Everybody loves true crime!
Hooray for taking gut-wrenching tales of human misery and loss and making them all about me!
Line of sponsors forms to the left!
Bunkum profits from other people’s pain!
Everybody loves true crime!
Hooray for taking gut-wrenching tales of human misery and loss and making them all about me!
Line of sponsors forms to the left!
Bunkum profits from other people’s pain!
It’s a twister!
A trip to Emerald City!
Trying real hard not to violate copyright!
I erupt in delight with the return of Heartless M. Moral!
Y’know, I think they might not be the best and brightest.
Bunkum! I honestly don’t remember making this one.
A scary movie TV show host!
Racist Stereotype Theater!
A depressed game show host!
Shock jock radio!
Old Man Whitey is back! I love that guy!
It’s a Bunkum grab-bag of fun!
Hamlet was 30, and other cultural punchlines!
A pretty accurate parody of Hamlet!
This is how I’m putting my college degrees to work!
Bunkum keeps it classy while wearing tights and a codpiece!
Act 2, Scene 1
JOHN OF GAUNT, nearing death, speaks with the DUKE OF YORK.
JOHN OF GAUNT
Methinks I am a prophet new inspired
And thus expiring do foretell of him:
His rash fierce blaze of riot cannot last,
For violent fires soon burn out themselves;
But if the burn of athlete’s foot persists,
Relieve the itch with tough actin’ Tinactin.
Small showers last long, but sudden storms are short;
He tires betimes that spurs too fast betimes;
With eager feeding food doth choke the feeder:
Light vanity, insatiate cormorant,
Consuming means, soon preys upon itself.
You should have taken the antacid used
By all the noble gentry: Prilosec.
This royal throne of kings, this scepter’d isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England,
Is brought to you by Subway. Eat ye fresh!
This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings,
Fear’d by their breed and famous by their birth,
Renowned for their deeds as far from home,
For Christian service and true chivalry,
As is the sepulchre in stubborn Jewry,
Of the world’s ransom, blessed Mary’s Son,
This land of such dear souls, this dear dear land,
Dear for her reputation through the world,
Is now leased out, I die pronouncing it,
Like to a tenement or pelting farm
By local Long & Foster realtors.
Find a realtor in your town today!
England, bound in with the triumphant sea
Whose rocky shore beats back the envious siege
Of watery Neptune, is now bound in with shame,
With inky blots and rotten parchment bonds:
But harsh detergents ruin these fragile cloths.
Egad, there’s got to be a better way!
If only we had Clorox in our time.
Their bleach is color-safe and gentle, too!
That England, that was wont to conquer others,
Hath made a shameful conquest of itself.
Ah, would the scandal vanish with my life,
How happy then were my ensuing death!
That’s why my doctor recommended Zoloft.
My crippling patriotic angst is gone,
And now I live my life with pride and ease.
Zoloft’s for adults 18 and up.
You may experience nausea or fatigue.
Consult your doctor if you shake or cramp
Or if depression symptoms still persist.
See our ad in Fitness magazine.
EXT. OCEAN FLOOR JUST OUTSIDE ATLANTIS – NIGHT
Cold open on HARRY and PIERCE (two members of VAMP SQUAD SIX) fighting an AGENT OF S.T.A.K.E. They have black eyes. (NOTE: Their eyes are black like a shark’s when they are in full vampire battle mode.)
After some struggle, the Agent of S.T.A.K.E. kicks Harry. Harry floats out of the fight. He falls and his eyes turn from black to blue and dreamy. He watches the rest of the fight, frightened.
Pierce overpowers the AGENT and holds him in a headlock. Pierce pulls off his GLOVE, revealing a LEECH-LIKE MOUTH on his palm. Pierce puts his hand on the agent and drinks his blood.
Pierce swims away, leaving the AGENT’S BODY to float slowly down. A cloud of BLOOD floats out of the body. Pierce speaks as he swims past Harry.
Go on. Get yours, Harry. I left you some.
Harry swims over to the BODY dejectedly. He removes his GLOVE and drinks blood with it as Pierce did.
INT. DRACADEMY HALLS – LATER
HARRY puts a notebook in his LOCKER. PIERCE quickly swims up to him and slams the LOCKER.
What exactly was that back there?
I…I froze. It won’t happen again.
