You awaken on a plane. You are seated comfortably in that one odd, solitary chair nearest the fire exits, so you have plenty of leg room and minimal witnesses – y'know, just in case the mood strikes you.
“Are you aware of the safety procedures?” The flight attendant had asked you when you first boarded.
“What do I look like, some kind of gaping asshole?” You responded. Then quickly clarified that you did not feel you deserved to be “questioned by some slut stewardess.”
Ron, your flight attendant, has spent the duration of the flight crying in the bathroom.
You are surrounded by tiny, empty liquor bottles, which you enjoy, because it makes you feel like Andre the Giant. Your legs are stretched taut in front of you. Your belly is heavy with the warm, comforting weight of a vast assortment of illegal narcotics. All wrapped safely in condoms, of course. You are happy; you are content. And then, the skittish, ratty looking man across the aisle from you leans over.
“You hear about those full-body scanners, man?”
“I love that movie,” you answer, excited to finally find somebody who understands you, "when that guy’s head is like ‘PKSHOW’ and you’re all ‘fuck yes!!!’ and your mom’s like ‘keep it down in the-“
Fuckin' everything explodes in that movie: Cars, heads, kid's asses...
“No, man. Like, at the airport? They got these machines man, they make you walk through ‘em. They can see inside of you. Right through your clothes. Right through your fuckin’ skin, man!”
“Sweet,” you reply, reclining happily, “I’ll be sure to chub up next time I see one. Make a good first impression.”
“Ha! You better get started now, man. They got ‘em installed at the gates where we’re landing.”
Your guts freeze. And not the good kind of freeze that comes from a bag of amphetamines leaking into your intestinal wall. The bad kind that comes from the realization that you’re about to be imprisoned for a very long time. The man notices your panicked expression.
“If you’re holding, man. You gotta take care of that shit now.”
“I can’t!” You proclaim loudly, “O, sweet irony! Ron is still crying out his girl-issues in the bathroom!”
“I can hear you!” Ron protests weakly, from behind the thin plastic door.
“Well, I’ll tell ya,” the man says, his wild eyes narrowing in earnestness, “if they catch you with any kind of quantity, they can bust you for intent to distribute. But they can’t bust you for intent if you’ve already taken it all. My buddy was carrying half an ounce when he got pulled over. He ate that shit on the spot, and they could only arrest him for intoxication.”
If you decide to kick down the door to the lavatory, vomit up your drugs, bust open the condoms, and down them as fast as you can before you land, turn to page 3.If you decide to kick down the door to the lavatory, vomit up your drugs, and force them down Ron’s throat instead, making him your unwitting effeminate drug-mule, turn to page 2.
With one sharp, determined kick, the little plastic sheet rattles off its hinge and swings open. You find Ron hugging his knees, rocking back and forth on the toilet. He has wildly applied lipstick all over his face, and is singing something about ‘feeling pretty’ quietly to himself.
He went to his happy place.
You shove a finger down your throat, and painfully bring up a series of small rubber orbs. You grab two in your fists, and begin advancing upon Ron.
“If you had any gag reflex left,” you warn him, “this would be terrible for you.”
His eyes cloud over; a dim, unfocused stare overtaking them. In a flash he is on you, slamming you with an leaping spin-kick. You’re not even sure how he managed that in an airplane bathroom so small you'd have to lift the lid just to get your dick out, but manage it he has.
“CHO!” Ron shouts, his blur of a fist embedding itself into your stomach. You puke two condoms full of heroin onto his shoes in retaliation, but he seems unphased by your attack.
He crouches down quickly, then leaps upward, bringing with him a soaring uppercut that sends you backflipping into oblivion. You die choking on your foot, and nobody mourns you, because you make terrible, terrible decisions. Remember that one time you ate a penguin? That was messed up, dude.
You kick at the surprisingly hearty plastic door again and again, only to rebound uselessly off of it.
Karate is way harder than it looks on Power Rangers.
Ron mistakes your pathetic blows for polite knocking, and informs you in a choking voice that it is ‘occupado.’ After several minutes of begging, pleading, apologizing, and ultimately dropping to your knees and singing two verses of Journey’s “Open Arms” for him while the rest of the cabin laughs at you, he relents. He emerges from the bathroom oddly composed, pats you on the head, and seamlessly trots off to offer drinks to the other passengers. With no time to spare, you shove a finger down your throat and bring the drug bags up. You frantically rip into each bag, downing their contents as fast you can. After a foul feast of prophylactic-and-vomit flavored mystery drugs, you once again take your seat next to the ratty conspirator.
“Did you flush it all?” He asks.
The hatred you feel for yourself at this moment actually borders on the hilarious. You stifle a giggle. A giggle which is impossible to stifle, because the shaking of your own ribs tickles you, which makes you giggle more, and this ridiculous situation is pretty funny, which makes you giggle more, which makes your ribs tickle again, and all of this is irrelevant now because the time vortex has opened up, and the entire front half of the plane is being swallowed by the pastel swirling of the Underverse.
