramp reaches your ears as the man guides an obviously harangued and weary horse out from the shadows. It has small welts all across its back in the exact shape and size of a belt buckle. It looks frightened, broken and sad... until it catches sight of you.
Though your logical mind knows it to be impossible, you swear to God it smiled, then.
Smiled before it came for you.
You can pre-order Robert's book, Everything is Going to Kill Everybody: The Terrifyingly Real Ways the World Wants You Dead on Amazon, or find him on Twitter, Facebook and his own site, I Fight Robots where you can threaten him with more stupid lawsuits that he'll completely ignore!