This story was plotted using the Wise Sloth Formula Plot Template. This is a rough draft.
Gepetto couldn’t tell you how old he was. He knew what year he was born in, and if he put 10 seconds of thought into it he could calculate his exact age, but he stopped caring enough to keep a running tally long ago, which was around that time he lost touch with anyone else who rememberd his birthday and cared enough to bring it up. His antisocial behavior was partly to blame, but the situation was excaserbated by the fact that the last of his peers were in the process dying off of natural causes.
He lived in Cairo, Illinois, which was a postapocalyptic shit hole and a likely place to die, which was just as well because the prospect of living there for any length of time made death look pretty attractive. But Gepetto was determined to hold on for as long as possible. It’s not that he wanted to live forever, and he knew he didn’t want to live in Cairo for another minute. In fact, he’d been suicidal most of his life. He was just the kind of guy who would sit through the rolling credits at a movie theater until the very end even if it bored him just because he was determined to get every second due to him. Plus, he figured that since God had given him the finger his whole life, and not dying was the only way he could give God the finger back, then he was going to give it until God took the strength out of his hands.
One could argue that most of Gepetto’s problems were his own fault. Sure, he was raised in a post apocalyptic wasteland where bandit raiders in black studded football pads harassed the local peasants and spun donuts in gothic dune buggies around town all day. Growing up his parents were always at work, and when they were home they were at their wits end. In the end they chose death over living and more specifically, working, in Cairo. When people asked Gepetto what happened to his parents he always said, “They left Cairo as fast as the booze and smokes would carry them.”
So sure, Gepetto was raised in a broken environment by broken people, and it’s easy to feel sorry for someone like that and give them a little slack, but then when you looked at how Gepetto chose to live you might put some of those sympathy cards back in the deck.
Take the day Gepetto found out he was going to die for example. As usual, Gepetto was at home sitting on his comp chair wearing his video cap, having sex with a prostetic animatronic vagina built into a lid on his chair. He’d recently aquired a taste for masturbating while watching vintage Taylor Swift videos, the ones from before she went hard core. This discovery was partly accidental and partly because he spent a significant amount of time on the kind of websites you’d be likely to find vintage videos of underage singers.
After he finished “wanking up” (as he called it) he brushed his teeth in the kitchen and rinsed his balls off in the sink. This was part of his morning routine. While in the kitchen he poured himself a beer stein of water and rum with a drop of vanilla extract, then took his drink outside to get the morning paper. This was also part of his morning routine.
The camper van boasted a wide wrap-around deck held up by sand bags and cinder blocks. Sadly, the generous deck space wasn’t used for house parties anymore. Now it was just storage space for kipple. Looking to either side of him, Gepetto surveyed the long row of 16 other campers, each enclosed in their own electrified cage. At the far end of the row sat a single camper without a cage protecting it, and that one was booby trapped. It didn’t look like it had been tampered with lately.
Gepetto heard a buzzing overhead and looked up to see a giant locust land on the roof of the cage above him. On contact its head exploded with a puff of smoke and it’s remains fell to the porch almost landing in Gepetto’s stein. In a practiced motion he scooped it up, threw it through the door onto the kitchen counter and stepped off the deck onto his dry, withered garden, which he stomped over unceremoniously in a B-line to the newspaper laying under the razor-lined drop slot in the cage.
He snatched the paper up like it was a lost wallet on a crowded sidewalk and spilled rum on the pages trying to tear it open and hold a full cup of booze at the same time. It didn’t matter if the pages got wet. The paper was just whatever the delivery boy had laying around in the warehouse. The real delivery was a small bag of hashish fortified with state of the art opiates.
Gepetto’s scowl bent into to a half-smile, and he casually craned his neck to look down the street to see if the paper boy was still anywhere in sight when his attention was distracted by the roar of a low flying aircraft engine. He looked up in the sky to see a black C-130 with red tribal designs across the nose and tail fly overhead in a flight path to mainstreat. When it had crossed half the city Gepetto saw several bodies fall from the open bay door, but he couldn’t tell if the people were alive or not. They weren’t flailing their limbs, but they could have been tied up. It was hard to tell from that distance.
