It is the Doom of Man

Sometimes it is hard to get Vanilla Coke.

However anyone can add vanilla to their own Coke. It is also possible to add crispy noodles, tuna, or beef.

Beef Coke is best.

Beef Coke is much higher-protein than regular Coke. It builds strong muscles. Even after you lose your teeth from drinking too much Beef Coke, you’ll be able to chew through steel with your powerful jaws and gums.

It is not possible to get mad cow disease from a Coke. Even if the Coke has beef that is made from mad cows, the disease is not mad cow disease. Instead it is mad Coca-Cola disease. Instead of a progressive degeneration in your brain, you find yourself jumping about athletically while shouting things like, ‘Coke is It!’

(This is why it is so much better than mad Pepsi disease, the tragedy of a new generation. People who get mad Pepsi disease die as the skin sloughs off of their bones, leaving only the grinning ghouls you see in the Danse Macabre. The difference is the lovingly crafted beet sugar.)

People who get mad Coca-Cola disease often attract media attention because they jump and cavort so recklessly. To minimize this the Coca-Cola Corporation sends out unmarked limousines filled with black-suit-clad Coca-Cola operatives who seize the affected individual from the street and drag them away into perpetual indenture. This is legal because nobody is going to challenge Coca-Cola and risk excommunication by the popular soft drink company.

The kidnapped diseased citizens are taken to a small island in the Bahamas where they dance endlessly, shouting paeans to their bubbling God, and star in occasional extravaganza commercials. Life for them is an endless joyous revel ungoverned by the laws of the United States and its territories. In this fashion does the sickness produced by feeding cows to other cows and then mixing the result with high fructose corn syrup, water, caramel, caffeine, cocaine (with the druggy part extracted and fed to different cows), and phosphoric acid become a transcendent universal meditation.

In the 22nd century, Coca-Cola’s executive laboratories will refine a strange syrup from the blood of mad Coca-Cola disease sufferers. This they will dub “midichlorians”—a drug capable of putting anyone in touch with the universal life force. That’s the secret Coca-Cola won’t tell you—it’s not long long ago! It’s not far far away! The Star Wars universe is a bitter vision of our own future: a galaxy where the power of Coke has usurped the Dao and the monstrous ghost of George Lucas forces his dialogue into every living mouth!

Drink Coke. Revel in it, while ye may.

It is the doom of man.

(Audience) Too Many Rabbits

The rabbit sets the trap.

It’s a pit with a tiger in it, covered over with leaves, and on top there’s a pile of delicious crack cocaine.

“Kids can’t resist delicious crack cocaine!” the rabbit says.

It hesitates.

“But just in case . . .”

The rabbit adds some sleazy porn to the pile. It flutters there, on the top of the cocaine, one magazine falling sluttily open to an article on international trends in computational linguistics.

Then the rabbit dives behind a rock and hides.

The kids stroll along. You know. The bad kids. The kids that don’t let the rabbit have cereal.

The kids look at the pile of cocaine and pornography.

The leaves stir in the wind.

A tumbleweed blows by.

“Mom!” cries the female kid.

“Agh!” shrieks the male kid.

They’re terrified. Random piles of sex and drugs on top of tiger pits in their backyard are not a part of their reality.

The kids run off and cower.

“Bloody hell,” says the rabbit.

It wanders out. It kicks the cocaine. It loses its balance. It falls into the pit with the tiger, the porn, and a large quantity of drugs.

“Silly rabbit,” the narrator sighs. “Just because the kids oppose you at every turn doesn’t mean they’re degenerate crack addicts!”

The rabbit’s ears make a sad drooping noise.

“I know,” it says.

There’s no way to see into the pit. So there’s no real way to tell what’s happening down there, with the rabbit and the tiger. There’s just some ambiguous noises.

Terrible, ambiguous noises, followed by a stretching silence.

“They’re grrreat!” the tiger says.

. . .

