I wake up early, before my alarm goes off, anticipating word on whether or not school is canceled. I get out of bed, go downstairs and get myself some coffee while waiting for the information I seek.
Soon, I find that school is closed. The snow hasn't come yet and I actually wanted to go today. As the minutes pass, I watch cartoons and videos. I've been up too long. I couldn't get back to sleep even if I tried.
Time passes quickly. Show after show begins and ends. I rise to get a second cup of coffee. As I pass by the window, I see that it had started to snow. Like a small child, I gaze out and watch the snow fall. As a student of science, I enjoy the snow and the knowledge that no two flakes are alike. As an artist and poet, I drink in the beauty like the coffee from my mug.
The snow, white and soft, falls from the heavens and blankets my world. Its cold domain freezes time itself. As I marvel at the flakes falling like angels returning to a world they once knew, I think back upon my life and reflect upon memories of a time long ago. I remember all the friends I've had, the friends I've lost along the way. As I travel forward to a future unknown I know one things is certain... as I head ever onward towards oblivion and my soul leaves this mortal coil, I shall return on a day much like today. To inspire another writer and return to the world I once knew.
A long time ago, there was a man who traveled from town to town with a remarkable offer. His name was Professor Zachery and he offered to remove people's sadness. He'd say, "Come on, come all to Professor Zachery's Cup of Wonders! I offer you eternal happiness by simply drinking your sadness! Come... bring me your pain and misfortunes and leave happy and carefree!" Most people thought it was a joke, more false claims from someone out for money. Others came and left changed... some said they were happy but others came out different than before.
As Professor Zachery traveled, he came upon a small town. It was a place that had seen its share of hard times. Seeing this as the perfect place to set up shop for awhile, Prof. Zachery parked his cart in the town square. The next day, he called the townsfolk together and gave his speech. The people bought it hook, line and sinker except one boy. Seeing this, Zachery called out to the boy. "Young man," he shouted, "... have you no troubles to get rid of? No burdens you need lifted? Come, let me take away your sadness so you can be happy forever." The boy just turned around and left for home.
The next day came and Prof. Zachery gave the same speech. Word had spread to the neighboring towns and the crowd had grown larger. Again, the boy from before showed up. Prof. Zachery called to him again. "So you've returned. See how these people leave content with life? You could too! So come, give me your sadness and you can be happy forever!" Like before, the boy turned and left. "He'll come back," said Zachery. "They always do."
On the third day, the crowd for Professor Zachery's happiness cure had grown huge. And, just like he said, the boy returned. As the boy started push started his way through the crowd towards the Professor's mini-stage, Prof. Zachery asked the folks to let him through. "Please, please people! Let the young man through. He's come here for three days and now he wants to be the first today to be changed forever! Come now, let the boy through and see how his life is changed for the better!"
As Professor Zachery helped the boy on stage, they exchanged the normal pleasantries. Zachery thought he'd finally changed the boy's mind and he would be the perfect demonstration to the crowd that he can make them happy.
"Hello, young man. As you know, my name is Professor Zachery and I can change your life forever. Could you tell the crowd your name please?"
"My name is Henry." replied the boy
"So Henry, are you ready to have your troubles taken away?"
"No." said Henry. "I have a question for you Professor. What happens after you take away people's sadness and pain? Are they truly happy or are they just changed?"
"Of course they're happy!" responded the Professor. "I've taken away all that made them sad in life. Why would they be any different?"
"The events of one's life shapes who they are. The pain and sadness in a person's life makes them realize what being happy really is. Without the hardships, there would be nothing to compare the good against. The happiness would be hollow and it wouldn't truly be happiness."
This made the crowd stop for a second and think. Professor Zachery had to do some quick talking to keep their attention.
"How's this...," the Professor said, "Young Henry, I'll take half of your sadness. That's half the normal procedure and you can tell the people how you feel afterwards. How much weight can a man as young as you be carrying around with you?"
Henry agreed to the professor's challenge and went through with the deed. The professor took a glass cup that sat beside him and placed the rim against Henry's forehead. As soon as it touched against Henry's head, it began to fill. Like Zachery said, he only let the glass fill half way. When the professor took the glass from Henry's forehead, Henry fell to his knees. The crowd gasped and waited for Henry to speak... but he just sat there, staring at Professor Zachery. Zachery took the cup and drank it down like it was nothing more than water.
Minutes passed before Professor Zachery or Henry made so much as a movement. Henry got up, turned to the crowd and told them he's never felt better in his life. The professor got up, looked deep into Henry's eyes, and a single tear rolled down his cheek. The professor quickly dispersed the crowd and packed up his stuff. Before he left, he met up with Henry again.
