The Hubert J. Cromsby Institute for the Advancement of Quantum Botany, Las Calaveras, NM
April 21, 1975 - 8:04 a.m.
And hello to you, Dr. Ackerman! Good to finally meet you! Can I call you Jerry? Super. And please, do call me Dr. Mandelbrot. Haw, haw! Just pullin' your leg there, Jer. No, seriously, "Wayne" will do just fine. We're all friends here. Well, Jerry, let me show you around the place and introduce you to some of the boys you'll be working with here at Cromsby. How's Las Calaveras been treating you, by the by? Settling in to your new home all right? Oh? Well, I sure as heck am sorry to hear that, Jer. My wife was the same way when we first moved out here. But she got used to it, and I'm sure your wife will, too. What's her name, may I ask? What a coincidence. My grandfather's name was Miriam. Haw, haw! But really, Jer, this place isn't too bad once you get used to the heat. The Devil's Crawlspace, my wife Dolores calls it. There's not a whole heck of a lot to do in town -- a few restaurants, coupla stores. Delores thought she'd go stir crazy. But I tell ya, Jer, at night Las Calaveras has a beauty all her own. It's the sky, Jer -- that great big beautiful open sky fulla stars. Makes a person feel, I dunno, free I guess is the word. And here's the best part, Jer: no lawn to mow! Am I right? Haw, haw! The kids took to this place right away. Said it reminded 'em of those old Road Runner cartoons, which I guess it does at that. How you fixed in the offspring department there, Jer? Got two m'self -- Randy's nine and Courtney's eleven. How 'bout you? No? Some particular reason? Well, I guess you're right, Jer. It's not my place to pry. But if it's a medical thing, Jer, I know a coupla doctors who would be glad to... Okay, Jer, I'll lay off. Guess I'm always tryin' to stick my nose in where it doesn't belong. But, heck, that's why we became scientists, huh? Delores says a scientist is just a busybody with a microscope! A regular Nosy Joe, that's me. Haw, haw!
Fiction: October 2008 Archives
The Hubert J. Cromsby Institute for the Advancement of Quantum Botany, Las Calaveras, NM
"How would you like to see one of the most stunning sights on Earth?"
That was the first thing the explorer said to me when he greeted me at the door to his Las Vegas hotel room. I knew right away that he was an explorer because he was wearing khakis and a pith helmet. My escort agency hadn't told me that he would be one of those clients, but I was used to guys who liked to dress up, so I thought nothing of it. So what if this fella wanted to play the great explorer? I've had stranger johns.
INVASION: EARTH -- DAY 36 -- REPORT TO ROBOT HIGH COMMAND
Invasion going precisely as planned and on schedule. Entire population of planet now enslaved and subjugated to the will of the robots. All able-bodied slaves have been put to work in factories making robots for next invasion wave. All non-able-bodied slaves -- including the very young and the elderly -- have been put to death. Once the planet's resources have been used up, all surviving slaves will be put to death. Cannot estimate how long that will be at this time.
Will transmit again in six Earth days. End transmission.
DAY 36 -- REALITY
Six weeks. That's how long the robot had been on Earth. (The robot week was only six days long because the Robot God, having no need of it, had never rested.) Six weeks was also how long it had been embedded in the sidewalk in front of the city hall of the small Midwestern town where it had landed. This, it must be said, had not been part of the plan.
Dateline: Nepal, 2011.
There it sits, perched serenely upon pillows in its lofty mountain temple: the BastardTron 9000, the most sophisticated artificial-intelligence droid ever created. A full decade of research and development, encompassing countless millions of man-hours and (it is whispered) perhaps a trillion dollars, has gone into its production. Scores of programmers, engineers, clerics, philosophers, mathematicians, poets, and noted academics of every discipline have contributed to its final form. The governments of 17 different countries, including the United States, Germany, Russia, and Red China, have lent financial and technical support. Luminaries ranging from Noam Chomsky and Stephen Hawking to Deepak Chopra and Dr. Phil were seen entering the heavily-fortified BastardTron Labs in Stockholm, where the magnificent machine was created, its every stage of development shrouded in secrecy, cloaked in gossip and innuendo.
The purpose of the BastardTron 9000, according to its makers: to be a sort of Cybernetic Superguru for the Information Age, replacing the monks, swamis, fakirs, and holy men of the past. Embedded within the circuits, wires, and gears of this mighty automaton would be housed the sum total of Man's knowledge of his word, the universe, and the very mysteries of life itself, including the endlessly complex dynamics of interpersonal relations. At last, they reasoned, the Seeker of Truth would finally have a place to go to find real answers to life's most perplexing questions.
Unfortunately, the thing turned out to be a complete bastard.
The kid was a natural. That much was clear, and we all thought those 24-karat pipes of his would be just the thing to take Weems Boland and His Foggy Knights straight to the top. Hell, even I thought so, and I'd been around long enough to've known better.
The name's not really Weems, by the way. It's William. I got the nickname Weems when I was a kid and my sister Gretchen couldn't pronounce my real name. When she said "William," it came out "Weems," and the name just sorta stuck. And in the interest of full disclosure, I suppose I should also tell you that "Boland" is short for Bollander. Yeah, I'm a phony. What of it?
