The 2020 Event |The Sideshows|

|Front Cover|I-1.1|I-1.2|I-1.3|I-1.4|I-2.1|I-2.2|I-3|II-1.1|II-1.2|II-1.3|II-1.4|II-1.5|
|II-1.6|II-1.7|II-1.8|II-1.9|II-1.10|II-1.11|II-1.12|II-2.1|II-2.2|II-2.3|II-2.4|II-2.5|II-2.6|
|II-2.7|II-2.8|II-2.9|II-3.1|II-3.2|II-3.3|II-4.1|II-4.2|II-4.3|II-4.4|II-4.5|II-5.1|II-5.2|
|II-5.3|II-5.4|II-5.5|II-5.6|II-5.7|II-5.8|II-5.9|II-6.1|II-6.2|II-6.3|II-6.4|III-1.1|III-1.2|
|III-1.3|III-1.4|III-1.5|III-1.6|III-2|IV-1.1|IV-1.2|IV-2.1|IV-2.2|IV-3.1|IV-3.2|
|Boardtrip|1|2|3|4|5|6|7|8|9|10|11|12|13|14|15|16|17|18|19|Back Cover|


Universe W-2020: The Sideshows 5
July 12th, 2013
The Fishing Trip

Alvey Fratto

“Wait, pause: if you’re going to tell me anything about aliens today, anything about your science fiction or conspiracy nonsense that you spend every waking moment of your life obsessing over, then please quickly change your mind and talk to me about something entirely both other and else.”

A moment of silence ensues. Chuck’s eardrum gets bathed in the monotonous whisper that is a silent phoneline. No words are coming through, nobody’s making a sound, yet it still registers as something, that very something that holds sleep just outside the grasp of cosmic godheads in hairless ape form every single night. Chuck leans his left elbow on his glossy mahogany desk to hold up his head whilst his right hand smushes the warm cell phone against his ear, all done to more comfortably wait for a conversation that may never bare the forbidden fruit of shared thoughts. Then, a few Uhhhhs and a couple Well I… no, never minds take place, and words are finally spoken.

“Oh yeah, so how are your hands feeling?”

“My hands, you ask,” Chuck muses as he switches his phone to his left hand so he can go on the computer with his right and keep himself entertained. “Well, considering how they were ripped apart, augmented with various foreign metals, and put back together no longer than an hour and a half ago, I can’t really complain. They’re still both attached, as far as I can tell.”

“Well that’s good to hear!” Sigmund cries in a celebratory tone. “There’s actually a big problem with that, as far as the test droids go. The hands usually detach themselves and go for the neck of their host shortly after they’re augmented with hemibots. They almost always seem to develop something of a hive mind for themsel–”

“Shut the fuck up, dude! Uh, I mean, um. How… settling! And not terrifying at all!” said with a voice full of a kooky combination of existential fear and defensive sarcasm. “And let me ask, how are your inanimate tools after dismantling and augmentating my hands? Is everything still in one piece, everything operational?”

“Oh, well yes Chuck, they are. Thank you for asking, you know I rea–”

Sigmund’s voicestream is diverted off by an incessant ringing in Chuck’s ear. Upon peeling the screen from his face, Chuck realizes that another caller is attempting to chime in and save him from his conversation. Weighing his options, Chuck allows his cranium to fall back into his gloved hand and goes about the graceful process of respectfully hanging up on his first caller.

“Sigmund. I’ve known you for longer than I care to remember at this current moment, but I’m going to have to cut ya off. A totally random number that I’ve never heard from is trying to contact me.”

“Waiwhat?” precedes a defeating click.

“HELLO! You’ve reached the private line of Chuck Leary, Cee-eEe-Oh of Cape Enterprises, Uncorporated. Who the fuck are you and how did you get this number, you charlatan?”

