In today’s race, our ballistic bicyclists are wounding their wheels through the molten muck o’ Mustard Mountain.
There goes #3, Dr. Equinox in the lead in his Lifecycle, its colored chemicals spinning under its sleek gray plastic seat to feed it its supercharged energy.
& pedaling in 2nd is #2, Madame Heureuse in her Haunted Hearse painted in black with orange flames, using her spooky servants to put the freeze on Equinox… & he is frozen blue to a stop, stuck to the road like tongues to an icy metal pole as Madame Heureuse passes him!
& then, coming up from 3rd into 2nd is #6, Captain Napoleon in her Swiss Army Bike painted in olive camouflage with her blinkers flashing red & blue & her sirens blaring. Uh, oh… What’s this? She’s pressing a button on the front, causing a trap door to open on the back—& now a giant butterfly net is rising from it & slamming o’er Madame Heureuse, stopping her in her tracks! & Captain Napoleon passes her with a wicked smile!
But she better not get too comfy, ‘cause #7, the Golden Macks, are speeding ’hind on their long, 3-seated Motorsickle, wheezing smoke in Heureuse’s face like the gasps o’ a murder victim & sputtering like gunshots.
& speaking o’ gunshots, they’re pulling out their big blasting bazooka & aiming it right @ Captain Napoleon!
“Arrest this, copper,” says their leader, Fulgent Cambric, as he presses a button on his console.
A burst o’ triangular orange light screams out their bazooka & a fat red turtle shell shoots out with a whistlelike woosh.
As it flies through the air, the loose-skinned, haggard face o’ its owner pops out & looks round itself in sullen confusion.
“Mmm… This doesn’t look like Banana Beach,” he says in a whimpering voice, somehow both high & low in pitch.
His eyes balloon when he sees where he’s headed & pops his head back into his shell immediately.
But, uh oh, it looks like it’s wooshing right o’er Captain Napoleon’s hea—no, wait a minute… It’s turning back round… & it’s a direct shot! Captain Napoleon’s Swiss Army Bike suddenly shatters into 7,000 shards, leaving her sitting stranded on the dust while the Golden Macks leave her in their dust, laughing all the way.
But they won’t be laughing for long, ‘cause here comes #8, the Fungi Diet in their Bisidio Bicycle with a frame o’ tree roots & cover made o’ red & yellow mushroom caps.
“Pedal faster, you shrooms! You go as fast as mold grows!” shouts their leader, Garicus.
Chanterella ’hind him, who’s panting, says breathlessly, “We can’t go any faster. There’s no way we’ll be able to catch up with them.”
“Not if I have anything to say ’bout it,” Garicus says as he presses a button in front o’ him, emitting a strange squeak. He then turns to you—yes, you the reader, my good fellow—& says, “To be honest, I’m not sure why I spent the money to make it make that sound; but that’s exactly what I did.”
The ground’s beginning to shake with bramble roots digging through the dirt in straight lines, rising up out o’ & falling back down into the dirt in waves. Now its gaining on the Golden Macks… What’s it gonna do? It’s leaping @ them & wrapping round them!
“Oooch! Ouch! Ow! That stupids!” Cambric moans as the bramble thorns poke into them.
& they’re wrenched to a stop! Looks like it’s a wrap for you guys! Do you get it? Ha ha ha ha ha!
“Yes, yes, I get it,” Cambric mumbles with a sour sneer.
HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!
Cambric stares @ the narrator—yes, I the narrator, my good fellow—with alarm. “E-e-easy down, boy. It’s not that funny.”
HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA—AAACK! AAACK! AAACK!
“Hey bud, are you OK?” asks Cambric.
AAACK! AAACK! CCCCKKKKHHHH…
Hello, everyone. New narrator here. I am sorry to announce that our beloved Oopsie has choked on his own horrible pun & has suffocated to death. Now, if it’s OK, I would like us all have a silence o’ words to mourn the death o’ our beloved narrator.
All right, now let’s get back to the races!
When you last saw us, #3, Dr. Equinox in his Lifecycle, was chilled to a stop by #2, Madame Heureuse in her Haunted Hearse’s apparition associates, only to be pulled o’er by #6, Captain Napoleon in her Swiss Army Bike, who had her seat sabotaged by #7, the Golden Macks in their Motorsickle, only to be tied down by the Fungi Diet in their Bisido Bicycle, who were then soon rammed out o’ bounds by #9, Penile Perfection in his freakishly phallic Innuendo, only to be distracted by a strip club that just happened to be there & passed by #4, Dawn Summers in her Wheelie, a fat-wheeled living unicycle with a giant eyeball for a hub cap.
He glances @ the reader—yes, I’m talking ’bout you ’gain. No need to be so shy—& says in a voice that sounds conspicuously similar to that o’ the turtle from earlier, “I’m the mascot.”
’Hind her are #5, Felix & Violet pedaling carefully in the Meowmobile, a black & pink bike with a matching hot-pink basket @ the front ’bove a plastic feline face. They both look @ the damaged drivers they were passing with empathetic expressions.
“Harbor you the credence that we ought to terminate so that we might apologize for our scurrilous nescience in regards to their predicaments?” Violet asks.
Felix nods. “Uh huh. That seems nice.”
& that’s exactly what they do, stopping next to each paralyzed participant & saying, “Please indulge us in the possibility of exceeding your position, even though you are disadvantaged so,” ’fore driving off to the next.
Finally, in the back, #10, Heloise Solstice, cycles slowly in her Simple Single, an aptly-named simple gray metal bike with a plain hat basket in the front; & the serene look on her face makes it seem as if she doesn’t e’en know she’s in a race @ all! Hey, Heloise? You there? Hello?
Well! She seems to be completely in her own world!
