Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Picnics are no picnics

"Tetsuo lived in wedded bliss for eight long and wonderful years. In that time, he and Suki produced a son, Haruki, named after Tetsuo's first son. In those eight years, Clan Platypus worked Tetsuo into their corporate structure.

"Like anyone else, Tetsuo had to start at the bottom. No amount of reputation, money or threats of death could change that. He began as a runner, then an interplanetary runner, then he spent some time as a logistics manager. By the time Haruki was born, Tetsuo was working as an actuary and occasionally being given assassin jobs. On the weekends, he still committed acts of genocide, but it had become more of a hobby than a quest. Suki said that he was just doing it to relive a romanticized youth that never really existed. But she tolerated it most days. All was looking up for the man who had once vowed to wipe out all life forms in the universe. Looking up, that is, until the family picnic."

"Picnic?" I asked, incredulous.

"Yes," they replied, "the yearly Clan Platypus Family Picnic and Meth Zombie Race. It's a very popular event for the office workers in the Clan. They still hold it most years, but the budget has expanded so it's more of a yacht party than a picnic, but they kept the name for tradition's sake. Ninjas, as you may know, are very traditional."

"I was aware," I allowed.

"Regardless of all that, the picnic Tetsuo attended with his family was the beginning of the end for him. Legend says he didn't even really want to go. He claimed that he had gutters to clean, there was a big game on tv and he really needed to get that lawn mowed. Suki, however, knew better. Wives always know better. She knew that as soon as she was out of the house he'd be off planet somewhere slaughtering a whole village of innocents. Instead, she proposed, he could spend some quality time with their son, to which he acquiesced. Even the strongest men will do what their wives ask in order to avoid problems.

"Tetsuo arrived to the picnic grumpy. All he could think about was the people he wasn't killing, the screams for mercy he wasn't hearing and the lawn that he wasn't cutting. But, after he got a couple of hotdogs in him and some money in his pocket from betting on the Zombie Wrestling match, Tetsuo was surprised to find he was having fun.

"In his buoyant mood, he encouraged Suki to join the fishing contest. The woman who landed the biggest fish was to be given a riding lawnmower and Tetsuo thought that would really help their family out. Suki was hesitant to join. This being a Clan outing, the women were expected to land the fearsome Knife Tooth Laser Fish, which can only be caught using your own child as bait. The trick is to allow the fish to approach the child and lunge. As the fish is in mid lunge, the child gets yanked out of the way and the fish makes another lunge. If everything goes right, you end up with a mean, inedible fish. If you do it wrong, you end up with a heart full of sorrow and a "Participant" ribbon.

"Suki had landed herself a number of Knife Tooth Laser Fish in her time, those being the main source of protein in her home village. And because she'd seen more of those fish than anyone else in the competition, she knew what they didn't, that Clan Platypus had replaced the regular stock in that lake with radioactive Knife Tooth Laser Fish. And as any fool knows, you have to use a totally different bait for radioactive fish than you do for regular fish.

"While all the other wives tossed their children into the water, Suki tied herself to the end of her line and wrapped the rest of the slack around a tree, making a kind of primitive pulley. Then, using the strength and persistence she'd learned in her eight years of marriage, dove head first into the water."

I interrupted, "She got herself et, didn't she?"

"No," the answered. "It was much worse than that."

"Worse than gettin et by a radioactive fish?" I couldn't believe that was possible.

"Much, much worse," they replied, adding a little drama to the whole thing. It must have worked, because now I was really ready to find out what happened to this lady. Had they said something like, "A little worse," or "About the same but less convenient," I woulda just give up right then and there, but since they said "much" twice, I felt I had to stay.

"It was not Suki's first time with radioactive fish. Every time one came near, she jerked her rod and pulled herself a little closer to shore. She knew that, once the water got shallow enough to stand in, she could wedge her fishing rod between its jaws, flip the fish over and heave it onto the shore for cleaning and consumption. She was within ten feet of the shore when the unthinkable happened.

"The fish she'd been tempting had completed its final circle and was coming in for the kill. The sweat of concentration beaded on Suki's brow. Like a torpedo, the fish launched itself at her. She waited, knowing that if she pulled too early, the fish would lose interest. The fish closed quickly, shrinking the hundred feet between it and Suki to fifty feet in the blink of an eye. Still, Suki waited. 40 feet. She braced herself. 30 feet. Her arms tensed. 20 feet. Her grip tightened. 10 feet. Suki yanked with all her might.

"Two things happened simultaneously. First, Suki was hit in the face with her snapped fishing line. Second, the fish took her foot. Suki screamed out for Tetsuo, who rushed into the water, stabbed the fish with its own tooth, grabbed Suki and headed for shore. In the few seconds it took for all this to happen, Suki's leg began to swell.

"As she was laid in the grass, bleeding and delirious, Suki began to beg Tetsuo. 'Kill me!' she whispered. 'You must kill me.'

"But Tetsuo couldn't. 'You'll be ok,' he promised as the doctors were tying cords around her now elephantine leg to stop the poison. 'You'll be ok.' He repeated through his tears.

"The doctors did their best, but they could do nothing against the swelling. The tourniquets they tied were ruptured as Suki took on more mass. All the time, she whispered to Tetsuo, 'If you love me, you'll kill me. Please, Tetsuo. It must be done.'

"Still, he couldn't let go of the one thing that brought light and warmth to his otherwise cold and dark life. Still weeping, Tetsuo turned away from his swelling wife. In a rush, he remembered how full of suffering and pain the universe was. He gained new strength in his lost mission and resigned from the Clan right then and there.

"To punctuate his resignation, he killed all but two participants at the picnic. The two left were Suki, who had grown to the size of a small hill and began to take on fish-like features, and his son Haruki.

"Tetsuo picked the child up. As per his vow, he knew he shouldn't let it live. On the other hand, it was Tetsuo's son, and he couldn't bear to see him die. As Tetsuo was contemplating the child's fate, the young boy gasped. 'Daddy, look!' he yelled, pointing at the still-growing form of his mother.

"'My god,' Tetsuo whispered. Suki's transformation was almost complete. She had rounded out and become a fish with a woman's face. Tetsuo recognized the form from his youth. His wife had become a planet eater. She was still small enough that she was eating the planet one bite at a time, but it appeared that, at her current rate of growth, she would gain full size in a matter of weeks. Then she would become the scourge of the universe, eating entire star systems with no thought. All of Tetsuo's work, his years hunting down each planet eater, his guilt for wiping them all out and his millions of years of meditation to make up for it, were all for naught. His life was a sham.

"Standing on that field, watching his former wife devour a mountain range and holding his child in his arms, Tetsuo saw the full cold cruelty of the universe. His mind broke. He set the child on the ground, looked it in the eyes and yelled, 'You should not be!' Then he lept off planet.

"That was the last anyone ever saw of Tetsuo Hatayama. Clan Platypus, feeling partially responsible for all this, raised young Haruki Hatayama in their own headquarters. But, in the end, they were like the woman rescuing the cobra from the cold."


Anonymous said...

Okay, I've FINALLY caught up to this point over my vacation. This stuff is epic and amazing. Just wanted to put that out there.

I'm still working on some Pat-related artwork. I hope I'll get to finish it soon.

kaploy9 said...

@niffiwan "Pat-related artwork", you say? Well, that sounds right-spiffing, if I do say so myself!
:{D *twizzles imaginary moustache*

Pat O'Neil said...

I expect nothing short of total awesomeness.