Universe W-2020: Holidaze 1
April 1st, 2018
The Egg Hunt
Sigmund’s neck creaks as he turns his head towards the clock – 1:30 am. A groan of epic proportions escapes his gullet as his face falls towards the desk. He started going through his emails at half after four in the afternoon yesterday, yet hardly a dent has been made. He moves his mouse pointer to the top of the list and clicks, highlighting an email with a subject that reads super sp00kie ghostie!1!
TerryTeam20, the imminently successful VidTube channel that Sigmund operates, owns, and slays is all about the weird side of life. Conspiracy theories, extraterrestrials, the paranormal, superhuman abilities, theories about conspiracies – he reports on all of it, giving his millions of viewers five to fifteen minute escapes into the wild world of what isn’t talked about openly across the world over almost every single day. When our squishy basement dweller isn’t combing through emails or researching stuff to report on, he spends his time casually breaking known scientific laws and inventing all sorts of stuff that nobody else will ever be able to figure out by themselves. His true love though… well, his true love is making videos, but technomancy is definitely his sidepiece. Sigmund’s built entire fleets of robots, a control system for said robots that operates using a human brain and LSD, nanobots that are half the size of an atom each, robotic animals that serve as discreet surveillance drones throughout the city of New Manhattan; the entire damn city of New Manhattan and the isle upon which it sits, and he freaking invented the very material that island is composed of, and he… what was I saying? I don’t know. Yesterday, as an early April Fool’s joke, he even developed the world’s first and only fully independent artificial intelligence. So yeah.
All that said, Sigmund is a physical kind of humboy; although he occasionally humors the weirdos out there with a metaphysically themed Terry episode, he prefers to work with his hands, he likes to actually connect with inanimate objects. Ghosts though? Ghosts are pure energy, theoretically, appearing and disappearing on their own accord and effortlessly phasing through whatever one throws at them, and that’s only when a real one has been sighted. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, ghost sightings are just camera glitches or video editing tricks that were added in after the fact.
Despite knowing these indisputable facts, Sigmund goes ahead and double-clicks the email. A black window appears on his screen. ‘Here we go.’
A dimly lit kitchen appears before his eyes. Everything is silent for a moment, until a quiet, ghastly moaning is heard offscreen. This is followed by a piece of toast, white toast no less, cut into the shape of a ghost flying across the screen, very clearly attached to a string. The video then replays in slow motion, ending with a still image of the super sp00kie ghostie in the middle of the shot with a big red circle drawn around it.
Sigmund shakes his head at least seven times before deleting the email and initiating his computer’s sleep mode. Grinding the yellow chunks of gross out of his eyes, our midnight marauder stands and calls out for Conrad, who appears a second later, holosuit and all.
“Hello Master Sig, what can be done for you?”
“Oh Conrad, here at last,” Sigmund swells. “I’ve been watching user submissions for the channel since yesterday, I need to go to bed. Criminy, I’m just so chazzed from all this nonsense that gets sent to me. The last video I watched, Conrad? It was a piece of toast.”
“A piece of toast, sir?”
“A piece of toast in the shape of a ghost. I-I-I… I don’t know who, nay, what kind of creature would be so abysmally out of touch with reality that they would send me, me Conrad, me, such a video.” A heavy breath, then, “The audacity!”
Sigmund leans forward on his chair so his lungs can catch up with his brain.
“I can think of one such creature, in your words. Do you not know the date, Master Sig?”
A few pants later, “What are you on about, Conrad?”
“Today is the first of April, or as the man in question would call it, April Fool’s Day. I believe Grandmaster Chuck sent you a diddy there, sir. ‘Twas but an April Fool’s joke.”
Sigmund studies his artificially intelligent butler’s holographic face. “…Yes, I believe you may be on to something. I designed your brain, after all, you can’t really be wrong. Thank you Conrad, you always know what to say.”
Sigmund walks over and attempts to pat his butler on the head, but his hand goes right through and scrambles Conrad’s face. You know, because of the whole hologram thing. Then, as he’s walking towards the elevator, Conrad calls out to his creator.
“Sir Creator Sir, may I remind you that today is also Easter? We have what I can only describe as a co-holiday this calendyear. Shall I prepare the eggs for you to hide around Grandmaster’s office?”
