Episode XX -- Paradise in Jeopardy
Premiered 20 March 2009
Multiple Choice -- Episode XX
Paradise in Jeopardy
Something caught Jeremiah’s eye. David followed his gaze to see, near the top of the hill, Ugly Dude and someone who could easily have been first runner up in the Mister Universal ‘Ugly Dude’ (MUUD) contest. The two behemoths were simply standing, waiting in the wings for their cue. Jeremiah had, without knowing it, given them precisely their cue the moment his sword had touched the ground.
Both of the Ugly Dude contest participants were scowling and dressed to kill. In addition to swords crisscrossed on their backs and multiple daggers hanging from a host of belts arranged at various angles, there was also their body armor designed to avoid a quick ending to the impending battle. Slowly the two behemoths began sauntering down the hill, two sets of ugly smiles beginning to cross their ugly faces. First Runner Up walked with an arrogant strut… having taken his cue from what the MUUD judges would eventually decide was his uglier mentor. He was swinging his broadsword to the tune of a rock hit from the seventies. Ugly Dude, meanwhile, was just… well ugly… and deadly. He also seemed focused on Jeremiah.
As they approached, Ugly Dude began the traditional dialogue, speaking directly to Jeremiah. “We figured you was too gutless to do your duty. So I brung my cousin to take care of you while I do your job. As for this other clown,” Ugly Dude added, turning to David, “I’ve been wanting to impale him for centuries.”
His intentions now clear, Ugly Dude began moving directly toward David, swinging his huge sword in sweeping arcs. His companion followed, but angled slightly to go after Jeremiah. Jeremiah pulled a second sword out of his backpack, and tossed the sword and scabbard to David.
David caught the scabbard and drew the sword. He then dodged as Ugly Dude took his first clumsy swing… the one with minimal expectation of connecting, but one intended rather to intimidate.
David quickly began dancing to avoid the ugly behemoth, dodging and weaving to avoid the heavy swings. Ugly Dude’s expression turns into one of frustrated anger.
“Stand still and take it like a man!”
“Do you have any idea just how dumb that statement is?” David kept shaking his head, disbelievingly. Then he added, not as part of the swordplay repartee, but as a simple statement of his curiosity, “What is it about ugly that also makes one stupid?”
It was an age-old question. There is, for example, no expectation that beauty implies brains in the same individual. Furthermore a lack of beauty does not imply anything in particular about intelligence. And yet, for the truly ugly, high I.Q.’s are not only rare, but also often non-existent. It’s as if the recognition of ‘ugly’ within a species has the effect that not only does the unfortunately ugly person not want to think about just how hideous they are, but do not want to think in general… and thus inevitably graduate to the status of stupid, ignorant, and… well… intellectually boring.
There is also encompassed within the ugly/stupid combination, a tendency toward physicality, whereby whatever one might never hope to accomplish with words, diplomacy, or any intellectual feat, might instead be accomplished with raw, brute strength. Survival of the Fittest, of course, includes all of the above, and thus it is wholly within Nature’s way to equip most every creature with some means of defense.
All very well of course, but what was happening now was a demonstration of the thesis: big, ugly, and strong can win the survival of the fittest as easily as the intelligence of someone, who if nothing else knows when to run and get out of the way. However, in this case, David was not thinking in terms of running... but instead of outwitting ugly brute with superior intelligence. Lots of luck, David!
Ugly Dude lunged again at David, the latter who used his sword to block the move, just as First Runner Up went after Jeremiah with even more vengeance. It turns out that Ugly Dude had visions of grandeur in taking his time in slicing up David, whereas the younger and less experienced First Runner Up assumed that the best method was to dispense with the adversary just about as quickly as it could be done.
David and Jeremiah were quickly separated, as David retreated under Ugly Dude’s free-swinging broadsword. David continued to back up, and began to show immediate signs of fatigue as he blocked each of Ugly Dude’s heavy-handed broadsword swings. David kept glancing around, looking for help.
Then, abruptly, David’s face lightened, and his jaw relaxed. A slight smile of hope appeared on his face.
“Okay…What I need is Excalibur! Now!”
A shimmering quality suddenly appeared on David’s sword. As Ugly Dude tried another overhead swing to pound his adversary into the ground, David raised the newly improved version of his sword to ward off the blow. “Excalibur” lived up to all of its legends, tall tales, and press releases: easily slicing through Ugly Dude’s sword, causing the business end of the broadsword to fall harmlessly to the side, and simultaneously causing the Ugly Dude to momentarily look surprised.
As David began to smile broadly, Ugly Dude’s expression went from surprise to the smile of a previously designed ‘Plan B’ fall back position. With just a slight amount of poorly executed fanfare, Ugly Dude pulled out a laser pistol. David leapt to one side to avoid the first blast. Ugly Dude laughed viciously, and began firing randomly in the general direction of David, who kept swinging “Excalibur” in an attempt to ward off the laser blasts. Despite the magical sword’s ability to treat the laser blasts pretty much in stride, David nevertheless ran like crazy, ducking among rocks and trying to avoid the onslaught.
Rounding a large stone in his quest to make himself scarce, David saw yet another mean-looking offshoot of the Ugly Dude family. Raising his Excalibur sword (recently enhanced by features to make a Swiss knife craftsman envious), David fired something akin to a lightening bolt at the new arrival. The end result was a definite column of smoke and no more Ugly Dude family member. Taking a close look at the tip of his sword, David took a moment to blow the smoke rising from it and strike a heroic pose.
