By Paul-Gabriel Wiener <email@example.com>
Submitted September, 2004
Summary: The challenge: Write a story including a list of random items. The response: Utter nonsense. Read at your own risk.
This was posted in response to Queen of the Capes's scavenger hunt challenge. The idea was to write a story using as many of the following items as possible:
1. An unusual pet trick
2. Clark impersonates one of the Marx brothers
3. A really wacky, off-the-wall porn title
4. A strange (but G-rated) use for cottage cheese
5. A FoLC cameo
6. A Dr. Seuss reference
7. Jimmy says "The duck flies at midnight."
8. A potato
9. A person in a toga
10. Either a Tank Ending or an ending where everyone bursts into song.
The story was basically thrown together late one night. It has not been BRed. I had not slept well in several nights. The main idea was to include a bunch of really random things. All in all, the story makes even less sense than my usual efforts. On the other hand, it is quite likely the best thing I've written in at least a month. As it happens, my other major effort was a list of possible slogans for the Heinz Ketchup label contest, but that's neither here nor there.
Read it at your own risk.
Oh, and yes, I took some artistic license with the title. I just liked the sound of it.
One last thing before we get to the story — I'd like to thank my GE, CC Aiken, who not only survived reading the story, finding (presumably) all my errors along the way, but, as always, made the reviewing and editing process more fun than it has a right to be. Welcome back to the GE game, CC!
"Jimmy!" Clark's voice rang through the newsroom.
Responding to the urgency in his friend's voice, Jimmy made it to Clark's desk with almost superhuman speed. When he got there, the first thing he noticed was the color of the reporter's face. Jimmy had never seen Clark so red, with the possible exception of that pheromone incident. He wasn't too sure about that, though. His own memories of that time weren't exactly clear…
"Jimmy, what is this?" Clark demanded, pointing at his computer.
Jimmy glanced at the screen. "It, uh, looks like spam. Email sent out to —"
"I know what spam is, Jimmy," Clark cut in.
Jimmy stepped back, shocked. Clark never cut anyone off. For him to do so now could only mean that something in that message had truly rattled him. Jimmy looked back at the screen. "Okay, it's porn. That doesn't mean anything, CK. A lot of spam is porn. They send this stuff to everyone…"
"But… Look at this, Jimmy!" He pointed at part of the message, which listed videos for sale. Near the top of the list was one entitled "Buns of Steel: The Hot and Creamy Adventures of Superman and Betty Crocker."
"Wait… you said they send this to *everyone*?"
"Well, uh… yeah…"
"Who made this, Jimmy? I have to know. Can you find out?"
He looked at the screen, uncertainly. The people who did these things went to a lot of trouble to hide their identities. "I can try to trace the message, I guess…"
Clark visibly forced himself to calm down. "Whatever you can do, Jimmy, I'd appreciate it."
"You got it, CK."
He asked Clark to forward the email to his own computer, then got to work. Unfortunately, after some early progress, he hit one virtual road block after another. Finally, he admitted defeat. This was not something he'd be able to do alone. He'd need to call on the Order of Computer and Technology Overlords (Plus Ingrid).
He went straight to his chat program and joined #OCTOPI. Fortunately, most of the group was there. He explained the problem to them, and they agreed to help. Together, they tried again, but soon found that even the mighty OCTOPI were not up to the task. At least, not while they were separated. They made arrangements to remedy that situation, then Jimmy returned to Clark.
"CK? I'm sorry. I couldn't do it."
Clark nodded, resigned. "Well, thanks for trying, Jimmy."
"No problem. Look, CK, I'm meeting some friends tonight. I'm hoping they might be able to help me."
"Thanks, Jimmy," Clark replied, brightening a bit. "Do you mind if I tag along?"
"To the meeting?" Jimmy frowned, thinking it over. "I don't know. It's kind of a secret group… But, I guess, this once… Yeah, you can come… Only thing is, you'll need a disguise."
"That's how the group works. We all have these personas, with names and outfits…"
"I'm not too good with disguises, Jimmy."
"Yeah, I know, CK. I saw 'Charlie King.' Don't worry, though — with this group, that's not a problem." Jimmy went on to describe some of the members and their personas. After a while, Clark nodded. He knew exactly the disguise he'd need.
"Well, this is it, CK, the Octopus's Garden. You sure you're ready?"
Clark looked at the door in front of him. It looked exactly like every other door in the whole building, except that it said 8A instead of some other number-letter combination. While this was an important distinction, keeping the apartment from being confused with its neighbors, it was not a particularly imposing one. "I'm ready, Jimmy."
Jimmy knocked on the door.
"Password?" a muffled voice demanded.
"The duck flies at midnight," Jimmy said.
"Ducks aren't nocturnal," Clark whispered to him.
"I know. That's what makes it such a great password. No one would think of it."