Sigmund’s eyes grow almost as wide as his glasses. Every year since the conception of their friendship, Sigmund and his bossguy Chuck have spent their Easters together. Neither men are religious, the celebration is never based on the birth nor the resurrection of any mythological figure of the past; no, to these men, Easter is all about two things: the egg hunt and the consumption of candy, in that order. Sigmund hides eggs all over Chuck’s office every Easter’s eve for Chuck to find, and when they’re found? A sugary feast the likes of Mighty Joe Young would fancy is assembled, including a platter of cinnamon buns from That Mom And Pop Shop across the street. The only thing is, this year, Sigmund’s totally forgot about it. With the ever-increasing popularity of TerryTeam20 and the invention of an artificial intelligence butler that does everything for him, Sigmund’s allowed himself to be very forgetful over the last twelve hours.
“Ummm… change of plans there, Conrad. I would like you to hide the eggs around the office.”
Conrad’s face doesn’t change expressions whatsoever. “Yes sir, what parameters would you like to set?”
“Hmmm… well I’m glad you asked!”
“I am programmed to do so.”
“Parameters are as follows: hide the eggs somewhere that not only Chuck wouldn’t be able to find them, but where I wouldn’t be able to find them. This is an excellent, nay, eggsallad opportunity to test your intelligence against mine. Wait until I’m a’slumber before you start, and you can use whatever means’re available to you inside the building. Any questions?”
“Negative, Master Sig. Have a pleasant dreamsequence, there is a sleepytime teasmoothie waiting beside your bed.”
“Marvelous! Thank you, Conrad. Happy hiding!” as he puts the full weight of his body on the elevator.
With a click and the grinding of gears, Sigmund is whisked away from the TerryTower, his name for the office that’s installed above the TerryStudio, one of the innumerable sub-plasti’spa’junkean extensions Sigmund installed in the underworld beneath the Cape Enterprises, Uncorporated building. Originally the plan was to have a whole network of ant-farm-like structures spread throughout the plasti’spa’junk that makes up the island the city is built upon, but that got too involved, so now the tower just extends vertically until it exits the plasti-spa-junk and bores into the sea floor.
By the time the platform lifts Sigmund to safety of his bedroom, which is annexed off to the side of his favorite laboratory, and he changes into his astronaut pajamas and climbs up into his flying saucer bed, Conrad is already finished with his assignment. In fact, the artificial wonder catches Zs faster than his creator does tonight, imagine that!
The United States Government Resurgence Force
The moon chases the sun over the horizon just to be chased away by the sun the following morning, as they do. Absolutely none of its rays penetrate Sigmund’s sleeping quarters because it’s buried so far beneath the surface.
Something does penetrate Sigmund’s sleeping quarters though; our hero is not alone in his bedroom this Easter morning, nay, he is joined by a force of nature not even the likes of Conrad could save him from.
“Dude, wake up.”
“Dude wake uuhhhppp.”
Sigmund snarls a mighty snore.
Through the megaphone that is now his left hand, “DUUUUDE WAKE THE FUCK UP IT’S EEAAASSSTTERRRR!!!”
Sigmund rolls over to face his most common intruder and slowly cracks his eyes open. “Goodmorning Chuck, happy Easter.”
Bossguy smiles, his longish black hair seeming naked without the fedora. “Happy Easter, buddyman. I’d apologize for intruding, but I think we both know that I’m not sorry.”
“Not even a little bit.”
“Do you notice something odd about me today, Sigmund?”
Sigmund stares at his friendbossguy, honestly unsure of how to answer that question.
Picking up the hint, Chuck says, “I’m not wearing my hat today, Sigmund.”
“Oh yeah,” as he rolls off the side of the flying saucer and picks himself up. “Would you look at that.”
“I cannot, it’s my own head and mirrors are for chumps. Do you want to know why I’m not wearing my hat today? Well I’ll tell you anyway: it’s because it’s sitting on my desk with a single, yellow Easter egg in it.”
“Awh. The yellow’s a nice touch, you have to admit.”
“Yeah, but months too late,” Chuck admits. “Anyway, that’s the only egg I’ve found thus far, Sigmund. The only egg I’ve found. Do you see the issue?”
As he trollops over to a nightstand and presses the button on a water boiler, “Is the issue that you didn’t look very hard?”
“No, it’s… wait, make me a cup of tea too. But no, the issue is that I’ve looked everywhere, everywhere, through every single room on the office floor, dude. All two of them!”
“There are two rooms on the forty-second floor? I thought there was only the office.”
