There was a clockmaker of Prague, master of the spring, gear, and cog. To thwart a reprise, they poked out his eyes, that mean Old Town Council of Prague.
Note: There is some disagreement as to whether this actually happened, but it makes an intriguing story. i.e. The town government blinding a craftsman with red-hot pokers to prevent him from building a more beautiful clock for another town. [It reminds me of a similar story (or, possibly, old wives’ tale) about Shah Jahan ordering the Taj Mahal craftsmen’s hands cut off so that they could never eclipse that structure’s beauty.] The rest of the Prague clockmaker’s story is that he returned to his creation and, despite his blindness, smashed up the mechanisms so badly that they couldn’t be repaired.
He was an old, soulless Zombie
I met in a diner out on Route 5.
He said he’d kill us all,
but I thought he was joshing.
Then when his music was over–
an ELO tune from the jukebox—
he lunged at the waitress and
bit her clean through the carotid.
It spurt like a shock therapy patient
had a ketchup squeeze bottle in hand.
The diner’s diners commented,
“Surely, that old, soulless Zombie
isn’t gnawing on that poor girl?”
“Poor child probably don’t make minimum wage—
even with tips—
and now an old, soulless Zombie has his chompers in her.”
I know what you’re going to say. Why would I want to murder a cereal killer, a taco belle, a holy cow, a pig in a blanket, a deviled egg, or any of the other bearers of bad Halloween punnery? First, you want to kill someone. You don’t have to admit it to me and I’d advise against admitting it to the District Attorney, but at least admit it to yourself. Second, if you kill the person you really want to kill (e.g. your boss, the tax man, your personal trainer, or your hairdresser—sorry, low blow) you’ll be the lead suspect. Therefore, you need to find a way to vent your homicidal rage into productive outlets, and I’d argue that the killing of punsters is community service. You shouldn’t even think of it as murder. It’s more like culling the Halloween herd. Forest fires kill, but the next year the forest is more lush and beautiful than ever before.
Now let’s get down to the real reason to conduct your own Halloween killing spree. Because it’s the perfect time for the perfect crime. Think about it.
- Anonymity: Except for the lazy people who wear a T-shirt with “Halloween Costume” printed in unimaginative block letters, everybody is in makeup or has their head stuffed in some stinking mask that five people have thrown up in within the last three years. This makes it almost impossible to identify suspects. The lazy bastards would be eliminated immediately anyway because it takes commitment to be a homicidal maniac.
- Relative Inconspicuousness: You won’t be the only one who’s apparently blood spattered. Besides Marti Gras and full moons, what other nights can one say that. There will be large numbers of people wielding weapons and looking creepy. What better time to blend in?
- Distraction: If I might be granted a brief diatribe. Halloween used to be the holiday of terror, but no more. Valentine’s Day may be the holiday of romance (or florists), but Halloween is the holiday of sex. However, you can use this trend to your advantage. There’s a great deal of distraction to be garnered from the proliferation of sexy nurses, sexy waitresses, and sexy actuarials. When the girl whose costume is painted on rather than worn walks through the room to get a single potato chip, that’s a good time to jab the hypodermic into the neck of the nearest drunk pun and get the hell out of dodge.
So how will you choose your target? First, as indicated, it’s best to pick someone who’s inebriated because no one will realize they’re dead–and not just passed out–until they begin to stink. Don’t worry, finding a drunk won’t be hard. At a given Halloween party there will be four designated drivers for the 150 people in attendance—so 148 people will be completely hammered. [No, my math is not that bad. Two of those designated drivers are cheating bastards. If you kill a pun who’s a cheating designated driver you’ve hit the trifecta—OK, maybe my math is that bad. At any rate, you get bonus points. ]
Next comes the question of determining whether the costume is a pun or not. This can be harder than it seems. Sure there are the easy ones I mentioned above (and others like Kevin “Bacon” [Kevin nametag on a meat vest], “Bat” Man [w/ Louisville Slugger], Down for the Count [Dracula with a blowup doll orally affixed to his crotch region], Spice Girl, Dust Bunny, Formal Apology [tuxedo-clad man with “sorry” written on his tie], etc.) that will be immediately obvious.
However, what if one sees a guy in a Grim Reaper costume with a bag of pot. Perhaps this is just someone who likes to imbibe. However, if the pot is dayglow green, then you may have a “the grass is greener on the other side” who desperately needs killing. The key is that one must pay attention to the details. Sometimes the costume will be poorly done. Imagine a fine “Tom the Cat” costume with three misshaped spheres feebly stapled to the crotch region. This is a “horny as a three-balled tom cat” who must die.
On the other hand, you should avoid reading too much into costumes. Say you see a girl who looks like a stripper. You shouldn’t engage in some Rube Goldberg-esque thought process in which you conclude that she is saying, “All that glitters is not gold–because sometimes it’s a stripper.” Said woman may merely be costumed as a stripper, or might be a stripper who just got off stage and didn’t have time to go out looking for a costume.
When in doubt, if the costume doesn’t seem to make a lick of sense, it’s probably someone’s sense of clever gone awry and you shouldn’t feel bad about friendly fire against a non-pun.