Oh. Well um, hello there, Mister Leary. My name is Alvey Fratto, I’m the head of purchasing for an entity in New Manhattan called the Illuminati Company. I’ve been tas…”

Chuck’s perception of the alleged Alvey begins to fade away as he focuses on frantically typing Illuminati Company into whatever copycat search engine he’s currently paying himself to use. Usually he wouldn’t give a singing shit about a financial body that isn’t Cape Enterprices, Uncorporated, but the Illuminati name is too familiar not to delve; Sigmund used to obsess over a group with a similar name a long time ago, claiming they secretly controlled the world’s governments or something stupid like that. His views on the subject mysteriously changed when New Manhattan was erected, and even more so when the United States’ government collapsed, and Chuck always figured the dude just got distracted and forgot about it. As it turns out, Sigmund’s silence on the matter just came from the fact that he was proven wrong; according to this Fratto character and the internet he liked spawned from, the Iluminati is the world’s largest lighting conglomerate, a monopolizer of all things illuminative from candles to chandeliers. They just decided not to go public with their luminescent tyranny until they could safely do so behind a titanium wall that couldn’t be penetrated by Gruncle Sam’s throbelisk. In a way, they kind of do control the world; good on you Sigmund, you were right all along, even if you think you’re wrong now. Chuck silently hopes that he survives this harrowing solicitation call so he can get back to Sigmund when suddenly, Alvey’s voice fades back into his ear.

“…and so here’s the really clever part, once the amphibious motorcycle is obtained, the real sto–” and cuts right back out when he realizes that Chuck started talking over him a moment ago.

“I’m sorry, did you say amphibious motorcycle? I entirely lost interest and zoned out for a bit there, but now I’m hooked. Please bring me up to speed.”

“I… okay, I’ll just get to the point then. My boss, the proprietor of the Illuminati Company – again, not any other firm, definitely the Illuminati Company –  has requested that we meet so I may I get to know you before initiating a one-hundred-and-forty-million-dollar transaction. So, in lieu of this condition, I say we go fishing! I know this private reservoir up in Maine; that’s way up north Maine, like, much further north than, say, New Hampshire, but anyway, yes. There is a private reservoir up there that requires fishing passes to fish in it, and I have two fishing passes from my boss, once again, the head of the Illuminati Company. What do you think?”

The phoneline remains silent for what seems like an eternity. Alvey is quite literally quivering in his boots, a pair of rubber fishing boots his father had given him at his coming of preteenness. Alvey cherishes these boots, as he does the twin gilded fishing rods sitting in the back seat, one for him and one for the receiving end of his random phone call. Alvey does not want to disappoint his contacts, his plan must go on without a single hitch, and Alvey knows it all too well. He already gave them Chuck’s name, after all.

Meanwhile, Chuck has left his phone sitting on his desk, as he’s currently in the front of his office harassing his secretary, Karen. Karen is attempting to explain to her boss that Cape Enterprises does not own an amphibious motorcycle and it doesn’t plan on acquiring one for fourteen million dollars when Sigmund can just build one. Chuck, on the other hand, is trying to get a different point across; he explains, at least three times, that a random human male who’s unconvincingly claiming to represent the Illuminati Company got a hold of his private phoneline, the most secret and ungetaholdable phoneline on the planet, and said something about a one-hundred-and-forty-million-dollar transakalation that involves an amphibious motorcycle. Therefore, one such amphibious motorcycle must exist and, if one exists, then Cape Enterprises must possess it, no matter how little and insignificant the cost.

“Mister Leary…?” Alvey squeaks out, getting only silence with faint tones of flamboyant debate persnuffing in the background. A few more moments pass by and the background noise cases with a thunderous lack of celebration. Alvey’s already crippling anxiety takes steroids when he hears the sound of approaching footsteps through the phoneline, his brain forcing him to check his mirrors to make sure nobody’s approaching his car on the street.

“Um… Mis-Mister Lear–”

“YES, sorry, I was speaking to my Secretary The Karen. Lovely woman, a little in over her head with her flawed understanding of the concept of infinity, I’m afraid. Anyway, yes, I know just the amphibious vehicle you’re talking about and I totally understand Mister Illuminati’s concerns with brokering such a sum of money. I used to work in the millions too, I know how that squabble can be.”

“Excellent! Lake Wantooki awaits, my new friend! When will you be ready to go? My superiors have organized transportation for us.”

“How soon can you be here? I was born ready, Alvey.”

