The Return

TheReturnby Ruthanna Gordon

 

Shub Niggurath looked around the city, tapping a tentacle in irritation. The last time she and her friends had been here, towers had stretched toward the sky, walls swooping in intricate and highly symbolic curves to guide the paths of the inhabitants. And those inhabitants! Not the most aesthetic or well-formed creation, by any means, but the ugly little creatures had devoted their lives to creating and worshipping the images of their masters. They had been the seed of a glorious civilization, ready to spread the holy names across their world (and win the bearers of those names a rather substantial bet).

They all appeared to have stepped out to lunch.

“Where are they?” whined Cthulhu.

Azathoth glared. The smartest of the threesome, he had spent the last few millennia telling the other two that these get-rich-quick schemes never panned out.

It had seemed simple enough. The Elders and the Great Old Ones had been in friendly competition for some time, and a group of their rivals had made an offer. Each party to have a thousand years to start a religion on a world, and the worlds then to be left alone for… well, a not-unreasonable length of time. Whichever religion had spread the farthest at the end of that time, its creators would win both planets, plus… well, other considerations. Two planets, and more, practically overnight. In a moment, Shub Niggurath knew, Azathoth was going to say, “I told you so,” and she was going to scream, and that was always a bad thing.

Instead, Azathoth took a deep breath (or at least, the eldritch equivalent—you really don’t want to think too hard about what he actually did).

“If you all will just shut up for moment, I’ll check where they’ve gone.” Azathoth was telepathic. He closed his eyes (or at least, the eldritch… never mind—you get the idea). After a moment, his face darkened in anger.

“They have forgotten all about us… no, wait…” The air crackled, and several objects fell to the ground in front of the trio. Shub Niggurath sat down to take a look, pushing aside the remains of a crumbling edifice to make room. There were several tomes (small, cheaply made, and written in the most vulgar of tongues) and a stuffed cloth figure. She picked up the doll to examine it more closely. It had a bulbous head and a nearly reasonable number of tentacles. It was also plaid. Aside from that…

“Hey,” she said. “Look who I found.” Azathoth looked over her shoulder, and then at the remaining member of their party.

Cthulhu glared. “It does not look like me!” The other two kept smirking. “It does not! It does not, it does not, it does not!” His howl took out a few more of the ancient ruins.

“Aside from your pride,” rumbled Azathoth, when the echoes had died down, “we have a problem.”

“Yeah,” said Shub Niggurath. “If this is all that remains of our worship, not only are the Old Guys going to win the bet, they are going to laugh.” She bit the head off of the plaid Cthulhu. “Ugh. This tastes awful, too.”

Azathoth began to smile. “I believe you may just have hit on a solution. You’ll recall the eschatological section of our mythos…”

Light dawned slowly in Cthulhu’s eyes. “Oh, no,” he said. “That part was your idea. You know I get stomach cramps.”

“So we eat them,” said Shub Niggurath. “Not only don’t they worship us, but they’re all dead. What good is that?”

“Who’s to say who they worshiped while they lived?” said Azathoth. “Only we saw. A few well-placed statues before the Old Guys come by to check, and they were so delighted and awe-struck at our return that every last one sacrificed itself on our altar. How could they top that?”

“And at least we’d still have one planet to work with,” said Shub Niggurath. “It’s so crazy, it just might—”

“Don’t say it,” said Azathoth. He looked out over the world, thinking that he hadn’t eaten since they passed Altair. They could pull this off yet.

Cthulhu swallowed. “All right,” he said, looking a bit queasy. “Let’s do lunch.”

 

This story was awarded first place in a Quick Write competition at JerseyDevilCon in April 2003. The judges were Edward Carmien, Tony DiGerolamo, Michael D. Pederson, Tony Ruggiero, and Susan C. Stone.

 

Wezleski to the Rescue

Wezleski_illo

Illustration by Bob Snare

by C.J. Henderson

 

“Philip, t-that can’t be what I think it is…”

The shape stirred at the sound of voices. Its watermelon-sized head swaying back and forth, it sucked down great lungsful of air, snorting away its confusion.

“Can it?”

Remarkably, considering what had just transpired—its forced trip from home, blink-of-an-eye, wham, bye-bye semi-tropical forest/welcome to America—the leathery, gray thing had adapted to the science-shattering moment in which it had just participated quite quickly. Actually, far more quickly than the two presumably more-intelligent men staring at it were managing.

“Around here, Maxie, I think it could be.”

“You don’t mean…”

Already adjusted to its new surroundings, unaware of the uniqueness of its situation, the thing shook itself, casting away the momentary hesitation the newness of sixty-five million years of progress should inspire in a being from the zero end of the equation. No longer concerned with the electric lights, tiled floors, and plastered walls which had replaced the soggy field in which it had been feasting, its head split along a sharp line, displaying several rows of ivory spikes, many still festooned with strips of fatty muscle.

“I think I do mean it, Max. I think I mean that very thing.”

