Phantom is the story, told by a narrator behind the wheel of a car, about a Phantom made out of loneliness by a Mad Lady. His unusual adventures begin when he becomes part of someone’s art collection against his will.
Each folder entry seems to be composed of two parts: the narrator’s own journal entry and the story of the Phantom. The pages were lost and scattered over time and are just now beginning to be discovered. Volume 1 has been assembled in the same order in which the pages have been found to this point.
Image Source: Snappa I glance down at the list written on the palm of my hand. I don’t remember why my middle finger is crooked. But it must be the reason no one takes me serious when I flip them off. It’s hard to read my skin without any lights on. I’m left in the […]A Short List by Tony Espino
I open my umbrella. My skin is charred from the sun. I’m usually around six feet, but fatigue has left me several inches shorter over the past few days. The beetle in the palm of my hand doesn’t move. A few feet away, almost invisible, sits a chipped human molar on the ground. Despite my sheer exhaustion, I remain optimistic about my journey. I remain in this body. Thirsty. For water. For adventure. For freedom. For just a single drop of knowledge of who I really am. Out here the sand is everywhere. It’s useless to have this much sand in every direction. But the rattlesnakes seem to enjoy it. As do the scorpions. This is their world. Not mine. Out here shadows don’t exist. Only extremes exist out here. The squawks of a vulture are overhead. Thriving as they do in the suffocating heat. I collapse to my knees.
I open the freezer door.
My pinky finger sits on ice.
My hand looks like a mutilated glob of meat.
Now people will stare at me like I’m some sort of mutant.
Something I’m not used to.
I reach in and grab an ice pop.
EXT. DESERT – DAY
An EGYPTIAN WOMAN stands on top of a pyramid and places the
final brick in place. She slides down the side and lands at
the bottom, disappearing for a moment in a cloud of dust.
As the dust settles we see her opening a lunchbox. She gazes
inside and notices her sandwich has been deconstructed. The
bread swirls around in the rotation of a rainbow tornado.
Slices of ham and cheese cry tears that form a pond where her
lettuce leaf floats.
The lettuce leaf carries a toad and a snail engaged in a
staring contest. The toad’s head morphs into an alien’s as
it’s engulfed in a billow of smoke released by the snail’s
antennae. The head floats across the pond to a vibrantly
colored cornfield leaving its body behind to aimlessly hop
We see a massive ancient mummy wrapped in silk descend
horizontally from the sky. Its belly opens up sending down a
beam of light to capture the alien head. The mummy’s face
unravels revealing the face of the woman on the pyramid.
Social media likes begin to materialize out of thin air.
Comments scroll through the sky: “OMG! How does she do dat,
tho?” “Can u do one with cymbals PLZ” “Anyone commenting on
her ‘lack of skills’ is just jealous they’re still doing this
in their mom’s basement”.
INT. BEDROOM – DAY
We see the likes and comments blend onto the screen of
EMILY’s (16) phone. She watches a YouTuber named PRINCESS
POUNDS time herself drinking random liquids. A defibrillator
hangs on the wall behind her. We watch Princess Pounds
consume a gallon of milk in 9 seconds. Then five gallons of
anti-freeze in 38 seconds. Emily leaves a succint comment:
INT. LIVING ROOM – CONTINUOUS
Emily’s mom, SOPHIE (30’s), enters the house and drops her
keys on the ground. Yellow cosmic ooze drips off of her and
her camouflaged forest ranger uniform. She pulls out a
crumbled piece of paper that says ‘Paycheck’ and puts it in a
jar labeled: Emily’s College Fund. As she places it in the
jar it instantly turns into a pile of woodchips and laughter.
Sophie grabs some business clothes from a pile on a chair and
gradually changes on her way to Emily’s room.
INT. EMILY’S BEDROOM
Sophie enters and sees Emily watching Princess Pounds.
Emily, are you getting ready for
school? You can put your phone
down. You’ll get things done so
much faster if you actually use two
I’m fine, mom. I’m already done
Then why are you still here? You
should be on your way to school.
Come on, Emily. This is why you’re
(watching Princess Pounds)
I just want to see what happens
And I just want to relax with my
new tea set after cleaning up alien
corpses all night. But some of us
have responsibilities unlike
whoever this thirsty woman is.
Princess Pounds has
responsibilities. Last week she
pounded a bottle of sand in twelve
seconds and she made sure she
didn’t throw up. That’s pretty
I’ll never understand why you
defend these weirdos.
She’s one of the better ones.
I think she’s like a good role
model. She’s real positive and
Do I really have to explain to you
what a good role model is?
I mean she’s good for kids to look
up to and stuff.
We see Princess Pounds drink the kerosene from a kerosene
heater in 49 seconds flat. A moment later she falls back and
collapses on the floor. A crew grabs the defibrillator off
the wall and SHOCKS her back to life. Princess Pounds hops up
and lets out a LOUD BURP.
Yes! Mom, do we have kero–
Seriously? This is who you look up
Yeah. Why not? She’s just living
She just killed herself for a
second. Role models aren’t supposed
to kill themselves.
Bro, chill. She’s fine. She just
had to burp.
A role model should be a good
influence on your life. They should
be someone who sets a good example.
Like a parent or a teacher.
Yeah. Someone…I don’t know…like
Haha. Your mom’s a good role model.
You don’t think of me as a role
Huh? I don’t know. I gotta go. I’m
gonna be late.
Make sure you don’t get human
trafficked! I’ll be really mad!
INT. BATHROOM – MOMENTS LATER
Sophie scrubs cosmic ooze off her face in the mirror and
notices a large yellow spot on the shirt she just put on. She
rushes to her bedroom connected to the bathroom.
INT. SOPHIE’S BEDROOM – CONTINUOUS
Sophie rummages through her closet for a clean shirt. An
infomercial plays on the TV in the background. The MAN in the
informercial speaks directly to Sophie.
Are you tired of not being a role
model? I’ve devised a program to
alter your entire being and
guarantee you become a fantastic
role model to your teen. Stop being
a human cesspool today. All you
have to do is purchase My Role
Model made by me for pathetic
wastes of human flesh like you.
