Two men are boxing on a trampoline while politely discussing the sexual context of a 14th century Persian poet's work. The dark haired one seems to believe there was latent bestiality suggested in the poet's pentameter, while the bald man insists that there has never been a clearer case of asexual sonnets. Suddenly a six foot bodybuilder races toward the men carrying a giant Styrofoam hammer, that must still weigh fifty pounds due to its size, but she wields it expertly and the men run off in exaggerated fear, as the muscular woman bashes the trampoline with the hammer while singing Dolly Parton's Jolene in a baritone vibrato. Suddenly the lights go out and the voice of David Lee Roth announces that the class is dismissed.
Thus concludes Gigi's first day of class at The Surrealist Academy. It was not quite what she expected, but if it had been then it wouldn't be very surrealist. That was the beauty of it. That is why she applied in the first place. After a lifetime of playing it safe, of blending in with the proverbial Joneses, the grandmother of seven was ready to shake things up.
Ironically it had become trendy to do so. The introduction of post-scarcity technology had freed humanity from the necessity of labor, and the conditioning and dependence required to maintain a society built on it. It was a new world and the people in it were shedding their past faster than you could replicate a chocolate chip cookie, which was damn near instantaneously. All sorts of new ideas arose to shake out the conformity and specialization that the old world had required, and The Surrealist Academy was said to be one of the most eye-opening experiences in the post-reality world.
On the way out of the classroom a diminutive person of color who was costumed to look like Mark Twain handed her a flier that said, "Stop Plate Tectonics!" Inside there was a compelling argument for doing so, although it was obvious that such a thing was impossible. Or was it? Maybe she would have to rethink that, along with everything else. She decided to walk to the cafeteria and have a cup of coffee while she read the syllabus she had been given this morning when she arrived.
The cafeteria was decorated like a jungle. There were fake plastic trees and plants and tigers, and for some reason, mechanized rubber fish flopping around on the floor by the hundreds, if not thousands. She ordered a chile macchiato from one of the many replicators situated throughout the jungle and found a small table under a tangle of vines made from twist ties, then pulled out the syllabus and began reading.
The front page said: This is not a syllabus. She turned to the next.
You may be thinking that this is not a syllabus. Never judge a book by its cover. This is most definitely a syllabus, and you would be unwise to ignore it, but we wouldn't blame you if you did.
This was followed by a mission statement that was full of more contradictory statements. She wasn't sure if this information was supposed to be useful, or if she would be tested on it, so she read each paragraph carefully, twice - just in case. Then she moved on to the next page, which was a list of required materials that included:
- Brass knuckles
- 17 doses of lysergic acid diethylamide
- Finger bone of a deceased hip hop artist
- Something to write on
Gigi had barely made it to the overview of assignments when a voice boomed out, "There will be an assembly in the grand hall in fifteen minutes." She chugged her beverage and put the syllabus in the briefcase she had been given by the academy, which was decorated with a famous painting of the Battle of Gettysburg in which the soldiers had been replaced with orangutans, and headed in the direction she believed the grand hall was in so she could get a good seat.
As it turned out, there were no seats. The audience portion of the grand hall was a massive shallow pool filled with multicolored, lightweight plastic balls, and there were already nearly a hundred participants gathered in it. The Surrealist Academy had banned the term 'student' in order to give everyone a sense of being' equal partners in the shared creation of the absurdity of existence'.
Inside the great hall's pool of balls Gigi found that she was quite comfortable. It had been decades since she had been inside one of these things, although never one as extravagant as this. As more people gathered within, the environment gained more structure, which limited movement while allowing you to be suspended in any position you wished; which was quite comfortable. Time passed quickly and soon an array of lights signaled something was about to begin.
Curtains opened to reveal a stage. A light slowly increased in brightness, revealing a woman wearing a sexy policewoman costume, like the kind you used to be able to buy at the Halloween stores that popped up in malls for two months each year. She gave the audience a long, stern look before she walked to the front of the stage and began to speak.
"For millennia human beings have been subjected to the tyranny of reality," she paused, presumably for effect. "And then four years ago a rather handsome carrot named Barnaby Whistlepast changed the world with..."