Having cut through the overpowering pungents assailing its nostrils, the shape filtered through the smells of ammonia and paint, ozone and perfume, dust, coffee, and the other uninteresting aromas on the air, zeroing in on the essential odor of the men before it. Bellowing its delight at finally identifying smells in its new world as coming from the tasty column, the thing rose to its full height and began striding forward, the very picture of joyful determination. The pair of men acted with suitable consternation.

“It’s a goddamned dinosaur, Phil!”

“Jesus Christ! Wezleski’s done it again.”

The gentleman was correct. Oh, a complete and hungry saurian was a variation on the usual tune of chaos heard in the halls of the Pelgimbly Center for Advanced Sciences, to be sure, but the melody was far too recognizable. For sadly, the postulate would have to be immediately agreed upon by all in the know, from janitor Swenson to director Aikana, herself, if there was a dinosaur loose, anywhere, anywhere at all in the entire world which, as everyone knows, has not seen claw nor scale of any living dinosaurs for a long, long time, at the bottom of it all had to be Dr. Wendel Q. Wezleski, Ph.D.

“Run, Philip!”

Actually, Professor Philip Morvently was already around the far corner, urging his colleague, the more excitable Dr. Maxim Ginderhoff, to try and keep pace with him. Behind them both, but closing the gap with little difficulty, came the great gray beast which, some thirteen minutes into the future, would come to be know as Fluffkins, but not before a great deal of blood and slaughter and the violent breaking of things which had not been seen outside the venerable halls of the Pelgimbly Center for Advanced Sciences since the last great foreign war, or inside those halls since Thursday previous.

“It’s catching up to us,” announced Phil.

“Quite aware, professor. In fact,” Max ran the figures in his head, glancing over his shoulder one last time to give his equation a final check before presenting it as a hypothesis, “the way it’s managing to out-pace us, I’m thinking it’s line of trajectory is going to intersect ours in less than eleven seconds.”

Agreeing whole-heartedly, Phil shouted back to his colleague;

“Remsley, pages 72 through 75.”

Puzzled, Max almost slowed his pace. Certainly the professor was referring to Otto Remsley, or more specifically, his seminal 1984 text, Living With Fear. But, pages 72 through 75—what that reference could mean he had no idea. Sensing the doctor’s confusion, Phil clarified;

“The paperback, not the hardback.”

Suddenly everything was made clear. But, of course, “Chapter Seven, Agreements Made in Fear.” The point in the book where Remsley quipped so eloquently on the humor in danger when it caught groups by surprise, and the pacts that could be made under such pressures. Max started to chuckle at such wit from his esteemed colleague. Then, his split-second of jolly reverie past, he flashed-back to their current shared reality, remembering exactly what they had been agreeing to, reminded by a snort of white-meat scented moisture on the back of his neck. Grabbing his companion’s sleeve, the doctor tugged with urgency, shouting;

“In here!”

Max and Phil managed to execute a quite dramatic left turn into the second level biology lab just as the brute thing snapped at one or the other of them. Skidding helplessly on janitor Swenson’s immaculate tiles, the great beast slid past the doorway, one massive leg raised upward, swooshing onward to the end of the hall where it collided rather firmly with the far wall, knocking loose two fire extinguishers and the Center’s cherished picture of L.D. Goodhue holding up two fingers behind Johannes Croning’s head at the dinner held the day after the latter had announced his new shell molding process.

“Bar the door.”

Max needed no encouragement from his erstwhile colleague. Indeed, he had already started to slide forward several lab stools and a half full box of Blakely & Son’s Bunsen burners.

“Something heavier, old boy,” Phil chided his partner in amateur survival. “Equal mass. Distribution of force, that sort of thing—yes?”

Max nearly blushed. Even mind-numbing panic of a sort never actually experienced by any living human being was still no excuse for a scientist forgetting his fundamental principles of dynamics.

But, ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, he thought, grabbing for something that might stiffen the barrier the pair of researchers were hoping to build between themselves and the slavering thing in the hall, that Wezleski!

There simply wouldn’t be a need for such enthusiasms at all if it weren’t for that darned Wezleski.

Oh, how the name made Max flush with a rage not compatible with his elevated blood pressure. Come to work and find eighty-seven of the eighty-nine windows of the western wing not only shattered, but the resultant shards pincushioning a low flying plane brought to ruin by the shattering, and only one name could be attached as the cause—Wezleski. Break for lunch and hear the arrival of scores of firefighting volunteers along with their hooks, ladders and hoses, all eager to have away at the volcanic eruption transforming the formerly immaculate south lawn into something from a Ray Harryhausen film, and there would be only a single Center member whose reputation might come to mind—Wezleski. Reach for the last jelly doughnut, and find that not only is it missing, but replaced by a spiny creature the length of a standard spatula, the width of a generous dinner plate, with the eyes of a collie and the disposition of an Orthodox Jew at an all-you-can-munch bacon-breakfast and certainly, but one signature could you see on the dotted line…

“Wezleski.”