Now, wait a minute, though. Something seems missing here… There are 2 mo’ contestants. Where are those—
O, here we are… Here comes #00: our parasitic partnership, Autumn & Edgar in the Tenacious Tandem, painted in the putrid palette o’ orange & black. Look @ the sniveling liar, Edgar Winters, give me that faux-sad look as if I’d believe him & his dastardly lies!
But the real focus should be on the criminal mastermind in front, Autumn Springer, who right now has her stoic eyes planted straight ’head o’ her. But don’t be fooled! Lurking within that head o’ hers are swishing churlish cheats to sabotage the other racers & keep the trophy for her cheating self—unlike all o’ the other racers do, ’course.
Well, it’s a good thing right ’hind them is the #1, Lance Chamsby in his Golden Throne, a solid gold reclining bike, driven by his drama-masked henchman, Agent Razzmatazz; & right now he has his eyes set straight on those no-gooders.
He turns to the reader—yes, you, already!—but says nothing—so modest! He only lets out a hoarse snicker with eyes blissfully closed & a toothy grin.
Unfortunately, ’cause his eyes were closed, he didn’t see the cactus right in front o’ him & smacks right into it, stuck.
“What’s the hold-up!” he snarls as he bashes the side o’ his bike with his gloved fist, only to see the reason before him. “Why’d you run into that cactus?”
“I was… I was distracted by your distraction, Sir. It’s awfully distracting, you must admit.”
“No ’scuses!” Lance shouts with a raised fist. “Just back out!”
& so Agent Razzmatazz does, quickly gaining speed in the opposite direction. Uh… Hey, guys, don’t you think you’re going a li’l too far backward?
Lance swiftly looks round them as he snarls, “What are you doing, you idiot! Stop already!”
“I can’t stop, Sir!”
& now they’re going backward @ blur! Whoops! Looks like the author wrote backing-up incorrectly. & look! Now their riding straight up a tall mountain! Looks like the author couldn’t handle collision detection well, either.
& now Autumn & Edgar are hiding ’hind a rock, conspicuously painted in a different style from the rest o’ the background, while they stared @ a line o’ spikes stretched ’cross the road, waiting for the other racers to race by & whack their wimpy wheels. ’Course, how she ended up ’head o’ them when she was in 2nd-to-last place just a second ago, I’ll ne’er understand, since nobody e’er tells me, the jerks.
& here they come! 1st there’s Dawn Summers in her Wheelie still in the lead… & she leaps right o’er it, thumping down gainst the dirt on the other side!
But let’s see what happens to Felix & Violet in the Meowmobile… O! It looks like they’re stopping! What’s this? They’re picking up the bike & tip-toeing ’cross the spikes. Androgyn, that’s gotta hurt.
“It’s no trouble,” Felix says e’er-so-politely as she winces with every step.
& just look @ that rapscallion Autumn Springer’s face melt into a scowl! Looks like your terrible trick has been spiked! Look @ her cross her arms as if she can’t hear me—I know you’re listening!
Next we see Madame Heureuse in her Haunted Hearse, who was the 1st to ’scape her netty situation, turn into just a dashed-lined outline, transparent inside, as she drives o’er the spikes—& they don’t seem to be harming her bike @ all!
Then we see the Fungi Diet in their Basidio Bicycle tunnel down into the dirt just as they’re ’bout to approach the spikes & then tunnel out @ the other side for a clean ’scape.
Next is Dr. Equinox in his Lifecycle. Unfortunately, the dirt had already caved into the hole, blocking it off; but that’s no matter: he’ll just pull 1 o’ his levers, causing his whole bike to rise on tall li’l legs. They walk right up to the spikes & carefully step o’er them.
& now we see the Golden Macks in their Motorsickle heading for the spikes. I wonder what they’ll do to avoid them… O… it looks like they just drove o’er it.
Fulgent Cambric turns to me with a grin & says, “These wheels are made o’ pure steel.”
Captain Napoleon in her Swiss Army Bike turns her sirens on, causing the spikes to jump up in panic & move out o’ her way.
“Good morn, officer,” they say in a wimpy voice as she passes with a salute.
Autumn only nods disgustedly. “Uh huh. Yup.”
& last comes Lance Chamsby in his Golden Throne—& we can see by the way he leans back in his recliner & the smug look on his face that he’s already prepared to foil Autumn’s serpentine strategy.
“You got that right,” says he. “I know she’s up to something, & I’m gonna catch her in the act!”
But, Chamsby, surely you already know ’bout her spike trap.
He turns to me with irate surprise. “What spike trap?”
But ’fore I can answer, he’s distracted by heavy rumbling from below & a sudden stop. He looks down to see his bike o’er a trail o’ spikes, his wheels fully flat.
“Why weren’t you looking where we were going, you idiot!” Lance shouts ’hind Agent Razzmatazz with ’nother raised fist.
“Well, gosh, Sir; you didn’t tell me to stop.”
“Didn’t you see the spikes?”
“Yeah, but I didn’t know you didn’t want me to ride o’er them.”
“Didn’t know you shouldn’t ride o’er them,” Lance repeats in disgust. “Do you believe this guy,” he mutters to himself.
Autumn shrugs. “Well, I guess I got someone.”
“Oooo! Drat you looters!” Lance grumbles as steam rises from his now-pink face & he clutches his fists to his sides.
But what’s this? I forgot ’bout 1 mo’ racer:—well, ’cept Penile Perfection, who’s still @ the strip joint & whom we won’t need to talk ’bout for the rest o’ this story, thankfully—Heloise in her Simple Single, pedaling @ a turtle’s pace with her eyes blissfully closed, slowly tilting her head left & right as she hummed.
