There's a semi-obscure Russian religious text called The Way of The Pilgrim that suggests one can achieve a state of grace by incessantly reciting the Jesus Prayer mentally until it becomes so intrinsic that it automatically repeats itself with every heartbeat. I thought this was a beautiful, simple and brilliant idea: It's like brainwashing your own soul into goodness. I decided to give the concept a shot myself, but the thing is - I don't really want to be filled with grace. Considering my moral character, grace just seems inappropriate. So instead of the Jesus Prayer, I am incessantly repeating a line from Conan the Barbarian in the hopes that it will ultimately infuse my soul with his warrior spirit. With every heartbeat, I am going to mentally repeat the barbarian's answer to the greatest question in existence: "What is best in life?" To which Conan answers, "To crush your enemies, see them driven before you and to hear the lamentation of their women."
Even the greatest tales start small...
I woke up like I usually do: sticky, frustrated and unconsciously suckling at a bottle of Beefeaters like it was the sour teat of some great alcoholic mother-goddess. I rolled out of bed and, again as usual, cried for 15 minutes out of regret for the previous night's mistakes. But eventually I sobered up (that's just a turn of phrase, mind you) and remembered my new goal in life. I straightened myself with a Sisyphean effort and gazed into the mirror.
"CONAN!" I bellowed, "WHAT IS BEST IN LIFE?"
"SHUT THE FUCK UP!" came an unexpected answer from the living room. I did not recall anybody else in the house offhand; a typical night often ends with any friends I may have made either fleeing in terror and disgust or, if all goes well, simply under arrest. This warranted investigation.
"To crush your enemies, see them driven before you," I continued more softly, padding across the blood-stained carpet of the hallway (that's no big deal, by the way, I just like to do my bleeding in the hallway), "and to hear the lamentation of their women."
When I stepped into the living room, I couldn't help but notice that Bill Pullman was suspended from my ceiling.
I swear to god, it was actually Bill Pullman. I closed my eyes and counted to 10 under the assumption that this was simply another of my many waking nightmares, but he would not dissipate. He hung from the ceiling by virtue of some elaborate contraption that must have been installed overnight. It looked like equal parts examination table and torture rack, and he was strapped to its upper-most base by what looked like a pair of Darth Vader's ski-boots. His face was purple and flushed with blood; it was apparent he had been inverted for some time. A single bead of sweat rolled down his neck and traced the contours of his jawline.
"Bill Pullman?" I ventured hesitantly, not wanting to antagonize a potentially furious hallucination.
His eyes snapped open. They were so bloodshot that you could actually see the bulge of the veins in his eyeballs.
"Fucking PAXTON," he screeched, heaving himself upward to the ceiling with virtually no effort, "I'm fucking Bill motherfucking Paxton, fucker."
The snaps on his boots released, and he half-somersaulted to the ground below without a sound. He moved like a ninja in an action movie--it was all just too streamlined to be real. The blood was rapidly draining from his head now that he was upright, and as it filtered down through his torso you could actually see every single artery filling like an intricate network of tiny snakes digesting.
"You look a lot... uh... less crazy on TV."
"Why are you on my ceiling, Bill Paxton?" I asked what I thought to be a reasonable question.
"This is how I sleep, fuckin' fuckknocker! The single greatest flaw in human existence is the horizontal sleeping position. It reduces bloodflow to the brain and starves the blood cells of oxygen. Every single night that I sleep like this, I gain two IQ points. When last measured, I had an IQ of 735. I fuckin' invented yogurt, you bag of fucks."
I began to shrink back timidly, but reminded myself of my new mantra.
"Conan!" I told him matter-of-factly, "what is best in life? To crush your enemies, see them driven before you and to hear the lamentation of their women."
"What are you, some of kind of fuckin' retard? Why do you keep saying that?" He began edging toward the kitchen, as if to flee. Easily the best part of my life so far was finding Bill Paxton hung in my living room, and so, anxious to please him, I decided to stop speaking the phrase aloud.
Pictured: Bill Paxton being unsure of your level of retardation.Conanwhatisbestinlife, I thought to myself, even as I reassured Bill Paxton that I was not, in fact, an "asstard from fucktown" as he kept insisting. I needed a lie quickly. I explained that I was part of an experimental prog-rock band that covered movie dialogue instead of songs.