As the bodies hit the ground and the plane veered off into the horizon Gepetto kept his head stretched out with his ear to the city in case he could hear the sound of cars crashing where the bodies had fallen. Not that he was suprised when he heard nothing, but he let out a dissapointed huff and spun around to go back inside to his chair. That’s when he noticed his neighbor standing at the gate to his own cage straining his ears, waiting to hear a crash as well.
Gepetto’s neighbor was a slovenly middle age bastard they called Jimmy New Jersey. They called him that because his name was Jimmy, he was from New Jersey and he never shut up about it. He was fat, but it wasn’t from eating too much. It’s just that he only ate the cheapest, unhealthiest frozen, deep fried wheat and meat bricks he could order in bulk. His one good feature, or so he thought, was his waist-length black hair. He’d tried to compensate for balding by growing what little hair he had left as long as possible, but this just served as a bigger arrow pointing to his baby-bald dome.
Jimmy shook his head and noticed Gepetto in his peripheral vision. “Oi. Hey, Gep. You see this shit on the weather forecast or what? The fuck’s this world coming to? Last month it’s the genetically enhanced locusts and now this fucking shit. Forget about it.”
Gepetto disagreed with Jimmy on most things, but they had a truce to let it all go. They reasoned that if you can’t be honest with someone who is nothing like you then who can you be honest with? Of course, this resolution was reverse engineered after they’d made another agreement to always hook each other up with booze, drugs, cigarettes and sandwiches when the other was dry. They both understood if they held a grudge against each other they’d lose that security, and they exploited the leverage this gave them to act like complete bastards to one another.
Gepetto sipped his breakfast long enough to allow a dramatic pause. “I don’t know Jimmy. I don’t even flinch anymore. Sometimes I think if we’ve gotten to the point where do don’t even flinch, maybe that’s a sign we all need to get kicked out the back of an airplane.” He took another sip and hastily added, “Not that I’m volunteering.”
Jimmy responded before Gepetto even finished talking. “My grandmother, God bless her, she used to say, ‘The devil gets us forever in the end anyway. May as well live while you can.’ So…yeah, I’m gonna get drunk and sleep okay tonight. Hey, those dumb asses up there probably fucked up anyway. That’s what you get for not having an electrified cage around your house. Am I right? Hey, and speaking of drinking, we on for lunch?”
“Yep. Just hit the air horn when you’re ready to come over. I’ll stop masturbating long enough to open the gate and shake your hand.”
“Alright buddy. I’ll see you in a few. I’m gonna have a feed and get caught up on my soaps.” Despite the fact that Jimmy lived in a delapitated aluminium camper van he strode towards it with the confidence of a king. As he crossed the threshold into his castle he proclaimed at the top of his voice, “Another beautiful day in Cairo. This place ain’t like New Jersey.“
Gepetto retreated from the morning sun to his excessively worn-in recliner and strapped his video cap back on. The projectors in front of his eyes made it look like he was staring at a computer screen the size of a mountain. The first screen he always saw when he put the mask on was his profile page, which doubled as his virtual desktop.
Gepetto’s age mandated that he choose function over form anytime the issue came up. His house was arranged so everything was within arm’s reach, and he extended this trend to his virtual desk top profile page. So all he saw in front of him was a white background with a black grid system separating his most commonly used links, feeds, communications and files into catagories. He could have downloaded a background that simulated looking out over Middle Earth from the tower of a majestic castle with dragons circling the sky hunting viruses and hobbits gathering news feeds in baskets, but the only decoration Gepetto added to his background was a static, 2-dimensional image of a classy pinup girl in lower right hand “margin.” He didn’t have time for bells and whistles, but he reasoned that if you’re going to stare at something all day you ought to stare at a pretty girl.