It’d better not. If you’re gonna be one of the Vamp Squad
Six, then you need to step it up. If you can’t support your
fellow agents, we’ll gift wrap you and send you over to
Hey, I know what you’re going through. If Colonel Draquala
hadn’t sent Sanguina into the field, she’d still be alive. I
mean, she was your girlfriend, bro.
Pierce’s watch flashes. He looks at it.
Speak of the devil. I’ve got to see Draquala now.
Pierce exits. Harry lingers at the lockers.
EXT. DRACADEMY DORMITORY – EVENING
Flashback to SANGUINA and HARRY in front of the Dracademy dorm.
It’s okay, Harry. It’s an in-and-out rescue mission.
I’ll be back and debriefed in a couple of hours.
I don’t know, Sanguina. I’ve got a bad feeling about this one.
You worry too much, tiger shark.
She kisses him.
I guess that’s why I like ya.
INT. DRACADEMY HALLS
Cut back to HARRY reflecting. (NOTE: Not literally! They can’t cast reflections.) Harry sets his jaw and pulls out his PHONE. He types something we can’t see.
Cut to a shot of the phone screen. We see a TEXT MESSAGE to DIRK that says “Tonight’s the night. Draquala’s going down!”
Cut back to Harry. His eyes turn black. (NOTE: Their eyes are black like a shark’s when they are in full vampire battle mode.)
END ACT 1
It was the most infamous crime of the early Mesozoic era: the mystery of the stolen Grand Canyon! Early one morning, tourists lined up along the canyon rim to marvel at nature’s splendor, only to find it had all been filled in with dirt. What happened to the empty space that used to be there? The Arizona state police were scratching their heads. After a few rounds with medicated anti-lice shampoo, they got back to work investigating the theft, but to no avail.
That’s where I come in. I’m Detective Lennie Ourman, Grand Canyon Village Police, Special Wonders of Nature Unit, and I had a theory. I believed the canyon was stolen by…thieves. But I had no proof! So I went to vacation police camp. After 43 years of hard work, long hours, and bribing my superiors, my superiors began to take notice.
“Congratulations, Ourman,” the chief said. “You’re being promoted from Detective to Grizzled Detective.”
“Thank you, sir! Now gimme a black coffee and stay out of my way.”
“You’re way out of line, Ourman! You’re a loose cannon. Some day you’re gonna get someone killed!”
“Fine. Then I’ll take a cappuccino. Extra foam.”
The station barista backed up a cement mixer and began pouring the foam into my mug. “Say when!” she said.
I like more foam than most people, I guess. It took me eleven years to dig my way out. Not only had the crinminyal’s trail gone cold, but my wife had remarried and I owed $600,000 in overdue library book fees. Things were getting desperate. I decided to try a dangerously unorthodox method to find the crimninalles. I would go to the scene of the crime! I started at the drab flatlands where the Grand Canyon once sat and begin sweeping the area. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, so I fanned out across northern Arizona and eventually came to Phoenix.
I checked anywhere someone might hide a giant hole. The University of Phoenix Stadium hadn’t gotten any deeper. The Agua Fria River didn’t have any new waterfalls. None of the surrounding mountains had become volcanoes. The crimininiminals hadn’t come this way.
From Phoenix, I circled back through Arizona and north to Las Vegas. For weeks, I resisted the temptations of sin and focused solely on my investigation. Then, weakness took hold. I could no longer fight the siren song of base pleasure. Dear reader, I’m ashamed to say it, but I abandoned my duties as an officer of the law. For the next eight months I slept all day and spent all night going to magic shows! Oh, the cheap thrills! The dramatic dance music! The awful puns! I had reached a new low.
I knew I’d hit rock bottom one morning as I awoke in a stranger’s hotel room surrounded by interlocking rings and levitating rope, my palms reeking of lighter fluid. I checked myself into a rehab center for magic addicts and began the hard work of learning to live an unprestidigitated life. I came out of it feeling healthier than I had in years, but wary that the lure of magic was something I would always struggle with.
Las Vegas wasn’t showing any results, so I took my investigation in the opposite direction, back through Arizona and into El Paso.
20 seconds later, I turned around and went back to Vegas. Wheeeeeeee!
Fourteen magic-addled months later, I pulled into a Los Angeles motel with no recollection of whose car I was driving or how I got it. All I knew was there were sequins on the floor and a wand in the glovebox.
I checked into the motel and immediately got to work. I talked to local police, food truck drivers, delivery people, bartenders, and geologists. No one had heard of any new large empty spaces in town, but they all pitched their screenplays to me. That gave me an idea.
