As a child, like many children, I had Land Hoppers; a brand name for a hatching kit. It came in a brightly colored package containing eggs in a powdery state and all kids had to do was add air into an enclosed tank or terrarium and watch them grow. I was very meticulous about adding the proper amount of oxygen with a touch of methane and carbon dioxide. The Land Hoppers box depicted this cartoon family with beaming smiles standing in front of a mansion that apparently was sold separately. I was very excited to raise these interesting little creatures and dedicated most of my time to it. Other companies marketed the product with different names like Mini Peeps, and Hungry, Hungry Humans but Land Hoppers was the original brand. Most of the kids at school had already tried out their Land Hoppers and complained that it was bogus. One wisealeck kid, Alan said they were nothing more than Homo sapiens. “They didn’t do anything like it showed on the box,” complained Alan. “They just sat around all day and played with themselves or tried to find a way out of the tank.” I was outraged! Disgusted with his comments. “No way,” I argued. “They’re supposed to be happy and caring and loving pets! Just look at the fucking picture on the box!” “It's donkey dung,” Alan mocked. "It's a waste of time." After a few days of germination, my happy little family of Land Hoppers began to grow. I could detect little arms and legs on their tiny sinewy bodies and began to detail their progress in a notebook.
Entry One: Set up heat lamp. Eggs haven't hatched yet. Temperature seems a bit hot. Added ice cubes into water dish when I got home from baseball practice and set up a fan to circulate air.
Entry Two: Trees have begun to grow.
Fed them meat and potatoes. They seem to enjoy it. The Land Hoppers are maturing and growing fat. Some creatures seem scared, confused and all are far different from the images depicted on the box. None are not smiling.
Entry Two: Cliques seem to be forming. Separate groups are huddling on various sides of the tank. The little creatures seem to be defending their claimed territory. It appears if an intruder wanders too close they attack each other.
Entry Three: Forgot to feed them. Starting to get bored. Note: Go to Pet Shop and buy some decorations for the tank. Maybe a wheel?
Entry Four: I woke up in the middle of the night because of a loud crash. Some of the Land Hoppers pushed the lid off the tank. Saw smoke coming out of tank. First thought the heating system had blown but realized something was burning. The little critters started a fire. Half of them look sick. Or maybe they’re just lazy like Alan said.
Note: Call Pet Shop Owner and ask for money back.
Entry Five: More Land Hoppers are missing. Found a few under my bed. I think Satchmo, my cat may have eaten one or two.
The next twelve pages or so in my notebook were covered with my crude drawings of comic book super heroes.
The tank is dark. The light must have burnt out. The Land Hoppers have multiplied. They seemed to be reproducing at an alarming rate. Still they continue to attack and kill one another. I’m spending way too much of my allowance on food for them.
Entry Seven: Got a new stereo for my brithday. Decided to use my allowance to buy music. The Land Hoppers just aren’t that much fun anymore. This morning I flushed them down the toilet.
