A Guide to Giant Monster Country Cuisine

Visitors to Giant Monster Country often express an interest in sampling the delightful native cuisine. Here are some things you need to know.

First, it is not possible for the natives of Giant Monster Country to decide in advance which giant monster will attack. Thus it is important that the visitor understand that no matter how reasonable their requests the people of Giant Monster Country can only prepare the monster that is available. Most monsters are peanut-free but many are glutinous. One can expect several kosher monsters to attack in any given month, but a giant monster suitable for vegetarian consumption (e.g. a vampiric plant, radioactive plant, or evil plant) attacks only three or four times a year. The diet of Giant Monster Country is generally unsuitable for vegans unless they are visiting during Giant Robot Month.(1)

Whichever region of Giant Monster Country you visit will be attacked by a new monster each week. Currently the giant monster attacks on a Tuesday but the attacks are occasionally shifted to a different day or pre-empted for a message from a giant politician.

Once the monster begins its attack you should immediately rush to the street and begin pointing and exclaiming. As the people of Giant Monster Country say, “A monster that no one exclaims over can’t taste sweet.” The best exclamation is the monster’s name, which is generally written inconspicuously on its otherwise smooth crotch. If you wish to point and exclaim a monster’s name but are unable to read kaijukanji do not feel embarrassed about asking a native for help!

It takes roughly 25-50 minutes from the monster’s initial appearance for a team of plucky heroes to defeat the monster. Even if you are very hungry you should respect the customs of Giant Monster Country and wait until after the monster is defeated before taking your first bite. Also please do not bother the hotel chef about preparation details during the rampage or they may irritably claim that monsters do not exist and laugh you off as a drunk.

Do not expect to eat the giant monster in the American style, tearing off and frying or barbecuing large chunks. Every monster must be carefully portioned out and prepared so that it will last the entire region one week. This is the origin of the “eccentric” cuisine of Giant Monster Country; if you have ever wondered why so many recipes focus on unblinking eyeball soup or giant small intestines, now you know! They are driven by this inexorable economy.

It is proper to eat a slice of pickled ginger between each course of monster.

Sometimes a monster will be particularly tasty or, conversely, particularly high-yield.(2) In these cases you would think that the people of Giant Monster Country would preserve the excess monster against future famine.(3) This is not so. Monster meat must be used up within the week, if necessary by feeding it to pets or shipping it to starving children in China or India.(4)

Here is the reason.

Monsters are extremely durable. If you store or freeze part of a monster there is a very good chance that it will reconstitute and attack Giant Monster Country again. Everyone will say, “Look! This is what your arrogance has unleashed!” They will shout at you and call you a mad person. You will feel humiliated and may be driven out with pitchforks and torches. Nobody wanted to eat the same monster two weeks in a row!

The best times to visit Giant Monster Country are probably Sweeps Week (when the Iron Chefs are most likely to confront the giant monsters directly) and the summer. In the summer no new monsters attack Giant Monster Country; instead, various monsters that were particularly popular return for an encore attack. The annual return of everyone’s favorite monster, Crazy Love Fish, is the centerpiece of the quixotic but unforgettable Crazy Love Fish Festival; people say that if a bit of exploded Crazy Love Fish falls on you and your boyfriend or girlfriend that you will stay together forever.

Footnotes

(1) Giant Robots do not suffer, but only wish to kill.
(2) For instance, an environmentally-conscious team of heroes, confronting a Lernean hydra, will often take care to generate as many heads as possible before they kill it. This maximizes the caloric return on the energy they spend.
(3) Famine . . . from the FUTURE!
(4) Thus obviating their pedagogical purpose and rendering them full of lassitude.

On the Origins of Common Foods

Flying on a plane is very nice.

It is not as nice as wings. But it has more peanuts. Unless you are a peanut elemental, spreading great peanut-pattern wings. Then the peanuts of a plane are comparatively few.

This is not to say that peanuts are always an advantage.

Some people are allergic to peanuts. They do not value the peanuts on a plane. Some peanut elementals are allergic to peanuts. They go immediately into anaphylactic shock and die. We do not talk about them much unless they fall through our roofs, at which point it becomes difficult for the rest of the year to talk about anything else.

Some people are not allergic to peanuts. They have the advantage in that if they do meet a peanut elemental they do not necessarily die; and if they meet an elemental of non-peanut-ness, they are still generally all right.