A gunshot rang out and the woman fell to the stage. Then a short musical interlude that seemed to indicate the conclusion of a punchline played, followed by a flood of light that made it impossible to keep her eyes open. As she covered her face to protect her vision from the onslaught of illumination, voices began to cry out.
"Who is the great master who makes the grass green?" the first voice asked, and was answered by a dozen others. "Jerry, that unimaginative bastard!"
"Who taught the birds to sing and the worms to burrow?"
"I don't know, man. I didn't do it."
"What is the source of all known phenomena in the bioverse?"
"It is the answer given to a question asked by the primordial schizophrenic."
"Let there be darkness."
After that last remark the lights all dulled, although her vision was still profoundly affected for several seconds, and she fought back against an instinct to panic while her surroundings swirled back into visual coherency. When she was able to distinguish objects properly again she saw two extremely obese people struggling to have sex on the stage. The bed had been mic'd and as the volume increased the chorus of uncomfortable sounds rose to an oozing, undulating crescendo. Finally torrents of white slime, which she hoped only looked like semen, came raining down from above as the couple cried out in the throes of a mutual orgasm. As the two lit post-coital cigarettes the policewoman returned to the stage.
"As the great Salvador Dali Lama once said - A friend with seed is a friend indeed. Please return to your dorms and await further misinstruction."
Laying in bed that night, Gigi could not sleep. It was not because the walls of the room were decorated with images of dinosaurs wearing clown makeup, nor because of the jazzy death metal covers being played on saxophone that were on a constant loop in the hallway outside her room. It was because, as the flier had informed her, the whole damn world would eventually drift apart, thanks to plate tectonics, and there was nothing that anyone could do about it. Eventually she nodded off and dreamed of giant spikes.
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This was fantastic Joshua, a total riot to read! The part about the syllabus actually had me pausing and laughing out loud, definitely sharing this my friend! Gives me Thomas Pynchon vibes, especially The Crying of Lot 49. On a technical side, I think it would have been more profound if you left off the last sentence. Gigi's character seemed to be developed as the voice of reason in an otherwise unreasonable world. The tectonic plates stand as both the external conflict in the world (being, of course, post-scarcity) and of Gigi's interna...
Thanks for the read, encouragement and abundance of feedback! Gigi and tectonics...this was inspired fron when I was 21 years old and took my first job in a head shop in a college town. The compulsory, and often empty, activism stood out right away, so I put up a Stop Plate Tectonics petition to see how many people would sign it. A lot, it turns out. So for me it symbolizes the difficulty of keeping your mind both open and reasonable, and for Gigi, who is just having her mind blown, she will have to walk this tightrope. If you like su...
Quite the origin story!! It's so interesting to hear about empty activism, because it's the same problem that has plagued people for years; that we usually do what's fashionable, not what we think is right. With activism though, many seem to get a pass because they're on the 'right' side of history. Absurd activism though, now we're getting somewhere! Best of luck to Gigi 😁 As for dogma, that is an admirable ambition, and one that I hope to someday share! We definitely take our systems of thought too seriously, and the levity that the pra...
In 2020 I have had some pretty major revelations about human behavior. We are stupider, more dogmatic, more selfish and more narrow minded than I ever thought. And most everybody is just performing most of the time. That is how we evolved. Almost everything is a posture intended to reward and reinforce conformity, which leads to sociability and cooperation, which were our strength until we massacred that shit out of those strengths with our fear and overreaction. Another thing I have learned over the years is that control is an illusion. A d...
This was perhaps the weirdest thing I’ve ever read and I couldn’t be happier. Completely bizarre and completely engaging. The most fun I’ve had reading utter nonsense for many a year - thank you for sharing!
Thank you! The original surrealist movement was a reaction to the brutal, naive realism intrinsic to the logical premises of the escalating authoritarianism of the early 20th century. I think it is just as valid a response to the world right now. I recently made a few short surrealist films, and have been trying to apply it to stories, too. Thanks again, for the read and the encouragement!
Well if ever there was a time to stick your middle finger up to reality, 2020 makes a good argument for it. Looking forward to reading more of your stuff! If you’ve got time and are interested in more reality based stuff (though I have pirates and sci fi as well), feel free to check mine out.
Which are the pirate and sci fi stories? I tend towards genre fiction and oddity. :)
Sci fi - Cost of Honour Pirates - Splinters of Shame / Phoenix of the Sea