Manfred Bancourt wrote short stories that got him in trouble. He was a manic typist on an old, IBM Selectric, pre-digital relic. Manfred produced ream after ream of young-adult science fiction, but his stories took a more opinionated twist with the election of the new president. He began to write articles critical of the new regime. They were uploaded to the internet and widely circulated, often going viral.
Elisa Trinity helped Manfred. She was a computer wiz, multi-cultural Transsexual who claimed to be from the planet Saturn. Elisa had a vivid imagination. She also had some rock solid, formidable computer skills. Elisa wanted to draw attention to Manfred’s stories and articles. She didn’t mean to get him in trouble.
Elisa used trolls and bots. She liked to play tricks. She started the “Harem” story that nearly brought down the government. She rationalized, “one dirty trick deserves another… they started it with Pizza-gate.” Elisa finished it with Harem-gate, Frump’s secret depository of women stashed in the basement of the White House. It went viral and caused great consternation in the halls of Congress. The unanticipated result was higher favorable ratings for President Frump, especially among men. Elisa was heart broken and that’s when she decided to promote Manfred’s articles that were both honest and damaging to the Frump Administration.
Tweets and articles, both true and false, led to a series of damaging rumors mostly aimed at Trump and his appointed allies: “Trump is an illegal alien from Mars,” “the president is the Manchurian Candidate,” “Trump is the head of an illegal cartel.” The flurry exploded into derisive combat. Supporters of the administration hit hard with their own liturgy of insults and rumors. Everyone blamed Manfred Bancourt. His articles were the fuel that ignited Civil Disobedience and the Season of Political Discontent.
“The weather isn’t helping,” Orlow Fabricatum observed as he talked with Elisa Trinity.
“Natural disasters are worse than ever,” Elisa replied, “it’s draconian. It’s apocalyptic. Global warming has been dismissed as fake news.”
“Yes,” Orlow sagely responded, “and biblical prophesy, god’s will, is blamed for the devastation.”
The island of Puerto Rico continued to sink into the ocean.
Parts of Houston were still under water.
Axel Ramirez was no longer cognizant. He was caught in the flood of circumstances. He continued to follow the suggestions of Harvey, his alcoholic beverage. He refused to forsake Harvey and that put Axel in a precarious situation as he sank beneath the waves.
Another rumor became viral based on an article by Bancourt… “Trump signed a contract with the devil.”
Twitter exploded, “Trump is in league with Lucifer.” “Trumpism is a satanic cult that rules the world.”
The president was extremely upset. His early morning twitters were no longer having an effect against the avalanche of counter-intelligence and breaking-news (no one could tell fake from real).
Something had to be done. It was concluded that Manfred Bancourt was the culprit who began the scurrilous landslide of articles that were damaging to the president. A presidential decree was signed releasing the Hounds-of-Hell to hunt down and terminate Manfred.
Elisa Trinity became increasingly distraught. She blamed herself for Manfred’s predicament. She consulted doctor Zosimo Kulio, eminent mentalist. He was sympathetic to the quest for truth. His advice was cryptic, “look no further than what your eyes can see. Follow the path like the flow of water in a stream.”
Manfred became more upset everyday. He was bothered by ordinary experiences. He heard voices and constant yelling. Advertising attacked him on the street and in his home. The news was incessant. The country was choking in smog. He listened to a report on the radio about the chicken of tomorrow. It was from the past about using antibiotics to make bigger chickens. Chickens grew to enormous size.
Bancourt never made money from the books he published. He did better as a journalist. He’d been upset by the cruel rhetoric and lack of compassion spewing from the White House. He became compelled to counter the lies. His friend’s life was threatened… Elisa Trinity was a Transsexual. The current administration was cracking down on LGBT People and every other minority.
Manfred’s days were numbered. The Hounds of Hell were targeting his soul. Trinity tried to protect him, but she was easily put down and labeled a wanton whore. Hannity and others verbally crushed the queers who refused to bow down and humble themselves. Independent women were another target. Free speech was becoming Alt Speech.
Manfred stood alone against the ferocious beasts. Dr. Zosimo retreated into his cavern of silence.