Chuck’s caught slippin’ when the office buzzer buzzes, dropping him to the floor startled. He hangs up his cell phone without saying goodbye and slowly approaches the corner that separates his desk from the stretch of carpet that leads to Karen’s desk. He peeks around – nobody’s standing at the front doors. That leaves only one possibility that will go unexplored for the moment because the cell phone left on Chuck’s desk starts ringing again. He runs back over as conspicuously as possible and answers the call, doing his best to hide just how out of breath he is.

“Boss, it’s Karen. A mister Alvey Fratto representinga firm called the Illuminati Company is here, he claims that you two are going… fishing?”

‘Well that’s not even a teeny bit suspicious.’ “Wonderful! Thank you Karen, I’ll walk around the corner in just a moment. And thank you for avoiding human contact, you know I appreciate it.”

“Indeed I do.” click

Chuck runs into his bedroom and puts on one of the innumerable identical copies of his best all black suit, fedora included, with a Cannabis green tie to liven up the whole ensemble. He backtracks to his office to kiss the small dent in the wall behind his chair goodbye before waltzing, yes, waltzing up to the front in order to make a grand exit out of his own office, and the payoff is huge. Much to Chuck’s surprise though, there is no Mister Fratto in his office, just Karen, sitting at her Karendesk, doing Karenthings and such. When she eventually looks up from her notebook and sees the nonplussed look on Chuck’s face, she explains that Alvey’s waiting on the street because he was, quote, Intimidated by the slight purple hue of the building, unquote. With a tip of his hat, Chuck climbs into the elevator and takes a brown paper bag out of his pocket to do some deep breathing exercises so he doesn’t flip the fuck out without an audience.

Chuck simultaneously greets both the outside world and Alvey Fratto. Fratto is a man that can regretlessly be described as stout – chubby face, thicc nose, lack of a neck attached to a boulder of a torso, and his legs and arms? Skinny, almost too skinny, as if the demented deity who designed his physical appearance got high off endogenous DMT the night before doing so and was still riding the wave when he finally got around to describing the man. After a handshake that’s not nearly as firm as Chuck’s – seriously, Fratto’s hand damn near melted in Chuck’s, his glove was left coated in a film of sweat – the two climb into Alvey’s car and head off to the one single airport in the city that Chuck doesn’t own. That would usually make our boy very uncomfortable, making use of a facility that he doesn’t reign supreme over, but Alvey Fratto’s god awful conversational skills and total lack of eye contact has Chuck’s uncomfortability covered in stride.

Chuck clackers through the airport whilst Alvey squeaks – he didn’t need to wear his fishing boots yet, he’s not fishing until the plane lands, he knows it, but he wanted to be prepared. It’s better to be overly prepared than to be stuck up Shit Creek without a plunger and a bag of smelling salts disguised as graham crackers, anybody would believe that if he told them, and besides, why should he hide it? Alvey’s never gone fishing in his life, never even so much as kissed the slimy expanding lips of an especially feisty smallmouth bass and accidentally had his tongue slip in because he’d never had such an intimate connection with another living thing before and he wanted the moment to last and… wait, shit, they’re already on the plane.

I guess I dove a little too deep there… I mean, not as deep as where that bass lives, but anyway.

Ten minutes into the flight, Alvey’s asinine tales of fishing and merriment prove to be too much for dear young Chuck, so he decides to knock out mid-conversation. Not mid-sentence; no, that would just be polite, but mid-conversation; Alvey said something, Chuck said something2, and as Alvey is saying something3, Chuck slowly and deliberately leans back, drapes his fedora over his eyes, and enters into a deep state of meditation for a few seconds until he drifts off into a peaceful pre-fishing-trip slumber.

Alvey continued talking to himself for seven minutes before he noticed Chuck had checked the fuck out.

Chuck’s Tenure

‘Wha… what in the hell? What’s going on?’

Chuck wakes up to find his world has been turned upside down, literally; his fedora is laying on the ceiling of the airplane, one of his legs is numb, and for some reason, his eyelid won’t stop twitching. The worst part – he isn’t sure which eyelid it is.

‘Can’t see… smoke everywhere… fuck.

‘Is it getting hot? It feels like its getting hot, whatever it is.

