I'm sure when @Neoxian announced his post-apocalyptic fiction contest that he in no way suspected to receive entries quite like the one you're about to read here. In truth, I did not suspect that I would offer it as a contest entry. But, as I thought about something I could write, it occurred to me that, if I was going to do justice to the genre, I was going to have to do a fair amount of research to dig into a variety of causes of apocalyptic scenarios, but since my wife had already made plans for me today, I didn't see that happening in short order. So I dug up this blast from the past.
It's a slightly revised version of a story I wrote some years ago (and published on Amazon in 2013) with a head nod to one of my favorite 20th century writers, Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
Now, I'm not saying I write as well as Mr. Vonnegut, and I'm not saying "The Saddest Tale Ever Told" approaches anything of value as, say, Cat's Cradle or Slaughterhouse-Five, but it is written in the same vein. That is to say, heavily satirical without losing any of the flavor of the genre in which it causes trouble, and wildly absurdist in nature. All of my favorite elements--apocalyptic, pseudo-scientific, absurdist, satirical, and irreverent. I'll warn you, it is somewhat NSFW, so if you have heart problems, are older than 70 years old, suffer from stick-in-the-mud disease, or just plain don't like to laugh, then move on to read something more to your temperament. And without further ado, I give you "The Saddest Tale Ever Told."
E-book cover created by mtgnmc for a measly fiverr
The Saddest Tale Ever Told (Reprise)
Ol' Randall Jaworski was a mutant. He was born with one eye and three heads, was bowlegged with a club foot, and had two hare lips. All three foreheads were elongated and pointed at the top. Had it not been for the big clumps of hair on those towers he'd have looked like a triumvirated conehead. Little nubs - elbows - protruded from just above his rib cage then extended into forearms before expanding into six-fingered palmless hands, one of which possessed two thumbs. To top it off, he grew to be only three feet four inches tall. Poor little man, he was all jacked up.
I'd say Randall drew the short straw, but truth is, he was two inches taller than me. And that's when I wore my hat.
But he was a peaceable guy. Everyone loved him. And that's why it came as a shock when his life took a turn toward a sudden and ill-fated end.
The first time I met Randall was at St. Pelaski's one and only bar and grill, aptly named Marvin's Milkshake Pub and Plastic Emporium. The year was 2221 in the year of our Lord.
Marvin made the best vodka milkshake in South Indiana – what the local folks now call Sindiana. He also carried the largest selection of kink paraphernalia in the whole Western world. One of the few things I remember about that night in 2221 Anno Domini is that Ol' Randall spent the entire evening trying to score a kiss from a three-armed hunchback finger swirling a milkshake she avoided drinking. Her name was Miss Suzie Wankenspank.
Randall hopped his little steel-toed work-boot-wearing midget ass upon a barstool and proceeded to ask Miss Suzie for a lip lock of the grandest fashion.
"Oh," said Mouth One.
"Come," said Mouth Two.
"On," said Mouth Three.
"Plant": Mouth Two.
"Those": Mouth Three.
"Ruby": Mouth One.
"Reds," said Mouth One again.
"Right," Mouth Three followed.
"Here," Mouth Two said with finality.
Then he placed his right forefinger up to his leftmost gobbler, puckered his lips, and pumped his one-eyed head forward and back like a side-valve piston.
If you’d have seen him standing on that barstool just tall enough to stare Miss Suzie eye to eye, you’d have known how special he was to those of us who knew him.
Miss Suzie sat perched all lady-like on her barstool, prim and proper as a strawberry shortcake, and didn’t flinch an inch as Randall’s browless lashless eye circled round and round above his big pug nose. The only time it didn't move was when his lips were flapping.
I almost felt sorry for Miss Suzie, who didn't miss a beat scooting down to the other end of the bar. Ol' Randall jumped on the bar, dragged his club foot down the length of it, and met Miss Suzie at the other end to beg her again for that smooch. Sad thing, but Ol' Randall didn't get his kiss that night. What he did get was a slap in triplicate.
I decided right then, don’t ask me why, that I should go to Miss Suzie's rescue. As the shortest man in St. Pelaski history, I was the last person you'd expect to defend the honor of an eight-and-a-half foot giant like Miss Suzie Wankenspank. But I was full of three tall glasses of vodka milkshake and an ego bigger than a Sindiana disco.
"Is this man bothering you, madam?"
"I think I've got him handled," she said.
