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“Last but not least let’s give a toast and round of applause to Sam! He has been with us five years now and has churned out nothing but gold in the writers room since day one. We always knew you would be a great addition to the family and we hope you will be around with us for at least another five years. Again thank you to everyone for their hard work this year and here’s to another season done. Get some rest because we start again tomorrow for season 32!”

Sam stood up in the crowd on the Fox Studio Lot and meandered his way through the hordes of people to the front of the venue. He reached his hand out for Matt’s and received a strong embrace from his boss and dear friend. He accepted the microphone unwillingly as Matt was prodding him to give a speech:

“I am unsure as to how or why I am being singled out and honored like this tonight. I am still baffled as to how I got this job and am even more blown away as to how we can, year after year, season after season, and episode after episode find new jokes and stories to tell. Considering the state of the world this year with COVID, political idiocracy, and natural disasters the show should be able to write itself next year,” Sam chuckled. “I am honored to be amongst the greats in the writing room and can’t wait to prolong this absurd TV show for many more seasons to come. Actually screw it, let's try and make it to Broadway on the live stage!”

The crowd of misfit writers and animators roared with this idea and some seemed to already be scheming about the possibility of a live theater performance. As Sam was leaving the stage he gave another big hug to Matt. Matt however, this time embraced longer than expected and leaned into his ear to whisper,”Meet me in the writers room once the crowd thins out. It is time I show you something. Can you keep a secret Sam?”

“Uhhh, of course Matt. I am a steel trap. Who would I tell anyway? The only thing I talk to anymore is my cat Hobbes back home. As far as I know he wasn’t recruited as a spy by some other network,” Sam joked.

“I knew I could trust you my boy. You will do great things for this show, and the world.”

Sam retreated back into the crowd with pats on the back but was lost in thought with Matt’s words. He normally was very straightforward and to the point. Matt seemed overly proud of him and was perplexed as to what secret he could be talking about.

The crowds finally thinned out from the party for surviving the 31st season of the longest running television show in history. Sam said his last goodbyes and began wandering to the writers room. He was lost in thought as he worked his way through the Fox Studio lot. It was near midnight by the time he arrived at the writers room. Matt Groening was standing in his office gazing off into the maze of the lot. He didn’t even notice Sam until he knocked on the door saying, “You wanted to see me boss?”

Matt turned around in a jump as he was broken from his stream of thoughts. “Ah there is the man of the hour. Your writing this season was incredible my dear boy. You will do great things for this show. I have always known it since the day you stepped onto this lot. Care for a drink? I have been saving this scotch for just the right occasion and I think tonight is the night. We have a lot to talk about so please take a seat.”

“You drink too much tonight Matt?” Sam asked, quite puzzled. “I have never seen you like this and why was I so honored tonight? I pulled my own weight just like everyone else does, so what's up?”

“Take a seat Sam,” Matt said as he handed Sam a glass. “All will become clear before nights end.”

“What are you talking about Matt?” Sam asked as he sipped his scotch.

“Sam, before I continue I need to know for certain that you can keep this between us. I am not going to be around forever. I am a mere mortal just like you. But, this secret must be kept safe and they seem to trust you. I just want to know for sure that I can trust you. If they are right, which they often are someway or another, you will be the one to receive their information after me.”

“Sorry Matt, but who is they?”

“Sam, can I trust you. That is all I am asking?”

“Uhhh, yeah sure of course Matt. You can trust me,”Sam reassured him after another sip of scotch. “You know I wouldn’t trade this job for the world. It has been my dream since I was a kid to be a writer for you. I watched The Simpsons religiously as a child growing up. This show is practically scripture for me from god.”

“Well Sam, god might not be too far off from the truth in that regard.” replied Matt after with a pensive look in his eyes.

“God?” Sam inquired with a half joking half concerned tone in his voice. Was Matt having a psychotic break down? “Matt maybe you just need some rest it's been a long day for all of us and you are probably just stressing yourself out per usual with the upcoming season.”

In an abrupt start as if Matt had finally cemented his stream of thoughts he began a monologue that would take Sam and himself into the wee hours of the morning.

