Hello there, mister. I know I don't know you and you don't know me--let's get together and kill Barney... hee hee--but I want you to know something. And know it very well. Loud and clear. In fact, let me clear my throat. ACK-HEM!!! ...
With that out of the way, I want--no, need--you to know that I don't watch much TV. I'm a community college psychology major, and in my classes my teachers always cite the finding that TV viewing fries your brain no matter what programs you are watching. Because of that, I've probably lived a smarter life than most. I guess you can call me a brainiac. Or a nerd, or a dork. And I would thank you for the compliment before provoking you by asking how many decimal places of pi you've memorized. (Trick question: the pi is a lie. And so are you. Life is a simulation erected by 4D beings. It is a trap devised by Satan, who wisely lives under the sea, given we know much more about outer space than we do our own ocean floors. ... Speaking of which, did you know that space is mindblowingly depressing? Millions of light years separate civilizations, and if one were to get lost, it would take just as many years to even get back home. Furthermore, in space, no one hears you scream, so stop acting like a little bitch and just accept that you have to eat your shipmates. Cannibalistic bitch.)
So, my best buddy Willie knows I never watch TV. He thinks I'm outdated like a caveman or something, so for Halloween he gifted me a VHS tape, thinking it'd be funny. Now, I may not watch too much of the boob tube, but I'm way up to date on the latest technology. Did you know that the government watches gophers masturbate, even in their own holes? I know that VHS tapes are no longer what's in style, so to speak. They're up to MP3s now. DUH!!!!
Because I have Growth Hormone Deficiency, or VHS for short, I look like I'm 8 even though I'm actually 32. People with bizarre fetishes ask me out to dinner sometimes. I go along for the free food. Regardless, this means that I can't quite reach my VCR, so I had my roommate, Ignatius Mortimer 'Comic Sans the Man' Hernandez Jenkins, pop the tape into the player. He was busy eating a taco, but he's very polite and will do anything with a smile on his face because it sure beats the life he lived in his home country, so hey. I ordered him to make me some gummi bear sprite pops and, given that I have the mind of an 8 year old, I was pretty damned excited about it. I licked my lips in anticipation. 5 1/2 hours later, when they were ready, I also licked a pop, and cuddled up to little Iggy as we watched the intro play. He was a really good dad.
BOOM! The universe exploded. Apparently that is how the beginning of this show goes. I recognized the theme song as being by the hip-hop gothic rock band Bare Naked Ladies, but since I have not developed hormones yet my attention was focused elsewhere. Ignatius was licking his pop and he asked me if I wanted a ring pop as well. I asked him how he found a woodpecker out in the middle of Arkansas where we lived, but his answer was cut off by an announcer, in this case Marilyn Manson, announcing "this fine television program is sponsored by Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart. Because you're..."
The announcer finished his sentence by saying the n-word. I was both highly offended and scared. I had to shiver before proceeding to observe the main portion of this tape's program, but I'm proud to say that I did.
It began in what seemed to be an apartment, though it reminded me of a dorm room. There was a chalkboard with a bunch of mathematical formulas on it, and the words 'Theory of Relativity' were written above the numbers. Below the math were the words 'Thus, it is okay to have sex with your relatives, as long as they are not blood.' Okay then, that was pretty disgusting, but whatever... it is the modern era after all, and not having any ethics at all is a sign of social progress. The camera then panned over to two dorky looking men--in other words, they looked like me--holding plates of spaghetti. One of them--the guys, not the plates--wore glasses, and the other reminded me of an elf whose lap I once sat on because the mall Santa was spending Christmas at a clinic where he was quarantined for Ebola.
"Say Leonard, did you know that we will all turn into horses in the year 2032?"
The laugh track was very loud, and I'm not sure why, given that there wasn't a joke accompanying it. The other nerdy guy, who was the one wearing glasses, responded with something that... well, it horrified me.
"Who's to say we aren't horses now? I don't see any... NAYSAYERS around. Right, Penny?"
The camera swiftly zoomed over to an open window where, I kid you not, a real life horse smiled with a wide horsey grin and let out a loud NAYYYY. The audience laugh track got ear-shatteringly loud again, as Ignatius shrugged and offered me some leftover lettuce from his taco. ... I accepted.
Now, I know you're already scared, and I'm not going to lie either: I'm afraid of horses. It all went back to my 31st birthday: September 26th, 2013. I was standing in line at a Wal-Mart with a box of frozen dinners, because I am a bachelor--it would be illegal to marry me--and it was taking a really, really long time. I asked the customers in front of me if I could go ahead, and they all said yes, and by that I mean they would allow me if I agreed to stick my hand in a jar of barbed wire and salt and not tell anyone else about it. ... I guess I'm telling you about it, so I went back on my word, but it's not like anybody's going to do anything about it now.
When I got to the front of the register, my worst fears were confirmed: there was a horse there. His name tag read 'Willie.' He was ringing up my groceries and popping open a box of spaghetti strands... chewing and chewing away on them with his gigantic, horsey teeth...
"Howdy ho there, neighbor", it said to me in a voice that would probably be a juvenile-looking font if it was typed out on a computer. "Want some hay?", it asked.
At this point, I deduced that one of the characters was named Leonard, and the other was Sheldon. They were research scientists at the University of Texas at Austin, and they were observing if a monkey would use guns as a tool if it listened to enough Marilyn Manson. As I used to live in a carnival cage with a monkey, I could have simply told them the answer was 'yes', but whatever. It's not like they could hear me through the TV screen.