Finally, some general rules of thumb (BTW: feel free to kill anyone dressed in a giant mitten with a page of the tax code taped to the thumb):
- Only kill one pun per party. Being a killer of puns is like being a Marine Sniper—except that it’s completely illegal and involves no honor whatsoever—my point is that if you loiter in place you’ll get pinned down by the Vietcong. It doesn’t matter whether the party in question has the best pigs in a blanket (i.e. the hors doeuvres, not the cutesy couple costume), the best DJ, or the sluttiest witches, maids, librarians, or geologists in town. Don’t get greedy. Get in and get out—well, you can grab a handful of those delectable pigs in a blanket on the way out, but then get out of the house!
- Never wear the same costume to more than one party. The police call that a clue. You have to be like Kathrine Heigl in that 27 Dresses movie—which I never saw. Do the quick change like Clark Kent between parties. That brings me to an alternative killing scheme whereby you can kill anyone who’s dressed as a character from a romantic comedy.
- Don’t consume a lot of legumes, high fiber foods, beer, or Taco Bell before your outing. Just because no one will see your face inside that barf-splotched mask doesn’t mean they won’t be able to smell you. Plus the zippers in costumes are unreliable, and you don’t want a case of Taco Trots to hamper your evening’s fun.
- Don’t wear a costume that’s too menacing. You want to be able to point to someone who is nearby, completely innocent, and who looks like a killer and say, “she did it.” Also, don’t wear the “Identity Thief” costume in which one has name tags all over one’s outfit with different names. First, it plants the seed of criminality in the mind of those around you. Second, it’s a bad pun and may result in your being stabbed. Which brings me to the ultimate rule:
- Don’t wear a pun costume yourself, it may result in your being stabbed. I’m not saying that I once stabbed a prostitute with a Seeing Eye dog who turned out to be just another good-hearted Halloween killer because “love is blind,” but…
I hope this guide to perpetrating a Halloween massacre has been helpful. I think we’d all like to bring the fear back to Halloween like all the Saints who partied down on All Saints’ Day Eve intended. So, whether you’re a first time killer or you’ve been around the block (another potential costume cliché to kill), a few simple steps will keep you out of the hands of the slutty cops—or regular cops.
In the interest of enhancing global understanding and camaraderie, I’ve built a translator of common first world (FW) problems–putting them in terms of their Rest of the World (RoW) equivalents.
FW: This food needs salt.
RoW: This food needs food.
FW: My health insurance premiums went up $20 per month.
RoW: My right foot, which recently turned from purple to black, just fell off.
FW: My car is in the shop again.
RoW: My right foot, which recently turned from purple to black, just fell off.
FW: It’s raining again today.
RoW: My house was washed off its foundations and is currently floating down the Brahmaputra River.
FW: Looks like those devils from the other party got a majority in the legislature.
RoW: This coup was particularly bloody.
FW: Squirrels are getting into my bird feeder.
RoW: A tiger ate my family.
FW: A traffic jam made me late for Pilates class.
RoW: While limping through the Kyber Pass to get antibiotics for my right stump, I was socked in by an unanticipated blizzard.
FW: My GPS says this road cuts under the interstate, but now I’ve got to go around.
RoW: What’s GPS?
I was working on a short story that involved a tiger attack, and–knowing almost nothing about the subject–I did a little research. I found some fascinating factoids. Here are some important tips to keep in mind in tiger country:
1.) Avoid squatting postures as it’s thought that many tiger attack victims are cases of mistaken identity. That is, sometimes an individual crouching to do his business or whatnot is mistaken for a tastier species. Apparently, tigers don’t realize that humans are the only creatures that wear clothing. Despite attempts by missionaries to educate tigers on biblical stories such as that of Adam and Eve, tigers continue to see themselves as god’s favorites.
2.) Avoid wearing leather, it makes you smell and taste like cow. While cows are sacred in India, tigers have denied receiving that memo. Or perhaps tigers are like members of PETA and are attacking those wearing animal hides to make a bold statement… but I doubt it.
3.) Avoid carrying meat in your pockets. Enough said.
4.) If one is attacked, don’t immediately counter-attack. Some tigers are just trying to express their passionate feelings on the subject of breakfast cereal, and one would not like a needless fight to ensue. One should only partake in needless fights when one has a good shot at winning– no offense to any one who has ever fought Manny Pacquiao.
5.) Don’t leave your dead out and about. Apparently, human is an acquired taste that tigers will find a fun exotic treat once they get used to it. We are the Rocky Mountain Oysters of the tiger world.
6.) Be aware of your surroundings, and–as with Zombies–CARDIO-CARDIO-CARDIO. Tigers can run at speeds of up to 35 miles per hour (56km/hr.) for short bursts, but have the stamina of a pack-a-day smoker. If you can keep them from getting close to you, they’ll lose interest.
7.) Stay in the city. Tigers almost never go into the city because they tend to attract unwanted attention. The average tiger weighs about 400 pounds (180 kg.) and the orange and black stripe pattern that camouflages surprisingly well in wild sticks out everywhere except Paul Brown Stadium or the lingerie section of an inner-city K-Mart.