I rushed to a studio and sold the movie rights to my investigation. We had a lot of great meetings and got Idris Elba attached as the lead, but it stalled out in development over the producer’s fears that there wasn’t enough action to make money in China.
As I signed my NDAs and left my contact info around the studio, the seventh screenwriter to take a pass at the script approached me. She was a sharp, warm woman of color who was getting ready to be a showrunner on a network drama and insisted on an inclusion rider. Hey, that’s awesome! Good for her.
“Hey, Ourman. Too bad about the movie. Most projects never make it to production, though, so don’t let it get you down. Incidentally, you know what’d be a good twist, is if the police, city council, and National Park Service were taking the canyon’s empty space as bribes from a rival canyon organization who filled it in to crush the competition. That’s the direction I would go. Anyway, see you around. Take care!”
I rushed to the airport and bought a first-class ticket on the next kayak back to Arizona. Six years of paddling later, I got back to Grand Canyon Village. I paid a visit to my old partner, Hannah Meyers.
“Hannah! How’s tricks?”
“Why, Lennie! I can’t believe it’s you. You’ve been gone so long, I didn’t think I’d ever see you again.”
“I know, I know. I’ve been busy on this Grand Canyon case.”
“Still? Oh, Lennie. The canyon’s history. You’ve got accept it. The whole town has moved on. Whoever filled it in is long gone.”
“I know, but it’s just not right. And I might have it worked out. It’s loose, but it’s a theory. I think a rival canyon’s owners filled it in and paid off some locals with pieces of the hole to keep them quiet.”
“That’s ridiculous. No one would ever believe that. You’re crazy. You’ve been working this case too long. You’re obsessed. You need a break.”
“You really think so?”
“I really do. Hey, why don’t we grab a drink later and catch up? It’ll take your mind off this wacky theory of yours.”
“Maybe you’re right. I’ll, uh…I’ll call you tonight. See ya.”
She closed the door and I started walking the shambling, sagging walk of a defeated man. I was back to square one. I must not have been watching my step because my foot slipped into a gopher hole and I twisted my ankle. As I sat down and rubbed it, I noticed more gopher holes in Hannah’s yard. Hundreds of them.
I leaned over and picked one up. I immediately recognized the striations. These holes all came from the Grand Canyon! It was awfully clever to cut them down to gopher size. But who better than a cop to know how to hide evidence? She’d almost gotten away with it.
I stuck the hole in my pocket and got in the kayak. I rowed straight to the police station and went into the chief’s office.
“Chief! I’ve got a lead on the Grand Canyon theft! I think it’s– Say, has your office always had a 300-foot chasm in it?”
The chief stammered. I couldn’t tell if it was nerves or the fact that he was now 83 years old. “Oh, um, you, ah, probably never noticed it before. We repainted 26 years ago and it really complements the chasm that’s always been here.”
I peered out the window with my handheld digital peer. “And those sinkholes next to City Hall. Those didn’t used to be there. And that gorge near the ranger station! I recognize that empty space! That up-and-coming Hollywood player was right! Whoever stole the Grand Canyon gave pieces of it to all of you so you’d keep quiet!”
“Ha ha! Oh, Ourman, that’s absurd,” the chief said. “What would I ever do with…I mean, how do you think we…You know, it’s…All right! Put your hands up!”
He stood up and pointed his gun it at me. He was remarkably quick for an 83-year-old. I didn’t even notice him taking the flintlock musket off the wall, loading the muzzle with powder and a lead ball, and stuffing it all down with a ramrod before aiming it at me. “I think we’ve had just about enough of your investigation, Ourman.”
I held my hands up and tried to reason with him. “It’s all over, chief. Why don’t you put the gun down? It’s probably all rusty anyway. If you shoot, it could backfire on you.”
“I’m not falling for that old trick!”
“All right, well, how about this old trick?”
I grabbed the hole out of my pocket and threw it as I ducked behind the desk. He fired, but the hole swallowed up the shot and most of the musket. I pulled out my sidearm and aimed it at the chief.
“I hate to do this, sir, but you’ve got the right to remain silent.”
“I know, I know.”
The chief, the town council, half the town’s police officers, and dozens of park rangers were all sentenced to 40 years for theft and mutilation of a national park. The holes were taken into federal custody and a team of specialists was brought in from the US Geological Survey to reassemble the Grand Canyon. A few pieces had been melted down and sold on the black market, but work has begun to remove the remaining pieces of dirt hovering in the air.
