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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution

The Essay
Show #284
David Gunn

By six o'clock, most students at the University of Hummock-on-Smythe's Lincolnshire campus had concluded their classes and dispersed to their evening activities, be they existential, hypothetical or simply irrational. The Cetacean Study Group was meeting at Pub Loquacious to analyze the results of the Rorschach test they'd administered to the university's mascot, Bela the Beluga. Members of Equal Rights For Oafs had gathered on the cricket court to attempt a second, less incendiary match of field hockey with flamethrowers. An ad hoc animal rights group was picketing the Smythe Theater Guild’s co-production with waitstaff from the local Snakeburger 'n Chips of The Merchant of Venison. And in the third floor lounge of Gladstone Hall -- a building so imposing that many undergraduates averted their eyes while walking past it -- the board of regents was meeting in emergency closed session. The lounge itself nestled in the center of a fantastic topiary garden -- dozens of shrubbed animals were pruned in anatomically grotesque poses, some of which were inadvertently being mirrored by the board members. A nervous energy pervaded the six men and two bags of peat dressed up to resemble human torsos as they prepared to present a justifiable defense of Professor Blackmoor's calamitological mischief to the Ministry of Historical Revisions. One of his modifications had been traced to an event in the imminent future that adversely affected the European Union Alternative Fuels Programme. According to a classified House of Commons report, Icelandic geochemists recently developed a renewable energy source made from microscopic organisms that float at the surface of oceans. The scientists predicted that the substance, called planktane, could cut Europe's consumption of fossil fuels by 57.25% within ten years, and eventually render the internal combustion engine obsolete. But Professor Blackmoor somehow got wind of the experiments and set his time bubble to hiccup him 7 months, 5 days and 27 minutes in the future, where he managed to render the Icelandic laboratory obsolete. Unfortunately, in his enthusiasm, he also leveled Reykjavik. But for once, catastrophe caught up with the professor. A disenchanted former Hummock student recognized him and reported his activities to MI5, whose covert Time Disruption Branch was able to reorganize temporal events and thwart his actions seven months before they were to occur. (Time-Effect Management was the easy part of the job; the hard part was filling out the incident report with the proper use of the future perfect tense. In fact, more than a few members of TD Branch had -- or, indeed, will have -- given up the English language on account of it.) At any rate, they were highly not amused at Blackmoor’s attempted disaster, and considerably less so when they learned of his past -- and future -- egregiousnesses. Ministry of Historical Revisions Special Agent Shundar Fez was dispatched to meet with the regents to discipline, and potentially close down, the university.

The regents were talking animatedly amongst themselves, trying to think of a explanation for Blackmoor's behavior that would appease the Ministry, and noticed neither the door creak slowly open nor the wiry, gray-pallored man enter the room. (The bags of peat, of course, did, but the other regents were paying them little heed.) Not until the Adirondack Chair in the center of the room was occupied by an unfamiliar figure did the conversation finally flag. At first, the regents were struck dumb; but the next moment they were all speaking at once in a furious cacophony, with makeshift apologies flying like sodden albatrosses.

Fez signaled for the regents to be silent, and they promptly complied. He pulled on a few of the wires that encircled the top of his cranium, massaging one in particular where the insulation had worn off. Fez looked at the men with a mixture of disdain and tonic water, and the regents looked back with unmistakable fear. One of the bags of peat, recalling "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," the 1956 science fiction thriller that Blackmoor either had or will not have had a hand in catastrophying, thought Fez was a certifiable seedpod if ever there was one.

Fez remained motionless, letting the gravity of the occasion draw the regents closer to the center of the earth. Then he leaned back in the chair and tented his fingers. Immediately, a gang of miniature roustabouts emerged from a crack in the air and secured the structure with guy ropes and poles. A Lilliputian circus troupe of acrobats, clowns, trained animals and rowdy fogdogs emanated from the same crack, paraded around the room in an anticlockwise motion, then proceeded towards and entered the tent. Emanating from beneath the canvassy structure that Fez's hands had become was the high-pitched cajoling of a carnival barker, along with the aroma of overly excited elephants, cotton gin candy and the hint of an electrical fire. A small plume of smoke rose from the special agent's cuticles. The room grew hot. Then it grew a foyer, into which the bags of peat quickly decamped. Then Fez began to fade in and out of focus, and for the first time he looked worried. He attempted to stand, but the ropes around his fingers were tethered to an inert insubstantiality that prevented him from doing so. The fainter Fez became, the more tangible a dark blob in the corner of the room became, gradually assuming the dimensions, demarcations and demeanor of the University’s professor emesis of Calamitology. A tiny, hiccup-like "poof" finally completed the time effect exchange. Blackmoor grinned; the regents blanched; the story's denouement ran away to regroup for another assault sometime in the future.

But that is then; this is now, i.e. the 284th episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar, itself a disruption in your Saturday afternoon space-time, a time to regroup and embrace disaster, which may or may not involve the musical prophesies of Kalvos.