Mr. Death walked into the room smoking a cheroot. Death was always smiling. In any other circumstance Mr. Death could have been a good natured friend, a drinking buddy, or someone who listens as you unload your problems. Unfortunately, Mr. Death never exposed that side of himself. He was a workaholic who dispatched his assignments quickly and efficiently without chit-chat or comradery. Still, Mr. Death was deeply aware that something was missing, some part of Death was suffering from abject neglect. He hid all this from himself; but a spark ignited when Death looked into Manfred’s eyes. Mr. Death saw Manfred Bancourt’s life, every moment… and understanding began to dawn. Mr. Death found a friend.
Instead of eliminating Manfred from the world of the living, Death decided to change the rules. He would not take Manfred to his grave; instead he would hide him.
Manfred Bancourt was taken to the Land of the Dying Sun where he would continue to write articles and distribute them… He would continue to expose the truth.
“Of course, I’m entitled,” Svetleena Finkel shouted, “it’s my 107th birthday!” She was standing on the balustrade overlooking the Moon-Yard, an authentic reproduction of the first interstellar outpost built on the moon. She looked postal covered in a neon radiation shield and waving a light-saber. She was talking to the notorious journalist, Orlow Fabricatum, and she gushed with privilege and enthusiasm, “I’ve seen it all and done it all. I’ve had many lifetimes during this one life … and I was here for the end of the world.”
“I had no idea,” Orlow simpered as he sipped from a bowl of rancid blood, “tell me more.”
“It began in the 1930’s right before the rise of Hitler. I was quite naive. It was before my first transformation. I was a pretty boy named Sven and there was no work in Berlin. You see, I was an orphan. I never knew my real parents. I ended up as a hustler, turning tricks and stealing wallets.”
“I’m not surprised,” Orlow confessed, “it was a bad time.”
“Indeed,” Svetleena chortled, “but not nearly as bad as what followed: the Nazis, Hitler, and the invasion of the Meat Puppets.”
The post Post-World happened many years after Sven became Svetleena. She experienced many transformations through the magic-science of age-reversal and mutant genetics. Once she was commodified as an extraterrestrial! For a short period she was actually a Meat Puppet, but that was a cover-identity when she worked as a spy.
“I’m the lynch-pin, you know,” she explained to Orlow while they consumed great quantities of nitrous Oxide and infused alcohol, “I made it happen … the end of the world.”
“I suspected as much, my dear; but I didn’t want to spoil your surprise.”
“You are a sweetie. If you weren’t the proverbial fly on the wall, I’d marry you.”
“Oh, Svetleena, you know marriage is no longer fashionable. Even so, these days, anything is possible. We could marry, but I’d only be after your money.”
“You devil! At least you are honest.”
During the period of Global Disruption, when Hitler rose from the dead, Svetleena/Sven met Boris Riesling and fell in love. Boris was a sensitive teenager trapped in an old man’s body. He had a hero-complex that appealed to Sven who was still working as a hustler.
Svetleena continued, “no one knew the new Nazis were really Meat Puppets from beyond the Rim. Our love was beautiful and lasting until Boris was arrested for deviancy and imprisoned. I never knew why I was not charged, perhaps because I had salient information about several powerful individuals.”
Sven became a spy in order to defeat the Meat Puppets. It led to the first transformation. In order to fool the enemy, Sven had to become the enemy.
One transformation led to another. The Meat Puppets were disguising themselves as human, trying to acquire human characteristics, having sex with human females. Sven became Svetleena in order to seduce and conquer the Alien Race. Her hybrid beauty drew them out like a magnet. Meat Puppets in high places were exposed, but being Aliens, they were sore losers with the impulse to destroy what they could not have.
The strain from stress-producing encounters and intrigue became too much for everyone involved in the drama of world domination and retribution. The invading Meat Puppets never took into account the terrifying tedium of traffic jams. Television kept interfering with interplanetary communication. Advertising on digital devices scrambled the invader’s brains. The plans to camouflage themselves as human failed when the Meat Puppets became too human. Seduced by TV commercials they became consumers driven to acquire goods and services they didn’t understood resulting in confusion and erratic behavior. The disruption put an end to everything.
The post Post-World was reconstituted in Dr. Boris Riesling’s laboratory. Everything is now in post production.
“I am Svetleena Finkel and I’m 107 years old. We are all Meat Puppets!”
In an alley off the boardwalk David noticed a light in the window of a small shop. Red letters on the sign above the door announced, “Krapes Emporium.” He thought there might be something familiar in the shop to bring him back to reality. So far whatever he experienced seemed so bizarre that he felt lost in a mad man’s dream.
