Warning: this piece contains sexual innuendos and gore, violence, and questionable choices.
“I remember him! He was taller than an oak tree and fiercer than a lion!”
“Honestly, Bobby, why are you talking like that? We’re in Atlanta in, 2022.”
“Because, my dear, Susie, Norman is a legend. His story must be told with a certain flair.”
“Just stick to the facts, Bobby. People want to hear the truth—plain and simple.”
“No, they don’t. Nobody wants to read about some boring, ordinary guy who made appropriate choices and lived his life just like everyone else. Snore!”
“Hm. I guess you’re right. Now that I think about it…isn’t that why Norman started his quest in the first place?”
“Yes, and in all honesty, he might’ve ended up with a Nobel Prize if…”
“…someone had warned him about, The Thing.”
“Well, get on with it, Bobby. Tell us what happened to Norman.”
“Where shall I start?”
“At the beginning, of course.”
(Insert wiggly lines here to indicate movement into story mode. Also, add elevator-type Muzak in the background. And maybe, get yourself a snack.)
Normal Norman grew up in a normal neighborhood with a normal family. He went to a normal university to study something normal. He dressed normal, he walked normal, he studied a normal amount and made normal grades.
After a while, “normal” became synonymous with “sameness” as every day in Norman’s life looked exactly the same.
“Plain tea, again?”
“Of course, Jane.”
He didn’t question his boring life because he didn’t know any better. The idea of change didn’t occur to him. As if sleepwalking through pea-soup fog, Norman trudged; unaware of opportunity, bursting with color-filled aliveness, awaiting him outside the norm.
Then, Darenda Gonads spiked his tea with lemon zest and changed Norman’s perspective on life. That night, he saw colors he’d never seen before. He smelled smells he’d never smelled…well, that may have had more to do with the sex than the lemon zest; but you get the idea. After losing his virginity to Darenda and the Caliente triplets: Fred, Ned, and Ted, Norman’s brain and genitals ignited with the fire of life—and it wasn’t due to the syphilis he’d just acquired.
It was that very night, after the others returned to their dorms, that Norman began his manifesto and turned over his enormous, swollen, new leaf. Sitting at his desk with only a pen and paper; he scribbled out his plan. He didn’t even bother to put on pants, which may have been a mistake— the metal chair was frigid first; then smudged and slimy after he sat.
“Henceforth and heretofore, my choices and actions shall have meaning. I declare here and now to never be normal again!”
The next day, Norman burned his clothes in an impromptu hallway bonfire that resulted in a quick trip to the county jail. Lucky for him, colleges don’t close dorms for silly things like fire damage and smoke inhalation, so he was back to his room in no time. From then on, Norman wore a sensible yet breezy toga and felt happily free from normality, indeed. For a while, anyway. Then, of course, the toga became commonplace. And everyone knows commonplace lives directly adjacent to the dreaded, normal, so it was time to “up the ante.”
But first…tea. (With lemon zest)
Norman basked in the afterglow with Darenda and the triplets; sipping lemon tea and contemplating the universe.
“I welcome the four of you to my love tribe.” Norman, who weighed 110 pounds soaking wet, stood buck naked on one leg and bowed. Darenda passed around refills of lemon tea. With their sweat-drenched bodies entwined and their spirits awakened, the group listened intently to their leader’s plan.
He dubbed his idea, “Norman’s Progressive Anti-Normal Project,” or NPAP. The group posted flyers, real and virtual, encouraging others to participate. Soon, Norman acquired an impressive following in person and on various social media outlets.
Although he didn’t require it, Norman’s followers chose to wear togas. Each day, more people joined the movement and showed their commitment by burning their clothes and showing up to class in a toga. (Arson investigation rates skyrocketed, but that’s a different story.)
The first meeting of the NPAP occurred by accident after Norman finished a particularly enlightening, Philosophy 101, class. After learning about Plato and the people in the cave, Norman embraced a heartfelt responsibility to bestow an awakening on his followers. He stood in his toga on a small hill just outside the campus gate.
Pacing atop the hill, he waited for the crowd to gather. Nighttime fell and thousands of curious folks anticipated Norman’s speech. The moonless night enveloped their leader, so everyone turned on their flashlight apps; creating the brightest spotlight in all of history—illuminating their guru like the sun.
Finally, he spoke.
“I welcome you to my family. Tonight, I share the steps necessary to achieve the utmost anti-normal status. As I’ve written in my NPAP manifesto, those who wish to reach the ultimate goal of becoming anti-normal, must perform a series of assignments specially designed by me. Together, we face our fears and conquer normality as we unite toward the common goal of….extraordinary.” Norman tore off his toga and everyone in the crowd followed suit…er… unsuit.
“That boy’s skinny as a toothpick!”
“Well, not all of him is skinny.”