It was first reported by local news stations before buzzing over the Internet and finally juggernauting to national coverage with enough detrimental momentum that Trevor “Giggles” McKewon hung up his big floppy shoes and retired his bulbous red nose forever. Thirty-five years of twisting balloon animals, exploding cheap cigars and squirting plastic flowers from his lapel ended overnight when Omaha’s beloved children’s party entertainer was arrested for soliciting a prostitute. Anchormen joked they had caught Giggles with his 'polkadotted' pants down as they ran video footage of police carting the belligerent clown away. This was not the warmhearted entertainer cherished by millions for his Saturday morning antics and array of colorful hand-puppets. No. A different side of Giggles was captured and shown for all the world to see; a drunken, foul-mouth bigot still in grease-paint and rainbow wig who kicked and screamed and blamed the Jews and Hispanics and Liberals for contaminating American society. The raid on the compound known as Bunnytail Ranch was conducted by Detective Emery Kurtz who had this comment; “McKewon also faces charges of resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer after throwing a banana cream pie at a member of the SWAT team.” The Bunnytail Ranch had been under surveillance for months when police finally descended like hornets in the sting operation. Giggles repeatedly stated that he had gone into the Adult Novelty section of the establishment to purchase an oversized bowtie but the police weren’t buying it. Officers resorted to using a Tazer gun on Giggles after he attempted to escape by hiding in an imaginary box. The suspect was subsequently handcuffed and placed in the back of a squad car awaiting to be transported to the police station. Detective Kurtz at one point leaned into the window and asked the police officer behind the wheel how many clowns he thought could fit in the patrol car. The officer behind the wheel didn't get it. Giggle's laughed. "That's enough Bozo!" snapped Kurtz. "Um... Bozo has red hair. I'm..." "Shut up," growled Kurtz. "All you clowns look alike." At the arraignment, McKewon’s attorney suggested his client take the fifth amendment so he would not further incriminate himself and from that point when questioned, Giggles merely squeaked his metal horn. After the clown went into a tirade in response to the prosecutor calling him a perverted letch who should be thrown to the lions, the judge cited Giggles for contempt of court over his incessant honking. As a character witness the clown’s attorney called Mr. Puffin to the stand. The prosecutor objected on the grounds that Mr. Puffin was nothing more that an inflatable penguin. “Overruled,” said the judge. “Let’s hear the testimony.” For the next thirty minutes the courtroom listened intently to a faint fizzle as air escaped from a hole in Mr. Puffin’s head. Both sides rested and within minutes the jury found Giggles guilty. He was sentenced to six months in the state correctional facility and required to perform Sunday matinees for the prisoners in D block. Not but two months into his stay at the Nebraska Correctional Center, Giggles tied together bed sheets and used them to hang himself from a overhead pipe in the laundry room. “Look at that,” said one of the guards who found the dead clown swinging from the pipe. “He tied the sheet into a bicycle.” “That’s not a bicycle, silly,” responded another guard. “That’s a poodle.”
A teardrop the size of a summer squash rested on the iron cheek of the Monumento Del Treizo, a forty-foot statue which stood cowering in dashed humility, hunched in shame. Had the figure stood proudly erect with its chin defiantly turned towards the sky, it would have towered well over sixty-feet. The Treizo was by no means a warrior, nor was this metal monument shaped with bulging muscles. Thin, with a worrisome expression hammered upon the face, the Treizo looked as though it’d be terrified of even a bird landing on its head. The Treizo was conceived one day when the pacifistic Yumisi tribe decided it would be more beneficial in melting down every metal sword, knife, lance and spear in the village and re-forge them into a statue celebrating their cowardice. The statue had to be so utterly pathetic in displaying valor that any aggressor