Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Question the Second .1

I scratched my head. "All right, then, my second question is; how do we defeat the ninjas and clear them off the planet?"

"That," said the ghost army arrayed before me, "is the correct question."

I blushed. "Well, thank ya kindly. I was rather proud of it."

"You're welcome," they responded, much more hospitable now that they had a sympathetic ear.

Then we waited in a kind of verbal Mexican standoff. I didn't feel I had much more to say on the subject, but they didn't seem like they was gonna be forthcoming with the information. But the whole thing was a lot more complicated, strategically speakin. For one, they had spoken last, so it was prolly my turn. But they left me in the position that my next phrase was likely to be a question; somethin like 'Y'all wanna give me that information now?' Sure, it would be a sarcastic question, but I couldn't risk them bein a bunch of literal jerks like all them genies in them dirty jokes Douggy's wife keeps tellin when she's had a touch too much wine. And it's like my pappy always used to tell me, if you can't say nothin nice, or you can't say nothin without gettin yourself trapped by some sorta verbal contract between you and a supernatural entity, it's best to say nothin at all.

I tried to get them started with some throat clearin. They responded in kind. Then I tried some beard scratchin. They came back with sniffin. I hit them back with a raised eyebrow. They came in heavy with a significant incline of the head. They had my back to a wall, both literally and figuratively, so there was only one option left to me. Don't judge me, I had no choice. I had to bring out the big guns.

I cocked the hammer and pulled the trigger on a, "Yep."

They were scrambling. They tried to rally with a weak, "Uh-huh."

I had them. It was a simple matter now of dealing the final blow. With a small, almost imperceptible nod, I gave them a knowing, "Mmmm," while wrinklin my eyebrows in thought.

They knew they were defeated. "Ok, ok!" yelled the ghost army. "No more! We'll tell you."

I just wish every contest could be as easy as a silence off. I been workin on winnin those since I was a kid. We'd go on long road trips and my pa would challenge Frank and I to the quiet game. In our final game, neither Frank nor I said a single word from the time I was 12 until I was 14. The school we went to worried about us and was fixin to put us in a special program when Frank, in order to fulfill her 'team activities' requirement was forced to join the debate team. I thanked my lucky stars that she'd signed up for her activity too late to get on the bowling team and, after her first debate was over, I gloated for weeks. Plus, that two years taught me a couple things. I learned how to communicate a whole bunch of stuff without ever resorting to more than a knowing nod. I also learned that language is an abstract construction that cultures implicitly agree to use in order to cement our societal rules and regulations, reinforcing norms and cultural assumptions on the very youngest members, therefore ensuring that our view of the world, or at least the communicable aspects of it, will be carried on in perpetuity. As such, language assures that cultures maintain themselves, for better or for worse, until language itself changes. And finally, I learned it's difficult to cover up farting when you're not making any sound.

"To defeat Clan Platypus on this planet, you will need to defeat the 13 sons," the ghosts explained. "And to defeat the 13 sons, you will need the staff of Haruki."

"That sounds like an interesting story," I told them. "Please continue."

"We shall. "The year was 1983," they began. "It was a great time to be a ninja. Clan Platypus was heavily invested in cocaine sales, and sales were good. They had been organizing things politically so that the economic boom would be concentrated amongst the rich, who were the only ones interested in buying cocaine. The poor were still killing the pain of being poor and cold and hungry all the time in the same way they always had; by drinking cheap beer and yelling at their families.

"It was into this high life atmosphere that the young necromancers graduated and began their careers. Being young in the 80's, they felt they could change the structure of how the Clan did business. Most of the young ones began by joining financial firms which, despite their utter lack of training, was made pretty easy through their families' political connections. Ten of the thirteen began working on a new type of economics, which combined money know how with dark magic.

"Their plan was to concentrate wealth at the very top. They sold this idea to all the people of the world saying that, by giving money to the top 5% of earners, those people would spend the money on goods and services, thereby allowing the money to trickle down into the economy. As ridiculous as this sounds, they sold it pretty well. However, being in the top 5% of earners themselves, they knew that rich people were the most against spending money. After all, one doesn't become wealthy by giving money away.

"Then, once money was taken from those who needed it most and given to those who needed it least, they would infiltrate the airwaves with shows about how rich people lived, making the poor jealous. They then used this jealousy to pass gambling legislation in a few states and expand state lottery operations around most of the country. The poor people were willing to go along with this because they felt it gave them a chance to live the lavish lifestyles they were seeing on TV every week, and the rich went along with it because it made them even richer. And, of course, it didn't hurt that the people passing the laws were amongst the top 5% themselves.

"Their final goal was far from economic, however. From the first, the new necromancers planned only to increase the surplus suffering in the world, because this suffering is where dark magicians get their power. They would then harvest this suffering and turn it into a sweet, sweet nectar. In the final step of their diabolical plan, they would inject this nectar into a new type of soda and sell it back to the people, creating a suffering feedback loop and expanding the people's capacity for suffering exponentially. They anticipated this final harvest would make them the most powerful necromancers in the known universe.

"Because their plan involved economics to increase suffering, they came up with a name for it; Voodoo economics. They began their work slowly and carefully, concentrating as much suffering as possible and distilling it in their labs. When they were ready, they made a test batch of their conceived soda. They combined the suffering with carbonated water and waited to see what happened. They became worried when the pure suffering turned their soda a radioactive green, but they pressed through and found that the color and its horrible, godless flavor appealed to the poor. Pleased with this development, they went into production and soon, all the world was inundated with Mountain Dew. It is made from and causes suffering.

