The Fanboys and the Lord of the Inferno
Punch him in the throat! Kick him in the nards!
Perhaps a lesser man would be perspiring now, gentle reader, but allow me to assure you that I, delightfully, am not. Iâ€™d estimate tonightâ€™s temperature at a more than balmy twenty-six degrees Celsius, even with the breeze high atop this Rice Howard Way downtown sky-scraping parkade.
Yet my brow is dry and my underarm regions are models of Saharan decorum. My clothes are humble, yet defiantly gentlemanly in this age of trend-driven â€œgroovinessâ€ and â€œhipness.â€ I remain what I have always been.
A tie, a jacket, a clean white shirt, and a handkerchief. Ah, the decline of both the handkerchief and even the pronunciation of the word itself (â€œhangkâ€™rchiffâ€… good heavens, what is a â€œchiff,â€ and why does it hanker?â€) seems a strong metaphor for what is wrong with this world.
My colleagues, on the other palm, are of a decidedly different species. Itâ€™s hard for me to believe, at times, that weâ€™re all the same age, plus or minus a year or two.
The mid-twenties have not been equally kind to our clan, least of all in the Bureau of Maturity and Cultivation. As my fellow merry men dance and strut atop this concrete aerie, billowing their chests with clouds of high-octane cannabis smoke and reptilian-brain testosterone vapour, the night-time distant scents of gasoline and eleven different brands of high-speed hamburger â€œfood productsâ€ whirl about us and mingle with downtown tower lights.
We are face-to-knee with titans. And I sigh, realising that such a fact means that we are merely gnats.
Were I to start a file folder (not that I have need; my memory is nigh… dare I say… holographic?) of my young comrades, I suppose the title bar would read BIZARRELY GROOMED YOUNG MEN. At the edge of the wall, beyond which lies six storeys of air and the abyss, is our vehicle, lovingly named the FanVan.
Did I mention that my shag-tag team, my Magnificent Mollochs, my Fantastic Five, is called the FanBoys? Perhaps that would better justify our vesselâ€™s nimble moniker (or our nimble vesselâ€™s moniker).
They are arguing, again, as they do incessantly. Mr. Alpha Cat is wearing his absurd giant shiny red gauchos and absurd giant shiny red shirt, with his absurd fuzzy red hat turned absurdly backward and declaring the word â€œKangolâ€ to any who would look. He looks like a gigantic little boy.
Mr. Cat is as pale as a subterranean cave-crab, yet for whatever reason has chosen to ape the â€œstyleâ€ and even the dialect of the West Indian negroes. It is his portable stereo, roughly the size of a Navy refrigerator, that is blaring the collected â€œMr. Lovermanâ€ arias of one Mr. S. Ranks to the moon and the stars; my ear drums ceased their agonies some time ago, having finally shattered.
Yet somehow I manage to hear his argument with Mr. Zenko.
â€œ…all mi sayin, all mi sayin, is yu donâ€™introduce an den SOLVE di main charAKterâ€™s mosâ€™imPOtant CRISis in di damn PIlot, an expec fi geneREETE an entire SERIALâ€™s wortâ€™ of epiSODES afta dat. DATâ€™S why Dyeep Speece Nine is raas….â€
Why they continue to descant upon this topic exceeds my comprehension and my patience. Mr. Zenko, after all, is a dyed-in-the-rayon Next-Generation Trekker, who will defend any Paramount product until the end of our galaxy, and is very much the foe of Alpha Catâ€™s defection to the very much newer and as-yet unproven Babylon 5.
Of all the FanBoys, Mr. Zenko is the only one whose sartorial imperatives even approximate mine; he too wears crisp white shirts, although he contents himself with a white t-shirt underneath rather than a tie above; his dress slacks boast pleats sharp enough to lathe wood; his shoes are always polished enough to reflect laser light with only minimal refraction.
And zounds! his hair–itâ€™s so lovingly coifed it seems carved by Michelangelo.
â€œYeah, basically,â€ says Mr. Zenko, â€œitâ€™s better to just drag out the â€˜mysteriesâ€™ for five years with aliens who canâ€™t speak in sentences–â€
â€œWhat, yu talkin bout Kosh? Kosh can speak, e juss doesnâ€™NEED to–â€
â€œPlus those sophomoric computer graphics? Itâ€™s basically friggin Intellivision, dude! Itâ€™s an embarrassment! Youâ€™re never gonna upstage model photography on a Roger Corman budget–â€
Then dear Frosty Gorkovski ceases fondling his ever-precious Minolta to enter the fray, frayed shutterbug cyberthug that he is. Youâ€™ll note him for his hair, which he bleaches to a cocaine white, then gels stiff into upright icicles. Frankly, itâ€™s quite striking, if youâ€™re a Jotar frost giant from Norse mythology. But itâ€™s his argot, though, that is most strikingly him.
