THE SECOND COMING

In the year 3000, scientists decided that three millennia was more than enough time to wait for the second coming of the messiah. As such, it was time to take things into their own hands and speed the process up a bit.

After the secret meaning behind Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was decoded in the year 2967 and the Holy Grail was finally found, researchers made a point of scouring the ancient cup for any sign of DNA. When a skin cell from the lip of Jesus was eventually found, the scientists all came to the conclusion that naturally he had to be cloned.

So there the cloned fetus sat in a lonely government chamber, cloistered away in Area 62½. Years went by, alien crash survivors came and went, and still the cloned Jesus rested comatose in his chamber, developing in silence and isolation.

When the new Jesus had been gestated for his thirty-third year, the government decided that it was time to set him free and bring order to the world. The only problem was that they didn’t foresee the fact that the clone’s mind was as blank as a fresh canvas.

This fact was made abundantly clear when the Jesus clone was brought into an impromptu press conference. The audience stood rapt as their apparent savior stood before them, clothed in a robe the U.S. government had provided for him, its “MADE IN CHINA” tag sticking conspicuously out of the back.

The lead researcher stood at the microphone, absolutely beaming. The TV lights in the room could melt a marshmallow.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I present the second coming of Jesus Christ.”

The researcher motioned for the clone to step up to the microphone. The Jesus clone glanced sheepishly from the researcher to the microphone and back again. Finally, he walked over. He looked over the crowd, surveying them. It was silent enough to hear the digestive activities of most of the people in that room.

The Jesus clone opened his mouth, as if to speak. He leaned down to the microphone. In one swift motion, he scooped the fuzzy part of the mic into his mouth and started chewing. The whole room remained silent, thinking there was some sort of profound meaning to what the clone was doing.

When he was done eating the microphone, the Jesus clone reached down and took off one of the Old Navy sandals that had been provided for him. (At no cost it should be added, since it was a no-brainer of a product tie-in for Old Navy.) He started gnawing on the sandal before looking at the crowd and bellowing in a guttural fashion.

In a matter of seconds, everyone in the room had ripped off one of their shoes and jammed them into their mouths. In perfect synchronization, the crowd did their best to mimic the primal yell they had heard from the clone of Jesus. The Mass was going along swimmingly.

Sensing that the cloned messiah might be a little thirsty, the lead researcher handed Jesus a glass of water. The clone cautiously took the glass in his hand and stared at it in wonder. In an instant, the glass’s contents turned a dark shade of red. The Jesus clone knocked it down in a single gulp. He reacted in spectacular fashion to the wine’s taste, like a baby that just tasted a lemon for the first time. He motioned to the lead researcher for another glass.

Within a few minutes, the duplicated Christ was extremely inebriated. He had his robe pulled up over his head as he danced in circles around the podium. The rest of the room did the same. It was something.

After tuckering out from his dancing, the Jesus clone gestured for another glass of water. The lead researcher had seen enough. He refused. The clone didn’t understand the concept of a shaking head meaning “no”, but he understood the feeling of his buzz going away just fine. He started to throw a tantrum.

The lead researcher attempted to calm Jesus down, he took hold of his arm. Bolstered by the wine, the Jesus clone pushed the researcher away. In an instant, the poor man fell to the ground, dead as could be.

The room erupted into chaos in an instant. It was all too overwhelming, and the screams weren’t helping the clone’s mood at all. He grabbed onto several passersby as they attempted to escape, amused with his game of tag in which whoever he grabbed didn’t seem to get back up for some reason.

Government agents tried to grab hold of the murderous clone, but he vanished in an instant and reappeared just as quickly in Times Square, hovering in midair as if that were a normal thing to do.

A wave of the hand here, a violent glare there, and the clone of Christ was vaporizing everything in sight. Fighter jets were scrambled, the National Guard was brought in, but nothing they did made a difference.

The war went on for years. The clone went from city to city, tearing apart everything in sight and turning entire bodies of water into massive stores of wine for his own enjoyment. The entire world eventually united in a quest to take down the messianic menace.

When all was said and done and more than 500 years had passed, the Jesus clone got tired of random pillaging. One day he simply teleported off to another galaxy and started the hell raising up where he’d left off.

Finally recovering from its scourge, the world decided that such a mistake could never be made again. They set themselves to rewriting the history books. The only problem was that 500 years of propaganda had skewed the reality a bit. When it was all said and done, they told tale of a horror novel called The Bible that provided the origin story for the deadliest terrorist the world had ever known: Jesus Christ.

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I REMEMBER

I remember Toy Story on Ice.

I remember the dollar store, and games on floppy disk, and toy guns that broke within the day.

I remember accidents.

I remember warheads, and Pokémon trades, and pizza lunchables.

I remember Doom.

I remember snow days, and Wolverine’s blades, and hot wheels cars that went vroom.

I remember recess.

I remember box tops, and baby bottle pops, and Stretch Armstrong.

I remember Daria.

I remember playpens, and Lisa Frank, and kiddie pools.