But the kid was for real. This was '52, see, and boy singers were in. Julius La Rosa was riding high on the Godfrey show then, and suddenly every band had to have a boy singer. I mean, without a boy singer, you were nowhere, and I mean nowhere. Dame singers couldn't get arrested if they were caught hooking in front of a Lutheran church. We had a dame singer, Loretta something, but we had to cut her loose. A shame, too, because she was a heckuva little thrush and none too bad in the kit, either. I guess all the boys in the band took her for a ride at one time or another, including yours truly. Wonder whatever happened to her?
It all started -- as things often do among my group of friends -- with a movie. There were about a dozen of us who were all big horror buffs and we tried to see every horror film that came to town regardless of its age, quality or reputation. As a result we saw a lot of garbage -- especially when it came to first-run releases -- but we were also surprised by the occasional creaky classic that crept up on us and genuinely creeped us out. Such was the case when the Val Lewton film festival came to town.
There were some of us who were skeptical -- Mark, for one, couldn't imagine being frightened by any film that had reached what he called "retirement age" -- but we all attended the first night's double feature of Cat People and I Walked with a Zombie anyway. The first was well known to us, even if it was only from the '80s remake, but none of us had ever heard of the second (although the program informed us that both were directed by the same man, Jacques Tourneur). Thanks to the low budgets they had to work with, Lewton and Tourneur had to rely more on atmosphere and the power of suggestion to build tension rather than fancy special effects, but we got plenty caught up in the stories anyway. Well, most of us did.
You tumble out of bed feeling grubby, as you do every morning when there has been a full moon the night before. You jump in the shower and wash off the dried blood that remains on your hands and face and the mud that is caked on your feet. It must have rained overnight, but you have no memory of it. If you had known about it in advance, you would have thought to put down newspapers.
Feeling fully human once again, you flip on the TV to find out if your nocturnal activities were newsworthy enough to make the morning show. Animal attacks have become so frequent of late that the local news hardly ever mentions them anymore unless the victim is human. While you wait for the news segment at the top of the hour, you get to work scrubbing the muddy paw prints out of the living room rug. Such a bother and an easily preventable one at that.
Ah, good, sir. You're awake.
No, no, Mr. Risling. You don't have to get out of bed. This won't take but a moment. You will forgive me for entering your room like this, sir, but you didn't answer your phone, and the management wanted me to pass along a few items of interest to you.
You gave us quite a scare last night, of course. What, sir? You don't remember? Certainly, you will remember some of it. Nothing, really? Hmm. You are Mr. Erik J. Risling, correct?
Eh? What's that? You don't even know where you are or how you got here? You are kidding, I trust. No? Well, you could start by looking around the room. That should jog some memories. You, sir, are in room 316 of the Applewood Motor Cove. You see that shattered window and those slashed drapes, sir? Yes, those. You did that, sir. And the bloody footprints on the carpet, too, which Rosa is now diligently attempting to remove. Of course, you will be paying for the replacement and cleaning of these items. Your credit card has already been billed, Mr. Risling. No need to fret.
Jesus. Fifteen years in the life, and it's come to this.
It's 5:49 in the ay-em, and I'm standing here in the alley behind a seedy strip mall on the ass-end of town, waiting for Devin, a pimply-faced little burnout, to show up with the pint of AB positive he owes me. That little shit better show up if he knows what's good for him. I'm not convinced that he does. If he did, he'd have been here at 5:30 like he said he would. Devin's only redeeming quality is that he works at BloodSource, a blood donation place in this very mall, and can occasionally smuggle out some of the good stuff to sell on the side. Other than that, he's a total loss. Some of the people in the life think it's pretty sweet that I have an "inside man" at a blood bank, but they don't know Devin. This arrangement of ours is many things, and "sweet" is not one of them.
It was while the great actress was taking a tour of the facility that the truth came out. The truth did not make her particularly happy.
"What do you mean the theater booked us for matinee performances?" she asked -- nay, demanded -- imperiously. "You know very well that I don't do matinees."
It was a Monday night when the theater was dark, so the only people present were the actress, her manager, her booking agent, her personal assistant, her director, her co-star (and current lover) and her understudy. Representing the theater were the owner and his secretary, who naturally felt overwhelmed by the actress's entourage.
The untimely demise of the late, lamented "Project: Fear Itself" left a hole in my heart which I felt would remain forever unrepaired. In my grief and anguish, I asked the Good Lord: "Where shall I go? What shall I do?" I received no response, which I interpreted as His way of saying, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."
But, lo! In His wisdom, He sent to me an angel named Lars von Trier. Specifically, the Archangel von Trier manifested itself unto me through a fascinating documentary entitled De Fem benspænd (distributed domestically as The Five Obstructions), in which the caustic Danish director challenges mentor Jørgen Leth to remake Det perfekte menneske five different times, with a unique "obstruction" each time. For instance, Leth might have to remake Menneske using only sock puppets or while standing on one foot in a pile of creamed corn. Actually, I haven't gotten around to watching The Five Obstructions yet, so I'm a little vague about the specific obstructions, but I have read the back of the DVD sleeve and decided that this film could be the springboard for a Hallowe'en themed project for myself and Mr. Clark.