â€œFer fuckâ€™s sakes, Zenk, man, Babylon 5 does NOT look like Intellivision, man! Now youâ€™re just talkin outta your crap-chute. Thatâ€™s the best goddam effects on TV, man–Caesar, back me up here, all right?â€
At last my squadron of subcutaneous subcretins seeks out the sole voice of reason. I clear my throat from demure noblesse oblige, and begin.
â€œIâ€™m… afraid, Mr. Zenko, I must, well, that is to say… agree… with Mr. Frosty, insofar as… that, ah… youâ€™re a little, uh, too quick, to… DISMISS, what is, well, surely–â€
Frosty throws up his hands as if he is nutcracker to the moon. For a moment I fear he is set upon hurtling down his Minolta to bash in my tender brains.
â€œCaesar, shit! I know youâ€™re on my side and everything, but dâ€™you think you could finish your sentence this millennium, ya lil creep-fuck beaver-bot?â€
â€œCâ€™MON, Frossee…â€ booms a Mack Truck engine retarder voice, â€œlee Caesar lone.â€
No one turns to look. It is the final and furriest member of our band, a coelacanth of sorts, or perhaps thatâ€™s inaccurate. A sasquatch, then, the missing link between apes and even larger apes. He is an adequate driver and a surprisingly effective cook, but unfortunately, diction and enunciation were not among the components when he was sewn together in Dr. Frankensteinâ€™s discount surgery sweatshop.
Despite my astonishing memory, even I cannot recall his real name. He is called what he apparently has always been. The Mugatu. He continues: â€œâ€˜s jss tryin to HELP–â€
â€œMoog, did anyone ask you?â€
â€œFrossee, câ€™mon, Frossee–â€
â€œMoog, thatâ€™s Frosty, Fros-TY, not â€˜FROSS SEA.â€™ Whereâ€™dja learn ta speak, Caveman School?â€
I must intercede. â€œNow, uh, Mr. Frosty, ah… my good fellow–â€
â€œSHUT UP, anyway, the point is is that B5â€™s CGI makes DS9 effects look like dick grease. They got space-battles betterâ€™n Jedi! Whadda you got–freakin Star Trash: Voyager? I mean, what tha fuck is that?
â€œLoss in Speece,â€ lilts Alpha Cat.
â€œLost in My Anus is closer. â€˜Whereâ€™s the Federation?â€™â€ he whimpers. â€œâ€˜I donâ€™t know, letâ€™s just fly in a straight line until we run into some writers–â€™â€
â€œHeyyyy… donâ€™put down VOY-JER–
â€œOr what?â€ begs Frosty. â€œYouâ€™ll eat me?
â€œ–you shut up, ya fuckin no-talkin man-ape–â€
â€œ–YOO SHUH DUP–â€
Any fear that fisticuffs will erupt are shattered by the bone-snapping sound of a certain cardoor opening and slamming shut on a certain car, and certain footfalls approaching us.
The SUV has been there all along. Its pilot, however, has apparently lost patience with my compatriotsâ€™ behaviour.
The FanBoys shut up and stand down.
While not the equal of The Mugatuâ€™s six-foot, seven-inch musclery, the stature of our patron is nonetheless not to be trifled with. Long ago he was once half-back teammate to one of our former premiers on the once-great Edmonton Eskimos. Arguably his own success, though, has been greater, if more secret. And more terrible.
He glowers at us from across the tarmac. I am suddenly aware of my testicles slinking inside my nether regions, like snails retreating into their shells from an avalanche of salt.
In one hand he holds his cellular telephone; in the other, a bottle of Tums. He rattles the bottle, and again. And again. His lips twist into a cosine-wave of revulsion as he uncaps the bottle, shakes out a handful of stomach-balms, lifts his pot-roast-sized paw to his maw and crunches them down. I have no idea how he does it, but the grinding of his teeth sounds distinctly like the pop a knee makes when it dislocates.
His expression is terrifying.
He must hate Tums.
He takes another step towards us. We all quiver, as if imagining our fingerbones in the killing floor of his mouth.
He clears his throat with a rifle-cocking clank. â€œI… am trying… to conduct… business, you hellish geeks–â€
His eyes stab us each. I examine the quality of work in my shoes and the floor that supports them.
