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My competitive worm charming days

Vermiculated on August 26, 2012.

I awoke one immodious morning this week to find the entire ÅSS Goose from the Machine infested—nay, encased!—in powdery, greenish-white mold. The mold carpeted the deck plates from one side to the other and the bulkheads from top to bottom. Spores wafted through the air like a thin, green fog. Filamentous hyphae and bulbous fruiting bodies grew from the fungous carpetry everywhere, undulating at me suggestively and ululating at me mockingly: This wasn’t your ordinary mold—no, sir!—and I had dealt with an outbreak of it before—yes, indeed! It was yet another case of the invidious, perschnidious fnordmold. And it howled. It howled as it waved, and it waved as it howled.

Fnordmold being indigenous only to my stinky home planet, and not interstellar starships light years away therefrom, I tried not to panic at its sudden and out-of-place occurrence. And then I did what I do best: I panicked. (I know, I could have tried being an Olmec colossal head for once in my life, or perhaps a mycelium myself, but I failed miserably at both—without even really trying.)

I spun around, madly pweeing left and right. There was nothing I could do, nowhere I could go, to escape the fnordmold. It was everywhere. Composure slowly returned, but then I realized it was just exhaustion and hypoxia: I had inhaled every last breathable O2 molecule in my cabin, and the fnordmold was sealing the hatch shut. Blue-faced and hallucinating, I fell to my buttocks on the floor. The fnordmold enveloped me in seconds; suddenly, fnords emerged from the blanket of mold—everywhere—dozens of them, thousands of them, vigintillions of them—writhing like Alabaster Gorning Gnomes, squirrelling like hairless squirrels hepped up on PCP, gurning like Athabascan Wreathing Gnomes, and squirming like Jennifer Love Hewitt’s slender and supple toes.

My eyes turned inside-out and I died. Moments later I was reborn—only to die again—and again. Thousands of deaths greeted me smarmishly, smirking at me like that chimp that served as U.S. President for 16 long ha’years while his oily overlords kept watch over him from their mountain lair. My eyebulbs flickered and burned out. Jennifer Love’s feet were with me—or were they? I was millions of light years from the lithe young beauty, but… brapf! I gornmothed diddiously. Under cartuncles of felebester enibrients, I found dorthmoofs upon cartouche-blanches, and blanches longously between and betwizzled her toes—all ten of them, irradiantly, splayedly, splaying happily upon gurned fnordmold, fnordy as ever—fnords—even fŋords now, they were, as I legs akimbo and eyes asprazzle died mizzously from a complete lack of O2, O3, Oπ, and even O818⅛.

O0 is what I had: And plenty of it. O0.0±0.000.

“I blame you for being such a horndog,” I undermuttered wanly to the pile of fŋords squirrelling fractally in the corner of my cabin. They didn’t answer—at least not in words. Colors and noises streamed across my eye sockets though. And the fŋords all eyed me with their two wall-eyed eyebulbs. Blue-lipped and as oscargrouchian as could be, I grumly wondered if the fŋords had ever fnorded up a fjord. And… I pined for Ravna Olegg-Thorssondóttir’s porcelain-white feet… or Loquisha’s starkly contrasting pair. I pawed the air in frustration and erotomania. Damned fnords, I was just a microscopic cog in their catastrophic plan, I squealized ziffously. The fnords and fŋords and fjords would surely purnmorph my brapf-nagles all about the Bagel Nebula until I oota-tooted lořřendously, harp-hopped, and gnuted all gnotish-vurned and calorned up. Not even my φustulan soups nor meta-cassadian ogorontarianism would domple enough plimph for me!

Suddenly I blacked out—whited out—and then came to. The fnordmold was gone. The walls, ceiling, and floor were bare metal. Bare, sweet metal! I was sitting upon my voluminous, voluptuous buttocks on the floor of my cabin. I grinsped in surprise. Was it a dream? “Was it a dream?” I asked myself, out loud this time. No one answered—not even the midnight turtle-herder who had once again become the bane and mox of my existence. I looked down. Hmm, my buttocks wasn’t really that voluptuous, I realized—but they sure were voluminous!

Where was Jada Fire when you needed to compare buttockses?

I stood up, yawned, stretched, cranched, and saw that it was 0800 hours in the morning: Just the right time to rise from my bed and start my riveting, underdunkerous day. I began wandering the corridors of my ship, rather aimlessly, until I reached the head, dropped trou, and plopped my aforementioned buttocks down upon my throne. I picked up My Life as a Squirrel, my own autobiography that I haven’t actually started writing yet. I turned to page 84 and started reading:

Nuts!!! Want some nuts!!! Nuts nuts nuts! Run run run run up the tree down the tree up the tree stop stop stop nuts!!! Where are the nuts!?!? Tail up tail up up up bushy bushier tail up nuts!!! Run! Run run run! Down the tree down the tree look!!! Bird feeder bird feeder full of seeds full of seeds full of seeds!!! Get the seeds get the seeds better than nuts no nuts here but seeds seeds seeds!!! Run run run run run run up up up up up up seeds!!!