(An elemental of non-peanut-ness is an elemental spirit formed from and exemplifying the conceptual category “not a peanut,” such that, when you see them, you immediately recognize that here is the pure distilled essence of not being a peanut—possessing none of the trace impurities that exempt most things in the world from Platonic non-peanut-ness. For example, the Earth is shaped too closely to resemble a peanut to qualify, while Eggos are legumes.)

This advantage of being able to survive contact with a peanut elemental is principally intangible and a matter of form (unlike the peanut elementals themselves) because peanut elementals are rare, and, when encountered in flight, have difficulty forcing their way onto the plane. Nor are they able, in this era of heightened security, to sneak easily onto the plane as a passenger unless they are willing to take off their shoes, limit their toothpaste allowance, and have names that do not resemble a terrorist’s name. (So, for instance, Mr. Peanut would have trouble, as would Al-Qaffar, but Mr. God of the Thousand-Slaying Legume Kick is probably okay.)

In the old days peanut elementals were a greater trouble for air traffic. This is how Mr. Carver invented peanut butter. People will say that he developed peanut butter in the laboratory but in fact George Washington Carver was the preeminent air ace of World War II. His contribution was ignored at the time as the United States government feared that, if they acknowledged it, the Axis would deride them as politically correct.

During one of many dogfights with German nationals Mr. Carver caught a peanut elemental in the engine of his plane and the rest was secret history.

But peanut elementals were not the only inhabitants of the stratosphere who would prove troublesome for air traffic in those troubled years. The Metatron Incident (wherein Metatron descended to the earth in a cloud of grace to reveal the new gospel and was caught in the engines of an uncertified Boeing) made angelfood cake possible for the first time in the history of the world. The efforts of hundreds of French chefs to reproduce this masterwork of massacre eventually created the “vegetarian angelfood” that we know today, using baking powder, whipped eggs, and flour to approximate the manifold virtues of Heaven. Masons traditionally added a snake, which they would wrap around the egg and convince to bite its own tail before baking; this added a sense of timeless mysticism to their delicious recipes and rightly they were honored throughout the culinary world.

The impact of the Metatron Incident was not to end there. Many of the people on the plane became focal points for mysterious phenomena. One of them, struck on the forehead by a bit of Metatron debris, became Billy Graham. Another became Vice-President Cheney. The plane plowed into the East Oak Lake house of a previously ordinary schoolboy; he would later grow up to become Noam Chomsky!

Tofu was originally made from ufos.

—Not to quit talking about Noam Chomsky when we’ve barely just begun, but he’s really not a common food!

So, anyway, tofu was originally made from ufos. Japan never admitted it, but you can tell because of the letters of its name.

—And why are the letters in tofu’s name in English, anyway? It was probably made from *British* ufos! Back benchers probably evolved into ufos because somebody fed them after midnight, and then they flew unwisely into Japan. All of this is hypothetical, because the true nature of the ufos is still unknown. But it seems likely—and yet, like Noam Chomsky, ufo pedantry is not a common food, and we must leave it lie.

Tofu, as noted earlier, was at one time made from ufos. But now it is not made from ufos. There are simply not enough ufos in the sky to support the scale of the modern tofu economy. So now most tofu is made out of a blend of textured swamp gas and weather balloons. Only trace impurities of alien origin remain!

Ballet is a wonderful art. Often in the grand jete the dancer will appear to fly. Conversely, while not so very grand, Boeing jets do fly. On one occasion, a joyous serendipity generated the Reese’s peanut butter cup; on another, to speak very delicately, battement fondu.

Ironically despite its historical origins fondue is rarely served on planes. One reason is that there is not enough leg room on a plane for a ballerina to survive. Confined in the middle seat they wither away and die. Another reason is that in the event of turbulence it is hard to explain to people that they will need to wear clear plastic masks to minimize the risk of cheese burns. The third and last reason is fear. In the post 9/11 era, fondue is just too scary for the no-longer-friendly skies!

That Moldless Legacy of Hell (IV/IV)

[The Island of the Centipede – Chapter Two]

Leaves scud about on the surface of the chaos. They are yellow, mostly.

There’s an odd amount of sky visible up above, thanks to all the heaving about of the tower.

Tep’s wearing a loose orange sweatshirt, now.

It’s the color of the powdered brick that had clung to him as he fell.

There’s an alchemy of combination to that. He knows. The brick had melded into him, right down to the bone, before his nature rejected it.

Werewolves are good that way.

They never let go of what they are.

They never let go of anything, really.