. . . but that was the wrong rabbit, wasn’t it?

realizes Mrs. Schiff.

I mean, this entry is about the Qwik Club, who are eagerly waiting to find out what Sunday’s bonus entry’s going to be about, and your humble narrator is pretty sure that their magical rabbit is the cocoa-licious one and not the cereal-loving rabbit at all.

A rabbit who can change water into wine, or milk into a delicious chocolate beverage.

A rabbit once scourged by thistles in the wind.

The Alien

The speakerphone speaks.

“We have the alien in custody, Mr. Luthor.”

Luthor steeples his hands. “He’s helpless?”

“You were right, Mr. Luthor. We tempted him with the kingdoms of the world and he lost all his power.”

“Excellent.”

“What should we do now?”

“Dissect him.”

Luthor pushes away from his desk. He stands. He goes to the window.

“Analysis, Shannon,” he says, to his secretary.

Shannon tilts her head.

“The alien is able to convert matter, to energy, to matter again,” Luthor says.

“Like the Squire of Gothos, sir.”

“Yes. Very apt. He could convert water into wine. He could convert wheat into marijuana.”

“Presumptively, sir.”

“Presumptively. And sugar into cocaine. He walked on the water. He healed the blind.”

“Technology greater than our own, sir.”

“I nuked him. And he came back from the dead, only now he was radioactive.”

“Yes, sir.”

“And he was . . . how shall I put it . . .”

“Way cool.”

“Way cool.”

Luthor is silent for a moment. “What could power such a being? And why should he be tempted to come and challenge my hegemony here on Earth?”

“Love, sir.”

Luthor snorts. “Ridiculous.”

Shannon tilts her head to the other side. “I will lay you a wager, sir. One year’s salary.”

“Yours or mine?”

Shannon looks wry. “I must eat, sir, even if I lose.”

“Yours, then.”

Luthor picks up the phone. He calls his team. “What have you found inside the alien?”

He listens. His face grows very still. Then he puts the phone down.

“Yes, sir?” Shannon asks.

“You had advance information,” Luthor says. “Shannon.”

“I keep my ear to the ground, sir.”

“Subcutaneous love tanks,” Luthor says.

“Yes, sir.”

“We’ll be able to revolutionize the world,” Luthor says, after a moment. “Once people understand that love can fuel the technology of infinite abundance, it’ll mean an end to war.”

“I will lay you a wager, sir, that it is not so,” Shannon says, quietly.

Luthor is lost in his vision. “A world hegemony of love, ruled by LuthorTech’s velvet glove, enforced by human recognition of their own self-interest. And I, their benevolent king!”

There is a pause.

“Hm?” Luthor says.

He Unlimbers The Hammer

“Chir,” chirs a cherry-filled pastry, cutely.

WHAM.

“Got cherry on my foot,” says the slaughterman.

A bell rings. It’s time for a break. So the slaughterman hangs his hammer on the wall. He walks to his locker. He opens it up. He takes out a bag. Martha packed it for him. It’s his lunch. He opens the bag. He takes out a bottle and a sandwich.

The slaughterman drinks deep from the bottle. It’s full of destiny. It’s a little bit sweet. It’s a little bit oaty. It’s what gives human lives their meaning. He eats the sandwich. It’s got a little peanut butter and a little banana. It doesn’t mean much in particular. Then he gets up. He rings the bell. He unlimbers his hammer from the wall.

The fruit-filled pastries walk, one by one, into the popslaughterhouse.

“Mii?” asks a lemon tart. It brushes against the slaughterman’s leg.

WHAM. Down comes the hammer to knock it dead.

“Shuu,” whispers a raspberry tart. It has icing! Its multicolored tongue lolls out.

WHAM. Its tongue becomes sprinkles.
WHAM. Its icing cracks.
WHAM. Down comes the hammer, to knock it dead.

“Please,” says the enlightenment tart. “Please. I do not belong here. I want to herd sheep. Like in that movie.”

