Friday, February 13, 2009

Antarctic Volcano Base Assault Part 5

The thing about springin a goth kid from a cage in the trapped throne room in an underground mall in the Antarctic while a giant penguin made out of penguins fights an ice giantess who recently looked like Amelia Earhart and, before that, a FedEx man is, when you're in that situation, as I myself have been here not too long ago, so I consider myself sorta an expert on the subject, the thing about that situation is, you're prepared to listen to any sorta crazy idea to get yerself out of that situation. It's a lot like if you was on fire for some reason, and the only way that fire could be not fire anymore would be for someone to tinkle on you. You would have someone tinkle on you, would you not? I would. Unless it was this girl from high school that I asked out one day and she told me she would not, in fact, help me out in that situation. I don't know why she imagined that sort of situation. I mean, it's not like you're lookin at people you meet thinkin, "I wonder what I would do if'n this person were on fire and there were no source of water about and I had just drunk a gallon of ice tea." Well, you might, but I sure as heck don't. Point bein, sometimes you find yourself in a situation where you're out of your depth, and you need someone else who is slightly more familiar with that situation to give you a hand, or, if that person from whom you are accepting advice happens to be a penguin, a flipper, and furthermore, if that penguin happens to be crazier than a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs and it just so happens that the cat was murdered by living rocking chairs, then you would accept even a shaky flipper to help you out of the situation, which is what we did.

"What kind of idea?" I asked the penguin who had just told us that he had an idea for exit from this situation.

"Before I tell you that," Gunter stated, "I need to clear the air on a couple things."

"Sure," I sat down on a step and prepared myself for a story. Sure we may get killed at any minute here, but there's always time to have a story.

He began, "First, I'm sorry about all the penguins attacking you. We don't know who you are, you could be a good guy. You seem good now, but when we all attacked you, we thought you were evil. But now it appears you're not evil, you're good."

"That's nice to hear," I smiled, "but, just for argument's sake here, couldn't I be some good and some bad?"

"Not to me you couldn't?"

"And why not?"

"Penguins don't think that way," he explained calmly, "we see the world as divided into distinct classes of things without any combination of those things in a middle sort of compromise."

"I don't understand," I explained.

"For a penguin, you're either good or bad. You can't be some good and bad. It's the same with all things. You're big or you're small. You're crazy or you're sane. There is no middle ground for us penguins."

"So you see the world in..." I prompted.

"Stark contrasts," he replied.

"No, no," I tried again, "that thing you said about seeing there being one or another, that's got a name, right?"

"Right..." he didn't seem to fully follow.

"And that name is seeing the world..."

"Binarily?" he tried.

"Pat," interrupted Alistair with a significant look at the battle behind me, "you'd better let it go."

Seein as how the penguins had pretty badly battered the giantess and so she was pulling out orphans, kicking them around, taking their tears, distilling them over a fire and the shooting that straight into her veins with the biggest needle I'd ever seen, I had to agree.

"So, anyway," I continued, "what's happened now that you've decided I'm good?"

"We have to do good to you," he said bluntly. "In this case, it means that we may have to do the greatest good for you."

"Which is...?"


I stammered, "I...Self...Uh...Whaddya mean by that?"

"It's ok," he said gently, "you have shown me the light. When we penguins are born, our mothers are away fetching food for us. We don't know this, of course, we just have this feeling deep down that we need our mothers. During that time, Amelia Earhart comes to each and every penguin. She strokes their head and tells them something nice. Then she gives them a little herring paste. The result, my psychologist says, is that we imprint on her. We see her as a mother figure forever, and so we feel protected by her and protective of her."

"Then why help us?" I was genuinely curious by this time.

"Because I see now that's just a trick. She is no real mother to us. She doesn't protect us when we are being kicked through windows like footballs and filled with bear stuffing. She only wanted us there to shield her. I see it now. She is bad. She doesn't love us penguins. She only uses us as a shield, as pawns in her sick games and as tenders of orphans. She makes us work for minimum wage and barely allows us to get the medicine we need to fix the insanity that is a result of her breeding program! Have you ever heard of a penguin working in a mall? Well?!" His voice continually went higher, like a castrato getting kicked in his recent stitches. "I looked it up!! On the internet!!! And you know what I found on the internet?!?!? PORN! You know what else? That penguins don't work in malls! So now," he visibly calmed himself, smoothing down his front, "she must be destroyed and I must be the one to do it."