‘Oh fuck a ducking Chuck, it’s a fire. A fucking hOT FIRE GOD FUCKING DAMNIT AHHHH!

‘Need to CUT the seATBElt, how do I kni–’

The train of thought derails when a knife extends from Chuck’s right middle finger. He snips the seatbelt and, ‘AAAHHH!!”

Chuck lands with a thud on top of his poor, defenseless fedora, crushing it against what he once considered to be the ceiling of the airplane.

“Ooooooooowwwwwwwww… fuckin’… ow. What the shit is even happening right now?” followed by a mental, ‘Doesn’t matter asshat, need to crawl away… FFUCKKCKCKK okay, there’s glass in my knee. Fucking wonderful.’

Chuck removes his tie while, for some reason, thinking it would be great if it had a bunch of buttons laced into it that controlled some type of robotic power armor, ‘Yeah that would be lit, I need to talk to Sigmund about that,’ and ties it ‘round his wounded kneecap after carelessly and masochistically digging out as many shards of glass he can get his glovey little hands on. As luck will have it, the glass has impaled the one knee he can still feel, and a bunch of it has embedded itself under his kneecap.

‘GGGAAAAAAAHHHHHH FUCKING SHIT YOU FUCKING PISSANT I DON’T EVEN LIKE PAIN THIS MUCH WHAT THE FUUUCK AAAAHHHHHH FUCKING HELP ME SOMEONE!’

Noted.

Chuck crawls about ten yards before stopping and turning over to face the open sky above him, his view obscured by treetops and a thematically fitting gray overcast. He goes through a very morbid thought process about his life and the Universe at large as he closes his eyes and tries to block out the scent of destruction around him. He faintly hears what sounds like two bodies escaping the wreckage intact in the distance and feels a large dosage of hope beginning to spread its warm fingers through his starved veins. Summoning all of his courage, Chuck opens his goateed maw and attempts to yell out for assistance, attention, a happystick, anything, but it’s no use; the mixture of thick blood and dried saliva in his throat is making the internal generation of noise very difficult, so he gives up and his consciousness begins to fade into a soothing and yet familiar Void. A smile spreads across Chuck’s tired face as the last shreds of his perception of this Universe slowly begins to fade away.

It is not Death’s sweet, relieving embrace that he feels though, unfortunately for Chuck; nay, merely the scratchy, calloused touch of Sleep, Death’s second cousin removed from the former’s life seven times on account of the many shall we say deviant attempts the latter has made towards the former. Yikes… what I’m trying to say is, Chuck’s tenure here is not yet complete.

The Final Expedition

Chuck’s only gone fishing three times in his life, each time traveling to the same spot. When he was very young, his father knew of an island shaped like a foot, of all things, hidden deep within the bowels of the Specific Ocean, completely unknown to the rest of mankind; Chuck’s father had some pretty potent connections back in the day, as one does when one is a manipulative psychopath with money. Past the pristine sandy beaches thrived beautiful and undiscovered species of plants and animals, including a large, intelligent ape-like species that lived in a tribe near the shore on the heel. When Chuck’s father originally came swinging his dick for all to be molly wopped, the bigfoots were very hostile towards the shorter, hairless version of themselves. However, communication was quickly established, and the Hairlessfut, as the beasts called the humans, were accepted as visitors, allowed to come and go from the island as they pleased.

Young Chuck Leary and his poppa Magnus Horgan went on three fishing trips together, each spanning a whole weekend, but after the third trip, Magnus told Chuck that he was never to return, something about allegations of interspecies mingling or something or other. Chuck was too young to really understand at the time, but what he did understand was the horrifying scowl on Magnus’s face that matched the scorched and torn clothing he wore when he finally returned home from what he referred to as the final expedition.

Years later, once Chuck had enough dollars for him to consider himself fully independent of his father, Chuck returned to the island to see what had become of his happy hairy friends; he found only the charred remains of what was once a proud village standing guard between the sea and a once jungle turned into a field of charcoal matchsticks with the tops burned off. The tears he shed that day were passionate and hot, much unlike the cold drop of water that falls from a stalactite and hits his face, waking him back up.

