Tuesday, June 3, 2008

LITERARY ADVENTURE: The Time Machine, Part IV

IN LAST WEEK’S LITERARY ADVENTURE: Doogie built a time machine with the intention of traveling back to 1894 London and watching H.G. Wells write the first page of his science fiction classic, The Time Machine. However, our well-read adventurer made a crucial miscalculation: although his machine traveled through time, it didn’t travel through space. So although Doogie was transported to 1894, he was still in Philadelphia—not London, where H.G. Wells lived.

On a farm on the outskirts of Philadelphia Doogie met a short, rude farmer who almost stoned him to death. Doogie made a few short trips back in time to confront the farmer again, and during their last fight the farmer’s battle ogre broke Doogie’s pelvis with a bathtub. Doogie passed out, had an exciting dream about battling giant squids, and woke up captured, locked in a cage in the Farmer’s cellar. Even worse, the Farmer had found the time machine, and was dangling its brass key outside Doogie’s cage.


“What’s this?” The farmer dangled the key just outside my grasp on the other side of the bars. He was smiling.

“I’ll tell you what that’s not: it’s not the key to my time machine.” If the Farmer had the key, he already knew about the machine. But why hadn’t he used it? Perhaps he already had. This was a dangerous moron to be in possession of such powerful technology.

“What’s a time machine?” he said. My luck held, he was still in the dark.

I was in the dark too, but now my eyes had adjusted to the light and I could see my surroundings more clearly. I was in a deep cellar with damp stone walls. The steps leading out were incredibly long. Innumerable rusted cages were piled around the room haphazardly. Shadowy shapes moved inside them, hiding in the corners.

The farmer shook my cage. “What’s a time machine? Don’t make me bring Fran in. She’ll pull you right through the bars, boy.”

I looked at the occupant of the cage next to me. His large eyes were shut tight, apparently sensitive to the light. He was a small humanoid beast, covered in long grey fur everywhere except his face and hands, which had pale white skin.

The farmer stared at me. I had to say something.

I made a big show of speaking reluctantly. I cast my eyes down in defeat. “Alright. I’ll tell you. My time machine is a machine for quickly shearing sheep. It saves lots of time, and will doubtless revolutionize the shearing industry and make me a millionaire. I was taking it to show to Mr. Franklin.” I pressed my face between the bars. “But I’ll make you a deal. If you let me out, I’ll show you how the machine works, and you can become rich. Just release me.”

The farmer eyed me shrewdly. It looked like he wasn’t going for it. Then his hideous little wrinkly face burst out in a big grin. “Alright, you got yourself a deal! A sheep shearing machine? Shit! I’ll be rich!”

“He’s lying. It’s not a sheep shearing machine”

For a second I wasn’t sure who had spoken. Then the farmer and I both looked over at the animal in the cage next to me. He lifted his head but kept his eyes shut tight.

“I don’t know what it is, but it isn’t a sheep shearer. I can hear it in his voice. If you let him out, he’ll use the machine against you and escape.”

The farmer was uncertain how to proceed now. His eyes darted back and forth between our two cages. Unfortunately, I tipped my hand.

“Shut the fuck up! What are you doing?” I yelled at my fellow prisoner, then turned back to the farmer. “Who is that guy? Don’t listen to him.”

The farmer smiled. A greasy, self-satisfied smile that I was learning meant the opposite of what most peoples’ smiles meant. He put the key in the pocket of his overalls. “Well, I might as well tinker with it a little more, see if I can figure it out myself.” He turned around and ascended the steep, rickety staircase, then shut the door. The basement was immediately pitch black again.

I lashed out at the cell next to me. “He was going to let me out! Why the hell did you do that?”

I could see the glowing eyes open, hanging in the darkness like twin moons. “Because you’re not leaving here without me. I’m coming with you. We’re both going to escape, but I can’t do it without your help.”

“How?”

“There’s a tunnel in the floor of your cell. Climb down it, into the caverns below this basement, and find help.”

“Wait, wait. There’s a tunnel under this cell?”

“I dug it myself. It took me over a year. I was about to use it to escape when they switched me to this other cell, apparently to make room for you. You need to escape and find help for both of us.”