"We can hear you, Willie." Sheldon turned to the camera and smiled really, really wide! I would've been startled out of my mind if that was my name, but again, that was the name of the horse who rung me up at Wal-Mart.
"Oh, whoops. I meant Rosco."
FUCK!!! He was onto me. I was really bothered by this improbable coincidence, so I ordered Ignatius to turn off the VHS tape. He tried, but it wasn't working somehow! I figured this was all somehow his fault, so I whipped him until he cried and he tried again, but still, no, nothing. I commanded him to go find the VCR instructions, and fortunately they were already resting abreast in his festive taco dinner tray. I picked them up and read them because he didn't understand English, and what I discovered... sent chills down my spine.
"The flehmen response. Also called the flehmen position, flehmen reaction, flehming, or flehmening, is a behaviour whereby an animal curls back its upper lips exposing its front teeth, inhales with the nostrils usually closed and then often holds this position for several seconds. It may be performed over a site or substance of particular interest to the animal (e.g. urine or faeces) or may be performed with the neck stretched and the head held high in the air."
Now, listen up. I'm the top contributor of all-fucking-time on Wikipedia, and for that I'm very proud of myself, even if my parents don't exist because I am a robot so I have no mom and dad. But that's not the real problem. The issue at hand here is that those were the words from the Wikipedia article about the flehmen response and, combined with the horse from the children's television program I had been watching, this could only mean one thing.
It was already too late.
I continued to the bottom of the instructions page. The worst possible thing that could've possibly been printed on the placemat was right there... bolded, in strikethroughed, type 16 Lucida Console. "You said you wouldn't tell... but you were just horsing around."
I let out a lengthy gulp. I opened the door to my house. It was a mustard yellow. I looked outside in the street, and lo and behold... the truth was both horrifying and sad.
Horse babies were being pushed in horse strollers by horse mothers. Horse dads were playing horse catch with their horse sons. The sun in the sky looked like a horse, and it was winking at me. My neighbor's houses were now all stables, and instead of eating dinner inside with their families, they were now all eating from haystacks with their horsey concubines and horse children.
I turned around and looked at Ignatius. He, too, was a horse. A mustard yellow horse with a sombrero and a Spanish guitar. I'll admit I didn't care about him and his well-being, but my youthful sense of heroics kicked in. Someway, somehow... I had to save the world from becoming horses. And if they were already horses... I had to change them back.
The only conclusion that made sense to me was that I had to watch more of the tape. It was never turned off, so I missed out on 10 minutes or so of the episode. Willie once told me that TV shows only run for 22 minutes of their half an hour of allotted time because of our system of corporate capitalistic enslavement--I mean, who didn't need to know that hot pockets, and lean pockets too, now come with garlic seasonings?--so I continued watching.
Sheldon was in an astronaut suit and standing inside of a rocket. Beside him... was a monkey. The monkey had shit itself and was carrying some degree of fecal matter in its hand, and it tossed it right at Leonard's face. The audience catcalled instead of laughed this time, and I just shrugged. Leonard made a face. "Maybe Curious George wouldn't have shit on me if you didn't feed it our spaghetti, Mr. Hawkings-Einsteen."
"Oh, come on now, Leonard. We're actors. We didn't eat the food, and neither did that monkey. Furthermore, that is not real poop, but a concoction made by a deceitful Internet retro video game critic who raised money to mix and brew fake shit based on pledges from his over-anxious culthood of fans."
I got scared again. I was wheezing to death, too. Luckily, Ignatius pushed my inhaler over to me with his horsey snout, so my life was saved in the nick of costly time.
After a few puffs of my hash pipe, I lost my patience and screamed at the TV.
"The HORSES!!! Get to the part about the HORSES!!". I grabbed my TV and shook it in anger. It vibrated in response.
"We were just getting to that part, Bentley."
At that moment, the tape went to static. I saw a couple pirates and a fucked up looking skeleton in a top hat for a second or two, but that was it. Otherwise, it was just static. I had been... deceived. By the time the static went away, the ending credits were rolling, and all I could do was cry while a rocket was shown to be depressingly blasting off into outer space.
Suddenly, I heard Sheldon's actor speak to me over the credits. For a second, I thought I felt a presence of love, but maybe I was just high from the inhaler.
"Listen, Ivan. Nobody's perfect, and Leonard and I never expected perfection. What we did expect was decency. A lie is a lie, no matter how small, and what you did--well, you lied. You moved in front of good-natured, well-intentioned, hard-working folk who had every reason to move along in that line and get home to their pets, because they are too elderly to reproduce because they were waiting for Prince Charming to sweep them off their tiny feet in response to their online dating profiles, as you also are. And if there is no system of punishment--no reason for any of us to pay for our actions--then what would the point of civilization be? There have to be consequences, Navi. And this is why you... your family, your friends, your neighbors, your race, and all races throughout the Milky Way galaxy and all others beyond it... are now horses."
Leonard's voice kicked in. He was clearly drunk. "Just accept your fate, man."
As Leonard hic-upped, I realized that I was... something else. I was on all fours. I checked one of them, and there it was: not a normal, human hand, but a leg... a hairy, or furry, horse leg with a hoof. I depressingly accepted my fate, just as Leonard asked me to, and galloped my way into the kitchen, checking the calendar.
I knew exactly what day it was.
It was September 26th, 2013. All over again.
... We were all horses.