Saving Face

People often ask me where I get my ideas. The simple truth of the matter is that I keep a dried monkey face in the top left drawer of my desk. Whenever I'm low on inspiration, I pull it out and gently stroke it with a damp, warm cloth. This awakens the spirit of the crazed macaque within, who then starts gibbering and ranting. Sometimes, it's in Assyrian, which is a real pain to feed through Babelfish. Mostly, though, it's intelligible (assuming you count half a high school education marred by crypto-fascist rhetoric as intelligible).

The story of how I came by this dried monkey face is itself quite fascinating. It was on a Thursday morning (the face claims that it was Tuesday, but it lies all the time) that I was cleaning my bicycle when a curious gentleman wearing a long coat and a top hat found his way into my basement in some manner. Being somewhat perturbed by this occurrence, I asked him just who he was and what he was doing here, as he was clearly not there to read the gas meter.

Most apologetically, he claimed to be lost, and asked if I had ever heard of Sir Arthur Sherlock Twain. When I replied in the negative, he said he was dreadfully sorry, but he appeared to have stepped into the wrong universe. If I could merely point him in the direction of the nearest washing machine, he would be gone as soon as humanly possible, and he would give me an aluminum doubloon for my troubles. I gestured to the washing machine behind him, but explained that aluminum was a curious metal for minting currency. After some discussion, it became apparent that the process for refining aluminum is a rarity among most dimensions, and that he would be willing to pay handsomely for the roll of aluminum foil I had in the kitchen.

We conducted the transaction, during which he handed me the worn lottery tickets which bear the winning numbers for the third and fourth weeks of May 2009 of the Xtremo-Ball lottery (which itself will not inaugurate until 2007). Not a bad catch for a common household supply I seldom even use. Afterwards, he stepped into the washer, set it to "Casual" and twirled out of sight.

After he was gone, I noticed the monkey face on the floor. It must either have fallen out when he was rummaging in his pockets or when he was being spun about. I went to dust it off, and that's when it began speaking to me. I've kept it in the desk since, in case the owner comes back for it. I'm not particularly eager for him to return for it, as I find it so useful. Likewise, the face claims its former owner never did clean him off properly, and he has no desire to go back to that stuffy old pocket now that he has a nice, spacious desk drawer.

Pelvic Reentry

"Doctor, I've been feeling a pain in my left side for several days."

"Ah, I, see…hmm…it looks to be somewhat distended, about a hundred feet, I'd say, from over here."

"Yeah, that started around the same time. I also passed a booster rocket the other night."

"Ohw, that must have been a real bitch."

"Yeah, it took seven hours of plunging to unclog the toilet. There was solid fuel everywhere."

"So is this pain continuous, like a steady burning of hydrogen and oxygen, or short, sharp bursts, kind of like having a maneuvering rocket firing on your liver?"

"Pretty much continuous—a dull, burning ache."

"Well, based on the wing-shaped protrusions in front and back, I'd say you have a space shuttle impacted in your hip. Have you been hanging around NASA facilities recently?"

"No, but I did sleep on the tarmac at Edwards Air Force Base one night…"

"Ah, that's probably it. Don't worry, I think we can treat it non-invasively. I'll prescribe some budget cuts for you. They should get rid of it in a few days."

"Thanks, doc."

There's always room for cellos.

So we went to see this performance art piece last weekend. It consisted of a quartet of cellos, except the cellos were made out of the preserved skins of four dead women. (They were fairly famous, having already acted after death, and their bodies were currently engaged in another show.) They were hollow and dried out, with the strings going from their toes to their forehead, and their noses acting as the bridge. I think you could tune them by twisting the toes. It was supposed to "explore the boundaries between music, sexuality, and death by exposing the false dichotomy that we introduce to such". It sounded like crap, though. I have to say that wood makes for much better instruments.

Kill Reuel, Vol. 1

On the vast, hot winds of the internet, I have often heard bandied about how nearly all fantasy role-playing games are deeply derivative of the works of J. R. R. Tolkien. (On any given message board or newsgroup, this is typically followed by a small flame war where somebody has to bring up how the awful mechanics used for magic in Dungeons & Dragons are actually quite emulative of the works of Jack Vance, among other points.)

In any case, the individuals who feel that this is true could take out their frustration by playing a game wherein all those involved pretend to be time-travelers who need to kill Tolkien. You could have characters like a high-tech cyborg elf from an alternate universe which was destroyed by Tolkien's books, because they stole and trapped the magical essence of the elves within their pages. Or perhaps H.G. Wells, who needs to kill Tolkien (using the time machine he built as research for his novel) so that Wells's own ideas about early role-playing games will become the seed that modern ones spring from, granting him the recognition he feels he deserves. The party could be rounded out by a necromantic dwarf who wants Tolkien's skull for a powerful summoning ritual that will allow him to command a legion of the damned (mostly the lost souls of bad fantasy authors) and, as the piece-de-resistance, Peter Jackson, who would never have spiraled into self-destructive horror in the late 2020s if not for the hubris brought on by directing wildly successful movies based on Tolkien's works.

If that were all there were to it, it would make for little more than a cathartic evening for those unable to even defend their views against the teeming typos of the internet. Instead, we should spice things up and decree that it's not enough that Tolkien die—he has to die by YOUR character's hand, not any of the others', or else history will not rearrange itself to your liking. This should suffice to turn things into a nasty little game of backstabbing, wherein you help others with their murder plot, only to try and take out the victim yourself at the last minute. Of course, since he's been dead over thirty years, he shouldn't mind at all.