“Under the ground?”

“Yes. That’s where my people live.” His eyes grew wide as he looked into the distance and told me his story.

His name was Eloi, and he was a member of a race of grotesque (my word, not his) humanoids that lived deep below the earth. Their civilization was much simpler than ours. They had no written language, no centralized government, and no juice bars. However he insisted that their sense of irony was more highly developed than ours, and demonstrated it by quoting long passages from Garbage Pail Kids the Movie.

The Farmer had discovered the Mole People™ (my word, not his) while digging a well. The Molemen™ tried to eat the Farmer, but the giantess Fran beat them off and he escaped. But before he did, the Farmer noticed something: the walls of the Molemens’ cavern were studded with gold. They had so much gold it meant nothing to them, but they were in dire need of food. The farmer tried trading them corn for gold, but he quickly discovered they were only interested in one type of food: human flesh. And mushrooms. They loved mushrooms too, but already had plenty of those.

The farmer trapped a few vagrants and hobos, then began breeding them in his basement. I looked at the cages around the cellar. Dimly I saw frail people huddled in the corners. The Basement People’s™ offspring were sick, weakly, and easily controlled by the Farmer. He raised them like pigs and then traded them for their weight in gold.

I stopped the Moleman. “But wait, you’re not a Basement Person, you’re a Moleman. Why are you in a cage?”

“I’m not a man, I’m a woman.”

“I’m sorry?”

“You called me a MoleMAN, but I’m not a man. I’m a woman.”

An awkward silence descended over the cellar.

“I’m a very pretty woman, in my society,” the Moleperson said, now quite indignant.

I thought fast, my adventurer’s reflexes saving me once again. “Oh, I’m sorry, it’s just so dark in here, I can’t see you.” Smooth. She had a dude’s voice too, which I didn’t mention.

“Well, if you could see me, you would think I’m hot, trust me. I am Princess Eloi Amidala. The Farmer kidnapped me to blackmail my father. If you take this, my father will know I sent you.” She held something out to me, and I grabbed it. It was small, rubbery. I couldn’t tell what it was. “Go down the tunnel. If you see any of my people, show them the sigul I gave you. Ask to be taken to my father. He will take you to the surface.”

“What’s your father’s name?” I asked.

“Ralph.”

“Ralph?”

“Yes, King Ralph.”

I didn’t want to piss off Princess sensitive again, but I had to say something. “Not like the John Goodman film, right?”

“Yes, like the John Goodman film. I told you, our society is far more ironic than yours.”

“Yeah but that movie won’t be made for another hundred years.”

“Won’t it?” Even in the dark, I could sense her coy smile. Saucy bitch. “You’re wasting time. The farmer will be back soon. Leave now. Find my father. Free us both!”

“Your last name is Amidala. That’s not a Star Wars reference, is it?”

Just then the cellar door opened. Light flooded the cellar, and the Farmer’s wizened silhouette stood in the doorway.

I scrabbled at the dirty floor. Nothing was there. No tunnel. “There’s nothing here!” I yelled at Princess Amidala.

“It’s there!”

The farmer sensed something amiss. “Whatchoo doin’ there, queer?” He ran down the steps. “Fran! Fran, c’mere!” He let loose an impressive hog call, and I heard booming footsteps thunder across the ceiling overhead.

I punched my fist into the floor and burst through rotten wood. The false floor gave way below me, cracking suddenly and completely. It was so black that it took a moment before I realized I was plunging quickly, uncontrollably, straight down into the unknown.

Doogie will be performing at Bedtime Stories this Wednesday and at Die, Actor, Die's Dirtiest Sketch in Philadelphia competition on the 16th.

4 comments:

Brendan said...

I love this story, and I can't wait to hear more of it. I feel like the kid from the wonder years when he was in the princess bride, and doogie is my gran-pop.

Pruneface said...

"You hear that sound Princess? Those are the shrieking eels. If you swim back now I promise no harm will come to you. I doubt you'll get such an offer from the eels."

harini said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Flattop said...

What was the comment that was deleted?