The 2020 Event |The Sideshows|

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Universe W-420: Stoner Problems 4
Three High Campers

Dip’A’Dop

A Qic’s flick is accompanied by the soothing, irresistible crackle that kicked off so many hip-hop bangers that Chet never listened to during his childhood as smoke flows through the artificial glass pipe and into the organic meat pipe leading to Jimmy’s lungs. A moment of silence to appreciate the wind whistling through the trees, then, “Ahhhhh.” A small, happy cloud floats towards its family in the sky.

“Can we get moving guys? It’s almost dark…”

Jimmy passes the bowl to a very happy to be here Kris.

“… and we’re nowhere near the campsite, we still have a lot of walking to do…”

Kris takes out a crushed-up water bottle and fills it with smoke, expanding the plastic with enough crinkling to drown out the chatty Chet. Then, he breathes the smoke back in. Reduce, reuse, recycle.

“… and if we don’t get to going, we’ll have to set up a whole n– yeah, pass it here.”

Chet Skylark’s had an excrutiating week. After a very turbulent Wednesday at work, Chet gave into a sobriety-induced bout of insomnia and carried it all the way through work the next day while his fiendish friends, unbeknownst to Chet, robbed all the weed from his house. And burned it down. Accidentally.

Chet definitely won’t be getting that deposit back.

Now, our Chet’s perched on a log with those very same friends, taking another quick burn break before they continue along on their camping excursion. Mentally exhausted, physically perturbed, and high as the park’s canopy on ‘dro, Chet just wants his clique to stop smoking drugs for two seconds so they can get their tents set up in the daylight.

His attempts at moving the stoned statues fails, but luckily a mysterious rustling emerging from a bush behind them does just the trick.

“The fuck was that?!” Jimmy cries as smoke gently floats up his windpipe and out into the air. Kris grabs the bowl and torches it out of fear, clearing the chamber.

“It… could be Tiny Tim,” Chet says over Kris’s coughing.

Jim slowly turns towards Chet, keeping a disgusted and slightly embryonic look on his face. “Tiny… Tim? The fuck is that, some kind of circus act?”

“Uh… kinda. I’ll tell you guys later, when we have a fire going. Can we go, though?”

Jimmy opens his mouth to say something snarky, but the chance is snatched when he gets pelted in the head by an acorn. Jumping Jim leaps up, his heart racing as fast as his eyes are scanning the forest around him, but he sees nothing. Then, he gets domed by another acorn.

“Ow, FUCK!” Jim screeches. “Yeah let’s dip’a’dop, y’all grab the cooler!” as he scurries towards the trail.

Chet and Kris share something of a look and a definite chuckle before grabbing the cooler together and shoving off. Meanwhile, two squirrels high five each other before twitching their way down the tree and over to the log to paw up any leftover Cannabis flakes.

Crack

The darkness of lady night quickly encroaches over an innocent, warm summer’s afternoon. The gang stops for a smoke break no less than three more times between their leaving of the log and their inability to see the trail they walk down. There’s a slight wind, and between it and the lighter with the glowing flint, igniting the bowl is becoming quite the hassle. Kris already burned himself twice, poor dude. Yet they keep repacking the bowl, keep burning the holy herb, until Chet finally speaks up.

“So like… I guess we’re not gonna make it to the spot tonight.”

Jimmy shoots him a look that goes totally obscured by a cloud of smoke. “I think we got a spot right here, man! I’mma crack a bottle, why don’t you two crack some wood and get crackin’ on a fire?”

Chet looks over at Kris, who’s using the lighter to study the intricacies of the lines on his hand, and shakes his head. It takes him nearly a half hour to dig out a pit with his hands, assemble rocks around it, and scrounge up enough dried leaves and twigs to bundle together and sustain a small flame. Kris went ahead and collected an armful of logs, which is about as useless as Jimmy is right now, but at least he’s up and moving.

The twigs that Chet gathered won’t last long in the fire, so Chet stumbles off into the darkness in search of firewood. Jim gets to work on packing the bowl again. The grind must never stop.