â€œ…which,â€ he resumes, â€œis very difficult when you are screaming, and yelling. It is now quiet time.â€
Frosty jumps up, ever the school child too sadly devoid of impulse control.
â€œYeah, but Mr. Allen, The Moog here–â€
â€œWHAT PART of â€˜SHUT UPâ€™ did that Yugo brain of yours fail to PROCESS, ASS-PARTS?â€
The Mugatu gloats; at least, I assume that is the reason for his smile; perhaps he has just consumed a hedgehog. Or perhaps heâ€™s simply happy because the Master has just made another addition to his legendary â€œass lexicon.â€
Frosty leans against the railing, surrendered. Perhaps he realises that arguing is contra-indicated to preserving the structural integrity of his buttocks.
The Master turns back to his ambulatory telephone, and turns his back to us. â€œYou sure itâ€™s comin in tomorrow?â€ Pause. â€œYou sure he doesnâ€™t know we know?â€
And far too quickly, my relatively quiet FanBoys forget their fear, teacher-out-of-the-room/junior-high-reprobates that they are. The Mugatu starts to snicker-laugh at Frosty, who in turn starts to â€œhuckâ€ refuse at him.
Alpha Cat whispers his plea, â€œFrosty, câ€™mon,â€ but is ignored as Mr. Zenko begins collaborating on ensuring our imminent punishment. â€œZenk!â€ Alpha cat begs again.
There is a pause.
Then there is an explosion of throwing. I become aware of sudden blindness; there is, I believe, a day-old Tim Hortonâ€™s cherry-filled powdered doughnut lodged in the region of my face I usually employ for sight.
Sudden silence. I attempt to restore my dignity. As I scoop cherry jam from my eye-wells, like the blindman healed by Christâ€™s spittle-and-mud, Mr. Dulles Allen, our master, who has been dismissed pithily but unfairly as one-third Archie Bunker, one-third Oliver North, and one-third The Incredible Hulk, with his â€œRush is Rightâ€ gold lapel pin reflecting light like a torch in the mines of Mordor, commands our attention.
â€œYessuh, Mistah Allen, suh!â€
â€œYou sure Digaestus Caesar saw what you said he said he saw?â€
Alpha Cat looks at me, beaming pride. â€œMiâ€™d steek â€˜is liyfe on it, suh.â€
â€œThen itâ€™s time to get your little crew of ass-tongs in gear. You got a job.â€
Mr. Allen hands Alpha Cat a folded piece of paper, returns to his SUV, starts the engine.
Alpha Cat: â€œFaanBwoyys, assemble!â€
Mr. Allen puts down his telephone, opens a briefcase on the passenger side. I am standing close enough to him to see his wedding ring glitter from reflected Scotia Place lights as he sorts through his equipment: vials, zippered plastic bags, spoons, razors. An iron attachment for his fist, featuring reverse shark-fins atop each of the knuckles. Pliers. A small icepick. A book whose title I cannot read in this light. A hand-held steel device I believe should be classified as a light cannon, or perhaps a rib remover.
While I dawdle dangerously, my comrades are obeying Alpha Catâ€™s command, clanking open their own equipment cases and arsenals. Their demeanour is transformed utterly; they are become a M*A*S*H unit of grand theft. What a splendid description, like a Victorian tea, or a tour of the Forbidden City: Grand theft. And when the time necessitates it, the object of such theft is life.
My only preparation is internal; the focussing of the mechanism of my mind. Me–the human spectroscope, the living MRI.
Mr. Allen beckons me with a grunt; I trot over, accept my biscuit.
â€œBuncha slacker sociopaths from hell,â€ he grumbles. â€œBut at least youâ€™re my sociopaths, ya lil shits.â€
â€œUh, yessir, ah, Mister, ah, Allen….â€
I eat my biscuit.
My mouth releases a moan; I sigh as the chalkiness assaults my throat, shudder as my stomach accepts the agonising entrance. It is gastronomical rape.
When my REM finally stills and Iâ€™ve wiped the tears from my eyes and the drool from my chin, I see Mr. Allen staring at me, disgust as stark upon his face as a soak of urine upon a plush white carpet.
He closes his briefcase of pain.
I donâ€™t think he is talking to me, but he states clearly as he starts his engine, â€œIf that lousy fuck… thinks he can CHEAT ME… after all Iâ€™ve done for him… and all heâ€™s done to me… then heâ€™d better lick his nuts goodbye.â€
He drives off.
We begin our mission for the night.