He pointed his eyes at the link that said, “Local News” and spoke into the mask, “Give me the goddamned local news.” The view on his screen zoomed into the words “Local News” and Gepetto experienced the sensation of falling or being sucked into the words. He passed through the letters into another room in his private virtual universe. In the next room he saw the same white background, the same pin up girl in the same margin and the same black grid system, but now the boxes were filled with links, news feeds, videos and pictures of just local news for Cairo, Illinois and the surrounding area.
He pointed his eyes at a frozen video of the tribal airplane he’d just seen, mumbled, “yep” and nodded his head, not that all of that was necessary. He was just used to acting like a human, and the computer understood this. The video of the airplane grew to the size of real life so it looked to Gepetto like he was actually standing on the other side of town earlier that morning filming the event.
A sweet Asian voice (which he’d set as his default narrator) began chattering in his ears. “At approximately 10:13 this morning a C-130 belonging to the “New Tribe” gang, which has controlled the majority share of political seats in Southern Illinois for over 50 years, flew over down town Cairo and executed 4 political rivals by releasing them from the open bay door. No one else was injured as mainstreet is sparsely used and one of the bodies landed the roof of a condemned building. The following statement was released by the New Tribe press department following the execution.”
The video footage of downtown Cairo disappeard, and Gepetto was standing in the press office at the New Tribe headquarters on the North side of town. A handsome, likeable gentleman in a sharp business suit sat across from him behind a mahogany executive desk. The room looked like the important work went on there, but Gepetto correctly suspected the only time anyone touched the fancy pens, papers, books or cabinets was to clean them to look polished for the next press release.
The distinguished gentleman behind the desk smiled and spoke to Gepetto like an old friend, “New Tribe has been proudly working to ensure the safety and livelihood of the voters in Southern Illinois for going on 53 years now. We spear headed the reconstruction efforts and brought down maurading bandit attacks 17% percent. Half the city has electricity, and New Tribe water wells are 40% more healthy than our competitors’.
New Tribe has proven it is the people’s party, and we will continue to work for the people. But a grass roots terrorist organizations wants to take away your freedoms. The New Tribe Patriot Security Task Force recently uncovered a plot to distribute literature advocating cowardly violent terrorist attacks on civilian New Tribe offices.
Thanks to the hard work of your public servants we were able to catch the terrorists in the pre-planning phase of their attacks. The leaders were given a fair trial and were found guilty of terrorism. The punishment for terrorism under executive law is death, and their sentencing was carried out in due process.
New Tribe promises the voters of Southern Illinois that terrorist attacks on civilians will not be tolerated. If you know of anyone who is actively speaking with others about organizing into private political paries or you suspect someone is thinking about organizing, call the crime-stoppers hot line and report illegal behavior. You don’t have to dial a phone number. Just pick up the phone and start talking. We’re always listening because we always care. Thank you, and have a blessed day.”
The press office disappeared and Gepetto was staring at the local news grid again, except this time the biggest links related to the airplane, New Tribe and terrorism. A smaller assortment of the rest of the local news was categorized and summarized towards the bottom of the sky-sized page.
Gepetto took a deep drink of his watery rum half enduring and half ignoring the burning. He looked at the comment count under the video he just watched. It was already up to 79. With his eyes pointed at the number he muttered, “Uh huh.”
The box with the comments expanded to reveal all 79 in a cascading list as the rest of the boxes on the grid shrunk correspondingly. The comments were sorted by upvotes and downvotes already cast by other readers. The voting system was supposed to be used to sort the most relevant comments, but more often than not people just upvoted what they agreed with and downvoted what they disagreed with. He looked at the lowest rated comment at the bottom of the list and it automatically centered itself on the screen.
The comment was posted by a user who’s account name was listed as, “InnocentPrincess.” At 10:20 he (Gepetto assumed it was a “he”) wrote, “I can’t believe I’m growing up in a time and place where it literally rains blood, and everybody who says they’re helping are the ones who are making it rain. We all know their only solution to the world’s problems is to make it rain more blood, but we all go along with their fake promises no matter how many times they repeat the same pattern. Shame on all of you who let it get to this point and robbed my generation of our future by sitting on your nasty chairs masturbating to pictures of us naked while the world burned. I think I speak for the entire lost generation when I say, ‘Fuck you very much.'”