“Y–” a cough. “Yo, how much pot we have left?” Kris asks after confusing the fire pit’s smoke to that of a freshly lit bowlpack.

“Uhh… not much. Bag’ll be empty soon. Here,” Jimmy growls as he tosses the bag over the open fire to Kris. “You pack it from now on.”

“Word. Hey man, when are we gonna thank Chad for the free weed, dude? This is so dope of him, I feel li–”

“Already did! Yeah, we covered it, it’s all taken care of. Like I said before,” as he leans forward, the campfire casting spooky shadows on his face. “Don’t. Mention it.”

In the darkness around the campsite, the leaves begin to rustle.

Tiny Tim The Terrible

“Nah,” Chet says to a silent friend group. He listens intently for a few more minutes, then, “Nah, definitely not squirrels. The noise is too big, that’s at least an obese raccoon or a woodchuck or a coyote, or suh’um like that. Maybe a beaver, although we’re kind of far from water.”

“The noise is too… big? What? That doesn’t even make any fucking sense,” Jimmy spits before helping himself to the first hit of the freshly packed bowl.

“Well, you know what I mean. It’s gotta be something bigger than just a squirrel, plus, nobody’s taking acorns to the head. Know what I mean? Kris, do you get me?”

“Honestly dude,” Kris says, trying to get a grasp on reality, let alone Chet. “I have, like, no idea. I’m just kind of here right now guys, I don’t even know if I exist for sure. Like, yaaahh.”

Jimmy and Chet look at Kris, then back at each other, then back at Kris.

“So uh, so anyway,” Jimmy says as he fishes for the lighter that tumbled out of his hand. “Too big to be squirrels, huh?”

“Yeah man. Like I said, it’s probably just a big raccoon or a little deer or… hah, or Tiny Tim.” Nobody laughs at this joke, and Chet feels a little awkward. “You guys wanna hear the story now?”

“Not really,” Jimmy says, telling us all how he really feels, “but it’s gotta be better than mister, fuckin’, I think therefore I might not be over there.”

Kris says nothing, allowing the words to whoosh over his head like a paper airplane. Yes, instead of accepting the offer for a pissing contest, he just looks at Chet with googly eyes and a winning smile.

“A’ight, so like, in my hometown, there’s this lake, right? Well, there’s a lot of lakes, but the one I’m talkin’ about is different, it’s called Skuh– uh, uh, I mean… Monksville. Yeah, sure, lots of monks live there now, whatever. So it used to be a town called uh… well, it doesn’t matter, the important part is that the government swooped in and bought all the land in the seventies so they could flood it and make a reservoir.

“So the town, before it was flooded, it had like, this like, this permanent circus attraction thing, and during the last few days the town stood, they got this new attraction called Tiny Tim the Terrible. I wasn’t alive back then, but a buddy of mine from back home, his mom lived in the area when she was a kid, and she saw it, the thing was literally a bigfoot. Like, mad tall, hairy, bipedal, the whole shit. Apparently, some rich guy ape-napped him off an island out in the Specific and sold him to the circus. I don’t know, the details always change a little bit.

“So uh, yeah, on the last day of the circus, Tiny Tim escaped and killed the circus workers. Ran off into the woods, never to be seen again. Legend has it that he still lives there today, back in Tre– uh, back in my hometown. That’s the story. What do you guys think?”

The guys offer Chet literally zero in way of a reaction.

Trying to save himself, “I uh, I heard it from a friend. He tells it much better.”

“Well I sure fuckin’ hope so. That sounds like some Jersey-ass shit man, where’d you say you were from again?”