"Young Man," the professor said, "today you've proved me wrong. And I thank you for it. You're right, people do change hen I take their pain... I've changed. I have to ask you though, how could someone so young know so much about the world? Felt so much sadness?"
Henry turned to Professor Zachery, his expressions and mannerisms different from before, and lead him to the local cemetery. Henry pointed to three tombstones under a tree. Professor Zachery went to them to read the inscriptions.
"That's how I knew so much about sadness. They are how I knew so much about life." And with those words, Henry was gone.
The tombstones were for a family that had died in a fire. The smallest of the three had the name Henry inscribed in its cold, weathered surface.
It was close to midnight, but the light of the full moon made everything bright. Lucas and Ora walk home from a late movie. It had been a long day and they both needed a break. After a dinner at the local dive, they decided to take in a late show. It was a film, just like the rest, with the same plot. A woman dies and is brought back by the love of her husband.
As they left, they thought of how that can never be for death is eternal. The cold wind blew and they began their trip home. Living in a small town, they were in walking distance of every place. She had said, "The night is cool and it's beautiful out. Let's walk. The car needs to be fixed anyway." Reluctantly, Lucas gave in.
As they approached their apartment building, the air became oddly still. Something stirred in the shadows. Lucas and Ora paused. After a moment of silence they continued on, figuring that it was just a cat or a squirrel. They noticed neither the man nor his gun as he crept into the lamp light.
It all happened so fast. There were yells and demands, then a flash of light. Then... there was nothing.
The silence was cut only by the echo of the gun and the footfalls from the gunman. The gunman missed his mark. He aimed for Lucas, but Ora fell instead. With a look of surprise on her face, she crumbled into his arms. Lucas fell to his knees as the sight and her weight hit him with a monstrous force.
As she lay in his arms the street light went out. As he cried out why could this happen to such a good person, the night wind blew gently. Lucas lay there on his knees asking for Ora to come back to him. Almost as if in response, a cold breeze swirled around them and the moon shone brighter.
A single, solitary tear fell from his face and in that instant Ora began to rise. Gently, she rose into the pale moonlight. Suddenly, there was a bright light surrounding her and she was alive once again!
Slowly she descended to the ground. Ora hugged Lucas and as she did wings were hanging off her back. They would be a reminder of that night when Lucas' love for her brought her back.
Maybe you've seen the movies, the tale of an inventor trying to perfect a teleporter only to become spliced with a fly. The results were horrific. Of course, in the movies it was an accident. What if it was done on purpose? What if what entered the machine was stranger than what came out...?
Meet Fred, 23 years old. A genius inventor and a nice guy, he lived alone. You see, Fred was a classic geek. He was short and fat, none of his clothes fit. From the grease stained shirts with the overloaded pocket protector and clip on ID Badge from the latest Star Trek convention, to the bad acne and half inch think coke bottle glasses; Fred was just plain unattractive.
In the privacy of his own home, Fred did what scientists have had limited success with... Fred built a teleporter. He had some good tests, transporting chairs and other inanimate objects from one chamber to another. He even sent a mouse in the machine. But Fred wasn't settled with just moving stuff from place to place, he wanted to combine things. After re-designing the machine from the ground up, Fred had only one true success. He combined a microwave with a toaster oven and got the first microwave to actually cook food.
Fred brought his ideas and the microwave to companies only to be met by laughter and jokes. Low on cash and down on his luck, Fred gave up. All his life, he met with failure. From sports to women, Fred was bad at it all. He went back to his home and turned on his machine one last time. Being the Sci-Fi fan he was, Fred went with a plan straight from the movies. Project Goldblum is what he called it. He figured he'd live out his life as a half-human monster instead of just another nobody. Fred caught the biggest nastiest fly he could find and placed it in the first of the chambers. After setting the program, he got into the second chamber. When all was said and done, a new Fred stepped from the final chamber.
Dazed, Fred walked over to the only mirror he owned. The image has saw was one that shocked even him. Fred was taller and better looking than before. Though he now had compound eyes and wings, he was presentable! After cleaning himself up a bit and a cup of sugar, Fred put on his best outfit and long jacket then stepped out into the world a new man.
It's been two years to the day that Fred stepped into his machine. He's found the success and respect he always wanted. Fred's teleporter and molecular combinator technologies have greatly advanced science and earned him award after award. He's been Man of the Year, won various Nobel prizes and was even named Sexiest Geek in the World. All this doesn't compare to his greatest achievement... The Easy-Bake Microwave.