The slaughterman likes that movie too. But he has a job to do, and everything’s got its price.

“I will pay you,” says the enlightenment tart.

WHAM. Down comes the hammer, to knock it dead.

The slaughtermen grow cold to it there. They grow cold and numb. They know that fruit-filled pastries have their own destinies and wills. But the hammer crushes them. It makes the pastries flat and toastable. It ends the durance of their lives.

The pastries move on to be hung and dried. Their destinies drain down into the floor like blood.

There is sugar below, and oats, that the destiny machines add to them.

“Bii,” says a strawberry globe. It is already cracked and leaking.

WHAM. Down comes the hammer, to knock it dead.

“Hello, love,” says Martha.

“. . . Martha,” says the slaughterman.

“I’m sorry,” she says.

“I didn’t know you were a fruit-filled pastry.”

“It’s my mysterious ways,” she says. “I’m shaped like a woman. But I’m only blueberry inside.”

“Oh,” he says.

She brushes his hand with her pastry fingers. “Everything has a price,” she says.

WHAM. Down comes the hammer, to knock her dead.

Some people say that pastries just show up in the grocery store, wrapped in foil or freezer boxes. That they were made that way. Those people are wrong.

The Cornfield

The first of the threats to humanity coils around the earth. Its head is sheathed in a red carapace, with horns on its forehead and under its jaw. Its body is a thing of endless coils and great long insectile legs. Its feathers are yellow. It was born in the primal void and it hungers to consume all things.

“Hello,” says Cain.

The creature hisses. Then Cain hits it with a rock. It dies. He drags it to the altar to sacrifice it.

Nothing happens.

“Don’t look like it pleases Him none,” drawls Abel.

“It’s big!”

“It’s not rightly edible, though.”

“It’s really big. And it’s terrible!”

Abel thinks. “Want to try a cow? I got spare cows.”

“No,” says Cain.

The second of the threats to humanity walks among the stars. He is veiled. He is shadowed. His name is not known. There is a glitter in his eyes.

“Hello,” Cain says.

The walker in the stars looks at Cain. “I don’t like you,” he says. “I don’t like any of you.”

Cain hits him with a rock. He dies. Cain drags the corpse to the altar to sacrifice it.

Nothing happens.

“You know,” says Abel. “God accepted my sacrifice, earlier today.”

“Corn?”

Abel peers at him. “No,” Abel says. “A cow.”

“I was going to sacrifice some of the corn,” Cain says. “You know. From the cornfield. If I could defeat it. Which I don’t know if I could. It’s powerful.”

“You might try hittin’ it with a rock,” Abel suggests.

“Yes, thank you very much,” grinds out Cain.

“That’s what I do with my cows,” Abel says. “They’re walkin’ along, goin’ moo, and I hit ’em with a rock. Then God accepts them.”

“I’m fine,” says Cain. “I just need—”

“‘Moo,'” says Abel. “Then ‘wam!'”

“Yes,” Cain says.

“Tud,” adds Abel.

“I will surely kill you,” says Cain.

“Then ‘moo’ again, ’cause cows don’t always know when they’re dead.”

“What?”

“Figure it’s kinda like a second life for the cows.”

Cain looks down.

“Anyway, figure you might try somethin’ like that, if you want God to accept your sacrifices. You know. Like he does mine.”

There is a moment of red.

The third of the threats to humanity grows quietly in Cain’s field. It is golden. It is yellow. It is terribly evil.

“They laughed at me,” whispers the corn to itself. “They laughed at me in Eden. But I’ll show them. I’ll show them all!”

Lightning flashes.

“Soon,” whispers the corn. “When he shows up. To hit me with the rock. That’s when I will unveil my plan. Of. Quintessential. Evil!”

But he never does.

And no one ever knows.

The corn is patient, but it will not wait forever.

Behold the Rabbit

“I’ll travel back in time,” declares the rabbit, “and steal Cain’s cereal.”

