"So wait, she actually talked to you?" I eyed DOB with disbelief. "Can girls even talk?"
"No, I know! She made words at me like a real person. That means we had sex, right? That's what that is?" We were hunched together in the Cracked cafeteria line, huddled close so nobody could steal our scintillating conversation.
"Dude," I whispered, "you used protection, right? You don't want no kids."
"Yeah," he replied, stepping up to the Hot Orders counter. "I didn't set my mace down the entire time. I'm no fool. Chicken sandwich, please."
The cafeteria worker ladled a hot pile of chicken-sandwich-flavored sludge onto DOB's tray, and he stepped aside.
"So what did you talk about? Buttered Vicodin, please," I winked at the cafeteria person on the off chance that it was a woman. It was impossible to tell, of course; for some reason you lose all gender-specific traits when you stand behind glass-walled counters in an apron, but I like to play the odds. I took my noticeably larger-than-usual scoop of Vicodin in butter sauce and followed DOB to the Cold Orders side.
"Mostly about how she didn't want me to mace her. She was very polite. She said, 'please' and 'oh Jesus fuck no,' and everything. I think she was probably a nun."
"Nice!" I went to high five DOB but, as usual, Swaim intercepted it mid-air. I don't see the guy for months on end and yet every single time I try to high-five somebody, I end up slapping hands with Swaim instead. He nodded curtly and stepped sideways. In an instant, he was lost in the crowd and gone like he'd never been there.
"That guy is the Keyser Soze of five-jackin'" DOB observed, moving up to the counter. "Jell-O please."
DOB took the brick of hard purple filth that we laughably called Jell-O and stepped out of line.
"So what did you do this weekend?" He asked me, dipping his Jell-O brick into the chicken sandwich sludge and choking back his gag reflex.
"Whiskey please," I held out my tray and took my ladle-full of whiskey. The sweet brown liquid slopped over the edges of the segregated compartments of my lunch-tray. I continued following DOB. "Not much man: traveled back in time, tamed and rode a dinosaur, got an arch-nemesis."
We eyed the crowded room for somewhere to sit. We spotted Bucholz sitting alone as usual, an entire table to himself, but when we started to head towards him he got up and clocked a guy with a chair.
"ON THE FIRST DAY YOU EITHER KILL A DUDE, OR BECOME SOMEBODY'S BITCH!" he screamed at nobody in particular.
I'm pretty sure he's been here for years now, and also that he was confusing lunch-time with prison, but I wasn't sure enough to risk the embarrassment of asking, so we moved on. We settled for standing around the garbage can, hunched over our respective plates and shoveling "food" into our mouths as quickly as possible before retching it into the receptacle.
"Sounds like a good weekend, what happened?" he asked me, wiping the slurry of disintegrating Jell-O brick and watery chicken sandwich sludge from the front of his shirt.
I cracked my knuckles, releasing all the pent-up literary genius that had congealed in my fingers while I wrote (if you don't vent that stuff it gets infected, and you end up writing like Tom Clancy), and I got up to check on my beer.
I dropped to my belly and army-crawled out of my office and down the hallway. When the coast was clear, I somersaulted into the open elevator, choked out the delivery-man who'd been the only witness and pressed the button for the basement, where I'd been secretly brewing my own beer for the better part of two hours now. They say properly brewed beer can take months to ferment into alcohol, but I had an idea: What if, instead of water, you just used alcohol to start with? Then it was simply a matter of stirring the beer flavoring into the base liquor, right? Also, what better beer flavoring than beer itself? I guess if you want to get technical about it, I had really just mixed two gallons of Everclear with six cases of Pabst, and left it to age for a few hours in an empty fuel barrel that I'd found.
As I sauntered down the hall to check on my artisanal craft, I noticed a door I'd never seen before. I kicked it open dramatically (just in case there were any bad guys inside) and prepared to run in slow motion from an explosion, if necessary.
And that's when I saw the time machine.
"Wait," DOB interjected, as we moved to Bucholz's now mysteriously empty table, "there's a time machine in the basement?"
"Yeah dude, it's right there in the open. Red door, big white letters that say 'Time Machine' on it." I sopped up the remaining Vicodin sauce and whiskey with a napkin and then ate it.
"It says 'Time Machine' on the door?" DOB was skeptical; I could tell by the jerking off motion he made with his hand. If there wasn't a penis in it, it meant he was skeptical. If there was a penis in it, he was either very excited to meet you or under arrest. It depended on the situation.
"Yeah, it probably said 'Time Machine.' I don't really know, it was tl;dr."
"Did you just 'tl;dr' a fucking sign?" Bucholz had snuck up on me with a makeshift shiv he'd formed from a toothbrush. He'd apparently been preparing to shank me, but now recoiled in disgust.
"Yeah, dude. It's like, if they wanted me to read it, they wouldn't have made it out of words, you know? I only read pictures," I answered.
He spat on the floor and wandered off to find a more deserving victim, muttering racially charged epithets into his blade.
