( the following needs a little clarification. this story was nearly included in the upcoming anthology So It Goes which is a tribute to the writing of the late Kurt Vonnegut. As a matter of fact, it was one of the last cuts made. So, since I was proud of it, I am going to go ahead and share it on here. )
The Multiverse Is Laughing At You
Emmitt Bloom is dead. This simply means that his day is about to get interesting. In the area of North East Mississippi, Bloom was an eccentric curiosity. Then again, anywhere else, you would have been able to say the same thing.
When Bloom was discovered as being dead, he was found in his trailer. Bloom had a double wide trailer. Of course, most anything about Bloom was double wide. Though he had not been weighed in some time, rumors about Bloom’s actual weight were legendary. The coroner ended up putting the official weight as 556 pounds. Some would have been surprised that Bloom was not actually heavier. Popular legend would have put Bloom at closer to a ton than merely a quarter ton. Local men who topped 300 pounds would delight in talking about Bloom being a raging fat ass.
They tended to only start at Bloom’s weight when talking about him. It was rather common knowledge throughout most of the county that Bloom was in fact a raging homosexual. This fact was rather verified by the Police when they searched Bloom’s trailer. There was a fair bit of gay pornography in both print as well as video form. However, this would only qualify as a small part of Bloom’s video collection. In life, Bloom was an obsessive watcher of the Cartoon Network. Truly, Bloom had a collection of small toys from fast food joints all based on Cartoon Network series. Bloom was a connoisseur of such artifacts. Bloom was an extensive buyer of them on Ebay and had written quite a bit of internet literature on detecting fakes.
Of course, in Gothic Mississippi, you have to work for eccentric recognition. Bloom had nothing but eccentric recognition. Bloom had exactly two types of outfits. First, Bloom would normally wear sweat pants and T-shirts. The next form of outfit was a constant point of discussion among the Bible Belt locals. Bloom, in his private as well as spare time, loved to dress in any one of several custom made clown outfits. Bloom would do his own make-up and loved to sport different multi-colored wigs. When Bloom was not wearing a clown wig, he would dye his hair wildly bright colors. Bloom was the only local clown working. Despite it all, Bloom was known to be generally harmless as well as having a genuine love of children. Aside from other men, Bloom loved being a clown, children, Cartoon Network, toys, and of course Subway restaurants. There were two Subway restaurants in Bloom’s town. Bloom could easily give a thirty minute diatribe in going to the ‘good’ one as well as the ‘bad’ one.
When Bloom was found dead in his trailer, they actually had to cut open the trailer and use a crane to get him out. Naturally, he was relaxing in his clown suit wearing full make-up. Bloom was watching a taped episode of Teen Titans and halfway through a signature meatball sub with Swiss cheese. He would have probably wanted to go half way through a foot long of something. His sister carefully wrapped each and every plastic figurine from fast food places as if they were precious jewels. Well, she did it with most of them. Bloom always wanted to be buried with Johnny Bravo in his right hand. Bloom suspected that life for him would not be forever. As such, Bloom had given very specific instructions about he was to be buried. There was an entire document on the subject that Bloom had prepared and given to every single one of his family members. It detailed the orange satin clown suit with yellow polka dots and red clown shoes Bloom was to be buried in. The document also detailed that Bloom should be buried in a rainbow clown wig. The trick of it was that Bloom had actually done the wig himself. This particular wig was actually a direct reverse of the actual spectrum of a real rainbow. Bloom had never worn the wig in his real life. Bloom wanted the ‘death wig’ to always be just that. Bloom would never guess how acquainted he would eventually have to become with that wig. The document on how to bury Bloom included four pages typed in ten point Times New Roman on how to apply his facial make-up. Bloom had rather meticulously researched how to apply post-mortem make-up to clowns.
The instructions were also uploaded into Bloom’s personal website just in case the existing hard copies were some how destroyed in fire or willfully by their protectors. The only thing that Bloom did not script about his funeral were the comments by the Baptist Minister. Bloom insisted that those be ‘genuine.’ Of course, Bloom had no idea that the last thing he truly wanted was a genuinely ‘genuine’ comment about Bloom coming out of the mouth of a North East Mississippi Baptist minister.
Bloom’s sister was still alive. This means that she was still available to sing a stirring rendition of Send in The Clowns. Bloom had assigned the task to three different alternates in descending order. The youngest alternate was technically fourth in line to sing the song. She was eleven years old. As a cousin of Bloom’s, she was appointed anticipating that Bloom had an unnaturally long life for someone of his size and habits. Bloom also factored in the possible untimely or unnatural death of one or more the original singers. None of it was necessary but Bloom always planned on having three different alternates and a main singer throughout the entire time frame of his life.
