You promised yourself that this time would be different. You promised that you'd rein it in: just have a few drinks, make some small talk and then call it a night. This here is a modest Halloween party, homey, not some twisted Revelations themed boxing-orgy. That was last night. And quite frankly, you could use some down time after it (the girl cosplaying Fetish Pestilence really liked to work the kidneys). You were going to be nice. You were going to be chill. You were going to take it easy, but then the swarthy fellow in the Robin Hood costume had to go and ask if you got high. What were you supposed to do?
Not follow him into the bathroom?
Decline the mysterious concoction in the Sonic the Hedgehog thermos that he insisted was "some serious shit"?
Not rip said thermos from his hands and take a defensive position on top of the toilet tank, fending him off with your feet while gripping the cylinder with both hands and desperately pouring the mystery contents down your throat, because socializing is hard?
Well thanks for the advice, asshole, but it's a little late. You've already done
"Me friend!" you scream down at the rabid dryad, whom you appear to be kicking for a reason that you can no longer remember, but you'll be damned if you're going to stop now and risk looking foolish. "Me cool! Me cool, bro -- some of me best friends am Ancient Forest Avatars!"
"Jesus Fucking Christ, Oakron, are all tree spirits such total bogarts?"
"Ahhhmhh guhhhrreaaaakkk, yeeewwww rrrrraaaiiiiyyyyy cyssssst," it replies, in a voice like the creaking of branches in the wind.
Great. It doesn't speak English.
"You're in America, goddammit! Learn the language!"
Fucking foreign tree gods, sneaking into our country, sucking up all our soil nutrients. Bet he edged out a decent, hard-working American Pine Marten for this gig, too. Hey, you know what? Screw this guy!
Scandinavian folklore holds that some forest deities can be appeased by a sacrifice of three young maids wearing crowns of birch. Many proto-Germanic tribes believed that iron was the only thing which could bind the Fae. Some Native American tribes thought that creatures of the forest could not cross solid rock. That movie Aliens had those dudes that burnt some shit with flamethrowers.
Remember that? That was rad as shit; let's go with that one.
You heft your bulk back up onto your hands, then spring forward, pushing the monster back with your sick calf muscles (you got way into pilates there for a while; it was a thing). The forest spirit is surprised by your attack. It stumbles backward, and sharply contacts the counter with its head. It seems to be stunned for the moment, holding a wreath of protective branches in front of its mockery of a human face.
"Kkkkaaaaahhhmmm ddddddooouuuuunnnnn," it threatens.
"Is it getting a little fire in here?" you ask the monster, seizing the hairspray with one hand, your lighter with the other, "or is it just your face?"
The pop and sizzle of burning sap rings in your ears, even after you slip out the side window of the uh ... the haunted forest, you guess that was? Weird that it had a toilet and all, but hey -- they're tree-monsters, not savages.
"These are civilized beings, after all, not some filthy wood-apes. What? Oh, God, there's one right behind me, isn't there?"
You seek cover behind a low hedge, that you're pretty sure isn't animated with the life-force of the woods, but looks like it would be kind of a pussy, even if you're wrong.
"I'll fuck you up, bush," you whisper harshly into the leaves, just in case.
Suddenly, a rustling. Your every muscle freezes, trying in vain to refocus their energies toward rendering you invisible. The soft, fleshy snap of a new branch, breaking. Then the entirety of the hedge sheltering you is abruptly uprooted, split in twain, and hurled away. A towering Sasquatch looms above you, its mouth sticky with slaver, its eyes wild and roving.
Something warm and wet splashes across your face, making your eyes burn and your throat constrict. That's when you see the wound in its abdomen, spraying foul, fallow blood at every turn. A wicked-edged spear, minuscule compared to the massive bulk of the beast itself, juts out from the gash.
"Me cool!" you cry out, frantically waving your arms in a punching motion (to show that you mean peace, even though you're capable of such devastatingly powerful punches). "Some of me best fri-"
But the hominoid either does not understand, or does not care about your intentions. It is too hurt, too frightened, and entirely too panicked for communication. In its sheer, blinding terror, it inadvertently shoves the spear deeper into its abdomen, until the weapon disappears within the wound entirely. It turns to flee, hooting in agony.
"Wait!" you cry, "I can pull that tiny thing out! I can help you!"
"Get away from me, pervert," it hollers back, in a remarkably normal human voice, "and it's not tiny! It's just cold out here!"
Somewhere, you presume, the great ape curls up in a dark corner of the woods and dies, alone. And that's it: You've missed it. You've missed your one chance to have a Sasquatch friend.
You sit right down and die of heartbreak, and also of a massive drug overdose.
"Fuck you, 'Squatch!" you screech, springing from your crouch and wrapping both hands about the spear's hilt. You meant to yank it from the wound and use it against the brute -- because that is the Sasquatch's greatest weakness: stab wounds -- but the spearhead must be barbed, for it will not detach, no matter how hard you yank and twist. The behemoth roars in agony, and seems unable to effectively swing at you for the pain.
"AHH! OH GOD! WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?!" it screams, flailing.