Lake Wantooki

Feeling groggy, damaged, and slightly moist, Chuck fumbles around in the dark and tries to gain his bearings. Completely unable to see, even with his sunglasses on, Chuck goes to stand up and lurches forward, cracking his head on what feels like metal bars. Once the darkness stops spinning circles around his head, he reaches his hands up and then out into the space around him, bringing him to something of a strange conclusion: Chuck is locked inside of a small metal cage inside a dark mountain cave. Well, the cave might not be in a mountain, per say, but it would be cooler if it was so let’s just go with it.

Normally a realization of this magnitude would trigger Chuck’s claustrophobia and he would scream like a little girl, but since he can’t see the bars, they may as well not even be there, and he keeps his inane phobia locked away in its cage. There’s still the matter of Chuck feeling like he was chucked through a chunk of hard cheese though, so he presses a button on his watch and feels a small needle prick him in the wrist. Moments later, the man feels good as new.

Roughly two minutes (or one hundred thirty-eight hours, who really knows?) later, another realization hits our current iteration of a semi-tolerated heroish type square in the noggin: now that he’s conscious again, time is going to be passing so much slower. ‘I can’t just sit here,’ Chuck thinks to himself, ‘I’m gonna go even fuckin’ crazier, and y’all ain’t ready for that shit. Wait, who ar–’

Chuck begins to meditate, his zen state lasting a whole forty-two seconds before he starts tapping out a beat. When that gets boring, he gives up all hope of escape and cries out for someone to “Come kill me already!” but nobody comes. They never come.

After yelling until his throat is sore, Chuck hears a very faint pitter-patter that sounds like the footpace’s step of a small animal. He props himself up on his knees to try to make out shapes in the darkness, but he sees nothing.

Then, a small, “Mrrrrow?” echoes through the cavern, lighting a flicker of hope in Chuck’s heart.

This hopeful flame is quickly extinguished when Chuck hears something ricochet off a few walls before impacting the ground, causing his cage to shake like a chain link fence on a windy day, except there’s no wind in this cavern, just darkness, potentially a cat of some sort, and a monstrous bullet that’s not traveling with enough  virile to actually break through the stone walls, just to dance among them. Then, the footsteps begin; they’re slow at first, the whatever the fuck stomping leisurely towards Chuck, picking up speed as it grows nearer. Chuck’s heart is racing. He can feel a sole bead of sweat dripping down his temple… or is that cave water? The real question is, which one would be grosser? Chuck’s sweat or Earth’s?

This is what Chuck debates as the entity looms closer and closer, faster and faster, barreling towards Chuck’s cage like a bullet train about to eviscerate a puppy who jumped out of his owner’s purse and wandered onto the rail. Then, when Chuck realizes that he’s the puppy in that metaphor, he makes peace with his lack of a god and closes his eyes, sticking his tongue out so he can taste the release of death and tell all his friends how sweet it was in the next life.

Just when Chuck thinks his life is about to end for the second time in what he hopes is only twenty-four hours, nothing happens. The footstomps stop and the air goes stiller than it previously was, yet Chuck’s heart beats hard enough to knock down a brick wall. Then, a voice that can only be described as a wretched abomination of genetic manipulation gone too far yells out, “BACK!” before something strikes the cage, and before Chuck even has a chance to get back, too. Like, how rude. Luckily, the force of the strike throws Chuck against the back of his cage.

As he tries to pick himself up, a sharp metal sound smacks our man right in the eardrums and beats out a tune that no mother could even consider loving. The footsteps resume, but this time whatever’s causing them is running deeper into the omniscient darkness that currently composes Chuck’s entire life. A few moments later, four large torches sconced along the walls of the cavern spontaneously and simultaneously ignite, lighting the room brighter than two medium torches could ever dream of doing.

Now that he can see, Chuck notices two things: one, the cage only has bars on five of its six sides, meaning a living, speaking something just cut through metal like it was butter, and two, there’s a cat with black fur sitting nearish Chuck’s cage, sniffing a pile of metal bars. Chuck awkwardly crawls out of the cage and continues crawling towards the furball, who has started licking the bars for whatever reason.