would consider an invasion a waste of time. The Yumisi's had spent many years in conflict with their archenemies, the Lamis tribe, who were all warriors and who all loved blood. The Treizo was constructed with the hope of conveying the message to the tribe of Lamisport, that the Yumisi people were fed-up with all the barbarism. Years earlier, the Lamis tribe had constructed a statue of their own. In contrast to the Colossus of Lamisport, whose majestic arms akimbo seemed to say; halt, who goes there?, the Treizo’s posture and the way it was depicted as biting the knuckle of its right hand seemed to say; Leave me alone, I feel like crying. Substantially smaller than the Treizo, the Colossus of Lamisport stood 12-feet high, however, it was built-to-size, an exact replica of a Lamis warrior. It’s legs straddled a babbling creek in their wooded enclave. In its hand was a battle sword thrust into the air with a Yumisi villager impaled upon it. There was a time when the Yumisi would have defended themselves against the Lamis, but lately they’d been jaded by all the pillaging, death and dismemberment. It had gotten to the point that not a day went by without a Lamis warrior butchering a Yumisi for nothing more than shits and giggles. But with the Yumisi’s newfound antiviolence methodologies, and refusal to put up a fight, the Lampis soon got bored. Decapitation just wasn’t that much fun anymore. Truth be told, there also wasn’t anything left in the Yumisi village worth pillaging. Every scrap of metal had been used in creating the Treizo. When a band of Lamis warriors happened upon the Treizo, they became nauseous at the sight. “They are a spineless people. Let’s kill them all and put them out of their misery,” cried one warrior. “Eh, why bother,” crowed another. Soon, the Lamis threw down their swords and arrows and buried them in the earth. They decided that since they were large enough to hunt and kill the animals of the forest with their bare hands they didn’t need such weapons. When the attacks on the Yumisi villages ceased, the Yumisi people began to feel ashamed of the Treizo. They didn’t have anything to be afraid of anymore. They had no enemies. The Lamis tribe no longer waged war. The Yumisi villagers became very embarrassed at this pitiable statue of theirs. So one day, the Yumisi people took the Treizo apart and melted it down piece by piece in the foundry. With such an excess of iron, they decided to make new swords and arrows, knives and spears. When the Yumisi shaped ten thousand weapons, they attacked the Lamis and slaughtered each and every one of them. They cleared the trees from the forest, and built a settlement on what was once Lamis land. As a testament to the enormous warriors they defeated, the Yumisi left the Colossus of Lamisport standing. Not long afterwards, the pigeons began to arrive; giant, vicious pigeons who had been attracted to the area by the sight of the mighty warrior statue. Within their talons the pigeons could scoop up three or four villagers at a time, with beaks the size of canoes, they tore the Yamisi limb from limb.
"Crap!" Paulson looked over his shoulder. "Can I say crap on the air?" "You're not supposed to, and remember to smile as much as possible. You have a nice smile." "DiVinci veneers. These teeth cost me an arm and a leg.” In his trailer, Paulson read over his lines of copy for the story on the septic tank explosion as the make-up lady dabbed his face with a cotton swab. In three minutes, Neil Paulson, field reporter, was going live on WKPD Channel 16. “Well, I can’t say shit,” Paulson took a sip his Diet Coke through a straw. “Poo Poo?” “Just say waste. Human waste,” said the make-up lady who thought to herself; he should know all about that since he's a total waste product. “What’s this on your neck?” She was referring to two large red welts. “Oh, yesterday I was trying to get in nine-holes of golf before the sun went down when a bat bit me. Can you believe that shit?” said Neil as he noisily slurped the last bit of soda from the bottom of the can. The door of the camper opened and a production assistant wearing a headset leaned in. “Three minutes Mr. Paulson!” “I’d wear a gas mask if it didn’t cover my handsome face,” Neil chuckled then drew a deep breath before walking outside. The make-up lady joined him in a