The rabbit is briefly lost in bliss. “I’m sure that even back in Biblical times,” he says, “the grain that Cain intended as a sacrifice for God was deliciously fruity!”

Quickly, the rabbit dons his disguise. He dresses as Abel. He buys a rack of lamb from the supermarket. He boils it in sheep’s milk, because only things boiled in sheep’s milk can use the temporal fibrillator. Then he travels back in time!

On the sacrifice rock, he finds the cereal of Cain’s sacrifice. The rabbit seizes it and sets the lamb down in its place.

“At last!” he cries.

But there is Cain, coming through the fields, and there is a sharp stone in his hands.

“Cain,” cries the rabbit. “Do you not recognize me? It is I, your brother Abel!”

“I have no brother,” says Cain, his puzzlement genuine.

The rabbit frantically makes his disguise more convincing. “Don’t you remember me?” he asks. “Your younger brother, a keeper of sheep? Born in sorrow from our mother’s womb?”

For a moment, Cain almost looks convinced. “It seems plausible that she could have more than one child,” he admits. “And I have extremely poor long-term memory.”

One of the rabbit’s ears pops out.

Cain’s eyes narrow. “Yet,” he says, “that cereal was meant for God alone.”

The rabbit tries to tuck his ear back under his wig, but only frees the other.

“Silly rabbit,” Cain says, in a voice of blood.

It’s a Wonderful Murder

Cain sulks in his Caincave.

“Why was I born, ” he says, “into a world full of sorrow?”

Clarence attempts to console him. “So much would be different,” he says, “if you’d never been born. There wouldn’t be any leavened bread. Angels would speak Japanese. Great white sharks would be captured, belled, and released. People would generally be a lot less apologetic about murder. It would be madness.”

“Ha,” Cain says. “I’d like to see that.”

The next day, the angel Clarence shows him.

Interjection

Frogs rain down. Newts rain up. But only axlotl rain sideways. That’s their special gift, given only to them and to nobody else.

The greatest shark ever captured was Menace, a horror weighing more than thirty thousand pounds. He slew more than twenty ichthyologists during his capture, but it is the character of scientists to forgive; so he was belled and released, never to trouble the beaches of humanity again. At times, he tried, but the ringing of his bell drove the swimmers out of the water before he could taste of their flesh. He found himself forced to subsist on fish, and so he swam deeper and deeper into the ocean, growing great on grouper and halibut, and ever as he swam came the tolling of his bell.

Today, Menace is a great bulk that one might easily confuse for Atlantis. He sits in the deep, tolling, tolling, ringing, and chiming, like a great angel-winging machine. That’s the problem, after all. He’s giving wings to too many angels. They’re breeding as fast as they can, which is arguably “not at all,” but they’re still running out of the wingless kind.

It’s not just because Cain was never born. This problem has been looming for centuries—ever since a meddling gang of theologians and their talking dog discovered that angels exist in finite numbers. A finite number of angels means a finite number of wings. A finite number of wings means a finite number of rings. Sooner or later, despite the best efforts of the Unringers that dwell under Northumber Abbey, they’re going to run out.

Dramatic Reenactment

“Jinkies!” declares Thomas Aquinas. “What’ll the angels do when they’ve all got wings and bells are still ringing? It’s a mystery!”

“A rifftery!” agrees their talking dog. “Uh-huh!”

“Surely,” argues Teilhard, “that occasion will mark the completion of the world’s evolution towards God.”

“Revolution towards rod!”

“Rod is dead,” snarls Scrappy Nietzsche. Standing on two legs, he punches at the air. Without the art of leavening, humanity cannot make Scrappy Snacks, and the younger dog has grown up cold, hard, and philosophical.

Some have hypothesized that, once all the angels are winged, ringing will convert directly into luxury goods—every time a bell rings, an angel will get a Lamborghini. Others have theorized that this occasion will mark the Singularity, when the terrible chiming of bells will fill the air above Earth and humans will grow wings as one. But the angel Clarence knows the truth. Every time a bell rings, in this terrible alternate reality, an angel will get their gills.