& it looks like she’s doing the same thing Felix & Violet did: she stops just before the spikes, dismounts, picks up her bike, & slowly walks ’cross, murmuring, “’Scuse me,” as she passes by Chamsby, still stuck in the teeth o’ the trap. Once ’cross, Heloise gets back on her bike & continues pedaling, still @ a sluggish pace. Hey, Heloise, how do you hope to win @ that speed?
But she doesn’t seem to hear me. She continues riding with her eyes closed & humming, as if this race weren’t e’en happening @ all.
We turn back to Autumn & Edgar, who are just legging themselves back up onto their bikes.
“Well, better try the next cheat,” says she.
Chamsby’s sour frown suddenly transforms back into a smug grin.
“I’m ’fraid it’s a li’l too late for that. It’ll take forever for you to e’en catch up with them, much less gain the substantial lead you somehow gained before.”
“That won’t be too much o’ a problem,” Autumn says as she attaches a green microchip to her bike, followed by 3 white 1s.
She puts a foot on the pedal… & then ’fore you know it, she zooms forward in a blur, as if going through a warp zone! Just look @ that!
We can see by the twist on Chamsby’s face that he isn’t pleased @ all.
When we return to our participants, we see them attacking each other in the most vigorous way: Captain Napoleon causes Felix & Violet to spin out with her giant canister o’ pepper spray; the Golden Macks delay the Fungi Diet for hours with false litigation; & Madame Heureuse stops them with some contrived, cartoony slapstick violence.
Sigh. Look, can I let you in on a li’l secret? Just ’tween me & you—yes, I’m still talking ’bout you, dear reader. These races are all humbug, utter humbug. It’s always the same: a bunch o’ trite racers in their thematic li’l cars attack each other as they race toward some finish line, producing cheap laughs for their cheap slapstick, & then someone who isn’t Autumn & Edgar—who don’t e’en care whether they win or lose—wins. What do they win? Some plastic trophy & the smallest dregs o’ self-satisfaction. What’s the point?
I know, I know; I shouldn’t be so morose. I… I still haven’t recovered from the old narrator’s untimely demise, you know. I know he cared so deeply for these races—’specially the way half o’ the proceeds from tickets went to the orphanage down the road; but I must confess I still have some bitterness ’bout these li’l races. Don’t let his kooky puns fool you; Oopsie was brilliant. I just read the thesis he was writing for his Masters in physics last summer wherein he synthesized the concept o’ gradual character development with the concept o’ “death o’ the author” through analyzing authors as multiple people spread out through different time periods. I bet none o’ you e’en knew he was a physicist, did you? O, he was so brilliant. I told him he was too good for this job, but he wouldn’t listen; & now it’s thrown ’way all o’ its potential.
Sorry, I’m still a li’l… no, it’s OK. I can do this. For Oopsie.
Sigh. Anyway, those assholes, Autumn & Edgar, are once ’gain trying some insipid trick. You know, if you 2 can just warp up ’head o’ everyone, why not just warp all the way to the finish line & get it o’er with?
Autumn turns to me & says, “What fun would that be? I already know I’m ne’er going to win; it’s programmed into my character design. The purpose o’ these traps is simply to demonstrate my intellectual superiority o’er these fools.”
Yes, well you’re not doing a very good job o’ it.
“Who put an invisible block ’bove your jump?”
O… nothing. Just forget it.
She shrugs & turns back to the road from ’hind her mulberry tree, waiting for the other racers to drive by. But what those racers don’t realize is that she had painted o’er the rest o’ the road with brown paint & painted a new curve o’ road onto the dirt toward a mountain, with a li’l cave painted on it. ’Course, only someone with no conception o’ perspective could fall for such a trick, since the static image would only fit the proper perspective looking @ it from 1 particular spot.
Luckily, that includes all o’ the racers, who… what’s this? They’re driving through the fake tunnel in the mountain. Ne’er seen that 1 before.
“Have you?” asks Autumn. “Pray tell, did you see the li’l gray lines I drew on the ground o’ the tunnel?”
Gray lin—& the mountain explodes! & now they’re rising up in the air with that squeaky whistle sound you always hear… & now they’re falling back on the track far up ’head.
“Perfect,” Autumn says as she rubs her hands together.
But… but that helped them!
“In every competition, 1 person’s benefit always comes @ ’nother’s loss,” says Autumn.
But that’s your loss.
“Nope,” Autumn says as she shakes her head. “I told you, we’re not winning, anyway, no matter what we do. The game’s rigged gainst us. You’re forgetting ’bout someone.”
O. I see my answer coming up right: Lance Chamsby in his Golden Throne, way back near last. This time, rather than lying back & relaxing, he’s turning his head in every direction like a dog sniffing out criminal activity. He instructs his henchman to stop when he sees it just to his left, poking her head out from ’hind a mulberry tree, & then dismounts & walks o’er to it.
“& what trick do you think you’re up to, you vile looter,” he states as he swings a glove-covered index finger up into the air.
“Would it benefit me to tell you?” says Autumn.
Lance twiddles his fingers together, the confidence sapped from his face.
“No… I s’pose it wouldn’t.” He looks up @ her, defiant. “It’d be upright, though.”
“Do I look like someone who’s upright?” asks Autumn.
“’Course not,” he announces, thrusting his finger upward once mo’.
She isn’t responding. If anyone’s face could look like a locked chest, promising riches inside, it’s hers. Lance seems to be taking the hint, as he’s turning his head all round, searching the vicinity for her, uh… let’s see…
Ah! Treacherous trap! No… that’s trite. Let me think for a minute…
“Aha! I see you’ve blown up that mountain the road leads to. Terrorism! Unfortunately, you mistimed your evil explosives, & your plot has been plastic wrapped!” says Lance.