Everything up until the last moment that Bloom had drawn his last breath and the immediate aftermath had been planned. The second after Bloom died was a completely unanticipated event. There Bloom was, standing in his funeral outfit looking at himself naked on a slab. An elderly coroner and his youthful assistant were preparing to do the autopsy. The coroner looked at his young assistant and said “Cause of death…”
The youthful assistant got a smirk on his face and said “We believe it to be a heart attack. I am guessing that I would go to jail if I marked it down officially as a sky diving accident.”
The elderly coroner simply raised an eyebrow. “I don’t know if I would tell to get you in trouble, but I also don’t think I could stop repeating it.”
Bloom could not help but smile. Bloom always appreciated a good joke, even if it was at his won expense. Bloom had honestly heard most of them. Bloom realized that he was a spirit now, but had no idea where to go to from here. On the bright side, this was the first time he had seen his own scrotum without benefit of a reflecting mirror in nearly twenty years. After about four hundred found or so, he actually did stop shaving his scrotum. The joy of a well shorn scrotum (as described in Austin Powers ) was first done as a joke and then became an indispensable part of Bloom’s week. That would be until it was no longer feasible to do it any more. Beyond that, just try and find some one local who would help him along. As much as Bloom enjoyed a good waxing and as much as it was probably against the law for them to deny the service, just try and get a cop or judge to understand. Looking into the mirror, Bloom finally saw himself in his funeral clown outfit. Bloom saw himself perfectly as he should be. Bloom honestly doubted that the undertaker would manage to get it just as exact. At the very least, he had finally managed to see it. The coroner and his assistant walked out of the room. The older gentleman muttered something about no one paying him enough for what he was about to agree.
Bloom was alone with his own thoughts as well as his own naked body. The body stilll had some unscrubbed make-up. All of the sudden, a gravely voice barely above a whisper said “A little disconcerting, would you not say Mr. Bloom?”
Bloom spun around. Up until this very moment, Bloom had thought that there was nothing more odd than the sight of himself. Bloom was about to find he was wrong about a great many things. Standing before him was a rather imposing figure, even if you happed to believe yourself to be the spirit of a quarter ton gay clown wearing a full clown suit in the afterlife. That was at least a sight that Bloom was used to.
Bloom saw the form of Zedekiah James. Truth be told, James was in no way an unimposing figure when he was alive. James was a minister in Puritanical New England in life. In death, his sprit was bound to a well which served as sort of a ferry for lost souls. The chamber where James generally dwelt was full of mirrors and doors. James, as a spirit, emoted as being ghostly white with red eyes. He wore a wide brow black hat as well as a black suit. In his left hand was a weathered old King James Bible. Bloom could not help but wonder if it was an original edition. Of course, this is not an immediate inquiry when the being standing in front of you might well be perfectly capable of giving you directions to Heaven or Hell. For all Bloom knew, James had the power to send him to either direction. The odd part was that Bloom seemed to instinctively know that the name of the being in front of him was Zedekiah James.
On this point, Bloom was a rather quizzical clown with a furrowed eyebrow “Is your name Zedekiah, Zedekiah James?”
James smiled. “Why Mr. Bloom, while I could never forget you, I am rather surprised that you would remember me?”
Bloom was honestly distressed. This was not exactly something Bloom had believed possible in a spectral form. “Mr. James, this may sound odd, but have I died before?”
James laughed heartily. “Why my dear Mr. Bloom, do you think you are dead?”
Bloom smiled through the red clown lips. “Well, the body on the slab was rather convincing.”
James demurred “Well, of course, that body is quite dead. If it was not for the heart, then by now it would be the cold. I am guessing your memory of our previous meetings is not as good as I had been led to believe. In front of you is merely one outcome in a variety of different … universe in which you died on this day of a heart attack. Granted, this does take the number of universes available to you now down considerably. After all, you did have that heart attack in nearly all of them. Every time an event like this happens, there are fewer and fewer places to go until there are none at all. No one lives forever Mr. Bloom. Likewise, no one had infinite possibilities. As a matter of fact, there are several different places in which you were found and will be in a coma for a few days until we have this discussion all over again. Generally, I do not allow people to travel to those because of the quite frankly wasted time.”
Bloom squinted his eyes trying to comprehend a single word that James had just said. Bloom took a moment and stated the obvious. “I really have no idea at all what you are talking about.”
James smiled and said “Few do. Will you accompany me to my office Mr. Bloom? Thank you.”