8.) If you are attacked, the tiger will leap up and put its fore paws on one’s shoulders to push one over onto one’s back so that the cat can leisurely crush one’s neck in his or her mouth. When the tiger rears up on its hind-legs you may either try a kick to the crotch or to engage the predator in a foxtrot. The former offers a 1 in 10,000,000 chance of success. The latter has never been tried before, and so no one can rightly speak to its likelihood of success, though it’s suggested that one not try to lead (You must recognize that–at that point– you are the tiger’s bitch.)
9.) Because humans aren’t ideal tiger food but we are slow, weak, and are skilled in disciplines like “managerial analysis” rather than hunting or survival in the wild, man-eating tigers tend to be the old and infirm cats that find gazelle and antelope both too fast and jungle savvy. Because only the oldest of cats tend to attack, a sure strategy is to get your attacker talking about how things were back in his day and how the current generation of tigers are all misfits and hooligans.
10.) If you’re attacked, make loud noises and violent “shooing” gestures with your arms. You’ll still be eaten, but you will appear quite brave on the video in comparison to those who go fetal and poo themselves.
Best wishes and be safe out there.
1.) Ever heard of the Senkakus? What about Diaoyus? If not, you should look them up. When you’ve been wearing a gas mask for the 33rd day straight, you may want to know about the chunks of rock in the East China Sea that we tripped into nuclear winter over. Simmering tensions between Japan and China have been flaring up over these islands of late. So you’re probably wondering who lives there who’s so important that it’s worth wandering through a minefield that could trigger World War III. If you answered, “absolutely no one,” give yourself a prize. They’re uninhabited. It’s not the islands themselves that anyone gives a rat’s as about, it’s the ramification they have for underwater drilling rights.
The reader may accuse me of hyperbole. (Shh! Dont tell anyone, but– of course– that’s what I do.) After all, China has a boldly stated “No First Use” policy. That is, they claim they will not use nukes in a first strike. Given that Japan isn’t a nuclear weapons state (NWS), there doesn’t seem to be much risk. Except that a.) Japan lives under the U.S. nuclear umbrella; b.) Japan is the non-NWS that could develop nuclear weapons in the shortest time imaginable — they have the material, infrastructure, and technical know-how (okay, Germany is in the same bag); and c.) see #2
2.) North Korea conducted its third nuclear test. This presents a risk because: a.) it provides an incentive for Japan to build its own nukes (particularly if faith in the US umbrella wanes.) b.) [and more importantly] Kim Jong Un has too many yes-men, and no one to slap him in his chubby face and say, “are you smoking powdered unicorn horn?” In other words, he doesn’t have a good idea of what he can get away with before the world unleashes a crate of whoop-ass on his sad country. So he wanders in the minefield.
3.) Europe is getting depressed. Fat and happy Europeans are productive and polite. Downtrodden Europeans have been known to swallow some pretty despicable narratives, and– in doing so– drag the world into war. At the moment this seems really far-fetched. These political movements are at best in the political fringe of countries on Europe’s fringe, right? Maybe so. Time will tell.
4.) If America’s economy is crash-landed, everyone is going to be hit by the debris. This will be depressing, see #3 and then multiply globally. Times like these echo Churchill’s comment, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” Any person, company, or government that sees the train coming in the distance but can’t find its way off the tracks can’t be expected to thrive for long.
5.) India and Pakistan, enough said…
Part I can be read here.
Part II can be read here.
[Notes: a.) Sorry, I meant to do this in three installments, but this one was getting long.
b.) For the best reading experience, assume all of the continuity gaffes in the dream sequence are on purpose and intended to convey the capricious and surreal nature of a dream—most of them are ; ) .]
I cringed when I heard my voice on tape. I always thought I sounded sexier, less like Ferris Bueller’s teacher. But what brought on the nausea was hearing me describing events of which I had no recollection. It was difficult to fathom that such drama could unfold in my dreams without me having any memory of it.
I should take a step back to say that I’d sought therapy immediately after returning home to find the scowling gnome. It was a decision made after a sleepless night. I didn’t dare destroy the scowling gnome for fear I’d end up with a glowering golem in my front yard when I next came home.
Logically, I recognized two possibilities. The first was that someone was playing an elaborate hoax upon me. I couldn’t figure out how, but this was what I wanted to be true. But watching the tape repetitively had given me no clue about how the trick could be perpetrated. The vanishing gnome and the self-propelled gnome were tricks worthy of David Copperfield. The second possibility was that I was out of my mind— but in a manner that was localized to my front yard. That was equally hard to explain. The therapist was my attempt to explore all options, but I didn’t tell her the details.
My therapist said hypnosis would be a good idea, presumably because she’d just gotten her hypnotherapy license and needed the registration fee to pay for itself. As you might suspect, I was skeptical. Lying on a brown leather divan, fingering the brass upholstering rivets along its edge, I listened to fantastic words spew from my own voice as she played the tape back for me.