"So anyway," I turned back to DOB and continued, despite already approaching the thousand-word mark…
I entered the dimly lit Time Machine room and stared in slack-jawed awe at the opulent presence of the technology before me. There were dials within dials, buttons beset by buttons and I'm pretty sure there was even a lever with a smaller lever mounted on it.
Just as I was about to charge into the fray--pressing, pulling, twisting and probably punching just for good measure--a strong hand gripped my shoulder and whirled me around. I was now staring into the face of the grimmest… face I'd ever... faced.
"What you doin' here, boy?" the grizzled scientist asked me. It was clear he'd been lost in his work for weeks, even months, and hadn't seen the light in just as long.
"I was just gonna fuck with this machine a bunch is all," I answered earnestly, hoping he would take note of my earnestness long enough for me to think of a lie to tell him.
"You any idea what this here gizmo does? You got any clue what bad gonna come outta usin' it without knowin' what you're doin'?"
"He sounds more like a cowboy than a professor," DOB noted, still insistently making the jerk-off motion. It was clear his arm was becoming cramped, but he gritted his teeth and suffered through. "Are you sure he was a scientist?"
"Yeah, of course. He had on a blue jumpsuit, like those scientists that work at NASACAR."
Pictured: Robert's understanding of space travel. Also, epic reverse camel-toe.
"You mean NASCAR?" sweat broke out on his brow from the continued arm-strain, but he seemed to take this as a sort of challenge and merely upped the tempo of his masturbatory pantomime.
"Yeah, you know – those cars that go in space. Plus he had a hairnet to keep hair from getting into the science."
"I'm not so sure you-" DOB began, but it was too late, I had already typed these three asterisks.
"You use this machine without proper trainin', boy, and the consequences'll be mighty dire," the scientist continued, glowering at me as I fidgeted in place.
"But I wanna press the buttons!" I pleaded, mimicking the pressing of buttons and making science noises as if to illustrate how neat that would be.
"You wanna plunge us all into darkness here?"
"No sir," I answered shamefully. The potential consequences of time travel truly were daunting. I had no idea it could destroy the sun itself!
"Now listen, I got some pornos that need lookin' at back in the toilet, you gotta promise me you won't touch nothin'," he said, adopting the distracted, shifty-eyed expression of a man with unfinished pornography on his mind.
He grunted once more by way of goodbye, and shuffled back down the hallway towards what I'm assuming were the science bathrooms.
I, of course, immediately locked the door and started taking frantic, poorly-aimed swings at any and everything button or lever-like in appearance. The engines coughed and sputtered into activity, and the room began to fill with a mysterious fog.
"Time mist!" I said in awe and inhaled deeply.
"And then I had the most amazing adventures!" I told DOB, who had now apparently extended the length of the imaginary penis he was pretending to pleasure, gripping the shaft with both hands and working it mightily, like a Viking rowing a warship. "I met a dinosaur named Maxwell and we became best friends, but Doctor Prehistoria didn't like that and we blew up his crystal castle on top of Mount Tyrannosaur and it was like PRKOW SPLOOSH CRASH. I'm sure glad I didn't listen to Professor Garcia about not using the time machine."
"Wait," DOB abruptly stopped wanking the alarmingly large, phantom penis and stared at me. "Professor Garcia? You mean Garcia, the janitor?"
"Science-janitor," I corrected him.
"No. Just janitor. Lazy eye, hair-net for no reason, filthy denim jumpsuit, always cleaning that one bathroom behind the generator-room that he's lined with pictures of fat chicks eating cake?"
"Yeah! That's his lab. And right outside of that is the Time Machine room with all the time mist."
"No, that's the emergency generator. With the diesel fumes."
"So I didn't spend all weekend fighting for justice in the year eight million?"
"No, you spent all weekend huffing gasoline in an enclosed space in the basement."
I spent a silent moment mourning the dino-friendship that had apparently never been, and shed a solitary tear for Maxwell's brave but now ultimately meaningless sacrifice on the lava-sleds.
"Either way, it was pretty fuckin' sweet!" DOB suddenly broke out, angling a hand up for a conciliatory high-five. His hand stopped suddenly short of mine, and we both stared up into the face of Swaim. He smiled knowingly, and then ducked beneath the table. When we both lunged down to look for him, we found nothing--nothing but the muffled rustling of leaves in wind. Why there were leaves and wind in the cafeteria is either due to the mystery that is Swaim, or a testament to the blatant violations of the building code that we live with every day.
"You think that room's still open?" DOB asked, his face brightening.
"Hey…yeah! And my Everbeer's probably ready by now!"
"I'm gonna meet Thomas Jefferson… and punch him in the mouth!" DOB proclaimed as we ran towards the elevators.
"I'm gonna bone Catherine the Great!" I countered.
"I'm gonna bone Thomas Jefferson… in the mouth!"
And so began the story of that one fateful summer when I stopped being a boy, and finally learned how to be a man.
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 or you can just wrap your lips around the tailpipe of the nearest running automobile and start your own fabulous adventure through time!