“Yeah, and my bedroom-slash-smoking lounge.”
“Oh yeeeaaahhh,” Sigmund reminisces as he fills a mug with hot water. “You and I have smoked up in there a few times, that’s right. Sorry, my mind is elsewhere this morning.”
Chuck musters a look of utter confusion spliced with a slight of disgust. “How could your mind be any-fuckin’-wheres besides the missing Easter eggs and all the candy we’re currently not eating, dude?”
“Two reasons, but what kind of tea do you want?”
“Licorice root, that’s not even a question.”
“Cool. So, for two reasons am I vibing low today; one, that ghost video you sent in to the channel still has me peeved. Tw–”
“April Fool’s, mo’fuckah. Anyway, two?”
“…Two, I’ve instructed Conrad to hide the eggs somewhere that neither of us would find them. He’s left us a clue, I’m trying to figure out what it means.”
Chuck begins ranting about who the fuck Conrad is, and once he learns the identity of this mysterious Conrad, he implores Sigmund to deconstruct it immediately because it will surely learn how to use Psychedelics soon and all the LSD will vanish overnight. Sigmund tunes him out though, spinning his mind a’ponder over the clue. An egg, nested in a fedora, sat upon a powerful desk… hmmm… well, an egg is a symbol for birth, for creation. The fedora, style. The desk, power. Stylish, powerful creation, like a gryphon.
A gryphon, a creature with the head of an eagle, body of a lion. Freedom and force. Where in the world was an excessive supply of freedom matched with force? Why, the United States of America of course! Before it was collapsed by a flipping genius who shalln’t be named, that is! So, in other words, the Untied States of America! That means the eggs are hidden somewhere in the country, this is a good start.
Okay, so there are four words in the name of the Untied States of America. Four divided by the number of animals that inspire the gryphon is two, the exact amount of clues that are important to this conundrum: the egg and the hat. The body of the hat is shaped like an oval, and the egg/hat combo is sat upon a desk. Where is there a desk in an ovular room…?
Interrupting Chuck’s rant at the pivotal moment of the rocket ship analogy, Sigmund, his voice shaking, says, “Oh… my… god.”
He looks up with a wanton sadness, a fear that can hardly be put into words. After handing over a piping hot cup of licorice root tea, Sigmund says, “The United States Government Resurgence Force has our Easter eggs, Chuck.”
“The… the United… what?”
“The US-GeRF, DON’T you SEE?” he shrieks. “It’s so obvious, how do you not see it?! Where else would I never think of looking for the egg, Chuck? It’s the perfect plan!”
“Well, I uh, I mean… that… that seems like the first place you thought of, Sigmund… but uh…”
“BUT NOTHING! Oh fuck, we messed up big this time, Charles ol’ boy! We’re going to have to raid the Brown House! If–”
“The Brown House?”
“What color is dirt?! Their fortress is underground, of course it would be called the Brown House! If they find the eggs, they could backdate the atoms, track us back here!”
“They could find us, find me! They could find all of this superior technology and scientific whatsititoyas that you force me to make, they would confiscate it all!”
“Waaaaaait a secon–”
“THEY COULD FIND THE CANNABIS SUPPLY!”
“Okay, now you’re talkin’ the crazyspeak. Nobody can find the stash, fuckin’, I can’t even find the shit half the time. Look bud, let’s go toke on some buds and take a look through the building and…” a sigh. “God damnit Sigmund.”
Shaking his head, Chuck does the only thing he can do other than follow Sigmund into the elevator: call up his powerful Karen The Secretary. Unfortunately, Karen is currently in New Zealand touring rabbit farms and cannot help her Chuck The Boss, treating him to a dreadful OWTSYNC ringback tone that plays on repeat forever and ever. Chuck hangs up the phone and throws it at the nearest wall as if he was Gray Fox Sean Hymarc, who he’s yet to meet. He prefers the communicator that’s hardwired into his power armor, anyway.
A glance at Sigmund’s alarm clock tells Chuck that four minutes have passed; that’s more than enough time for Sigmund to prepare a sizeable robotic army for a full-scale invasion of the Brown House, wherever the fuck that shit isn’t. Just when our man without even a convoluted plan is wondering how he’s going to stop the impending third global war, the secret door that leads into the laboratory opens up to reveal a less than menacing shimmering blue old man dressed in an equally shimmering suit who Chuck assumes to be Conrad, the hologram butler. Or… butlogram? No… Hololer? No, it’s definitely Buttlogram; the extra t makes it work.