I remember Courage the Cowardly Dog.

I remember Beavis, and Golf Mill, and wondering what’s in a Wonder Ball.

I remember multiplayer.

I remember road trips, and gold stars, and refrigerator magnets.

I remember homework packets.

I remember AOL, and Surf Monkey, and boomerangs.

I remember Nickelodeon.

But most of all, I remember the feeling of a slow passage of time that will never return.

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THE INTERVIEW

Sam Jackson stood patiently in the clinically oppressive elevator, his livelihood about to be decided by what someone else thought of his life experience boiled down to a sheet of paper. He wondered how long it would take to be brought up. It. The elephant in the room. His name. Sam practiced his laugh in the mirror, hoping beyond hope that his disdain wouldn’t come through when the interviewer inevitably riffed on the goddamn name.

He decided he’d be a good sport and laugh along with it, but get off the subject as soon as possible.

But should he? Realistically, Samuel L. Jackson is a pretty popular actor. Chances are good that the interviewer might be a fan. Maybe Sam could slip his work experience in between a casual review of Pulp Fiction and a discussion on the man’s versatile use of the f-word.

At the end of the day, though, it all came down to that sheet of paper. That nakedness on the page. He didn’t have much experience, there were no two ways about it. If he could get the person on the other side of the desk to laugh, that was fine, but it would still come down to that fluffed-up, generic crap that he’d obsessed over for weeks and still not been happy with.

DING.

The door’s light proclaimed “42.” This was it. Sam’s heart leapt into his throat.

But for some reason, the door wouldn’t open. A few seconds passed by, enough time for Sam to nervously gulp twice, but still it wouldn’t open. Was he stuck here? That’d really be his luck, to blow it before he even stepped through the door. It’d be back to subsisting off ramen for sure.

CREAK.

The whole elevator lurched, ready to drop.

Oh God, don’t let me die here. I’ll let you take the interview away, but at least let me live.

There was a loud snap, like a gargantuan thread had been snipped by the world’s largest pair of scissors. The bright, digital forty-two stood out in sharp relief, every detail of its shape stuck in Sam’s brain as his eyes desperately took everything in.

WHOOSH.

The forty-two disappeared, replaced at once by forty-one. Sam was too scared to yell. The numbers were plummeting faster still. Now twenty, now fifteen. Sam clamped his eyes shut as it counted down to one. And then…

NOTHING.

Sam opened his eyes. The numbers still flashed brightly as they counted, but this time they were seemingly getting larger as opposed to smaller. That is, until Sam noticed the little digital minus sign in front of them. The elevator just kept falling. First Sam’s eyes caught a glimpse of “-23,” then “-67.” The numbers climbed into the double digits, past “-248,” then “-946.” He thought he was going to be sick.

SWISH.

The elevator suddenly came to a halt with the delicate touch of a mother placing her baby in a crib. Sam gulped for air like a fish out of water, his pits as soaked as if they were just in water themselves. His shitty resume lay in a crumpled mess at his feet, desperate shoe prints stamped all over it. The little digital number proclaimed “-1234.”

DING.

Sam’s eyes went to the door, wide as could be. Time crawled slowly by on all fours. The elevator door quivered, as if it was just as scared as the elevator’s occupant. And then it opened.

Before Sam Jackson was a massive subterranean metropolis. There were pillars and caves, buildings and spires, waterfalls and bioluminescent bugs that glowed brilliant colors as they whizzed by. There were reptilian, winged beasts and many-eyed, furry creatures that were riding them.

The latter of these sights, the beasts with many eyes and thick, coarse fur took immediate interest in the new arrival. They halted their conversations, landed their dinosaur-like rides and all just stopped and stared, poised to strike.

There were several possible courses of action for Sam Jackson, but none of them seemed to him to be too promising at the moment. He could try his hand at escaping through the elevator, but experience had already proven that that hell-machine was not to be trusted. What’s more, there wasn’t even a button to open the damn thing’s door back up.

He could drop to his knees and cry, beg for mercy to creatures that he wasn’t even sure would understand him.

But fuck that. He was sick and tired of all this nonsense. He’d worked his ass off on that resume, a resume he wasn’t even happy with, only for it to be ruined by some faulty, supernatural elevator. What’s more, he just missed out on the interview of his life all because of some freak occurrence. And he didn’t even get to discuss Pulp Fiction.

The beasts sprinted toward Sam, bellowing a battle cry as they went. A second passed. Then another. Before he could stop himself, Sam ran headlong toward them too. His battle cry was a little less impressive than their mighty roar, but at least he was trying.

Without a second to spare, Sam spied one of the winged beasts alone, set free from its now-sprinting owner. In one fluid motion, Sam ran to it, leapt into the air, and landed precariously onto its back.

With a swift kick he had it flying away, above the heads of his pursuers. Another kick and it sent flames barreling out of its prehistoric mouth. Bolstered, Sam turned the monster back toward the furry beasts below and swooped down for them. He kicked the beast, sending flames spilling forward.