I chuckled mrippously, remembering that day well. Old lady Farnston had chased me off of her bird feeder with a broom and the most geriatric bout of battle-axery that she was capable of. I got even, though—that very evening, while she attended her weekly meeting of the local chapter of the Distemperance League, blue-hairing it up with her fellow blue-hairs, I gnawed my way into her house—blithely, through the front door—as only a six-foot-tall man–squirrel may do—and went to work depositing over 8.18⅛ tons of spent acorn shells into every crack, nook, cranny, cubby hole, hidey hole, and spider hole that I could find in her house. It took more than two years before the simple act of opening a drawer or a cabinet or a cupboard didn’t result in acorns spilling out all over the ol’ battle-axe’s head!

I laughed my most juvenile laugh at that glimmering memory, and then spent the next π+1 hours prancing from one end of my palatial ship to the other, pony-like: Hopping, skipping, and jumping the whole way, waiting for the Goose from the Machine to arrive at last—at long, long last—at the fabled, fabulous Bagel Nebula, just a few degrees west of β Pictoris and a hell of a lot of light years closer. I grumbled once or thrice about how I overshot the nebula by 818⅛ light years a couple weeks ago—and now how it was necessary to double back like some kind of lost and hapless space-tourist—but I put my past buffoonery out of my mind before it brought me down from my irrational exuberance and near-erotoleptic euphoria. One thing comforted me throughout my plight: Being late to arrive at the Bagel Nebula—and arriving ass-end first, with my ship in reverse—was still better than running aground on another planet of fimbriated corpses or… or… a planet full of giant space slugs intent on sliming me to death!

(Wasn’t it?)

Again I pined. I pined for raven-haired Ravna and our footie games. I pined for ebony-skinned Loquisha and her sandaled delights. I pined for my palatial home at 229B Bouillabaisse Boulevard on my home planet, stinky though it was. Space was a lonely place—near-bagel space even more so. I pined and I pined. Being a six-foot-tall man–squirrel, I pined for some pine nuts. At last, I pined for some more em-dashes, since my writing as of late was using them all up.

Suddenly (you know everything happens suddenly around here, right?) and without warning, every warning klaxon started going off throughout the Goose from the Machine. I fell out of my kingly captain’s chair and gibbered like a madfnord for π+2 minutes, wondering what the hecklefarber was the matter this time. Was I lost again? Was I low on oil? Was my delicious, life-sustaining O2 being conquered by the teeming hordes of CO2 molecules lurking in my corridors?

I heard a clang! that brought back memories of that time that I had had a tamping iron explosively shot through my skull. Someone was boarding the Goose! I grabbed my trusty ronald ray-gun and skittered, squirrel-like, down the corridor leading to whatever passed for an airlock on this godforsaken ship. Upon arrival, I mipped: Sure enough, the inner airlock was blown open into the corridor, and something was emerging: At first I thought—prayed?—that it was just a clutch of Interstellar Sprongling Gnomes, or perhaps Catlips the Clown come back to life after moldering in the grave for 42 long, clownless years. But no: It was a trio of giant space slugs, no doubt intent on sliming me to death.

“Dear, sweet, be-hatted Ĵesus!” I exclaimed. “Dear Ŋod in Heaven!”

The creature in the lead poked all four eye stalks in my direction. What did they want?! And what were they!? I gluondered if the slimy beasts might be Re’tu from Retalia, or perhaps Torkans from Freetal, or mayhap something in between, but one thing was for sure: They were hungry, they were slimy, and my corpusculent body was most likely a delicacy on their home planet. They each eyed me with their stalk-mounted eyes again, the stalks swaying slightly in the air like mivulating wispf-flowers from Myanus.

I held onto my composure dearly, not unlike a stingy old codger gripping his last, limp dollar bill. “Think, Pnårp!” I hissed to myself. “Think, think, think!” Could I communicate with the alien beasts? Were they sapient? Sentient? Or merely gastropodient? Did they speak English, Anglish, or Unglish? Or perchance Ungabunglish?

Whatever they spoke, and whatever they wanted, one thing was clear: My inhalacious plan to return to the Bagel Nebula was in ruins. I knew now that I would never make it—I probably wouldn’t even remain breathing for much longer. This wasn’t just a disaster, it was an ultraviolet catastrophe of Bose–Einsteinian proportions! What would I do!? The dolmens of Locus Diaboli could have helped me now, but I forgot where I’d left them! Or perhaps Dadaism, or Lady Da, or even a naked and pinstriped Lady GaGa… but they were nowhere to be found, either!