“Less muttering, more stacking,” encouraged Phil. Oh, to be certain, the professor was not trying to change his companion’s disposition toward their absent brethren, merely his immediate fixation upon him for, outside in the hall, the gray thing had made its way back to the biology laboratory. Already it had begun to pit its tiny, fairly one-dimensional intellect against the awesomely complex three-dimensional concept of the swinging door. And, since it had already shown itself to be somewhat of a Paleozoic genius, it was doubtful Max and Phil had much time left.

The thing stared and stared at the spot where its prey had effectively vanished. It had followed them to the exact spot where it now stood. It knew it was correct in this, for their odor still hung in the air. Indeed, it was strong and juicy and growing stronger, filled with the delicious drippings of desperate fright in which the horror’s growling belly simply delighted. In fact, it could smell them, could hear their squeaking noises, it could practically taste them in the air. It just could not see them. Still, it had not lived to the ripe old age of many passings of the sun by not learning a thing or one thing and another thing. The beast knew that if it could smell something, it was there. So, trusting its nose, it began moving forward toward the wall.

Its snout touching the door, the thing was taken with the fact that this flat gray nothing seemed somehow different than the flat gray nothing into which it had slammed several minutes earlier. Whereas its forceful encounter with that flat gray nothing had been rather painful, it losing the lop-sided battle quite completely, this flat grayness was different. It was not stationary. It moved.

“It’s pushing the door!”

“Well then do join me in pushing it back.”

The scientists resisted with the strength they would use to oppose the theory of a flat earth, or the rights of cinema stars to proselytize for scientific causes. The memory of Susan Sarandon and Wynona Ryder lecturing the General Assembly on the dangers of conservative Christians being allowed to clone mad armies for Jesus still burned into his mind, Max strove valiantly to hold the breach by himself as he shouted;

“Phil, release all the animals.”

“What?”

“Just do it!”

No Wezleski, of course, Dr. Maxim Ginderhoff was still an intellect with which to be reckoned. All throughout the biology room, cages adorned the walls and floor filled with all manner of experimental fish, fowl, and furbearer. As Phil threw open latch after latch, allowing escape for the various chickens, cats, white mice and so on, Max began kicking away bits and pieces of their barrier, even as the thing in the hall started increasing its efforts to reach the delicious sounds it heard multiplying inside the lab. Reaching the monkey cages, Phil asked;

“Even Brodsky’s chimps?”

“Everything.”

“He’ll be awfully cross, he’s very keen on how close he is with his cancer research.”

“Open the cages.”

“Max, he’s got them up to two packs a day.”

“Philip! Unfasten the bolts or I shall stroll over there, unfasten the deltoids of your left shoulder from the area of the trapezius, grasp the resultant dislocated appendage firmly at the intersection of ulna and carpals and beat you to death with it!”

Sensing the seriousness in Max’s tone, Phil complied, releasing Dr. Brodsky’s prize chimps into the melee, all eight of which immediately began an insane search for cigarettes, seven for the cool, fresh taste of Marlboros, only one determined to uncover the coveted pack of Winterfresh Menthol Lites the doctor saved for those of their octet who performed exceptionally well, ringing the right bell in response to the proper colored light series or managing to get at least an act or two of Hamlet typed up from memory before coughing up a nicotine-flavored lu’gee into their IBM Selectric.

Finally, with hamsters, ducks, rabbits and everything else filling the air with fur, feathers and consternation, Phil rejoined Max at the door. Adding his delicate but willing shoulder to the barricade, he both informed Max that all the test subjects had been released and inquired as to just why the hell such a thing had been done. The doctor explained.

“I’m willing to wager that our friend out there, eager as it is to acquaint itself with the best scientific minds of our day, is not all that erudite itself.”

“Points conceded,” Phil granted as the door continued to push inward. “Go on.”

“I’m thinking,” answered Max, just catching his balance as the beast pulled away for a moment, causing the door to rush back toward the hallway once more, “that if one side of a swinging door confused our new best friend, that similar results might be achieved by the opposite side as well.”

“Acceptable premise,” agreed Phil as the beast came at the door again, expending much more force than it had previously. Digging in his J.C. Penny loafers, he asked, “have you given much thought to testing it?”

“Indeed. If you note, our friend has fallen into a pattern of pressing against the door, pulling back, and then coming forward with more force. Delightfully predictable. I propose when next it relents, we back away, and then, when it comes forward again, we allow it to enter the laboratory while we exit. Once inside…”

“With all the animals on the menu…”

“He will forget about us…”

“And we can trap him in the lab!”

“Precisely.”

The great beast stopped for a moment, vibrations it had never felt before stunning its external radar.

“He’s slowing…”

“Now or never…”

The thing was shocked. The spark that raw human consciousness could generate had actually touched it through the door, not harmed it, no—not a physical touching…

“He’s still there—you can feel him.”

But, pressed against the moving gray nothing, the mindless thing almost awakened, almost noticed something beyond the few senses it knew and trusted so well. But then, the first of the new aromas caught hold—

Inside, Max rapidly waved the notes he was carrying, a rather insightful symposium lecture he was to deliver at 2:30 on the social significance of the fact that Monty’s Python’s “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” was the most requested song at funerals around the world, blowing the rising smell of the lab animals under the door.