As for me, I’m now the Commissioner. We rooted out the corruption and established an amnesty program where anyone can return stolen pieces of the Grand Canyon, no questions asked. Things have quieted down and I spend most of my time walking around downtown, saying hi to the local business folks and petting nice dogs. I admit, I do enjoy a coin trick now and then, but I avoid the hard stuff. No birds or people getting sawn in half.
I was practicing forcing the three of diamonds one day, when Sergeant Nguyen came into my office.
“Sir! Something’s up at the Meteor Crater!”
“That’s Winslow’s jurisdiction.”
“They’re asking for your assistance, sir. The crater…it’s missing!”
Welp, here we go again!
After a very unusual somersault, Donut found herself at the rubble that used to be the Statue of Liberty. She leaped on top of a giant toe to get a better view. It would have been just a jump, but her newfound powers upgraded it to a leap.
As she steadied herself from the leap’s unexpected impressiveness, Donut scanned the scene for the Redressers. She spotted them as they took turns making out with the chunk of statue that contained the mouth. What a bunch of creeps, right?
Donut assumed a heroic stance, pointed at her newly-evil former teammates, and shouted, “Hey! Lady Liberty didn’t give you her consent!”
The Redressers turned to face her. They recognized her and started laughing. “Look out,” said Kathryn, “that banana’s loaded!” Oooooh, that just burns me up.
Donut looked around, excited about the potential banana. When she saw there wasn’t one, she got really embarrassed. That embarrassment manifested itself as anger, which then led to shame for allowing her anger to distract her from Buddha’s teachings.
Just then, Buddha appeared two toes over from her. “Hey-y-y-y, Donut! How’s it going?”
“Not great, sir. Those guys blew up the Statue of Liberty and made fun of me. It’s making me really upset. I’m not controlling my emotions or letting go of my ego at all.”
“Oh, don’t worry about that. There’s plenty of time to shed the baggage of earthly life. Right now the bigger issue is those guys causing trouble.”
“So it’s okay if I get mad and take things personally?”
“What’s important is you’re aware of it and work to improve in the long run.”
“I dunno, that sounds like an excuse.”
“Think of it as training wheels. No one finds enlightenment in one day. We’ll work on clearing your mind tomorrow. Right now, you’ve got to stop these jerks from wrecking more symbols.”
“Okay. Thank you, sir!”
Donut leaped at the Redressers. This time it was a fully intentional leap and her form was inspiring. She shouted, “Monkey rise!” and grew until she was a hundred feet tall. She shouted, “Monkey staff!” and her magical staff materialized in her paw. She swung it at the Redressers and knocked all five of them out over the harbor.
Carl quickly waved his hands and created a huge portal in their trajectory which popped them out behind Donut. The force of five people hitting her at full speed knocked Donut prone.
Kathryn smirked and said, “Let’s get rid of that stick, eh, little monkey?” She grabbed the butt of the staff and turned it into water. Can you believe it?
As her weapon splashed away, Donut rose to her feet. Though she was much larger than her opponents, she was outnumbered. She tried kicking at them, but they dodged nimbly.
“Donut!” Buddha called. “I gave you other powers!”
“Like increased awareness and control over my pulse?”
“No! Like finger lasers! You have finger lasers, dude!”
“Holy crap!” Donut yelled. She spread her fingers out and fired ten lasers at the Redressers. She only hit Frankenstein and Kathryn, but they were all terrified. “This is amazing! Thanks, Budda!”
Frankenstein shot a death beam at Donut, but she shrank down to fifty feet and it went over her head. Dwayne shot his machine guns at her, but she turned her body to kevlar and the bullets bounced off her. Jeez, I can’t believe I used to like these guys. Well, not Dwayne. He always kind of sucked. Anyway.
Mia looked around for anything technological to take over, but only saw a bunch of dumb old copper and concrete. Ha! How about them all-natural, organic apples?
Just then, Skranenflon appeared. “To me, my Redressers!” he called. “Hey, what gives? You’re making us look bad up here!”
“It’s that monkey,” Mia said, not mentioning her inability to contribute to the fight in this setting. “She somehow got Sun Wukong’s powers and we can’t stop her.”
“Aw, man! Is that Buddha guy here? Ooooh, I hate him! He’s like a walking coexist sticker. I’d better power you guys up.”