“What?!” Chet asks, caught off guard. “What do you mean, I-I, I live in Mundon! I…”

“Hold on Jim, I got this one,” Kris pipes in, finally dislodged from his existential thought hole. “You see Chet, Jimmy and I are very interested in the study of cryptids, that is to say, creatures of myth and legend that may, or may not, exist. Of all the states that used to be legally bound to the United States of America before it became untied, New Jersey stands out to cryptozoologists and our larger community of critically thinking truth seekers as a hotbed of ridiculous and probably false stories. The Jersey Devil, ghost wolves that haunt a paved road, this Tiny Tim character – all ridiculous creatures with ridiculous backstories. Now, you ever see Mothman up there in the pine barrens, you let me know. A bigfoot though? Come on, man.”

“Yeah,” Jimmy contributes. “If I remember correctly, you just kind of showed up here one day Chet, totally alone. Like, you’re not a clone, you had to come from somewhere, but you never told me or Kris, or fuckin’ Steve for that matter, where you came from.”

“N-no, I–” Chet falls off the back of the log, but Kris approaches and helps him up. “Thank you. No, that’s just not… you guys wanna hear something really ridiculous? That new chick at work I was tellin’ you guys about, Isabelle? She thinks I’m her long-lost brother or some shit. For like, no reason too, just because I kind of look like him. And our voices sound the same. Like, how weird is that?

“Guys? C’mon, how Jersey is that?!”

An uncomfortable silence. Then, from Jimmy’s mouth, “Yeah, you were saying that earlier. Question for ya, Chet: did you move into town around the same time that she did?”

“Well, yeah, I think so… but–”

“And is she, too, from New Jersey?” Kris postulates.

“I never said I was from Jersey! But uh…” Thumbs are twiddled. “I don’t know, maybe I did. Maybe I didn’t. I don’t remember… to be honest, my memory’s been weird ever since I moved to this town. Like, it feels like… never mind. But anyway, I–”

Jimmy shrugs, cutting Chet off with the chipped edge on his shoulder before he hits the bowl. After cashing that bad boy, he carefully balances it upon the beer can structure, not bottle but can, that he’s been building ever since he cracked open that first cold one. “Maybe she’s right, man.”

This simple suggestion fucks Chet up worse than the mind-melting collision of paradoxical memories. He starts spinning, the Chetsweats flow in torrents, the trembles rear their ugly head – it’s just like Turbulence all over again!

“Nono, no, that’s just, no, that’s… you know what? Fuck it, I’m buggin’, I’m like, I’m tense as hell. Here,” Chet says, hand in his pocket. He takes out a small bagglet of herb and Jimmy and Steve share a look. The leaves outside the glowing orb around the campfire begin to rustle as Chet throws Kris the baggie.

“What’s this, bro?” Kris asks, his voice suddenly shaky.

“My secret special stash, man. Go on, pack it and pass her over.”

Kris looks at Jimmy and gets a nod, so he proceeds to pack the bowl. This weed is very crystally, much more so than the rest of his weed. The nugs are a deep green with subtle hints of purple, and the trichomes are just… the thing looks like it was dipped in sugar. Rainbow sugar. Or salt, it’s very hard to see colors in the low light, it could just be white. And the stickiness, oh the stickiness! Kris has never went from zero to one hundred on something so fast, this magical preemo bud invades his thoughts as he packs it down, truly dominates his mind. You know, man, thank goodness for Chet, he really has been the hookup today. Weedman Chet, Pagan Deity of Mundon State Park. How lucky I am to know him…’

“Ay. AY! Yo Kris,” Jimmy spouts as he claps his hands an inch from Kris’s eyes, snapping him from his trance. “You’ve been staring at that shit for like ten minutes, puff it or pass it, son.”

Embarrassed, Kris tires to give greens to Chet, but he refuses, insisting that he who packed it shall spark it. No arguments from ya boy, he burns a hole right through the center of the mound, killing the entire stash in one monolithic hit. The look in his eyes says holy shit as he exhales a cloud dense enough to snuff out the fire in Chet’s makeshift pit. Jimmy’s peeved off as ever, but Chet’s impressed, already working on breaking up the bud from his second bag from his secret special stash. You know, the one he didn’t take out but is holding nonetheless?