chuckle, however she was thinking I’d like to punch that handsome face of his right in. Neil hadn't the charisma of an anchorman and was only given a shot as a field reporter because WKPD channel 25, whose motto was; Where the Action Counts! was owned by Neil’s father, Ed. The news staff at the station routinely joked that WKPD stood for We'll Kill Paulson's Dream, since Neil's father was involved in union disputes over contracts. He was trying to cut overtime rates with his employees. They were not happy about it and subsequently viewed Ed Paulson as a supreme asshole. To say Neil was a spoiled brat would be an understatement. Truth be told, he did very little in the office except for flirting with the females, sneaking off into the bathroom to gulp down airplane-bottles of booze, or take a nap on the couch in his father’s office. Today was Neil’s big day, his first live report. Outside the trailer, Haz Mat crews scrambled to clean up the mess in the center of town. Neil got a whiff of the pungent air and covered his nose. The production assistant led Neil over to a sound engineer who had a Nagra tape deck slung over his shoulder and a bandana tied around his nose and mouth. “You’ve got the right idea,” Neil joked. “Pretty bad out here,” said the sound man from under the bandana. “And I grew up on a farm.” Neil’s legs felt wobbly as he stood in front of a reflector board. The shimmering light made him squint. He surely wasn’t nervous about being on-air and the fact that his father was nearby in a limousine watching everything also didn’t bother him in the least yet his stomach churned, his vision became fuzzy. “Are you ready Mr. Paulson?” asked a producer as he handed Neil a microphone. “Um... I think the smell is getting to me,” said Neil. “I’m starting to feel lightheaded.” “We’re live in fifteen seconds. Compose yourself.” The producer took as step back and a cameraman crouched down aiming the lens at Neil. “Ten seconds!” Neil started to twitch. His whole body felt as though it were on fire. “Seven.” The taste of bile rose up in his throat. “Five seconds, Mr. Paulson. Get ready,” said the producer. “Nice big smile.” The make-up lady and the production assistant looked at each other sensing something was definitely wrong with Neil. He looked ill. “Three... two... and...” The red light on the video camera flicked on. The producer snapped his finger at Neil. Beads of sweat dripped off Neil’s forehead as he stared blankly into the camera. “Neil Paulson here on the scene where moments ago... arrrggguuuh...” Neil clutched his gut. “An underground explosion....ooffffuuugg...” Neil tried to dismiss the convulsions by smiling for the camera. The producer’s jaw dropped open when he saw Neil’s incisors elongate into fangs. Neil’s skin was pallid, it looked as though he were aging before their very eyes. His head started to shrink like a apple dropped in vinegar and bristles of hair sprouted up over every part of exposed skin. “What the fuck?” said the camera man from behind the bandana. The make-up lady dropped the cup of coffee she was holding when the thousand dollar suit Neil was wearing seemed to evaporate into a fine dust. His body contracted, getting smaller and smaller. His nose and jowls protruded and the tips of his ears sharpened into points. He was turning into a bat. “You still rolling?” mumbled the producer. “Shit yeah.” said the cameraman as he stood up and zoomed in when wings started to emerge. As Neil, the bat, took flight it dove at the producer’s neck. Reflexively the production assistant grabbed the reflector board and swatted it to the ground. When the bat righted itself and tilted it’s knobby head upward, both the producer and assistant started to stomp upon it with their shoes. What was left of Neil was no larger than a furry black pancake on the sidewalk. The make-up lady watched Ed’s limo drive off. She knew it would be difficult for Ed Paulson to argue over the contract negotiations much less show his face around WKPD channel 25 - Where The Action Counts! now that his son turned into a bat on live television. The producer scrapped off some of the gunk on his shoe as he approached the make-up lady and opened the door to the trailer. “Do you believe that shit?” said the producer. “His first live report and that schmuck probably just landed us a Pulitzer.”