But as he turns to Autumn with triumph, he only sees her slowly shake her head, her face just as impenetrable.
“No, I’ve already succeeded quite a bit,” says she.
Lance’s eyes become bulging balloons. He frantically searched round & under his bike, but sees nothing amiss.
“How? I don’t see anything?”
“O, it’s not something you can see from any length o’ exertion through physical search. It takes a meta mind to figure out my trap.”
“What’s that mean?” he asks as he stands back up & looks @ Autumn with puffed up shoulders.
“It’s something that’s easy to miss no matter how one searches, so long as someone thinks ’bout it in a simplistic manner.”
“& who says I’m thinking ’bout it in a simplistic manner?”
A long pause hangs ’tween them. For aesthetics, I’ve decided to punt a ball o’ tumbleweed down past them. Look @ it go! Unfortunately, it seems the effect has been ruined by the tumbleweed sticking to Lance’s pant leg, just shaking there like a mouse hiding from a colony o’ cats.
“Try pedaling just a li’l—just a li’l!” Lance says to his underling.
“OK, Sir,” Agent Razzmatazz says as he revolves his feet slowly. The bike slowly moves forward.
“I don’t get it,” says Lance. “How did you trap me? My bike seems to work fine.”
“What’s that have to do with anything?” asks Autumn.
“Well, what is it then?” Lance shouts impatiently.
“Think. What’s the goal o’ my trap?”
“To put my chances o’ victory in a plastic bag, what else?” says he. “As all socialists, you can’t create positive success, so you must take the success ’way from others to feed your wilting self-esteem.”
“& how would I do that? Just in general.”
“Why, you would… you would keep me from being able to move, duh.”
“& what are you not doing now?”
“I’m…” Lance’s eyes widen once mo’.
They’re collapsing back into anger. “You truly have no shame.”
Then he turns to his henchman & says, “Ride on, Agent Razzmatazz!”
But he simply sits there, tapping his hands gainst the handlebars.
Lance’s expression is beginning to fill with annoyance.
“Well, what are you waiting for?” snaps Lance.
“You to get back on, Sir.”
“Well, OK, Sir,” Agent Razzmatazz says with an uncertain expression as he lifts his foot.
Then he starts pedaling, racing out into the distance.
Lance turns to Autumn with his arms crossed. “Can’t get good help nowadays, it seems,” mutters he.
Our ridiculous racers are now reaching the city, & the last stretch o’ their, well, ridiculous race. Look, we can’t all be witty wordcrafters. I’d like to see you try this narrating gig & see how easy you find it.
Anyway, it’s a fresh morn. The city is covered in a March fog, as well as the puddles & drippings from last-night’s showers, as if the city has a cold.
Now we’re @ the obstacle-course portion o’ the race, where our ballistic bikers will have to zigzag round pedestrians & time their pedals so that they don’t run into cars while crossing streets or hit front doors just as they’re being opened.
Here we see Dawn Summers in her Wheelie trying to earn extra ₧ for the bonus round by taxiing people round the city.
“Where to, pal?” she says as her 1st passenger gets on ’hind.
“Somewhere far back in Mustard Mountains,” he says in a squeaky voice.
Dawn rides ’way till someone else waves her down, seeing that she’s a taxi by the tall flag waving ’bove her that says, “TAXI.”
“Where to, pal?” asks she.
“See that spot in the air right there?” Dawn’s potential passenger points her index up in the air, her eyes wincing so she can see just the right spot.
“Got it,” Dawn says as she waits for her new passenger to get on.
& now she’s off. Now she’s racing through Orchid Avenue, weaving ’tween cars to get through the heavy traffic clogging this busy Tuesday morning. Folks, don’t do this @ home—& what I mean by that is, don’t drive round Orchid Avenue on a Tuesday morn or else you’ll run into a lot o’ traffic.
& now she’s ’bout to try a dangerous stunt: she’s heading for the back o’ a “Ramps’re Yours” truck with a ramp that could be yours @ its back. She’s gaining on it… & she drives onto the ramp! & now she’s flying up into the sky! This… this is indescribable! I sure hope you’re watching this & not just listening to this on some ol’ radio, ’cause if you are, you’re missing the sight o’ the century!
(What’s that? This is only on radio? You mean, nobody’s taping this footage?)
Folks, you’re all missing the sight o’ a century!
“Thank you,” the passenger says as she slides off her seat in mid-air, right where she pointed Dawn to take her. She didn’t need to pay Dawn; the ₧ already rolled up on her counter in the upper-left—you see it, right there?
(What’s that? Nobody can see the counter in the upper-left? “Remember, this is just on radio, no footage”? OK. I got it.)
Folks, you’re all missing the ₧-racking-up o’ the century!
As for the passenger, gravity plunged her down toward the hard concrete as usual, transforming her into a hilarious human pancake. The loosely-drawn face o’er this otherwise incomprehensible blob smiled wryly for some reason.
But we have no time to decipher this; Dawn is on the move for ’nother passenger, only to suddenly find a force thrusting her leftward off her bike. She looks up to see that audacious Autumn sliding onto her Wheelie, Edgar skidding on slowly afterward. Wheelie simply stares up @ them with curiosity, but silently acquiesces all the same.
“Sorry,” Edgar mumbles shame-faced.
“Sorry,” Autumn also says, though with a bored expression that doesn’t look sorry @ all. She adds, “Crazy Taxi’s been replaced by Grand Theft Auto.”
“O, all right,” Autumn says snappily. “Road Rage has been replaced by Hit & Run. Is that better?”
Dawn’s frown is flipped round, only for her to close her eyes & cough from the smoke left in her face as Autumn rode off with her Wheelie.