Darenda and the triplets handed out cans of spray paint and sent the crowd off on their first, liberating assignment: naked tagging. The followers dispersed to various gang-infested territories and covered gang symbols with their own aerosol art work. Only a few of them died of gunshot wounds, but the rest returned to the hill by daybreak; rushing with adrenaline and ready for the next challenge.
The cops showed up and arrested several who refused to re-toga, but that only increased the remaining followers’ determination. They cheered and chanted for Norman while he meditated atop the hill. Around lunchtime, he raised one long, bony finger and a hush fell over the crowd. Slowly, he stood.
“Today we shall walk amongst the Normalites in an anti-normal way. Go forth and be not normal.” Norman thrust his arms toward the sky and screamed like a banshee; creating the call sign, battle cry, and signature greeting of the cult…I mean group. The crowd repeated his gesture; scaring off birds, cats, and deaf old ladies.
After hearing their assignment to “walk in an anti-normal way” , the followers intermingled with unsuspecting, normal folks. Of course, the toga-clad individuals stood out amongst the business-dressed people headed to work. But what made them even more conspicuous was the way they moved through the busy sidewalks of the downtown area. Some of them walked backwards or sideways. Others crawled or slithered on their bellies. Granted, they didn’t get very far. Some got squished by a bus. One or two broke their necks falling into an uncovered manhole. There was also an unfortunate incident of bludgeoning by a stampede of stiletto-clad Burlesque dancers who never noticed the guy slithering on the sidewalk.
A few of the followers chose Parkour as their non-normal foot-travel technique. Most of those guys survived and luckily, only one ended up with a severe groin injury from a run-in with a handrail. (He’s now the top soprano in the university choir, so he really turned that around for good, didn’t he?)
Around sunset, the surviving group members hobbled and limped back to the hill. This time, Norman left written instructions for them while he continued to meditate silently.
Darenda read the instructions to the crowd.
“Defy what is normal for humans! Embrace your fierce animal nature. Live like an animal. Be that animal.”
In response to the assignment, the crowd thrust their arms skyward and screamed their group salute before scurrying off into the night. Many of them climbed the locked gates of the city zoo and ventured into the habitats of various animals. The ones who chose penguins and panda bears survived their adventures, but spent time in jail for trespassing. Only one unfortunate fellow chose to join the constrictors who were found the next morning still digesting the guy after squeezing the life out of him. Hippos chomped a few followers to a bloody pulp with their massive jaws. The only thing left of those who gallivanted with the crocodiles was a torn toga or two. Authorities found tigers and lions chewing on arms and legs with scraps of toga flapping in the breeze behind them. Two polar bears playfully batted around a severed head. The biggest mess, though, was in the gorilla’s habitat. The gorilla simply beat the intruder against the plexiglass; painting the area with brains, guts and blood.
Upon daybreak, Norman opened his eyes and gazed out to the area where his followers usually stood. All that was left of his enormous following were five females who had, smartly, communed with their pet dogs and cats the night before.
“Where is everybody?” Norman turned to Darenda for answers.
“It’s up to you, now, Norman. You have to embrace the ultimate anti-normal. It’s time for the last step in your plan.”
“Yes. Of course. I must defy conventional wisdom by going against signs of danger and embrace the unknown.”
Darenda handed him a cup of lemon tea flavored courage. He sipped and gazed into the distance; lost in thought.
“It’s time for the ultimate demonstration of anti-normal .” Norman tossed the empty cup behind him, raised his arms and screamed into the sky. What was left of his followers did the same.
Norman gestured for the group to follow. He walked in silence for miles with them close behind. Finally, when the sun set and darkness descended, he came upon a secluded area protected with caution signs and ropes. The group followed Norman deeper into the area; climbing over the ropes and passing the signs.
He stopped in front of the biggest danger sign and addressed the small group.
“Behind this sign is a large, endless dark hole; a sinkhole that has never been explored. Today, I shall perform the ultimate anti-normal act by simply jumping into the hole and staring darkness in the face.”
“Yup. You’re right. That’s definitely not normal.” The small group chanted and cheered for Norman.
He turned and handed his toga to Darenda as she kissed him gently on his cheek. Bravely, he embraced his destiny of anti-normal and stepped closer to the black hole. Bits of debris dislodged from the edge and fell …forever falling into the abyss.
The group chanted louder; their voices echoing and jarring rocks off the walls around them. Chunks of earth landed beside them; still they chanted louder. Norman’s toes wiggled over the edge of the hole. A raven flew overhead and shrieked a warning. “Lookout for The Thing!”
At that exact moment, the group raised their hands skyward and screamed the greeting of the followers. Not that it would have mattered, but no one heard the bird’s warning.
“You’re all a bunch of morons!” Cawed the raven as it flew far far away.
“We shall never be normal again!” Norman yelled. He turned toward the hole and shivered; suddenly having second thoughts.
The earth shook and just as Norman backed away from the edge of the hole, an enormous, eyeless worm emerged, unhinged its steamy maw and swallowed the entire group in one, oblivion-inducing gulp.
(And for the record, it was not normal.)