Caroline heard the car door slam, climbed into bed, turned out the light and pretended she was asleep. His bowling ball made a soft thud as he set it down. She could sense him standing over her at the edge of the bed. He reeked of beer and cigarettes. She clutched the wooden handle of the kitchen knife under her pillow ready to use it if he tried anything. When Caroline heard him leave, she sat up and in the darkness started crying. Harland was the name she called him. She still was uncertain if he was friend or foe. For a few days now, she'd been held prison when her ship ran ashore in a land with no vegetation, where everything was made of a pristine synthetic material. Even the ocean floor of this planet still gleamed with the same illustriously varnished glow it had been installed with. At first Caroline thought it impossible to communicate with this thing, this Harland. That is, until she saw him bowl. Bowling was similar to the form of communication on her planet. Each pin would represent a letter and in knocking over sequential pins could you begin to decode a message. Many of Caroline’s friends and the people she hung out with could easily knocked down ten linguistic pins with one ball and depending on the order in which they fell form sentences. Sure, good eyes were needed and you had to be adroit in perceiving the fractional differences of what pin landed first, but that all came with practice. Since there were only ten possible letter arrangements, one could master it while still young. As far as she could tell, bowling appeared to be the only cultural link between her society and his. Harland however, had no idea about Caroline’s customs, he bowled because it was relaxing. She was excited to find a set of dominos while she was looking for something to defend herself against this Harland. She set-up ten dominos forming a triangle and plucked a small, round stone from the dirt of a potted houseplant. If may have been slightly out of proportion but Caroline was skilled enough to roll the stone to say what she had to say. Although she was trying to convey to Harland that she was hungry, he deduced she just wanted to go bowling. “Sure, no problem, Tonight’s league night. You can come and watch,” he said. Enthusiastically nodding, she believed he understood. Caroline became quite upset at the bowling alley because she wasn’t allowed to speak while Harland and others babbled on nonsensically. They all appear to be moronic thought Caroline. However, when Harland picked up a 9-4 spare in the fourth frame, he had inadvertently made a derogatory comment out Caroline’s hair. She was so incensed over his comment that she got a lane for herself, picked up a ball and started bowling. There was plenty she wanted to get off her chest to this Harland. Strike. Caroline spelled out; Apologize now! Her second ball was another strike whereupon she complained she was still hungry. Harland heard the resounding tumble of pins as he dried the palm of his hand over a vent of air. He and the others began to take notice, and glanced over at Caroline’s lane to see if she’d get a turkey with three in a row. Strike. Caroline said. Thank you, now that I have your attention, there are a few things I’d like to say. “Wow. She’s good,” Harland muttered to himself. With the fourth strike Caroline explained she didn’t particularly care for her living conditions and wanted to leave. Harland and the others cheered. This infuriated her to no end. How dare they cheer! Caroline thought it extremely rude behavior. She grabbed the ball from the ball-return and while gliding gracefully with each step, affixed her glare on Harland. Strike. You and your friends have no couth. You’re boorish and I’m getting a headache. Again, these miscreants cheered, whooped and hollered. “She wasn’t even looking at the pins!” Harland cried in awe. Caroline had enough. She stood at the line without even walking up to it and in one fluid motion hurled the ball. You’re all a bunch of assholes, said Caroline with her sixth strike as she stood with her arms akimbo staring them down. By now, everyone in the bowling alley had gathered around Caroline’s lane. Her seventh strike was a bit more humble. Please, I’m begging you. Take me home. I can’t stand this anymore. I need to get my ship fixed so I can leave this wretched place, I’m hungry, I’m tired and I must return to a place where I’m wanted, and treated fairly. Nothing. Caroline bowled her eight strike and told them to roll their balls and say something! More cheers. Caroline waited for a response. When no one bowled she threw her ninth strike. She spelled out: I’m waiting. It became very quite as she entered the tenth frame. You leave me no choice said Caroline by having the last pin standing wobble before falling over to create more emphasis. They egged her on. Strike! Strike! They chanted. Furiously she hurled another ball and said: If you don’t take care of me and start acting properly, I’m going to plunge the knife under my pillow into your heart when you’re asleep. People applauded vivaciously. A realization swept over Harland that not even he had bowled a perfect game. He looked sullen and depressed. Just for good measure, Caroline threw another strike. Mockingly, she said; See! Even your friends think you’re a jerk. She had bowled a 300 game. Balloons floated down from the ceiling and she was handed a fruit basket. Seeing her prize, she reconsidered her comment about what’s she’d do to Harland when he slept. At home, Caroline unwrapped the fruit basket and indulged herself, then knocked over a few dominos as she stared at Harland. Were champagne and strawberries too much to ask for?