“Come on, big fella, we do chicken right.”

Suddenly the air was alive with a thousand new pure fats and bloods that were so overpowering as to intoxicate. The beast wavered on its feet, giddy with wonder at what treasure might be inside the vast gray nothing.

“He’s going to move soon, yes…?”

“I’d say in three…”

His foot on the side of his body which was not the other side of his body dug into the treacherous floor. His eyes hooded, shoulders flattened—

“And two…”

Deep breath, rush of blood, brain exploding with oxygen, order given—forward!

“One.”

Max and Phil fell to the floor with the grace quickly learned by all those whose permanent place of employment was the Pelgimbly Center for Advanced Sciences, falling back with the perfect rhythm all truly rational souls gain in times of stress. Two-stepping as the door swung open, violently propelled as it was by the blood-fever rush of the only dinosaur to know the sweet dream of feasting on domesticated lives, the esteemed doctor of thermodynamic physics bounced back toward the hall with the much-valued professor of non-linear philosophy sliding out quietly behind him.

Allowing the door to swing shut, they locked it quickly with Morvently’s official key as a dean of sciences, and then slid down the wall opposite, laughing and cursing, ignoring the hideous screaming, screaming, screaming coming from the other side of the door as they tried to answer the questions of the many flocking to find out what all the previous commotion had been about. There were, of course, a goodly faction who were also quite curious about the screaming, screaming, screaming as well.

In only a few minutes Dr. Ginderhoff and Professor Morvently were able to give a fairly detailed account of what had happened to them, specifying their suspicions of grievous blame and to which of Dr. Wezleski’s addresses to forward them to in their footnotes, despite the constant questions from those in the crowd, especially janitor Swenson, although it was apparent he was mostly concerned with how his tiles had gotten so streaked, and who was going to have to clean up “…der stinkin’ piles of dinosaur crap,” and of course, the screaming, screaming, screaming, when suddenly, the constant din of the country dinner being served tartar in the main dining room of the biology laboratory… stopped.

No more screams.

None at all.

For a very long moment…

And then…

“Who in hell took my Luckies?”

“Wezleski?” asked Phil.

“Wezleski,” snarled Max, diabolical loathing closing one of his eyes, curling his delicately sensitive instrument-like hands into fists. “Wezleski!” snapped Max, envy and humiliation raging against the indifference he knew the crazed Wezleski would feel toward everything that had happened in his wake.

As the crowd moved toward the swinging door of the biology lab, they all gasped involuntarily as the door suddenly open.

“Hey, some kind of mess in there, huh?”

Dr. Ginderhoff moved forward, moustache twitching, open eye bulging, face crimsoning over like Russian wheat at sunset, his hands clutching and opening, clutching and squeezing, only to find himself blocked by the venerable Director Aikana. Knowing her staff all too well, the good Director thwarted the promised blood-letting with a bit of tact, deflecting the doctor’s misplaced rage into a weapon for truth.

“Dr. Wezleski,” she snapped with authority. “What was that thing? Why did you bring it to the Center? Explain yourself before those horrid people from UPN force their way in here again.”

“Oh, you must mean Fluffkins,” answered the somewhat dazed looking scientist. “I noticed him leaving through the field as I returned.”

“What?” The innocent single word was actually voiced by a number of the crowd. Indeed, there were a great many exclamations, but this one is quite representative and thus should suffice.

“I thought I’d finally cracked the problem with inter-dimensional travel. Trouble is, I only back-doored my way into time travel again.”

“Groan…” Once more, not a complete tally of reactions.

Wezleski opened the door behind him and invited everyone to move into biology lab 5A, or as it would be affectionately remembered for years after, ye olde slaughterhouse, as if ushering them into Fluffkins dining hall would somehow endear them to his tale. But, unbelievably, after but a few fairly incomprehensible moments of explanation, the eye-popping reaction to which can only be compared to the first ever audience to experience Willis O’Brien’s King Kong; the sensation of seeing the Earth as only the astronauts have—floating in space, back in the womb, snaggled to a life-giving umbilical, viewing a motherfigure the size of everything and the width of it squared; or that wonderful moment in 1905 when a brave new world was created at the moment when elastic rubber replaced the traditional whalebone and lacing used in women’s foundation garments, the Director said;

“You’re telling us, that when you went through the time stream you displaced an equal mass to yourself and what you took inside with you. It could have been two hundred and fifty three pounds of sea water, or coal, or riverbottom that came to us, but no, precisely, it was a dinosaur of a vary nasty, snapping, unbehaved type we had to contend with while you dallied elsewhere.”

“Yeah, I think so,” admitted Wezleski, puzzling to remember if he had meant anything else.

“And before I assess the damage you have done to our esteemed Center, yet again, Dr. Wezleski, I want to know something… Why did you call that beast ‘Fluffkins,’ as if you knew it?”

“Because I did know it.”