Sophie goes back to the bathroom.
INT. BATHROOM – CONTINUOUS
Sophie changes her shirt and scrubs the rest of the ooze from
Ugh. What’s wrong with me? My own
daughter would rather drink
kerosene than look up to me as a
INT. BEDROOM – CONTINUOUS
The infomercial is interrupted by another infomercial. A
levitating BUDDHA appears on the TV.
We interrupt this infomercial to
bring you an important infomercial.
Are you tired of not being a
buddha? You can experience Stage 1
of enlightenment immediately. Stop
being a human cesspool today. All
you have to do is purchase My
Enlightenment Kit made by me for
pathetic wastes of human flesh like
Sophie enters the room in the middle of the infomecial.
BUDDHA (V.O.) (CONT’D)
You can order it here. Just
concentrate on this button.
Sophie concentrates on the button and a moment later her
INT. LIVING ROOM – MOMENTS LATER
Sophie opens a mysterious looking package and after removing
all the bubble wrap reveals a giant syringe filled with an
I’m going to role model so hard.
She takes the syringe and injects it into her brain. Sophie’s
hair sticks up like she’s been electrocuted.
We see a small picture in picture box appear above and in
front of Sophie. In this box we see Emily walking with her
friend, Sasha. Emily stops dead in her tracks and looks back
directly at Sophie.
Sophie staggers and loses her balance from being light
headed. She reaches for the box that Emily is in and braces
herself on it. Her weight pushes the box out of frame causing
her to collapse on the floor.
We follow the box with Emily out of frame and ZOOM IN on her
and Sasha as they now fill the screen.
EXT. WOODS – DAY
SASHA lights a joint and hands it to Emily.
Are you sure we aren’t going to run
into anyone we know out here?
Chills, girl. This is how we detour
now and always. Now hit daaaat!
Emily takes a hit then we hear a man’s voice.
MAN’S VOICE (O.S.)
Dad? What the–
We see Emily’s DAD stuck in quicksand.
How’s life? Good it seems.
I didn’t know…this is where you
Sorry I don’t come around much.
Kinda stuck here.
So are you going to introduce me to
No she’s not.
Okay…so how’s your mother? Still
an overbearing little–
Never mind her. Listen, if you need
money for college I can uh…ya
know loan you a few bucks. Think I
have some somewhere…
Nah I’m good.
You can’t count on your mother for
that sort of thing. She doesn’t
want you to leave home ya know.
If she has to be alone, she’ll make
sure you are too. This is just your
old man being honest with ya. Look
what she did to me.
No, dad. I’m pretty sure you did
this to yourself.
Emily and Sasha continue walking. Emily takes a hit.
What a buzzkill.
Girl, I wish my dad cared that
INT. LIVING ROOM – MOMENTS LATER
Sophie crawls to her knees and reaches to pick up her phone.
She catches her reflection in the screen and tilts her head
sideways like a confused pup. Her reflection shows an old man
in her eye gazing back at her. There’s a bright sparkle that
navigates around his pupil.
The old man lifts a telescope up and peers through the
objective lens at Sophie. She gazes back through the eyepiece
and notices the bright sparkle is actually a UFO.
INT. OFFICE BUILDING – LATER
The old man in Sophie’s eye rapidly reverses in age. Sophie
watches him in her screen’s reflection as she sits in a
cubicle with a pile of neglected paperwork and a powered down
Her boss, TRAVIS, walks past her and then comes back with a
fuel container. He pours gasoline on her phone and sets it on
fire. Sophie rolls her eyes at Travis.
Oh! Hey, what’s that you got? It
looks like you got a little old guy
in your eye.
Travis grabs her head and looks in her eye.
(to other employees)
Come check this out! Sophie’s got a
little man in her eye getting
The flames and her coworkers spread around her forming a dome
Look! He’s turning into a fetus.
She pushes Travis off her and runs into the utility closet to
hide from everyone. She closes the door and shakes the sweat
off like a wet dog. Her bulging eyes scan the contents of the
closet. The sexy silhouette of an industrial strength vacuum
stands out in the darkness.
Sophie plugs the vacuum in and sucks the eyeball out of her
skull and plops it in her hand. She watches it melt in her
palm, leaving behind the fetus of the old man.
So I just checked the employee
handbook and it’s against company
policy to smuggle little reverse
aging men to work in your eye.
Okay. Sure thing, Travis. He’s not
in–he’s gone now.
Super. Just come out and show all
of us. We’re all waiting outside
the door to make sure you’re okay.
And that you’re abiding by company
Just come out and show us!
In Sophie’s palm the fetus breaks up into a bunch of cells.
The cells morph into actors on a theater stage. They wear
different masks portraying Emily at various ages. An actor in
a Sophie mask walks around in anger giving the middle finger
to the Emily actors behind their backs.
Sophie barges out of the utlity closet to a crowd of stunned
What the hell has gotten in to you
I’m trying to be a good role model
for my kid.
I’m going to have to send you home
for the day. It appears you’re
missing an eye. Which clearly
violates the company dress code.
Please, for all our sakes, don’t
come back until you shove something
INT. SOPHIE’S BEDROOM – LATER
The room is a wreck. Sophie tears the room apart searching
for something that fits in her eye socket when Emily walks
Hey, mom. How’s it going? Is it
cool if I sleep over Sasha’s
tonight? Her mom’s gonna try and
break all of Princess Pounds’
records. It’s gonna be epic.
Good for her. You can forget about
But why? That’s so not fair.
Emily, do you even notice anything
different about me?
Not everything is about you.
Yeah. It’s about your friend’s
wannabe YouTuber mom who sounds
like a real pile of shit. So of
course she must be a great role
model. Meanwhile I literally can’t
keep an eye on you and don’t need
you out drinking cat piss in the
No one is drinking cat–what
happened to your eye? Mom, you’re
missing a whole eye. You poor
thing. Here just relax and lemme
get you some tea.
Sophie looks shocked. Emily leaves and returns a moment later
Forget about that eye. Sit. This is
just what you need. Nice hot tea.
Ain’t I the best child ever?