We first felt the vibrations in the ground during our daily chores. Large heavy thumps that grew closer and shook the soil.Silt and stone fell from the roofs of our tunnels. Something was moving towards us. We knew at once we had to assemble. We told each other we needed to organize ourselves, when the thumps suddenly stopped. Just then, the light spilling in through the tunnel’s entranceway was gone. Upon inspection, it appeared to be a large cloth of some kind had been draped over the stones. By then we could all smell The Sweetness. Hunger gnawed at us. Desire was inextinguishable. We would all rise to the occasion and attack. The soldiers snapped into action and scampered out to remove the shielding then tunneled escape pathways as the rest of us followed behind. It was horrible. Two hideous giants - the likes we’d never seen - gorging themselves on The Sweetness. There was such an incredible amount of The Sweetness that we thought they wouldn’t mind if we helped ourselves to some. We didn't think it was stealing. It wasn’t as though we were thieves, it’s just that we needed The Sweetness. We craved it. We were certain that these disgustingly indulgent Goliaths shoveling The Sweetness into their mouths wouldn’t see us. It didn’t matter if they did, the sweetness was calling. Our brains were wired to devour The Sweetness. The attack came quick. In trying to distract the giants, the soldiers climbed fleshy mountains, marched across shin ridges, kneecap pingoes, and created piggyback lifts between finger trenches, as myself and the others marched towards the sweetness. As we worked in unison to try to carried a sliver of The Sweetness away, a giant’s hand blocked out the sun and came crashing down upon us. Unrelentingly we pursued as the giants stood and began to stomp upon us mercilessly. We bit into The Sweetness as the soldiers bit into the giants. The giants flailed about snapping soldier’s bodies in two as they pluck them off their bodies. We gobbled up as many crumbs of The Sweetness we could. Upon our backs some carried away the dismembered soldiers to show how fierce we were in battle. The rest of us carried the largest morsel of The Sweetness we could back into our tunnels. You might say the retreat of any invasion is the most important part of the battle. Our ability to prove ourselves as worthy individuals depends on what one had to offer. I had a nice-sized chunk of The Sweetness that I was holding when I ran into someone from a different colony. This was my chance, a rare and exciting moment that I personally thought was the best day of my life. Defeating such a foe from an enemy colony would be of the highest order and even the largest piece of The Sweetness would fall pale to such a feat. These were rivals that given the chance would destroy everything we held sacred and all that we stood for. I had him cornered. "Yo buddy, where do you think you're going?" I asked.
"I fell off a leaf," he said meekly.
It was then I saw the giants forage up what remained of The Sweetness and flee. I dropped the piece of The Sweetness I was holding, pivoted and attacked. Lunging forward, I ripped off the wings of my opponent insuring its death. Others gazed at me with envy as I scampered back through the tunnels holding the wings of my enemy. That’s what it really came down to. It wasn’t about how much of The Sweetness you had at the end of the day. It was about proving yourself to someone by conquering the opponents set out to destroy you. Showing yourself worthy and brave, altruistic and clever, and yeah sure, a bit romantic, that’s what it was all about. That was the quy who was going to mate with the queen.
Lying in a coffin, one might presume the dead themselves care very little about how they are presented upon their last viewing before buried beneath the ground, but this is not so. Not today. And certainly not in Egyptian times when pharaohs got an extreme make-over from their best wardrobe designers, fashion gurus and cosmetologists before being vaulted up with the very ones that dolled them up. Why just last year, a nomadic tribe from the fifth quadrant invigorated such a practice after the radioactive meltdown of the first quadrant. Denizen of the first quadrant such as myself glowed for a few weeks before dropping body parts like Hansel and Gretel dropped breadcrumbs through the forest. Those of us in the first quadrant were all on our proverbial lastleg as well as our literal one. The nomads realized they could cash in with some of the dying by selling body parts. By glamorizing the dead or those soon to be, the nomads knew we would all be vain enough to buy it. Let’s say, someone missing a nose was informed that there was a sleek Romanesque nose from a recent cadaver available; it could be theirs if the price was right. Thus bidding wars erupted amongst the sickly. There were heaping piles of torsos in junkyards. Those were a dime a dozen while arms and legs could be readily be purchased at a reasonable price at the nearest market. But such features as ears, mouths, noses, chins, fingers and eyelids in good condition were exceedingly rare to find. There wasn’t much to live for. Death was imminent. So people in the first quadrant didn’t bother with frittering away their day looking for food and water. They’d spend every waking moment rummaging through the rubble in hopes of finding a make-up kit, some lipstick, a tube of eyeliner, or perhaps a garment fragment that might make a nice scarf. It was disheartening to see one of my neighbors kill another after losing a bid on a matching set of unblemished ears. Life was indeed on edge. Recently, the nomads smuggled in chimpanzee eyelids flooding the market. As well they tried passing off earthworms as lips, and sold chins made of nothing more than hardened clay. The dying people in the first quadrant caught on and staged a protest at the nomadic encampment. They hurled their own radioactive fingers over the fence and screamed revolt. Harsh words and flipping fingers did little to deter the nomads. Radioactive - schmadeo-active, money was being made.