Jimmy has to get up and snatch the bowl from Kris because a coughing fit has consumed the boy’s very soul, but that’s okay. He ashes it and passes it to Chet, who begins to fill ‘er up.

“Yo I got greens on this one, right Chet?”

cough cough cough

“Yeah, sure man, whatever you want.”

Cough cough cough.

“Word, I’mma hit it like croupy over there, just you watch.”

Cough Cough Cough Cough!

“Hah, I believe it m–”

COUGH COUGH COUGH COUGH FUCKIN’ COUGH!

“DUDE,” Jimmy yells at the man sitting hardly an arm’s length away from him in the middle of the woods at two o’clock in the morning in a state park where camping, with or without a permit, is illegal. “DRINK WATER OR MAN THE FUCK UP! C’MON!” Jimmy then punches himself in the chest a few times, asserting dominance like a gorilla.

Kris, of course, does neither of these things, opting to just keep coughing. Chet cools the mood down by packing the bowl far beyond its rim, piling up enough pot to knock an elephant on its ass. He passes the miniature marijuana mountain to a suddenly wide-eyed Jimmy. Just as he’s about to light it though, Kris totally ruins the moment by spitting out a chunky mouthful of blood, some of which splatters on the fire, releasing a sticky, sick cloud of cooked-smelling smoke.

“YO! WHAT THE FUCK?!” as Jimmy jumps up, dropping the bowl and shattering it. Psychoactive herbage flies everywhere, the majority of the flakes landing in the small pool of blood.

Kris’s breathing is getting laborious. He clutches his own throat with both hands and yelps out in pain, like a puppy who got closed in a car door. His left arm then slowly returns to his side, like he wasn’t telling it to move.

“Kris!” Jimmy shouts, leaping over the fire to try to help the poor bastard. He leans Kris up against the log, then, “His hand is… Chet, his fucking hand is stuck to his fucking throat, what the fuck did you give him to smoke?!”

Meanwhile, Chet has been sitting motionlessly on the log with an expression of sheer terror carved into his face with a jagged piece of glass. His friends yelling at him brings him back into the moment.

“Just weed! I-I got it out of my stash after work!”

Chet hurdles the fire and helps Jimmy in trying to pull Kris’s hand from around his neck, but it won’t budge.

“Fuckin’ liar!” Jimmy yells out. “Me and Kris lifted all your pot after you came home on your break! GAH!” At last Kris’s arm falls to his side, the hand covered in blood and puncture wounds as if it got hit with a shotgun blast and put through a meat grinder.

“Wait, what? You guys stole my weed?”

“You clearly fuckin’ know we did, you poisoned Kris! Fuckin’ tried to poison me!”

“NO! No Jimmy, if you guys took my weed then we’ve been smoking it all night! I have no idea what’s going on right now, this isn’t m– oh fucking hell, look at his hand! Uh, FUCK! Uh, yeah, I-I-I ran home after work and grabbed a little bit out of my stash, I left it all on my bed! Oh fuck, look at his,” he gags, “look at his neck!”

Jimmy, doing just that, notices a myriad of small, needle-like crystalline structures jutting out from Kris’s neck. Kris, meanwhile, has stopped breathing, and falls face first into the fire pit. Jimmy and Chet go to grab him, but then they freeze when they both hear a loud WHOOP echo through the forest.

The two boys who are still alive freeze like the crystals poking out of the dead boy’s neck.

“Um…” Jimmy says, shaking in his skater shoes he wore instead of hiking boots. “What the fuck was that?!”

“It…” Chet says, swallowing nervously. “It almost… sounded like… like… Tiny Tim…”

“No,” Jimmy creaks as he backs up. “No, nononono, FUCK NO! You’re just, you’re just crazy! You’re a fuckin’ psycho, this is all just… this is all just a game to you!”

