I turned off the water, grabbed a towel, dried myself, and then stepped out of the tub. I put my new clothes on, grabbed the pile of discarded garments off the floor, snagged my waterproof portable speaker from the towel wrack (which was happily kicking out the New Wave tunage), and opened the bathroom door.
I heard it before I saw it, a fluttering of wings, as I dropped my old clothes into the hamper. Then, stepping into the livingroom, I saw a winged serpent, twisting and turning in the air. It hissed and laughed and landed on the floor near the front window.
Then it spoke to me and said, "What are you doing?"
"Beg pardon?" I stuttered after a few seconds. (I see monsters frequently enough, but they rarely come into the house without being invited, and they tend not to be so inquisitive.)
"I said, 'What are you doing?'" the Snake said. "You can't afford to waste time, you know."
"I was taking a shower..." I said and pointed to the bathroom with my hand that was still full of portable speaker. When I realized it was also still playing loud music I switched it off and put the speaker down on the coffee table.
"This world is at a crossroads. Despair will begin to set in for millions of people and several species of plants, if you don't start spreading the Word of Light and Laughter pretty soon!" (It definitely sounded like the Snake capitalized the words "Light" and "Laughter.")
"But what can I do? I'm just a one guy, an unemployed, physically broken, semi-neurotic, weirdo---who's right on the verge of despair himself..."
The serpent rose into the air, flapping its iridescent wings. It began to glow, which hurt my pale eyes, and I had to shield my face with my hands.
"You will write!" the serpent said in a voice like a hundred overdubs---it almost sounded as cool as "Bohemian Rhapsody!" "You will write a new world, a world that will bring Laughter and Interest to a people swimming in Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. You will write about the New Ways of Seeing and of Hearing and of Dancing and of caring for certain species of plants..."
"Wait! I'll never remember all this. Let me grab my notebook..." And I DID grab my notebook, and I wroteth upon the pages. The serpent told me to make them laugh, make them think, and make them garden. AND he warned of the dangers I would face: Mr. Hologram, a deceiver, and a group of Shadowy Social Scientists, known as The B.O.S.H., who use cultural programming and psychology to trap and confuse humanity... The serpent stayed for 20 or 30 minutes, and I wrote down many things that it said. I offered it a cup of hot cocoa, but it said it was on a time-table and had to be in Idaho for another Enlightenment at 3:30...
"So I'm not the only one?" I asked, a little disappointed.
"Oh, Heavens no!" the serpent said, sounding a bit like Maggie Smith. "But I grant you this gift... Whatever you create, however odd or disturbing or wonderful, shall go out into the world and affect the minds of those who encounter your work. Use this gift wisely!"
Then the room went all purple and swirly, and then the serpent was gone! And now---as I prepare to go put the dishes away---I have a lot think about... I wonder how Bunny and Snake's coffee meeting went... I may need their help spreading "The Laugh."
---Richard F. Yates
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