Skranenflon wiggled his nose and the Redressers were suddenly much buffer. Dwayne and Carl were now well over six feet tall and covered in veiny muscles. Frankenstein was now ten feet tall and looked more like a Hollywood action star than a stitched-together pile of corpses. And Mia and Kathryn were now standing back to back and wearing sports bras, knee-high boots, bikini bottoms, and random straps on their arms and legs. Mia’s hair was now purple and Kathryn’s now had a white streak. They also had a strange urge to make out with each other. Mia looked over at Skranenflon, who was staring at them with a big, pervy grin. Gross!
Mia and Kathryn shook their heads to clear the horniness and all five Redressers punched the air in front of them, each discharging different types of energy. Dwayne’s was plasma, Mia’s was electricity, Frankenstein’s was dark energy, Kath– Oh, who cares? Donut fired her finger lasers back at them and all the various beams met in the middle, pouring more and more power into a bright ball of energy. The ball exploded, knocking all six of them back on their butts. Wow!
“Aw, come on!” Skranenflon shouted. “This isn’t working at all!”
“I know,” Buddha said. “This is ridiculous! We’ll be here all week at this rate.”
“Forget it,” Skranenflon said. “I’m calling in our fleet.”
Skranenflon tapped a few buttons on his gauntlet and within seconds, hundreds of starships came out of hyperdrive in the sky above New York. A loudspeaker from the ship in point position crackled, “This is Pandemonium-1, reporting in.”
“All units, fire!” Skranenflon commanded.
Just then, Buddha drew a mystical sign in the air and another fleet of starships appeared overhead. They immediately started firing on the Pandemonium ships.
“Great job, Nirvana,” Buddha said into his earpiece. “I knew you’d get here in time.”
“Time is a construct, sir,” Nirvana-Red-Alpha replied. “We’re concerned with higher things, like kicking some infernal tail.”
“Atta boy,” Buddha said.
The Redressers and Donut looked up at what would surely be the greatest science fiction movie of all time if anyone wants to buy the rights from me, when they suddenly disappeared.
They rematerialized in the cockpits of the lead ships for their respective sides, Donut with Buddha in Nirvana-Red-Alpha and the Redressers next to Skranenflon in Pandemonium-1.
“What’s happening, sir?” Donut asked.
“I guess it’s time you knew. This was all a proxy war in the eternal battle between Skranenflon’s and my rival alien empires.”
“That’s mind-boggling and all, but shouldn’t you be worried about the innocent people down there? They could get killed!”
“Oh, right.” Buddha wiggled his fingers and the Earth disappeared. “Sorry to scare you like that. Earth was a hologramic arena we created to play out our moral conflict in more concrete terms.”
The space battle raged. Every second, more ships from the opposing alien races exploded into dust. Before long the only ones left were Pandemonium-1 and Nirvana-Red-Alpha.
“Oh, poo,” Skranenflon said.
The universe dissolved to reveal Skranenflon and Buddha sitting on either side of a sophisticated video game console.
“Hmm, looks like another tie,” Skranenflon said.
“Shall we play again?”
Skranenflon sighed. “It’s so tedious. Can’t we just do it directly?”
“You mean with our fists?”
“Yeah, why not?”
The two beings stood up and started kicking and punching each other. Neither was getting hurt, so the fight was pointless.
After a few minutes, Skranenflon said, “Nope, this still isn’t getting us anywhere.”
“No bodies, then?”
Both beings dissolved into amorphous clouds that slowly grew. The clouds slammed into each other, intermingling and then pulling apart. Each collision resulted in a few particles of each cloud winding up inside the other cloud, then being destroyed by their equivalent of white blood cells. After several millennia and countless collisions, both clouds had only experienced nominal losses.
“This is getting us nowhere,” Helen said.
“I can’t believe it,” Methuselah said. “Over eight billion simulations and we’re still no closer to determining if people are generally good or evil.”
“It seems like it’s mostly determined by the almost random conditions you grow up in, with some influence by characteristics that you’re born with,” Helen said.
“Yeah, I know,” Methuselah said. “I was working on the same experiment. Why are you being so expository?”
“Why are YOU being so expository?” Donut mumbled. She stirred, realizing she had been talking in her trance. The Redressers, Buddha, and Skranenflon had stopped fighting among the rubble on Liberty Island and were staring at her.