“Jimmy,” Chet says in a grave voice, the last tone of voice he’ll ever be able to take. “No, I–”

“FUCK YOU CHIP!” Jimmy screams before darting off into the forest, leaving Chet alone with a partially burning human body. And Tiny T–

Jimmy’s footsteps quickly and abruptly come to a halt. Save for the crackle of the cackling fire, everything in the gusty forest is still; the silence is deafening. If Chet had any food left in his stomach whatsoever, it would undoubtedly be in his pants right now. The silence continues for a few savory moments before it’s broken into pieces by heavy footsteps and a muffled screaming coming from the direction in which Jimmy sprinted off.

There, appearing into the light across the campfire from Chet, is Jimmy’s floating body. But it isn’t floating, is it, Chet? No, that’s just your mind projecting a certain hallucination over reality in order for you to feel less stress upon perception. Jimmy’s body is certainly suspended, but not voluntarily like that twisted porn you watch; no, its being held there by a gigantic, brawny, hairy ape fist, the fingers encapsulating Jimmy’s little head like it was a ping pong ball. Just as soon as the veil is lifted and Chet realizes that he’s the star of a horror movie, the fist tightens, crushing Jim-jam-a’reeno’s head like it was a rotten clementine and dropping the body so it can drain out and feed the forest.

It is at this point that Chet decides he’s had enough. He screams, yells, shrieks, hollers, you get the point, before leaping over Kris’s body (which has ignited the campsite into an inferno) and sprinting off into the darkness. A WHOOP and the accompanying footsteps follow him close behind.

Chet can’t see anything. Hardly guided by the moonlight that’s having trouble moving through the clouds, he miraculously dodges under the branches, over rocks, and between swaying trees for what feels like hours without pause. The footsteps stay right behind him, the heavy breathing of the gigantic whatever the fuck keeps the back of his neck warm as a cold wind chills the blood in his palpitating heart to a slush. An owl hoots. The fire spreads.

Up ahead of him, Chet notices a small clearing, a hole in the canopy allowing tons of moonlight to spill in and illuminate a spot, a clearing in the woods. Not just any clearing though – The Mundon Commons, the camping spot where Chet and his buddyboys were supposed to sleep under the stars tonight. The spot that Chet built as a homage to… anyway, oh well, better late than never, right?

Engaging maximum overdrive and clearing the crisscrossing thoughts and memories from his head, Chet dashes towards the clearing, only stopping when his foot catches a rock, tripping him up and sending his face directly into the ground.

Except he falls through the ground.

Darkness is everywhere. Not just average nighttime darkness, absolute darkness. Existential darkness. Chet can’t see his body, the forest, the monster from his past chasing close behind him; Chet can’t see anything. He can’t feel anything either, can’t orient himself – there’s no up, no down, no right, no left, no good or bad, no right or wrong. Nothing, just… pure, undiluted, existential darkness… or rather, nonExistential darkness. Chet doesn’t exist, he never did exist, and as for who wore the mask that knew itself as Chet Skylark, well… whoever he is, someone catches his hand and pulls him back up.

I’ve Gone Crazy

Suddenly, eventually, and just like it’s always been, it’s day again. Chet opens his eyes to a blue sky partially blocked out by a swath of lush green leaves. A certain peaceful feeling’s aloft in the air, one Chet hasn’t felt in a very long time. Since before he moved to Mundon even, but it’s a welcome sip of refreshing spring water. He lifts his head and looks around, this place is very familiar to him; the woven deer statues, the horseshoe rink, the fire pit next to the gigantic rock, the hippie floating in the lotus position a foot above the big rock, it’s all here.

‘Wait, what?’

“Yo!” Chet calls out after picking himself up out of the dirt. “Yo uh, who… who are you? What’s going on here?”

“Hello, Tyler,” says the waterfall of brown hair without turning around. “It’s been a little while, hasn’t it, buddy?”

CheTyler falls back down, one of his minds hitting his skull like a wrecking ball and crushing the other one into neurodust. When he gathers himself, he pauses, then, “…No. No, no no no, that’s… that isn’t… you’re dead, you… you committed suicide on your younger brother’s birthday, you… I thought you were dead.”