So, I can go to Sasha’s?
Emily grows a devil’s tail and two smoking joints as horns.
I’m going to say no. Maybe you
should stay home tonight and we can
watch, or rather, you can watch–
Oh my god! Why can’t I go?! Dad was
right you are an overbearing little-
You were talking to your dad?! Is
that what this is?
Sophie throws the cup of tea against the wall.
Did he put you up to this? To get
back at me?! Well, here’s some
advice: If you two are gonna plot
to poison me don’t make it so
obvious next time!
What the hell are you–
He tried turning you against me.
And you listened because you think
murderers are good role models.
You’re insane! You’re literally
insane right now!
I’m insane? You guys were the ones
who made me suck my own eye out of
my skull! How long have you two
been plotting against me?
Emily storms out of the room and slams the door. A moment
later we hear another bedroom door slam.
An infomercial appears on the TV. The man is the same from
the role model infomercial.
Are you tired of being an
Hey, I am not an overbearing
Where the hell are you, Emily?! I’m
so agitated! You don’t just get to
poison me whenever the hell you
feel like it!
INT. HALLWAY – CONTINUOUS
Sophie tries to open Emily’s door, but it’s locked. She bangs
her head against it.
Emily, open up!
She continues banging her head until it goes through the
INT. EMILY’S BEDROOM – CONTINUOUS
We see Sophie’s head sticking through the door.
I see you.
This makes Emily chuckle and the two share a laugh. Emily
appears to Sophie as her daughter again and no longer a
Are you and your deadbeat father
really trying to kill me?
No. I would never–
Because I try so hard to be a good
mother and god forbid a role model
I would never do anything for him.
He’s a weirdo living in quicksand.
Good. Right where I left him.
I love you very much. I try really
hard to make sure you’re happy and
set a good example for you. Hope
you know that.
You’re doing a great job, mom.
Well, what are you still doing
here? Shouldn’t you be getting
ready to go drink a few gallons of
Gross, Mom. No one is drinking
If you say so.
INT. SASHA’S BEDROOM – NIGHT
Emily and four other girls sit around in their pajamas. Sasha
is in tears.
…she’s been locked in the
bathroom all night. She’s probably
crying her face off because my
dad’s such a jerk.
I wish I could just wave a wand and
make her happy so she’ll come out
and pound this Buccaneers helmet
full of cat piss in 18 seconds and
break that stupid record.
Well, there is this little trick an
awesome lady taught me once.
INT. SASHA’S HALLWAY – MOMENTS LATER
Emily approaches the bathroom door and bangs her head against
it until it goes through.
INT. SASHA’S BATHROOM – CONTINUOUS
We see Emily’s head sticking through the door. Sasha’s mom,
MELANIE, sits on the toilet.
(calling to Sasha)
She’s not crying! She’s pooping!
Princess Pounds drank poop once.
I see you.
Blood drips down Emily’s face as she passes out.
Sasha! Who the hell is this girl
with her head through our bathroom
door?! This right here is the type
of role model I’ve been telling you
that you need in your life!
Sasha, you hear me?!
FADE TO BLACK.
EXT. COLLEGE LAWN - DAY A female student takes off her backpack and sits beneath a willow tree next to a large water fountain. She removes a lunchbox from her bag and opens it. She opens a soda that FIZZES and spills onto a psychedelic forest landscape in her lunchbox. Brightly colored neon worms wearing cupcake hats come out of the sand and swarm around the soda. They join hands and dance around the spilled soda until green flames rise from it. Worm spirits wearing dark sunglasses and black suits appear from the flames. They gift a bounty of mushrooms to the worms. The worms shove the mushrooms into a third eye that opens on their foreheads. A moment later the worms take turns exploding, splattering worm parts on the women's sushi roll as she reaches for it with chopsticks. DISSOLVE TO: INT. COLLEGE DORM - DAY LISA WILCOX, a news reporter, addresses the camera. Behind her we see caution tape around the charred remains of a dorm room. Her name appears on the screen along with the title 'Reporter and Podcaster'. LISA WILCOX ...and it was here where the bodies of twenty year olds, McKenzie Bowen and Skyler Hampton... Their pictures pop up on the screen with their names. Both have the title, 'Student and Podcaster' under their name. LISA WILCOX (CONT'D) ...were blown from their dormitory room as a result of an explosion caused by pushing their happiness meter past the recommended settings. I'm told by utility workers from High Rate Happiness that these type of incidents are to be expected. Swans and psychics are on the scene in search of the missing bodies. Fellow students here at the university are devastated as they mourn another senseless tragedy of their classmates. The camera turns to a hoard of unruly students desperately scooping up globs of happiness off the walls. Utility workers in High Rate Happiness uniforms beat them and take back their happiness. We see EDIE WEBB, a female student, run up to the dorm room with a basket of laundry. A man holds her back as she tries to push past the caution tape. EDIE WEBB No. What the hell happened to my room?! Lisa runs over to Edie for an interview. LISA WILCOX Miss, your room? EDIE WEBB Yeah. My damn room. My damn books. My damn hermit crab. LISA WILCOX Your roommates. EDIE WEBB That's them. Where they at now? LISA WILCOX You're a student here? Can we get your first and last name? EDIE WEBB Seriously? Edie Webb. Now can I go in my room? What's left of it. Edie's name pops up on the screen with the title, 'Student and Podcaster'. LISA WILCOX At your own risk. It appears, for safety reasons, the utility company has disconnected the happiness to your dorm room. Thunderstorms form behind Edie's eyes. LISA WILCOX (CONT'D) Edie Webb, did you ever imagine your roommates would explode all over campus and leave you without happiness? (voice fading) Do you know where their missing parts might be? Have they ever mentioned where they would go if they exploded? Do you think they're still happy? A swan flies in front of Edie flapping its wings in her face. A man in a turban walks by with his eyes closed and fingers pressed to his temples. EDIE WEBB (to herself) I can't believe this. My roommates... (beat) left me without happiness? CUT TO: INT. DORM ROOM - LATER Edie sits in the laundry basket of clothes