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?
This should be a coming-of-age narrative, in which the young elk (who is never named in the Netflix series) searches for his father, whose horns were shorn from his body after he was killed by Vandor’s (also dead) father. (Am open to suggestion on the Vandor casting, but I’m seeing a bulked-up Timothée Chalamet.) We see the torturous journey Young Elk undertakes to become emotionally whole, lightened at times by a sidekick antelope with a comical elderberry addiction and a penchant for violence. Finally, Young Elk and Vandor meet on a windswept mountainside, where innumerable wildflowers grow and the grass whispers, and Vandor is squashed to jelly by the hooves of righteously pissed off Young Elk (portrayed by Tom Hardy.) The series is not renewed but becomes a cult favorite.
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?
Having been sufficiently trained long ago by a succession of cats, the latest of which is admittedly the most severe, I can neither be driven mad nor out of the house, especially during a pandemic. What does happen is my cat and I develop a high stakes game of Where’s the Kitty? in which I try with increasing desperation to amuse him for longer than eight seconds at a time, while he stares at me from atop the hallway cat tree with a combination of hauteur and dry hope. Matters reach an exhausting conclusion when what is left of my imagination literally leaves my body in a puff of sad air, and I take a job writing catalog copy for what used to be Fingerhut. My cat hires a new assistant, and the process begins again.
3. How would the world be different if plants could speak?
Lawn services would go bankrupt, ditto pesticide manufacturers; both professional and amateur gardeners would levitate in ecstasy; insects would laugh out loud; everyone who has ever read Alice in Wonderland would be surprised and relieved to find that flowers are neither judgmental nor cognizant of human standards of beauty. I would surround myself with tomato plants, nightshade lily, birds of paradise, and river birch trees (tress actually would not talk, but would emit music), and offer to become their scribe, an offer, sadly, they would ignore.
4. Say you’ve wasted a lot of time on Facebook over the last…decade…how would you go about getting that time back?
Twitter. Wait, no.
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!
What I decide to do is organize the robots into an elite delivery cadre, but only the ones who cannot talk; the talkers I kill. (Cruel but necessary; we’re up against a serious organization here.) I also recruit as many wish-aspirants as will join to a djinn-adjacent Succor Society, in which we fulfill wishes for the djinn, or at least the kinds of wishes that human beings can fulfill; the djinns’ desires are surprisingly modest, and easily delivered by the bent, mute robots. After a year of this clandestine activity, myself and the other Society wish-aspirants all wish the same thing at once: to repeal the grosser laws of physics. The wish is automatically granted, the earth is turned inside out, and the fortress is breached. Jeff Bezos cannot be reached for comment. 2041 is declared the Year of the Robot Djinn.
6. Is happiness real?
Oh absolutely. But, pace Robert Burns, it is shy.
Kathe Koja writes novels and short fiction, and creates, directs and produces immersive events. Her second short fiction collection, Velocities: Stories, has just been published by Meerkat Press, to be followed in September by a reissue of her seminal novel The Cipher. She’s currently at work on Dark Factory, an immersive novel. Find her on Facebook, twitter, Patreon, and at https://kathekoja.com/.
Kurt Baumeister has written for Salon, Electric Literature, Guernica, The Weeklings, Entropy, The Nervous Breakdown, The Rumpus, The Good Men Project, and others. His debut novel, a satirical thriller entitled Pax Americana, was published by Stalking Horse Press in 2017. He is currently at work on a novel, The Book of Loki, and a hybrid collection of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry entitled Superman, the Seven Gods of Death, and the Need for Clean, Romantic Poetry. Find him on Facebook, Twitter, or at www.kurtbaumeister.com.