Now, remarkably, at this point, having lived through so many purely wezleskian moments as that shard of time they were all sharing with the only M.I.T./Yale/Cambridge alumni to have ever taken The Most Dangerous Man in Science Nomination twenty-six times in only eleven years (the duplications caused by his common, multiple category nominations within the same year, usually creating a split vote that would allow some other knucklehead to walk away with the trophy), you would have thought at least someone would have begun edging toward the door.

“You see,” he explained, with that unknowing way he had of luring the foolish to their doom, “geared as I was for intra-dimensional travel through inter-dimensional means, when I hit the damn time stream again, my ratial-mass threw an anchor out to pull me back—Fluffkins. But, since I was on an extended trip, I was actually there before, during and after his…”

“Its.”

“Excuse me, Dr. Ginderhoff?” asked Wezleski.

“It’s not a ‘him,’ it’s an ‘it.’”

“Hey, I was with him long enough to assign enough anthropomorphic characteristics to allow the pattern to establish itself. Comprende?”

Ginderhoff hated Wezleski’s embracing of popular culture means to explain his sloppier descriptive characteristics. Then again, he hated Wezleski’s favorite lunch, any tune he might chance to whistle, and even the tie given him by the Women’s Alliance for Runaway Decency. Honestly, he just plain hated Wezleski. But, with his vision blurring and the pain in his arm turning to numbness, he decided he had more important things to think about at that moment.

“Anyway,” Wezleski continued, “I disappeared from where I was twice, Fluffkins, three times. That means I was able to study him after he ate all the bio critters.”

“Hold on sixty seconds,” snapped Professor Morvently. “How could you have been around this creature any length of time? It obviously considers the human smell the dinner bell…”

“You have to rub yourself with fruit juice and not give off any signs of fear. All right?”

Morvently rolled his eyes. The crowd stared. Aikana wondered about this research Wezleski had mentioned. Her need to find dollars in any situation, the Director steered the conversation back to the doctor’s studies.

“Oh, yeah… anyway, I ran tests on ol’ Fluffkins when he got back. It’s a complete study of the effects of modern life on prehistoric cultures. Fluffkins chowed down on mega overdoses of nicotine and perfume extracts and carcinogens—everything that was in biology. I’ve got it all stretched—the numbers ring. Someone out there should be happy.”

Aikana smiled. Her mad bomber of scientific research had done it again. No matter which outcome the research favored, she already knew to whom she could sell it. Her soul lifted as the tally she could see for damages and lost loveable furry things was far outstripped by the minimum bids she could already hear jangling in the Center’s deepening pockets. Pleased beyond reason, she spoke without thinking.

“Well done, doctor,” she cooed, meaning it. Loving him once more. “Do give me you notes.”

“Sure,” answered Wezleski without hesitation, always happy to follow the dictates of the Director, “One minute. I left them on the other side.”

Turning on his heel, he reached out and grabbed an arm.

“C’mon Swenson, help me look for those notes.”

And the two men stepped through the time portal to retrieve the asked-for papers. Sending not two hundred and fifty three pounds over to the other side, but some five hundred and eighteen pounds instead. Of course, it might have displaced some five hundred and eighteen pounds of sea water, or coal, or even of riverbottom. But no, none of those were precisely what was returned.

What anchored their trip was something smaller than the last time. Tiny in comparison—but still remained the rows of ivory spikes and unruly disposition. Smaller, indeed, just more of them. Two hundred and fifty-three more of them, to be exact. All of whom, upon arrival in ye olde slaughterhouse, heard one massive sound voiced from some thirty-two various throats:

“Wezleski!”

 

DotCom

by Erik Cotton

 

A few years ago, the domain name www.business.com was purchased for millions of dollars. Suddenly everybody was jumping on the bandwagon and gobbling up domain names left and right. Yahoo.com, taken. Excite.com, taken. Be.com, taken. NthDegree.com, taken (grrrrr). Space.com, also taken. In fact, at the height of the dot.com gold rush virtually every webname was taken and put into use.

But all of that is ancient history now. After the dot.gone implosion of the last couple of years, a myriad of websites went up in venture capital smoke. But the names remain reserved, just in case they find a suck… errr… buyer with more cash than common sense.

When done right, having a website can be a useful and enjoyable experience. Just ask the guys who created such jewels as Slashdot.org or Arstechnica.com. They started off small and have evolved into a huge presence on the web.

Where does that leave you, the average reader? All the good names are gone, so you’ll just have to be inventive. Fear not Intrepid Reader, yours truly has gone to great lengths to track down unique domain names that are still available, waiting only for the right moment to flourish. So without further ado, I present to you, in no certain order, the world’s greatest list of available webnames.

How about PocketSquid.com? Everybody needs a pocket squid! For all of you budding marine biologists out there, this would be the perfect site. Except that it’s already taken. Not much there, just a small sign saying “Coming Soon!” Sure, like we’ve never heard that before.

However, all of you bovine fans are in luck: 14cows.com is available. Just the avenue you need to espouse to the world your love of Bessie. I’m almost positive, however, that in certain parts of the world loving a herd of cows is illegal. So perhaps the website 2cows.com would be safer. Unfortunately, it’s also taken.