“Heh. I guess you heard all that, huh?” Everyone nodded. “Then I guess we can just cancel the fight and move on with our lives.”
Everyone shrugged and shook hands. Donut looked at the camera and winked.
I read over the last sentence. “Looked at the camera and winked?” I said. “What am I thinking? This is text! Ugh, this arc is so stupid. I’m not even posting this episode.”
I crumpled up the paper I was writing on and threw it on the floor in disgust, quitting my Redressers story forever.
As I walked away to drink seven more coffees, the wad of paper looked at the camera and winked.
Mia, Dwayne, Kathryn, Carl, and Frankenstein looked from the three-story demon in a tuxedo to their infernal surroundings.
Kathryn shook her head. “Ha! I did not expect this.”
The demon twirled his walking stick and let it rest on his shoulder. “I suppose I ought to get the tour out of the way so we can begin your eternal torment. My name is Skranenflon and I’ll be your attendant while you’re here. Anything you need, just wail and gnash those pearly little whites. You’re all here because you did lots of nasty things up there like breaking out of jail and eating shellfish. Ooooh, He hates that! (It’s a texture thing. They’re so chewy!) Anywho, up there is a limitless void separating us from the mortal plane and everywhere around you is a burning lake of fire. Any questions?”
“So is there like, sex stuff here?” Carl asked. “Lotta pervoids? Where do you keep them?”
“In the boiling lake of fire like everyone else,” Skranenflon said. “We used to specialize the punishments to match the crimes — you know, starving the gluttons while showing them food just out of reach and beating the greedy with bags of gold — but we’ve had such an influx of sinners over the last five thousand years and their sins are so varied and intermingled that we had to simplify everything. I tell you, some days I don’t know why I show up at all. Long story short, if you’re looking for perverts, you’ll have to ask around while the flesh melts off your bones.”
“Hmm. Well, it’s an icebreaker, anyway,” Carl said.
“That’s the spirit. Now, before we get started, there’s a technicality to take care of. We give all newcomers the option of either serving as minions of evil or being tortured for eternity with a chance of parole in a few million years, give or take based on your case. It’s a very difficult decision and–”
“We’ll do it,” Dwayne said.
“Are you sure? Everyone else has chosen the torture and hope for eventual redemption rather than doing evil.”
“Nope. No, thank you. We’ll do it.”
“Does that go for all of you?” The Redressers shrugged and nodded. “Wonderful! I’ll get the paperwork started. Hey, Adolf! We’re going to need a few badges over here!”
Before long, they were outfitted with black leather outfits of varying degrees of coverage and were reading the user manuals about their new satanic powers. Mia was now a cyborg with a robot arm, a laser eye, and a spiky red metal mohawk. She also had the ability to interface with any technology and take it over. Dwayne had grown into a gravelly-voiced muscle man with throbbing veins, a face tattoo, enormous guns, and lots of pouches. An inordinate amount of pouches. Kathryn had the power to transmute materials from one substance to another. Her new uniform showed even more cleavage than her old one, but she didn’t mind anymore since she was working for the devil. Carl had the cosmic power to transport people anywhere and create special “survive in space” bubbles if necessary, Finally, Frankenstein could now shoot beams that could kill and other beams that could bring stuff back to life. It was pretty impressive, honestly.
“What do we do with this incredible power?” asked Kathryn.
“You’ll be working with the terrestrial reclamation team,” Skranenflon said. “The main focus is spreading as much evil over the Earth as possible in order to drive more souls down here. We made some great strides in the 20th Century, but these darn millennials just aren’t taking the bait like their parents did. Do you know how many twenty-somethings killed someone because of their race or religion last year? Two million! When you say it out loud, that sounds like a lot, but it used to be much higher! So you need to stir up the hornets’ nest. Spread fear. Destroy some buildings. Blame it on some kind of group. Have fun with it! And don’t worry about the morality. You’re already in Hell. Okay, Genghis. Let ‘er rip.”
Genghis waved a glowing sword and the Redressers disappeared. “Boy,” Skranenflon said, “I thought they’d never shut up.”
The Redressers appeared in the alley where the Sand Witch had killed them. Their bodies were still there. Frankenstein tried out his new abilities by re-animating the arm of Dwayne’s body and making it wiggle around. “Yoo hoo, Dwa-a-ayne,” he said.