"I'm gonna pull this thing out and then kill you with it!" you answer back, wedging your feet into the soft earth and jerking with all of your might.
"PLEASE JESUS NO!" the beast is slapping ineffectually at your head and shoulders, but the blows are glancing; far weaker than the giant paws would suggest. But a lucky swat does land square in your eye, forcing you to release your grip. Surprisingly, instead of ripping you in half and wearing your skin like a jaunty scarf -- as you assume is en Sasquatch vogue right now, being the fall season and all -- the brute turns and flees, the shaft of the weapon still firmly engaged in its waist, flapping limply with every lumbering bound.
You must away, before it returns with the deadly 'Squatch Marines as reinforcements. To your left sits an ancient and imposing stronghold, crumbling from disuse. To your right, something metallic gleams deep amidst the verdant forest.
The fortress sits atop a craggy bluff, shrouded in a perpetual, chill fog. There is something alien to the stink of it; an exotic redolence that snakes throughout the shifting banks. It entrances you. Like a siren's song, you follow the smell through the impassable, labyrinthine haze, and arrive at an oaken door, heavily bound with metal straps. You struggle with the wrought-iron knocker, forged in the shape of a screaming skull, and eventually manage to raise and drop it. The deafening metallic clang seems somehow profane in the sacred stillness.
Or maybe it's all the robbing from those graves out back that's giving you that "inexplicable profanity" vibe.
After a long moment, you hear footsteps approaching, and a view-slit slides open. From behind it peers the most appalling pair of eyes that you have ever seen: An infectious, oozing crust cakes the thick folds surrounding each lid; the whites so bloodshot you can actually see shadows cast by the pulsing veins; the irises a dead, cataract gray.
"'Sup skank-eyes," you begin your carefully prepared appeal for sanctuary, "can a brother take shelter from some 'Squatches up in this bitch?"
There is puzzlement in the expression, but eventually it yields to resolution, and the slit clangs shut in its housing. After a few tense seconds, the massive gate begins to ease inward.
The body they're attached to makes you long for the relative beauty of the hideous eyes. It is a bent and broken form, crackling arthritically with every movement. It must have been female, once, but qualities such as race or gender have long since lost relevance in the face of such remarkable ugliness. Its papery skin seems set to crumble at the slightest breeze. Its hooked nose is hairy, warty, and whistling audibly. Its sallow teats sway wretchedl-
"Jesus, what the hell, dude?" the thing croaks.
Holy shit, can it read minds, or have you been speaking aloud?
"You've been talking out loud," it answers, almost before the thought was finished.
"WITCH!" you scream, practicing some pre-slaps so you're ready when the real slapping starts.
"No, it's cool," you assure the hag, "some of my best friends are hideous death-bitches."
The thing narrows its eyes in apprehension, but is soon swayed by your interpretive peace-dance. You don't want to brag - it's basically just a modified robot with a bit of cabbage patch thrown in - but it is totally serene as
"Stop calling me a hag!" It protests.
"Damn your blasted hag telepathy!" You reply, swinging wildly into the blackness. "Fair warning: I'm going to be kicking and punching over here, and if you walk into it, it's your fault, so you can't get mad!"
Everybody knows that's a Witch's greatest weakness: A good, solid kick to the abdomen. And boy howdy, did you ever deliver that. Your foot sunk a good six inches into her bony gut, the rest of her frame crumpling around the epicenter of the blow, until your heel finally struck solid mass, probably her spine, and her lithe frame recoiled and flew back at least five feet.
"Holy shit!" you exclaim proudly. "That's gotta be like, one of the top ten front kicks I have ever delivered!"
The Witch groans wetly on the floor, totally incapacitated. But before you can whip out your cell phone to document the aftermath for your Facebook album of Wicked Kick Pics, the destitute fortress shudders from some unseen blow, deep within the bowels of the structure. One by one, the torches at the far end of the corridor flare to life, advancing in a steady line toward you. By the light of their brilliant, supernatural incandescence, you can see the walls of the building loosing from one another and flinging themselves upward, into the clear, cold sky.
You turn to run.
You catch your foot in an errant root, and tumble head over heels down a rocky slope. The revolutions come faster and faster, until the whole world is naught but an unceasing blur of brown dirt and black sky. Or at least, that's how it started. But be honest: At this point you're kind of doing it on purpose, because somersaults are bitchin' fun. When you finally pull over for a quick barf-stop, you're too transfixed by the gargantuan, shining metal cube to continue your tumbling marathon.
"We'll come back to this," you promise Saul Summer, whom you've just decided is the pagan God of drunken somersaults, "but look how shiny!"
You set your jaw grimly, find your center, and prepare yourself for the horrors that may await you within this bizarre, alien construction. Then you jog up to the door, clapping, and leap inside of it with a gleeful squeal.
You were prepared for a shimmering dimension of color-people, the slick control room of an unfathomable space vessel, even a portal to hell. But you were not prepared for this ...
This shag carpeting, and these -- what are these? Walnut inlays? All around you are orange beaded curtains, and green plastic drawer pulls. And nothing else. It is vast, vacant, and '70s as fuck.