Suddenly, Bloom’s rainbow hair wig shook. Bloom was surrounded by mirrors of all shapes on all sides. He was a clown in a perpetually infinite fun house. James voice crackled with delight. “Mr. Bloom, would you believe a Mr. Charles Dodgson remembered every last detail of this place once he passed over. I swear that man kept putting himself in situations just to come back?”
Bloom stuttered “Who?”
James smiled in the rather thin yet subtly horrifying way that he would do. James exposed yellowed teeth which seem to have been each filed to a vampiric point. Bloom believed now that there was nothing about Zedekiah James which was not actually terrifying. James continued “Mr. Bloom, given your love of shiny pictures and children, I would have guessed you to be more familiar with Mr. Lewis Carroll and this place he would become fond of calling Wonderland. Trust me, I was glad to be rid of his annoying ruinance of my time.”
Bloom stammered in more than a little legitimate fear, “Mr. James, what is this place?”
James began again “These mirrors represent the possibilities left to you. All I can tell you about any of them is that they each represent what you might call a parallel universe in which you live. Behind you is a door. If you go through that door, then you are denying yourself access to all of these looking glasses and we never have the pleasure of meeting again. If you go through one of the mirrors, all I can tell you is that life awaits. When you had your heart attack, a multitude of options happened. Eventually for anyone, there dwindles down to only the option of the door. These mirrors are created every day. Once a decision is made, it cannot be unmade. Time does progress in every universe Mr. Bloom. There are even ones that were rather desolate after wars. You were not born into any of those and will not continue in one. Eventually, every shred of every Bloom in every universe will cease to exist.”
Bloom looked around. One of the mirrors directly in front of him disappeared.
James noticed Bloom’s reaction. James explained “Yes, Mr. Bloom. That is a window no longer available to you. It was one in which you waited to long to go through. So, you see that you have only the options of the mirrors and the door. Once you put your hand in one of the mirrors, then your spirit will follow. You will have life. It might be in some sort of permanent vegetative state. I will make no guarantees about the relative quality of the life you will receive. Even if I wanted to, I could not. I am merely here to give you a choice.”
Another mirror disappeared. Bloom asked “What happens if there is a fire or something down those lines? Lets say that you explode. The explosion occurred and you were part of it. There is no possibility of survival.”
James seemed almost legitimately impressed. “Very good, Mr. Bloom. You are catching on. If there are no mirrors, then there is only the door. You will not even perceive an option of opening the door. You will simply be on the other side of the door. However, lets say that a gun is fired at you. That could open a world of possibilities including injuries, death, or simply not being hit.”
Bloom smiled through his clownish make-up. “Like in Pulp Fiction?”
James smiled, but only slightly “Now, you have me at a disadvantage, Mr. Bloom, I am unfamiliar with the reference.”
Bloom said “There is what would be referred to as a hit man or a killer in the movie. A man shoots at him six times. By all rights, he and his partner should be dead. However, all of the bullets at point blank range miss their target. So, each bullet would represent a mirror. Any one of them could have done anything. In this one and only universe in which was continued in in the movie, every last bullet missed its target and they continued on. They killed the shooter. One of the hitmen ended up dead anyway and the other presumably had a long life.”
James perked up “Like Caine in Kung Fu?”
Bloom was astonished “You are familiar with Kung Fu?”
James slanted his glance a bit looking down “David Carradine was actually a rather frequent …guest.”
More mirrors started to disappear. James grew serious. “As enjoyable as all this is Mr. Bloom, fairly soon you are going to be left with only the door. It would more than likely behoove you make a choice. What will you decide Mr. Bloom?”
Bloom felt the need to dust himself off, even though there seemed no possibility of there being any actual dust on him. “I have already made my choice, Mr. James.”
James appeared astonished. “You have done nothing Mr. Bloom.”
Bloom stated “It only appears that way Mr. Bloom. I have made my choice.”
Bloom had done nothing. In all of James’ conversations with expectant spirits, this was a refreshing change of pace. James said “And what pray tell would be your decision Mr. Bloom?”:
Bloom laughed a little and said “I have chosen to continue our conversation. Maybe one day I can figure out how a raven is like a writing desk.”
James was quizzical “What do you really mean Mr. Bloom?”
