There was a beheading in Moore, Oklahoma. That’s all the message said. I questioned if this was becoming a common practice, for just the other night someone down the hall in my shoddy apartment complex was beheaded, and the night before that, right down on my shoddy street, a hot dog vendor was beheaded just as he was slathering someone’s steaming wiener with relish — I don’t like relish. Then there was that incident down at the public library just about a week ago when a circulation clerk was beheaded after telling a patron he owed $1.25 in overdue book fines.
Machetes and firearms line every rubber raincoat now — as does madness in the minds of men.
“Thank God someone had a gun.” Someone said, in the Land of Violence.
And violence stirs violence until the only solution is more violence — more guns, more bombs, more tanks, more jets, more ships, more drones, more senseless destruction.
And the money we spend to kill and maim and rape countless cultures, could cure illness and starvation and homelessness ten million times over and more. We could actually nurture humanity.
On my way back the other day from the ice cream shoppe, I saw a campaign sign for a death cult touting the joys of the Space Force. Why!? Why do we have to militarize space? And to think we would have any chance against them up there. Dimwitted buffoonery.
And the Annunaki looked down from Orion and wondered what they had done.
Lord Femfatuntin turned to his lead galactic centurion and ordered, “Send down the chariots of fire, these idiots are destroying all my hard work… And Tome, if it’s not too much trouble, would you mind bringing me back a box of Count Chocula? On second thought, you better make it two.”
Tome the galactic centurion bowed with respect. “As you wish, my lord.”
I was sitting alone in my shoddy apartment eating a bowl of cereal and watching COPS when there was a knock at the door. I stuck my eye in the peephole but all I saw was a thick neck, some broad shoulders and a name patch that read TOME across the breast portion of a shiny space uniform.
I pressed my face to the door. “Who’s there? What do you want?”
“It’s Tome. I come to you from the planet Placitas.”
“I don’t know any Tomes and there’s no planet named Placitas. Away with you!”
“Please, Phil Paradise. It’s very important that I speak with you.”
“How did you know my name?”
“You are the spawn of my history — a child of Femfatuntin,” the stranger said.
I looked through the peephole again and shook my head.
“Look,” I said. “I think you may be on drugs, and I don’t want to talk to you. Please go away.”
“I can’t do that, Phil. The future of your very own existence and possibly that of the universe depends entirely on me speaking with you.”
“I don’t open the door to strangers.”
“I’m a lot bigger than you and I can break this door down,” Tome from Placitas threatened.
“Go away or I’ll call the police.”
The aliens in the hallway began to laugh among themselves.
“Oh no! Are they going to come arrest me for possessing a medicinal herb that comes from the ground?!” one of them said.
“They’ll arrest you for harassment and trespassing! That’s what they’ll do. You can count on it!” I called out.
“Your laws are pathetic and ludicrous,” Tome from Placitas said.
There was more laughter in the hallway and then the door opened, and they just walked in — Tome and his two alien sidekicks.
“How did you do that?”
“I’m an advanced being, Phil. It’s pretty easy.”
“You guys are very tall and shiny, but you look absolutely human,” I said in utter amazement as I looked them over.
“And you are very short and dull. We made you that way so you could never be a threat while you work, work, work.”
“I must be dreaming. Did I eat acid?” I wondered.
“Let’s sit down and talk,” Tome said.
“I thought you might smell bad, but you don’t,” I quickly pointed out.
Tome sighed an alien sigh. “Why is it that you Earth people always consider yourselves as the most superior creatures in the universe? You just assume that surely every other living thing out there must smell worse — I don’t understand where you get this false ego. I mean, you haven’t even mastered intergalactic space travel yet. The truth of the matter is… You’re just an animal who requires the use of hand sanitizer in a world that has gone horribly wrong.”
“Well, if I’m just a filthy animal why did you come to me?”
Tome quickly looked over his shoulder at his comrades and then back at me.
“You’re one of the few reasonable individuals we’ve been able to locate down here.” He put a large hand on my shoulder and awkwardly smiled. “Phil, we’re destroying the planet, and we want you to come back with us before we do.”
“Why!?” I yelled in defiance. “There’s no need for that! You’re talking about billions of lives!”
“You mean billions of morons, Phil! Absolute dashboard bobbleheads on the road to self annihalation.”
“You can’t do this! I won’t let you!”
“There’s nothing you can do about it Phil Paradise. Nothing,” Tome said to me with authority.
I scratched at my head and looked about my shoddy apartment.
“What about my things?”
“You won’t need any of it.”
“But, I have asthma. What about my asthma medication?”
“You won’t have asthma anymore where we’re going, Phil. Just close the door and come along,” Tome ordered.
There were some nice people on the spaceship, and I was well fed at a mile-long buffet. When the total annihilation of Earth came it was quick and clean, like laser surgery. They let me join them to watch on a huge monitor as Earth was vaporized — one second it was there and then it was not. There was some low-key clapping and some cheers and whistles, and then we all ate some delicious cake and drank the best milk I ever had.
Awhile later, I was sitting on a spaceship bench and was looking out a window as the galaxy rushed by. Tome came over and stood tall beside me and we looked at space together.