amongst the charred remains of her dorm room. She's on the phone and angry. EDIE WEBB What do you mean you can't turn it back on 'til the bill's paid? I don't have money. I'm a college student. (pause) Of course I sound unhappy! Click. She hangs up. Edie's friend, MAGGIE, walks in smoking a tobacco pipe. MAGGIE Hello there, ma lady. Edie hangs up the phone. EDIE WEBB I ain't got no happiness, Mags. MAGGIE Ya poor thing. You're the real victim in all this. She gestures at all the destruction. EDIE WEBB Thank you for seeing that. MAGGIE We should call that reporter back stat. Breaking News: Everyone stop searching for those pesky missing bodies. Edie-meister can't afford happiness. EDIE WEBB Breaking News: My best friend's still a stupid assface gremlin. MAGGIE And proud of it. EDIE WEBB The problem is McKenzie and Skyler just ran up this ridiculous happiness bill and died. Without even bothering to consider how it would affect me. Talk about disrespect. Maggie gazes out the window. She sees the Old Man from episode, 'Stand Up' puffing a cigar as he snatches an arm out of the road. He hops in his van and drives off. The van pulls away and REVEALS a big water fountain. A swan swoops down and fishes a collarbone out of the water. Students begin to fight over it. Tentacles shoot out of the swan's eyes, grabbing and melting the students. MAGGIE Oh no! A majestic swan just pulled McKenzie's collarbone out of a water fountain. Maggie pulls out a Bingo card and scans over it. MAGGIE (CONT'D) Thank god I don't have that one. I'm not trying to fight a swan to win this game. EDIE WEBB Are you playing Bingo with my roommates' body parts? MAGGIE Why I most certainly am. And I dare say it might even take your mind off this happiness business. I believe I can procure you a card if you desire to play. EDIE WEBB That's the dumbest thing your mouth has ever dribbled. (beat) Am I...what's wrong with me? It's like--am I miserable? My soul feels like a wretched mess of sadness and humiliation. Maggie looks over and sees Edie's soul. It's covered in tar and feathers. EDIE WEBB (CONT'D) Honestly, what am I supposed to do? This whole college garbage is supposed to be the happiest years of our life. Oh "The happy life is the good life." If I hear that one more time. MAGGIE I mean the happy life is the-- EDIE WEBB The only reason I even need those idiots to turn it back on is so I don't end up like Roxy. We see a poster on the wall of a girl with her head stuck in a vent with the warning: Don't end up like Roxy. Keep your happiness on. EDIE WEBB (CONT'D) I have zero desires to go mad and die because I got my head stuck in a vent trying to lick an ounce of happiness off a mouse's foot. I am not up or down with that shit. Maggie walks away from the window and steps on something. She picks it up to see what it is. A tooth. MAGGIE Check this out! Whose this fine fossil belong to? She tosses the tooth to Edie. EDIE WEBB So morbid. It's Skyler's disgusting mouth part. You can tell because she was always bragging how she had the only dentist who still did mercury fillings. Maggie scans her card. MAGGIE Yes! Skyler's molar. Ya know, if there's really mercury in there we could obtain happiness for you after all. That is if you're willing to dabble in a little Daphne Collins and orange magick. INT. CAFE - MOMENTS LATER Maggie and Edie order from a woman behind the counter. MAGGIE We'll take two Daphne Collins. The woman sets two cups on the counter and stomps three times on the cellar door beneath her. She looks at her watch, and then lights a couple matches and drops them in the cups. The woman pulls open the cellar door to let out a swarm of moths. They circle the cups before diving inside. The woman quickly puts a lid on the cups and hands them to Maggie and Edie. Vapors escape from the top and dance around the air. MAGGIE (CONT'D) We better start heading back now before the transformation process begins. EXT. STREET - CONTINUOUS Edie tries to drink it, but can't. EDIE WEBB Look at that. It's true. You can't eat or drink when you're depressed. MAGGIE You're not depressed. You're just lazy. She lifts the cup to Edie's mouth. EDIE WEBB There's nothing even in here. Just some steam in an empty cup. MAGGIE That steam is a spirit named Daphne Collins. EDIE WEBB Great. Now we're pretending to drink stupid ghosts. MAGGIE Yup the stupid ghost of Buddhist nun, Sylvia Plath, who was dubbed the happiest person alive by really smart scientists. EDIE WEBB What's the point of a ghost name being different than a human name? MAGGIE I don't really get Buddhism, Edie. But that's not the point. The point is-- EDIE WEBB She's gonna pay this bill for me? Is that what this is about? MAGGIE Forget that bill. What we've started, Edie-ternity, is the beginning of an ancient ritual to manifest pure happiness. EDIE WEBB Mags, you're talking about like alchemy and bending the laws of nature. (beat) What a complete waste of time. MAGGIE The freedom to summons your own joy from the depths of your own being and not from some utility company is nothing short of revolutionary and a giant step in the evolution of human consciousness. Maggie reaches down and picks up something off the ground. She pulls out the Bingo card. MAGGIE (CONT'D) I'll tell you what's a waste of time. Picking up someone's belly button that's not on your Bingo card. Maggie tosses the belly button in some guy's froyo walking by. INT. DORM ROOM - MOMENTS LATER We see Edie and Maggie throwing up orange vapors into buckets. EDIE WEBB Zen tastes like ass. MAGGIE This is actually orange ceremonial magick. If this was Zen-- She sees Edie's eyes glaze over. MAGGIE (CONT'D) Doesn't matter. Next we must chant out loud. MAGGIE (CONT'D) Out loud. Out loud. Out loud. EDIE WEBB Out loud. Out loud. Out loud. The words take shape and appear as 3-D blocks in the air. Maggie pulls the words down and burns them to ash while Edie melts the mercury into the buckets of orange vapors. Maggie then pours the ashes in the buckets. They stare at the buckets, shrugging their shoulders until two sparks appear. MAGGIE That, Edie-Wan Kenobi, is what pure happiness looks like. She puts the spark in her mouth and swallows it. The spark in Edie's bucket jumps out and runs under the door into the hall. EDIE WEBB Get back here you flickering little esoteric shit! Edie runs after it. EXT. HALLWAY - CONTINUOUS We see the spark running down the