Upon closer inspection, Chuck sees that the cat has black fur on the majority of its body, its belly and paws sporting patches of white as brilliant as snow. Chuck’s heart melts and leaves a puddle below his hands and knees which splashes everywhere when he reaches out to pet the critter. This cat proves to be quite the smartass though, ducking away from the embrace of our uncaged beast’s hand before trotting over to the far end of the cavern. Chuck throws caution to the wind and stands, taking a few steps towards the cat before a stalagmite catches his foot similarly to how the ground catches his face. ‘Son of a FUCK.’ Chuck composes himself and gets back up, taking more than his fair share of a few deep breaths before walking in the direction that he assumes the cat darted off in.

A few years ago, when Chuck still gave all the shits about his business, he was engaged in a bloodthirsty competition with some random firm who had just set up in New Manhattan. They were both bidding for a deed for a water park that would be used as a money laundering scheme on the BL4K-MRKT. Not only had Chuck never been to a water park at this point in his life, but he didn’t even know water parks were a thing – his father wasn’t the friendliest dude, as you probably figured out from the island tangent before – and Chuck needed to win the auction so he could relive part of his childhood as a thirtysomething. For that entire week, Chuck and Karen watched feverishly as the price went up one penny at a time, and one hour before the auction closed, it really seemed like Cape Enterprises was about to expand into the water park industry. It seemed like such a sure thing that Chuck decided to skip out early and get a celebratory cinnamon bun from That Mom And Pop Shop. On his way there, he saw some dipshit dressed up in a trench coat armed with a flintlock pistol that shot burnt roaches, of all things, and said dipshit was trying to mug the pocket change from some kid on a tricycle. This sight proved enough for Chuck to break into a full-out sprint towards the mugger, jumping over the crying child whilst wearing a full business suit the entire time. Chuck caught up to the mugger quickly and tackled the bastard to the grimey sidewalk, beating the human senseless. When the mugger had properly learned his lesson, Chuck returned the tricycle to the child and offered to buy him a cinnamon bun to raise his spirits a little bit.

After the kid tricycled away screaming, “YOU’RE NOT MY DAD!” Chuck went into the bakery alone and walked out with a box of delectables for himself.

And for Karen, I guess, but whatever.

A few minutes later when he strolled back into his office, he noticed Karen’s horrified face and dropped the cinnamon buns, their freshly drizzled icing splattering all over his poor, clean carpet. His greatest fear had come true in the worst of ways: Cape lost the water park.

Literally ten seconds after Chuck walked out of the office, the rival company placed an enormous counteroffer, one that toppled the value of the water park when it was still operational. The other firm had also requested that the auction end early and, given the size of the bid and the total lack of morals and rules in New Manhattan’s underground auction industry, the seller agreed with dollar signs in his eyes. There was nothing any of the Capes could have done, not even Sigmund – these events sent Chuck through a cycle of crisis including massive superclinical depression, binges upon binges of self-destructive drinking and laced cocaine snorting paired with the haphazard ingestion of so many Magic Mushrooms that he decided to never snort laced cocaine ever again not even one more time even if it’s not laced, and the burning of both literal and metaphorical bridges until finally, he one day found himself in a mountaintop temple with a myriad of bald men somewhere in Tibet. When Chuck finally came to and resumed Chucking at his full capacity, he learned a certain truth about the Universe: that true knowledge comes from within and that instincts should always be trusted, especially when all else is lost.

This is why, when he comes to a choice between three different caves that branch out from the cave he’s spelunking through, he takes the left, because that’s what his heart is telling him to do.

Not even three seconds later he hears another, “Mrrrrrow,” and turns around to see that same cat sitting at the mouth of the cave. It rubs its entire face against the corner of the wall before walking out, Chuck getting the hint that he should follow the cat rather than his bunk-ass instincts.

Chuck notices two empty sconces fastened to the walls between the three caves as he follows the feline down the rightmost cavern. Eventually they come to another open room, this one less dank than the other cavern and lit up by moonlight rather than torches. Chuck looks up to see a huge hole in the ceiling of the chamber and can’t help but feel that if he was here under different circumstances, he would really be enjoying this right now.

His appreciation of the natural architecture is interrupted when the cat begins to hiss, and he forgets he was even appreciating when the wisecat darts away at an impossibly fast pace.

