The guiding principle of Six Ridiculous Questions is that life is filled with ridiculousness. And questions. That only by giving in to these truths may we hope to slip the surly bonds of reality and attain the higher consciousness we all crave. (Eh, not really, but it sounded good there for a minute.) It’s just. Who knows? The ridiculousness and question bits, I guess. Why six? Assonance, baby, assonance.
1. At the age of whatever, Vandor the Cro-Magnon sets off on an important albeit hitherto unspecified quest carrying only his father’s trusty elk-horn club and an antelope bladder he uses to carry water. What is Vandor questing for? Does he ever find it, and what happens when he does? Assuming he is extremely handsome for a Cro-Magnon (make of that what you will), but not incredibly bright (ditto), what are the chances Vamdor’s quest will be picked up by Netflix? Movie or series? Open-ended or closed-? Finally, who should play Vandor?
Here are the notes we’d get were we to take this pitch to Netflix here in Albuquerque: What’s he questing for?! How about an audience! Considering the average Cro-Magnon lifespan, without extended flashbacks of those formative experiences of youth and the eventual death of his childhood mentors, I just don’t see the project having the legs for a series or open-ended anything. I’m telling you, if we put our money in this flaming crater, the only “end” that’s going to be “open” is the mudhole that gets stomped in our rears for being dumb enough to greenlight this donkey. I mean, who could save this thing…Clooney…Tony Hopkins…DDL? This is Waterworld without water. Or a world!
But I suppose, if word came down from upstairs that we were a go no matter what, and I had to try to save this dumpster fire, I’d have Vandor quest for some magic talisman that made humans reasonable, and societies fair and empathetic. Of course he’d have to find it, only to nearly lose it to some double-crossing love interest who truly hated the world, ending on a cliff-hanger that left audiences arguing over what actually happened and what it truly meant. I’d pay Michael K. Williams, or Vincent D’Onofrio whatever they wanted.
2. Your cat has decided, for the thousandth time, to try to drive you insane. Through an admixture of indiscriminate vomiting, poor little box etiquette, and constant yowling, your cat succeeds! Please provide the pertinent details concerning your break with sanity. That is, how exactly did your breakdown go down and how were you corralled by the authorities? When you arrive at the State Psychiatric Hospital at Blah Blah, what will your diagnosis be? How long before you get out and what happens when you do?
Well, I imagine that DJ Rando McJambalaya would treat this shit like chess and not checkers, first making me emotionally dependent on him using the classic tactics of all abusers: alternating between deferential treatment and begging for tummy scratches while I tried to do my data entry as part of my telecommuting at work.
After finding Rando proudly posing with a mostly dead lizard on the welcome mat and scolding him for his lapse in judgment, I’d begin to notice him perched on his little red velvet pedestal across the room, silently judging me. That would, of course, be punctuated with the occasional tangle in my stumbling feet, or abject refusal to come sit on the couch to watch Cheers reruns. At feeding time, I’d be the center of Rando’s world, and every other time just an idiotic annoyance to be scoffed at or ignored.
DJ McJambalaya would then take to faking illness after illness, only to have the repeated, insanely expensive tests come back negative. Some days I’d be so worried that I’d catch myself watching Rando sleep, half-convinced his breath wasn’t rising or falling…only to eventually catch him watching me with one winking eye. It just wouldn’t make any sense — in the morning he’d be on death’s door and the same evening bounding and swatting at cabbage moths in the grass. I’d get a bit fed up. I’d show him some online videos of people sneaking cucumbers next to eating cats, more as a funny possibility than an actual threat, then, probably on my birthday or the day before Valentine’s, DJ Rando McJambalaya would just disappear. No call, no note, nothing.
I’d lose my job, my car, then my apartment papering neighborhoods with flyers filled with typos that I’d then have to remake and redistribute, working outwards in concentric circles, unavoidably running afoul of law enforcement. The cops would issue repeated citations and eventually even criminal summons for littering, loitering, and general back-sass. Court dates would come and go, warrants would be issued, and, in something of a fugue state, I’d bolt mid-sentence from the last in a long line of hey-wait-we-just-wanna-talk-to-mes, and steal a cruiser to chase down Rando’s doppelganger in the alley behind the Frontier. Yep, then those fascists would rough me up good.