hall. College STUDENTS chase after it. EDIE WEBB Someone catch it! It's getting away. STUDENT 1 Yo, it's a little life! STUDENT 2 Look everyone, it's a life! STUDENT 3 Let's burn it! EDIE WEBB Take it easy, you animals. The spark runs past students dragging their passed out friends back to their rooms, but gets hit by a stray beer pong ball. The spark flies through the air. We see a disgusting man covered in boils standing on a ladder changing a light. The crack of his butt hangs out his pants. The spark comes in for landing. PLOP. It touches down right in his crack. The man scratches his butt. He sniffs his fingers and starts hacking. INT. BASEMENT PARTY - NIGHT Edie and Maggie come dancing down the steps into a basement frat party. They have their own suns shining on them. Edie is swishing a liquid in her mouth. They nod to everyone they pass. MAGGIE Damn we're practically glowing aren't we? Look at you Edie-pie, your soul is way too fuego for this place. We see Edie's soul is no longer covered in tar and feathers. It now has glorious lighting and sparkles like a Glamour Shot. MAGGIE (CONT'D) Remember. Don't tell anyone what we did. People can be super uptight about pure happiness. A MAN with a mullet and a mustache with a snake around his neck winks at Edie. He calls her over with his finger. MAGGIE (CONT'D) Oooh shit. I wonder what's going to happen next? Edie spits the liquid in her mouth into a bottle of bleach she's carrying. EDIE WEBB It doesn't even matter. I'm just excited to watch how beautifully my life unfolds. Ahhh! It should be illegal to be this happy. Is it? Is it illegal? Hah. Who cares? Edie smiles and runs over to the weird man with excitement, leaving a rainbow trail behind her. EDIE WEBB (CONT'D) I'm so stupidly happy to see you! Feel my joy with your tongue! She makes out with the man and they disappear behind a closed door. In the background we see a crowd of students gather together. They surround an alien doing keg stands. It's Desmond from the episode titled, 'Ooze'. They chant... STUDENTS Dezzy! Dezzy! Dezzy! Maggie is talking to a drunk WOMAN stumbling around. WOMAN Maggie! I love your style! You seem so much happier than normal. Are you hiding something? MAGGIE Thanks, good lady! I actually just switched companies. I'm using Happiness Chimps now. Their prices are bananas! WOMAN I'm still using Happiness Blows. You can see how well it works. The woman breaks down and cries. INT. BEDROOM - CONTINUOUS Edie sits on the bed. The man angrily wraps the snake around his neck and rushes to the door. He looks back at Edie in disgust. MAN You never told me you had pure happiness inside you! He walks out and slams the door behind him. INT. BASEMENT PARTY - CONTINUOUS We overhear everyone at the party whispering to each other about Edie having pure happiness inside her. Maggie plays stupid. MAGGIE Come on. Like any of this is even news worthy. Reporter Lisa Wilcox enters the party. She stands next to the snake man. LISA WILCOX I'm here with... She looks at the man. MAN Snake. Snake's name appears on the screen with the title 'Whistleblower and Podcaster'. LISA WILCOX Of course. I'm here with Snake who claims that someone here has manifested happiness through the use of ceremonial orange magick. No one has been accused of such acts of debauchery since Sylvia Plath. If true-- Edie walks out of the bedroom. Everyone stops and looks. LISA WILCOX (CONT'D) There she is now. Miss! I have an important question. Are you a hedonist? Do you sacrifice kittens? Is this an orgy? Maggie bends down and picks something up. She scans over her Bingo card and looks back at her hand holding a nipple with a tooth in it. She holds it up to the light. MAGGIE Could it possibly be? Is it? It is. McKenzie's third nipple with her devoured twin's tooth in it. Bingo! I got Bingo, everyone! A collective sigh of disgust echoes from the crowd. We watch as students throw their Bingo cards down in disappointment. Someone turns the happiness meter up, and the mood lifts immediately as they breathe globs of happiness floating through the air. INT. DORM ROOM - LATER Edie tugs on the happiness meter in her room until, finally, she rips it from the wall. She skips over to the window and hurls it as far away from her as she can. A swan intercepts it mid-air and melts it with its tentacles. EDIE WEBB Life is so beautiful. Two MYSTERIOUS MEN wearing dark sunglasses barge in the room. They wear uniforms identical to High Rate Happiness company, but without any official markings. MYSTERIOUS MAN 1 You have violated the terms and conditions of life. MYSTERIOUS MAN 2 You signed this before you were born. They present her a contract that reads: I agree to a lifetime of fake happiness. Signed, Edie Webb. EDIE WEBB This could be anyone. They flip the contract over. There's a drawing of her face. It reads: This is my face. The mysterious men use their abnormally long fingers to rip her torso in half. They pluck the spark out of her chest and walk over to a corner to pee on it. We hear RUSHING WATER and see the light of the spark fade. We watch them pee on it for an unnecessary amount of time. They stroll back over to Edie. They fill her torso with sawdust and worms and leave. Edie stomps across the room and yells through her closed door... EDIE WEBB (CONT'D) The joke's on you! I love sawdust and worms! As she finishes her sentence something slides underneath her door. She picks it up. An invoice. We see an itemized receipt for: pulling you apart, removing happiness, urinating forever on happiness, sawdust and worms, and a convenience fee. We ZOOM OUT and see the poster on the wall behind Edie of a girl with her head stuck in a vent with the warning: Don't end up like Roxy. Keep your happiness on. FADE TO BLACK.
Hank stands in line dripping blood like the disgusting bloody cop that he is. He waits with his wife and two daughters for their picture with Santa. The line is beginning to move faster. All the Christmas lights in the storefront windows have turned on. Everyone’s breath hangs in the chill air doing a dance with the steam from their hot cocoas.
His youngest daughter, Rosinda, tugs at Hank’s shirt trying to get his attention. His focus, however, is on Santa. He sticks his palm in Rosinda’s face. “Not now, kid.”
What Hank’s bloody eyes see is an imposter where Santa should be. A toaster sitting in Santa’s chair, wearing Santa’s hat and Santa’s beard.