But Dawn can’t stay there for long. She’s shocked back to her feet by the abrupt loud honking happening all o’er her. She stares round to see many generic faces poke out windows, shaking simplistic fists.
She runs back to the street as fast as she can & searches round for Autumn & Edgar’s Tenacious Tandem & finally finds it lying gainst a brick bread shop called “Pan’s.”
“Huh, I wonder why she left her bike for mine?” she says as she scratches her head & stands the tandem up on its wheel legs. She shrugs. “Must be ’cause mine’s a faster motorcycle.”
But when she tries pedaling forward on it, she finds it won’t move. She peers down @ its wheels & sees that it’s flat! Why, those purloining, pocketing, pinching, pilfering, peddling, pedaling, petulant, pestilent… pernicious…
Sorry ’bout that. Where was I ’gain?
Anyway, the swabbers spiked their own bike just so they could sabotage Dawn’s chances o’ catching victory! How maddeningly mad! What do you say for yourself, Autumn?
O, truly, & I s’pose this bike just got up & slashed its own tires?
“No: someone else.”
O, truly? You expect me to believe someone else would have had the… the… to be as much o’ a jerk to sabotage someone else as you?
“If I’m the one who’s being sabotaged, I could name 1 person.”
We turn to Lance Chamsby, who appears to be leaning back in his Golden Throne, once mo’ with a triumphant grin.
He turns to me with a hand covering his mouth—a futile endeavor to keep our speech secret—& says, “’Tween you & me, I hired someone to poke holes in those looters’ bike wheels. Let’s see them cheat now.” Then he lets out ’nother wheezy, high-pitched giggle with a paw o’er his mouth & eyes blissfully shut. Watch out, Sir Chamsby! You don’t want to cause your henchman to crash ’gain like last time!
He opens his eyes, only to cleanse them with his fists when he sees what he sees. When he sees ’gain, his eyes widen, unable to believe what they see.
“W-w-where’s the city?” asks he, panic ripe in his throat. He glares @ Agent Razzmatazz. “Where the Lenin did you take us?”
I’m ’fraid you’ve been going too fast trying to catch up to everyone, Chamsby, & you’ve outrun the write-distance.
Why, yes. You’ve ne’er heard o’ write-distance?
“Would I be asking ’bout it if I had?”
Perhaps (I don’t know all o’ your idiosyncrasies). Anyway, the write-distance is how far ’head in the area the writer has written.
“That doesn’t e’en make any sense,” Lance grumbles as he watches his underling try turning his bike round through this phantom city, a bead o’ sweat dripping down Lance’s forehead as the raindrops drip from the roof edges o’ cement & brick buildings—a’least, as they would’ve if the author had had time to write ’bout them before Lance & his associate drove by.
Sure it does. Surely, you don’t think the Programmers can just write ’bout the whole universe all @ the same time. There’s only so much a few paragraphs can do.
“Can’t they just write, ‘The whole universe was purple’?”
Well, yes, they could, if they lacked imagination. But if you want fine detail that’s different for each piece—next-gen literature—you can’t just do it all @ the same time. What if each tree had its own unique type o’ foliage? The Programmers would have to describe all 400 billion trees! If they spent a short, 20-word paragraph describing each tree—once ’gain, all o’ its li’l details—you’d have 8 trillion words! That’s bigger than the biggest book in the world! That’s… why, for a 400-word-per-page book that’d be round 20 million pages! That would take the average reader almost 8 weeks o’ nonstop reading to finish! & all just to read details ’bout a bunch o’ trees! Do you get my point, Sir Chamsby?
“I think I do…”
Anyway, programmers must pace their work accordingly to allow themselves the words for describing the scenery properly. If they run the action by too fast, there won’t be ’nough time to talk ’bout the scenery & all o’ the characters will simply be wandering through empty voids.
“Yeah, uh, hey, narrator…”
I have a name, you know.
“Well, what is it, then?”
O, I can’t tell you that. I’m terribly fearful o’ having my identity stolen. I had a cousin once—
“Look,” Lance bursts out, impatience dripping from his mouth. “Could you Velcro your lips for 1 second so the Programmers can write their stupid scenery & we won’t be riding through an empty void like 2 idiots?”
Lance paused to consider what he said. “Well, as if I were an idiot.”
Just look @ the sun rise, shielded by the fog as if ’hind a shower curtain! Look @ the way its light reflects li’l white flecks off the puddles still covering the concrete streets! Look @ the raindrops drip from the roof edges o’ cement & brick buildings!
Lance sighs. “Finally. Thanks to you, I’m sure I missed savoring the spoiled stench on those looters’ mugs as they stood stranded in their failure.”
Uh, you know they found ’nother mode o’ mobilization, right?
Uh huh. They took good ol’ Dawn Summers’s Wheelie & left her with their troubled tandem.
Lance snaps his finger. “Henry George! No matter.” He reaches into his pocket & pulls out his phone. “I’ll just have to try a different plan.”
The race reaches a riotous pitch as our racers race their way through the final miles toward the finish line down Honey Hill in this race to the bottom! Our racers are wild, throwing everything @ each other to reach the top… I mean the bottom… I mean Marvin Gardens… I mean… You know what I mean!
This is anyone’s game, folks, which means everything everyone did ’fore this point was pointless & we could’ve skipped it to get the same picture.
Dr. Equinox in his Lifecycle is in the lead, but then he’s blasted by the Golden Mack’s special weapon. Too bad for them, while they’re busy laughing @ Equinox with their heads turned back, they run into a bomb masquerading as an item canister. When they land in an ashy pile, the fake item canister leaps onto its noodly legs & points @ them with its noodly arm.
“Ha! Gotcha!” it shouts with the voice o’ a mad hatter.