That’s why for the rest of his life, whenever he likes, he’ll be able to close his eyes and see the great sweep of Sukaynah beneath the chaos and the ancient crusted bonds that had held her down while he challenged her.

Crack the earth.
Stir the sea.
From the west comes an outpouring of virtue to make all things right.

The Island of the Centipede

“Don’t rightly know what to say,” Tep says.

Sukaynah breathes.

She does not answer.

If there is one thing he has learned from sitting irritably above her mouth for more than a century, it’s that Sukaynah doesn’t talk very much.

“How did it happen?” he says.

He’s asking about Ned.

And Sukaynah says, “He fell. He was old, Tep.”

“Oh.”

Tep had sort of forgotten that people got old. Even dogs.

“And the other thing?”

Sukaynah breathes.

“The tying-up thing?” he elaborates.

“I’d promised to make the sun go away,” Sukaynah says. “And I followed it all day, west and west, to the boundaries of the world. And the gibbelins tied me down.”

Tep whines softly.

Sukaynah breathes.

“I would surrender,” she says, “If I could. Because, in all honesty, I would not want to lose the rest of my teeth.”

“Well, that’s good,” says Tep.

He stares down.

But he can’t help grinning. It gets bigger and bigger.

“What?” Ink asks.

“I won,” he says.

The Tower of the Gibbelins
by Abel Clay

August, Tuesday 5, 1890, Today I fetched in a jellyfish that spoke & offered me three wishes, but when I asked for the death of God it offered me regrets & suggested that easier wishes would involve gold or jewels, which prompted me to great laughter as I am no doubt the richest man in all the West & I threw it back without acceptance of its offer.

January, Thursday 1, 1891. It is the new year. I have settled myself quite comfortably now and do not think I shall have the opportunity to dethrone the Tyrant; for my indisposition in its peaks and swells is worse on each occasion, and I have not cracked but the thousandth part of the gibbelins’ knowledge herein. Still I find that I am not so hard taken by this as Ned is a faithful companion & I have even grown somewhat fond of Tep & Sukaynah. How can a man find himself so comfortable with savage beasts when the Lord, that fount of goodness, proves a Tyrant? I wonder if we have been In the Wrong and goodness is topsy-turvy from the start.

January, Sunday 12, 1891. I saw him in the distance, moving on the sea, and cast my spear; but I have missed the Tyrant and so he shall remain upon his throne.

I am not certain of the date but I felt that I should close out this volume in some better fashion & not so much speak of my inefficacy as of the great and generous favors that Providence and my adversary have granted me & to acknowledge that in all the cruelty that harangues the world there is still grounds for hope for I shall not regret knowing Emma or Lily or Charles or Tep or Sukaynah & if you find this please take care to feed Ned & Tep & Sukaynah as I do not believe that they can fend well on their own;
Abel Clay.

There are a few minutes of silence, punctuated principally by the sound of turning pages. Ink is reading the journal of Abel Clay.

Then she closes it.

She taps her nose, looking very intent.

Then she takes off her backpack—pink and very flat and a bit too small for her—and puts the journal in it. In exchange, she removes a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It is wrapped in plastic and looks about as ancient as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich can look without actually being green.

She tosses this to Tep.

He catches it. He looks at it more or less as anyone would.

“Sheesh,” says Ink. “You people don’t know how good you have it.”

“Oh,” says Tep.

“It’s food! You chew it and swallow it and then it’s in your stomach fueling the divine fire of your life.”

Tep looks at the sandwich sidelong.

“That is the theory,” Tep agrees.

“Hey,” Ink says.

And now she’s looking solemn.

“If you’ve won,” she says, “you can go, right?”

Tep whines again. It’s soft and under his breath and not so much an answer as a vocalization before his words; and he shortly adds, “She is tied down.”

“You’d sit here for a hundred years waiting for a dead dog to come back and fight you,” says Ink, “and now you’ll stay until someone unties a giant sun-killing horror with limbs as big as jet airliners?”

“Yes,” says Tep.

“Outside,” says Ink, “there are a billion souls to love as you’ve loved those here; and sunsets like rocketfire; and candy with chocolate inside and letters on the front, if you can hold that thought in your head without going insane from the sheer head-pounding magical majesty of it—

“‘Cause, seriously, I mean, just think about that for a moment—

“and balloons that fly up to the ceiling and get stuck there until they die; and ten hundred zillion books; and bees made out of ice and bees made out of rocks and bees that have sex with flowers. And when you breathe there’s air and it comes into your lungs and they push out and then suck in like this,” she says, demonstrating. “And sometimes people light little sticks on fire and breathe part of it into their lungs and then spit out smoke just like they were tumorous dragons.”