Gepetto’s eyes darted down to the first reply. At 10:22 a user named JimmyNewJersey69 wrote “Looks like someone got some radiated sand in their vagina.”
SandPitMonsterFan replied to JimmyNewJersey69 at 10:22 with, “That’s because I fucked her with my sandy tentacles. She’s got sand up her ass all the way to her stomach too…because I fucked her in the ass with my sandy ass-fucking tenticles…as well.”
The next 16 comments ran with the joke and took it to more depraved and juvenile levels until the topic had been completely played out.
HighwayToTheThunderdome tried to defend TaylorSwift69, but he was torn apart by MillerTime69 who said, “If you don’t fucking like it here then fucking leave? Why don’t you move to the Badlands where they don’t have clean water and everyone sucks each other’s Communist dicks every morning because they can’t afford vagina lids for their comp chairs.”
Even though Gepetto couldn’t see his apartment with the video cap on he knew his rum drink was sitting in the cup holder at the end of his right arm rest. The feeling of reaching there was so familiar he could practically see himself picking it up in his mind’s eye. He lifted it to his mouth and delicately took a measured drink so the stein wouldn’t hit the bottom of the video cap where it covered his nose. The result was that he more or less just poured the rum down his tounge. Now that his mouth was getting numb he hardly noticed the burning. He swallowed a mouthfull and took one more quick slurp before slamming the glass back in the cup holder harder than he’d intended.
Gepetto pointed his eyes at the word “respond” directly underneath JimmyNewJersey69’s comment and blinked his eyes twice. A blank text box appeared under the comment and Geppetto said, “No shit young people need to toughen up, but maybe OP is half right. It takes a generation of losers to raise a generation of losers.”
Gepetto looked at the word “Submit” and blinked his eyes twice. The text box attached itself under the comment next to the name “BitterOldMan.” A single word from JimmyNewJersey69 immediately appeared under Gepetto’s comment. The one word comment read, “Fag.”
Even though Gepetto’s video cap covered his ears with cushy head phones he could hear an air horn blaring madly next door. He took off his headgear and dropped it next to the recliner. Picking up his stein with one hand and pulling the lever on the side of his chair with the other to retract the foot rest he thrust himself up with an unnecessary grunt and walked over to the control panel by the door. He smacked the big red button on the panel with a knuckle and was rewarded with the sound of a loud buzz outside followed by a violent clank. Gepetto finished the rest of his drink, unlocked the cast iron dead bolt on the aluminum door and stepped across the foyer to the kitchen.
He was filling two glasses with ice when Jimmy burst through the front door. “The fuck was that all about? You doggin me out in front of the whole world?” Jimmy finished measuring the drinks and added a splash of Absolute Coke Negative Zero to each one. He turned around, handed the second glass to Jimmy and made a toasting motion with his. Gepetto looked Jimmy seriously in the eyes and asked, “Have you ever hearted the Ballad of Rojilio?”
Jimmy smiled his villainous smile and returned the toast. Then, he performed an about-face and headed back outside reciting his usual response dramatically over his shoulder, “A hundred times, but tell it again.”
They both left the camper and followed the wrap around deck to the back porch. There they climbed a rickety wooden stair case up to the roof where they collapsed exhaustedly into two lawn chairs. Gepetto sat his glass down on the roof, which was covered in astro turf and pulled a 22 rifle out from under Jimmy’s seat.
As he checked the chamber and fiddled with the magazine he said, “Back in Texas I worked for a little manual labor company. We did shit work you could only get excons and illegal immigrants to do, not that I was either one of them. I was just stupid I guess. Anyway, one day we were headed out of town for some contract work, and we stopped by one of the other crew member’s house, who wasn’t an illegal immigrant, to pick up all the shit he’d forgotten to bring with him for the trip. As we’re driving up to the house, this guy, Rojilio, he points to the field across the street and in broken English says, ‘See dat field? I went to jail because I burnt it down.'”