"But there was a flaw in their plan. It was discovered by the three sons who had taken up other careers; Tetsuo Yamazaki, Ichiro Toei and Haruki Hatayama. What they did changed the very nature of the world."

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Question the First

"Question the first," I began, "What the heck are y'all? You were like a dragon, but now you're a bunch of trucker ghosts. What's the deal here?"

They responded in a voice that sounded like the Vienna Boys Choir, if the Vienna Boys Choir were made up of adult ghosts. "We are the tormented spirits of meth addicts. The leaders of Clan Platypus on this planet searched far and wide to find those who were the most desperate, the most broken and the most addicted. They collected us together and took us to their underground base, deep beneath the Earth, where the dinosaurs roam free and the cheese fountains flow.

"At first, we thought we were the luckiest people in the world. Not only did we get to live with dinosaurs, which the ninjas had tamed and were using as beasts of burden, but Clan Platypus gave us all the meth we could use. It was heaven for a time. We would wake up in the afternoon, get spun on meth and then do whatever we took a mind to do.

"We built stuff, we cleaned, we collected things and we souped up the dinosaurs with blowers and slicks. And we listened to a whole lot of Skynard. But it was a lie, it was all a lie. The ninjas were just building our addiction to their horrible drug. Slowly, very slowly, they began to spread rumors that they were running out. We would receive less and less each day until, finally, we got none.

"It took mere hours for the withdrawal to kick in. We were shaky and itchy. By that time, it felt like ants had colonized under our skins, because the crystals had grown there. We scratched and scratched until the skin came off. Incidentally, this is how we learned we could feel pain again. We began to feel the throb of arms and legs we'd broken while doing our wild activities. The worst, though, was the emotional pain.

"Without the drug, our minds began working again. We started to see what animals we were becoming. We wondered aloud at some of the things we did, especially souping up those dinosaurs. Dinosaurs don't need giant, fat racing tires on them. They're animals, not cars. We also realized that our favorite music besides Skynard, which was mostly Kid Rock and Slipknot, totally, totally sucks. Strangely, Skynard still rocks pretty hard. We figure that's because they were making music before the drug became popular and they'd possessed that one thing that has become a detriment in modern music; talent.

"Then, just when we thought we were going to be clear of the drug, the ninjas brought more. We began to binge. We built and destroyed, built and destroyed. What we didn't notice is that they were keeping us off the drug longer and longer. When you're addicted, every day is much like the last. They just go by in gray blurs when you don't have the drug and in colored blurs when you do.

"Clan Platypus kept up this boom and bust cycle of meth of years. They were very scientific about it. They would dry us out before we did lethal damage to ourselves and they would deliver more drugs only after we were over the worst of the withdrawal. Finally, they cut us off entirely.

"At first, it was like every other time. We went through the withdrawal knowing that more drugs would be delivered to us soon, if we just stood it. But it was not to be. We waited and waited. A month passed. Then another month. Then a season. Then one day we woke up and found a year had passed since they took the meth away. Yet we were not clear of the itching, the hurting and the craving.

"Clan Platypus had induced in us a state of permanent withdrawal. We craved and craved, but the drug never came. We searched, we fought, we cried, but no drugs were to come. We became twisted and hateful inside. We all became extra destructive. Some of us destroyed things; tearing the tires of the dinosaurs, pulling down the dams on the cheese rivers that had been meticulously built out of toothpicks. Others destroyed other people, getting into fights that, more often than not, ended in murder. The rest of us destroyed ourselves.

"It didn't matter how it happened, or how long it took to break, all of us ended up dead in one way or another. And when we did, instead of the sweet release we were hoping for in death, we only got more slavery at the hands of Platypus.

"The Clan has a special council of 13 necromancers, consisting of the sons of the 13 top members. At first, the leadership didn't know what to do with their necromancers. Sure, they knew that their sons had gone off to Ninja college and gotten it into their heads that they were going to study Necromancy instead of something respectable like Disemboweling or even something practical like Camouflage Techniques. The leaders all thought their sons were just going through a phase and would eventually change their majors, but it was not to be.

"On the day the 13 sons graduated, the fathers finally accepted that they had necromancers in their ranks now. It was considered shameful at the time and many of the leaders attempted suicide before they had to show their hooded faces at the next ninja convention with a necromancer for a son. Two of them succeeded in their attempts, only to be revived by the very sons that gave them shame.

"It was this revival that made Clan Platypus reconsider. If the 13 sons could raise the dead, even after the dead had been eviscerated, beheaded and thrown in a volcano, then what else might be possible? They gave their sons free reign to experiment and develop their skills. We, the twisted souls you see before you, were one of their early projects. They purposefully corrupted our souls until our only outlet was death. Then, when we tried to die, they trapped our souls in glass bottles marked with two particular sigals; one that instructed us on what to do if ever we were released, and the other to continue to torture us. Then, they took those bottles and placed them strategically around the entrance to their underground volcano lair.

"Until today, we didn't know what our instructions would be. But then you and your group broke open our bottles and set us free. Many of us tried to flee, but the pain became too great. We were slowly pulled back to the corporeal sphere and we naturally formed into a dragon. Then, the hunger hit us. It was like the hunger each and every one of us died feeling towards meth. We had to feed, and so feed we did.

"But then you, Pat O'Neil, gave us the kick in the behind that we needed. Your scolding made us use our minds again. And your understanding has eased our suffering. You have set us free, good sir, and we shall always be indebted to you for that."

I was stunned. "Wow. That is some story, fellas," I said.

"It sure is," they responded. "You have two more questions to ask."