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Planet of the geese

Honked at on July 15, 2012.

Crack! Consciousness returned suddenly. Cognition wasn’t far behind. (Come on, now, you knew I wasn’t really dead!)

But something had gone wrong. As photons of every frequency and wavelength mercilessly struck my eyebulbs, I realized that I was no longer floating dead and frozen in deep space. I appeared to be back on Earth—or some planet at least. I found myself resting gently upon my ample buttocks in what seemed to be the middle of an endless field of green, green grass. How my frozen corpse had made its way back to Earth—or some planet at least—I couldn’t even venture to guess. I decided to just thank my lucky shuggoths for that particular miracle and move on: If Fate was cutting me a break today, who was I to complain?

But… “Where am I?” I wonderpondered out loud, looking from side to side, up and down, back and forth, and even between my legs after a pause. The field of short-cropped, green grass did indeed appear to be endless in every meaning of the word (and there are three, according to Merriam–Webster’s Dictionary). The gently-rolling field stretched out in every direction as far as the eyebulb could see. I tried to count the individual blades of grass but stopped after reaching twenty or so, when my mind slipped into a confused and confuzzled mess.

The grass appeared in every way to be ordinary Earth vegetation—identical to the sharp, chlorophyll-infused blades that cover my own Pnårpy lawn like mold covering an old loaf of bread. But something was still… not quite right about this place. For seventeen whole minutes—seventeen minutes of wracking and wrenching my brain (and every other one of my thought-capable organs)—I sat there and I thought and I pondered and I considered and I did my damnedest to figure out what the hecklegroober was not quite right about the expanse that lay before me. What was it about this place that made it distinctly alien?

I looked up again. Instead of blue, the sky was a light shade of violet. There were two ruddy suns in the sky. A huge, bagel-shaped nebula covered fully a quarter of the sky. Hmm. Yup, alien planet all right. I chuckled weakly.

But something else had gone wrong, too—and this was even worse than when corn had gone wrong back in two-thousand aught seven. As the cobwebs cleared from my mind and fell out my ears (along with an ample amount of earwigs), clarity returned to my brain—or whatever this spongy thing is that occupies the space behind my eye sockets—but my depth of thought was now starkly two-dimensional. The teranoötic, hypercubical cognitive abilities to which I had grown accustomed over the past few weeks had been squished flatter than a bug. My six-dimensional train of thought had been attenuated down to a mere two: What had been a sleek, transcontinental maglev had been reduced to a mere Thomas the Tank Engine.

I blumped to my feet. I tried to think with my skin, but try as I might, my skin just wouldn’t think! Either the gift that I had been given by my humperdumperdink had worn off, or something was blocking my transnoötic abilities. Over and over I tried to force my skin to think once more, but each time I was even more unsuccessful than the last. After six minutes of straining, all I accomplished was giving myself a piloerection.

“Fleas, flies, and friars! Fuccant! I cursed mightily. “What is this place? Where the hecklegroober am I?”

I moaned groaningly, then groaned moanishly for added effect. All I wanted to do was sit back down and eat bagels all day. I didn’t even care what was on them, or what flavor cream cheese was in them, or whether or not they were even toasted properly. All I wanted to do was eat bagels… and have some coffee… and perhaps some orange juice, too. And some eggs alongside those bagels would be nice, or perhaps on the bagels! Along with some bacon, and some sausage, and maybe some hash browns… and some more orange juice, or perhaps some lemon juice, or some crab juice… and don’t forget the fried moose synapse, wrapped around a single hard-boiled egg that’s been infused with the finest Canadian bacon or Mauritanian roast beef… Mmmm… mmmmmmmm…

I looked up at the Bagel Nebula again, and prayed to the voluptuous insect goddess Strahazazhia Kalamazoo-Kintaki-Meeps, She of the six-legged delights, that I might somehow resume my journey to the nebula. I begged Her to grant me a new rocket ship through Her divine, insectly providence: Perhaps the local goose population could be cajoled or coerced into building one for me, or perhaps She could strike me with the knowledge needed to build one out of the local goose population.

Wait. Local goose population?

I stopped thinking about my greasy, fuller-than-full breakfast and focused both my eyebulbs on the horizon. There were geese, all right: Whole flocks of ’em! Little white spots dotted the grassy knolls where the ground met the purple sky—little white spots with goose-sized necks protruding at all angles and goose-colored bills protruding from goose-shaped heads atop those long, anserine necks. The geese were grazing, nipping at the grass with their mighty, toothless beaks and gulping the blades down like it was nobody’s business. Since I needed some help, I would make it my business. I stood up again and started waddling in the direction of the flocks.

Time passed. Even on this alien, purple-hued planet, time passed.