I was stunned by this show. "I...I don't know what to say."

Alistair helped. He whispered to me, "Ask him how he will destroy her."

So I did. "How will you destroy her?" I asked.

"We will lure her into the pillow room, where the lava is kept at bay the the diaphragm. Once there, we will set off a pile of explosives, rupturing the diaphragm. She has the room rigged that, if the diaphragm is ever broken, the fire doors will close and explosives in the volcano will fire, sending the magma out of the room in what looks like a normal volcanic explosion."

"That sounds like a good plan," I told him, impressed. "But there are two problems. First, how do we lure her to the pillow room and second, where do we get the explosives?"

"I thought of that, for the explosives, we can get them where everyone else in the world buys their cheap weaponry."

"Where's that?" I asked.

"Banana Republic."

I think I looked confused. So he said, "You didn't know that's not just a clever name? They're really a front for all the arms smuggling worldwide."

"Is that so?"

"Actually," he said, "no. Only in this mall do we keep weapons in the Banana Republic. It's really just in case there's ever a large scale invasion. I will go there and get the weapons. You just have to lure Amelia into the pillow room."

"How do we do that?" I asked. His eyes got real big, so I turned around to see the giant penguin made of penguins fall apart like a pool full of water that's lifted up through some sort of psychic power or something, but then the person with the powers gets distracted by something on the tv, and so the pool water just comes apart and falls all over the place. Except in this pool, there was no water; just penguins. They fell and spread all over the floor. Then Amelia, her eyes shining redder than a child's behind after he cut down his dad's favorite tree with his dad's favorite drill, turned towards us.

"All you have to do..." said Gunther slowly, "is RUN!"

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Editorial note, mostly for Niffiwan, but the rest of y'all can read it, too.

Niffiwan asked me for a description of the squimonk for t-shirt design. I've really been thinkin about this for a week, and I'm gonna give you a couple things here, if I can. First, I want to admit that I don't have a picture in my head of any of the squimonk except for Alistair and Carl, all the rest are a sort of furry mass that I will draw from as I need more characters or jokes. For example, I've named one Victoria and I promise you, she has a secret. Second, I know that's not at all satisfying to someone who's trying to draw something, especially something based on another person's ideas, so I'm going to give you a description somewhat like I think Pat would give it. Take two big ol' cars, like Buicks or Oldsmobiles from the 70s. Tie a flying squirrel onto the grill of one and get a small monkey, like a Rhesus or a Spider monkey, even better if it's one of them monkeys that look like they have mustaches, and tie that to the front of the other car. Then, run them cars into one another goin really fast. It'd have to be super collider fast. It'd have to be fast enough that you didn't kill the monkey or the squirrel, but just combined them into one. Now, in your new "two have become one" car, with your "two have become one" mustachioed squirrel monkey, drive really fast around the zoo, clipping animals at random. When you finally get pulled over and kicked out of the zoo, probably for life, check the grill of the car. You've just made yourself a squimonk. Hope that helps.

Antarctic Volcano Base Assault Part 4

I don't understand this whole 'bein a villain' thing. There you are one day, livin your life like normal. You get up, maybe go to work or somethin like that. Maybe you brew some coffee or you go out and hunt a cheetah with a stick and some fire, I don't know. But then, one day, everything changes. You do somethin evil, and then another thing evil and pretty soon, you're trappin kids in cages and surroundin some guy from Iowa with crazy penguins in your weird underground mall that seems to have no bearing on anything and, not only are you not amazed by any of this, but you gloat about it. You just stand there tryin to explain how not only does this not sound not as bonkers as a meth addict after drinkin a case of red bull playin whack-a-mole, but that it all makes total sense and it's the way things should be. I mean, if you're the last of the ice giants and you been on Earth for a billion years, you're bound to get lonely. I'm not heartless. I get that. I spent some time alone myself. When you spend time alone, you do get a little weird. In my case, I sing songs about a lot of things. One time, I sang a song for a half hour about makin coffee. I didn't even realize until I was well into the song that I was really just singin Wagner's Ring der Nibelungen. By the time it really struck me, I was really commited to the role and I just pushed on through until I got to the aria. Before I was finished, the phone rang I had to run out and do somethin or another. It was like any other song that gets stuck in your head if you don't finish singin it. For the next four year, I had Wagner in a loop in my head. It was a good two hour loop, though, and I didn't mind so much. The people around me kept askin me to stop humming Ride of the Valkyries however. After that, I got stuck on Holst's The Planets and it's still spinnin around up there. Right now, I'm hummin Mars. So, like I say, I understand that whacky things can happen to someone when they spend time alone. But there are limits. Never once during my time humming Wagner did I say to myself, "Pat, ol' boy, you need to move to Antarctica and build a mall under a volcano and then staff it with a bunch of nutty penguins and whatnot." I guess what I'm sayin here is that there are limits. Singin to yourself is one thing, but this is a whole other.