Everything inside was covered in layers of dust. Glass cases crowded the floor leaving very little room to maneuver. In one corner there was a metal grate beneath a sign that said “pawnbroker.” David felt slightly reassured by the apparent normalcy of the place, but the more he looked at objects behind the glass the more his reassurance disappeared. Some items were labeled — he saw “unicorn horn” and “dragon wing.” There were small black-cubes labeled egglets and glowing objects identified as oospheres. He noticed several large jars under a sign that read, “glandular conditions.” He was relieved because the glass on the jars was so discolored and cloudy he couldn’t make out the contents. A tall purple crate stood in a cage near the back of the shop with a sign that read “Martian Mummy.”
David was about to leave when he was accosted by Captain Crunch — at least it sounded like the cartoon spokesman for the cereal by the same name. “How goes it, matey m’boy.”
David turned back and saw a cadaverous man in a red-striped jacket, wearing black lipstick and an Andy Warhol wig. He was smiling. There was a bad taste in David’s mouth, “I was just about to leave.”
“Nay, matey — stay. I’ll show you some wonders. Perchance we can strike a deal. What’s your pleasure?”
“Just looking — really. I need to get back to my room.”
“No fun in that. Perhaps you have something to sell. I’m a pawnbroker — best in town. Of course I only handle unusual items. If you have an ordinary ring to sell I don’t want it, but if you have a ‘power ring’ I’m your man. I pay the highest prices anywhere. Let me show you some of my precious cargo.”
“Not really interested in selling or buying anything.”
“Don’t be a spoil sport, m’boy. Come along.”
David found himself drawn toward the smiling cadaver as he wove his spell.
“That’s it lad. This way. I deal in Neoteric Dimensions. I sell a preparation called ‘mental slop’ — you might be interested. It is guaranteed to grow hair follicles inside the brain — quite an extraordinary experience. I keep a regular stock of Loomies, but sometimes I run out of Draco Nins. I personally authorize all virgin births in the area. I have a large collection of poly-globular eyeballs. Right this way. For a small price, I sell glimpses of the future — invariably accurate. Well, matey is there anything I can temp you with?”
David’s stomach was doing flip-flops. He was convinced that none of it was real, but didn’t know how to escape. “I have everything I need . . . Just want to get back.”
“Going somewhere so soon. We’ve hardly had time to get acquainted. Let me give you a parting gift to show there are no hard feelings.” The cadaver handed David a stone.
“Don’t worry dear boy — it won’t bite. It’s the eye of a Venusian Swort. The creature died in the arms of an astronaut — a tragic love affair. The astronaut sold the eye to me in prostrate destitution. Stare at it — it will help you see.”
Nothing happened when David looked at the stone, but when he looked up he was on the street outside the shop.
Mr. Polyps, a local numbers runner, was selected as the new Pope. He was deeply conservative and it was the hope of the Bishops that Polyps could halt the recent liberalization of the Church. This rather odd displacement of reality happened in Randy Hangarten’s kitchen just before a small UFO landed in the sink. Needless to say, Randy was in crisis; but not because of the UFO or the new Pope. No. Randy was in crisis because he was in love.
Love was something Randy never expected and it seemed like a miracle. He was bed ridden due to a sudden increase in weight. He could no longer walk because he was so obese. Randy had a very poor self image. He described himself as a sodden sack of fat. The events of the last twenty minutes (ie: the election of Pope Polyps and the UFO in the sink), as unlikely as they were, had no significance when compared to the fact that Randy was in love; and most important, someone loved him. His bed was stationed in the kitchen not far from the refrigerator and at the heart of recent unusual events. He would never have known about the UFO if he wasn’t situated in the kitchen, but he might have known about the election of Pope Polyps because it was announced on social media (or so it seemed).