Hank looks around, shocked that all these people would buy into this charade and allow their kids to be endangered. Then he realizes everyone is being duped. They must be under its spell. Somehow hypnotized by the toaster’s incredible mind control capabilities. Hank draws his gun and aims it at the toaster.
“Everyone down! That’s not the real Santa!”
The toaster jumps up and flees. Hank gives chase and tackles it to the ground. He bangs his head against the side of a building causing loose snow on the roof to slide off and swallow him up. He manages to dig himself out and looks for the toaster only to see a man dressed in a Santa suit passed out next to him. As Hank clears the cobwebs he catches a glimpse of his wife gathering their hysterical kids with tears in their eyes and ushering them away from their crazy father. Hank tries to call after them, but loses their line of sight when someone appears before him. A man with heavy chains around his neck and a super upbeat attitude.
“Hey, what’s going on? I can’t believe I found you. This is so great. What a joyous moment finding you like this. We’re gonna have so much fun. You and me right now. The fun will never end.”
Hank gives him an annoyed stare, “I hate you.”
“And I’m Geronimo. Kinda new around here. But being new is cool and fresh. Like me. But listen I can’t stay long. Real quick. There’s gonna be like…” Geronimo counts in his head and then on his fingers. “I guess like three ghosts that are gonna visit you. And it will be awesome! So have fun with that. I gotta run back to work now. Just started a super great new job. Totally crazy fun place. I’m pretty sure there’s a a coworker lost in the ceiling somewhere.”
“I should arrest you for sucking.”
“I know right? Guilty as charged.” Geronimo turns and begins walking away, chains rattling. He remembers something, and turns back. “By the way, if you don’t listen to these ghosts you’ll be cursed to carry even heavier chains than these sweet ones my amazing boss gave me. Tootles.”
Geronimo walks off leaving Murky to sit there and contemplate calling for backup. Instead he gets up and wanders the crowded streets where everyone pretends he’s not a lunatic. Even though in his heart he knows that he is. For now he’ll ignore his heart as usual.
A voice comes from a dark alley, “Hey. Psst. Hey you. Over here.”
Murky turns his head, “Are you a ghost?”
“No man. I’m no ghost. I’m Carlos the Rebel. Come check this out, dude.”
Murky is about to turn away when Carlos grabs his arm and pulls him into the alley. The two vanish into the dark and reappear decades in the past. They stand in Murky’s living room full of uncomfortable furniture and cigarette smoke. A cat pees in the corner and as Murky is about to yell at it, an eight year old Hank Murky walks right through him and rushes to the cat. Little Hank picks up the cat, tosses it in the freezer and closes the door.
Carlos looks at Murky with disappointment, “That’s no way to train a cat, my friend.”
“Hey, it works. You just have to remember he’s in there. Hey look it’s my fake blood kit I got for Christmas that year.”
Little Hank opens a bottle of pasta sauce and pours it on his head. He runs through the house pretending to shoot people with a remote control yelling, “I’m a bloody cop! A really bloody cop. You get a bullet to the head! And you get a bullet to the head! And you get a bullet to the head!”
“I was so naive. Thinking everyone would appreciate a bullet to the head.”
Little Hank aims the remote at Murky’s ghost and shoots him between the eyes. Murky pretends that he’s shot and collapses.
He stands up and finds himself in the bedroom of his first apartment. Twenty-two year old Hank tries to reason with his fiancé, Sheila.
“You know there’s nothing on the other side of that window?”
“See you’re wrong, Hankster. That window is a portal to the ground ten stories below.”
Carlos looks at Murky with disappointment, “Hankster, huh?”
“It’s manly. You wouldn’t know about that.”
Sheila grabs a gun off the bed and tosses it out the window. She pulls another one off the ceiling fan and sends it flying. Little Hankster leans out the window, staring down at his pile of guns that are attracting a crowd of thieves. They fill their pockets with guns and when they run out of pockets they shove them in their mouths like squirrels hoarding away nuts.
“Get away from my guns! Don’t make me come down there and arrest you!”
“Hankster, I’m leaving you. I’m. Leaving. You! Throwing away the only thing that matters to you to see if maybe I matter more. But all you care about are your stupid guns and arresting people or shooting them in the head! So here, let me help you!”
Sheila sprints at Hankster and throws all of her weight into him, sending him tumbling out the window.
“Get me outta here, ya stupid ghost.”
“Man, I’m no ghost. Why does everyone think I’m —“
“I said get me out of here!”
Murky wakes up in the dark alley to the sound of Carolers surrounding him. They thought he was dead, and attribute his resurrection to being a Christmas miracle.
“You’re all off-key. Get outta my way before I have you all thrown in jail.” Murky shoves past them and stumbles into the street. He tries searching through the crowds for his wife and kids.
A flying beer bottle cracks Murky in the side of the head.
A moment later he’s standing in an unfamiliar kitchen with unfamiliar people.
“Sorry about that. I was just trying to get your attention,” a voice coming from a horse says to Murky.
“Great another ghost.”
“I’m not a ghost, silly. I’m a horse. And I spit venom. So watch out!”
“A nameless venom horse, of course.”
“The name’s Belinda, you big goofball.”
At the kitchen table preparing for a feast sit George, Diane and Larry the Demon.
“I don’t know these people. So can we leave?”
“No, Mr. Murky. You do know these people. George is your old partner’s twin brother and that’s his wife.”
“That can’t be. Blorge is dead. The best partner a bloody cop could ever ask for. But he’s dead. I don’t know who this imposter is. Let me arrest this fool.”
“Look closely, you big dum dum. He looks just like Blorge. It’s his identical twin brother. Don’t you remember at the funeral Blorge did the eulogy and everyone commented that it felt like George was giving his own eulogy?”
Murky gives Belinda a blank look.
“That’s right,” Belinda says, “you didn’t go to the funeral. You stayed home to polish your guns.”
Larry jumps on the table and shakes his butt in George and Diane’s face. Diane thinks it’s adorable. George isn’t laughing. Larry notices George’s disdain and his fangs grow an inch longer.