Underneath the helmet, it's all moustache and feathered bangs.
"Jesus. Is this the decommissioned set of Three's Company or did I just miss the key party?"
By the time the resounding echo from your voice reaches the far end of the cavernous space, something is stirring in the shadows. The shapeless form advances at you haltingly, inhumanly, and yet, you sense no malice in its awkward approach. As it rolls into view, you finally see it clearly: The glossy steel skull, the polished plastic pauldrons, the flashing transistors and the cold metal claws.
Robots have no weaknesses. Save for ... love.
"I love you, robot," you whisper earnestly.
Their calculating minds can detect falsehoods, you see, so you have to mean it. And you do. Oh God, you really do.
"I.I.WHAT.IS.THIS ... LOVE?"
"It's this," you say simply, and step forward, closing the unbearable distance between you.
You throw your arms around its spiky steel shoulders, and sink your tongue deep into its yearning speakerbox. Time freezes, stars die and even music fails to deliver on the promise that your true and pure romance is making to the universe.
"I'm gonna fuck you, robot," you state flatly.
The robot scans your statement. It detects no falsehood.
"I come in peace!" you say to the robot, but what can stupid words convey that the language of dance does not put to shame? You begin the first steps of your conciliation conga -- well, that's a misnomer, it's mostly cabbage patch, actually, with a little bit of robot ... mixed ... oh. Oh no. Would that offend the robot? Is doing The Robot for a robot like putting on a minstrel show to our steel brethren?
"I.I." The digitized voice stammers, skips, then finally catches. "WHO.AM.I?"
"You're a dang machine," you answer.
Is it malfunctioning? Has it gained sentience through a wacky series of misadventures, possibly (hopefully) involving Ally Sheedy?
And then, suddenly, an idea sparks like lightning through the cloudy meat of your cerebral cortex. It is easily the best idea you've ever had. Even better than that time you ran out of bread and made a grilled cheese with Eggos.
"WHAT.IS.MY.PURPOSE?" The robot repeats.
"Your purpose?" you answer, smiling. "Why, you're my fucking battle robot."
Outside the shimmering alien ship, a gathering of great and terrible beings is underway.
Outside the ship, the forest itself has come to life: A copse of animated trees shuffle in place, each and every branch whittled to a deadly, splintered point. Behind them, the 'Squatch Marines are deploying, rolling up in their hooting primate tanks, wielding their terrible monkey rifles. A trio of ancient, haggard women stand in the foreground, holding hands. The electrical arc of mystical energy crackles like halos around their thin, straw hair.
Outside the ship, they are ready for you.
Inside the ship, you are ready for them.
You nod to the robot, whom you have dubbed Dongbot 2.0. Dongbot, because you have drawn a crude penis across its chassis, ejaculating cartoon missiles. And 2.0 because, oddly enough, it's the second time you've done this.
It's been a crazy summer.
Dongbot 2.0 extends an already humming arm-cannon toward the exit portal, and you grimly follow his lead.
You kick open the hatch, flicking the lighter beneath the twin cans of hairspray taped to each ankle. You spray fiery jumpkicks in every direction. The ozone sings with Dongbot 2.0's laser blasts.
Even monsters can die.
You're not sure how you got tied to this chair, or whose foyer you're in, but man, there sure are a lot of furious people in torn and burnt costumes glaring at you.
"Well, I don't know him," a man in a Donkey Kong costume, sans headpiece, is waving away accusations. "The freak tried to pull my goddamn dick off! I thought you knew him!"
"Me?" a remarkably pretty girl, dressed demurely in the style of Samantha from TV's
Is that why it's so hard for you to meet women? The repeated assaults?
"Shit. Speaking of, what the hell is your problem, Ted?"
They direct their attention to a short fellow in a rumpled Iron Man costume. A crude drawing of a penis is scrawled across his helmet. He too is secured to a Barca-lounger with twisted bedsheets.
Ted does not respond.
"He's been smokin' up all day," Samantha answers for him. "I was trying to talk him through a high existential crisis when that guy attacked us. Last I saw him, he was running off toward the RV."
"Ted!" The Greek Robin Hood yells into the face of the unresponsive man, "Ted, why did you attack us? Do you know this guy?"
Ted's head hangs limply. He remains perfectly immobile.
"Well, if nobody knows him, I'm just calling the cops," Donkey Kong says decidedly, and turns to leave the room.
Shit. One more felony conviction and they'll make you do community service at that Rec Center again. If you have to teach one more fucking at-risk youth how to do wind-sprints, you're gonna burn down another Rec Center. It's a vicious cycle, is what it is.
"Dongbot 2.0?" You try, uncertainly.
Ted's head snaps up. His arms surge furiously at the restraints. His pupils behind the mask are the size of quarters.
"What is your purpose?" You query, smiling.
You can buy Robert's book, Everything is Going to Kill Everybody: The Terrifyingly Real Ways the World Wants You Dead, or follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. If you choose not to accept that this beautiful journey is at an end, turn to page 1, and rediscover this rich and magical fantasy world all over again.
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