I’m standing in front of a mammoth mansion made of rough, gray stones. It looks like a castle—like something out of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It’s dark out, but yet I can see. It’s as if the moon is shining bright, but yet it’s dismally overcast. So much so that I feel like I could jump up and touch the thick, gray clouds. I’m staring at an ornate carving on the door. It’s an elaborate mountain scene. How can I see it? There’s no porch light. Something is wrong here.
I don’t want to go inside, but inexplicably I know I have to. I hear bleating and cowbells. Turning around, I see a herd of goats strolling up the drive. I’m curious about the goats for a moment before a T-rex-like monster darts its head out of the tree line and clenches one of the goats in its jaws. The T-rex’s teeth puncture the goat like a bite into a wonton, and the beast shakes its head from side to side until the goat stops thrashing. I want to save the other goats, but even more so I don’t want to be eaten.
I watch the T-rex; he doesn’t seem to notice me; his chin is covered in crimson. The T-rex looks at the flock of goats like one might look at a box of sampler chocolates, searching out the most desirable morsel. He raises his head, sniffing the air, twisting his thick neck to point his face toward me, and then he begins to run at breakneck speed towards me. I realize that I am the last solid milk chocolate in a field of dark chocolate-covered marzipan.
I spin around and, losing all sight of politeness, begin to twist frantically at the doorknob. The cold, metal knob cuts into my palm, but doesn’t budge. I pound on the door with my fists.
“One moment, Sir.” A voice replies dully from inside. How he knows I am a sir, I don’t know.
“Help me. Please hurry.” I’m too scared to turn and look at the lurching beast, but I hear its footsteps getting closer as the tremors they create run together. I shake the door knob frantically, but the door doesn’t so much as rattle— it’s like a solid piece of wall.
I shut my eyes. I’m sure that the T-rex is now within lunging distance, and in a nanosecond I will feel agony followed by whatever lies beyond agony. I tense up, awaiting my demise. The tremor of a loud thud reverberates up through my feet. I stand there a minute in shock before realizing that all is silent.
I turn around to see the T-rex lying on its side, a gash torn through its throat. There’s a man, a knight, cleaning a large broadsword with a piece of cloth. He discards to cloth and it disappears into thin air. The knight wears chainmail armor under a tunic that has a red and green crest on the chest. I can’t make out the detail in the crest, though I’m looking right at it. It’s as if it has been pixilated, like news stations do to faces when they are talking to an endangered witness or basic cable does with boobies in movies.
“Thank you.” I say, adding, “Who are you?”
“I… I am your protector.” The knight says, looking himself over as though he were surprised to see that he is dressed thusly.
“Do I still need protection?”
“Probably. That remains to be seen.”
The door opens, and I find myself loomed over by a man who is tall, gaunt, and sallow. His black coat has tails like maestros, but there’s a small towel draped over one arm. I conclude that he’s a butler. I turn around to look for my protector, the knight, but he’s not there. Neither is the T-rex.
I turn back, almost surprised to see that the butler hasn’t abandoned me. He speaks, “Right this way, they are waiting for you.” He makes an ushering gesture with his hand as he steps aside inside the foyer.
I eagerly enter, still afraid the wounded T-rex might be around the corner. I start to ask a question, but pause when I realize that the servant’s unusual gait is due to the fact that he is stepping over vipers that are slithering across the rough stone floor. I can hear their hissing, but it doesn’t seem I should be able to.
I stop, petrified, but the butler turns and waves me forward with what I recognize as uncharacteristic urgency. I walk onward slowly and with great care. I step over the black, shiny snakes, and they seem to take no notice of me. When I finally reach a snake-free patch of floor, I look around. The ceilings are high, and the windows are about two stories up. The moonlight breaking through the windows illuminates a row of gargoyles. I stare at them. I’ve never seen gargoyles on the inside of a building.
As I walk, looking upward, I suddenly feel a panic attack as it occurs to me that I might step on an errant snake. Just as I level my gaze, I run straight into the butler, who has come to a stop. Dust flies off his coat, which had earlier seemed impeccably clean.
“Pardon.” I say.
He glowers at me.
I ask, “Who’s waiting for me?”
He turns and walks silently onward. I can’t tell whether he is hostile or indifferent.
We walk past rusty suits of armor, each with a halberd, pike, or battle-axe positioned beside it as if it were being held upright. It occurs to me that there might be men in those suits, men who could swing those implements of death at will. I moved closer to the giant butler.
Soon we are at the head of a stone staircase that spirals downward. It’s lit with flickering gas lamps. As we descend, it gets darker and the mustiness becomes more pungent. At the bottom of the staircase, I’m ushered through a large oaken door that is shaped like an inverted heraldic shield, which is to say flat on the bottom and coming to a point at the top. The butler leads me up onto a stage.
I look out into the auditorium and see the room is packed, but every audience member is wearing a goat’s head mask. It’s only then that I feel the cold air on my skin and notice that I’m completely naked. As if that weren’t bad enough, I realize that I have no idea what I’m supposed to speak to the creepy goat-man audience about. It’s like showing up to a test and realizing you forgot to crack the book. There’s no podium to hide behind, just a skinny mike stand center stage and a barstool that’s near the far wing of the stage. I approach the stool and notice that there’s a small remote on it. Turning around, I discover the bright white screen, and notice a harsh light is shining on to it. I consider doing shadow puppets to amuse the audience. They are now grumbling.