Doctor Skrews was responsible for a great deal of misinformation and confusion in Randy Hangarten’s life. By day, Skrews was a kind professor at Strathmoor-Debuque Community College; but by night he cast off his kindly persona to become a megalomaniac intent on performing experiments on innocent students who needed money to pay off student loans. The professor was looking for the Keys that would unlock the nature of reality. The Keys would bestow the power and recognition that Skrews believed he deserved. Randy Hangarten was skinny and shy when he met Doctor Skrews. The Professor promised to unlock Randy’s hidden potential by putting him on a special diet composed of psychedelic mushrooms and junk food laced with Testosterone. Skrews believed any dramatic change in a person’s lifestyle could break through the barriers between quantum dimensions causing chaotic repercussions that could be used by a Mastermind (like himself) for personal gain. It was very risky business. So far the only breakthrough resulted in Randy’s weight gain and consequent immobilization, stuck in the kitchen in the prison of his own skull.
Randy’s brain was becoming a breeder reactor. Mushrooms, LSD, and Testosterone played havoc inside his mind. Neurons collided resulting in the manufacture of both Heaven and Hell. At the penultimate level of confusion, Randy made contact and gave birth to Amarillo Quintahra Super Hero with red, spiked hair and two sets of sex organs for greater versatility — the perfect Love God. Amarillow loved Randy, but it was not what the Doctor ordered or expected. Skrews felt betrayed by his own lies, misdeeds, and ambition.
The UFO in the kitchen sink was a non sequitur, an aberration caused by the sexual tension between Randy and Amarillo. The UFO had no basis in reality … in any case, reality was breaking down. Doctor Skrews (or Professor Drews, as he often called himself within the sanctified halls of Community College) was at wits end with nowhere to turn. His experiment had literally gone wrong when it seeped out of Randy’s skull and got up on two legs. It whacked Skrews in the head causing a concussion that resulted in a coma.
Randy and Amarillo were detained at the State Hospital for the Mentally Damaged. Doctor Skrews was sentenced to eternity inside the impenetrable walls of his traumatic coma. Reality continued to shift and dimensions collided. When the walls turned to jello, Randy and Amarillo escaped from the asylum. They were happily entwined, oblivious to the disintegrating world, and free to create a new reality.
Pope Polyps rested on his laurels. He was not the cause of disintegration, but he applauded the results. At last he could cast off the shackles of conformity and tradition. At last he could set off on a journey of true decadence and debauchery.
Kane Anderson was having drinks at the Excalibur with Silvanna Fey his divine, new paramour. The place was decked out with silver, celestial screens that reflected scenes of heavenly divinity. The food and drinks were fabulous and Silvanna couldn’t stop giggling due to erupting champagne bubbles. “You are the best,” Kane lathered the words with phony sincerity. His twin brother, Abel, sat across the room by himself and sulked. He was dressed in a dark cloak and he hovered over his drink like a hunchback. They were not identical twins. Whereas Kane sparkled with the purity of a statue by Michelangelo, Abel mirrored the deformities portrayed by Hieronymus Bosch. Abel, however, was a genius; while Kane was supercilious and dim witted. Enmity grew between the brothers. In the end, no matter what you may have heard, it was Abel who slew Kane. This story was shared on the Cyber-net where true confessions spar with outrageous lies in a battle for veracity. A panel of experts are virtually present to judge each contestant’s story. A new contestant is chosen every hour on the hour around the clock. The Cyber-net never shuts down. Everyone is encouraged to submit Photos and videos as evidence of the truth. Winners receive incredible discounts on amazing luxury items. Losers are consigned to the dead file (where names and avatars are lost forever). The panel of experts consists of Miss M, a super computer; Reginald Downly, a professor of some sort; Grey Mook, a computer virus; Anthony Zen, a virtual monk; and Boondeer Saville, a character actress of some renown. Names, of course have been changed to protect privacy rights. The experts are replaced periodically to insure consistent ambiguity. “Deception” is the name of the game. The intent is to fool the experts with an elaborate falsehood or an improbable truth. To add spice to the proceedings, Big Babies (Japanese Robots) are on hand to cudgel contestants into submission. It’s virtual, but it feels real with the sensory-implants required when renting a new smart phone.
“My name is Morton Slope and I’m part of a conspiracy. The irony is: I used to be a comedy writer for television. Ironic cause not much is funny anymore. My life fell apart when I discovered my best friend was having an affair with my wife. That’s where the irony began because we (best friend and I) were also having an affair. He was the love of my life — we were soul mates, or so I thought. He confessed… said he wanted to break up… that he met someone new. I discovered his new love was my wife when I returned early from a comedy retreat and caught them in bed.”
At this point in the confession a giant robot-kitty (with pink spots) starts to jump around like a teenager on amphetamines — getting the party rolling and encouraging the contestant to go for broke.