If you embrace these sudden, unexplainable cosmic events with the simple-minded fervor of a child, turn to page 5.If you scream until your ocular pressure spikes and your eyeballs explode inside your skull, turn to page 4.
Well, that wasn’t a good idea.
You rise from your seat, hurriedly remove your pants (you are supremely confident that they will have evolved out of the need for pants in the future) and do what all onlookers will later agree was an objectively bitchin’ cannonball right through the space-time continuum.
"Sweet! Now do a bellyflop into a parallel universe!
You were expecting some clocks and shit to be swirling about, but the time vortex is actually a series of large, Cyclopean archways guarded by inscrutable, mystical beings – kind of like the Southern Oracle from the Neverending Story. Except one of them said he was named Steven and that he didn’t have time for this shit. Also like the Southern Oracle, at one point you had to face a mirror image of yourself that was reflective of all your hidden fears and weaknesses. You got the feeling that part was supposed to be hard, but you’re pretty much nothing but fears and weaknesses, so the two of you just high-fived and went about your respective business.
After you pass through the last gate, you emerge into a blinding, burning light. When it fades, you find yourself in a primordial jungle, standing at the bank of a long, fast river. There is no sound. You do not get the feeling that you are alone, but rather that all the wildlife is holding its breath. Before you sits a raft.
If you launch off on the raft, propelling yourself downriver to escape the ominous natural presence, turn to page 7.If you stand your ground and face your floral and faunal accusers, turn to page 6.
You prepare yourself for their approach, knowing - with that peculiar, undefined certainty that only an all-you-can-eat buffet of mysterious narcotics can bring - that they are here to put you on trial for all of mankind’s crimes against them.
FOR HERE PRESIDES THE SNAKE-JUDGE. AND ALSO LIKE...THE...THE BIRD-STENOGRAPHER.
And you are prepared to answer. You are confident that your heart is true; your words full of conviction. You draw yourself up with dignity as they approach, and begin your opening argument, but they just start eating you.
You were prepared for justice, but all nature had was fury. Well, except for that one parrot, sitting on the branch above you. He’s totally judging you. Just sitting there. Judging you. With his eyes. What gives him the right?
“Fuck you, parrot! You don't know me!” You scream.
They are your last words.
You take a step for the raft, and at the first hint of motion, a screeching cacophony of feral cries and rampaging beasts sounds behind you. You break for the boat, leaping the last few feet at full speed. You hit the boards of the raft on your side, and your momentum pushes the boat outward, down the river. The entire jungle is screaming for your blood. The beasts of the air assail and peck at you; the beasts of the water slam into the underside of your boat and nip; the beasts of the land stand futilely at the shore, alternately roaring and calling you names. One lion is simply repeating the word “aaaassshoooole” over and over again. It’s really starting to hurt your feelings.
And you're pretty sure that turtle just spit on you.
Just when you think you can’t take anymore, the river banks sharply, ejecting you onto land. You prepare yourself to be mauled by unseen beasts, but instead you are greeted by a gentle hand resting on your shoulder. You look up into a kindly, furry face.
A band of monkeys.
They look on you with curiosity and sympathy. And suddenly you understand: They are caught halfway between the human and the natural world. They alone are truly neutral. You hug them fiercely, weeping in relief. What kind of future is this? Has mankind disappeared completely? Been murdered by the unforgiving claws of Mother Nature, finally fed up with the mistreatment?
As if in answer to your question, a sudden rushing sound echoes from overhead. A sinister airship, all gleaming metal and sharp angles, banks sharply downward toward you, two parallel beams firing outward from it. Screaming in terror, your monkey-friends flee, and you flee with them. You run, tearing through the jungle, the sweeping beams tracing just behind your heels, Eventually, you all take shelter in a cave.
Also there were cavemen, because there's just not many covers with monkeys AND spaceships on them, okay?
You can hear the ship coming closer, eventually even landing outside, but you are helpless. You and the monkeys merely hold one other, taking what little solace you can in their company, and wait for the end.
“What the fuck are you doing here?” A monstrosity stands at the entrance to the cave: The backlit sillouhette of a man, interspersed randomly with mechanical lines. Its voice is tinny and abstract.
“Get away from those beasts – they’ll tear you apart!”
“No!” You protest, “they’re my friends! They saved me!”
“Look,” the man-thing says, sweeping his weapon back and forth over the assembled primates, “have you been living under a rock or something? We’re at war here, son! The entire natural world versus humanity. No exceptions. Either you’re with them, or you’re with us.”
You see the man distinctly now: His left half is almost entirely metallic. Cruel weapons, blades, and various – almost certainly deadly – tubes are lashed to every inch of him. He is scarred, vicious and cruel. The monkeys hold you tighter.
If you turn and reluctantly leave with the man to be with your own kind, turn to page 8.If you stop to consider the plight of the monkeys as best you can, harnessing all of your empathy in exchange for the kindness they have shown you, turn to page 8.
“Well, hell yes!” You answer, slapping the comforting paws aside and striding towards the man. You seize his raygun, turn on the darkness of the cave, and spray it down with white hot laser.