Instead I snatch up the remote and advance the slide, figuring that maybe I can wing the talk. Maybe it’s a topic that I know about, such as shadow puppetry. The audience is now laughing, and that doesn’t feel good when one is standing naked at the front of the room.
The first slide reads, “HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER.”
I don’t have any particular expertise on this subject, and am a little dismayed that someone would choose me to deliver such a lecture. I figured there must be a mistake.
The knight strides across the stage, but he is no longer dressed as a knight, now he wears the same tux and tails as the gaunt butler. He extends a large overcoat out in front of him as a gentleman would hold a coat for a lady to slip into. I awkwardly wriggle into the coat and button a few strategic buttons. Now I just look like a flasher, which is—oddly enough— vastly preferable.
I whisper to the knight, “Do you know what I’m doing here? What am I supposed to talk about?”
“Furk wants to plant a murderous seed in your mind, but you should not let him.” The knight-butler says.
The audience stops laughing and grumbling, and makes a bleating sound like “mehhehhehhe!” I assume that this is the sound a goat makes. I consider whether the angry goat sound is preferable to laughter or not.
I turn back to my self-proclaimed protector, but he has once again vanished into thin air. A bell rings and it gets quiet as a grave and I know that I am supposed to start talking.
Keeping in mind the words of the knight-butler, I begin, “Obviously, this is not to be taken literally.” I gesture to the projected slide. “You shouldn’t commit murder, and you can never count on getting away with it.”
The stuttered goat cries become louder and louder. I don’t know how I’ve inherited knowledge of the emotional lives of goats, but somehow I know they’re getting angrier.
I continue, “I mean, imagine that I shoot a person,…”
A chorus of goaty cheers rises up.
“I’ll always be caught and punished.”
The audience turns on me.
Stalling, I advance the slide. In big block letters, it reads, “HOW TO DECIDE WHO YOU SHOULD KILL!” and then a subtitle in smaller letters, “sometimes it’s harder than you think.”
I couldn’t help myself, my notoriously ill-timed sense of humor came through, “Some key questions that you might consider are: Is your potential victim a lawyer, a bureaucrat, or a teenager? Does your victim contribute to society, or is he or she a politician? Would killing that one person lead to the need to kill again, as in the murder of a member of a boy band?” I notice that while I am amusing myself, I am whipping the crowd into a frenzy. The fun dissolves as I see myself as a warmongering dictator, stirring up hatred among a frothy-mouthed constituency.
I say, “I’m kidding, of course, one shouldn’t murder anyone.”
They turn on me once again. This time they’re really raging, as if I had led them on with my little joke. There’s a moment of stillness before the crowd charges the stage. I turn to run, but don’t know where to go. I look over my shoulder, and– as the first few of the audience members leap onto the stage— I can see that they have actual goat heads, not goat masks.
I freeze, but then I’m yanked by the arm. I turn to see the knight-butler, but now he’s dressed in a police uniform. He says, “Come with me; you are in grave danger.”
I’m pulled behind a curtain that skirts the back of the stage, and I see there is another door shaped like an inverted heraldic crest. I move through it. The police officer shoves it closed. A couple hooved appendages get caught in the door, but he slams his body into them and then lets up just enough for the wounded goat-men to retract their injured forelimbs. As they do, he closes and bars the door. There’s clawing, scratching, and knocking from the other side of the door.
The policeman lights one torch off another, and hands one to me. I don’t know how either of the torches materializes. The corridor extends into the distance farther than the torches illuminate. It looks like a sewer tunnel, but the stone floor is only damp, as are the walls. Beyond the torch light lies an inky shadowland that is only held at bay by the precarious, flickering light. We march into that claustrophobic unknown.
“Who is Furk?” I say, remembering the man’s earlier words.
“Furk is the one bringing you this nightmare. He is one of your yard gnomes,” the policeman says.
“Who are you?”
“I’m another gnome.”
“Why is one gnome trying to kill me and another to save me?”
“That’s a long story.”
“Was Furk the gnome by my driveway?”
“No that was me.”
“Should I wake myself?” It doesn’t come as a surprise to me that I’m dreaming. Maybe I knew it all along.
“Unless you intend to never sleep again, that won’t solve your problem.”
“What if I get rid of the bad gnome?” I ask.
As we quicken our pace, he answers, “You won’t remember to do that when you wake up. We are in the deepest recesses of your subconscious mind. It is a part of your mind that you are not aware of on a conscious level at all.”
I stop. “Wait a minute, if this is a dream, it doesn’t matter what happens—particularly if I’m not even going to remember it.”
“Unfortunately, that’s not so. Future behavior and moods often originate in the subconscious. Haven’t you ever been in a bad mood for no apparent reason, or, alternatively, been happy for no good reason?” he says, stopping for just a moment.
We resume walking, and I say, “I guess I have.”