Weeks later, while staring blankly out the wire-webbed windows of New Mexico Behavioral Health in Las Vegas (just up the road from Allsup’s), jaw still wired shut and sucking at Haldol-laced applesauce through a bamboo straw (save the oceans), I’d see DJ Rando McJambalaya — the blue tail of a young New Mexico whiptail in his mouth — flipping me the double bird.
And I just can’t imagine how any of the rest would matter after that.
3. How would the world be different if plants could speak?
Well, I hear tell if you take enough acid, they do. But, for the sake of argument let’s assume they don’t — or no longer do. Because there’s the dream of how different things could be, and the reality of how they are.
For instance, if plants could talk, they could tell us the story of the planet, thrill us with the mysteries and cosmogony of their now growing and silent world. In fact, they probably did talk initially. But in much the same was as a grizzled old sage grows exhausted trying to explain simple truths to people unwilling or unable to appreciate them, chances are good plants have long given up trying to communicate with us. And I can’t say I blame them. If they suddenly started talking again, would that be enough for us to reconsider our role as just another animal on this lonely pale blue dot? I’m not convinced it would — regardless of how seismic and simple their revelations.
In truth, what would happen is people would immediately seize on the opportunity to troll uppity vegans and discredit their otherwise tremendously reasonable ideas of ethical consumption.
4. Say you’ve wasted a lot of time on Facebook over the last…decade…how would you go about getting that time back?
Maybe the answer is a class action suit wherein not just Facebook but all of these corporate fascists pay each and every one of us back for every bit of personal information they have gathered, and then pay again for every time they have sold any piece of it to someone else. That seems fair.
Too bad for me, Facebook doesn’t actually believe I’m a real person.
5. It’s 2040 and the world has changed. Most notably, in 2022, djinnis were discovered to be real. A decade-long techno-magical arms race ensued, leading to the development of various djinni-location and -capture techno-magicologies. Predictably, Jeff Bezos used his vast fortune to corner the market on said techno-magicologies.
Once Bezos located and captured every djinni everywhere, he imprisoned them in an unbreachable fortress hidden at the center of the Earth. (OK, it’s not hidden very well but it is, in fact, completely unbreachable.) Forcing his captive army of djinn to crank out wishes day and night, Bezos has completely cornered the market on wishes. But he’s not selling them. That’s right, Jeff Bezos is giving wishes away, as long as you fulfill a few modest requirements first.
All aspiring wish recipients are expected to serve ten years in the Bezos organization beginning with a tour in the Bezos gladiatorial pits beneath Amazon corporate HQ. There, wish-aspirants fight robots for the right to work as unpaid interns in Amazon warehouses. Assuming you kill enough robots to qualify for warehouse duty and make it through the intervening decade of servitude—and, let me tell you, the robot gladiators were the least of your concerns, sister—you get a wish. Just one. What do you wish for? (Do I need to tell you to be careful with this?) Also, feel free to opine on the scenario in general. After all, it’ll be your reality soon enough. You should have some input!
I’d wish for us to immediately institute a 3-pronged approach to reinventing humanity: Guaranteed basic income for all, universal health care, and lifelong education including in-depth programs that teach us all how to better name and understand our waking emotional experience. Or, if that wish is too complicated, my wish would be to reduce by at least 85% the lizard-brain, fear-based response of every human amygdala, and instead increase its ability to accurately store memories. That might do it.
And it’s really the only way I can see us moving past the nightmare we’ll find ourselves in come 2040…and the only way I wouldn’t be laser-focused on exacting my blood lusting revenge on Bezos and his merry band of henchfolk.
6. Is happiness real?
It absolutely is. Though it’s far rarer than we are led to believe, and too often conflated with something else. As such, it should not be taken seriously as an end-goal.
Instead seek out extended periods of relative calm and comfort with the people you most deeply love. And if you catch yourself in the midst of one of those spells, simply revel in it for as long as they’ll give you.
Hosho McCreesh is currently writing & painting in the gypsum & caliche badlands of the American Southwest. His work has appeared widely in print, audio, & online.
Kurt Baumeister has written for Salon, Electric Literature, Guernica, and others. His debut novel, a satirical thriller entitled Pax Americana, was published by Stalking Horse Press. He is currently at work on a novel, The Book of Loki. Find him on Facebook, Twitter, or at www.kurtbaumeister.com.