Speaking of cows, most of us are well aware of the ecologic damage done by great wild herds of cows stampeding across America. Much like a plague of locusts, which, co-incidentally, is available. PlagueOfLocusts.com is just the site to warn the public about any impending plagues, either insectile or bovine.

Perhaps you’re not into animals, either for their scientific value or otherwise. Well then, how about a nice medical-related site? Something to help spread your medical knowledge to the world and ease the suffering of millions of victims of horrible diseases. Like, for example, Twitchy Nose Syndrome. TwitchyNoseSyndrome.com is available for the taking, ripe for posting detailed information that twitchy people all over the globe are desperately looking for.

Or maybe, just maybe, you’re not quite—how shall we say—normal? Then perhaps ImDeranged.com is the site for you. Something that will allow you a harmless outlet for all of your fears, anger, and thoughts. That’d be great, except… it’s taken. By a clothing shop no less. I don’t know about you, but I don’t need to wear clothing that says I’m deranged, it’s easy enough to spot.

Well, maybe I’m just giving bad examples. After all, most of the webnames I thought up have already been used by people even stranger than I. Indeed, MrBadExample.com, is in use, not by Warren Zevon fans, but by that ever-present site that we’ve all come to know and loathe: the Generic Search Engine Site. Yessir, you can find anything with these sites, mainly because they are all just links to Google.com with some extra spyware thrown in.

Speaking of search engines, perhaps you’re the type who wants to share your arcane knowledge of all things with others. Surely what you need is your own search engine page. Something like SearchThis.com. That would be a handy site, but it’s used by… get this… the Northeast Arkansas newspaper (The Jonesboro Sun) and even better, the site brings up a ton of MySQL errors. You’ve just gotta love those professional web designers.

Not to be deterred, perhaps WhatchaLookingFor.com is what you need. Nope, sorry, it’s “Under Construction.” Sure it is…

Right, so you can’t have your own search engine. Maybe you’ll settle for your own news site. You could design a website with news about everybody’s favorite tinseltown, Hollyweird. Obviously Hollywood.com is taken, but what about HollyWeird.com? Yup, not only is it taken, but it re-directs you to, drum roll please… Hollywood.com! Apparently those lunatics have a sense of humor after all.

Okay, many news sites are now catering to the on-the-move professional who hasn’t got the time to read a newspaper or surf a multi-page website. These hurried commuters read the news off of their PDAs on the morning bus. Now here’s your chance to grab a unique niche. Create a site for all the news about America’s favorite actor: Arnold “The Terminator” Schwartzenegger. PocketArnold.com would be perfect! But guess what… taken, and by a Generic Search Engine Site no less. Is there no pride left in this country?

After all of this frustration, perhaps you’ve retreated into your Cold War era nuclear bomb shelter. I for one wouldn’t blame you, I’m in the market for one myself. In fact… news for the Cold War relics would be just the thing right now wouldn’t it? Kind of topical. BunkerDailyNews.com is, in fact, available! Good for all of those Hitler fans as well. Both of them.

Okay, all of this searching, typing, and frustration has done me in. Perhaps the web isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. Perhaps you feel that I’ve wasted fifteen minutes of your time. SoSueMe.com! (Taken, but feel free to e-mail them an offer.)

 

More Haikus

by Catherine Harding

 

RenFair
Good morrow, mi’lord
Trueth to the period
Does Coke stain velvet?

Star Wars: Episode I
Do you want to leave?
Maybe it gets better soon.
Do you want to leave?

Call of Cthulhu
But it’s a spider.
NO! Too horrible to name!
Looks like a spider.

Robotech
Help me Rick! Help me!
Minmei’s in trouble again.
Just shoot her this time.

 

For Sale: An Enterprising Concept

by Hartriono B. Sastrowardoyo

 

Maybe you can’t buy the Brooklyn Bridge, but the USS Enterprise is for sale, starting at $239,990. That’s quite a bargain, considering the cost to build the first US aircraft carrier was about $19 million and, 25 years later, sold for scrap at just over $561,000. And it didn’t even have a finished basement and gas fireplace.

Confused? Read on.

In the Forked River Beach section of Lacey Township, NJ, there’s a new waterfront community named Captain’s Crossing. The builder named the four home models after US Naval ships: USS New Jersey, USS Enterprise, USS Constitution, and Old Ironsides, slightly redundant as that’s the nickname of the original USS Constitution.

Why would a home be named for a ship? To convince buyers that they can be the captain of their own vessel?

According to the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, the story of Old Ironsides has it that during Constitution’s battle with the HMS Guerriere, cannonballs fired from the British ship bounced off the sides of Constitution and fell into the sea, at which point the British sailors exclaimed, “Her sides are made of iron!?” Old Ironsides it was. And of course, New Jersey is an appropriate chose for a home in that state.

What the ships have in common is that all have had distinguished careers as well as successive ships to carry on their name, fame and heritage. Maybe the developer wanted the homes to be associated with the same qualities as their namesakes.

Let’s take this idea further.