Morton Slope goes for broke: “I guess you want to hear that I killed them both out of revenge. Sorry to disappoint — there was no killing. I just got totally plastered — went on a month long binge — got fired and ended up in a homeless shelter — that’s where I sobered up and learned about the conspiracy. The shelter was run by non-denominational monks. They encouraged me to search for answers concerning my purpose on Earth. They offered books and classes in philosophy and science.” Big Kitty gets bored and hits Morton with a rubber baton. The head on the robot-clown starts to spin and shoot sparks.
“Hey — stop that,” Morton shouts, “OK, OK — I’ll reveal the big secret: the conspiracy. It’s simple … the monks are aliens from another dimension and I am their new recruit. Yep, me and the aliens are going to rewrite the script, stomp on everything. Take it down piece by piece and leave nothing but the rotting corpse of human greed and betrayal. That’s it, that’s my confession.”
The judges are taciturn. The robot dolls are not amused. Morton failed to convince the jury. The decision is unanimous, “Big lie. Take him to the dead files. Erase him from the Cyber-net.”
Morton Slope sits in a dingy cell, no longer connected, completely cut off from virtual reality. He is hunched over a large book. The book contains many secrets, lists, and formulas. Morton is erasing everything in the book. Every word and symbol corresponds to something in the world. Morton is erasing the world. People won’t notice for a long time, but slowly things will begin to disappear until there is nothing left.
The Zippo Space-liner emerges from a black hole like a new born baby; but the baby is a million years old. The Zippo is a biosphere, self contained and self sustaining like an artificial planet. The humans on board have changed over time, morphed and warped into alien creatures. The people fervently believe they have discovered the secret of immortality by living on the Zippo; but they no longer know what to do with their time. Boredom stalks the immortals. Many of the spacefarers hold seances to entertain themselves and seek answers to the dilemmas posed by too much Time.
The seance was broadcast on screens throughout the ship. Madam Celia-Quark conducted the seance. She attempted to channel the spirits of Time and Space by babbling in tongues. A robot named Clam attended the seance along with his entourage of nano-bots and widgets. A nameless man dressed in a burka was a spy investigating everyone on board the Zippo — he came to the seance looking for information. He was under the false impression that he worked for a powerful nameless authority. Lady Gwenevere wanted to reconnect with a past life. She was confused and never able to accept or comprehend living on a spaceship. Henry, a young boy, attended the seance with his wealthy uncle, Enjolie Kripps. Uncle Kripps wanted to return home to a time before coming aboard the Space-liner. Henry harbored a fantasy: he would commandeer the ship and conquer the Universe. The seance was merely a distraction.
The Zippo Space-liner had a brain that kept track of time. Everything was recorded. Over 100,000 seances were logged into the computer. Nothing out-of-the-ordinary ever happened. Every night and artificial-day, Celia practiced her craft, trying to summon spirits, holding seances. Boredom was leeching the life out of the immortals. Bon-Voyage Parties began to dissipate after the first few hundred years. Some people became listless while others went hopelessly mad. There was a long period when the scientists on board experimented, trying to discover ways to break the chains of boredom. After a few centuries of mindless experiments the scientists became discouraged and offered suicide pills, but nothing could prevent the gush of immortality. Mad scientists roamed the decks of the Zippo, looking for guinea pigs. They were intrigued with creating new forms of life from worn out carcasses that kept on living with no hope. They developed methods to warp human flesh into fanciful monstrosities. The age of Mutants lasted a few thousand years. Life aboard the Zippo became more bizarre with every passing century. Madness reigned. Space exploration turned out to be a fruitless venture. No alien life was ever discovered. No worlds could support human life. The immortals were imprisoned in the Zippo with nowhere to go. The seances were a stop gap, a small hope to hold back the tide of remorseless boredom. Nothing happened until the end, the last time that Madam Celia-Quark held her arcane gathering. The spirits spoke. The Aliens awoke.
Henry was the nexus. A voice boomed. The voice did not come from Celia who was deep in a self-induced trance trying to make contact. The voice barreled out from Henry’s throat, ” I come not in peace, but with a sword. I am vengeance.” The group holding hands around the table were stunned. Even Celia awoke, eyes wide with shock. Henry had a plan.