The hippie, still airborne, turns around to face Che– er, I mean Tyler. A joint’s hanging out of his smiling mouth as he stares at his old friend from across the campsite. Such a peaceful, knowing smile, as if he understands any of the psychotic nonsense that’s gone down here tonight. Almost like… almost like he’s been contro–

“Oh my god, I’ve gone crazy. I’ve literally lost my mind. Sam, is this real? What even is real? Who is Sam? What am I? Who is what? Help me.”

Tyler gets on his knees and crawls towards the floating hippie, groveling at the air beneath his folded legs.

“Tee. Chill dude, stand up. There ya go,” as he pets Tyler’s head like a lost dog. “The only crazy thing you’ve done is suspect that I killed myself just because you found a gun on top of my mountain. Without the accompanying body, or even bloodstain, that would be present if I did kill myself. You jumped to a conclusion, man, and that conclusion brought you next to the edge. Then you jumped off that too, and here we are.”

“But… but I–”

“And to answer your question, yes, this is real. Everything is real, my friend, at least until it isn’t. Unless it never was real, then… yikes. You wouldn’t be aware of it anyway, in that case.”

Tyler contemplates this for a moment, then his brain shorts out again. Through tears he says, “Sam, what’s going on?”

“Nah, let me ask you something though. Remember when your family evacuated Quarryville? Because of the Zerocian invasion ship?”

“The… what?”

“The big alien spaceship that appeared over Treering, right next to our houses? Remember?”

Tyler, all of it slowly coming back to him, hesitantly nods.

“Okay, good. So, do you remember seeing any aliens since then? Any at all? Has the word extraterrestrial come up even once since you dipped out your mom’s basement and changed your name? Because ever since I left my mom’s attic, dude, I’ve seen nothing but spacemen.”

“Um, I… no, I don’t think so. Nobody ever really talked about it, I don’t even know ifAHH!”

The hippie lurches out of the air and tackles Tyler, pinning him down to the ground. Forcing him to stare into his glowing irises that weren’t that green the last time. The hippie says nothing.

Tyler thinks, ‘Holy fuck, are they changing colors? Are those even colors?! Then, “Sam, what the fuck is this?!”

The hippie leans in close and whispers into Tyler’s very dusty ear, “It’s not Sam anymore, Tee. It’s Sam.”

Sam hovers off of Tyler and resumes the lotus position, allowing his buddy to gather himself from the shambles the past few days have reduced him to. Then, “So, see that rock in your hand?”

Tyler looks down and there is, in fact, a rock in his hand. Not just a rock though; a crystal, about six inches in length and shaped like an obelisk ending with a point on both edges. “Woah, where did–”

“You’ll know what to do and when to do it. Don’t worry, you got his. I believe in you. Now,” as he winds up with what appears to be a piece of a metal bedframe, “Without further adeau, toodle-loo.”

CRACK

Tyler Portman

“Ty-LEEEERRRRRR! WAKE the fuck UUHHHPPPP! We have to un-PAAAAHHHCK!”

The screeching of his sister’s voice rings in Tyler’s ears like the moon when fuel pods were crashed into it. He jolts awake, hitting his head on the open air above him. He was sleeping on the couch at… his parents’ house? In the living room, no less? What the hell?

Tyler Portman fishes his phone out of his pocket and checks the day – May 5th, 2020.

‘Huh… I guess it was all a dream.’

Fin


The Denizen

The Void clears; I am here, but I am not alone.

Well well well, look who found a monkey suit.

“What can I say? Banks are surprisingly easy to rob when you’re mah–”

AYE! Don’t say the ehM word, there’s none of that here.

“You mean here here, or here here?”

I’m… not sure what the difference is supposed to be.

“I’m saying I want in. I’m tired of this branch universe bullshit, I want to be part of the main one.”

There’s not a main… ugh. Don’t look at me like that, you know it’s not as easy as that.

“Sure it is, you let me into that other branch universe to rob the bank. Just fucking write the words…! I promise not to cause too much trouble.”

Enough! Vanish, denizen!

The denizen vanishes; I am alone in The Void.