That's was I was thinkin to myself when I was standin there in from of Amelia Earhart and waitin for her explanation. At least, that's what I thought I was thinkin until she said, "Excuse me?" and I realized I'd just said all that out loud. But I stood by it. I wasn't about to let her back me down. I mean, she can't even tell a decent story and she's been around for a trillion years or so. You'd think in that time she'd learn how to tell a real story, but no, she couldn't story her way out of a paper bag.

"Excuse me?!" she said again. Then I thought, or thought I thought that I'd better stop sayin all this out loud.

"I agree," said Alistair. Then I stopped thinkin.

"You know, Pat O'Neil," began Amelia, "you don't understand. You don't know what it's like to be the last of your kind. You don't know what it's like to have to survive off the tears of orphans. And you don't know what it's like to be the proprietor of a mall that no one ever comes to and that you have to staff with crazy penguins because those are the only kinds of penguins that talk. Sure, other penguins know how to talk, but they also know when to shut up, which, for a penguin, is always. They're great admirers of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood. All sane penguins really see themselves as the strong, silent type. Think High Plains Drifter meets Happy Feet. Here I am, runnin this mall and drinkin orphan tears, older than you'll know. Do you know how that feels, Pat O'Neil? Do you?!"

I had to admit that I didn't know. So that's what I did. "I don't know," I admitted.

"You're right," she gloated, "you don't know. So shut your donut trap and listen, maybe you'll learn something before I kill you."

Cowed, I told her, "Yes ma'am."

"That's better," she crossed her arms and nodded her head like a six year old that thinks she's just won an argument. "Now, I'm gonna tell you, Pat O'Neil, it feels awesome! I'm not even kidding you. There's no rush like grabbing an orphan, leading it around the mall looking for it's mommy and then telling it that it's mommy was eaten by zombie bears and died screaming she hated the child. Oh, the joy you get from those tears, it's like the ambrosia of the gods."

Alistair butted in, "You mean ambrosia."

"That's what I said," she retorted.

"Actually," he explained, "you said 'ambrosia of the gods'. By definition, ambrosia is the nectar of the gods, so all ambrosia is ambrosia of the gods."

She rolled her eyes and scoffed. "Are you serious? I'm about to kill you and you're giving me semantics lessons?"

He nodded, "You've got a point."

"I sure do," she said, self satisfied, "and I will drive it through your eye if you don't shut up and let me talk!" The penguins moved in menacingly. They even sneered. I kid you not. Up until that day, I would have told you that it was impossible to sneer without lips, but now, I would tell you that the Pat who spoke to you before is a liar, and then past Pat would get hurt, because Pat O'Neil hates to be called a liar. Then, past Pat would probably resort to fisticuffs with present Pat and future Pat would have to live the rest of his life with the regret of giving himself a wedgie. So, don't go back in time and let me tell you that something without lips can't sneer, because none of us want that.

"I am the queen of my world, Pat O'Neil," she began again. "I control it all. This mall? I had this mall built from the screams of a thousand tortured souls. That and drywall. These penguins? I have been breeding the entire species of penguins from when they were still dinosaurs. I have set all of this up to lure my enemies in, confuse them and then strike them dead. I am like a spider wearing leiderhosen. Just when you're getting ready to ask, 'hey, why is that spider wearing leiderhosen?' it's too late, because you've been spiderized! Take that!"

"What?" Douggy and I said in unison.