"Oh, you can handle me any time," Randall's mouths chimed in succession. Then he tapped a little jig on the edge of the bar. When he lost his footing and tumbled onto the floor, every patron in Marvin's laughed. Randall brushed it off and showed himself a good sport. He bought everyone a drink – even Miss Suzie.
Rather than press his luck, Randall decided to hang out on my end of the bar awhile, and we soon became friends. I'd consider him a friend to this day if he hadn't gone to see the Big Bartender in the Sky.
My second encounter with Randall was on the street corner in front of Marvin’s, four days after the Miss Suzie incident.
He came be-bopping home from a church picnic on a late Sunday afternoon, club foot dragging, knees clanking like a brass door knocker, and heads bipping and tripping with his crazy ocular flutter. There I was standing on the corner, minding my own. And smoking my corncob hookah.
Bam! One of those hairy conical heads slammed right into my ordinary noggin.
He didn't do it on purpose, I don't mean that. He went to make a left turn after crossing the street and cut the corner a little too sharp. With only one eye, Randall had a slight deficit in depth perception.
At any rate, Ol' Randall apologized. He even offered to buy me one of Marvin's famous vodka milkshakes. That was just the kind of guy Ol' Randall was. Even if he didn't like you, he'd buy you a vodka milkshake.
Since then, Randall and I, we've been to Marvin's every Sunday afternoon for going on one-hundred-thirty-two years. Well, until that fateful day I'm about to sing about.
At first, Ol' Randall, Miss Suzie, and I were the only freaks at Marvin's pub. One day, while we were sipping and lipping, a woman with three breasts and four arms walked in. She was perfectly normal except for those two anomalies. She just walked right up to the bar and ordered a drink.
"I'll have a Mud In A Bucket!"
"Right away, Mrs. Offenshaft," said the bartender, a burly man named John.
He put all orders on hold until Mrs. Offenshaft's cocktail had been served. Me and Randall, we turned our heads toward each other and guffawed. We had no idea what made Mrs. Offenshaft so royal that she moved to first place in the spirits line, but it had to be something good. We were certain. Later, we discovered Mrs. Offenshaft was Sindiana's first prime minister.
The secession of Sindiana from Indiana proper is now the most talked about historical event of the Western world. I mean, besides The Big Explosion. Late in the twenty-first century, a small farmer on the southeastern corner of Indiana wanted to grow an illegal substance. State authorities denied his request for a variance so he incorporated his five-thousand acre farm and declared it an independent nation. Richard Pelaski was the farmer's name.
As it turns out, Mrs. Luci Offenshaft was the sole remaining heir to the Pelaski fortune. She married a city boy with an engineering degree, and when her father died–Richard Pelaski's only son–the Offenshafts built the sole city in Sindiana and called it St. Pelaski. Mrs. Offenshaft, I later found out, was also the inspiration behind the mixed drink Mud In A Bucket, an exclusive of Marvin's Milkshake Pub and Plastic Emporium. Word on the street is she patented the biggest selling item in Marvin's storefront. The item, called "The Luci Goosey" by its fans, was a multi-headed strobe-emitting vibrating group sex toy. Turns out, it's the most popular battery-operated product in the Western world.
"Hey," Randall yelled across the bar at the girl with three tits. "Where you from?"
He said it so fast I couldn't tell which mouth was saying which word. Mrs. Offenshaft heard him and strolled over to where we sat on our elevated barstools. That's when I noticed her t-shirt printed with these words across her chest: "SAVE the TRIPLETS."
"Blue Springs, Nebraska" she said. "And you?"
"Is that right?" Randall turned his one-eyed head toward Mrs. Luci. The other two heads hovered near her outer breasts, gawking like robotic perverts of the friendliest order.
"Lincoln, myself," he chortled.
Not wanting to be left out, I shouted, "Edgar!"
It's not often you find three mutant Nebraskans all in one place, especially in Sindiana.
It was in Nebraska–as a matter of fact, in the little town of Abie, not far from my hometown of Edgar–where The Big Explosion took place years before any of us were born. A truck driver transporting several cases of nuclear-powered vibrating butt plugs veered off the road in his sleep and crashed into a corn field. Reports say he had no idea the manufacturers failed to remove the plutonium batteries as was required by their SOP and the law. Older folks at the time say it set off a kinetic chain reaction that caused the whole town to be swallowed by a mushroom cloud.