"What's this band of fucks called?" he inquired, seemingly set at ease.
"The... Soundtrackers?" I regretted it immediately.
"That's a name stupider than shit on a fuck," he laughed at me. I simply could not believe how much he swore; he always struck me as such a gentlemen. He could clearly see me pondering this.
"It's the upside down sleeping, fuckfart. It stimulates the intellect, but also inflames the part of the brain responsible for cursing and aggression. I'm so fuckin' smart I'm like Einstein reaming Tesla in the asshole, but I swear like a shitting sailor with Tourette's and I fuckin' kill dudes like you pick up the morning paper."
As if to drive his point home, he suddenly karate-kicked my refrigerator. It rocked gently, the soft jingle of glass bottles clanking together echoed from inside. We stood in silence for an awkward moment.
"Fuckbuckets," he whispered.
To live in the heat of battle is to live without regret.
We climbed into my weather-beaten Kia and drove off into the blinding sunlight. I still had to work, after all, and the last time I left Bill Paxton alone in my house he apparently installed a genius-swing in my living room, so I wasn't content to leave him unattended again. He sung along to Kansas's Carry on Wayward Son, replacing every single word with some variation of "fuck."
"Fuckin' fuck my fucko fuu-uuuck" sang Bill Paxton. "Fuck you fuck fuck motherfuu-uuuck."
I was oddly serene. Normally I would have been intensely worried about bringing a hyper-aggressive celebrity supermind to my workplace without notice, but I was having difficulty framing any concrete thoughts while repeating my mantra.
We pulled into the parking lot a full two hours late for work. Bill Paxton was rabbit punching my glove-box as I talked to the parking lot security guard.
"He needs not a visitor pass," I informed the guard, puffing my chest out, "this is the Paxton and he goes where he will."
My speech patterns were getting bizarre. I made a mental note to research potential side-effects of brainwashing, and was marginally surprised to find myself clutching the poor man's necktie as I knelt on his back. I'm not sure when I had brought him to the ground, but I was sure that I started screaming quickly afterward.
The warrior does not question, does not ponder, does not pontificate. The warrior simply does.
As we entered the building, a small, balding man refused to hold the elevator for us, so Bill Paxton and I raced up the stairs instead. We were waiting for him when the doors opened on the 14th floor. Bill Paxton took him high with a clothesline, as I went low and slide-kicked his knees out. His briefcase exploded when he went down. A sheaf of papers, a laptop computer and a saran-wrapped croissant flew out like shrapnel from a Business Casual Grenade. Bill Paxton instantly regretted it. He remorsefully offered the man a hand up while I held my arms in the air and roared.
"What some call misfortune, others call adventure," Paxton reassured the man. "The Chinese have a word that means both tragedy and opportunity. Suckfuckers fuck sucks."
Pictured: Bill Paxton generally being a frenzied man-monster.
I could not tell offhand if the man was consoled as he sprinted toward the fire exit.
"Come, Paxton. Let us take the office," I suggested. The edges of my vision were going slightly red, as though dimmed by a curtain of blood.
"Why do you ride with me, Paxton?" I asked him as we strode manfully down the hallway to my offices.
"Are you asking why I'm here, fucker-ass? You talk like a fuck with a shit on his cock." He seemed to mull over my question for a moment.
"Last night you saved my fuckin' dick from getting arrested. Two Belgian guys called the cops on me after I took a shit on their nachos. You somehow convinced them that I was the President of Canada and that chip-shitting was the highest honor one could bestow on foreign dignitaries. You really stuck your neck out for me, man. I guess I'm just gratefuckingful."
Bill Paxton wiped the beginning of a tear from his eye.
"Cry not, Paxton. There will be time for tears when we feast on the carcasses of the gods," I pushed open the glass doors to the office just slightly too hard. They shattered as they rebounded off the walls.
"Lament, women! Rejoice, men! We have come!" I roared.
"Ffffffuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu-" Paxton hummed under his breath.
With an arterial spray of blood his presence was announced!