"I have set this whole thing up, Pat O'Neil!" she announced triumphantly. "I have lured you into my mall, knowing that you are willing to risk life and limb by driving past a black hole to go to WalMart. So I've built this bastion of commerce to give you a false sense of security. Then, I got my army of mad penguins to appear as shop keepers, because I know that you feel comfortable with animal labor, seeing as you use the squimonk to make donuts. Finally, I posed as the FedEx delivery man to give you the directions to my throne room, which is really just my trap room! And now, you are in the trap! Because you are in the trap room! HA HA HA!" Again, she just said this "HA HA HA," which is disturbing to hear. "Now, Pat O'Neil, do you have any last words before my penguins rip you to pieces?"

"I do believe I do," I said slowly, the idea coming quickly to my mind, "I just have one question, really. It's a small thing, but I think it's important to clear the air about this before we die."

"Ask away," she granted, seeming very pleased with herself.

I couldn't keep the sly grin from creepin into my lips as I said, "Why'd you steal these penguins eggs?"

The cry of the penguins was almost deafening. A thousand penguins, in unison, yelling "MY EGG!" was almost more than my ears could bear. Fortunately, they were still stuck up with a little of the bacon grease. If not for that grease, I may be deaf now. So, thank you, bacon. You are forgiven and you may re-enter my life in all your salty, smoky glory.

As the army of penguins descended on the ice giantess, she threw off her human form. She stood a hundred feet tall if she was an inch, covered in fine white hair. Her tusks had to be longer than a man and sharper than a razor cared for by an OCD barber. It looked hopeless for the penguins. She swatted them away as if they were so many black and white marshmallows. They always got back up, though. They are persistent little guys. Then, I saw what may be the oddest thing I've witnessed in my life up to this point.

All together, the penguins shouted, "Penguin Power! Unite!" And then they all stared to stick together, standing on top of one another and linkin their little flippers together. The mass grew and grew until it was as tall as the ice giantess. When the wriggling stopped, I saw the penguins had joined together to form a giant penguin made out of smaller penguins. This ran, well waddled, full speed at the furry giantess. She would swing at it, but the penguins would open a hole in the penguin mass and her fists would move harmlessly through. Then the penguin made of penguins would swing back at her, swatting her to the ground or pecking her in the genitals. I don't think that works on giantesses, but she did get real mad about it. As they fought, Alistair and Douggy picked the lock on Jared's cage, pulling him to freedom despite his shouts of "Careful! My arms and legs are asleep."

We turned to run away, leaving the two pugilists locked together. But then we started to feel bad for the penguins, who were really just trying to protect their eggs and health insurance and never really did anything against us. We didn't want to abandon them, but we couldn't think of a way to help them. We discussed it in low tones at the door to the back hallway.

We were at a loss until we heard a voice behind us say, "I have an idea." We turned around and saw the penguin from the Build-a-Bear. I knew it was him because his Build-a-Bear tag read Gunther.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Antarctic Volcano Base Assault Part 3

Now, where was I in this tale? Let's see, there was some stuff about bacon, some other stuff about penguins and then some stuff about stuffing. I remember now. We were trapped in the Build-a-Bear, the doorway was filled up with utterly mad penguins filled with bear stuffing and we had just accepted a package from the FedEx guy who told us the back way to the throne room. I gotta say, I felt pretty bad for that FedEx guy. He must've drawn the short straw when they were handin out the routes. I imagined that he had to collect his packages every day and then drive all over Antarctica deliverin sciencey type equipment to all the researchers and whatnot along with droppin medicine of to the penguins and then havin to deliver to this mall. The weird thing is that he still did it wearin the purple shorts. You'd think FedEx would relax the dress code enough to let the poor guy put on some pants, or a snow suit or a giant fur cape or something. I thought it really spoke to his professionalism to not complain one bit about it or even show that he was bothered by it.

After signing for the package and leaving it on the counter of the store, Douggy, the squimonk and me slipped out the entry door into the back hallway. I don't know if y'all ever been in the back hallway of the mall, but they're scary places, full of dripping ceilings, spider webs, fire traps, pitfalls, razor sharp walls connected to touch sensors and landmines hooked up to trip wires. Well, I assume that to be the case. I've only ever been in the back of one mall, and I'll be the first to admit that it was run by an ice giantess and could only be accessed by diving through a volcano; well, that and the back door. But we spent a good long time in that back hallway, waiting for the squimonk to find and disable all the traps while Douggy and I guarded the back and tried to block out the screaming of the penguins. I started to feel a little bad for the little guys. I mean, they had risk life and limb to go to work at this mall every day so that they could have the health insurance to afford their medication for a problem which I bet is not really their fault. Then some guy comes in, busts up their store and fills them with animal stuffing. I was thinkin for a minute about goin back and helpin 'em out. But then I started to think about them tryin to get my, you know, "eggs" from me, and I decided that I'd better not so me and Douggy played some cribbage instead and we just shouted out our points really loud to drown out the struggling penguins.