Rudewhile, Dawn makes up for the loss o’ her last type o’ transportation by spinning round in the shape o’ a blurry ball @ 80 kilometers per hour, knocking o’er every racer she rolls into.
She wasn’t the only 1 who could morph her body into strange shapes to help her win: a human pancake was sliding its liquid self down the hill ’long with her, matching her meter for meter.
“Hello, Madame. Didn’t expect to see you ’gain,” says she.
“Hey, I recognize that voice. You’re the woman I transported to that place in the sky,” says Dawn.
“Uh huh. Many thanks for the help, too,” says the pancake woman.
& Lance Chamsby & Autumn & Edgar duke it out on the streets, 1st by bumping their vehicles into each other. Unluckily for Autumn, though, as they bump Lance for a 5th time, his vehicle suddenly starts flashing bright colors & causes Autumn & Edgar to be shocked far back into a tree. They slowly slide back down to the ground, hair sticking out o’ Autumn’s head in every direction, while Lance rides ’way laughing.
“That’s right… I forgot he can just become electrified whenever he wants, the cheater,” mutters she.
Dawn stops next to Wheelie, who had been staring @ her with a wide eye as if she were going to attack him.
“There you are,” she says as she climbs back on. “I guess the other 2 swapped you for an e’en faster vehicle.”
“For your information, Madame, no one is faster than me,” Wheelie says with its eye closed indignantly. “They were knocked off.”
“Well then, we’d better hurry if I’m gonn—hey!”
Dawn feels a familiar force push her leftward & looks up to see Autumn remounting her Wheelie.
“’Gain?” she says with exasperation as she throws her arms out.
This time Autumn doesn’t wait to answer, riding off immediately. Dawn shouts ’nother, “Hey!” only for it to end in harsh coughs as the smoke left by Wheelie clogs her throat.
“Androgyn, do you know how hard ’twas to get into that ball position,” Dawn says as she returns to her feet.
But we’ll quickly return to Autumn & Edgar, who are gaining on Lance Chamsby as we write this. But, huh? What’s this? Why’s Edgar leaning o’er the back? What are you looking for, Edgar?
Edgar looks up @ me shyly.
“Uh… are you talking to me?”
Well, I don’t see anyone else named Edgar round; do you?
“Well, there’s Edgar Allen Poe o’er there,” he says as he points a thumb to his side—& there I see jolly ol’ Edgar Allen Poe riding his thin black bike in his all-black business-casual suit. He turns to me & smiles with his wiggling mustache.
“She had to have constructed some special abilities into this,” Autumn says without taking her eyes off the road before her.
“I think I see some red button round here…” Edgar says.
“Great. Push it.”
“Push the but—Hey, that gives me an idea.”
As she says this, she sees the Golden Macks riding by in their Motorsickle.
But he speaks far too softly for her to hear ’bove Wheelie’s gravelly engine as she steers Wheelie right next to the front window o’ the Motorsickle, where Fulgent Cambric is tapping the ashes out o’ his cigar—rudely polluting the streets, I might add.
“Good morn, Madame,” he says in his naturally raspy voice. “Haven’t I seen you from someplace?”
“That doesn’t matter,” Autumn says in her own naturally raspy voice. “Look, how much will you take to run ol’ Lance Chamsby out o’ the race?”
“Hmm… Let’s see…” Cambric says as he rubs his chin & looks up @ the still-misty sky.
“What?” says she, turning her head back not to better answer Edgar, but ’cause she did have an inkling o’ what he might be interrupting her for—she could hear & feel Wheelie’s engine shake mo’ violently than usual.
“I… uh… already pressed the button. Sorry,” he says with a guilty expression.
“O,” is all Autumn replies with.
“How ’bout—Hey, where’re you going?”
Autumn looks down, noticing Cambric’s voice sound farther below her than before. She’s now seeing why: Wheelie, which had sprouted wings when she wasn’t looking, was slowly rising into the air.
“Well, this isn’t good,” Autumn mumbles as she continues to look down.
“Maybe if I press the button it’ll come back down,” Edgar says. “Want me to try?”
“No: I meant we’re getting closer to Lance & I have nothing heavy to drop on him.”
“I have some books in my robe,” Edgar says as he rummages through his pockets.
“No; the wind resistance gainst the paper would make it too tricky to time. I’ll just use myself.”
“What?” Edgar shouts as he sees Autumn slide to a sideways position.
“You know how to ride a cognizant motorcycle plane, right?” says Autumn.
“Yes, but you can’t just jump down from this high!” Edgar shouts with hands clutching the sides o’ his head.
She opens her mouth to say something, but then quickly looks down. “No time to argue,” she says just before sliding o’er the edge.
Edgar rushes forward & peers down with panic painted on his face.
Below, Lance sits back in his Golden Throne with the same smug smile he always has, the obnoxious lout. Well, that all changes when our troublemaker, Autumn, falls ’tween him & Agent Razzmatazz.
“Hijacker! Thief!” Lance shouts as he throws his hands up into the air. “We don’t have room for you, just as society doesn’t have room for welfare queens!”
Autumn says nothing. She merely clasps her hands to the frame just before her & wraps her legs round the bottom side, cringing a li’l from the uncomfortable position she was in right now, ’specially gainst the bumpy road they were going o’er.
Lance, seeing that words wouldn’t work, leans his head round Autumn & shouts, “Agent Razzmatazz! Do something!”
“Y-you mean me, Sir?” asks his driving henchman.
“No,” Lance says dryly. “I mean the Agent Razzmatazz riding right ’side us.” He turns he his rightward @ the drama-masked rider right ’side them.
“Hey, do something, will ya?” Lance says to the other rider.
“But didn’t you want me to drop this bomb on her?” asks the other bicyclist.