The sky was beginning to darken as I finally made my way up the last grassy hillock between me and the flock of space geese. I peeked over the crest of the hill; my heart leapt in fright, then sank: These were no ordinary geese. These weren’t even ordinary space geese. As surely as I was 6′ tall (and a man–squirrel!), these geese had to be 8′ tall—if not taller. They were enormous. I shuddered as I watched them closer up now; able to resolve more detail now with the use of my trusty telescoping eye turrets, I could see that putting “toothless” in my earlier description of their “mighty, toothless beaks” had made quite the liar out of me. “Tentacled, fangèd, drooling beak-maws” came to mind as a more apt description.

Indeed these creatures were no ordinary geese. It was as if doG had taken an ordinary Earthen farm goose, blown the bird up into a bloated, feathered monstrosity the size of a grizzly bear, given it the selfsame bear’s paws and claws in place of its ordinary webbed feet, and replaced its gentle, rounded bill with a hellish, gaping maw surrounded by the most Lovecraftian tentacles that doG could find in his big box of animal parts. To top it all off, each of the two dozen octopus-like tentacles writhing about the maw was bright orange and lined with glistening, inward-curving fangs… rows upon rows of them.

The geese–things moved like oversized ferrets—quick, furtive, and almost snake-like despite their avian nature. Their mouthparts never stopped writhing and throbbing, constantly searching for grassy prey to nosh upon. And the noises the beasts made as they noshed and chomped and sucked and slurped and…

I ducked back down behind the knoll and suppressed the urge to shriek like a twelve-year-old girl still in her pigtails. What was I to do now? How could these hideous fiends be of any assistance to me? What was I to do?! What was I—

A loud, mammalian squeal suddenly rose up from behind me—and was just as suddenly cut short by the sound of bones snapping and crunching. The geese–things’ munching and munching only increased in speed and volume. I willed myself to believe that some poor space rodent had simply been caught up by terrible accident in the demonic creatures’ ravenous feeding, but as a hooting, honking clamor rose up from the whole flock—a hideous, alien sound that chilled me to my very toes—I was quickly disabused of that notion. The gabbling cry was a sound of triumph and celebration for these creatures: The geese–things were as much carnivores as they were grass-eaters, and they were happy.

I nearly fainted.

I looked up at the sky and tried to gather myself—anywhere but at the geesey–thingses. The setting of the blood-red suns orbiting this planet had revealed the Bagel Nebula in all its glittering, blazing glory: A golden brown disc covering 50° of the sky, brown like fresh-baked bread, with a darker central region that appeared as if a hole had been cut in the nebula… the golden disc studded with O-type stars, each blazing blue-white, and a smattering of smaller, darker pockmarks—big, tasty blueberries and delicious, little poppy seeds to complete the umberslatious scrumptiousness that was the Bagel Nebula. Truly, this bagel had everything. I suppressed a joyful yerk.

Now if only I could make my way there, I would be happier than a pig in shit for the rest of my life. As it was, I was scareder than a long-tail cat in a roomful of rice-pickers.

Once more I peeked over the top of the grassy knoll. The gorgothine flock of blasphemous geese–things were picking their way through the grass, their maws eating everything in their path—plant and animal alike—and their heads shaking and yawing as they sucked the food down their eldritch gullets. I sank back down before any of the honking horrors caught sight of me and decided I was as tasty as any other mammal. The fandango that my heart was doing against my lungs and liver gradually slowed to a languorous tango. I lay down on my back against the grass, and—


Behind me—now in front of me—stood the biggest, meanest-looking goose–thing I had seen yet. Towering at least 10′ above my supine form, it stared at me, its red eyes blazing orange-violet and its beak-tentacles splaying wide, exposing its suppurthine maw and the mivulating, crimson tongue within. Its tongue lolled and flopped like a struggling mammal caught in its jaws. The thing honked. Through some miracle—through the divine, insectly providence of Strahazazhia, my beloved invertebrate goddess, She of the sublime, six-legged wonders—I was able to cling to consciousness despite my brain-monkeys’ best efforts to plunge me into the merciful blackness of the unthinking depths.

The queen-sized goose–thing stared me down. I grinned my best simpering grin and reached into my pocket for my trusty bag of pre-sliced Wilson® pepperoni, with which I hoped I could appease the goose–thing and save my own pink, greasy skin from becoming its midday blunch. Cold fear started rising once more as I rummaged through the vast quantity of items in my pants pockets, but came up with no bags of pepperoni, Wilson® or otherwise. The goose–thing swiveled its head on its neck, eyeing me with one violet-blazing eye, then the other. Lithe porcupines slithered down my veins and fled right out my pores, they were so scared, but I held fast: I would not panic and flee, and give this goose–thing a reason to chase and nosh me to death.

Then I made the mistake that I was sure would be the death of me. While clumsily rummaging, my flummoxed brain not quite keeping up with the rapid and panicked movements of my own five, tentacle-like fingers, I accidentally knocked a piece of folded and crumpled paper out of my left pants pocket. It slid through the air with the greatest of ease and landed right at the bear claw–like feet of the queen goose–thing. My pink, pepperoni-like skin went stark, raving white.