Caught with his pants around his waist, Chuck spins around and begins frantically looking about for his new companion, completely unconfident in his own ability to escape this cavern by himself.

“Wahw, yet got this far bah yerselff? Impressive, Chucki.”

Chuck freezes when he hears what sounds like the drawl of a hillbilly and slowly turns to something even worse: two hillbillies, and they’re creeping towards him from very different angles. One is dressed in typical hillbilly fashion, blue denim overalls with no shirt underneath, a peeling plait hat on his head. The other is sporting… significantly less clothing, along with a hunch in his back to rival my own after sitting hunched in this fucking chair for seven hours typing this [and my other works of] nonsense.

Chuck starts shouting random curse words at the hillbillies and they simultaneously stop walking. The three men engage in a stare down like proper folky cowpokes, the tension growing faster than an improperly hormoned chicken before one of these two fuckers rips its head off to eat its brain. A few moments of this go by.

Chuck breaks the silence again, this time with a pleasant, “So what the heck are y’all?”

The hillbillies (hillbilli?) look at each other, and then look back at Chuck, the clothed one sporting a cocky little bitchgrin that’s just begging to sip shit through a straw.’

Chuck is not a fan of this grin.

As the deformed one begins to fondle his left forearm with his nose, the clothed one digs through his pocket for a cigarette, and when he finds it, he flips it up into the air and catches it in his mouth, the fire swagger of the maneuver lighting the cancerstick’s tip all on its own. As he exhales, the smoke forms into the spitting image of a skull and drifts out of the cave through the volcano spout above.

Chuck, upon releasing the grip his index finger and thumb held on the bridge of his nose, says, “WOW! That was ReAlLy CoOl, now who the fuck’re you backwoods-ass hillbillies and how are you going to help me get out of this cave?”

The hillbillies look at each other for a moment, very serious-like, and then they burst out in laughter at the same time, just like how they stopped walking. The slender one even drops his cigarette, but he picks it up a few moments later when the pair are finished with their collective knee slapping. What a shame, dude doesn’t even want to quit smoking. Anyway, the one with a hunched back takes a daunting step forwards, as if to explain something, and Chuck prepares his ears for the worst.

The Hunchback of Lake Wantooki opens his mouth and says, “Well well well, Charles, welcome to our humble abode. I am Tooki, and my cohort here is my brother Wan. Welcome to Lake Wantooki; it’s a shame your aeroplane had to crash out of the sky for you to be here. Normally the scenery is quite bodacious, if I do say so myself,” in the most clear, concise, and velvety speaking voice Chuck has ever had the pleasure of listening to.

‘Yeah, seems about right,’ Chuck thinks to himself, refusing to admit that he was taken aback by the soothing, buttery qualities of Tooki’s speaking voice. He opens his mouth, as if to say something, then immediately changes his mind and closes it again. After a few moments of pondering marked with the brothers hillbilly trading confused glances, Chuck figures out exactly what he needs to say to get out of this cave.

“Look guys, I know exactly where this is going; I don’t eat a lot of healthy food and my meat is really nasty and tough, and I’m not even talking about my dick. I will not taste good, and trust me, I do not have a tight ass, as this world has fucked me more times than I can count. Hows about you just let me go and we all forget about this,” finishing off his plea with an extremely cringey forced smile for good measure.

The brothers just look at him, both dumbfounded, mouths agape as if someone just told them the Earth isn’t flat. Wan’s cigarette is dangling from his mouth, holding on solely by the spittle on his lip.

“Wael… uhh… yew c’n… we di’n’t… eh… Tooki?” Wan says, looking over to his brother, the hunch’s facial expression conveying that his brain is working hard to come up with a clever comeback.

Wan takes a few puffs of his cigarette, really taking his time in exhaling each murky gray cloud before putting the burning embers of the butt out on his brother’s hunched back. Tooki doesn’t seem to notice, but he gives up on trying to formulate himself a comeback. The moment passed, oh well.