Suddenly, several laser blasts from different directions hit all around him -- all returning fire on his recently announced position. An alien spacecraft began a strafing run over him, causing him to raise his sword -- now fully equipped with a huge laser rifle -- and fire. Then David ducked as the ship’s return fire cratered the area around him. The battle heated up as he glimpsed Jeremiah and First Runner Up exchanging fire, and other ships becoming involved. Suddenly the skies were anything but friendly.
David took off running and managed to reach the top of rocky rise among the standing stones, a position that gave him the questionable strategic advantage of height and a fortress-like structure surrounding him. There he looked around, surveying the situation. Jeremiah came running in from one direction, dodging laser blasts from a strafing spacecraft. A momentary lull ensued, and the two new partners looked at each other and quickly took stock of the situation. To the right, Ugly Dude and six alien, battle-hardened, fully armored ground troopers were moving toward their position. To the left, First Runner Up and another half dozen alien ground troopers were closing the vice. In front and behind them, phalanxes of yet more aliens were approaching. David and Jeremiah exchanged looks.
“Well, Tonto, faithful Indian companion,” David said. “It would appear that we are in big trouble!”
“What you mean,” Jeremiah asked, “By ‘we’… White man?”
David looked at Jeremiah, who merely smiled. David grimaced and turned to face the enemy as well. They were everywhere. Ugly aliens, storm troopers, what could have been a couple of Nazi SS types, and… an impressive variety of other… individuals who… who in the world were the others? David -- despite the mounting threat from the Ugly Dude and his retinue, marching toward him and bent upon his destruction -- kept looking at the new arrivals who from every vantage point and prominence were somehow involved in the action.
Well… David realized… maybe not exactly ‘involved’… more like ‘observers.’ It’s not like they were part of the action. Then David realized that the better term was probably ‘spectator’. Once that idea had slipped into his mind, he saw Avyn and Kayleigh sitting on a standing stone, along with several others -- all looking on with keen interest. If memory served, they were flanked by Celt and Austin, the latter two looking like brothers watching a bullfight.
David’s adrenaline rush abruptly faded, and he straightened, marveling at the sight with a puzzled look. As he looked around at the menacing forces, he breathed a heavy sigh.
“Okay, that’s it!” He then ordered, “Cut! That’s a wrap!”
Immediately, the spacecraft phased and vanished from sight, while Ugly Dude, First Runner Up and the plethora of alien ground troopers disappeared. Jeremiah remained, standing a few yards from David and looking very confused. Avyn and some of the other onlookers then began arriving at David’s side, congratulating him on the drama. Both Celt and Austin approached Jeremiah with their own congratulations.
“Wonderful show! Very exciting!"
“Such an imagination! Thanks so much for letting me share it.”
“Yes, yes. Very impressive! Do let me know when you’re going to be performing again! I wouldn’t want to miss it.”
As the onlookers filed past, each one shaking David’s hand and congratulating Jeremiah in similar fashion, Avyn approached David.
“I’m impressed,” she said, a broad and sincere smile on her face. "For just a bit there, I thought you might be really taking it seriously."
David rolled his eyes. “I must admit to being somewhat embarrassed.”
“Don’t be,” Avyn advised, “We’ve all been there.”
To emphasize her point Avyn gave David a hug and joined the others who were talking to Jeremiah. Kayleigh, still at a distance, was smiling at David. He waved, whereupon she smiled even more and gently phased out of sight. David turned, just as Jeremiah walked up, having watched the exchange between Avyn and David. Jeremiah was still looking at a loss, but was now carrying his weapon as if it were no longer of any use… other than perhaps as a memento of times past.
“You want to tell me what just happened.”
David shrugged his shoulders.
“I let my thoughts get out of hand. I was relishing some memories of great stimulating adventures. But then I changed my mind. Sent it all back.”
“You make it sound like we have a choice.”
“We do. Haven’t you noticed that by now?”
Jeremiah watched David for a moment, a skeptical look on his face.
“I don’t know. I might not be allowed. I don’t exactly have a spotlessly clean record. My past… you know… is not exactly a thing of beauty.”
“Hey! Even I’m not perfect!” But then David had a momentary thought… maybe he was perfect. Why not?
Jeremiah was unconvinced. “I rather doubt you have any idea of just how much hell I’ve caused.”
David laughed. “Actually, a lot better idea than you might think.”
“Lord knows that I’m tried of it.”
David set down on a low-lying rock, while Jeremiah look around at the scenery, his gaze using a revised set of sensory apparatus.
“It really is beautiful here.”
“Pull up a chair and stay a while. Build a homestead.”
“Tempting,” Jeremiah replied. “But then again, I’ve always resisted temptation.”
“It’s a lot more fun to go with your feelings, follow your bliss. I’m sure your so-called ‘temptation’ can be included in your feelings as bliss.”
“I’m not even sure what my bliss is. I think I’ve spent too much time in following the prescribed bliss.” When David waited for his former adversary to take the next step, Jeremiah added thoughtfully, “Hmmm… Maybe I need to spend a little time with the loyal opposition… undo some karma.”
“Whatever,” David replied. “It’s your choice; not mine. It’s not and never has been the externals.”
“Keep in mind,” David said, “Guilt is the most useless emotion in the repertoire.”
Jeremiah with a skeptical eye, looked at David.
“I seriously doubt you’re right. It can’t be that simple.” Then he seemed to relent. “On the other hand, it might be interesting to test your theory. In the process, I might actually undo a few of my doings.” For a moment, Jeremiah laughed. “Now that has a certain amount of appeal.”
“Trust me. You won’t be bored.”
Jeremiah laughed and turned. Looking heavenward, he raised his arms. A whirlwind began to wrap around him, and he quickly disappeared in the wind.
2003© Copyright Dan Sewell Ward, All Rights Reserved [Feedback]