"Why is it so important for us to look good? Why don't we just accept who we are and embrace it," said a man who hobbled around on stumps and whose cankerous lips were flattened to his face.
“Why look who’s talking. He’s got a handsome nose with still enough skin on his cheeks to completely cover the gaping hole in my face,” cried someone in back of the crowd whose face bore the meager details of a man wearing a hijacker’s stocking.
“Since he doesn’t care about what he looks like, I bid ten thousand on it,” cried another featureless man.
“Twenty!” shouted a someone missing both eyes and half a nose.
“I’m not even dead yet. Beside, I still use my nose,” said the man who instigated the dispute. “Why, just the other day, I found a flower. It’s bouquet was astoundingly pleasant.”
“A flower? Tell us where it is,“ shouted a girl whose face was covered with boils and was missing clumps of skin from her neck. “A flower would look fantastic clutched in my hands I as lay in my box. Or better yet, placed in my hair!”
“This is absurd!” cried the man backpedaling as the others approached corning him. “Get away from me!”
Even though puss oozed from their eye sockets, one could detect their frenzied gaze. They ripped the man apart. Those with fingers clawed at the man’s face trying to tear off his nose, others with teeth bit off toes and someone gnawed through the man’s ankle for a prized foot. A measly foot, which would probably not even be seen while lying in the coffin or for that matter been of much importance in the afterlife - denizen of the first quantrant believed the departed floated around with wings or possibly jet-packs. After the unruly incident, laws were constructed. We, the people, acted so scurrilous that many embarrassed by their actions lived the last of their days echoing what the man with the handsome nose had said; Why don’t we accept who we are and embrace it. The new laws made it illegal for people to use others just so they could look good. Theoretically, it would have been nice if everyone actually felt this way, but at least they put up a good facade for a while. This is not to say, there weren't plenty lurking about who still used the nomadic black market and would give up an arm and a leg for a most robust pair of cherry red lips that they could have curled into a smile
They began bottling the stuff in three flavors; Berry Dark Side, Green Tea of Tranquility and Lemon Crater. A snappy advertising blitz with a hip jingle soon flooded the airwaves. Everyone, at least once, was willing to shell out the $65 for a bottle. Everyone but me. Everywhere I looked there were signs for Moon Water, celebrity endorsements, people gulping it down like it was the ambrosia of the gods, and trash cans overflowing with empty bottles. I even had that stupid jingle stuck in my head: If your parched then march down to the store Just one sip and you’ll be wantin’ more. It’s sure to put a smile on your face Because it comes from outer space! Good Lord, I needed a break from it all. My girlfriend and I had planned a camping trip to Arizona and a few days before we were about to leave she called me up and told me she had to cancel.