“Grandmaster Chuck,” Buttlogram says. “How are we doing today?”
“Well, both myself and la voices are doing stupendously, thanks Conrad, and that Grandmaster thing? Very nice touch. Listen, spill it, where are the eggs? Your daddy’s about to literally rain hell upon the continental Untied States because he thinks you gave the eggs to the US-GeRF.”
Conrad takes a moment to process. Suddenly, the floor opens up beneath him and Conrad hovers for a bit, seeing how he’s made of light, of soft light no less, then he vanishes, leaving Chuck alone to occupy another man’s bedroom. Slightly annoyed, Chuck downs his now cool cup of tea in one gulp and walks into the lab. After waiting for the platform to descend, he steps up and elevates to his office where there are plenty of pre-rolled happysticks waiting for him.
Three joints and an egg-shaped brownie filled with peanut butter later, Sigmund and Conrad walk into Chuck’s office and approach his desk. Chuck is so lost inside his head that he doesn’t notice, leaving them to wait until he eventually gets up for a drink of water.
“Yyyoooooo guuyyysssss, I didn’t eve’, like, I didn’t even know y’alls was here. Wooaahhhhhh…”
Conrad, displaying the vacant expression Sigmund programmed him to display, stares forwards silently until Sigmund speaks.
“So um… I may have overreacted before…”
Chuck chuckles. “You mean, hold up, you mean to tell me, that disappearing with the intent of storming the continental Untied States because you thought your aye-eye hologram gave them a basket of Easter eggs is overreacting? Shit, I’ll smoke to that.”
Chuck pulls a pink joint out of his left pant leg and lights it up.
“Well, if the US-GeRF actually had the eggs, it wouldn’t be an overreaction, but yes.” Looking down at the floor, “Doing so on a hunch is a boo-hoo.”
Chuck bursts out laughing at Sigmund’s use of the mouth noise boo-hoo. “Ahhhh shit, thanks for that, dawg. So where the eggs at, then? I want more candy.”
Chuck’s gaze deflects off Sigmund’s stoic chin, landing directly on Conrad’s image of a face.
“One moment please, Master and Grand-.”
Conrad’s eyes roll back in his head. The brim of Chuck’s fedora, still sat on his desk, opens up like a toothless mouth. From the fibres falls a singular speck of dust. Then, as the hat repairs itself, a large mechanical thing lowers from the ceiling of Chuck’s office and locates the lost speck of dust, blasting it with a radical energy beam and enlarging it to reveal… a basket of Easter eggs.
Chuck, watching this scientifical witchcraft taking place before his very bloodshot eyes, is impressed. “Wow,” he says, “well I sure am impressed. You shrunk the kids, I mean the eggs, using advanced scientific methods that I’ve never bothered learning about, and you pulled one over on Poppa Terry over here. Conrad, you’re all right. Although, if you get any idea about eating the eL-eSs-Dee that I’m probably never going to eat, then it’ll be fucking go time.”
Sigmund starts laughing not maniacally but normally, the way a level-headed normal human being would laugh at something they found humorous. “Well, lots of surprises today! Conrad, next time I ask you to do something, make it possible for me to win, okay?”
“Duly noted, Master Creator. Shall I return to my quarters?”
“The Buttlogram has its own quarters? Whatever, YES, return from whence you came, me and Master Creator over here have some living, conscious human things to do. So blaahhhhhh.”
“Actually,” Master Creator pipes in, “no Conrad, listen. You are to deconstruct yourself immediately.”
With that, Conrad disappears and never comes back, leaving the boys to enjoy their basket of candy. Chuck doesn’t even pretend to be surprised, instead passing the Easter joint to Sigmund before he trots over to the couch and collapses in a beautiful fit of couchlock. Sigmund follows him, candy in one hand and Cannabis in the other.
Chuck pours sour jellybeans into his mouth and, whilst chewing them, asks, “So why’d you have Connie deconstruct himself, dude?”
“Because when I created him, he projected a level of intelligence comparable to a fourth grader from seventeen hundred and seventy-seven. By twenty hours in, he was smarter than me, and I invented nanobots that are half the size of an atom. In your words, hard pass.”
“Very well! I guess there’s nothing else to say then, man. Happy Easter Terry.”
“Happy Easter Chuck.”