“I turn to Rojilio and say, ‘Rojilio, you burnt down that field right next to your house? Weren’t you worried you might burn your house down?”
“Rojilio just smiles and says, “Fuck eeeeeet.’
And that’s the Ballad of Rojilio.”
Jimmy toasted his glass again and shouted at the top of his lungs, “Fuck eeeeet!”
Gepetto lifted the rifle to his shoulder and steadied his right eye behind the scope. Through the lens he scanned the mountains of tires across the street until he saw a flicker of movement. A patch of weeds growing out of the tires shook and a rat the size of a chicken lept in the air. It unfurled a pair of genetically modified chicken wings and flapped madly in a futile attempt at flying, which to be fair, was an expert execution of a controlled fall, all things considered.
The languid decent gave Gepetto plenty of time to get sighted on the flying rat and fire a round. The shot missed and richoched off the tire down the street. The rat took another jump and disappeared behind the mound. Gepetto lowered the scope and shouted, “Fuck you in your stupid wings. Fucking flying rat bastard”
Jimmy put his glass down and motioned for Gepetto to hand him the gun. “You started drinking too early. Gimme the gun. You ain’t gonna hit shit. You do what you do best, and go on one of your glory glory hallelujia rants while I do what I do best and rule this bitch.”
Gepetto handed him the gun and Jimmy proceeded to act like a professionally trained sniper, or at least like the ones he’d seen in special forces movies. Gepetto picked his glass back up and waved it around like it helped him explain his point. “I don’t know Jimmy. I’m a bit shaken up right now. The airplane and then that kid’s comment shook me up a little. I’m not going to live to see the next election, but I already know exactly how it’s going to go. We’ll get one dumbass pretending not to work for New Tribe running against a New Tribe candidate who looks like a hero. He’ll make the same promises the last guy made, get elected and keep doing the same shit New Tribe always does.
All jokes aside, tell me that girl isn’t right? Don’t we all really know that’s how this big charade works? In the back of my mind I’ve been watching the cycle my entire life. I even see it when I open a history book, and I see it again on movies about the future. The more I see it the madder I get, and what gets me the maddest is that I’ve seen opportunities for people at every level to stop it, but the’ve all gone along with it. Always have, and I reckon always will.
I suppose the reason I survived the apocalypse was because subconsiously I knew it was coming and prepared for it. But what’s all my preparation led up to? I’m just another ex-adult winding down the clock spending what little time I have left being pissed off at the world.”
Jimmy interrupted the speech without taking his eye of the scope as if it proved he was such a good hunter he could kill and talk at the same time. “So what, you saying you mad at me?”
“That rule stands. In particular, right now I’m mad at you for not giving a shit, but it’s not just you. I’m mad at myself for not doing anything, and I’m mad at everyone else for being just like us. My faith in humanity is so low that now whenever I see people dieing on the TV or even around me I think, ‘Good riddance. One less asshole in the world.'”
Without taking his eye from the scope Jimmy said, “God damn, dude. You’re gettin dark.”
“Yeah, and you’re sitting on the roof of a camper van shooting flying rats through an electrified fence. What fucking line do we have to cross before it’s finally realistic to be pessimistic?”
Without thinking about it Jimmy nonchalantly replied, “Shit man, I don’t know.” He lowed the gun and added, “I think you scared off all the rats.”
Gepetto scanned the horizon of the tire piles and spotted movement on the ridge at the end of the street without needing a scope. A rat the size of a human stood up on its hind legs and spread its wings. The winged rat glowed with a soft, comforting light and turned into a nude, winged woman. Her soft, smooth cashmere fur rippled across her naked body in the breeze drawing attention to every mound and valley of flesh underneath.The feathers on her wings trembled in the breeze. Her tail caressed the length of her inner thighs. She looked directly at Gepetto and whispered into his mind with a sweet, angelic, slightly Asian voice, “I want you to die fucking me.”
That’s when Gepetto blacked out.