“Sam, The Simpsons has been on the air for 31 years. 31 years of witty jokes, zany characters, and interesting stories. I am sure you know we began in 1989 with season 1. The year you were born if I’m not mistaken?” He paused his stream of thought and looked over at Sam who gave a very slow nod of agreement as if saying what in the hell are you talking about. “I would say I remember every single episode but that is just preposterous. No one has a memory that good, but it would make me sound cool, would it not?” He chuckled as if still puzzled on how to actually express what he had been getting out all this time in the late hours of the night. “I do remember the first time it happened though. Season 2 episode 4, November 1st, 1990, was the episode that changed everything for me. I didn’t realize its relevance until nearly 22 years later but that was the catalyst that would change this show for the years to come. Sam, have you ever heard those fan theories, rumors, or conspiracy theories about how our show predicts the future?” Matt took a long pause to pour himself another glass of scotch and refill Sam's glass as well.

“Well sure Matt who isn't in the office we all joke about it and the fans.” Sam replied but at this point he was very sure that Matt was playing a joke on him. He thought that he should just play along for now and see where this gag will take him. “I mean for a show that has been going on this long and with how odd we get in the writing room it doesn’t surprise me that there have been some coincidences. What, are you trying to tell me that we actually predict the future? Even for you Matt this gag that you are trying to pull on me is pretty bad.” Sam was joking around now with a smile on his face convinced that Matt would be caving at this point and just admit the truth.

“The world is filled with unexplainable possibilities and phenomena Sam.” Matt turned very slowly to face Sam. The look in his eyes was one Sam had never seen before. Matt had always been a professional but this look was different. This look was analyzing Sam up and down as if to reassure himself that he could trust this kid sitting before him. “Is it really that preposterous to believe such a thing?” Matt walked over to his desk and pulled out a small key from his pocket. He put the key in a hidden key hole underneath his desk and like some strange elaborate puzzle box a lock turned and a secret drawer opened underneath the wooden desk. Matt’s hand dove deep into the confines of the drawer and after a good amount of rustling around emerged with a stack of letters tied together with twine.

“You keep a stack of fan letters in some secret, hidden contrived safe under your desk?” Sam asked a little drunkenly at this point in  the  night after the party and the scotch. Perhaps it was his confusion or the amount of liquor in his system at this point but he was no longer worried but rather just utterly perplexed as to why Matt was being so cryptic over a pile of fan letters.

“Sam, as I was saying I don’t remember every episode or every little detail but the episodes concerned in these letters I could never forget. The first one came while we were working on Season 2 episode 4, the one I mentioned earlier. Do you remember that episode Sam? The one concerning Blinky the three eyed fish.”

“I can’t say I do Matt. I have seen a lot of episodes and have written too many bits to recall,” Sam replied.

“It was sometime in October because the episode aired on November 1st,1990. A letter came, nothing more than a bit of fan mail. Or so I thought. The letter was odd. It was addressed directly to me with no postage stamp, no return address, no name, nothing at all. It just appeared on my desk from the chaos of the mail room. It didn’t say much. They never do. Nothing more than a few sentences. This letter was the first and all it said was three eyed fish. It was odd but it definitely got me thinking about the idea and how to interpret it into an episode for the show. So we created Blinky, the three eyed fish that was a by-product from nuclear waste spilling into the Springfield lake. Over 20 years later this simple idea given to me by an anonymous source came true. In Argentina a three eyed fish was found in a lake also near a nuclear power plant. Do you say what I am saying Sam? I don’t know where these letters come from. I don’t know who writes them or why they are sent to me but they always come true in some way, shape or form.”

“Matt, come on mate you can’t honestly believe that some prophet is sending you information about the future can you? You sure you just haven’t had too much to drink tonight? I mean listen to yourself this is just crazy talk,” Sam responded with more concern in his voice now for his boss. “I mean the fish thing was bound to happen eventually with all the pollution and radiation in the world it has to just be a coincidence.”

Matt gave a deep sigh and looked Sam dead in the eyes with a look of desperation, fear, and yearning to understand something he couldn’t explain. Matt knew he sounded crazy. Sometimes he truly believed he was but the letters had never failed. Not once. “Sam I understand your doubt. I have been doing this show for a long time. I would think I was crazy too but the letters kept coming. They never show up consistently and are on no schedule but when they do appear, whoever or whatever wrote them, knows things that will happen in the future. I have received dozens of these letters over the years and eventually they all come true one way or another.”