“There’s air here, too.”

“Huh,” says Ink. She breathes again: it makes the sound ho-ha, ho-ha, but smaller than Sukaynah’s. “So there is.”

She grins to Tep.

“But I’m taking her,” Ink says. “You can fight me over it, and she’ll stay tied up here forever, or you can say good-bye, and go, and find other people to love out in the endless immensity of the world.”

Sukaynah has been shifting softly in her bonds, pulling against them, a tiny motion that Ink did not feel and Tep did not see until it stopped.

It is still now, below Gibbelins’ Tower.

Softly, Sukaynah says, “Go.”

It is like the lifting of a shackle. It is the ending of a hundred years.

Smiling wildly, and leaning out across the chaos to touch Sukaynah’s face, Tep makes his goodbye; and then, his whole body one great moment of transition, he goes up the wall and away.

What is the imago?
Why does Sukaynah even care that fig newtons are fruit and cake?
Why, in just a few short minutes, will a quarter of Gibbelins’ Tower fall into a jumbled ruin?

Check back on Tuesday for the exciting conclusion to Chapter Two of The Island of the Centipede:
Ink Indestructible (I/I)

“What are you?” Sukaynah asks.

Ink’s hand comes down to touch the surface of the chaos.

“I’m a destroyer.”

Mr. Enemy

Jeremiah Clean lines up the rational numbers. He looks at the grimy irrational numbers between them. He sighs, takes out his Swiffer, and begins to Swiff them away.

This kind of thing upsets most mathematicians. It has Cantor practically spinning in his grave. But that’s not what this story is about.

A terrible ray, a terrible horrible ray, a monstrous needle-thin ray certain to destroy the Earth, pours at the speed of light through the boundless reaches of space. It has traveled for nearly seven hundred years and soon it will strike. It will end life as we understand it. There will be no world. There will be no humanity. There will be nothing that we know. There will only be the Decohesion Engine, Principle of Omnipotence, power born in death and a terrible light.

But this story is not about that either.

This story is about Mr. Enemy. Mr. Enemy is flopped back on his jail bunk. His hands are folded behind his head. He’s laughing.

“Mr. Evans,” says Special Agent Melanie Cook.

The laugh cuts short. Mr. Enemy sits up. His motion is smooth and even and he doesn’t hit his head on the bunk above him.

“I’m not Mr. Evans,” says Mr. Enemy. “Though I used to be.”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s not important what your enemy’s name is,” says Mr. Enemy. “It’s not important what he does for a living. It’s not important who he is, really. What’s important is that he’s your enemy. Jeremiah Clean scrubbed me clean. He scrubbed everything unimportant away. So now I’m just Mr. Enemy. His enemy. If you know what I mean.”

Melanie looks at her notes. “You’re in jail for 1,427 counts of aggravated littering,” she says.

“90% of all crimes go unsolved,” says Mr. Enemy. “It should be 14,270 counts. But an adversarial legal system refuses me my due.”

Melanie frowns at her notes. “How do you aggravate littering, anyway?”

“It’s my special talent,” says Mr. Enemy. “Observe.”

He takes a cigarette butt out from under his pillow. He flicks it onto the ground in front of Melanie. The burnt end flares and begins to emit seventh-hand smoke—sixty-four times deadlier than second-hand smoke! Melanie quickly stomps it out.

“I’m not afraid of getting lung cancer,” she says, boldly.

I’m afraid of you getting lung cancer,” says Mr. Enemy sincerely. “I’m not your enemy. But I have to be as messy as possible or I can’t count it as a blow against Jeremiah Clean.”

Mr. Enemy pulls half a sandwich out from under his pillow. It’s covered in greasy saran wrap. It’s a peanut butter sandwich, so it’s not clear where the grease came from. He bites deep.

“What do you need me for?”

“What does it mean to you,” Melanie asks, “that you’re Jeremiah Clean’s enemy?”

Mr. Enemy gestures with the sandwich. Now there’s peanut butter on the cell wall. It’s a horribly artistic Rorschach smear. “There’s an obstacle in everyone’s path,” Mr. Enemy says. “There’s a stumbling block. Someone or something who gets in the way. Someone who is the antithesis of what you believe in. Someone who means, just ’cause they exist, that you can’t have what you want. That’s what it means to be an enemy. That’s what it means to be bad, you know, in someone else’s world.”