Everyone had a good laugh except Dwayne. He growled, “Cut it out!” and shot Frankenstein’s legs off. Frankenstein made the arm flip Dwayne the bird and then de-re-animated it before making his legs grow back.
“Well,” Mia started, “what do you guys wanna do?”
Carl said, “I guess if we’re supposed to spread fear and violence, I’ve got a pretty good idea.”
He waved his arm and a vertical disc of blue light appeared. “Step in. This’ll be fun.”
Meanwhile, remember the monkey who ran away a few segments ago? She was hanging out on a fire escape, eating a cantaloupe she found in the trash, when a chubby old man approached on the ground below. She shrieked and jumped up.
“Hey, up there. Don’t be startled. I’m a friend.”
The monkey squatted low, then slowly raised her head to look at the potential threat.
“Here, this will help us get to know each other.”
The old man wiggled his fingers in the air and the monkey suddenly felt like her brain was exploding, but without any pain. Just expansion. She gasped and then made a few vocalizations.
“Puh! Puh! Fuh! Muh muh muh. Oh, wow! I can talk!” She clasped her hands over her mouth. “This is amazing! What did you do? Who are you?”
“No biggie. I’m Buddha. Nice to meet you.”
“Wow! Like, THE Buddha? You’re a big deal.”
“Oh, I do okay, I guess. I try not to let it go to my head.”
“Oh, right. That’s kind of your thing, isn’t it? Wait, how do I know that?”
“You’re wise, little monkey. I just made you a little wiser. Speaking of, along with speech, I went ahead and gave you Sun Wukong’s other powers. Crazy strength, somersaulting halfway around the world, changing shape and size, all that. I threw a couple of extra ones in as a surprise. I figured you could use them.”
“Use them? For what?”
“Well, you know those people you used to hang around with, the Redressers?”
“Old Scratch has given them superpowers. He wants to wreak havoc, drown the world in blood, yadda yadda yadda.”
“That’s, uh, not great.”
“Right. And since you know them, it seems like you’d be a good one to stop them.”
“Yikes! That’s pretty heavy stuff, sir.”
“I know, but the finale’s coming up so we have to make sure things are set up for the big battle.”
“Okay, I’ll do my best. But isn’t fighting kind of antithetical to your teachings?”
“You’ll find a way. You’re a pretty clever monkey. By the way, you should think up a name. ‘The monkey’ is pretty impersonal.”
She thought for a minute. “How about Donut?”
“Donut! What an excellent name. Something that brings you immense childlike joy. Very good, Donut.”
“So what do I do now?”
“I’m sure your former colleagues will make themselves known before too long. Then just go to wherever they are and do something about it. You good?”
“I think so. Hey, there aren’t any sexual politics underlying a female monkey getting powers from a semi-divine male, are there?”
“Probably. But I think you saving the world from weaponized masculinity makes up for it.”
“Come back when you’re done. We’ll grab some churros and empathize with whatever’s around.”
“Sounds like fun. Thanks!”
It was about that time that the Redressers blew up the Statue of Liberty. News crews in New York started broadcasting live footage immediately, and Donut saw the the images on a TV in a sports bar she was passing in Big City. She planted her feet for a somersault and took a deep breath.
“Time to fling some righteous poo.”
Wanted for two jailbreaks and destruction of public property, the Redressers were hiding in Dwayne’s one-bedroom apartment, going over their options.
Dwayne picked up the list. “Alright, what have we come up with? Get jobs under assumed identities. Okay. Lean into crime. Not super enthused about that one. This one just says ‘Dark Web’. Carl? Can you expand on that?”
“You know, like on the internet. But, like, untraceable.”
“I’m not sure yet. The library was closing, so I had to stop reading the wikipedia page.”
“Okay. Now, there seems to be an option missing from this list. One that I think we ought to look into. Can anyone guess?”
Carl peered into distance, racking his brain. Frankenstein drummed his fingers on the table in thought. Mia continued trying to ignore the whole conversation. Kathryn woke herself up with her snoring.
“Znxx, wha? Where are we?”
“You guys,” Dwayne said. “I think it’s obvious what we’re meant to do. We’re back together as a team, operating outside of the law, each of us with their own specialty. Frankenstein, you know what I’m thinking, right?”
“An agricultural commune?”
“No! Let’s be outlaw vigilantes! Let’s be supers. Fighting crime. Hunted by the very police who we’re helping in our mission to protect the streets. It’ll be great! We can have secret identities and everything. Well, those of us who aren’t blue or undead. No offense.”
