Captain Putin looked down at Sylvia Rosewater. His cold smile chilled her soul. What had seemed almost impossible, contradicting all known facts regarding time and reality, now seemed totally hopeless. Sylvia was stranded, lost in time, tied to a chair and helpless in a foreign country. Her captor picked at his fingernails with a hunting knife.
In halting English, he whispered, “You are too old to be one of the whores that travel with the American Secret Service.” He looked contemptuously at her. “What are you doing here?” he asked.
“I’m here,” she said, panting with fright, “to stop General Secretary Gorbachev from poisoning President Reagan.”
Vladimir touched the point of the heavy blade against Sylvia’s throat. “I should kill you this moment,” he said. “In the next room, decisions are being made that will change history. You want to prevent that. You are here to kill Secretary Gorbachev.”
“No. I swear that’s not it,” she said.
He grabbed her by the hair and yanked her sideways. She, and the chair she was tied to, banged to the floor. Her elbow smacked painfully on the shining tile floor.
This is getting too violent. Let’s go forward in time a couple centuries and see how things are going, shall we?
The King of Earth squirmed in his shining, pointed boots. The Czar of Pain did the same thing. Both of them, over two centuries of life, had noticed some unpleasant physical changes that came with immortality. One of those changes was the fact that they now had pointed hoofs instead of human feet. The two freaks were not fidgeting because their boots didn’t fit properly. The boots fit fine. The problem was that these creepazoids had developed an unconscious need to dig in the dirt with their feet. I’m guessing it was like that restless leg syndrome some people say they have. The discomfort and irritation had gotten worse for the two tyrants in the past fifty years, or so. It was like the parts of their DNA that were not human were gaining strength. Their worm traits were becoming dominant. Left alone, without humans to observe and criticize their degraded condition, Herman Smelt and Melvin Dribbins would both enjoy nothing more than burying themselves up to the neck in clean topsoil, using only the ends of their feet as shovels.
The first generation of their followers, creations much like themselves, led the many armies and governments under Herman Smelt’s control. The third genetic creation of Melvin Dribbins was, to save lots of useless words, a bunch of Shmoos. Shmoos, if you are under the age of sixty, first appeared in the Li’l Abner cartoon strip, back in 1948. Melvin Dribbins’ monsters were less bulbous and more snakelike than Al Capp’s happy gobs of fun. Other than that, they were certainly shmoos.
Herman Smelt had a vast, inhuman army of these mindless, lab-created followers. They were sluglike, wormlike, hideous creatures with no discernible facial features. They reproduced themselves by breaking in half. They formed duplicates of themselves every three months, rain or shine. The oldest ones were forty years old and showed no sign of aging. Nobody knew how long they would live. They would use their huge, flipper-like feet and neurotically shovel away to underground rivers and drown, if their barracks didn’t have moss-covered concrete floors. They were that stupid. They made great soldiers.
Their battle tactics were unconventional, to say the least. Always, lots of them ended up dead in rivers and reservoirs and they poisoned all the water. It wasn’t glamorous, but it sure worked. Their big strategy was always the same, too. They would simply enter an area, pile up, suffocate, and die, in an ungainly gob of themselves. The corpses attracted vermin and spread disease. The King of Earth had caused dozens of plague epidemics in areas known to contain rebels. He was merciless.
Now it was time to feed. Shmoos tasted like chicken if they were fried and they tasted like steak if they were grilled. The King of Earth and his Czar of Pain walked among their creations and made their selections. As the two men wandered through the pens, deciding whether this one was too muscular or that one was too stringy, the shmoos rubbed up against their legs, pleading to be chosen.
The shmoos, of course, were never called shmoos, not by Herman Smelt or Melvin Dribbins or by anyone but me. I called them that in an effort to help my fellow geriatric cases figure out what they were like. These creations, these inventions, these slobbering, lumbering beasts of war were called the Gestapo. They didn’t have names. They just existed to serve and to sacrifice themselves. If it wasn’t for the fact they were brought to life only to provide food for the two rulers of Earth and to kill anyone who got in their way, they could be called “Jesuses”. When no one was around, Smelt and Dribbins did call them “Little Jesuses”.
It was 6:00 p.m. and neither of the man-worms had eaten all day. It was time. They each put a shmoo under one of their arms and carried them off to the kitchen. The two shared a house.
They lifted their arms and the shmoos happily turned on the stove and the fryer. Once things were warmed up, one of them hopped into a frying pan and the other one slid into the hot oil.