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Deal 1017: Hitchhiker’s log excerpt

Day 1017, probably

That infernal beeping has started again. Somewhere in this house, a smoke alarm or something like it wants feeding. But the damn thing just goes “peep” once every five to ten minutes. It’s just enough noise to tell you something is wrong, but not enough noise to let you locate the origin of the sound, and spaced too far apart for anyone to remain attentive and hear a second alert with enough presence of mind to find it. It is going to either drive me insane, or run its battery out completely and go silent forever.

I’m hoping for the latter, and betting in the former.

Either way, I’ve added a note to the growing report that whoever finds me may or may not bother to read. The very report that you might be reading right now. If “you” exist, that is.

If I stop believing that “you” exist, then I will be sufficiently free of sanity to believe anything at all in short order.

So I choose to believe that updating this note is worth my time and effort.

It has to be.

Or I’ve wasted so much time.

I say this is day 1017, but I’m not absolutely certain of that. I don’t have an easy way to tell the passage of time, so I’ve been counting days as times between sleeps. My clocks never worked well, and as you would expect given where I’m sitting, I don’t really have windows or a view that tells me much at all.

I’ve tried asking the bear if he knows what time it is, but he is concentrating on the problem of getting us out of here, and doesn’t answer.

The chickens aren’t any help, either. They just sit around and mutter to themselves most of the time. Occasionally one lays me some breakfast. Of course, the chickens have become fiercely protective, and I usually have to go in disguise to collect eggs without suffering from another beating at the talons of their rooster.

I can tell I’m slowly going mad no matter what else I do. I play chess, but HAL keeps beating me. I watch old flat movies, but I’ve forgotten so much from before, that too many of them make no sense. It is becoming difficult to tell fact from fiction. Did some joker back home name my computer HAL on purpose? Should that worry me? What aren’t they telling me?

Am I sounding paranoid again? Probably time to go check the chickens for breakfast.

I’m pretty sure that when I’m sleeping, HAL or one of his unnamed friends taps my thoughts and rewrites my dreams. I don’t know why they do this. But I’m increasingly sure they do.

So I try not to think about it.

I try to remain sane.

I try to not care so much about where I am going, or what will happen when I get there.

I have my bindle, I’m aboard my car, and there’s little I can do until the ride stops rolling.

Until then, I can talk to the bear, play chess with HAL, watch a movie, or chase another chicken.

Or sleep.

And watch my sanity leach away into the darkness.

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Deal 1016: A Surreal Visit

“We begin our tour today in the postmodern surrealist collection with a study of frogs. The pedestal here supports nothing, but is held together by a series of fancy knotted closures up the face. The artist notes that the emptiness atop the pedestal reflect the immediate departure of the frog. If you look closely, you can see its froggy footprints in the dust. Of course, there is no dust because the museum is kept scrupulously clean.”

The class dutifully takes turns to peer at the empty pedestal. I doubt that many of them recognize the significance of the knots. It is probably just as well.

“A favorite pieces is La Grenouille par l’Avion, a frog that has been flattened into a postcard and was delivered to the museum as you see it here today. Note the stamp features a fancy game hen, a breed well known for hunting and eating this particular variety of frog. Both predator and prey, flattened, and glued together. Now hanging as inseparable companions.”

The class looks slightly disturbed, but then curiosity wins out. They have to stare at the very flat frog, addressed in ink on its pale green belly skin.

In the distance, a phone rings. I take a moment to verify that it isn’t my group that has committed this sin. The ringing cuts off abruptly, as if a heavy weight has enforced the purity of the museum experience by removing the offender. Exactly as you would imagine that to sound, as that is exactly what has happened. Visitors are warned at the door, and second chances are given, but only after they survive the first removal.

There is a sudden bout of covert rustling as my group swiftly checks to make sure all of their phones really are turned off.

I keep my face set firmly in the proper museum docent’s mask. It wouldn’t do to start chortling and give the game up. But the sign on the door combined with that clever device which projects sounds right into the visitor’s head has become a most effective tool. Sure, the effect wears off in a while, but a skilled docent can run the tour all the way through before they realize that if we were actually killing our visitors, there might be some repercussions. Even a news story or two.

“As we continue, this alcove provides an opportunity to observe a rare example of a hobo caught napping. You will note first that he is, well, a he. The few examples we know of women riding the rails all assumed male identities. It could be a product of their time. It may also have been that rail cars were not hospitable places at the best of times, and the long skirts and petticoats that were obligatory for women would have been far too dangerous to wear. You will note also that there is a frog perched on the brim of his hat. If asked about it, he would invariably have denied it. If you asked the frog its opinion, you would likely be accepted by the other hobos. A prime tenet among those riding the rails was to never question another man’s sanity.”

About this point in the tour is when visitors usually notice that there are no exit doors. The really observant have also noticed that the door through which they entered is missing. This is a gallery of the surreal, after all. We wouldn’t want them to get too complacent. This group is reasonably observant, so the quiet muttering and peering around has begun. Finally, someone catches sight of the teddy bear on a plinth in another shallow alcove holding a sign that says “Exit”. The muttering continues, with occasional glances my way. But I’m once again frozen behind my mask, waiting for the right words to proceed.

It might be a long wait.

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Deal 1014: A Modern Modest Proposal

We all agree, I am sure, that there are too many cars driven by idiots and maniacs between us and our destinations. They clog the roads, pollute the skies, cause accidents, and are generally annoying. Worse, many lack the proper training to operate their cars, and many lack the proper endorsement of the authorities. These latter properties become a problem as incidents happen that are other than a pure accident. An improperly trained driver, lacking a license to drive, also typically lacks the means to pay damages they cause.

Further, our roads are perpetually in disarray, with unpatched potholes a frequent complaint.

Raising the alarm has not, thus far, been successful.

Unqualified buffoons continue to clog the roads, and the authorities seem powerless to resolve the problem.

I offer a solution, after the authority of the notable Swift. A modest proposal, if you will.

Fill the potholes in the roads with materials made from the bodies of the unlicensed drivers.

Cremation provides an average of a tenth part of a talent1 of material. It can be used as sand along with suitable crushed rock in an asphaltum hole-filling medium. Patching and filling compounds can benefit from a few percent of dust or sand mixed with the larger aggregate in the cold mix process, so one fool’s cremated remains can be extended to perhaps a quarter ton2 of aggregate, which at three stone3 per pothole will patch about a dozen typical holes. These figures are based entirely on half a millifortnight4 of looking things up on the internet, and should be assumed to be absolutely true on that basis.

To satisfy concerns of family of those used for road patches, suitable recordings can be made of the specific holes filled by each individual’s remains.

In this way, the debt to society imposed by the willful disregard for public safety can be used to repair a public nuisance.


  1. One talent weighs between 50 and 70 pounds depending on region. 
  2. A lot, or 2000 pounds. 
  3. 3 stone is 42 pounds. 
  4. a millifortnight is bit more than 20 minutes.