From behind me, I hear a series of loud thuds. It sounds like they have a battering ram. I turn to look over my shoulder but can’t see the door anymore. We quicken our pace again. Soon I hear splintering. The policeman breaks into a sprint. I follow suit. I soon get winded and can’t figure out why I need air in a dream. More than burning lungs, it feels as if there is a belt tightening around my chest.
The imagined belt tightens further as I hear the echoed clack of hooves on the cobblestones down the corridor.
“You need to try to thin the herd.” The policeman says.
“Only one of those goat-men is Furk, the rest are all projections of your mind. Furk may have conjured them, but they are dependent on your mind.” He says without breathing hard in the least.
“Oh, cool.” I say, and I stop and turn toward the onslaught of goatmen pursuing down the pitch black corridor. I concentrate. I will them to disappear. The hooves keep coming, unabated.
When the first faces break into the torch light, I turn and run, screaming, “It didn’t work. It didn’t work.”
“Yeah, I didn’t think it would.” The policeman says, his voice well ahead in the inky distance; he never stopped – some protector.
“What do you mean… you… didn’t think… it would?” I said, gasping as I ran hard to close the gap.
“This part of your mind is like a river that runs underground below your property, just because you own it doesn’t necessarily mean you can stop, or divert, it at will.” The protector says. He is not winded at all.
A door lies ahead. If we can just get through it, I can catch my breath. It occurs to me that I have no idea what will confront us on the other side of the door. Maybe there’s something worse than a flock of goatmen. The hoof clomps sound as though they are closing on us.
The two of us shoot through the door, slamming it shut, putting our backs up to it. Wherever we are, it’s bright. The sunlight assaults my eyes. I squint, trying to glean something about our new environs. The nameless police impersonator produces a heavy wooden beam that fits into metal hardware on the doorframe to form a bar. How he conjures such items, I don’t know. We are supposedly in my mind, and yet I seem impotent.
“So why did you tell me to try to eliminate them if you didn’t think I could?”
“It was worth a try.”
We are at the base of a hill in grassy prairie lands, the knee high grass is tousled by a breeze. At the top of the hill is a big oak tree, it’s perfectly shaped and stands strong, the iconic tree of life. I turn around and the door from whence we emerged is nowhere to be seen.
“Are we safe here?” I ask.
“It’s your mind.” He responds.
We instinctively walk toward the tree. The ground shakes. The earth splits open. I am falling.
TO BE CONCLUDED (this time for real)
Five nights ago, as the sun sank below the horizon and the glow of vibrant colors faded, we three were visited by a fourth from our world. It was the Hargo Chetti. Like us, he had a long flowing beard and a pointy hat, but, unlike us, his face was twisted into a menacing glower. His shell was monotone brown, it was just a temporary husk pulled together from the earth for our meeting. There was no point in a permanent shell; Master Hargo couldn’t stay in the world of humans for long. (Humans thought of the gnome’s shell as the gnome, but to us it was just a container for our noncorporeal selves.) It’s the scowl. The shell must reflect the gnome’s nature, and no one wants a scowling gnome in their garden. Well, there may be demented people who would like such a gnome, but those people are already beyond our assistance.
In gnomish, a language that doesn’t register in human hearing organs, Hargo said, “I come bearing orders from the Council. They want you to be more active in your man’s dream state.”
I was impressed by Hargo’s ability to project his voice to us, given our wide spacing. We three can only communicate in close proximity, or in the man’s dream state. I was less pleased with the content of his message. I bristled in my response, “I assure you that we are intervening when necessary to keep the man’s dream world from falling into darkness.”
Hargo huffed, “The Council’s orders go beyond maintaining the status quo.”
I said, “We’ve seen nothing suggesting the man needs an injection of cheer into his dream state. Surely, you’ve read our reports.”
Hargo replied, “The Council, which I needn’t remind you has more vision and wisdom than a mere worker gnome, isn’t requesting an injection of good cheer. They desire shadow-mares.” Shadowmares were like nightmares but the ones that cannot be remembered in the waking state. Humans imagine that a nightmare that they can’t remember is inconsequential and has no impact on their waking lives. They are wrong.
Furk, one of my peers, just said, “Yes.” Furk was bored. He thought three gnomes for one man was excessive, particularly when that one man wasn’t important. I suspect because one of the neighborhood cats liked to wee on his shell, Furk had soured on our assignment. Though correlation not being causation, I couldn’t eliminate the possibility that the cats peed on him because he was such a jerk.
I was momentarily speechless. Hookl was also speechless, but that was his usual state.
After a long pause, I said, “I would like confirmation that this is the will of the Council.”
Hargo’s scowl seemed to tighten. Icily, he said, “Are you calling me a liar?”
I felt a shudder rise up through me, but still managed to reply, “No. I just think such a rare and unusual order demands great care.”
“You have your orders.” Hargo said, and then his shell collapsed into a pile of dirt, which was then caught up in the breeze and spread over the lawn. By morning there would be no trace of him.
I didn’t trust the Hargo Chetti. He looked like Santa, sans the jolly. What screams lie more than a scowling Santa. Yet, he is our only point of contact with gnome world while we are on assignment. I’ve always thought that was a weakness in our system.