It was a takeout menu for Veesey-Koosey’s Geesey-Goosey Pub.

Part of the restaurant’s logo was a grinning, anthropomorphized goose stepping into an oven, knife and fork in hand. Beneath the logo, spanning the entire central region of the menu was a photograph of a delicious, succulent roast goose steaming on a silver platter. And—the icing on the cake—the Os and 0s in the pub’s name and phone number were goose eggs, each cracked open with an anthropomorphic gosling emerging, each gosling wearing the most ridiculous, cartoonish expression of mirth or glee on his or her anserine little face.

I got up and ran like mother-goosing hell.

The hideous queen goose bounded after me, gabbling and squorrelling madly. I ran and ran, over hill and dale, porcupine-slithering panic gripping my every pore. Thought fled, replaced by nothing more than white-hot and mindless fear. I could hear the anserine tentacle-beast gaining on me, emitting a slobbering, piping call that reminded me of the brilling and queeging of a female kerfrumpt in heat—if only a kerfrumpt was 10′ and covered in feathers and fangs, rather than the compact 3′ armadillo-like creature that it was.

I reached the crest of a hill and without warning the purple dusk around me flashed—shimmering—and now floating alongside me was that glivious, piffelippulous gnute that had so harmfully helped me make my way to Upper Silesia a ha’year ago. I yerked in surprise mixed with anger—was this damnable gnute responsible for my latest troubles!?

“What do you want!?” I hollered as I continued running and flailing, my voice 2⅝ octaves higher than even the pigtailiest little girl could emit.

The gnute flashed his Cheshire Cat smile and floated along with me, observing my mad plight. Then, he spoke in his usual reedy, sing-song voice: “Ohhh, nothing! Just out for a stroll between the D-branes and thought I’d stop in and see how you were doing!” His voice was laced with barely hidden mocking: He thought me his entertainment.

I whipped my head around and glared at him: “If you don’t have anything constructive to offer, Úuxmal—” I think his name was Úuxmal “—then leave me be! I’m trying to panic here!”

“Oh, I’m sure I can offer something constructive, Phillip! For example: Duck!

An image of a duck as formidable as the tentacle-billed geese–things flickered in front of my mind’s four eyes. I yerked so hard I nearly yiffed; my valiant adrenal gland squeezed the last of its adrenalin into my arteries and I damn near took to the air I was now running so fast. But it wasn’t a duck that Úuxmal was warning me about—it was a stout tree limb—the sole tree on this entire caT-forsaken planet—and I should have ducked.

Crack! Consciousness fled suddenly. Cognition wasn’t far behind.

But something was now right. As I tumbled down the hillside, bleeding in graceful parabolic arcs from my forehead and losing a bit more consciousness with each bone-snapping tumble, I spied it about 200′ in front of me: My rocket ship! I had no idea how it got there, and I didn’t care. If only I could make it to the hatch before blacking, browning, or graying out completely…

As the Goose from the Machine made her way out of the thin, purple atmosphere and back into the darkness of outer space, my skin began to ripple once again. Goose-shaped bumps broke out up and down my epidermis from pointy head to even pointier toe. Not even realizing what I was doing, I suddenly solved the Poincaré Conjecture—without even having to perform any feminizing genitoplasty upon Ricci flows like that Russian caveman had suggested. The solution was so simple and obvious really. Every simply connected, closed 3-manifold is indeed homeomorphic to the 3-sphere, and anyone with an in-depth understanding of anservariate calculus (such as myself) could grasp this intuitively.

I yipped with joy. With granfalloonerous elation I realized that my teranoötic abilities must have returned! All at once, cognition the size of the observable Universe rushed back into my addled little pate and my equally as addled noödermis. Once again, I could solve gorgoplexed differential equations with nothing more than a compass and straight sledge. I could predict the curving paths of every single subatomic, subnucleonic, subquarkic, and subgorplionic particle throughout the entire Universe based solely upon my knowledge of the arrangement of those first turtles in the Primordial Turtle-Pile 13¾ billion years ago. I knew where all the Higgs bosons were really hiding, without resorting to the use of phallocentric boondoggles like the Large Hardon Collider. I could even count past twenty without dropping my trousers.

And now, I knew where I had been marooned. I knew what planet I had been on. I even knew why its sky was a lovely shade of violet. And I knew why Queen Hr’nk’rrg’ngeee’hngki had spent hours chasing me over hill and dale, away from her flock of tentacly, goosely subjects.

Wait. Queen Hr’nk’rrg’ngeee’hngki?

“Fleas, flies, and friars! Fuccant! I cursed affrightedly. The color drained from my pasty, caprine face. “What have I done?!”