You may very well wonder why Zog the Enlightened One would come to me and ask me to relate this tale to you. Honestly, I don’t know. The fact simply is that one stormy night as the ammonia clouds rumbled above my shelter-half on May third in 2097, this character, Zog, who reminded me of something I had seen forty years ago in, materialized at 9:15 p.m. I noted the time because I guessed, considering his appearance, that he would somehow change my life in some way.
So, here I was, on the battlefield, dirty, hungry, and bone-weary, expecting nothing more than to have Staff Sergeant Rodriguez checking on me, and, bingo, here’s this space alien in my entrenchment.
In the year 2077, Zog became known as the Enlightened One for his role in protecting the universe from aggression by Earthlings. Like abused women in sick marriages, the gentle masochistic creatures from planet Margo kept coming back to rescue Earth time after time after time.
In 2097, when I first met him, he had transcended the tap dancing stylings of his contemporaries and of all Margolians preceding him. He entertained me with wild gyrations, beginning with something like the Virginia Reel and ending with a rousing Charleston. He slid to a stop in the dust and let go with a fart that tore the canvas roof off of my spider hole, my only home in a poisoned and frightened world.
Maybe it was the Ecstasy that the army insisted that all the infantrymen take daily, but I had little trouble deciphering his instructions. Whatever it was, I had a blast of insight and was blinded by the odd creature’s incredible discharge of gas. Even as I gagged from the noxious fumes he exuded in his peculiar method of communication, I had a colorful, transcendent experience inside my brain. I could see the beginning of time. I could see my birth and my death. I could see galaxies forming. I scrambled up the side of my hard-dug shelter and gasped for breath outside, where our enemies, the followers of the evil Duke of Oklahoma, waited to kill us brave boys who stood up to tyranny. Thousands of us huddled shivering, far from home, hundreds of miles away from the safe castle of our leader, the King of Michigan.
My eyes were watering like Parisian fountains. I heard a bird call, “Poot- eet- Tweet”.
Beneath me, in my trench, Zog was going, “Pootee-phweet? Pootee-phweet? Pootee-phweet!” Incongruously, the tweeting and the farting harmonized like a symphony for flute and tuba.
In some magical, metaphorical manner, I knew that everything was connected and I had become the axle in the wheel of reality.
As I crawled on my belly on the dusty no-man’s-land of war, beneath withering machinegun fire towards a destination that had not yet occurred to me, Zog was becoming a ghost in my fox hole. As he dematerialized from a battle zone in 2097, he was re-materializing in New York City, in front of Eliot Rosewater’s squalid apartment building, back in 2014.
After having dispatched the seemingly threatening Martin Jefferson, Zog grabbed hold of Eliot Rosewater’s trembling hand and, in the blink of an eye, the two of them disappeared from the face of the Earth.
At that very moment, they popped up on Tralfamadore.
Eliot Rosewater just didn’t know what to think.
“This trip is just getting too strange. I’m getting off.”
And, indeed, that’s just what it seemed like.
Happily for Eliot’s sanity, and for the continuity of this story, Zog was able to still communicate with me. It was like he was speaking perfect English.
“Just take a few deep breaths,” said the Margolian. “Everything will become clear to you in a moment.”
“Well, I should hope so,” said the exasperated human. “You’re putting me through too many changes.”
At this point, dear reader, I feel compelled to break into this story and speak to you directly. “Why,” you may be asking yourself, “is this moron inserting a reference to the 1969 comedy album HOW CAN YOU BE IN TWO PLACES AT ONCE WHEN YOU’RE NOT ANYWHERE AT ALL?”
Well, first of all, I thought it fit in the scene. Secondly, I just learned that Peter Bergman, one of the members of the Firesign Theatre, has just passed away. It makes me so sad. And Levon Helm, the great drummer from the BAND is gone, too, a victim of cancer. The greatest creative artists of my generation are leaving us.
That being said, I can only agree with you that it is remarkable that an 89-yr-old man in 2014 would feel moved to quote from THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF NICK DANGER. Let me explain.
Eliot Rosewater, like Billy Pilgrim, has become unstuck in time. In fact, he is living in the wide open world of the Tralfamadorians who pity most of us Earthlings for our insistence that life moves on in a linear fashion and that every experience we have had is somehow lost in time. Eliot Rosewater is one of the fortunate few to see that every moment, every thought, every experience he ever had is going on all the time and will continue for all time.
Unlike most 89-year-olds, Eliot has the uncanny ability to relive his past, in fact, he has the mixed blessing of re-entering the past and of seeing into the future. It is a blessing and it is a curse. He knows when he will die and when he will enter that great Turkey Farm we call the afterlife. It takes some of his stress away. It gives him insight. In fact, he has the ability to remember things from the beginning of time, things he personally never experienced, things, such as THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF NICK DANGER, a comedy skit that he never heard in his conscious awareness. He was a cosmic radar antenna.
He was forty-five years old in 1969 and he never listened to the Firesign Theatre. Still, he was just now compelled by me to recall the fictional Lieutenant Bradshaw’s immortal words: “Ya still put me through too many changes”.
When the government dragged me from my teaching job at Miskatonic University in Essex County, Massachusetts, where I was happy teaching Chaos Theory and Interpretation of the Necronomicon, I felt like the prophet Jonah. Now, with the ability to make Eliot, Zog, Cthulbanana, and the other character in this story do whatever I want, I have become God. Yet, at the same time, I am under orders by the King of Michigan to be a common foot soldier, an infantryman, in a completely senseless war. Isn’t life strange?
That being said, let us return to the narrative.
“Peace. Be still,” said Zog.
An overstuffed sofa with a ridiculous yellow and red flowered pattern on the upholstery materialized, and the hyperventilating Eliot Rosewater hoisted himself up and out of his scooter. He took one halting step and collapsed onto the inviting-looking piece of furniture. Next, he followed his extra-terrestrial companion’s instructions, closed his eyes, and took several slow breaths. He found the sofa to be very comfortable and, in no time at all, he was dreaming of that time when he was a little boy with no cares and not a worry in the world.
A bit of drool formed between his lips and he began to snore.
Except for the drool, it was all very sweet and serene.