Sam couldn’t understand. It was getting late but he couldn’t leave now. “So, say I did believe you. Say I play along with this little joke of yours. What else do you have that this so-called mystery entity has sent you foretelling of the future?”

For the next several hours Matt told the stories of the letters that he kept receiving out of the blue. Each one had come true at some point down the line. By the time Matt had finished recounting all of the letters and their corresponding episodes a dull morning light was beginning to creep in through the shades of the writers room. The other writers and animators would soon be returning back to the studio lot to begin work on season 32. The bottle of scotch was nearly gone by the time Matt was nearing the end of his story. Matt topped off Sam and himself with one more glass each before exhaling a heavy sigh to get to his final tale. “Some of the predictions I have found to be more comical than others to be honest. However, sometimes I think these letters are warnings about the future. I feel obligated to share these predictions on the show in a vain attempt to help the world. Maybe potentially even change the course of history for the better. The problem is I can’t just outright say the truth. I would be locked up in the madhouse or put under government surveillance or god knows what. So, I have had to allude to these predictions in the show. During Season 4, specifically episode 21, although I hadn’t realized it yet I had received information about this specific year, 2020. The letter foretold it all. Everything down to the last detail has come true. The corona virus, mobs and riots in the streets, utter chaos, even the goddamn murder hornets were in the letter. I was naive back then, all those years ago in 1993. I took it all with a grain of salt and put what I thought best into the episode. However, I couldn’t put it all in. The run time for the show simply couldn’t accommodate the length of the letter and all the information it had. If this anonymous source knows the future then this year is about to get much worse Sam.”

Sam was dark under the eyes at this point due to the lack of sleep and the endless thoughts racing through his head. “What do you mean Matt, what else did the letter say?”

Matt looked dead inside as he wordlessly stood up and wandered over to his desk to rifle through the stack of mysterious letters. His hands were shaking as he finally found the one he was searching for and handed it to Sam. Sam unfolded the piece of parchment. This was the first letter he had read and they really were quite simple. A series of short phrases and sentences and that was all. He began to read:

Pandemic begins in Asia.

Riots, chaos in the streets.

Murder hornets.

The list went on and Sam kept reading. His eyes began to bulge with fear. His hands began to tremble and he looked up at Matt. Matt looked like he had just attended a funeral. The letter fell from Sam’s hands and drifted to the floor like a feather in the wind. Sam’s voice wavered as he muttered “What should we do Matt? We have to tell everyone about the atrocities to come. The world will be up in flames. Bombs will be dropping, wars will be starting, everything seems like it is going to end!”

Matt looked Sam dead in the eye and said, “I know Sam. We do need to tell everyone. I have needed to tell everyone for a long time. If this all comes true the world we know will be gone and replaced with chaos, anarchy, and destruction at every turn. I have read and reread that letter over and over again for years. I held on to this small glimmer of hope that just one of these damn letter predictions would be wrong to help me believe that this catastrophe wouldn’t become our reality. There is no avoiding it anymore though. I need you by my side and helping me with season 32. We need to cover every last detail in here to warn the people. We need to change the people now so our world doesn’t decay in the future.”

By this point the other writers and animators had shown up for work and were busy as bees running amok in the hive throughout the office. There was a knock on the door. “Mr. Groening a letter for you.”

Matt looked up from his pensive state with horror in his eyes. “Oh no. Not now, not another one.”

With trembling hands like an earthquake Matt took the letter from his office assistant and slammed the door. He stumbled to his desk and threw items aside in a madness to find his letter open amongst the clutter on his desk. At last he found it and nearly slicing open his own hand he ripped the envelope open. A brief glance at the words on the page and his face went white. It drifted to the ground like a leaf in the wind as the seasons changed from fall to winter. It landed face up on the ground and Sam took a glance from his seat to read the three simple words on that piece of paper.

You’re too late.

August 21, 2020 18:24

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1 comment

Elizabeth Inkim
03:00 Aug 27, 2020

Interesting plot, I really enjoyed how the story unfolded and how the twist was introduced. I enjoyed reading your short story, but I think that maybe more twists or foreshadowing would have also been a delightful spin; just a thought. Overally, I think that this was a striking storyline.

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