“Not everything has an enemy,” Melanie says.

“If we didn’t have enemies,” says Mr. Enemy, “we’d be as gods. Look.”

He holds up the saran-wrapped sandwich.

“Thon-Gul X is the warlord of a distant star. He would rule the world. He would rule everything. He would be the warlord. Except for saran wrap. It clings between him and his plans. If he could destroy it, then he would be unlimited. But he cannot, because saran wrap is part of him.”

“It was invented on Earth.”

“‘If only it did not thus cling!'” Mr. Enemy quotes in satisfaction. “That’s the lament of Warlord Thon-Gul X.”

“I find your evidence uncompelling.”

“Name something, then,” says Mr. Enemy. “I’ll tell you its enemy.”

“Pickles.”

“Cucumbers.”

“Pardon?”

“Pickles cannot triumph while cucumbers exist. Yet without cucumbers, there would be no pickles.”

Mr. Enemy finishes his sandwich. He tucks the saran wrap in his pocket.

“Reason.”

“The insufficiency of reason.”

“My imaginary friend Betty.”

Mr. Enemy laughs.

“What?”

“You’re expecting me to say ‘adulthood,'” he says. “But it’s not true. It could only have been the turtle-people.”

Melanie fights to keep sudden tears from her eyes. She can still remember Betty’s pleading eyes as the turtle-people tied her to the stake.

Mr. Enemy is staring at her. Then he looks down. “I’m sorry,” he says. “I didn’t know that even Michelangelo could be so cruel.”

Melanie shakes her head to clear it.

“So why are you his enemy?” Melanie asks.

“Because I understand what he does not,” says Mr. Enemy. “I realize that there is no finality in cleanliness save the empty void. I understand that clean and simple order is the enemy of the small things, that it has no room for small things, and that, in the end, we are all of us small. That is why I must oppose him.”

“By keeping half-eaten sandwiches under your pillow?”

Mr. Enemy shrugs. “The philosophy of disorder has its own philosophical flaws which we need not explore at this time.”

“It’s gross.”

“Agent Cook,” says Mr. Enemy, “Life is gross.”

Melanie sighs. Then she opens his cell. She walks with him through several layers of security, out of the prison, to her car.

“It’s nice to see the sky again,” says Mr. Enemy.

The sky is blue. There are no clouds. There is no sun. There is no moon. There are no stars. The sky is so shiny and clean Mr. Enemy can see his reflection in it.

“We tried to arrest him,” Melanie says, “but he just removed the unsightly federal agents with hot water and scrubbing bubbles.”

“He’ll do the same to you and me,” says Mr. Enemy.

“Then it’s hopeless,” she says.

She gets in the car. They begin to drive.

Mr. Enemy looks around for things to litter with. He finds a bagged and tagged corpse in the back seat, leftover from a deprioritized murder case, and heaves it out the window. It thumps and rolls down the road.

“If everybody did that,” Melanie says critically, “the roads would be trashheaps.”

“Enh,” says Mr. Enemy.

“So why are you willing to fight him,” Melanie says, “if he’s just going to mop us up?”

“I’m really more of the principle that he has an enemy than an actual enemy,” Mr. Enemy admits. He finds a Styrofoam cup and tosses it out the window. It hits the ground behind them and explodes into a steaming pile of goop. “So I figure, if he removes that principle, then he has no way to externalize conflict. Since the division between cleanliness and untidiness is itself an untidy thing, I think that might doom him—that he might become Mr. Enemy.”

“If he becomes Mr. Enemy, won’t that mean that you become him?”

Mr. Enemy spits his gum out the window. It gums together a spotted owl and a bald eagle, causing both to lose their aerodynamic qualities and plummet screaming to the ground.

“. . . don’t make me turn the car around,” says Melanie.

“Yeah,” Mr. Enemy says. “It means I become him.”

“You’re willing to become everything you loathe and oppose just to torment him?”

“I’m very good at being Mr. Enemy, Agent Cook.”

She sighs. “I hate working with martyrs.”

“I’m not a martyr,” Mr. Enemy says. He tosses his saran wrap out the window. It flutters in the wind and sticks to a tree. “I’m an aggravated litterer.”

“He mopped away the messy distinction between quantum mechanics and general relativity, you know.”

