After his inauguration as Supreme Democratically Elected Tyrant, Walter Fishwrap began to enact the first of his visionary reforms in the tiny country of Beetroot. First, he outlawed fog and artificial banana flavor, while at the same time increasing government funding for other types of weather and for the artificial flavors of mango, watermelon, blueberry, and cheese.
He followed these triumphs with the now famous Tax Reform Act of 2012, which, in addition to other improvements to the Brobdignagian behemoth that is the Beetroot Internal Revenue Code, reduced the national tax form to a single sheet. Detractors complain that he did this by making the text so small that Beetroot’s one magnifying glass producer quintupled its income overnight, and special Accredited Tax Form Readers leaped into business around the country.
But what of the man himself? His biographer calls him “a mystery ‘Fishwrapped’ inside an enigma.” His neighbors say that he was a quiet man, kept to himself mostly. “Never would have guessed him for the type to put on red tights and a silly hat and issue proclamations from his back step,” says Mrs. Emmeline Harper, who shared a fence with him for thirty years. “Guess we know what all them tiny building and railroads back by the apple tree was for.”
– From A History of Backyard Megalomaniacs, by Marcus ‘Aurelius’ Boomer, Ph. D.

I stood at the top of Zhezh Mountain. Below me lay the fires of the city, littering the plain like fallen stars, and the Palace the brightest of them all. In there, somewhere, slept the Overlord. I clenched my fist around the hilt of my sky dagger.  The memory of him burned in my heart, all asprawl on his throne, his fingers waving dismissively at my master as they dragged him off to meet the axe and then for me, the coal to my left eye. Mercy, he called it.

Beside me the goat gave a low bleat, and I came back. “Tonight,” I whispered.

I led the goat to my makeshift altar, a simple flat rock the length of me. On the goat’s side I painted the constellations with elderberry juice. The Archer. The Dragon. The Dagger. Each of them circled the star-shaped blackness in the white of the goat’s chest. Then I readied the dagger.

If I fled afterwards, they might not catch me, but it would not be enough.

Chanting quietly, I slit the goat’s throat and let the blood pour out on the altar. I drew the forbidden patterns with trembling fingers. Then I flung up my hand with a cry, facing the night for the first time.

The stars wheeled overhead as I waited and despaired. Then I saw it, faint at first, then stronger: the hairy star, the star of ill omen, the falling star, the comet with its tail pointing down at the palace like a dagger. All would see and know the Overlord’s end writ large in the stars, and though he might thrash and rage as I did when they took my eye, it would do him no good. Soon he would sleep forever in the crypts.

I sat on the cold ground and waited for them to find me.

Route: Portland, OR to Denver, CO

A. Portland, Oregon

1. Grand adventure is calling!

2. Slide your ass out of bed.

3. Drink a Stumptown or three.

4. Clear IPAs from your head.

5. Gas up the Subie wagon!

6. Put on your old Birks!

7. You’re in Oregon camo.

8. (In the city that works.)

9. Avoid roads with bored cops.

10. (You don’t want to go down.)

11. Stash the weed! Crank some indie!

12. Head straight south out of town.

637 miles later (about 10 hours, 2 minutes):

B. San Francisco, California

1. Cross your choice of big bridges.

2. Pick one – pay the damn toll!

3. Go up and go down.

4. Don’t stop at stop signs – just roll!

5. Go up and go down.

6. Get lost and then again!

7. Do E with a homeless dude.

8. He’ll become your best friend!

9. Good luck finding parking.

10. (Though it helps some to pray.)

11. Kick the homeless dude out.

12. And head south to L.A.

381 miles later (about 6 hours, 26 minutes – up to 7 hours, 50 minutes in traffic):

C. Los Angeles, California

1. Oh! The freeways and cloverleafs!

2. Lots of lights! Lots of cars!

3. Oh! The silicone breast implants!

4. Lots of strip clubs and stars!

5. Don’t turn down the wrong roads.

6. Never trust a valet.

7. Careful snorting while driving.

8. Buy a hands-free coke tray!

9. Party at clubs with ridiculous covers.

10. Drive like you’ve got the heart of a beast!

11. Avoid being on a reality show.

12. Onward, the desert awaits to the east.

792 miles later (about 12 hours, 19 minutes):

D. Albuquerque, New Mexico

1. Take that left turn.

2. (You know that you want to!)

3. Make fun of the town’s name.

4. Just where no one can hear you.

5. It’s a good place for business.

6. And for jobs (Forbes says so).

7. But they drive like they have

8. Nowhere special to go.

9. So just drink some peyote.

10. View the great color fountain!

11. See hot air balloon fiestas.

12. Then head on up the mountain!

449 miles (about 7 hours, 11 minutes):

E. Denver, Colorado

1. Celebrate that you’re here!

2. Your adventure is done.

3. Drink beer and get stoned.

4. Pretend you’re in Oregon!

5. It’s the Mile High City.

6. Snow’s a beautiful scene!

7. Reflect on your adventure.

8. All the places you’ve been!

9. You’ve had traffic and parking.

10. Yes, at times you were vexed.

11. But it’s your destination!

12. Where will you go next?

Once there was a man who realized the days of his life were finite. Unlike others, he decided to do something about it and so paid a visit to Father Time. Back then you could speak to Father Time if you moved in the right circles.

“Father Time,” he said to the greyness, “will you add more days to my life?”

“No,” said Father Time in a faded voice. “But I can lengthen the days.”

“That will do,” said the man. So with his lengthened days the man went on to build giant robots, huge armadas, a vast empire. But soon the man realized he had very few days left, so he went again to Father Time. Back then you could speak to Father Time a second time if you paid the right bribes.

“Father Time,” he said to the crumbling mountains. “Will you again lengthen the days of my life?”

“No,” said Father Time in the voice of the tide. “But I can lengthen the hours.”

“That will do,” said the man. With those lengthened hours he accomplished more: he carved monuments, composed anthems, designed cities. But soon the man realized he had very few hours left, so he went again to Father Time. Back then you could speak to Father Time a third time if you sacrificed the right people.

“Father Time,” he said to the hourglass. “Will you again lengthen the hours of my life?”

“No,” said Father Time in a fleeting voice. “But I can lengthen the minutes.”

“Very well,” said the man. So with those lengthened minutes he did even more: rewrote DNA, split the quark, warped space. But now he had almost no time left at all. “Oh, Father Time,” he cried out, for once you have seen Father Time three times you are old friends with each other’s name in your rolodex, “my time is almost up. Will you again lengthen the minutes remaining to me?”

“No,” said Father Time in a distant voice. “But I can help you know what you should do with the time remaining.”

“That will do,” said the man. So Father Time showed him Death, for the power of Death is to concentrate the mind on what you most fervently needed to accomplish. The man looked into the end and then he knew what he must do.

But now he had no time left at all.

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