“I’m sorry Albert, I spent the money I was saving on a case of Moon Water.” I was outraged, slammed the phone down and decided to go camping alone figuring the solitude from the maddening world would do me good. I was speeding down a lonesome highway when that blasted jingle came on the radio. As I hastily switch stations, the radio knob came off in my hand. When I looked up, I had veered off the road. The car bounced over the desert terrain. When I cut the wheel and slammed on the brakes I heard a loud pop. I stopped the car, got out and saw I had run-over a cactus. My tired was flat. Beforehand, to make room for the tent, sleeping bag, lawn-chair, Tiki torches, dufflebag of clothes and cooler, I removed the spare tire. I was stuck in the middle of nowhere with only a jar of peanut butter, loaf of bread and box of Ritz crackers for sustenance. The remoteness of the area rendered my cellular telephone useless. No bars. My destination, Happy Acres Campgrounds lay 9-miles away according to the greasy Texaco map I followed. Trekking through this barren landscape might as well have been the lunar surface. Zephyrs kicked sand in my face as though I were a 98-pound weakling being bullied at the beach, the unremitting sun made me feel like a clay mug in a fiery kiln. Along the way, I abandoned the lawn chairs, sleeping bag and tent but kept a single Tiki torch in order to puncture a Barrel cactus drawing water. The problem was there were no barrel cacti to be found. Delirious with dehydration, I stabbed every plant in my path. Something glimmered in the distance. At first I thought it was a mirage yet it wasn’t a lush, watery oasis speckled with date palms. No, it looked more like a heap of crumpled metal shimmering in the blazing sun like a large, freshly-minted coin. As I approached I could see it was a man wearing a Mylar suit and space helmet. He wasn’t moving. His body was twisted in an unnatural position. I suspected he must have fallen to his death from the cliff above. Perhaps from out of the sky? I didn't get too close. Down the rocky face of the cliff came a trickling stream of water. Invigorated with hope that H2O was close by, I began to climb the precipice using the Tiki torch as a cane of sorts to stabilize my footing. The sandy droplets of water that I brought to my mouth - far to minuscule to even sustain the life of a lone Paramecium - enticed me, taunted me and propelled me to climb further. I was dying of thirst and as I reached the plateau, I came upon a dirt road. One hundred yards away was an overturned tractor trailer bearing the logo of a double M for the bottled water distributor, Moon Madness. Wrought with both distress over this ubiquitous conglomerate’s audacity to exploit life’s elixir and the sheer joy of my discovery, I stood motionless for a moment before realizing there was someone - also donning a space helmet and Mylar threads - crawling amongst the wreckage. "Get help," moaned the delivery driver through the cracked space helmet. “My cell phone is in the cab.”
The cab was on fire. Acrid smoke billowed. Assuming the driver loss control of the truck while making a sharp turn, my curiosity centered around the reason why he was wearing such a ridiculous outfit. He didn’t answer when asked him about the space suit. The pain ricocheting through his body was apparently too intense. His eyes closed but his breathing was still heavy enough to indicate he had not yet died. Bottles were strewn everywhere; some busted, some intact. I picked one up and uncapped it. Berry Dark Side. As I lifted the bottle to my lips the driver shouted an emphatic No! Had Moon Madness brainwashed their delivery men?
“I’ll pay the $65,” I declared then guzzled the 12 ounces in a single shot.
It was incredibly flavorsome. The best damn water I ever tasted and I’m not just saying that because I was dying of thirst from having walked seven miles through the 115-degree environment. I picked up another bottle. Lemon Crater. It was scrumptious. It was like gulping down pure oxygen, a crystal clear taste that tingled every taste bud and made love to my esophagus as it gushed into my gullet.
“No! Don’t,” cried the driver.
“Listen bub, I need water or else I’ll be in worse shape than you. I don’t care about the money and frankly, I’m not a big fan of Moon Madness to begin with. The mere fact they make you dress up in spacesuits is another good reason to think they’re all a bunch of phonies.”
“No... not space suits. You don’t understand,” he warned. “This batch is contaminated... radioactive elements. Poison water...We were on our way... to bury it.”