I was having a hard time concentrating on the PowerPoint Presentation, so I decided to alternately pinch and hiss at the man beside me. I glowered at him, daring him to cry out. He was quietly sobbing when the lights came back on.
I noticed that at some point during the report, I had apparently stripped to the waist and drawn primitive glyphs across my torso with a highlighter. Somewhere along the line I had also lost Bill Paxton. That would probably have repercussions later.
A man I dimly recognized as my boss was summoning me forward. It seemed that I had some sort of responsibility here--a report I was to present, an argument to proffer--I had no idea, nor did I exceptionally care. I stood up abruptly and began tearing at my chair as my coworkers stared in confusion. Somewhere, there was the sound of glass breaking. Somewhere, there was a muffled shout. The sound of footsteps was growing louder, and a distant alarm sounded.
AND DEATH! O, DEATH WALKS THESE HALLS!
With a few great heaves and wrenches, I finally managed to pull the steel spine of my chair free and quickly wrapped the base of it in cloth. I wielded it in both hands like a makeshift broadsword, steeled myself for battle and charged the water cooler with a barbaric yawp. The women cried out and the men cowered as I thundered across the room and, with a single blow, murdered their Totem King of Gossip. At the precise moment I struck the deathblow, the window facing the main room bubbled up like a great blistering pustule, and burst in a shower of flames and glass.
Looking through the shattered pane, I realized that at some point the other room had apparently turned into the Fifth Circle Hell.
"BILL PULLMAN JUST BUILT A FLAMETHROWER OUT OF THE COPY MACHINE AND HE'S BURNING EVERYTHING!" Screamed a mousy woman. Her top was torn dramatically right at the bust-line, and her hair was faintly smoking.
Seized in a battle-frenzy, I grabbed her by the waist and pulled her alongside me. I felt her struggle briefly, but she quickly relented and fell into me, overwhelmed by the power of this savage office barbarian with his IKEA ChairSword and Highlighter Tattoos.
"IT'S FUCKSTAINING PAXTON," Bill screamed after the woman from the doorway. "CHRIST ON AN ASS I AM SO BILL PAXTON AS FUCK!"
There was frenzy in Bill Paxton's eyes, and sweat poured down his neck as he pulled the trigger on his weapon again and the flames roared around him. A manic laugh percolated in my gut, flowed through my chest and poured out from my lips. I mounted the conference table with my wench, held my Chairsword aloft and rejoiced in the heat of the flames. I knew these were but the birth-throes of my new kingdom emerging into life.
Her bosom heaved, her fury surged, she sat beside her king and glowed with rage.
I woke up suddenly to the comfortingly pedestrian sounds of the morning news. Oh, thank Christ! It was all a fever dream, probably brought on by the two bottles of Aftershock I had poured into a vaporizer and inhaled from an embossed foil balloon with the words "Happy Retirement, Martin" written in gold leaf across the front. Maybe I should tone some shit down, I thought as I roused myself and headed for the bathroom. I was suddenly brought up short, and felt a sharp pain in my wrist. I realized that I was not in my own bed, nor was I alone. My coworkers--bruised, beaten and burned--were standing over me.
"Oh look, Brockway's ruined everything again. Is it Wednesday already?"
"I just had the weirdest dream," I informed them, "and you were there! And you were there! And you were there! And why am I chained to this radiator?"
"Is he out of it now?" I heard a voice mumble.
"Bill Paxton's agent said there was some sort of gas leak that caused temporary madness," offered another.
"I guess it's worn off," the first voice suggested. "Should we let him go?"
"I suppose. Janine, get the keys would you?"
A familiar looking mousy woman with a conveniently breast-exposing tear in her blouse leaned down to uncuff one of my hands. I smiled at her pleasingly. She bent across me again to undo the other, and I caught a whiff of her perfume as her face passed close to mine.
"Conan," I whispered to her as my blood began to burn, "what is best in life?"
You can pre-order Robert's book, Everything is Going to Kill Everybody on Amazon, or find him on Twitter, Facebook and his own site I Fight Robots, or you can forward this article to Bill Paxton's agent and see if you can get Robert sued for the weirdest libel ever.