Bloom chuckled a bit. “You never do give the third option do you, Mr. James. It is so unthinkable that you know no one would probably not take it understanding the full implications. Eventually, if you wait long enough, then the mirrors will all disappear. Desperate for any type of escape, the door is the only way out. What if you waited and never took the door? What if you did not want to see what was on the other side of that door even if it was always an option for you. Given enough time, this room collapses doesn’t it? Its not your room. However, you yourself always have the option of the door. Don’t you Mr. James? To you, all of those mirrors are solid, but the door is an option. When the room collapses, there is a brief moment of a lost soul and then you guide them though. Sometimes, they are quick. Sometimes, they linger. Either way, you are alone until the next soul comes along. So, I choose the third option. I am going to wait with you. The room will collapse and then we can all sit and enjoy someone elses company for a few moments. We’ll have an eternity of meeting souls over and over again. That is our mirror Mr. James. You just had yet to encounter someone who considered you as a soul that needed to be guided. You do not have a function in the universe other than the one you choose Mr. James. You chose to give voice to a choice you could not initially comprehend. Now, I choose to give companionship to that voice. You ask my choice, Mr. James. I choose to continue our conversation until one of us goes through the door.”
Zedekiah James slaps himself on his own right knee. “Very well, Mr. Bloom. As they say, I believe that this is the start of a beautiful friendship.”
After some time, the room collapsed.
Now that we have reached 2013, we are about twenty seven days till the anniversary of Andre ‘The Giant’ Roussimoff passing away. At the time that Andre died, I was 18 years old and I was a senior in high school I had been a fan of wrestling since a young age and particularly the WWF brand of Superstars of Wrestling. I was a fan of the early Wrestlemanias as well as the greatest show of all time Saturday Night’s Main Event. It was about that same time in which WWF Primetime Wrestling started to become WWF Raw which is now known as WWE RAW. To some of us, it was all a seismic as well as palatable shift which was simply marked by Andre’s passing. At the time, I had subscriptions to Pro Wrestling Illustrated. The Wrestler, and Inside Wrestling. I remember seeing the pictures of Andre’s funeral in which 300 plus pound men were struggling to be pall bearers and lift his casket. The wrestling era I was watching was larger than life primarily because He was larger than life. Wrestling was a lot of good fun family entertainment. Even in 1993, it was starting to get more violent and more sexual in content. I found myself being increasingly turned off by the entertainment of my youth. I could not bring myself to watch beyond one episode of RAW. I was brought up with Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby The Brain Heenan bickering back and forth whether or not there was a Santa Claus. I watched Wrestlemania 2 when it debuted on HBO. Hulk Hogan versus Andre the Giant in Wrestlemania III in the Pontiac Silverdome was a seismic event of my youth.
I had gone to a Wrestlemania for my 17th birthday. By 18, Hulk Hogan had becomed embroiled in a steroid scandal and Andre was dead. There started to be new stars on the horizon. They were stars in which I did not identify with and had no affinity before. In time, the WWF and wrestling stars of the 1980s would start to have more in common with a 1980s comic book phenomenon which I also loved. In the mid-1980s , Dave Gibbons and Alan Moore released the groundbreaking mini-series The Watchmen. The basic plot (which eventually was translated into the 2009 movie of the same name) was that older superheroes who had seen hero activity criminalized were now being bumped off by a mysterious villain. Increasingly, after that any discussion of the WWF Superstars started to be accompanied by the question in my mind of ‘quis custiodiet ipsos cusdodies?” Loosely translated, it means “Who watches the watchmen?” Literally translated, it means “Who guards the guardsmen?”
After the lights faded, no one watched the WWF superstars. They seemed to disappear. Many many of them did not live to be 50 years old. I was personally never big enough to become a wrestler, however I had always dreamed of going in the middle of the squared circle myself. I had all of the figures. But when Andre the Giant died, it just seemed to be the time in order to get off the train. In a lot of ways, professional wrestling had left me before I left it. I read an interview with Vince McMahon after what became an explosion of popularity for the brand in the 1990s. McMahon was asked speciifically about criticisms of the increasingly non-family nature of the sport. McMahon responded that if you did not like it, essentially don’ty watch it. For me, that tended to cut a lot of ties and a lot of guilt about missing my regular weekly watching of the programs, buying of the pay per views, and general daily participation in the culture. Vince McMahon had granted me my release from fandom in his brand. It was not his any more and it was not mine. The magazine subscriptions were eventually dropped and I went off to college. About May of 1993, I watched a match that absolutely impressed me and reignited some of my old love for wrestling and the matches and storylines I had seen in the past. I was so inspired that I wrote a letter to Pro Wrestling Illustrated. The letter, to my knowledge, was never published. The letter was in praise of a young wrestler whom I believed might one day save the sport and entertainment I loved. That did not end well either. That young man’s name was Chris Benoit.