8 – WE’RE OFF TO SEE THE WIZARD
It was the day after the dark and stormy night when the battle of the band went down. It was a dark and stormy day. Riff n Raff walked into Ye Olde Clowne House, looking for BeanO. They found him sitting in a dark, back corner, by himself. He was nursing a cold one and watching the 24 hour news channel. He was fidgeting. Every story, from every corner of the world, was about acts of terrible violence. “BeanO,” Riff said, “What the Hell is wrong with the world?”
“That’s gonna take a while, son. How much time you got?”
“That’s a good question, BeanO,” said Raff, “How much time do we have? Things are getting really ugly, everywhere.”
“C’mon,” said BeanO.
“Where we going,” asked Riff.
“We’re going to Urda Castle.” The kids had no idea what or where Urda Castle was, but it sounded like an adventure, one that could be more fun than dangerous, so they followed the clown. BeanO opened his wallet, heading for the cash register, He stopped cold. All his money had disappeared. More accurately, all the ink on his money had disappeared. He had a wallet filled with blank pieces of paper.
“Either of you have any money?” he asked Riff n Raff. They, too, had nothing but blank pieces of paper. “Well, that’s weird, but we have bigger problems to deal with, right now. Wait fifteen seconds, then follow me out the back door. Look natural.” It wasn’t a first for Riff. Raff was nonplussed by the drink and dash.
Ye Olde Clowne House was located next to the train tracks. As luck would have it, a train was slowly passing our heroes. “Quick, jump on,” BeanO yelled, hopping into an empty boxcar. The kids scrambled aboard. “Why don’t we just take your clown wagon, BeanO?” Raff asked.
“There are no roads to Urda Castle,” BeanO told them. “The Urdas don’t welcome visitors. We’ll have to jump off the train at Ignace and hike ten miles to get there.”
“Is it dangerous? Asked Raff.
The clown hesitated a second before saying, “Dangerous? Yes, very, very dangerous.” Riff didn’t believe him. But he knew his father was up to something, so he kept his mouth shut.
BeanO had sold it well, and Raff had fallen for it. She was all ears as the clown explained, “We will have to cross The Bridge of Death, which spans The Gorge of Eternal Peril.” Raff squirmed and looked out the open door, as if they were rapidly approaching The Bridge of Death, which spans The Gorge of Eternal Peril. “There we will have to answer five questions in order to cross The Bridge of Death, which spans The Gorge of Eternal Peril.”
“Three,” said Riff.
“What?” asked BeanO.
“Three questions, not five.”
“Yes. Right. Three questions.”
“What happens if we don’t answer the five questions?” Raff asked, nervously.
“Three questions,” Riff corrected.
“Yes. Three questions,” said Raff.
“If we fail to answer any of the five questions correctly,” said BeanO.
“Three,” corrected Raff.
“What?” asked BeanO.
“Three questions, not five,” said both Riff n Raff.
“Yes. Three questions, not five,” said BeanO. “If we fail to answer any of the five questions correctly,” BeanO said, before pausing to see if either of the kids was getting annoyed. This time, the kids let it go, so BeanO continued. “If we fail to answer any of the five questions correctly, we will be cast into The Gorge of Eternal Peril.”
“By whom, exactly?” asked Raff, who was catching on.
“What?” asked BeanO.
“Who will ask us the five questions,” asked Raff.
“Three questions, “ BeanO corrected.”
“Yes. Three questions,” said Raff. “Who will ask us the three questions and cast us into The Gorge of Rternal Peril if we get one of the five questions wrong,” she asked.
“Three questions,” Riff corrected.
“Yes. Three questions,” agreed BeanO. The kids stared at the clown and awaited an answer
“Ummm,” said the clown, stalling for time as he scanned his memory banks for the answer to the all important question. “Ummm… it’s… ummmm, it’s…. it’s The Old Man from Scene 24,” he said with a smile.
The smile was a little too much for Raff, and she called the clown’s bluff. “Give me your finger,” she demanded of the clown.
“What? What for,” BeanO asked, knowing the gag was all but done.
