“In this story,” he began, “we’re going to communicate the absurdity of life. I believe this is called ‘nihilism'”

“But,” his counterpart interjected, “doesn’t nihilism also entail that communication is impossible?”

They lapsed into silence. Finally the First said, “Isn’t destruction the only response to such metaphysical collapse?”

The Second pondered this for a moment, and whispered, “Should we fight?”

“We’ve waited long enough, responded the First, chewing on a carrot. “He’s not coming.”

With a heavy sigh, the two fought long into the night. Finally, picking up a fragment of rock, the First dashed out the brains of the Second, who lay dead in a swath of flattened grass.

The sky was cleft as from a sword, and a maw of light and fire preceded voice of God, who exiled the First to a land in the east.

“Metaphysical collapse isn’t all it’s cracked up to be,” the First thought, and then went to bed and knew his wife several times.

The First begat the Third, Fourth, and Fifth, who begat the Sixth, Seventh, &c. all the way to the 42nd, who, tired of the biblical allusions, decided to change the focus entirely by building a treehouse on Yggdrasill. There, he met an enchanted elf, who told him of a haunted castle with a hidden treasure.

“You are the youngest son, right?” inquired the elf. “The kind one?”

“Yes, but that was a rather grim segue.”

The elf agreed, and gave him three feathers, each of which, when dropped upon the ground, would grant a wish.

The 42nd went to the haunted castle and immediately met a lion with a human’s face, who riddled him. “What animal has one voice, but goes on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon, and upon three legs in the evening? Answer correctly or you’ll die.”

The 42nd dropped a feather and wished that he could skip all this nonsense and go straight to the booty.

Immediately, the creature turned into a beautiful princess, who had been cursed by an evil stepmother. The 42nd realized that he should not have used such an idiomatic word as “booty” and dropped another feather, wishing specifically for vast piles of gold and treasure.

When heavy coins and gemstones the size of coconuts began dropping from the ceiling, the 42nd dropped the third feather and wished for symbological significance, at which point he fell dead.

Swimming around in Styx, he caught sight of the First, and asked what went so horribly wrong.

The First responded, “Nothing went wrong. In fact, nothing could have gone wrong, since the author does not explicitly define the meaning of this crazy story. You could read into the brief literary allusions as a denunciation of classical works in the modern era, the distinct lack of female characters as either blatant chauvinism or a comment upon the sexism of the historical and literary record. Or, you could view you, the 42nd, as a sort of Christ figure, having descended from the divine to free a haunted castle of its burden, only to die. In the end, the meaning of the story lies with the reader, who will ultimately decide based upon their intellect and the context of the reading, which is specific to the individual and will not mean the same to any two.”

“Isn’t that a sort of metaphysical collapse?” asked the 42nd.

“That’s what I’ve been saying!”

§500 · February 4, 2005 · Tags: ·

2 Comments to “A Vicious Pastiche”

  1. Brady says:

    Funny and bizarre, yet it ultimately has a message to decipher.

    I probably wouldn’t have appreciated it at all if I wasn’t reading Doug Hofstader’s “GEB: An Eternal Golden Braid”, where he often uses a similar strategy.

    What in the world made you decide to write this way (other than the T-Rex cartoon)?

  2. Ben says:

    Several things. First of all, we’re covering Genesis and Exodus in Theology. Secondly, I’m reading The Annotated Brothers Grimm. Thirdly, I read a cartoon on Pharyngula about Norse mythology. Fourthly, I needed to write some short yet pithy fiction for my Uni’s literary contest. Having been inspired to some degree by the dinosaur cartoon, I decided to write a piece based upon the concept of nihilism within the framework of a seemingly meaningless patchwork of familiar (or not so familiar, given the Beckett) imagery. The ending harkens back to Stockton’s “The Lady or the Tiger,” but with different philosophical questions.

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