“Those guns weren’t gonna polish themselves, horse lady.”
“Oh you stupid little man you. Unless you change the course of events Larry the Demon is going to eat George. Do you think that’s what Blorge would want? Do you think he wants his only twin brother to get eaten by a demon? What kind of partner would you be to let something like that happen?”
“I’m a great partner! Don’t you ever question what kind —“
Murky lunges at Belinda and she spits venom in his face. He awakens a moment later on a park bench and searches his pockets for his phone. He looks under the bench, but can’t find it anywhere. Across the street the only phone booth in Unthinkable Cramps glows in colorful blinking lights. He dashes over to it and picks up the receiver. His fingers hesitate over the numbers.
“Dammit. What’s my wife’s number? Wait. What’s my wife’s name? Have I never known her name?”
The phone booth door flies open and a giraffe squeezes into the booth with Murky. It puts a hoof to Murky’s mouth signaling him to be silent. The phone rings while still in Murky’s hand. He puts it to his ear. The sound of chatter coming through the receiver fills the booth until everything fades away except for Murky and the giraffe.
They’re outside. In a cemetery. A handful of people are in attendance. Everyone’s ten years older. There’s a bloody picture of Hank next to a casket. The wind blows the photo over and no one stands it back up. The few people who do arrive ask about the free lunch afterwards. Most sit, tapping their feet and staring at their watches. No one wishes to say any words about the deceased. Not on an empty stomach of course.
“Okay. These people suck. Can you show me someone with some kind of emotion over my death?”
A moment later Murky and the giraffe are in Murky’s bedroom. His wife, Daisy, sits on the bed with her head buried in her hands. Her shoulders shaking up and down. The sounds of sobs coming from her lonely face.
“She misses me so much. It’s okay. I’m not really dead. I’m right here. It’s okay — what the hell is her name?”
Sanchez walks in the room out of the shower, topless in a towel. Daisy looks up without a tear in her eye, giggling. “I can’t believe this is real,” she says, “We can finally be together and not worry about that idiot. I’m so happy he’s dead I can’t stop giggling. I’m like a school girl.”
“Why is Sanchez taking his towel off? Is she going to draw them in the nude? She’s happy she finally gets to pursue her art career. I love that for her.”
Sanchez whips the towel off. “Now we can have miles of sex and never sneak around behind your husband Hank Murky’s back anymore because he’s so dead and never coming back to life again. We’ve been having sex forever behind his back and he’s so dumb he never knew. If he can hear me from beyond the grave I want to tell him now that I’ve been having serious dirty sex with you, his wife, for years, and it’s definitely not been anything but sex sex sex. Tons of sex all the time with each other without him knowing. Constantly. Just really nonstop sex olympics with two people. Me and you, his wife who he thought was being faithful. Just a marathon of boning until he’s on his way home. And now we shall have filthy, strange, bizarre sex to celebrate his death.”
Murky’s jaw drops. “Wow. Just unbelievable. I had an idea. I mean there were clues along the way. But I never put them together. She’s doing it. She’s throwing herself into performance art. And I’m so proud of her.”
The giraffe shakes its head.
“What about my kids? I bet they’re devastated.”
In the living room Murky’s kids sit in front of a dwindling fire digging through a box of old junk. They come across a picture of Hank holding Rosinda as a newborn in the hospital.
Murky’s face softens for the first time. “Look at me. I was so young then. That’s you, Rosinda. I remember you being born like it was yesterday. You started to cry, but then you looked at me and smiled. And I smiled back. I’ll get you a frame for it.”
Rosinda tosses the photo in the fire and the flames begin to roar. “Quick go get the chestnuts,” she tells her sister.
“No. No. Come on, giraffe. Do something to fix it. Come on,” Murky pleads. “This can’t happen. I’ll change my ways. I will. You can’t let this happen. You stupid, ugly, long-necked, weird-looking freak!”
Murky pounds on the giraffe’s chest and lasers shoot from its eyes blinding Murky.
He wakes up to the sound of bells jingling all around him. His kids jump on his bed informing him that is, in fact, Christmas morning and they need to open presents. Hank calls a local demon hunter and sends them to the house of George and Diane before rushing into the living room with his wife and kids.
Murky and his wife sit on the couch as the kids decide who’s going to play Santa this year. They decide it will be Murky. Just then a call comes in over his walkie asking for someone in the area to investigate a talking iron bothering people outside of church.
“I’m sorry. I’ll be real quick I promise.” Hank grabs his walkie and heads to the door. His wife and kids groan. Rosinda drops the Santa hat on the floor.
Hank opens the front door and throws his walkie into the snow, slams the door shut and locks it. He sits back on the couch and Rosinda puts the Santa hat on his head. Hank looks at his wife and says, “I’ve decided I’m going to get you acting lessons this year for Christmas.”
She pats him on the shoulder, careful not to splash blood on the furniture. “I think I’m pretty good at acting already. But what the heck? Why not?”
*** ** *** **
For table of contents or to start from the beginning of Unthinkable Cramps click here, right here and nowhere else.
George mopes down the windy sidewalk with dirt blowing in his eyes. He scratches them until they bleed. A flyer is forced off a telephone pole by a strong gust and through the air. It ducks under signs and excuses its abrupt visitation on passersby, “Pardon me, I didn’t want to be here. So sorry.” But the wind offers no chance for the flyer to stay and chat with anyone. Instead the flyer stumbles past discarded coffee cups, only made from ten percent recycled fiber, and scoffs at them. “One hundred percent recycled right here, baby,” the flyer brags. A drop of old coffee or a tear drips from the cup, and no one notices.
George thinks there’s a season for everything. And until now he thought this was a season for harvesting. Picking the fruits from the tree before they die. But little did he know seeds were just being planted.
“Sorry. My apologies.” The flyer wraps around George’s face, pinned against it by the wind. “I’m trying to get up, but your face is quite difficult to remove myself from.”
“Whatever. Probably doing me a favor. No one wants to look at this.”
“I’m all in your face. But since I got your attention.”
“Don’t bother. I’m putting you in the trash first chance I get.”