Raff jumped on BeanO, grabbed him by the wrist, forced his clenched fist open and pulled his finger. Nothing happened. She did it again, and again, and again, and nothing happened, nothing happened, and nothing happened. “We’d all be dying of laughter, right now, if there were any such things as The Bridge of Death, The Gorge of Eternal peril, and The Old Man from Scene 24.”
“No,” Riff corrected his friend, “we’d still be sitting in Ye Olde Clowne House if there were any such things as The Bridge of Death, The Gorge of Eternal peril, and The Old Man from Scene 24 between us and Urda Castle, but we have time to kill, and dad am here to amuse us, so….”
Raff laughed and gave BeanO a big bear hug.
“Who are these Urdas?” asked Riff.
BeanO thought. How could he explain what an Urda is? “An Urda is someone with an answer,” the clown answered, finally.
“That’s pretty cryptic, dad.”
“You know when you ask an adult why something is happening, and their only answer is ‘because’?”
“Oh, I hate when they do that,” said Raff.
“As you should, Raff. You should hate it because ‘because’ is not an answer. It’s a cop out. It just means they’re too lazy, or stupid, to figure it out. Or they don’t want to face the ugly truth.”
“Yeah, that’s what I’ve always thought,” said Raff.
BeanO elaborated, “When people are young, when they are children, they are filled with curiosity, always asking questions; Who? What? Where? When? And most importantly, why? Their hunger for knowledge seems inexhaustible. But it’s not. Adults beat that curiosity out of them by answering ‘Because’ all the time. When you hear ‘Because’ enough times, you start accepting it as an answer. And you stop asking ‘Why ?’And then, just like that, you’re an adult. And when a kid comes along and asks you ‘Why?’ you tell them, ‘Because’. And it goes on and on and on. And that’s why the world is such a mess.”
The kids were enthralled.
“The Urdas never answer ‘Because’. In order to become an Urda, you have to have been asked ‘Why?’ by a kid, a million times, and never once answered ‘Because’. Urdas have answers. They are thinkers.”
“So, the Urdas will know what’s going on? They’ll have an answer?” asked Riff.
“If anyone can make sense of what’s going on, it will be the Urdas,” said BeanO.
“How do you know about the Urdas?” asked Raff. “Why doesn’t anyone else know about them?
“People do know about the Urdas,. Or they are at least vaguely aware of them. They choose to ignore their existence. And the Urdas are reclusive. They prefer to be left alone.”
“Them what makes you think they’ll talk to us?” asked Riff.
“Because the leader of the Urdas is an old friend of mine. A guy named Gair. He was on his way to becoming a great clown, maybe the best of all time, when he decided to become an Urda, instead.”
“Wow!” said Riff.
“Cool!” said Raff.
“What do you think, BeanO?” Raff asked. “Why is the whole world going violently cuckoo bananas?”
“I don’t know, but I suspect it has something to do with the ECGs?”
“The who?” asked Riff.
“The what?” asked Raff.
“The Evil Clown Gods Who Rule the Universe,” said the smiling clown.
“More friends of yours,” asked Riff.
“Friends?” said BeanO. “Kinda. But, no, not really. But… yeah, kinda.”
“You’re a very cryptic clown, today,” said Raff.
BeanO got to the story. “Clownlore. Legend. Although some swear it’s all true, and it’s hard to argue with them.” BeanO pondered, then asked, “Do you ever wonder where crazy ideas come from?”
“Where?” asked Riff.
“Your crazy ideas, my crazy ideas, everyone’s crazy ideas. “
“Where?” asked Raff.
“You know when you wake up, in the middle of the night, with an insane idea in your head?’
“It’s always at four in the morning,” said Raff.
“Yeah, it is,” said Riff.
“Yes, it is,” the clown confirmed. “The legend of The Evil Clown Gods Who Rule the Universe has it that the universe is… well, ruled by evil clown gods. And Earth is a prison planet for the miscreants of the universe. All the beings that are criminally insane and/or morally bankrupt. When they die, they are all reanimated, in human form, here on Earth, where the Evil Clown Gods continually test them, to see if they have earned a pardon.”
“That’s brilliant!” exclaimed Raff. “It makes so much sense. What else?”