Perhaps naming a home USS Arizona or USS Vincennes would push the limits of taste, and I’m willing to bet that USS Hazard or USS Wateree won’t be used anytime soon. Nevertheless, there are plenty of opportunities for justly named models. (And yes, these names have all been applied to US Naval ships at one time or another.)

If you’re lucky to be named Keith, buy the USS Keith model. Where’s my house? You can’t miss it. In fact, it’s named after me. If you don’t want to be disturbed, buy a model named USS Pyro or USS Avenger. (The latter may especially be appropriate if you run around at night wearing a mask, cape, and colorful tights.) Do your tastes run Presidential? How about the USS Theodore Roosevelt or USS Ronald Reagan? Or if you’re an expatriate, USS Winston Churchill? Or even the USS JEB Stuart. A snowbird? The USS Lauderdale is for you. Want to protest the cost of taxes, tolls, or auto insurance? Here’s the USS Defiance. Perhaps the USS Swivel would make a more subtle point. So to speak. Wouldn’t a model named the USS Impervious provide that sense of security in that you made the right purchase?

As for me? I’ll be waiting for the USS Rich.

Zing!

CarrierBattleship2

 

Relish

Relishby Kevin Ginsberg

 

I prayed, “God give me relish, for I have a hotdog, but what good is it with no relish?” I was completely thrown back when I actually received a response. Not in way of a sign or a relish coupon, but an actual response, the voice of God. “Son,” he said to me, “thousands have prayed to me today requesting, begging, even pleading for a hotdog. You, you who are fortunate enough to indulge himself with such a meat has the audacity to bend my ever so demanded upon ear for a condiment?”

I was embarrassed to say the least. I began to think, do I really need the relish? Am I that ungrateful? Is relish really a condiment? I know little things like ketchup and mustard are, but I had no idea that relish was. I mean, I suppose it’s not a fruit or a vegetable, and it does fit in a small plastic packet. Hence, if it comes in a small plastic packet it constitutes a condiment. I begged him for forgiveness and, asked him if I was the most selfish human to wander the earth. God laughed and told me of a time when Telly Savalas prayed for his hair to stop growing so he wouldn’t have to shave it anymore. I laughed, still a bit nervous by the presence of God. He then asked me for a soda telling me, “It’s the least you can do, I created you.” How could I argue with that? God drank his soda and with a flash of light disappeared. By this time my hotdog was cold, and despite what I’ve been told I was really craving some relish. Having nowhere to turn I did what I thought I would never do. I sold my soul to the devil for a packet of relish.

 

Conspiracy Theory

ProbeWEB

Illustration by Matt McIrvin

by Sean Dylan Weir

 

These days you can’t do anything without running into an alien. Movies, television, websites, bumper stickers, T-shirts, amusement parks, and even bar motifs have bulbous heads and bulging black eyes staring at you. I was flipping channels the other day when I saw an ad for a “Welcome All Species” doormat. If you bought one, I think you need to get out of the house more often. And besides, last time I checked, these sadistic bug-eyed freaks were sailing across the galaxy to kidnap and torture hillbillies.

If one of them shows up at my house with an anal probe, I’ll kick his ass.

But no matter how you feel about anal probes, media attention is intense, and keeping your aliens straight can be difficult. So, here is an Alien Field Guide; I hope it will help.

Reticulans

Back in 1947, the Reticulans, commonly known as the greys, landed in Florida and made a deal with Uncle Sam. They would give us technology in exchange for access to human test subjects. Uncle Sam was in a real Catch-22. If he said yes, the greys would have carte blanche to torture U.S. civilians. If he said no, the greys would end up giving tech to the Ruskies. Uncle Sam said yes and has been trying to cover it up ever since.

Some people claim to have been abducted by greys. Maybe I’m a bit odd, but these horrific tales make me laugh. They remind me of what the gazelles must have felt like on “Wild Kingdom.” No wonder the greys think it’s okay to capture and tag free-range humans.

Greys come in two types. One tall, thin, Marlin Perkins “I’m in charge” type is usually seen with a bunch of shorter, pixie-like “watch as Jim tries to insert the anal probe into Cartman” types.

Pleiadeans

In 1948, the Pleiadeans landed in Florida and told Uncle Sam that he had really screwed up. The greys were planning to take over the Earth. The Pleiadeans offered to get rid of the infestation, but Uncle Sam had to lead a worldwide spiritual renaissance and dismantling of nukes. Uncle Sam laughed, then said no.

But the Pleiadeans came back in 1972 and hung out with a guy named Billy Meyers. The original Meyers material included audio recordings, metal samples, detailed star charts, and thousands of photos and video frames that to this day defy debunking. There is fake Meyers stuff out there, so be careful.

The Pleiadeans have elfin features, with ears set low on the skull, and small pointy chins. Unfortunately, they tend toward long-winded diatribes on human spiritual development. But I’ll take that over an anal probe any day.

Siri

Not much is known about these guys from the Dog Star. What we do know is that they have been given credit for Atlantis, the Pyramids, the Incan Highway, the Face on Mars, and those really enormous line drawings of animals that can only be seen from the air. The Atlantis thing is kind of iffy, so we’ll have to wait until the Greeks release their findings. If you hadn’t heard, Greek oceanographers and archaeologists found Atlantis two years ago. Right where Plato said it was.