“I’m not surprised,” says Mr. Enemy.

They drive on.

Saran wrap clings to a tree. It is only scarcely conscious. It has only the vaguest notion that a ray sent seven hundred years’ distance by the Warlord Thon-Gul X is hitting it square-on from the depths of space. It does not know what it means that this terrible needle of decohesion energy threatens to overwhelm it. It only knows, as it has always known, that it must cling. It must hold to itself. It must endure.

“If only it did not thus cling!” laments the Warlord Thon-Gul X.

But enemies endure.

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.

Passing Odysseus

This is the story of Saul, and Meredith, their daughter Bethany, and their family ship. It starts like this.

The ship plies the sea.

“Daddy?” asks Bethany. “Have we tamed the oceans?”

Saul is at the helm. He’s wearing his captain’s hat, so he has to think carefully. He turns the matter over in his head. “I don’t rightly know,” he says.

“Oh?”

“Every year,” says Meredith, “every year, people come up with new and better boats. New and better ways to sail.”

It’s a narrow sea. It’s not much more than a straits, really, with two marked lanes and an elbow. The ship sails on.

“That’s true,” Saul says.

They pass a sign. It says, CREW REFILLS 1.5nm. Saul begins to slow the ship and move it towards the shore.

“That’s true,” Saul says, again. “But there’s something untameable in the sea. Something that laughs at man.”

“Huh,” says Bethany, and goes back to her coloring book.

“That’s how it’s different from the land,” Saul says.

Saul pulls away from the sea and into a cove. It’s a small cove covered by a pavilion. There are lanes marked in the water. There are two rows of great tanks, each full of crew. Saul parks the ship beside one. He tosses a rope to the tank. The attendant grabs the rope. Saul uses it to pull his ship close. He opens the hatch to the deeper deck. He connects it to the tank. He begins to fill his ship with crew.

“Don’t spend too much, honey,” says Meredith.

“It’s a big sea,” Saul protests. “We won’t get where we’re going without crew.”

“Use the wind,” Meredith says. “We’ve got time.”

“Feh,” says Saul. He adjusts his captain’s hat sulkily. But he stops with the ship only half-full of crew. He closes the hatch. He pays the attendant. He starts up a drumbeat on the stereo. It pounds. Beneath him, the crew begins to row.

They pass a sailboat. It’s straining at the wind.

“I drew a picture!” declares Bethany.

“Let me see?” Meredith asks. So Bethany shows her.

“It’s sirens,” Bethany says. “They’re the daughters of the sea!”

“They’re very nice.”

They pass a sailboat. It’s straining at the wind.

The drumbeat sounds. The crew rows.

They pass a sea serpent. A man and a woman are riding it bareback, outside the riding pavilion. Their faces are covered with salt and spray. They are laughing.

“Tsk,” Meredith clucks.

“Hm?” asks Saul.

“The sea serpents,” Meredith says. “They’re such crew-guzzlers.”

“They have to eat, honey.”

“It’s wasteful,” Meredith says, primly. She goes to the back and gets out a basket. She takes one of three foil-wrapped sandwiches out of the basket. She offers it to Bethany, but Bethany shakes her head.

“Unh-unh!” says Bethany.

So Meredith unwraps the sandwich and begins to eat it. “It’s bursting with peanut butter and jelly,” she says.

“Not hungry!” says Bethany.

“Okay.”

They pass a giant sea urchin. The sea urchin surges purply through the waves. Its riders are impaled on its spikes. It’s not that they like being impaled. It’s just the only way to stay on a giant sea urchin for any length of time.

“Some people,” mutters Saul.

They pass a sailboat. It’s straining against the wind.

Then they come to Odysseus.

He’s ahead of them in their lane.

“It’s Odysseus!” cries Bethany. She jumps to her feet. She goes to the front of the ship. She waves.

Odysseus is riding a giant tamago sushi. It putters and grumbles unhappy as it floats through the sea. The sign on its back says, “Wide load.”

Odysseus waves back. He looks somewhat resigned.

“Wasn’t he here the last time?” Saul asks.

“Nuh-unh!” declares Bethany. “He was back at exit 157. This is exit 169! Circe!”

She points at one of the sea signs.

“That’s very good, honey,” says Meredith.

“I’m hungry,” says Bethany.

“I wish he’d get a new ship,” says Saul. He points ahead. “That thing takes up two lanes.”

“Well, pass him, dear.”