“The Evil Clown Gods identify the most likely to succeed, and use us to mess with, and test, the rest. When they have another assignment for us, another test for the rest, they look down and see us, sleeping peacefully, and say to each other, ‘Look! There’s BeanO, sleeping so peacefully. Let’s wake him up and put this insane nonsense in his head!; And then they laugh like lunatics as they watch me sit bolt upright in bed and ponder exactly why I am thinking of doing something that will marginalize me from the majority of the inmates here.”
“Why is that evil?” asked Riff.
“Because, if you do what they tell you to do, it drains your popularity.”
“Everyone hates on you?” asked Raff.
“No, not everyone. Some people get it. Some even find it wildly hilarious. That’s the test. That’s how the Evil Clown Gods pass judgment.”
“Do they ever get you to do really horrible things?” asked Riff.
“Not me,” said BeanO. “But, yeah, they do. But they never force anyone to do anything. They allow us all free will.”
“Wow! Urdas and Evil Clown Gods,” said Riff. “The world just got a million times weirder.”
“No,” said Raff. “It’s all starting to make sense.” BeanO smiled at Raff. Then he nodded. Then he stopped smiling.
11 – WHATEVER HAPPENED TO ALL THE FUN IN THE WORLD?
BeanO, Riff n Raff had a somewhat long and semi arduous journey to get to Urda castle, but it wasn’t exactly The Lord of the Rings, and we like to keep things barreling along here, so…
“BeanO, my old friend, hurry up, get inside, it’s a dark and stormy night,” said Gair, leader of the Urdas, when our heroes arrived at the castle.
“You keep more illustrious company than you did when we were juvenile delinquents running wild, BeanO,” said Gair, bowing to Riff n Raff. Rising from his bow, Gair addressed the kids, “On behalf of all Urdas, past, present and future, I thank the two of you – and you, too, BeanO – for saving the world, not once, but twice now. We are not yet certain that was a good thing, but we thank you for the opportunity to find out. I suppose you’re here to seek help in saving the world for a third time, yes?”
“Yes, we are,” said Riff.
“Right, let’s get down to it,” said Gair.
Yes, of course the Uradas fed our famished troika, but Gunther Grass is not ghost writing this, so we’re not going to go on and on and on, for pages and pages and pages, about the food they ate. They had pizza, okay? BeanO had a couple cold ones. No, no one bothered to take pics of their pizza and post them on Instagram.
“You want to know why the world is in a state of high anxiety, why there is no joy in Mudville, why everyone everywhere is filled with fear and loathing” Gair said, more than asked.
“Do you know?” asked Raff.
“We are the Urdas. We keep asking questions until we have answers. The answer is, in fact, complicated and multifaceted. But there’s no immediate need to get into the psychology and philosophy of it all right now.
“Just the facts, ma’am,” said BeanO with a smile.
Gair returned the smile and replied, “Yes, of course, Sergeant Friday.” Gair and BeanO looked at Riff n Raff. Neither of the kids recognized the line. The adults shrugged their shoulders. Gair carried on:
“We monitor the planetary population’s energy, the same way that meteorologists monitor the weather. About a month ago the balance between positive and negative output was obliterated. It was as if Fat Albert came to the playground, pushed Mushnouth off the teeter-totter and sat down across from Dumb Donald.”
“What happened,” asked Raff. “Why did this Fat Albert dude push Mushnmouth off the teeter-totter?”
“We don’t know. It could have been something as simple as some idiot doing a dine and dash. That’s how delicate the balance has always been.” All of a sudden, our three heroes were very interested in their footwear. Gair made a note of it, but let it pass, and moved on. “Within 24 hours a tsunami of ill will rolled across the planet. All the fun was sucked from the world. Every city in the world contracted Vancouveritis.”
“Ewww,” said BeanO. “No Fun City. I tried busking there, once. The cops beat me up and City Hall passed a bylaw against clowns performing in the parks, or on the streets, under punishment of death.”
“Oh, I know,” said Gair. “Horrible place. So much potential, though. They really should have elected that smart-ass Rhino funarchist when he ran for mayor. He’d have given them the funema they so desperately need. Anyway… things have gotten progressively worse since then. And it’s gonna get way way worse, way soon.”