“No!” Lance shouts with dilated eyes as he waves his hands left & right. “Are you crazy? You’ll blow us all up!”
“A bomb? Truly creative,” mutters Autumn.
“Would you get off, already!” Lance yells as he clutches Autumn’s shoulders & tries moving her sideways, only to find it ’bout as easy as moving a mountain.
“This seems an inappropriate situation for that,” Autumn replies. “For one, I don’t know ’bout you, but I usually only do that ’lone…”
“Ooo!” Lance grunts. He looks ’mong the 2 Agent Razzmatazzes. “Can’t you idiots do anything useful?”
“I offered to drop the bomb on her,” the separate Razzmatazz says defensively.
“Why don’t you drop it on her skeleton friend up there?” Lance says as he points up @ Edgar, still flying next to them—though @ a much higher altitude.
Autumn glances @ the other rider, mildly concerned @ this threat, e’en if she knew ‘twas empty.
“’Cause he’s ’bove me, Sir. I can only drop things below me or ’side me.”
“& why is that?” Lance snaps.
“Hmm… You know, that’s a good question. I ought to try it.”
& now we see the 2nd Razzmatazz dropping the bomb upward… Autumn gapes up @ it in horror, unable to believe it.
Unluckily, he didn’t seem to aim it correctly, ’cause its passing far ’hind Edgar—& now it’s disappearing into the hazy sky. We can see by the change in Autumn’s expression & posture that she’s relieved.
Lance isn’t, though. He sits back with his arms crossed & a pouting lip, muttering, “Can’t get this looter to stop mooching off my bike, can’t blow up her skeleton partner in the flying motorcycle. Nothing e’er goes my way. It’s not fair.”
“Perhaps you should stop whining ’bout not having everything handed down to you & pull yourself up by your shoeslaces, Chamsby ol’ boy,” says Autumn.
A flicker o’ annoyance appeared in Lance’s eyes @ this sloppy strawman argument; but it’s quickly replaced by the open eyes o’ realization.
“That’s it!” exclaims he.
“What the hell?” Autumn grunts as she looks down & sees Lance grabbing her right foot & scrambling to untie her tennis shoes. “Erm… If you think I’m going to let go o’ this bike to retie my shoes, you clearly don’t know me well—which is probably for the best, truly.”
Lance is ignoring her. He releases her now-loose laces & slides off her shoe, throwing it ’hind his shoulder.
“You’ve succeeded in annoying me; but as we’ve seen by your own experience with that emotion, it won’t do a damn thing to stop me,” Autumn says with a raised eyebrow.
Now Lance is slipping off her sock. He throws it ’hind him as well.
“The cold will get me—that’s it,” says Autumn. “Crafty Chams-s-s-s-b-b-ha-ha-HA-HA-HA! W-what the h-h-hell do you think you’re doing?”
Autumn is interrupted by ’nother hearty, tearful laugh as Lance continues to tickle her now-naked heel.
“If you think this is going to… hoo hoo hoo… If you think this will loosen my grip, you’re… f-f-fuck…”
Another word-blocking laugh ensues, this time wheezy & low as Autumn tries to restrain her throat gainst it.
“Come on, Autumn,” Lance says with a nefarious grin as his left hand joins his right in the terrible tickling. “You know you won’t be able to stand the discomfort for long.”
Autumn continues to laugh, only to thrust her left elbow backward as powerfully as she can. ’Cause Lance was busy using his 2 hands to tickle her feet & not holding on tightly, the force easily knocks him off the bike & onto the rough dirt. It all happens so fast that it takes him a second or 2 to sit back up & stare bemused @ the bike quickly shrinking in the distance.
“Hey, you idiot! Get back here!” he shouts as he clumsily returns to his feet.
“You heard him,” Autumn says with a thumb aimed backward. “You better let me take o’er while you attend to his every need.”
“I’d better back up.”
“No, don’t!” Autumn says as she stands up straight in vigorous opposition.
But it’s too late; Razzmatazz has already started pedaling backward. As you may remember, you folks @ home, there’s a bug in the way backing up is handled in this story—caused by bugs getting in the way o’ the Programmers’ keyboards, causing certain button presses not to register. Anyway, the bike begins to rush backward, causing Autumn to smack right into Razzmatazz’s back.
To make matters mo’ malignant, Agent Razzmatazz—the 1 driving the bike Autumn’s still on, not the other 1—is aiming for Lance as he goes backward, hoping to stop closer to him, I would reckon. What he forgets is, he’s going to have a hard time stopping @ all. & it smacks right into him, plowing him backward like stuck snow!
The race is getting rambunctious now, peeps! The Fungi Diet are running o’er cows & people gremlins for ₧; Autumn, Lance, & the 2 Razzmatazzes are settling their differences with a giant pie fight; Dawn’s riding a giant running pig in warlock’s wardrobe; 3 bears ride unicycles, but that always happens, so I don’t e’en know why I brought it up; Madame Heureuse in her Haunted Hearse is neck-and-neck with a possessed fox doll; Captain Napoleon’s Swiss Army Bike is being squeezed to pieces by violent vines; & now the narrator is racing through the track in a shopping cart!
“You?” asks someone in the audience.
Yes me. You see any other narrators ’bout?
“No…” the audience member says as he looks down in shame.
Well I do. I see the ghost o’ the previous narrator riding round in his Spectral Sunken Ship right ’side me. Hi, Oopsie! & now I’m waving @ him.
Uh oh. Sounds like Captain Napoleon is trying to trick her way to 1st by turning on her sirens; but that doesn’t seem like it’ll trap anyone.
Hey, wait a minute… Captain Napoleon’s Swiss Army Bike is still being devoured by the violent vines. Maybe these vines accidentally pushed a button.
Captain Napoleon turns her grim face to the screen—yes, your screen. Do you see any other screens ’bout?