"This Friendship has sailed, you empathizing monkey bastards!"
“Jesus,” the man-thing protests, “I mean – yeah, they’re not on our side. But we don’t really….we don't burn the monkeys.”
“Listen man, are you seriously gonna go all future-pussy on me here, or are we gonna jump in your ship, fire up the photon machineguns, blast some metal, and light some flea-bitten motherfuckers on fire?”
“I…I guess we can go,” He seems very uncertain about you all of a sudden. You make a note to report him as an animal-sympathizer to whatever Orwellian council you assume runs this world as soon as you get back to civilization. Can't have any fur-lovers in your army.
You wait impatiently, jabbing at random buttons and making explosion noises with your mouth, as the man makes preparations for take-off. Suddenly, you spy something out the window and sprint back down the stairs.
“Hold up a sec,” you motion for the man to wait, “I’ve got to take care of something real quick.”
You emerge from the belly of the shining steel vessel, shield your eyes against the burning sun, and center your aim at the treetops. You’re pretty sure you saw a parrot up there with a disapproving look in his eye, and you’re not about to take that shit from some Featherhead – which you’re assuming is the racist slur for birds in the future. If not, it certainly should be. You make up your mind to start slipping it into casual conversation.
"No, we'll join the planetary war in a second - this fuckin' bird thinks he's better than me!"
You steady yourself to fire, but something is groping at your leg! You look down to find you’ve tangled your foot into some vines. Or rather, the vines have tangled around you – as you see now they’re moving independently, tightening their grip. Another ropy lash seizes your arm, causing you to drop your firearm. Suddenly, you are being engulfed by the plants.
If you cry out for help from the man-machine inside the ship, turn to page 9.If you tough it out, confident that even a vegetarian can take down some stupid plant, turn to page 10.
“Help,” you scream, as the leaves swat at your open mouth “help me, Robocop!”
“My name’s David,” the man snaps back from the open stairway.
“Fucking whatever, Johnny 5, just shoot the god damn plant.”
“No,” he answers, his voice quavering, “you’re really mean and I don’t like you and I’m going home.”
You inhale deeply, preparing to scream the loudest obscenity possible, cycling through your mental rolodex of robot-based epithets, but the plant has already sealed over your mouth.
"Suck my dick, Bicentennial Man!"
As it drags you to the ground, you see David’s ship ascending and quickly disappearing out of sight. A twig snaps to your left, and just before the vines entwine over your eyes, you see a caveful of monkeys – not a one so much as singed – watching in grim resignation as you are devoured.
Huh. You just kind of assumed that firing wildly into a darkened cave like that, you’d hit something.
The vines flap frantically about your face and jaw. You rear your head back, open your mouth, and tear a bite out of the leaf nearest you. The whole plant recoils in pain.
“My mother always told me,” you say, quietly furious that you can’t reach your sunglasses, “to eat my vegetables.”
You seize mouthful after mouthful of the attacking plant, until finally it begins to withdraw.
"Yeah! Who's the plant now...uh, plant?"
But you ain't having none of that; you pounce on the cowering shrubbery and devour every inch, down to the stump. Then you turn and spitefully vomit the partially digested mess back onto the root system, because vegetables are for hippies and gross foreigners.
Across the meadow, a group of stunned human soldiers in full battle gear are watching slack-jawed. You confidently stride over to your fallen weapon, grasp it, and raise it over your head as you face the assembled crowd.
“Well come on, you bastards,” you bellow, “do you really want to live forever!?”
With a supportive scream they follow your charge, firing wildly into the density of the jungle. A battle is a pure, whole, and simple thing; a battle is something you know how to do. As the animals die wetly beneath your feet, you have a feeling you will like this new future.
Turn to page 11.
“Jesus, what the hell happened here?” Leiutenant Danielson bent down to examine the broken, twisted body, kicking away fluffs of cotton and errant cloth scraps to do so.
“Flight attendant says he just went berserk. Cannonballed off the plane onto the runway, broke into the terminal, ran through the security checkpoints, stood screaming in the fountain for a minute, where he reportedly yelled to that frizzy-haired little blonde kid over there that he 'was not an asshole,' then came in here,” Detective Johnson gestured to what remained of the safari-themed giftshop they stood in.
“Well, what in God’s name did this to him, then?”
“He did. He did it to himself. The cashier, a Mr. David Spencer, says he got into a fist-fight with some pre-packaged salads - mostly Cobb, by the looks of them - and then just started tearing into the stuffed animals like a maniac. Demolished every single one, then just kind of twisted up into a ball and died.”
“Wait, what? Then what bent all of his limbs backwards?” The rookie seemed green, stifling a sickness.
“Willpower, Danielson. Pure, unrestrained force of will,” Johnson answered.
“Hell of an afternoon,” Danielson said, standing and turning away just a bit too quickly.
“Afternoon? No, this whole thing took a minute and a half. From plane to man-ball: Ninety seconds.”
Danielson resigned from the force the next morning. He currently volunteers full time at the Serene Shores Rehab Center in South Beach. He still suffers from night-terrors and Post Traumatic Impotency.