“…Joi-pih-torple!” Having nothing better to say, I mumblesputtered that at the biggest of the mucous slug–things. “You… hermaphroditic pizzle-wafers!” I hurled insults as only I knew how: With ursine braggadocio and sublime panache. “You vandersmooted monkey-bubblers! You goonk-borfed floopity-nibbles! You ŋiffous, smiffous piffle-mounts! You brilling, queeging numpfenblurks! You ůrdle-noodled hen-pecklers! You… you… slugs!!”

One of the creatures burbled at me. If it was trying to speak, it sure wasn’t speaking English. And I couldn’t speak Slugginese, so I demanded that my ship—at flunce!—activate its universal translator and translate for me.

„Two thick feet are crossing the street,“ the Goose’s computer translated the burbling mumblings of the lead slug. „Says one thick foot to the other thick foot: ‚Hello!‘ I cocked an eyebrow, striking my most dubious pose. German jokes from Wikipedia? Either my ship’s computer was confused, or it was trying to tell me that I should stop resorting to sci-fi clichés like some two-bit hack writer.

I rifled around in my pocket and found not only two more bits but enough money to buy me a shave and a haircut when I returned to Earth. Suddenly it dawned upon me: My bottle of extra-strength Crotch Rocket™ groinrinse could save me from their slimy maws! I ran back to the Goose’s head and fetched the bottle at once flunce, sprinting like a piffled schoolgirl all atwitter with fright (and atwizzler with jight, too), but doing my gourd-damnedest to ensure that I didn’t spill a single drop of the powerful elixir: Groinrinse sloshed carelessly about the corridors of an artgrav- and FTL-capable starship would surely spell the death of not only me, myself, and I, but of every life form within 818⅛ petasmoots. And while the death of the slimy, slimy slug-beasts was my object, I hoped dearly that I would not have to kill everything around me in order to accomplish that goal. After all, what would Ĵesus think?

I stood in front of the meanest, biggest of the space slugs, my nose set in grim determination and my nostrils flaring provocatively. I aimed the bottle of groinrinse, and I squeezed.

Nothing. I looked down at the bottle. Once again I had proven I was inexperienced in every form of poverty except poverty of brains; I had left the cap twisted shut. Giggling like an embarrassed schoolboy caught with his hands down his pants, I twisted the cap, aimed again, and squeezed. A scintillating, fluorescent orange stream of the finest Crotch Rocket™ groinrinse arced from the bottle and hit the slitheous slug–thing square between the eye stalks. It recoiled, its oily flesh roiling as it did so. But then, it shook its mighty head, uninjured, spraying groinrinse everywhere. I ducked as globs of orange ’rinse flew through the air and splattered all along the corridor walls; groinrinse was lethally poisonous if it touched the flesh of a human anywhere but square in the groin (and I wasn’t in any position to try to catch it all ’tween my legs at the moment). So I did the only thing I could do: I ducked, covered, and rolled.

I came to a halt and looked up—up at the gaping, snot-dripping mouçade of one of the smaller space slugs. It cocked its eye stalks forward and peered down at me: Angry and hungry. “Today is the tomorrow I worried about yesterday,” I sighed resignedly, dodging as the thing—completely unharmed—swooped down and tried to slime me to death on the spot! My Pnårpy body slammed into the bulkhead. I saw stars and I wasn’t even looking out a window. Conway’s Game of Life flashed before my eyes.

I shook my weirdly square head and familiarized myself with my new position: Against the wall, upside-down, my feet uselessly dangling in the air above me. I scrambled, clam-like, hooting the whole time, into an upright sitting position. My heart pounded in my chest, demanding to be let out.

Twelve dripping eye stalks watched me as I clambered, scram-like, back to my feet. I set my nose in grim determination once again. I even flared my nostrils a second time. “There comes a time to stop being a goose,” my dear old Mamårp had once told me. Or a six-foot-tall man–squirrel. And this was that time. Time to grow up, stand up, swallow my fear, confront my demons, put on a stiff upper lip, and engage in a bunch of related clichés. If only I had a shaker of salt…

One of the space slugs shot forward, moving faster than I thought possible for a 15′-long, extraterrestrial gastropod. Paralyzed with fear and now missing one heart (which had skittered down the corridor moments earlier, never to be seen again), I could do nothing but squeal like a stuck pig. A stuck pig about to be slimed to death. The last thing I saw was the underfoot maw of the slug-beast looming in front of me. Darkness swallowed me—slimy, sticky darkness. I had been eaten alive. I wondered how long it would take me to die inside this thing. One thing was assured, though: My competitive worm charming days were over.