I was attempting to hibernate through an atypical stormy November afternoon when my realm’s lead (and only) Imaginary Friend, Renfield, barged into my office, blinded the room with light and cheerfully yelled “Breaking news!”
“Can’t you see I’m hibernating?”
“Oh, you’ll want to know about this,” she said with a smile (always smiling). “Daisy and Peety are the greatest superhero team.”
I sighed and lit a cigarette. “So? Both have the emotional intelligence of a six-year-old. It makes sense that they’d play Batman in the barnyard–On your way out, please kill the light.”
I knew that my hibernation was on pause when Renfield said: “The ‘barnyard’ you alluded to is on Other Earth.”
“Holy skid marks, Caped Crusader,” I said. “Do me a favor, pretend that I have amnesia and fill me in on the backstory. Speak as though I’m a reader ignorant of Daisy, Peety and our realm in general.”
“Ha! Forget you and your incomprehensible laziness as a storyteller,” Renfield said. “You’re not passing that buck my way this time.”
It wasn’t my day for picking long shots. So I opened my laptop and wrote the following:
Renfield whistled and Pie-Eyed Peety the PDQ Pilsner Pigeon and Daisy Cloverleaf the Pygmy Goatess entered my office. Both are Fictional Characters (FC’s) in my employ, who (along with over a couple hundred other FC’s) “essay” various roles in my productions–which are “shot” like movies. Renfield is a former FC who is now the only Imaginary Friend, and she’s second in charge of this virtual realm in which I am the Penname (sigh, yes, just one word)–or “Director.” Everyone over here but me belongs to the Union of Imaginary Friends and Fictional Characters (UIFFC)–formerly the Union of Pennames, Imaginary Friends and Fictional Characters.
“See, was that so hard?” Renfield asked.
I ignored her, which is easy to do if you get a lot of practice. But Daisy and Peety were more unusual than… well, usual. For the past month or so, Daisy had been sporting a paper mache horn on her head because she wanted to be a Unicorn. Which I supported because I figured that would keep her from bitching about not being born a Unicorn. The horn was gone and she was wearing a glittering gold robe like that of a pro wrestler (Ric Flair came to mind)–except it was designed for a small individual of the four-legged variety. She also had matching boots that covered her hooves. And a ribbon of the same color tied to her tail. And she was wearing sunglasses, the same kind Jack Nicholson wears full time–except these were fashioned to fit the head of a Pygmy Goat. A gaudy gold rope chain, whose medallion contained four large gold letters made from darker glitter, hung from her neck. The letters spelled G.O.A.T.
Peety is always weird looking. He’s a two dimensional cartoon Pigeon who was the late 1940’s mascot for PDQ Pilsner on Other Earth. He looked the way he always looks, but somehow he had rearranged his lines to form a mask like the one the Lone Ranger wore.
It quickly became clear that the situation was a steaming pile of freshly squeezed dogshit just begging to be stepped in.
I cracked under the strain: “All right, what’s the gag?”
Peety spoke first. “Squ-wack, we are the FC’s from GOAT.”
“As in the Greatest Of All Time,” Daisy added, with a smidgen of attitude, enough to shade the caps bold, I might add.
I should have known that Daisy would have eventually come across the sportstalk/show biz acronym of hyperbole and get peculiar about it.
“I’m all for delusions of grandeur,” I said, “but Renny here tells me you guys have been to Other Earth in violation of the agreement.”
“Actually, Leila,” Renfield chimed in, “the agreement states that only you can no longer set foot on Other Earth.”
“Doesn’t that imply that FC’s of my creation are a part of me?”
“But surely her highness recalls endowing this Imaginary Friend and all of her FC’s with Free Will,” Renfield said. “We do as we please.”
The phone rang. It was the hot line. Only used by this Pen’s Employer, a shady character of dubious repute.
I answered the phone with my usual polite demeanor: “What?”
My employer was in her usual state of disarray caused by her subhuman lifestyle. She told me and told me and told me stuff until I had heard enough.
“I’ve got just two words for you, boss,” I said before hanging up on her. “And they ain’t ‘thank you.’”
I lit another cigarette off the still smoldering butt of the one I’d just finished.
“The boss says that Other Earth called to complain about a cartoon Pigeon and a Pygmy Goat getting inside an old Twilight Zone rerun at Other Earth. They traced the individuals in question back to her. I don’t think I’m guilty of profiling when I assume the culprits are in this very room–along with their enabler,” I said, looking directly at Renfield at the end.
“Ah, Other Earth, that twin world devised by our Esteemed Employer then entrusted to you, our humble Pen,” Renfield said, filling the remainder of the backstory because she had realized that by refusing to do so meant that I had to cut her lines. “That Eden you visited in its past and altered its future so it includes ungovernable nuclear monsters that exist only in our fifties science fiction films. Where you found Peety and brought him to our world despite the rift that caused in the fabric of spacetime.”
She came around my side of the desk and began to fiddle with my laptop.
“I’ve managed to download a copy of G.O.A.T.’s first mission.”
I recognized the scene instantly. It was the final seconds of a Twilight Zone episode that was originally aired both here and at Other Earth on 20 November 1959, titled Time Enough At Last. The episode involves an extremely myopic, milquetoast bookworm named Henry Bemis, who only wants to read but is prevented by everyone around him, especially his shrewish wife. A famous episode which ends with Henry being the sole survivor of a nuke attack because he was in the vault of the bank he worked at. Henry at first despairs, then rejoices because there’s “All the time at last” to read. Then, in a cruel ironic twist, Henry accidentally breaks his glasses, begins to weep and is then consoled and aided by a cartoon Pigeon and a Pygmy Goatess in the guises of superheroes–at least that’s what now runs on Other Earth.
“Hello, Mr. Bemis,” Daisy said, “we found your spare pair of spectacles unharmed at your house. Alas, the same cannot be said for your wife.”
“Squ-wack–boiled like a sweet potato.”
Daisy then used her mouth to carefully remove Mr. Bemis’s glasses from her robe and placed them on Mr. Bemis.
He was both overjoyed and somewhat confused at the same time.
“What, what–um, how is this?”
“We are from G.O.A.T., which means the Greatest Of All Time,” Daisy said, as if that explained everything. “I am The GOAT and this is my sidekick PDQ Peety. We must go now, but I recommend that you locate a book on glasses making and repair.”
Then Peety dug out an unharmed fifth of Jack Daniel’s from the rubble, pushed it toward Bemis and said “Squ-wack-‘My advice to you is to start drinking heavily’–Bluto, Animal House.”
The screen faded to black.
“So,” I said, “you guys are FC superheroes who rescue other FC’s in distress, but can only do it at Other Earth because of Peety’s singular effect on the flow of reality over there.”
“Precisely,” Daisy said.
“Wait a minute–that man was actually an actor named Burgess Meredith, not a Fictional Character.”
“Not anymore, Leila,” Renfield said. “Mr. Meredith lived to almost ninety and has been dead for a very long time.”
“Let me get this straight–or as straight as I’m willing–since Meredith’s death that character on the show has been Mr. Bemis.”
“Precisely,” either Renfield or Daisy or maybe even Peety said. I forgot because I had stopped paying attention.
“Well, thanks for the update,” I said with a yawn. “Don’t let the boss catch you guys playing over there. And I’m sure that none of you will let the door hit you in the ass on the way out–and turn off that goddam light.”
They just laughed and went on their merry way. And no one turned off the light. Fortunately, the hotline rang again. I fired the phone at the light with stunning success and resumed my hibernation.