Saul tries to look around Odysseus. It’s somewhat difficult. He sighs. He turns the drumbeat off. Slowly, the crew stops rowing and relaxes. Saul’s ship glides along gently, caressed by the wind, staying just a little bit behind Odysseus’ tamago.

“He looks like he’s having some crew trouble,” observes Meredith. She cups her hands to her mouth. “Hey! Are you all right?”

Odysseus makes a neutral gesture in the universal language of sailors. Then he bangs irritably on his tamago. The sea is getting harsher, the winds more stormy, and he’s low on crew. With a resigned look, Odysseus begins to pull over towards the exit.

“I’m hungry,” Bethany states again.

“Would you like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?”

“No,” Bethany says.

“We don’t have anything else, honey.”

“I don’t want that.” Bethany sulks. “Can we stop at McDonalds?”

“Today is a sandwich day.”

“I don’t like sandwich day.”

Odysseus’ tamago bumps into a reef. There is a terrible shredding noise as its seaweed binding comes undone. The last they see of him is Odysseus, atop a large clump of rice, desperately dog paddling towards shore.

“Oh, dear,” says Saul.

“Oh, dear!” says Bethany.

“Serves him right for buying a Pinto,” says Meredith.

“I don’t know,” says Saul. Their ship begins to pull ahead, now that the tamago is scattered. “I think the sea was against him.”

“Maybe,” Meredith agrees. Bethany is leaning off the side of the boat, feet kicking for balance, and tugging at a tamago iceberg. “Honey!” Meredith says. “Get back in here!”

“It’s made of food,” Bethany explains as Meredith drags her back, a head-sized chunk of tamago clenched in her hands.

“Good little girls don’t scavenge,” Meredith says.

The drumbeat starts back up.

They sail on.

“The sea is cruel,” says Bethany, tragically, as Meredith returns the tamago to the waves.

Dead Bunny Tango

Dracula is undead. Dracula defied God.

Hopping Vampire is undead. Sun and moon spirits animated his exposed corpse. Dracula cannot go to China. If he did, sun and moon spirits would animate his corpse too. He’d still have defied God, so he’d still be Dracula. Only, now he’d be Hopping Dracula. It’s too embarrassing!

Zombies are undead. Traditional zombies are people who just think they’re dead. Modern zombies actually come back from the grave to eat people’s brains or defy thermodynamic laws. If they ate Hopping Dracula’s brains, he’d be even more embarrassed. He’d have to hop and drool. No one would be seduced.

Bunnies are undead. Shops sell bunnies to children. The bunnies bite the children. The children turn into bunnies. The parents give the bunnies back to pet shops. That’s how the pet shops profit! Bunnies won’t bite Hopping Dracula. Since he hops and is undead, they think he’s already a bunny.

Bunnies live in pet shops. Pet shops keep bunnies in the back. They’re not safe in sunlight. The bunnies wriggle their noses. They eat carrots. They think about eating human souls. Pet shops handle bunnies with special holy gloves. The gloves are blessed by a priest. This keeps the pet shop personnel safe. If you have blessed gloves, you can handle a bunny. You can also handle bunnies safely if you can make the symbol of the cross with your index fingers. You cross one finger over the other. This makes the bunny remember Jesus’ sacrifice upon the cross. The bunny hisses. It withdraws. The bunnies still blame the Romans for that. If you don’t have index fingers, the bunny will devour your soul. Count your fingers before confronting a bunny!

Jesus’ sacrifice seems to have been good for sinners but bad for the undead. It’s not clear. Bunnies and vampires aren’t reliable in matters of theology. No one knows why they fear the signs of God. Maybe they’re not scared of the sacrifice on the cross. Maybe they’re thinking of James. James was the strongest bunny hunter ever. He also hunted vampires. He beat them up with a giant depleted uranium cross. He left a trail of blood across Europe. This was from the bunnies, not the vampires. When he killed vampires, there was no blood. Vampires do not bleed when they die. Instead, they turn into insects.

James killed bunnies. This made them bleed and fear the cross. He also killed vampires. This made them fear the cross and turn into insects. Then James would squish the insects. The insects turned into paste. This is how James invented peanut butter. He gave the credit to his good friend George Washington Carver. No one would eat peanut butter if they knew a vampire hunter invented it. People have a weird investment in the origin of their food. Once it’s dead, it’s just protein, carbs, and fat. Vampires are dead. That’s why they’re just food. If they were alive, they’d be better for testing pharmaceutical products on.