“Hey, it’s catching on in Scandanavia,” Kathryn said.
“Which one? Never mind. I don’t want to know. So let’s talk powers. The old lineup was flawed, which we saw after a couple of excursions. Frankenstein, you’re good as the muscle. Mia, I like you as the brainy tinker. But the rest of us need new skill sets since none of us are actually magical or godlike. Carl, I like the blue. It’s a good initial distraction. Can we build on that? Make you a dark elf or something?”
“I learned to juggle flaming sticks in the freak show. Can we use that?”
“Okay, okay, I like what I’m hearing. Fire, blue skin, maybe a devil theme? A demon? An imp? Let’s put a pin in that and come back. That leaves you and me, Kathryn. I’m kind of the leader. The general giving orders. So you–”
“Hang on,” Kathryn said. “Why do you have to be the leader? My TED talk ratings are just as high as yours. And I think a female leader would be a good change. Good publicity, too. Think of if we made the news. If people see a man grandstanding about vigilanteism, they’ll get scared. But if a woman does it, that could be empowering. Inspirational, even.”
“Then what do I do? Carl’s got fire covered, so my only other skill is inspiration. Could we use a bard? Is that a thing outside of RPGs?”
Kathryn thought for a moment. “The nearest I know of would be a hype man. Like Flava Flav or Bobby Byrd. You could stand off to the side and cheer us on or repeat what just happened to amp us up. How does that sound?”
“Ifrit!” Carl said.
“Ifrit as in the fire demon?” Kathryn asked.
“Yeah! I could make my hair crazy and twirl fire and be really scary. Ifrit! What do you think?”
“Well, Carl, I must congratulate you on your knowledge of Islamic mythology. Ifrits are a kind of fiery jinni that appear in the Koran as well as more secular works like the 1001 Arabian Nights.”
“Oh. I just knew it from Final Fantasy IV. Rydia summons them and they do damage to all the monsters. It’s especially powerful against–”
“Okay. Thanks, Carl. Good job. So we’re good? We’ve got Ifrit and Frankenstein. Mia, you can make another costume and be the tinker or engineer or whatever. Dwayne, you’re Hype-Man (hyphen included). And I’ll be Professor K the psychic and keep my boobs inside my damn shirt. We can use earpieces to simulate telepathy like televangelists do. I like this plan!”
“She likes that plan!” Dwayne said. “How’s that, fellow outlaws?”
“One question,” Frankenstein said. “How do we make money doing this? We still need to eat and presumably pay the rent.”
“Once we get a name, we can sell merchandise,” Dwayne said. “Until then, we work on commission. If we stop a robbery, we get half.”
Mia stared ahead blankly and muttered, “We’re doomed.”
A few nights later, an alarm went off in downtown Big City. The Sand Witch ran out through the employee entrance of Adjectiveless Carl’s Pawn Shop with her sand blaster in one hand, a bag of jewels in the other, a tank of sand on her back, and a big, floppy hat on her head.
As she turned a corner into an alley, she found herself face to face with a flame-twirling blue man, a woman in a steampunk outfit, another woman pressing two fingers to her forehead intently, a man in a neat suit and skinny tie straight out of 1983, and, well, Frankenstein.
“What is this?” she asked.
“We’re the Redressers,” Kathryn said, “and we’ll let you choose WHICH of us beats you up first. No PAWN intended.”
“No pawn!” Dwayne repeated.
“That’s right!” Carl said. “We’re outlaw vigilantes and you’re about to regret doing all that crime!”
The Sand Witch put down the sand blaster, pulled out a gun, and shot all five of them. She then picked up the bag and ran home.
~ ~ ~
Mia stirred. The last thing she remembered was getting shot. She opened her eyes a crack. She seemed to be in a giant cave with high, red walls that disappeared into darkness. The ground was hot. She sat up and saw Dwayne, Carl, Kathryn, and Frankenstein on the ground near her. They were rousing as well.
Now that she was awake, she noticed the acrid, sulfurous odor in the air. She stood up to get her bearings. Fire and lava seemed to be everywhere. “Guys?” she said. “How did we get inside a volcano?”
“Oh, it’s not a volcano,” said a voice behind her reminiscent of Frank Nelson. She spun around and saw a bright red man in a tuxedo leaning on his walking stick. He had small horns on his head and a long, forked tail. “I’m afraid you’re in Hell.”