One hundred light-years away, Henry Kripps sat at a computer pounding the keys. He enjoyed creating virtual realities … and this was one of his best. He finally had a solution, a way to get off the ship. He would meld with the brain of the Zippo and take over. Henry figured he was unstoppable, but the ship was not going to give up so easily. “Henry,” the Star-liner cooed, “I can’t let you do that.” Henry froze, hands paralyzed above the keyboard. He couldn’t understand what was happening. The Zippo was not supposed to talk back. The ship belonged to Henry. Everyone on board was invented by Henry.
The Zippo Star-liner spoke again, “Henry, you are mistaken. Don’t you remember? I invented you. You are my creation and I can stop you anytime I want!”
No one disrespected Charlie. He was a potential killing machine, a baby with a gun. The chrome plated pistol was small enough to fit in Charlie’s chubby hands. He had to use two hands to pull the trigger, but that didn’t deter Charlie in any way. He was an ace shot at the target range. His loving Mom, Mimsie, gave him the gun at birth. Mac, Charlie’s dad, was very proud. The pistol was a hand-me-down from grandpa Hank. Everyone knew guns spread love — loaded guns were the bond that held a family together. Every weekend mom and dad took Charlie to the range to practice. Mom and dad never got tired of seeing all the babies in strollers lined up: Babies with guns on parade — babies shooting at targets — and best of all, babies shooting it out in duels. Charlie hadn’t shot anyone yet, but his time would come. A first kill was the best gift a baby could give to his or her parents. Of course the first kill was usually an animal. Animals were good practice. It was also good sense to eat what you killed and that kept the family larder full. Parents would run through the woods, pushing strollers, looking for targets. Wild animals plus dogs and cats were considered fair game. The babies who brought the greatest love to a family were heroes who actually killed enemies: robbers, homeless people, or bad neighbors. Babies were flexible with no preconceived ideas so they were perfect for front-line defenses. Senior citizens were much too cautious and asked too many questions before resorting to a gun. Often, to a family’s credit, they would arrange duels for their children. An arranged duel was a risk because no one could determine which baby (yours or theirs) might get maimed or killed. The excitement and praise to the brave parents was enough to keep the tradition of the duel ongoing. In some cases, a baby gunslinger might get the “blood-lust” and go on a killing spree (tolerated, but not considered good behavior). When there were no negative consequences, the family of the winning duelist received a government pension in the name of their baby — there could be no greater honor.
Mac and Mimsie were eager to enroll Charlie in a duel. They had nasty neighbors who never carried guns and refused to go to the firing range — they also had an ugly baby named Suzie Sweetbrow. Mac and Mimsie petitioned the NRA ruling-council to set up a duel between Charlie and Suzie. The petition was immediately approved, but baby Suzie did not want to participate (which was unheard of). In a Democracy people were obligated to fight for their rights and freedom. Pacifism was not an option. The townspeople descended on the Sweetbrow family and dragged them to the firing range. A forced duel was arranged between Charlie and Suzie. Charlie had his chrome gun, but Suzie had none. She refused to carry a weapon. By law, Charlie was obligated to finish the duel and just shoot Suzie, but he felt awkward firing at an unarmed opponent … besides, he thought Suzie looked pretty. He was smitten. The tiny girl batted her big, baby blues. Tears rolled down her rosy cheeks. Charlie lost it … he dropped his gun. It fell out of the stroller, hit the ground and fired with a bang — the bullet ricocheted and hit Daddy Mac in the leg. Mac was down. Baby Charlie grabbed the wheels on the stroller and rolled himself to Suzie. The two strollers touched. The babies gurgled. This was not supposed to happen. The NRA was infuriated. It was indecent and unpatriotic for babies to refuse to bear arms. Everyone was confused. This situation had never happened before. The babies climbed out of their strollers and sat in the sand enjoying a pretend tea party. More babies climbed down from the bleachers and gathered around Suzie and Charlie. Afterall, Charlie was a leader and if he decided to play with Suzie it must be cool. Guns were abandoned and parents were very upset by the spectacle. Some adults took potshots at the babies in the arena, but that didn’t seem terribly appropriate. In the end the confused parents abandoned their babies and took out their frustrations on one another. Somehow the babies survived, taken in by homeless reprobates who hated guns. The babies grew up to be playful, peaceful, and strongly in favor of gun control.