It was a posh affair, mainly attended by citizens of Sombra, North Central Positronics, and LaMerk.
A tongue of red carpet rolled to the curb where buckas, monorails, atomic slug robots, limousines, giant mythological beasts, and a rocket ship disgorged contestants and the glitterati of high society. On occasion todash bells pealed and an incandescent rectangle sketched itself into a ghostwood door secreting cloaked Manni swinging bobs or corporate presidents with decadent drinks in one hand and the ample bottoms of beautiful women in the other. They passed along the carpet through a gauntlet of paparazzi and rabid fans towards a black skyscraper. Its height was spangled with window lights like so much rhinestones. Thunderclap cumuli gathered and roiled around the tower, purple bolts of energy dancing on the tower’s apex.
Laughter wafted from below.
Storied guests from many worlds were in attendance, from a thousand one nights of fables to tales of the Brothers Grimm, tragedies to comedies, a veritable plethora of memorable characters from the Rolodex of Genres. They were ushered into a massive stadium whose seats seemed to recede into infinity. Above the large but simply decorated stage bristled an array of photo recording and audio amplification equipment.
Excitement ran its musk through the air and on its surface babbled a throng of voices.
Bill Denbrough took his seat, Beverly Marsh disengaging from his arm to sit daintily. She nudged Bill, said in the direction of her pointing finger, “Hey… doesn’t that fella look familiar?” The man in question, Bob Gray, who was at the moment absently rubbing at a patch of stage makeup on his cheek, was engaged in busy conversation with one Joe Collins. They laughed, and chilled the scalps of nearby guests, especially that of little Alice stroking her twinkling pussy.
A few rows behind them was seated a massive man with his scalp peeled onto his cheek. He had removed the armrest between two seats to fit himself, squeezing next to a grime streaked gent who made inarticulate sounds of reverent delight as his steel lighter sparked up flames.
Near the front row, a man with a scar on his forehead cut in the shape of a cross stared with grave concern as John Cullum spoke slowly into his ear. The Three Muskeeters eavesdropped onto Moses Carver and Aaron Deepneau, who were in deep conversation, perhaps discussing counter-espionage maneuvers.
Dennis and Thomas of Delain strode in, their eyes burning with murderous anger, but their weapons were checked at the door. They found their seats near Claudia y Inez Bachman who was oblivious to the excitement, intent instead on sketches of a choo-choo train. Engineer Bob smiled when he read what she wrote over her shoulder, nodding. It was true, all of it.
The Breakers occupied a large section of the stadium, basking in their Good Mind. Nobody but Ted Brautigan and Dinky Earnshaw really appreciated the irony of their presence. Buttplug baby Jesus gurgled in someone’s gunna sack. Captain Jack Sparrow dozed nearby, finding something better than rum for once.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstearns stood guard at a door before security shooed them to their seats. John Galt was earnestly exemplifying the merits of free enterprise to a bored, chain smoking Ayn Rand whose expression plainly revealed she thought she wrote the book on the subject. A scruffy tramp with a toothbrush moustache expressed his outrage with pantomime, repeatedly smacking a grunting Adolf Hitler with his bamboo cane as nearby spectators roared laughter.
The lights dimmed. All commotion ceased. A murmur of anticipation rippled through the congregation. A dulcet tone rang out, long and sweet.
A ring of light grew on stage.
A voice announced, “The Kas’ ka Gan!”
To the sound of an eternity of hands clapping, a slick and dapper fellow in a tuxedo stepped into the light. His smoothed back hair gleamed above saturnine features. His smile was immaculate, all encompassing.
He flicked his collar and strode to the edge of the stage where he bowed deeply, milking the wild applause for a moment before saying, “Hey, hey, I’m just a mouthpiece. It’s not like I’m Mister Gan himself!” There was laughter at this. “I’m your Master of Ceremonies tonight. Some of you might know me by one or two of my many names, but I like to be called Walter O’Dim.” His voice lowered into a conspiratorial whisper. “It’s why it’s so bright in here. I’m often dim to the point of translucence.” There was polite applause.
“A tough crowd, huh? Jokes were never my forte. I can see you’re eager to get on with it.” Walter did a little jig, spun on his heels, his coattails flaring dramatically. His arms spread wide.
“We’re well met here.” His manner became solemn, and his hands folded against his heart. “Friends and enemies alike, we put aside our differences to celebrate a pivotal point in the history of all worlds. We’re well met here!” Walter crossed his arms and chinned a hand. “I suspect when the day is over, we will awake as if from a strange dream…”
His mood became genial, and good cheer animated his movements.
“Well, now, folks, as we all know construction on the Beams,”—the stadium erupted with the sound of palms beating against palms—”this ambitious project to replace magic with rationality, is almost completed”—if it were at possible, the applause grew louder—”but… they need names.”
Walter camped across stage on exaggerated strides.
“They need souls. Twelve of ’em! Our sponsors Sombra, LaMerk, and North Central Positronics have been generous in allowing the public to choose from the beasts of earth!”
He spread his arm as wide as his smile.
“Let the contest begin!”
The first contestant was the Emperor Tamarin who strode regal to center stage and commenced grooming his impressive facial hair. When he exited stage left, careful not to trip over his mustache, the audience pulled out their telecommunications device to call in a vote.
Toad croaked a love ballad about earthworms and flies on hot, steamy nights. Cricket played the sawtooth with his back legs (sounds almost Hawaiian, don’t it?). Rat was debonair in a waltz with Bat as his sexy, shimmering dance partner. Hare boasted his virility on stage with nineteen satin-lashed angoras. Turtle expressed deep wisdom, his languid tones recalling a contest between himself and the Hare. Fish, in a bowl, pointed out on a chart the many delicacies made possible by his very flesh.
And the contest went on, calling upon the stage Lion, Eagle, Wombat, Salmonella, Elephant, Snake, Mosquito, Yeti, Squirrel, Horse, Platypus, Monkey, Wolf, Beetle, Bear, Dodo, Dog, Skunk, Candiru, Lemur, Hummingbird, Armadillo, Sloth, Cuttlefish, Tarantula, Whipoorwill, Rook, Cat, Reindeer, Honeybee, Cockatoo, and then some. A great time was had by all, the crowd roaring with jeers and cheers, and the folken down home who couldn’t afford todash did the same from their living rooms.
And the Guardians of the Beam were chosen, say thankya