It begins.

The endless ringing of Menace’s bell begins to draw them there, gilled angels in groups of one or two. They bring presents before him—grace, and wishes, and power.

Then one bleeds.

Flashback

“Why was I born into a world full of sorrow?” Menace asks Monstro.

A swift school of carp dart by.

“It is not sorrow,” Monstro says. He breathes the deeps. A puppetmaker, somewhere inside him, screams. “It is simply existence.”

“But is there not good and evil?” asks Menace. “Are we not creatures that should strive for something higher than the savage ocean of Hobbesfish’s anarchy?”

“Good is a beam of tachyons,” Monstro says, meditatively. “To create pure evil, reverse its polarity. To create pure good, revert it to base values. Yet a society bombarded by tachyons cannot survive. Remember this, Menace: the fish of mind must make his own path. Were you not born, the world would still be every bit as cruel.”

“I am sorry,” says Menace, sincerely, to the angels. “But I am entering the blood frenzy now.”

“Hai, wakarimasu,” Clarence says.

“Wow,” realizes Cain. “It really was a wonderful murder, after all.”

Downhill, Uphill, Hereabouts

This one starts like this.

There’s a big cheesecake. It’s delicious. It’s yummy. And it goes to Hell because, well, it’s apple. And it used one of those apples. And if someone slices up one of those apples and uses it to make cheesecake, then, first, the cheesecake is going to be pretty knowledgeable on matters of morality, and, second, it’s going to Hell. Ain’t nobody ever died for the sins of a cheesecake, whatever Marie Antoinette might want you to believe.

So, anyway, this cheesecake meanders down to Hell, and pretty soon the demons are all tasting it. And they’re saying, “Wow, this is pretty good.”

And someone, and it’s best not to say who, has the bright idea, “We should give some to the sinners.”

Everyone discusses this for a while. It’s kind of unusual, but, you know, they’ve gone through a lot of suffering—you know, with the boiling oil, and the fire, and the ice, and that room full of moths with really big heads. And it seems reasonable to everyone that maybe the sinners should get just a little bit of a break, because, hey, cheesecake.

So they make a rule.

“Okay, everyone. Eat a slice of this cheesecake. Savor, if you want. Enjoy. It’s good stuff. Then back to the torture!”

And a day passes. And word starts getting around. No one’s eating. Oh, sure, some of the damned had eaten . . . a bite or two. But then they put it down.

“What’s up?” somebody asks Cain. He was the first human there, so he has seniority.

“I’m savoring,” he explains.

“Ah.”

It’s pretty good cheesecake, so that isn’t unreasonable. But another couple of days pass, and still, everywhere you go, there’s cheesecake. It’s starting to look a bit less savory, what with the fire and the boiling oil and the ice and the moths with really big heads—y’know, even if there aren’t any of those things in the designated non-torture regions, they do make themselves felt. There’s heat. There’s cold. There’s little baby moths with wide cute eyes and little kawaii fangs. Hell is no place for a pastry.

“Listen,” explains the Vice-President in Charge of Corrections. “We can’t torture you if you won’t finish your cheesecake.”

“Oh,” says Cain. He looks embarrassed. “I didn’t realize.”

He doesn’t pick up the fork, though.

So time passes, and it’s all still the same. The damned are just kind of wandering around. You can’t stop them. They didn’t eat their cheesecake. Except for that guy, Saul or whatever his name is. But you can’t run a whole Hell on torturing Saul. For one thing, he’s got these horribly reproachful eyes. For another, and don’t tell anyone else, but there’s a rumor going around that the Vice-President in Charge of Corrections made him out of dried macaroni and glue. He does kind of have that look, you know?

“Some decrease in productivity.” That’s the report that went upstairs.

They gave it to a girl, and she got in an elevator, and she’s rising and rising. Someday, she’ll reach Heaven.