Fred's microwave was a hit with masses. From the money he made off of the first batch, Fred launched his own company called FlyGuy Technologies. Within the next six months, FlyGuy Tech was at the top of the Fortune 500 and Fred became even richer than Bill Gates. Fred even fell in love. Fred and Angella met at a Sci-Fi convention out in Chicago. It was just after Fred announced his "Condition" to the convention-goers and the world that he bumped into her. Angella was a very beautiful and sweet person who, despite her looks, found it hard to be taken seriously. She had the beauty of Marilyn Monroe and the mind of Einstein. Her love of science and Sci-Fi rivaled that of Fred's. It was love at first sight.
Fred is living the life he always wanted. He has good looks, money, a girlfriend. All these things after he merged with a simple fly. What Fred doesn't know is he has more from that fly than he bargained for. Besides the wings and eyes, Fred also has a fly's lifespan...
"The owner and founder of FlyGuy Technologies, who was known only as Fred, has died today. His discoveries have changed the very way we live. His biggest success, the Easy-Bake Microwave, has sold over a million units worldwide. Three months earlier, Fred shocked the world with the news he had been spliced with a house fly. A spokesperson for the company said this is a terrible loss and he will be missed. Fred was 25.
In other news; Angella Gone, Fred's girlfriend, announced she is pregnant..."
"Alice is eighteen years old and a registered voter. She wants to make a difference in a world thats grown colder. Innocent as a young child, shes surrounded by Spin! Can I make it in time before the walls start closing in? I charge in to save her, like a furry white knight I suppose. Quickly Alice, follow me! Come see how deep the Rabbit Hole really goes'"
~ Veritas James Rabbit, 2004.
We fall for what seems like forever. As we look up, we can see the hands of political spin-doctors grasping and clawing at us from above. They shout like demons, condemning each others actions whilst making false promises through empty smiles. They fade quickly from sight like a horrid nightmare that has long since passed. It is some time before we see a light at the end of our twisting ride. Clinging to me like a child would a stuffed toy, Alice shivers with fear. I console her for I too felt this way many years ago. It is a long and frightening journey but one that must be taken. As Alice and I reach our rides end, she asks where I am taking her. Her voice is soft and shows the fear and wonderment that has kept her mind so free all these years. That is why I chose her above all others. She is willing to listen.
"Alice," I say, "I have come to show you the facts and truth that lies behind the wall of Spin. Though the mass media is there to keep you informed, their motives are not always just. Many media corporations have hidden biases towards certain political parties. They may not give you all sides of the story."
We step out of the forest from which we landed. Walking hand in paw, I guide her down a winding road of tall houses with white picket fences. Odd blue and red plants sprout from the yards, growing rampant like weeds in a fertile flower bed. They choke the life from the surrounding plants and darken the sky with their overbearing presence. Curious, Alice approaches these strange flowers. As she reaches out to touch them, they lash at her like a rabid animal. The other flowers respond, whipping at the air and each other. The sounds they make are almost deafening! I grab Alice back and we run as fast as our legs can take us. The plants grab at us as we pass, forcing us to duck and jump as we make our way through this small town choked by these fiendish creatures.
"You must take care Alice. Not everything here is what it seems. Those plants were once humble political signs with good intentions. They were used to show support for political parties. Now, through the powers of Spin, they have been transformed into violent creatures. Plants that choke the life from all that has drawn near. They have been doomed to do battle with each other until the end of time."
After some time, we see a small village up the road. As we approach, we pass a sign. It reads "This is the Village of the Neutral. All are welcome here." Alice and I take shelter at a nearby inn. Alice is still visibly shaken from her experience with the signs. I take her hand and say, "Its all right now, Alice. If you want, we can turn back." She looks at me, calmer than before. She agrees to continue with me on this journey of knowledge. As darkness falls, I wearily ask myself "Is Alice strong enough to continue?" Before I can get my answer, I lay my head down and fall asleep. I was awakened the next morning by a knock at the door. It is the Innkeeper asking if we would like a paper. Still groggy, I buy a copy and open it to read the front page. Beyond the news of the two dominant political parties is a story of a reluctant hero: A comedian who stood against two of the most powerful partisan warmongers and won the admiration of the
people. In the background, I hear Alice wake. Over breakfast, I began to tell her of the comedians unexpected battle.
"Alice, there is a man out there named John Stewart. He hosts a nightly parody news show called The Daily Show. He and his colleagues wrote a book called The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction. Stewart, who feels the media has forgotten its job, went on the show known as Crossfire. Under the hot lights and between two well-known titans of political debate he stood against the partisan hacker-y. He asked for their help on behalf of the people. But alas, the titans refused and attempted to enrage Stewart. Stewart held his ground and stated his opinion.