“Why?’ asked Riff.
“Yeah, why?” asked Raff.
“We are constantly searching for concrete evidence of the existence of the Evil Clown Gods who Rule the Universe. We are trying to contact them. So, we study the stars.
“The constant drone of chaos, sorrow and hate that is being emitted by humanity has attracted the attention of the Vogon Reptiloids, and they have dispatched a Death Star to come and destroy us all.
“The Vogon Reptiloids feed off negative energy. It’s oxygen to them. They search the universe for any kind of negative emotion. They create fear, anxiety, hate, and misery wherever they roam. They may well have placed us on Earth, all those years ago, knowing that one day we would be ripe for the picking. A garden of sorts. And now they’re coming for us, and we have no idea how to stop them
“The Death Star is destroying everything in its path. Like a black hole, it sucks in entire solar systems, and spits out the debris. If it keeps advancing at its current pace, we will be sucked into its vortex in about a week. The closer it comes to us, the more insane and violent we become. The crazier we get, the faster it comes.”
Raff had the solution right away, and you probably do, too, “If negative energy attracts them and makes them stronger, positive energy will repel and/or kill them.”
“Yes,” Gair confirmed.
“So, all we have to do is fill the world with positive energy,” Riff said, as if it was as simple as making a cat purr. No one said a word. Everyone understood the enormity of the task. “Well, you’re the Urdas, you have all the answers,” said Riff.
“We are not omniscient. We do not have all the answers.”
“We can start by telling everyone. Once they understand, they’ll get with the program,” said Raff.
“The powers that be will tell you you’re crazy,” laughed Gair. “Your popularity is not yet so great that you can challenge the powers that be. Even if Sid and the penguins were here, you’d be hard pressed to reverse thrust.”
“You tell them, then,” said Raff.
“No. We’ve rejected them. Their egos will not allow them to even consider the possibility that a bunch of weirdoes, who have rejected their ways, could be right, especially about something as large and strange as this. When you walk away from society, you do so knowing that they will never take you back.”
“It will take an unprecedented demonstration of human solidarity,” Gair told them. “And, even if you get everyone in the world to believe you, it won’t do you any good if they are all afraid. Fear is a negative energy. It paralyzes people.”
“What to do?” said BeanO.
Gair answered, “You’ll need to generate enough energy to break the inertia. If, that is, you can convince everyone that the planet is near doom. If you can do that, then you have to come up with a spark that will start a fire. A catalytic event, perhaps. Something that will reach and empower enough people to turn the tide. And I do mean turn the tide quite literally, because if the Death Star gets close enough, it will start sucking us into its vortex, causing tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes etc. etc. The first sign will be drastic changes in tidal activities.”
“What do you mean when you keep saying ‘you’ rather than ‘us’?” asked Riff. “Are you going to sit back and let the planet be destroyed?”
“We have already done our part by telling you all this. We will do everything we can. We will continue to study the problem. We will hive our minds and search for solutions. We have already done all this. But so far, we’ve come up with nothing.”
Gair noticed that as enthralled as the kids were, they were fading. They’d had a long day and needed sleep. He knew that they had yet another incredible battle to wage against the human race, to save the human race from destruction, and they needed to be well rested before they left Urda Castle in the morning.
Riff n Raff were too exhausted to be scared, or even alarmed. They knew better than to panic. They knew they had to keep clear minds, but first they needed to clear their minds of the fog that was gripping them. They’d come up with a plan, of sorts, in the morning. But right now, they desperately needed to sleep and told Gair so.
“Of course,” Gair said, “I’m sorry to have kept you up so late. Do you require two bedrooms, or will one suffice?”
Before Riff could say anything, Raff said, “No, one will do thank you.” Gair had an Urda show the kids to their room, where they showered and went to bed.
BeanO was not as calm as Riff n Raff. It was clear to Gair that the cowardly clown was terrified. “We make a very nice Hefeweizen. I’m gonna have a couple. Would you care to join me?” It was a rhetorical question.
The two old friends stayed up late into the night getting caught up, discussing life, the universe and everything, and searching Facebook to see what had become of all the girls they’d loved before.