Jesus, what the fuck kind of incest shit is this?!” Chuck shouts, getting impatient. He doesn’t want to be in this cave even a little bit, that little bit quickly shrinking down to nothing at all. “Look, I don’t know what kind of knots you two used to tie up the nearby town’s missing damsel, but I don’t fucking want to know. I’m a busy dude, amongst other things, and you really don’t want to keep me trapped in here.”

Wan and Tooki look at each other again, half amused and half curious. Wan slips the butt of his cigarette back into his pocket so he can freebase the fibreglass later on.

Chuck, who’s impatience has evolved into im-fucking-patience, adds, “It won’t go well.”

“I see…” Tooki verbally sees. He takes a whistling breath into his single lung through his nose and releases it through his mouth. Then, “Well Mister Leary, we originally had different plans for you, but given your… well, considering your behavior, I think it would be easier for everybody if we just let you go.”

“Hah, what’d I just get finished saying to you pro– waiwhat?”

“Yew herd ‘im, yah sitty slicker!”

What did he just call me? I’m not even offended, I just have no idea what words, and I use that term lightly, came out of his mouth!”

Wan is beginning to get angry; Chuck can tell because the ‘billy starts growling and shows all six of his teeth. Game over.

“A’ight summertooth, relax.”

“WHAT DID YEW CAHL ME?!”

“Oh you know, summertooth. Summer over here, summer over there,” Chuck says as he points to random spots in his own mouth, demonstrating exactly how little teeth Wan has. Wan is not a fan of this mockery, no matter how true it is.

“AHM GUNNA GUT YEW LAHK A FEISH!”

“WAN! Please, Mister Leary is our guest. We musn’t disrespect him,” Tooki chimes in whilst keeping direct eye contact with Chuck. A satisfied smile slowly inches its way across the hillbilly’s face. “Yes, I do believe you should just leave, Mister Leary. You’re rude, and clearly not capable of having a traditional conversation.” Tooki steps to the side and extends his arm towards a small light that Chuck hadn’t previously noticed. “Here is the exit, I trust you’re capable of finding your way back to society from out here in the wilderness.”

“Yeah, right, so lemme get this all straight here,” Chuck begins, trying his very hardest to get this straight. “You hired some dude to get me on an airplane just so you could force said airplane to crash, presumably near this cave, all in an attempt to get me here, and now that you have me here, you tell me that I’m rude, whatever that’s supposed to mean, and now you’re gonna, what, just let me go?”

“That’s correct, yes. A shame we had to waste so much money and resources–”

“And human lives,” Chuck cuts in, politely.

“Ahem, on this little endeavor–”

“Which is clearly a trap of some sort. Not well-designed, either.”

“AHEM, of ours, but such is life. Wan, walk with me, I’ve some thinking to do. You know your mouth breathing helps me think.”

“Sheeeeiiiit, fahn then.” Wan looks in Chuck’s direction, makes an indescribable sound with his flappy throat, then hacks a bright yellow loogie in Chuck’s general direction. It lands within an inch of his shoe. Yeesh.

The twins walk around Chuck and regroup, continuing into the heart of the cave system without sparing Chuck a second thought. He watches them for a moment, even taking off his sunglasses, just to see Wan scrabble for his cigarette butt and Tooki hobble about like he isn’t even hobbling. Then Chuck loses interest and advances towards the mouth of the cave.

He can’t help but think to himself how nicely this whole ordeal is wrapping up; Chuck isn’t dead and/or maimed, he didn’t have to slaughter anyone, and he’ll have something to talk to Karen about other than some made up story about, quote, The cutest puppy that was being walked down the street, unquote. There’s still one thing missing though, isn’t there? One plot detail/existential variable that Chuck totally forgot about after boarding the plane, the reason he embarked on this wack-ass fishing trip in the first place…

“Wait a minute,” he says aloud to himself as he stops walking and turns to face his clearly incompetent captors. “What about my amphibious motorcycle?”

Wan slices a rope with his left hand, which appears to have been replaced with a mutated pitchfork on steroids, triggering all sorts of mechanisms until a trapdoor swings open directly beneath Chuck’s feet. Both the literal and symbolic gravity of the situation hit him at the exact same time.

“FFFFFUUUUUCCCCCKKKKK IIIIIII KNNEEEWWWWW IIIIIIiiiitttttttt…”

To be continued…