And from what the history books say, Plato didn’t frown on the occasional anal probe himself.

Deros

Also known as the Nazi Hell Creatures From Below The Hollow Earth. Rumor has it that Hitler and his Thule (pronounced tool) Society buddies tried to recruit the Deros as allies prior to WWII. Representatives from both sides met at a Hollow Earth entry point in northern Greenland, where the Deros promptly announced themselves as the master race, then killed and ate Hitler’s hand-picked envoy.

I’ve always thought the whole Dero thing was just so much garbage. They’re supposed to be ultra-violent, hideously ugly munchkins that live in a vast underground maze, hating the humans that infest the uberworld. Whatever, Deros don’t worry me.

But I am concerned about Greenland. Does the government really expect us to believe this island is perfectly flat? No geographical features at all? And why is it always distorted, made to look so big when it really isn’t?

Illegal

Most people are familiar with illegal aliens from Mexico. But what about the hundreds of Canadians that sneak across our northern border every year?

What to do if you are abducted

Shoot first and ask questions later. If you blow an alien’s brains out, the corpse could be used to confirm everyone’s worst nightmare. There really are extra-terrestrial sadistic proctologists. Countless thousands of everyday citizens have suffered a brutal backdoor defilement and then had all memory of the event erased.

If you are being abducted, chances are pretty good that something really uncomfortable is about to happen. If this sounds like your idea of a good time, then by all means, order yourself a doormat.

 

 

Beatles

by Kevin Ginsberg

 

I haven’t been able to find my “thing” in life, although I know for a fact that is doesn’t involve poultry. Not the biggest revelation in the world, but it’s nice to rule things out nonetheless. For a long time I thought I might become a musician. I read Paul McCartney’s autobiography to find out how he did it and tried to follow the same path. I met a fella by the name of John, then met a guy named George, and then a man named Raul. That was the closest I could get to Ringo. None of these men could play an instrument, but George did a very interesting interpretive dance to the song “Lady Madonna.”

John and I would sit around writing songs, some good, some not so good. Our best song was one about John’s sister Martha who only had one ear. The song was called “One-eared Martha,” and it’s chorus consisted of Martha repeating the lines, “Talk to my left side, left side, left side.” We couldn’t have been more pleased with the song, but like all great works of art, it went primarily misunderstood.

Raul suggested that we make a pilgrimage to visit the Maharishi. The entire group agreed that such a trip would truly be following the blueprint laid out by the Beatles. The difference between us and the Beatles was our income. We were only able to come up with enough money to visit The Spectacular Kirk, a self proclaimed prophet and taxidermist. There was a lot of talk about The Spectacular Kirk not actually having a taxidermy license, but to us he was the closest thing we were going to get to the Maharishi. We set up an appointment with him and invited Mia Farrow, who declined. We were able to bring along an agoraphobe named Prusella, giving us much of the same effect. We wrote a song about her too.

When we arrived at The Spectacular Kirk’s apartment he was in the middle of drying out a bald eagle. We asked him if it were not illegal to hunt bald eagles. He slowly turned his head to us and winked. That told us all that we needed to know, we were in the presence of greatness. The Spectacular Kirk asked us to remove our shoes. George commented on how similar that was to the great Maharishi; Kirk let us know that he just happened to notice that Raul had stepped in dog shit.

Kirk excused himself to go to the bathroom and we couldn’t help but to snoop around a bit. We found pictures of Kirk with many celebrities, including the musical groups Winger and Stryper, and Danny Bonaducci. We all agreed that we were on the right path.

The Spectacular Kirk came from the bathroom and invited us to meditate. We sat in a circle and hummed as Prusella sat alone in a bedroom. When the meditation was over Raul and John admitted to feeling very relaxed, while George and I were looking for something more. We couldn’t quite put our finger on what it was until The Spectacular Kirk mentioned something about drugs. Then the light bulb lit. The Beatles did a lot of drugs, and it was said to have expanded their minds. Kirk apologized for not having any drugs himself, but suggested that we put on some coffee and drink “a LOT” of caffeine.

We began drinking the coffee, and we were bouncing off the walls in no time. This prompted us to write our most intriguing song to date, “We Like Coffee a Lot.” We left The Spectacular Kirk and all agreed later that he was a fool. We couldn’t think of a good song to write about him though, I doubt anyone could.

The band eventually broke up after John adopted a Shar-pai. Most people think that they are ugly, but John loved it. It was probably best that we broke up. We had accumulated one hundred and nineteen songs and performed none of them. We were fortunate enough to have one of our songs performed by a local bar band called The Sofas. They did an outstanding job on our song, “Don’t Waste Your Socks.”

To make a long story short, I’ve now ruled out being a rock star. Currently I’m scooping ice-cream at a local dairy shop, but I’m about two thirds into President Nixon’s book, so look out Washington!

abbey road

Illustration by Michael D. Pederson