"You should understand, Alice, that once valid debate shows like Crossfire and Meet the Press are now used to cloud the real issues and divide the people. They have become unwitting tools of the spin-doctors. Beware of what they say."
Alice and I finished our meal and continued on our way. We left the Village of the Neutral and headed to the Statistical Plains. I tried to explain to Alice what she was about to see but I felt it best to let her see for herself. We walked up a small slope and saw statistical information as far as the eye could see. As we passed through, we saw the true numbers behind the rhetoric: the real unemployment rates, poverty levels according to where Alice lives, how educated her city really is. Alices eyes grew wide at the sheer amount of raw data at her fingertips. Alice understood that she must see past the sound bites and find the data for herself. We became lost in the information and enjoyed this moment of peace. But, like many things, the quiet was not meant to last. Coming toward us fast was a loud rumbling object. At first, I could not tell what it was. I went to Alice, who was sitting down blissfully taking in the information. Cautiously, I whispered to her,
"Get up, Alice. Something is coming this way!" I poked my head up above the field of statistics to see what was coming. It was a mob of Bandwagoners! We stayed low and quiet as we made our escape past the angry mob. When I felt the coast was clear, we stopped to catch our breath. Alice asked me what that was, so I sat down and explained to her the Legend of the Bandwagoners.
"It is said that, long ago, the Bandwagoners were once a group of undecided people. They were free in their thoughts and their actions. Whenever tragedy struck, they joined together to help one another through their pain. Then came the spin-doctors. The spin-doctors took advantage of their collective situations, twisting their words and needs in upon itself until they were completely changed. They had become Bandwagoners. They jump from issue to issue, taking sides and forcing others to join them in their group thinking. Those who still have free thoughts are cast out into the world to fend for themselves. The Bandwagoners became a tool of the Spin.
"Alice, take care not to fall prey to the Bandwagoners. Do not be angry with them, they know not what they do. You are still free from the Spin, like they once were. Know that quick judgements and hasty actions could land you in the same situation as them. Thinking is the key to defeating Spin."
Night fell as we walked along on our quest. Some time passed before we reached our final destination: Spin Manor. We approached the gates of the large house. The wrought iron fence loomed over us like an ominous sign of things to come. Through the bars we could see people moving slowly in the moonlight. They paced back and forth, waiting for something unknown. I pushed the gate open, took Alices hand and entered. The people stopped pacing and turned. They watched as we approached the doors of the large Victorian townhouse. Alice stayed close to me, hanging onto my jacket with an iron grip. I must admit, I was just as scared as she was. As we approached the front porch, Alice began to move slower. From inside the house, the sounds of an argument could be heard. I assured her things would be all right though, this time, not even I could be certain. Alice nodded and walked closer to me as we got to the massive wooden doors. Scarred by battles long since past, the s
poke more in their silence than any story ever could. I turned back to the yard and looked out upon the people. They too were silent in their gazing.
"Alice," I said in a hushed tone, "those people you see out there are the remains of the Free Thinkers. They were once journalists, analysts, politicians and entertainers who openly spoke against the Spin. I journeyed here with them as well. Once I opened the door, they were silenced by the Spin. They were so destroyed by the experience that they remained here. They are but shadows of who they once were. You have come further than the rest and I believe you will have the strength to stand against the Spin and finish this journey."
There we were, hand in paw, about to open the door. Alice looked at me with calm determination and we went in...
It was empty. The room that all the noise came from was empty. We looked around to find what was making the noise only to find two old gramophones playing a warped and tired record. When we took the needle off the records, the room quieted down enough to hear what was really there. Someone called from behind a door towards the back of the room. Slowly, I made my way to the door. I strained my tired ears to hear what was being said. "I promise," said the voice, "to do my best to the best of my ability."
I went back to Alice and we walked together to the door. On the other side, we found two old and weary politicians standing behind their podiums. They repeated in their tired voices "I promise to do my best to the best of my abilities." Alice looked at the old men and knew the truth behind the Spin. She looked at me, then turned to the door and simply said, "Im ready. Lets go home."
The media will say many things and the parties will divide the people. It is the job of the people to see past the spin and make their choice. Trust in yourself, not the press.
Do not let people pressure you into their way of thinking. You are free to walk your own path even if the path you take is the least popular.
All the spin in the world cannot hide the truth. You can only ask that a politician do the best they can to the best of their abilities.