As Furk began to plan and Hookl resumed being Hooklish (which is to say disinterested), I strained to propel my shell toward the driveway. I moved as swiftly as I could, but it was still a pace that would make a turtle proud by comparison.
A few hours later, I noticed lights stretching down the road toward the drive, the twin beams — with the car— decelerated. The car swung into the drive nearly crushing my shell. Had the shell been crushed, I would have been evicted back to our home world. Gnomes required a shell. I wasn’t powerful enough to summon a shell from the dirt, like Hargo had, not even for a short time. My plan had been to get onto the driveway and block access to the garage. In retrospect, it was not a well-thought plan, but it was the only warning I could give the man in his waking state. Once he went to sleep, it might be too late.
The man seemed to take note of my changed position, but he didn’t return my shell to its original position. He just shrugged and walked into the house.
I wanted to persuade Furk to hold off on obeying the order for now. Silently screaming gnomish across the lawn wouldn’t work, I didn’t have Hargo’s power of projection. The distance between us was too great.
I would have to subvert Furk in the man’s dream state. It would be difficult; Furk would have a plan by now, and I would have to improvise, injecting characters into the dream as needed to counter the shadowmare. In the dream state, I wouldn’t look dwarfish – unless that was called for. I could morph into any character that I could imagine. If you’ve ever had a dream and seen a face that looks totally unfamiliar, you’ve had a gnome dream. If you aren’t sure if you were the lead character in your dream, a gnome has probably been monkeying around in your noggin.
Four nights ago, I convened a meeting to the side yard. I wanted to be out of sight. Humans often won’t miss a gnome if it’s gone, but seeing three cavorting draws undue attention. I migrated across in front of the house, a two bedroom ranch, and nudged Hookl, who was positioned midway between my usual position and Furk’s. We then proceeded to meet up with Furk. This would put me at a disadvantage. Moving the gnome shell by force of consciousness is exhausting, and if I had to battle it out with Furk in the man’s dream state that night I would be weaker than usual.
For Furk, who was positioned near the corner of the house, the journey to the side yard and back would short. This was probably why he agreed.
I said, “As you well know, I want to hold off on initiating shadowmares.”
Furk said, “An order has been given by the Council. It may be unusual, but I’m sure they have a good reason, and it is not ours to challenge.”
Hookl said nothing.
I replied, “Maybe they do, and if they confirm their order I will comply. But this is serious, and if there is not an explicit order from the Council, then it is high crime against the Gnome Code of Conduct. You know what shadowmares can do to humans after a time. The humans might not consciously recognize the effects, but we know them well.”
Furk retorted, “If the Council didn’t give the order, then the Hargo Chetti is a liar. Are you prepared to make that accusation, because I’m not?”
Hookl said nothing.
I said, “I’m not calling anyone a liar. I’m just saying this is an extremely rare order and since there is only one gnome linking the Council to us, the possibility for miscommunication exists. If it were a less risky order it might not justify my concern. What if the man does something disastrous because of our mental mischief?” I was lying. I did think Hargo was a liar, but saying that would serve nothing.
Furk said, “It’s like Hargo said, you can’t see the whole picture.”
Before we could even begin our retreat back to our proper positions, we heard the car slow and turn into the drive. There was no use in moving now.
I said, “The man is home. Furk, it is clear that we will not be able to persuade each other. I want to hear where Hookl stands, and we will decide by majority.”
Hookl was not happy to be put in the role of tie-breaker. Making decisions was not his strong suit. “Gee, I’ll get back with you tomorrow.”
We three were well-attuned to the man’s brainwaves. We knew when he went into the house. We all knew that he noticed we were missing. We knew when he was about to come back outside with his flashlight. Soon he was shining the light on us. His forehead was crinkled and his lips pursed. It was an expression of puzzlement. He was trying to figure out how we had gotten into the side yard.
Three nights ago, one of us was ejected from this world. As darkness fell, in the feeble light, I approached Hookl to inquire about how he intended to vote. I had no intention of reconvening the group. Furk could come to us if he wanted. He did so.
Hookl said, “I mean, I don’t think we should be hasty. We should take our time, and figure things out. Rushing now won’t help any…” He just went on like that, noncommittally, for some time.
It must have sounded to Furk like Hookl was siding with me because Furk kept migrating, pushing into Hookl’s side. I don’t know if Furk just wanted to persuasively intimidate Hookl, or if his intentions were more nefarious. At any rate, there is a slope to the land in the front yard, and many loose rocks. This contributed to Hookl’s shell begining to tip; Furk did not let up. There was nothing I could do but watch as Hookl’s shell tipped.
There was a hole in the bottom of Hookl’s shell from the manufacturing process. It didn’t matter as long as the hole was sitting on the ground. If the shell tipped over, Hookl could maintain himself inside as long as there was only on hole in the container. It was the same principle as a bucket being inverted and pushed down into water. The bucket captures air inside. Add a second hole, and the water plunges in to push the air out. When Hookl’s shell tipped, its shoulder landed on a rock and the ceramic cracked. In a whoosh, Hookl was ejected and forced back to our world, to our dimension.