SLAM.

Sam smashed into the ground, dazed. He got up, clutching his head. Sparks issued from his downed steed. Its scaly skin was ripped away, exposing electronics and wires.

“Enough.”

One of the furry monsters held up a remote control. It reached toward its head and pulled it off. A pleasant-looking man smiled within the now-revealed monster suit.

“You’ve got the job.”

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INTERNET BE DAMNED

Dexter couldn’t get out of bed. He knew in reality that it was more like he really, really didn’t want to get out of bed, but it felt more like an impossibility. If he were to quantify his current motivation on a scale of 1-10, he’d probably give himself a solid 1.5. But now that Dexter thought about it, was he being generous with that .5? If he had to be honest with himself, he’d probably be closer to a 1. That was more like it.

Major depressive disorder was too fancy a term for something so complete, so all-encompassing. It felt to Dexter more like a giant monster that was sitting on his chest, heavy enough to make his heart feel like it might burst. If he had to name it, it’d probably be called Malode or something.

Seriously? Had he really resorted to naming his disorders now? And of all the names he could’ve picked, he chose a dumb one like Malode? What the hell was wrong with him?

A whole lot, Dexter decided. More than he thought humanly possible, in fact. Just as this thought crossed his brain, he reached over to his conveniently located dresser and unplugged his phone. He turned off the screen rotation so he could mindlessly scan the interwebs without even having to sit up in bed.

Dexter moved his thumb to the little URL box, this tiniest of efforts nearly too much for him. Just as he tapped it, his phone decided to lock up. He swiped up and down, left and right, but nothing worked.

He was just about to put his phone down and resort to staring at the ceiling when it happened. The screen abruptly turned black. On its surface, green lettering flitted across. The command prompt looked like it belonged on a dusty old monitor from the ‘90s, not on a brand new smartphone. Even so, there it was.

The words slowly began to float above the screen, separate from it. They rose up to Dexter’s eyes, higher and higher. Dexter pulled his phone away, confused. Still the words approached. Before he could even think, the words swallowed him up and pulled him into the phone.

He was in the internet. He didn’t know how or why, but here he was. The whole thing had the distinct smell of cheetos and loneliness, which surprised Dexter by how much it didn’t really surprise him. There were kittens and a capella singers and pop music and a capella singers holding kittens while singing pop music.

At Dexter’s arrival, every one of the internet’s inhabitants turned to him. There was a moment’s pause in which Dexter could only watch the expectant stares of all the exaggerated personalities that stood before him. The cheetos-stench was almost unbearable.

And then he heard it. Every video he had ever watched, every celebrity impersonator and grumpy videogame player, every song parody and movie trailer, every teenage prankster and how-to video bellowed forth in the loudest cacophonic mess of audio ever conceived. Dexter thought his eardrums might burst from the shrill, piercing cries. No matter how deep he plugged his ears, the sound prevailed.

As the stars of each video called out in ear-splitting discord, their leader stood out amongst them. It was a massive monster, featureless and black as pitch. It didn’t have a face, but Dexter could tell that it was staring right at him. This was it. This was Malode. It was coming for him and it would have its way this time.

Malode marched forth, his army of internet stars behind him. They all had kind, warm looks on their faces as they approached, intent on sending Dexter into oblivion. He stood there a moment, watching them come. If he had to quantify his fear on a scale of 1-10, he’d probably be at an 8 right now.

Seriously? The whole of the internet was coming for him, ready to pull him under for good and all he could do was stand here and ponder arbitrary number scales?

But wait. Fear. He felt fear. He felt actual terror. He felt his heart pump blood through his body in an effort to preserve itself. Sure, it felt like it would burst out of his chest again, but this time it was for an entirely different reason. He wanted this. He wanted to be alive. He didn’t know why, but he did.

He turned away and started running. His footfalls were awkward, as he hadn’t run since sophomore year of high school, but he was moving. He didn’t even feel the need to mentally criticize his sprinting abilities as he went either. He just ran. And ran.

The chorus of the horde behind him grew louder and louder, until it reached a fever pitch. He didn’t think he could take it much longer, but still he ran. Louder and louder still, until his blood boiled and his brain sizzled. But still he ran. SCHSCHSCHSCH…AAAAAHHHHHHH-

Silence. Dexter opened his eyes in an instant, terrified. He was there in his room, on the bed that sat conveniently close to the dresser. On the bed was his phone, right where he’d left it when he’d apparently dozed off.

He looked at its screen, at its empty promise of eternal fun. He held down the power button until the screen went black. The effort of the action was nothing this time. He didn’t feel the fatigue he’d been used to by now. In fact, he felt an inexplicable burst of energy.

Before he could argue the merits of such an idea, Dexter got out of his bed. He reached in his conveniently located dresser and pulled out the gym clothes he hadn’t worn since sophomore year.

Dexter went outside, out into the glowing brilliance of it all and started to run. He didn’t know why. He didn’t know where he was headed. He just ran.

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