One urban legend says it was a terrorist attack made by a group of overzealous Turks. Another local legend claims it was some kind of secret government plot to rid the world of Abie. The official government investigation that followed says the truck driver was drunk behind the wheel, but I don’t believe it. Whatever the truth may be, it subsequently led to a string of birth defects to children born the years immediately following. Of course, Randall, Miss Suzie, and I were all among those affected.
As it turns out, Prime Minister Luci Offenshaft’s mother had left Luci’s father two months before Luci was born and took up residence in Nebraska. That explains how our head of state came to have three tits.
When we all discovered we were born a few miles, and a few short years, apart, we high-fived each other–high-sixed in Randall's mutated case–to a grand total of eighteen hands slapping together in Marvin's lovely and plasticized dairy air. Then Mrs. Offenshaft and Ol' Randall, to my sheer amazement, ended our celebration with a quintuple-breasted chest bump. Miss Suzie was not at that chance meeting.
As events turned out, that very night was Mrs. Offenshaft's first night in St. Pelaski after returning to Sindiana from radioactive Nebraska. We toasted her return with vodka milkshakes, and Randall and I swore we'd someday attend one of her Luci Goosey parties. Too bad Ol' Randall's early demise preceded that potential event.
Nevertheless, from that moment on, we three became a regular item. We started the St. Pelaski Freak Club at Marvin's together. We elected Randall its first president. Even Miss Suzie became a member eventually, and one day Ol' Randall got his coveted kiss. People from all around the country migrated to Sindiana to attend our meetings, even from as far away as Alaska. In just a couple of years, St. Pelaski was hustling and bustling with freaks from all around the world. And they all had one thing in common. They were born within a two-hundred mile radius of Abie, Nebraska. By the start of the twenty-third century, freaks in St. Pelaski outnumbered non-freaks three to one.
The growth of the St. Pelaski Freak Club even led to some progressive legislation in Sindiana. We were the first nation in the world to pass the Freak Genetically Pure Civil Union Act, allowing for intermarriages between freaks and non-freaks. It was Prime Minister Luci Offenshaft who signed that landmark bill.
Then one day, a stranger walked into Marvin's looking for Mrs. Luci. He was no freak. He stood six feet two inches tall, had a barreled-out testosterone-blasted chest, a normal pair of arms and legs, eye sockets perfect in every way, a couple of really shiny ears, and a giant cowboy hat on his fat round head. The moment I saw him I shouted, "Hey, look, it's Wyatt Earp!"
Every head turned. All three of Randall's even.
I don't know what made Wyatt hone in on Randall, but he did. He saw those three little pointed heads and walked right up to give Randall some of that down home cowboy business.
"You making fun of me?" he said.
"No sir," Randall said, in the order of Mouth Two, Mouth Three, Mouth One.
"I said it." I leapt up and stood nose to nose with Mr. Earp's brass belt buckle sporting ivory steer horns. It looked like the grille of a Texas rancher pimp’s Cadillac. Wyatt stuck his hand on my forehead and shoved me back down in my seat.
"Mute it, mutant!"
Then Mrs. Luci came running in from the back of Marvin's Milkshake Pub and Plastic Emporium screaming and screeching, "Don't come in here picking fights with my friends, you Nebraskan corn hole licker. Don't come here with a cob up your overgrown ass bullying up on my freaky friends!"
And then he and Mrs. Luci walked outside. An hour later, Mrs. Luci walked in the door again, this time in tears. Wyatt didn't return.
"What's wrong, Luci?" Randall asked with his characteristic conservative compassion.
"He's going to kill me. Oh, Jesus, he's going to kill me," she said through freaky mutant sobs.
For half an hour, that's all we could get out of her. Randall and I thought she meant Wyatt Earp, but it turns out she was referring to her husband, Earl Offenshaft, the patron of St. Pelaski. Earl rarely entered Marvin's and was seldom seen in public, but he was as ugly as any freak in Sindiana. He built most of the tall buildings in town and gave our great nation the best wind-powered electrical grid in the entire Western world. He was a genius of the tallest order. But why, we wanted to know, would he kill our beloved Mrs. Luci?
Finally, Randall and I were able to pull it out of her.
"I'm pregnant," she sobbed. "And it's not Earl's!"
As events would play out, Wyatt Earp was the father of Mrs. Luci's unborn. And you should have seen the looks on Randall's three faces when he figured out that Wyatt and Mrs. Luci had been lovers in Nebraska and Ol' Earl was as clueless as a blind seeing-eye dog. But that wasn't the only secret we would learn that night. Ol' Randall wanted to soothe Mrs. Luci's eyes from her sad tears, so he offered her the most consoling words he could think of.