I actually don’t know the answer to that question. I don’t poke round your life.
“That’s not my siren,” Captain Napoleon says when I finally give her a chance to talk, after rudely interrupting her.
Wait! Then whose siren is it?
Uh oh. Why are all o’ these cop cars here? O… 1’s stopping right next to me. This is good. Hey, officer. Officer. What’s this all ’bout?
Uh… What are you doing? I didn’t do anything, officer!
“Were you not drag racing through the city?”
Well… yes, but this is a bike race, Sir.
“I can see that,” he says with a short nod. “You know that’s illegal, too, in the middle o’ busy traffic, right?”
I did not.
“Please come with me, Sir; you’re under arrest.”
He moves me toward the car, opens the back door, & gently pushes me in.
Wait. This is a mistake! This is totally a legal race.
But the cop ignores me, shutting the door on me halfway through my appeal. I stare out my window like a dog curious @ the ruckus going on out back. I see the cops pull o’er a few mo’ bikes. I see him place Dr. Equinox in the back o’ ’nother squad car, & then Madame Heureuse, & then poor Felix & Violet, both with horrified looks on their faces.
We’re all sitting in the same jail cell: #00 & #1, Autumn Springer & Lance Chamsby—as well as the 2 Razzmatazzes—both o’ whom were absorbed in arguing with each other…
“I don’t see why I’m in here,” moans Lance. “I’m the victim here. This maniac”—he points @ Autumn whose expression yells, “Shut up!” far louder than her mouth could—“is the 1 who stole my bike & ran me o’er with it.”
“That was your intellectually-challenged accomplice, actually,” says Autumn.
“Well, it’s not my fault if the Programmers wrote reverse driving so terribly,” says Agent Razzmatazz.
“No, I said that,” says the other Agent Razzmatazz.
“I’m not the ‘other’ Razzmatazz; I’m the original,” says the same Razzmatazz.
“What’s that s’posed to mean? Am I just some inferior copy?” says the other Razzmatazz.
“Don’t call me the ‘other’ Razzmatazz! I’m just as good as him,” the same Razzmatazz says as he points @… the Razzmatazz sitting next to him.
“I say this looter should be the 1 in here for all o’ us,” says Lance.
Autumn, chin still resting on an upraised hand, says, “O, shut up & get eaten by those bears you always love already.”
& then Lance was eaten by bears, who are always hungry whenever they’re not riding their unicycles.
“Rassafrassansrassanlassanbassansassan…” grumbles Lance, his voice muffled by the thick walls o’ a bear’s stomach. Said bear looks down in confusion.
Anyway… Where was I? O, yes: #2, Madame Heureuse, no longer in her Haunted Hearse; #3, Dr. Equinox, no longer in his Lifecycle; #4, Dawn Summers, no longer in her… giant pig wizard. Um… Let’s see. Uh, #5, Felix & Violet, no longer in their Meowmobile; Captain Napoleon, no longer in her Swiss Army Bike—probably ’cause ‘twas already destroyed by the plant monsters. The Golden Macks were able to bribe their way out o’ jail time, so long as they ceased racing. Then there’s the Fungi Diet, all with sagging caps as they rest their frowning faces on their upraised palms. O! #9, Penile Perfection’s here—not for racing round in his Innuendo, but for being caught masturbating in a movie theater. Uh… who else?
Hey, wait a minute! Where’s #10, Heloise Solstice, in her Simple Single? Where did she e’er go?
O, wait! There she is! I can see her out our jail window! Funny how ours has 1, when in real life, jails don’t. Anyway, I see her slowly pedaling toward the finish line. I can’t believe it! ’Cause she was riding so slow, she ne’er got arrested for racing. Who would’ve thought going slow would’ve had an advantage in this race?
“Mmm… I would’ve.”
Who said that?
O! Look who it is: it’s the chubby, wimpy-voiced red turtle projectile from before. What are you doing here?
“Mmm… The police pulled me o’er for speeding & then put me in jail for flying without a license.” He sighs. “I’m ne’er gonna make it to Banana Beach @ this point.”
Well, I’d hate to interrupt our amniote associate, but it looks as if Heloise is just ’bout to cross the finish line, & we can finally end this insipid fu—What’s this? It seems we have a new contestant joining us, carried on a fishing hook by a glasses-wearing turtle sitting in a cloud. Gasp! I was wondering where he was. I always thought he just o’erslept or hungo’er or was too busy crossing the border after accidentally killing someone by landing on his head as he tries to jump o’er a pit, causing him to fall in—look, it could happen to anyone; don’t judge me!
Ahem. Anyway, here comes #11, Thursday O’Beefe, passing Heloise in his Turtle Troller… & he crosses the finish line! He won the race! I can’t believe it!
Well, I wish I could congratulate Sir O’Beefe on his victory, maybe ask him how he did it or why he did it that way, but it seems the law is getting impatient with my sound team still being here when I should be grounded, so—wait! I’m not d—
I know I shouldn’t text & drive @ the same time, but I think this being an emergency makes it justifiable.
Autumn, please pick up…
Augh. There’s no reception. Should’ve figured.
Sigh. Now what am I going to do?
Edgar was surrounded by silence contrasted gainst the constant rumbling o’ Wheelie’s engine. He was also surrounded by the darkness weighed gainst the millions o’ white star specks crowding the sky & the bright, multicolored road below him.
Wheelie’s fright-and-flight had automatically turned on in this confusing environment, making it impossible for Edgar to stop it.
So ’stead, he uneasily steered Wheelie o’er the thin rainbow streets without guardrails, trying his hardest not to fall into the empty abyss o’ space, wondering when he’d finally be able to ’scape… the Star Light Zone.