“You’re doing pretty well for your first intergalactic flight,” he said.
“How fast are we going?”
“Faster than you can even comprehend.”
I looked up at him. “There are others like me — sensible like you say — what about them? Why did you leave them behind?”
“We didn’t. We already have them, Phil Paradise. We’ve been collecting them for a long time — babies to octogenarians and beyond. I’m sure you have heard of alien abduction?”
“Yes, absolutely. I’ve always enjoyed stuff about aliens and space. I used to be Catholic but once the priests started ass-grabbing kids, I kind of settled on the idea that organized religion was a bunch of bullshit. Now I subscribe to ancient alien theology.”
Tome nodded his head, seemingly satisfied with my personal confession. “That’s good, Phil, and just so you know, you won’t be alone on planet Placitas, if that’s what you’re worried about.”
“I was wondering what it will be like,” I said.
Then something shifted in him, and Tome suddenly clamped his big hands to his head and groaned with agitation and stomped a foot.
“Oh shit! I forgot my lord’s Count Chocula!”
“He likes Count Chocula? The cereal?”
“Yes! It’s his favorite thing for breakfast, and lunch, and dinner. Damn it! And Earth is already destroyed. That’s just great! Bad shit like this always happens to me.”
“Calm down, Tome. I’m sure he’ll understand.”
“Oh, but you don’t know Lord Femfatuntin. He has anger issues.”
“But, can’t you just make your own Count Chocula here on the spaceship?” I suggested.
“We’ve tried that, but it just came out tasting like generic Count Chocula and he knew right away it wasn’t the real deal. He’ll only eat real Count Chocula made on Earth.”
“I guess you’re screwed then, Tome.”
“When will I get to meet him?”
“Maybe in about 400 years.”
After that, I didn’t see Tome the Galactic Centurion for a very long time.
They gave me a very nice apartment overlooking a tranquil sea of clouds. Maybe I was dead and there really was a Heaven, but I didn’t know for sure.
I felt alive enough when I went to the market on Tuesdays, and they gave me food. For free. Everyone got as much food as they wanted any time they wanted it. No one on the entire planet ever went hungry.
I had no soul-sucking job in the sense of having a job. I was merely allowed to have a satisfying task of my choosing, and that task was to read to wayward dogs and cats at Space Kennel No. 99. They enjoyed it immensely, evidenced by the plethora of wagging tails and gentle purrs every time I cracked open a new book. Dr. Seuss was their absolute favorite. I asked the animal handler, the odd Susan O’Neil, about it one day.
“How did you get Dr. Seuss books?”
She looked at me and smiled a tight-lipped smile and adjusted her spectacles.
“He’s here? Dr. Seuss is here?”
“He prefers to be called Theodor.”
“Well, where is he? I’d like to meet him.”
“He’s incredibly reclusive, but I do think he plays squash at the Stellar Sports Open Air Plaza every other Wednesday afternoon at 4 p.m., but only if it’s cloudy outside and there’s a chance for rain.”
“He plays squash in the rain?”
“So the story goes.”
“I wonder if he really eats green eggs and ham.”
“Hey Susan O’Neil, can I ask you a question?”
“Of course. You can ask me anything, former Earthling.”
“Does anyone ever get beheaded up here?”
“Beheaded? Do you mean like …” And she rolled her eyes and made a hand motion across her throat like it was getting sliced.
“Of course not. We’re not bloody asinine savages like they were!” she wickedly asserted, shakily pointing the tip of her finger toward that spot in the universe where Earth used to be. “This is Shangri-La compared to your own little version of a spinning blue hell. How on — what used to be Earth — could a species allow its own offspring to be cut down by a gutless murder machine, and accept it repeatedly?” She shook her bookish head in disgust. I must admit that Susan O’Neil was quite attractive for a Placitan. That’s what the originals were called — Placitans. And I suddenly was taken over by the desire to ask her out on a date.
But just as I was about to speak, we heard the haunting sound of the great gongs of Placitas reverberate all around us followed by the heavy march of the centurions and their steeds. I rushed out into the path lined by rubber trees and there I saw Tome the galactic centurion leading his troops to whatever trouble there was. I ran beside him as hard and as fast as I could.
“Tome! What on Placitas is happening!?”
He reached his arm down, snatched me up and threw me behind him on the horse.
“I couldn’t hear a word you were saying!”
“I wanted to know what the situation is. What’s with all the menacing war stuff?”
“They’ve come. We didn’t think their ship could make such a long journey. Somehow, they escaped before the annihilation, and now they’ve finally arrived, and we must stop them.”
“Is it something terrible? I don’t want it to be something terrible,” I cried out.
“Of course it’s terrible. Why else would we be going to war?” Tome answered.
“But you hate war. You’ve learned to put it away and live in peace.”
“Some things are worth fighting for when the enemy decides to impose its beliefs. Hold on Phil Paradise.”
“What is it!?”
“They’re trying to open a WalMart here!”
And that’s when the dusts of war raged, and Tome lit a fire beneath his troops, and I could barely hold on.
“But… Tome… Wait!”
“What is it, Phil!? I’m trying to lead the charge.”
“Wouldn’t the WalMart have Count Chocula?”