Peanut butter has a lot of fat. This is because the peanut butter farms overfeed their vampires. They do not give them good quality blood. They give them only the blood that they can’t feed to real people. Also, they give them a lot of peanut butter made from the bad parts of other vampires. Stink bugs! It’s very gross. Then the vampires are herded to a special room. Bang! An automated depleted uranium cross hits them in the head. They die. Bugs run everywhere. You should only eat free range peanut butter. That’s more humane. The vampires roam happily in airy crypts. They eat only the healthiest blood. It’s taken from people who don’t have anything better to do. Then the vampires are humanely killed using Buffy. Vampires love getting killed by celebrities. It makes their eternal night.

Bunnies are not as excited about getting killed by celebrities. Of course, you don’t make peanut butter out of bunnies. Bunnies don’t turn into bugs when they die. Most turn into dead bunnies. A few turn into mutated dinosaurs. Once, James made a horrible mistake. He killed the Easter Bunny. Bang! Raar! James felt bad. “I’ve killed the sacred symbol of the resurrection. I thought I was just killing an ordinary bunny. I’m sorry, Easter Bunny!” Then he took the little mutated dinosaur to monster island. “Run free, little Godzilla! Run free!”

That’s exactly how it happened; and if you watched the History Channel, you’d know this stuff too.

What It’s Like

I should probably quit it with the authorial interjections for a while and just tell the story of Hitherby Dragons. If nothing else there’s enough meta in the concept as it is without the real me sticking my nose in to say stuff in the first person. But sometimes I worry about what would happen if there was a virus on my machine that sucked me and my friends into a virtual world where we had to defeat an evil interpreter to return to our reality.

And okay, To be honest, I’m worrying about it right now.

I kind of wanted—before I, you know, spend the next few years of entries just telling the story—to get that off my chest.

If I got sucked into the world of the machine, would I be able to keep posting? What about posts that I’d already written? Would they get changed behind my back?

What if nothing is stable? What if the foundations of reality itself could . . . shift, like suddenly frictionless triscuits?

So I’m sitting here poking at my peanut butter firewall.

I don’t know if it’s what computer security experts would recommend. They’re probably all in the pay of sinister virus programs anyway. But I know to call it a firewall.

It’s called a firewall because you can’t actually burn peanut butter, and even if you could, it would taste pretty grody. I mean, really, really bad. So it stops fires.

And it works for stopping viruses. (Unless.)

It works for stopping viruses. The bits have to pass through the peanut butter in order to get to my machine, which makes them all sticky. Then they get swarmed by peanut-butter-loving white blood spreadsheet cells.

I’m pretty much safe. (Unless, until. . . .)

Until the virus writers start coding in sardines. ‘Cause sardines are the anti-peanut-butter. You slather peanut butter on a sardine and trust me, the white blood cells won’t want to swarm it.

They’ll just look out of their grids at me with that, “Er, yes, right.” look.

“Let’s not eat that,” their accusing expressions will seem to say, “and say we did.”

It’s hard to truly tame spreadsheet cells. So hard. I mean, you can make friends with them, but you can’t really domesticate them—one peanut-butter-covered sardine virus and it’s like they don’t even know you exist. And if that peanut-butter-covered sardine virus is also shooting lasers out of its eyes, there’s a serious risk they’ll turn against you.

The idea of my defense system actually working against me to suck me into the computer world . . .

It’s like a living nightmare that hasn’t ever happened.

You know.

Like that one where zombie Nixon attacks.

Don’t look at me that way. When Nixon says he’s going away for good, you know he’ll be back. You can’t trust Nixon! He came back to politics, and he’ll come back from the grave.

You’ll be sitting around planning Democratic strategy, and his zombie Pekingese minions will come in and start measuring your brain, and you’ll go, “Er, what?”

And they’ll say, “We’re just here to . . . adjust the . . . wastebaskets.”

And you’ll say, “Oh, carry on, then,” but they’re not wastebasket adjusters, they’re zombie Pekingese minions of a corrupt and evil ex-President who wants to eat your brain.

See? It’s like that.

Anyway, everything you see here for a while will be a letters column or a helpful data sheet or one of Jane’s shows. Unless there’s a number in the title. For some reason, the numbers mean that what you’re reading is a real history or a real story from Jane’s world.

Sardines are scared of numbers because they can’t count the reals—right?

Tell me it will keep me safe from the shifting, terrible changing chaotic nature of the world.