Plugs

Ron showed the lid to the cashier at Quickie Mart.
“Win?”
“The contest!” He clicked the lid down on the counter and pushed it an inch or two towards the man.
The cashier picked it up, walked to the window, and stared at it for a long time. He put it back down in front of Ron. “It says ‘all-expenses-paid worlds tour.’”
That was right, Ron knew, typo and all.
“But how do I get the world tour? Do I go to a website?”
The clerk pointed at some tiny print on the bottle cap. “You call that number.” He gave the lid back and turned away.
*
“Hello.” A pleasant contralto.
“I, um, I’m calling about,”
“The worlds tour! I’ll set you up right now. When do you want to go?”
“Well, I, er, any time,” Ron finished weakly.
“Fantastic! Thank you so much for calling, and have a great trip.” She hung up.
*
That was the most surreal conversation he’d ever had, even stoned out of his mind. He turned, and was overwhelmed with the sensation of jamais vu, the unexpected feeling of unfamiliarity amid the familiar. Had the apartment been this untidy when he left this morning? He stepped over a pile of clothes and looked out the window. Holy shit! The lake was gone. No, it was covered with floating condos. But when had the condos been put in? His stomach was starting to feel a little queasy.
Someone walked out of the bathroom. He was short, paunchy, middle-aged, and wearing a towel.
“Hey…” Ron began.
“Gaah!” The man dropped his towel.
Ron stared at the man’s forked penis, then stammered: “Are you a weresnake*.”
“Funny, Zero. You’re still trespassing. What you doing in my zōn?” Then he slapped his forehead.
]
“Oh, right, ‘the worlds tour.’ Look, I don’t need this today. Get out.” He nodded toward the door.
“But…”
“Go!”
Ron opened the door and stepped out.
From the apartment behind him he heard the fat man with the Y-shaped penis say “Oh yeah, watch that first one.”
The end
*Not making this up: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snakes#Reproduction.

“Dude, long time no see!”

“Yeah.”

“I’d ask you how you’re doing, but I figured, you know, you’re in Hell, so probably not great.”

“No man, not really.”

“Does that devil guy have to do that to you while we’re talking?”

“Yeah, he always does that.”

“But isn’t it, you know, painful?”

“Yeah. Actually, very painful.”

“They grow back, though?”

“That part’s a little gross. Let’s just skip it, OK? So how’d you get in here? They told me I couldn’t have any visitors, not even other Damned dudes.”

“Well, up in Heaven we get pretty much anything we ask for. I mean dude, the weed! And I have this thing going with Heidi Klum … I don’t know if it’s actually, you, know Heidi Klum, but–”

“Now I’m getting why they let me see you. I thought I was miserable, but the thought of you up there smoking weed with Heidi Klum while I’m down here just made me really miserable.”

“We don’t just smoke weed: we play Halo, we go to Santana concerts … Oh, and they’ve got these awesome air battles! Everybody gets wings, right? And you pack a picnic lunch–”

“Dude, TMI. Hell, remember?”

“Oh yeah–sorry. Anyway, I came down here because I wanted to ask you something.”

“What?”

“Want to get the hell out of here?”

“Whoa! Holy crap!”

“Sorry. I didn’t get you a little, did I?”

“Dude! Where’d you get that gun?”

“I told you, you can get anything you want up there.”

“There are little bits of burned devil all over me!”

“Sorry about that … and the smell.”

“Dude, don’t apologize. That was awesome!”

“Here, I brought another gun for you. Want to go play some real-life Doom before we ditch this place?”

“”You utterly and completely rock, man. But are they going to just let me in up there? Are they even going to let you back in?”

“I don’t know, dude. Anyplace has got to be better than this pit though, right?”

“But the weed! And Heidi Klum!”

“Yeah, but Dude … you can’t replace friends.”

People don’t go anywhere anymore. It used to be, grandad says, people worked hard for days and days before they had earned enough vacation time to actually go in their rooms and plug themselves in to a virtual national park or amusement park or water park or venusian tuber farm or something. Now we just go out behind the recycling center and stare at some weeds, or throw chunks of plastic at the vehicles on the Superway. If we want to go to an amusement park we have to actually pretend everything. You call that living?
I mean, what can you do with plastic, glaspex, and vegebord? Yesterday, Tim3 is standing on a bit of vegebord shouting “I am Chancellor of Trash!” or some sh*t and so Lefrim shoves him off and says she’s Premier of Trash and waves a block of glaspex in the air. The new kid from Moon 13 pushes her off and says he’s King of the Trash. Dorks!
If I was going to pretend something it would be way faster than that. I would be a unitank pilot, beneath cloud cover on a Chitin-occupied world during the Wars. We’d have to wipe out a Hive. We wouldn’t get out alive. Or maybe….

Dana Yamamoto was the worst martial artist in school. When she first stepped on the mat, Mirabelle Hayes jeered, “Are you dead?”

Dana didn’t challenge her to a duel. She just blushed and hunched.

“She means you’ve got your gi on backwards,” Samantha MacKinnon said.  “Left side over right. You put the right side over the left on a dead person.”

Nobody told her that at least one girl a year stepped on the mat dressed as a dead person.

She drove her sparring partners wild, the way her hands shook like the Mars lander.

The day she tore her gi pants for the sixth time, Hepplewater Sensei followed her into the dressing room. She settled across from Dana, who sat mending the gusset with Mars lander hands.

“Must be hard, being the daughter of a general,” said Sensei.

“Yes, Sensei.”

“She expects a great deal of you, I imagine.”

“Yes, Sensei.”

“And what do you want?”

Dana looked up.

“I w-want to be the best student in the school,” she blurted out. “And,” she added, shocking herself further, “I want to th-throw Mirabelle Hayes all the way across the mat.”

“Hurt her, you mean?” Sensei Hepplewater asked.

“No. Just throw her.”

Sensei nodded. Dana thought to herself, this is where Sensei decides to train me in secret, or gives me a magic black belt. Or sends me on a quest to a distant mountain, so I come back able to fight off six attackers and fly over the roofs. She waited.

“You can be the best student in the school, though what that means may change for you. And you can throw Hayes all the way across without hurting her. But you must do one thing.”

“What?” Dana’s hands shook even more than usual.

“Keep training.”

Hepplewater Sensei left the dressing room. Dana stitched and cried, and left an hour later. She lay awake all night thinking and crying, so that the next day she arrived so tired that she broke her wrist taking falls, and had to sit on the bench for three months.

“Do I have to watch class every day, Sensei?” she pleaded.

“Yes,” replied Hepplewater Sensei.

She sat and watched, every day. When she returned to the mat, she threw Samantha MacKinnon halfway across it.

“Your hands don’t shake anymore,” accused Mirabelle Hayes as she came in for the attack.

“Th-they don’t,” agreed Dana.

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