"Uh, right. Of course." Clark shook his head, then followed Jimmy through the door, which had opened during their brief exchange. Inside, he found a fairly normal-looking apartment. There was a couch, a rug, a table, some chairs, a TV, and a kitchenette. All were right where you'd expect them to be. There were also, however, a lot more computers than you'd expect, along with many other odd contraptions involving an unusual amount of wiring. One mass of goop with wires and seemingly random parts caught Clark's attention, but he tried to ignore it. He chose to focus on the room's inhabitants instead. They looked like a bunch of kids getting ready for a Halloween party, except that they were all a little too old to be called kids and it wasn't even close to Halloween.
"Welcome to my humble abode," said the one with the floppy hat and the bright clothing. "I am the Doctor."
Clark thought about this, and a vague memory of a recent movie came to mind. "Doctor… Octopus?"
The Doctor scowled. "He's a bad guy," he retorted, as if this made everything clear.
"Never mind," the Doctor said a little stiffly. "Let us continue with the introductions."
The one in the Batgirl costume and crown spoke up. "I am Mary, Queen of Capes."
"I am Septemberus Caesar," pronounced the one in the bedsheet toga.
Jimmy, wearing a t-shirt with a tuxedo painted on it, was next. "I am Bond. Ionic Bond."
"And who are you, stranger?" asked the Doctor, eyeing Clark's novelty nose-and-mustache glasses, green make-up, and prop cigar.
"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend," Clark replied, doing his best. "Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read!"
"Never mind. Call me Marxo the Grouch."
The others nodded, accepting this.
"Who's our avian friend there?" Clark asked, pointing to the bird cage behind the couch.
"That's my parrot, Ingrid," the Doctor explained.
Ingrid, hearing her name, immediately perked up. "Ingrid wanna cracker! Raw, raw! Wee-oo!" she said hopefully.
"Ingrid," the Doctor asked her, "who has the furthest-reaching tentacles on the net?"
"Raw! Octopi! Wee-oo!"
"Good girl!" the Doctor praised her, as he went to get her a cracker.
"Ingrid," Mary cut in before the parrot could get her reward, "what's sushi made of?"
"Raw! Octopi! Wee-oo!"
The Doctor shot Mary a sour look, but gave Ingrid her cracker anyway.
While Ingrid munched away, Clark's curiosity finally got the best of him. "I know I'll regret asking this," he said, "but what's that thing over there?"
"What?" The Doctor turned, following Clark's pointing finger, to see the contraption with the gooey center. "Oh, that. I'm trying to improve the efficiency of the basic potato clock by immersing the potato in a catalyzing solution. So far, I've had the best results with a cottage cheese and jell-o base, but I've been trying to tweak the performance. Next, I'm going to try adding a cocktail of Coke, Orange Crush, and Jolt."
"Oh. I, uh… see." Then, because he couldn't help himself, he added something else. "Have you considered… Cherry Coke?"
"What? No, I hadn't! That's brilliant! Thanks!"
"Uhm, no problem."
Jimmy "Ionic Bond" Olsen broke the silence. "Guys, we came here for a reason…"
"Ah, yes," the Doctor said, visibly putting thoughts of Cherry Coke aside. "The Once-ler inundates us with his Thneeds, but we don't need his Thneeds. We'll find him, and we'll kick him so hard he won't need to pick himself up to fly away!"
"Oh," mumbled Clark, mostly to himself, "*that* Doctor."
The Doctor tipped his very colorful large floppy hat.
"Well," Mary put in, "let's get hacking!"
Each of the OCTOPI went to a computer, with the obvious exception of Ingrid, who, despite being an honorary member, couldn't do more than hunt and peck. All the computers, Jimmy had explained, were networked together. Each hacker was able to work independently, but was also able, at any time, to support the others. As they worked, they called out, telling of successes, warning of dangers, and asking for help with problems. Clark, surreptitiously working at super-speed, managed to help them past a few barriers. They worked for hours, but it ended as suddenly as it started.
"I've got it!" Mary shouted. "I'm in! The spammers, the film makers, everyone… they're all owned by L —"
The screens went blank, then flashed in a strange pattern. Clark, vulnerable to hypnosis, was as helplessly entranced as the rest. Instructions flashed by, then the screens went blank. Everyone stood up, and suddenly burst into song.
"There's *no* business like *show* business like *no* business I know!" they started to sing at the top of their lungs.
Unfortunately, that meant a lot more in Clark's case than anyone else's. The full power of his voice tore the building apart. Horrified, he flew away, still singing. He made it to the most remote spot he knew, fighting the hypnotic suggestion, hoping it would wear off. Eventually, he sang himself hoarse. By then, though, the ice caps around him had shattered and melted, flooding the earth.
Clark flew around the world, but he only found one survivor. Guilt tore at him, and his emotional state was only made worse by the realization that he was alone, on waterworld, with Kevin Costner. He tried to scream, but his voice was worn out from hoarseness…
He woke up, gasping.
"Clark? Honey? What is it?"
"Oh, Lois! Thank goodness! I… I… Ugh, what a horrible dream!"
"I'm so sorry, Clark. It's all my fault. I'll never cook again. And next time I see glow-in-the-dark red pepper, I'll get rid of it immediately. I promise."
Clark groaned, rolled over, and tried to get back to sleep.