Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Twilight of the demi-gods

Here’s some good advice – never wash down sausage and sauerkraut with a couple of beers right before bedtime. I had this dream, see…

I stood in front of a pair of huge wooden doors at the top of an endless staircase. They opened slowly, creaking on rusty hinges. Inside was a huge chamber lined with columns and at the far end, a raised dais. I walked slowly toward it, slowly because there was some nameless horror sitting behind that bench. Even now, I can’t describe it adequately. My fear and loathing wouldn’t allow my eyes to settle on any one part for more than a second or two. I had only a general impression of teeth and tentacles, pustules and oozing slime, and thick clumps of rank, foul-smelling hair.

Instantly, I knew who he was. I’d read Lovecraft back in high school, and this passage from “The Call of Cthulhu” popped into my head:

“If I say that my somewhat extravagant imagination yielded simultaneous pictures of an octopus, a dragon, and a human caricature, I shall not be unfaithful to the spirit of the thing. A pulpy, tentacled head surmounted a grotesque and scaly body with rudimentary wings... It represented a monster of vaguely anthropoid outline, but with an octopus-like head whose face was a mass of feelers, a scaly, rubbery-looking body, prodigious claws on hind and fore feet, and long, narrow wings behind. This thing, which seemed instinct with a fearsome and unnatural malignancy, was of a somewhat bloated corpulence…”

There was a long silence. The creature bent over his bench, apparently reading some papers. I screwed up my courage, and hesitantly asked, “Sir, why am I here?”

“SILENCE!” he bellowed. The word echoed through the vast chamber.

I stood quietly and waited, not daring to look at the monstrosity. Finally, he put the papers aside and addressed me. “DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?” he roared.

“Y-yes”, I stammered, “You’re Cthulhu the all knowing and all powerful, capable of bending time and space. Am I dead?”

He laughed, and I pray to never hear that laugh again. It held nothing but malice, a laugh that held out the prospect of eternal torture, degradation, and despair.

“NO, YOU ARE NOT DEAD, VERMIN, THOUGH YOU MAY WISH IT BEFORE LONG! DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOU ARE?”

“I thought I was dead and this was Judgment Day”, I replied. “Please, could you turn down the volume a bit because the echoes make it difficult to understand.”

“VERMIN, YOU ARE NOT DEAD! Oh, sorry.” He turned the volume down. “You’re in Traffic Court.”

“Traffic court?” I started laughing. “Cthulhu the all-powerful is in charge of traffic court!”

I laughed again. His gavel banged and I spent an eon as an insect chittering in fear under a rock.

Suddenly I was back before the bench. “I DEAL STRONGLY WITH CONTEMPT!”, he bellowed.

“OK, your honor, I’ll act respectfully.” I really didn’t want to be an insect again. “But how is it that the all-knowing Cthulhu became a traffic court judge?”

“Well, there was a change of administration, you know, and the Texans and Southern Baptists got all the good jobs. I was demoted”, he said, a little shamefaced, if you can call that thing a face. “Now, as to why you’re here. You’re charged with impeding traffic, a heinous offence that can bring the death penalty if I’m feeling lenient today. Otherwise, well….” His voice trailed off.

The ‘otherwise’ got my attention. Cthulhu had never been known to show mercy. And there was that rock to consider.

“Deputy Buttkiss states that you were impeding traffic by riding a bicycle on a busy city street. A bicycle! Are you out of your mind? What do you have to say for yourself?”

I thought quickly, then replied, “Your honor, it’s true I was riding on city street, and I was riding with traffic. But there’s no way I was impeding that traffic. I’m part of traffic. I was doing the design speed of a bicycle and…”

“SILENCE!”, he roared again. “YOU WERE NOT DOING THE SPEED LIMIT, THEREFORE YOU WERE IMPEDING TRAFFIC!”

“Wait a minute, your honor.” I was starting to get angry. “Is it illegal to do less than the speed limit, and if so, by how much?” He was fingering his gavel again, so I didn’t push.

The silence stretched out as he thought about it. Finally, he said, “Don’t confuse the issue with facts. Facts, however interesting, are irrelevant! I should throw the book at you! For that matter, you could become a book, one with something lurid on the cover and the word ‘vixen’ in the title! Then the Baptists could ban you to the nethermost region of ...well…Heck. I’m not allowed to use that other word anymore.” He looked sullen.

“Wait a minute!” I replied hotly. “I was riding safely and legally! Are you trying to tell me that the law doesn’t apply when…”

He cut me off. “SILENCE! IN MY COURT, THE LAW IS WHAT I SAY IT IS!”

I was angry and spoke too quickly. “Look, sport, I don’t give a damn about your demotion or how you feel about it. Sure, you’re pissed off, but I won’t be a whipping boy for your anger! So you can take your courtroom and your gavel and your smelly judicial robe and stuff it up your…whatever that is.”

Some of his eyes bugged out and the rest glared at me. He roared again and leaned toward me over the bench, his jaws yawning open with too many sharp, pointed teeth. It came closer and closer, about to engulf me in its maw, the stench of his breath overpowering…

I woke up sweating. Next time I’ll switch to light beer.

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