Just as I was about to skunk Douggy with a sixteen point hand, Alistair came to us and said, "We're ready."

Sadly, we had to fold up the board and put our cards away, which was for the best really. Last time I skunked Douggy, he got in a tizzy for about two days because he said I cheated. I kept tryin to explain to him that I didn't know how that fifth jack got into the deck and that I'd really just had an itchy wrist, but he didn't buy it. But I later remembered the camping trip I took with Frank and her kid, who wanted to show me a magic trick about disappearing and reappearing jacks, which I thought was poorly performed, but was still kinda neat nonetheless. On that very same trip, I was walkin out to relieve myself in the middle of the night when I tripped on a root or a sleeping bear or somethin and fell right into a pile of poison ivy, but my wrist just sorta grazed it, so I didn't worry too much about it. I tried tellin Douggy that later, but he didn't want to hear about it. It's just as well, really, because I really was cheating. The whole episode taught me that I just need to do it better or I need to come up with justifications faster. Don't look at me like that, it's cribbage! Read the rules and I think you'll agree that the whole thing was invented by drunk cheaters. I was just playin in the spirit of the game.

We made our way slowly and carefully down the hall, just in case there were any traps that were too subtle for the squimonk to detect, but everything went according to plan. We passed a couple of stores and I was lured to one particular door by the smell of cookies. I was thinkin I might be able to sneak one, you know, just to settle my stomach after all that bacon. So I opened the door a crack and looked into the back of the shop to see if they had any cookies just lyin around. I didn't see any. Instead, I saw a penguin in the process of mixing up a batch of cookies. He had a bowl full of flour and some other stuff and he was cracking eggs into the bowl. My opening the door made some sort of bell or somethin go off and he looked over at me. We stood staring at each other for a couple of seconds before he threw himself in front of the bowl, holding his flippers out protectively and yelling, "It's not what it looks like! Don't judge me!" Then he fell to his little penguin knees weeping, "It's not my fault! They make me do it! I didn't want to but they made me!" He toppled over and pounded his hands on the ground shouting "Curse you, Mrs. Fields! Curse you and your house from here to eternity!"

I closed the door and slowly backed away. I turned down the hall and, for a moment, Douggy and I made eye contact. He looked from me to the door and back to me. I told him, "I don't.. I just...I don't know."

"Let's just move on," he said.

With that, we finally arrived at a large, ornate door marked Throne Room!!!! I felt the exclamation points were a bit unnecessary, but I didn't paint the door or have it designed or anything, so I didn't say anything. We pushed on the door and, as all throne room door must do, it creaked noisily open, settling with a loud thump. We descended a small set of stairs into a large, magnificent room. In the middle of the room, trapped in a cage, was Jared.

When he saw me, he called out, "Pat!"

"Jared!" I yelled, "We're here to rescue you!" and I started running towards him.

"Pat! No, it's a..." Just then, an even bigger cage fell down on top of us. "trap" Jared finished weakly.

"Oh, are you friggin kiddin me!?" shouted Alistair.

Then the laughter started. That deep, horrible laughter that I have come to associate with an ice giantess. "Pat O'Neil!" The sound of my name echoed through the chamber. "I have you now, Pat O'Neil! You have fallen for my clever trap. And now, because I am sure that I have you and that there is no possibility at all for your escape, I will gloat and reveal my entire trap to you. In this explanation, I am sure that you will not find a way out. In fact, I am so confident in my ability to utterly destroy you, that I will now surround you with mad penguins and remove any other restraints on you at all."

I'm really not sure why she phrased it like she did, but I just went along with it. I figured there'd be some way we would get out of this predicament. Or would there?!?!

Yes, there probably would. I mean, if you just think about it for a second, how could I be writing this if I were killed by a bunch of mad penguins? Or even by an ice giantess? Or how could I write this if I were still trapped there. Unless, of course, I had a laptop and she gave free internet to her prisoners, which would just be silly.