There would be at least one more night of battling it out with Furk
Two nights ago, my fight with Furk continued beyond the dream state and into the physical world. It ended with a gnome sumo match, and Furk was sent home much as Hookl had been.
I didn’t know how long it would be before someone showed up, Hargo or someone on the Council’s behalf. If I was right, and Hargo had gone rogue, it might be never. He might cut his losses.
I began to rest easy in the belief that I could protect this man’s dream state. And then the putz put a baseball bat through the side of my head.
TO BE CONCLUDED
Five nights ago, coming home at days end, nosing my car into the drive, I startled. Where my headlights should have roamed over a patch of bare grass, instead the light glared off of the white beard and ruddy cheeks of one of my three lawn gnomes. I braked and swung the wheel hard to avoid grazing the gnome with my bumper. I could have sworn that gnome was always much closer to the house.
Somebody must have moved it.
By the light of the next morning, a ring of flattened, brown grass confirmed my suspicions from the previous night. I had no time to consider who might have moved the gnome.
No harm, no foul.
Four nights ago, coming home, the gnome was not at the edge of the drive where it had been. I assumed that whoever had moved it put it back where they found it. But it wasn’t there either.
Rummaging through a drawer of loose tools and hardware, I grabbed a flashlight. I went through the front yard, swinging the beam of light in wide arcs, intent on finding the missing gnome. It was then that I noticed that the others were missing. I was considering whether it was worth calling the cops for the theft of a few cheap yard gnomes when I turned and my light reflected off something white in the side yard.
I rounded the corner cautiously, not wanting to piss myself if some prankster youths jumped out from my shrubs. There were no youths, just the three errant gnomes. The trio faced into the center of a circle as if they were conversants at a cocktail party. I looked around, in case this prank was being caught on some sort of candid camera. Not that I would be able to see the conspirators in the darkness, for I didn’t want to go shining my light into the neighboring properties. So I shrugged and went back in the house leaving the gnomes to their silent cabal.
The next morning, the gnomes were back in what— as far as I could tell— were their original positions.
Three nights ago, I came home hoping the prankster had gotten it all out of his system. But when my headlights washed over the front lawn, I gulped. One of the gnomes lie on his back. The other two stood gazing into each other’s eyes, one at the downed gnome’s feet and one at his head.
This is getting to be enough already, I’d thought.
Given the ominous tone of the latest prank, I didn’t venture outside to reset the gnomes that night. I had a largely sleepless night, wondering if this was more than a prank, if it was some sort of dire message. I put my sleepless night to good use devising my plan.
In the morning I found that two of the gnomes were back in their original positions and the third was missing altogether. That sealed it. I would move forward with my plan.
Two nights ago, I came home later than usual, having stopped at an electronics store to buy a video camera with night vision and a tripod. You’ll not be surprised to learn that one of the two remaining gnomes was smashed to shards while the other stood casually at its feet.
Anger now trumped fear, and I was prepared to catch the culprit in the act. Without turning on the light in the front room in order to avoid alerting my tormentor, I set up the tripod. In my bedroom, where nobody could observe me, I made sure the camera worked. I recorded the cat yawning and played it back. I cut the lights and made sure the night vision worked. I confirmed that I had sufficient memory for the entire night. Returning to the front room, I trained the camera on the gnome and gnome remnants. I checked and double-checked the power, memory, and the settings. Confident that all was set to capture the ne’er-do-well, I retired to bed for a sound night’s rest.
The next morning, I strode into the front room. I could see through my front window that the gnomes, broken and whole, were both gone from where they had lain, and that the camera’s red light was still showing recording in progress. I stopped the camera, confident I had captured the scallywag on video. I would call the police, and I would have the evidence I needed.
I pressed “play” and watched the green grainy video. There was nothing but stillness and the occasional branch trembling in the wind. In the interest of getting to work on time, I fast forwarded. When I was at eight times (8X) speed, I noticed there was and impression of movement, an inexplicable gradual shift of the standing gnome. The gnome shards also seemed to become faint, as if they were dissolving. I thought my eyes were playing tricks. At 32X speed, the standing gnome migrated itself out of the frame while the shards seemed to dissolve into thin air. No person or animal — other than a common squirrel– ever entered the frame.
Leaving the house that morning, hoping that the evil was now at an end, I was shocked to see that the remaining gnome hadn’t liberated itself from my property. It was right where I had set it years before. Unsettled and convinced that something wicked had taken up residence in my front yard. I grabbed an aluminum baseball bat from my garage and I swung hard into the gnome’s ear. The head flew off, revealing its hollow core. I must have looked like a madman to my neighbors as they went to work, gawking at me as I smashed the gnome to shards and then the shards to dust.
So you must be wondering why this is Part 1 and why there is further writing below. I just told you how to kill a rogue yard gnome. Did I?
Last night I came home to find a gnome sitting indignantly in the place of the gnome I had smashed that morning. It looked very much like the one that I had dashed to smithereens eleven hours before; except that instead of a big, beaming smile, its face was a scowl.
TO BE CONTINUED