George tries to pull the flyer off his face, but the wind is too strong.
“Do you enjoy the taste of maple syrup?” The flyer’s tone a bit more professional this time. “Oh wait. That was the old advertisement. Do you suffer from premature — no that was my third recycled life. Wait. Let me think. Isn’t this fun? Yurp. I gots it all now. I remember.”
“Lucky me. I’m walking into people because some forgetful flyer glued itself to my —“
“Not my choice, bud. Now listen up. Beyond Breath in Unthinkable Cramps. Why are they here? Who have they come for? Two beings of light sent from an unthinkable dimension beyond human reason will return to that dimension by means of breath relocation in the next few months. These two beings will discuss the transition back to the unthinkable dimension and the details of how and when this will take place.”
“I have a question.”
“I’m not done yet. Ahem. Think of us not as a religion or spiritual cult of any sort attempting to recruit members. That being said many have already given up their worldly possessions to join us on this transition to the unthinkable dimension. If any part of you has ever contemplated the existence of a real physical dimension not subjected to that pesky second law of thermodynamics concerning entropy then don’t be square and be there. At the back corner of the Bandit Ballroom next to the snow cone machine in four minutes.”
FOUR MINUTES AND THIRTY SECONDS LATER
A middle-aged man and woman sit on a makeshift stage in folding chairs. Their long hair has been braided together to create a spiritual link between the two of them. The clothes are handmade and smell of patchouli and avocado toast. The man goes by Alpha Sunshine and his female companion has given herself the title of Ursula the Elder.
Ursula sips a cloudy drink filled with too many probiotics and continues, “You think it’s this physical world you will miss upon death. But what if I tell you right here right now that it isn’t this actual physical dimension you will miss at all? The information transmitted to us by the inter-dimensional being known as ROGER, Regal Opulent Gesticulating Emissary Ray, is the truth of all existence. And I want you to take a minute and think about how present all of you in this room right now have been throughout your journey through this plane. How much of this life have you actually touched and interacted with in a real way with your full focus and attention? How many moments are simply fleeting? Appearing before you for just a moment and vanishing before the next one appears and vanishes. Your lives have been spent from the outside always looking in. Always watching life happen to you, simply unable to touch it. You don’t know how to make it meaningful and so you retreat to the place inside your head. Most of your life is spent inside your head. That’s right. Most of your lived experience has been those thoughts you’ve thought a million times. Those thoughts you’ve grown attached to. That make you feel safe and secure. The ones no one can touch. It is not this physical world, that you’ve barely noticed, that you will miss. It is the world inside your head you will miss upon your death.”
“Here. Here,” mumbles Alpha Sunshine.
George nods his head in agreement with hypnotized, unblinking eyes. His snow cone drips onto his lap. The man next to him notices the wet stain on his pants. He nudges George and offers him some advice. “Hey pal, I got this flyer the other month for, ya know, premature…”
*** ** *** **
For table of contents or to start from the beginning of Unthinkable Cramps click here, right here and nowhere else.
Sasha and Yoyo sleep with their eyes closed and heads outside their tents to warm their nightmares by the fire. But blocking the heat, unable to sleep, sits Belinda staring into the flames. A marshmallow melts away at the end of a short stick as the heat crawls up her hoof. The events from earlier play out in the smoke. She has no choice but to relive those moments over and over again. The ones where she grew wings in the light of the full moon, and viciously attacked a hoard of the undead. She watches as if outside her body as she flies next to the train spitting venom like a monster. “Who is this creature I’ve become?”
Belinda reaches for the moonshine. She’s turning into her father, she thinks. But maybe he just liked the taste of moonshine like he said when they dragged him off to rehab. Maybe she also enjoys the beverage. A substitute for an ice cold glass of arsenic. The bodies begin to pile up in the flames. Dead because of her. “No. I’m a good person. I saved humans. Or whatever these two are.”
She tries to convince herself she did the right thing with some morality math. “The world minus bad people equals good. Good. Good. Good. I’ve got nothing to feel guilty about. Nothing at all.” Howling screams come from the fire of thirsters melting from her venom. They gaze at her with the saddest puppy dog eyes. If the puppies were attacked with deadly poison and gasping for their final breath.
“I don’t want to die in here.”
Belinda shoves her hoof into the fire. The physical pain is nothing. The smoke dances around her long face and into her eyes. Her stinging, teary horse eyes make out a figure in the smoke. An old, gray horse dressed in combat clothing. Straight off the battle fields it seems.
“We all gotta die sometime. So knock it off, Belinda.”
“Don’t tell me to—who are you? I didn’t say I don’t want to die. I just don’t want to die in here. In this horse body.”
“Okay. Well let me get you out of there real quick.”
“What? You can really do that?”
“No! You moron. You’re stuck in there.”
“Grandpa, is that you?
“When I was your age I was in a war. The big Punch You In The Face Til You’re Dead War 2. Our people were hunted for being different. They tried to wipe us off the earth by shipping us to glue factories. A small group of us formed a resistance and did our own hunting. We committed all sorts of horrible horse horrors, happily honing hate held hostage inside our souls.”
“Yeah, but did you ever kill anyone?”
“Hello? What do you think I’m telling you? Why do you think I left my fun spirit realm of floating around in absolute bliss to sit in this damn hot fire? I’m dropping knowledge and sharing my atrocities to relieve you of your guilt. Isn’t that obvious?”
“Just sounds like you’re complaining. I have my own problems and now I have to live knowing my grandfather was a ruthless killer. Thanks. As if I didn’t have enough on my plate.”
“I was a ruthless killer in order to make the world a better place. We’re good people you and me.”
“You’re a murderer. I’m nothing like you.”
Belinda clears her blurry eyes, and the old horse vanishes from the flames. She reaches for the moonshine and her liver quivers.
“Old people suck.”
She pulls her hoof from the fire. It glows bright orange, illuminating the forest and waking up her two partners in crime.
Sasha blocks the light with her hand and through her sleepy voice asks with a hint of hope, “Is someone making waffles?”
*** ** *** **
For table of contents or to start from the beginning of Unthinkable Cramps click here, right here and nowhere else.