“Don't worry, Luci,” he said. “We all have our issues. Look at me. I'm still a virgin. An' I reckon I always will be.”
It worked. Mrs. Luci laughed, and we all enjoyed another vodka milkshake.
The next night, Randall and I were enjoying our third vodka milkshakes of the evening. Marvin's had a full house that night when Wyatt walked in the door. The air was cold and crisp as Wyatt, chewing a mouthful of orange pekoe, spat a wad on Marvin's marble floor.
Wyatt looked at Randall and laughed, towering over Randall's three furry spires and jeering like a rodeo clown. That unnerved Randall to no end. Like a bowling ball headed for the gutter, Ol' Randall jumped off his barstool and rushed upon Wyatt, mongrel teeth a chattering. I've never seen him move so fast. Before Wyatt knew what hit him, Mouth One's Gollum-like fangs sank into his cowboy inner thigh about an inch below the crotch and hung there like a fish on a trotline.
I couldn't believe my eyes. Ol' Randall's teeth chomped into Wyatt's rough-as-leather cowboy leg so fast I never saw it coming. It was the only time I'd seen the little freak get violent, and it would be the last.
And much to my dismay, Mouth Two reached around Wyatt's other leg fast as lightning and snagged onto the back side of his raw cowboy flesh. Mouth Three, the hungriest of all, jabbed into the front part of the same hairy thigh, just above Wyatt's fat kneecap, and ripped into Wyatt's skin like a jaguar into monkey flesh. It hurt looking at it.
Ol' Wyatt let out a yell like a banshee being sodomized. Every head in Marvin's turned–except Randall's–and the only noise we could hear was Wyatt's over-the-rooftops yelp, a wolf howl so loud it drowned the music blaring from the speakers in Marvin's classic barn loft ceiling.
Poor Randall. He didn't stand a snowball's chance in Sindiana. Wyatt, screaming and yelping, slammed his huge cowboy hand down on one of Randall's pointy little heads. Randall fell to the floor, taking some of Wyatt's flesh with him. Then that overgrown cowboy turned and walked out like a lumberjack heading into a forest. We all thought that was the end of it, but two minutes later Wyatt returned with two six shooters slung on a holster thrown over his fat cowboy shoulders.
Randall stood. Head Three turned, then Head Two, and my little virgin friend stood facing Wyatt snarling like a hungry dog. The meanest cowboy in Sindiana drew both pistols, pulled the triggers, and shot Randall in his two eyeless foreheads. Randall turned Head One just in time to watch the others fall limp, then he slumped forward and hit the floor like a bag of fresh turnips. Wyatt walked out with two smoking guns, leaving us all in a glaze of fear and apprehension.
I ran to Randall's aid with a vodka milkshake in my jittering hand. As I reached the best friend in the Western world, a six-eyed doctor with five legs sauntered to my side. He checked Randall's pulse, and with ice in his baritone voice announced, "As dead as a cancer cell."
My nerves shook so hard I spilled milkshake all over Randall's lead-plugged heads. All I could do was think, Poor Randall, he didn't stand a goddamn chance. And there he lay, after two hundred fifty three freakish years, nothing but a milkshake-coated virgin in St. Pelaski, Sindiana.
Review Me, PLease
If you'd like to read more stories of this flavor, try these:
The following stories are contest entries for the Steem Monsters fantasy lore backstory contests:
- Feral Spirit: Steem Monsters Character Card Backstory Entry
- Feet of Clay, Heart of Flesh
- The Ballad of the Crustacean King
- How Magic Was Born
- Enkidu the Fire Beetle
The following audio recording was used as an audition piece for a Steem Monsters voice actor position:
While you're here, you might also enjoy some poetry:
- The Ballad of the Crustacean King
- Nocturne: Battlefield Sonnet
- 20 Acres
- The Journeymaker's First and Last Hope
- Old Goth
And this miscellaneous writing:
The backside 5 (my latest five posts):
- Feral Spirit: Steem Monsters Character Card Backstory Entry
- Butter Me a Crypto Biscuit! Bitcoin Looks Like Dennis Rodman!
- Twisted Jester - Steem Monsters Voice Actor Audition
- Ulog #2: What I Didn't Do Today
- #MinnowUprising: Please Don't Swallow Me Up
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Animation By @zord189
created and used by veterans
with permission from @guiltyparties