Last time on Closing Time, it was a Thursday serial, not a Friday one. However, due to an unexpected hospitalization, it got changed with the already-posted new serial, THE CHAMPION. Still, we haven’t missed a day’s new episode yet, so today Joe Eschaton catches up after settling Imperiator Fraznitique the Eighteenth’s bar tab in repayment for a centuries-old kindness.
Catchy (One of Tw0)
“That was the nicest thing I’ve ever seen,” Terri says in that annoying tone reserved for responding to pictures of cute kittens.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” Joe says.
“You’re just a big softie.”
“Not talking about it.”
Despite not having a diurnal schedule, what with being on an asteroid in the middle of space, there are times when Joe’s bar is busy and times when it is not-so-busy. This is one of those busy times. The word has gotten out that there’s a clock timing out the last days of the universe, and everyone wants to see it.
Here’s what happens:
“That’s it? Wow, that thing is really ugly.”
“It’s also kind of creepy. It’s more like it’s tolling instead of ticking.”
“Wait a second… why are there four hands and seventeen numbers on it? And why are two of the hands moving backwards?”
“I have no idea how this thing works.”
That’s the point when the man, the woman, the alien, the deity, the gaslight, the talking dog… that’s when they go get a drink.
“I don’t know why we didn’t end the universe sooner,” Joe says to Terri. “Sales are great.”
Terri has a slightly worried look, but Joe doesn’t really notice it. He’s feeling good.
“Where’s that notebook?” Joe says looking around the bar. It was pushed over to the end by the war god of the Klynth, who is drinking bloodmead out of a hollowed out Nephriti sepulchrellite. The bar napkin that Terri had selected still sits on top of it. “Go on,” Joe says. “Read it.”
“Tonight?” Terri asks. “Can’t we just bask in your success with Fraz?”
“Clock’s a-ticking,” Joe says, even though we all know–say it with me–it’s tolling instead.
“Fine,” Terri sighs. She puts down her empty tray and walks through three different drink smells to the end of the bar where she picks up the napkin.
“‘I’m a bag of love, and you’re my badger deep inside,'” she reads. “Hey, I recognize that…”
“Oh god no,” Joe says. “Not ‘Metaphorplay.'”
“‘Ain’t just a simile,'” Terri sings, “‘You’re like the words to me.'”
“Metaphorplay” is a pop song by the notorious girl group Simultaneous Organism and it’s probably the most popular song in the entire history of the universe. Two of the members of SimOrg were Greek muses, one was an ex-Tribbleketeer, one had a range of twenty-seven octaves, and the drummer had been struck by lightning while in a multi-chemical jacuzzi. The song itself was written by an infinite number of monkeys with its tune composed by an artificial intelligence programmed with the mind of Arthur Sullivan. With a pedigree like that, you might assume that it would turn out to be one of those epic failures, but somehow it went past awful, into so-bad-it’s-good, circled around overrated and ended up falling into impossibly catchy.
“No, don’t–” Joe starts, but it’s too late.
“Hey,” Kharnyvor says, putting down his bloodmead. “I remember that song!” He and Terri both sing the next line, “‘It’s no verbal hyperbole, I wanna be your allegory!'”
“Now you’ve done it,” Joe mutters.
Whether the song is bad or not isn’t what Joe is worried about. Sure, he hates it slightly less than “La Isla Bonita” or “Eeber Eeber, Yabble Yabble,” but neither of those songs is holding off the end of the universe. “Metaphorplay” is a song that refuses to die. Once it gets inside your head, it won’t come out. Like a virus or a hypernet meme, it’s contagious.
Case in point: five minutes have passed and there’s now a veritable choir of barflies gathered around the Doom Clock singing the song in three or fur different keys.
“‘You can be my albatross, I’ll hang you ’round my neck… I will be the upgrade for your outdated tech. Ain’t just a simile…'”
Joe feels the rhythm in his head too. No wonder the song was in the Big Book of Universal Loose Ends… nothing was going to get done with him tapping his foot to SimOrg’s stochastic cadence. What’s worse, Joe thinks that the clock’s tolling is beginning to change to match the beat.
“Look, everybody,” Joe yells over the seventh verse (“I hate you like a bad duet, lose you like a sucker bet.”) “A free round for anyone who stops singing long enough to drink it!”
No one takes him up on it, so he pours himself a pineapple juice on the rocks and nurses it through verses nine through fifteen. He has time to think of a plan… the song is forty-seven minutes long.
Then it comes to him. There’s a particularly potent Nataalian absinthe that causes severe short term memory loss in ninety-nine and forty-four hundredths of known species, and Joe has a case of the stuff in the Catering Room.
“Kharnyvor,” Joe says to the blood-spattered war god who is tapping his serrated razor claws against the poor wooden bar. “Will you do me a favor?”
“For a sacrifice, sure,” the Klynth says.
Joe takes his half-full glass of juice and hands it to Kharnyvor. The god shrugs and asks what the bartender needs. Joe directs him to where the crate is, enticing the war god with tales of how heavy and possibly dangerous the case of absinthe is. (It actually is really heavy, which is why Joe needs Kharnyvor to get it, but it’s about as dangerous as a… um… for some reason Joe can’t think of a metaphor.)
The order of verses has apparently become an issue of some dispute, Joe notes as he sets out shot glasses for everyone in the bar, himself and Terri included. To make sure that this doesn’t happen again, he takes out his pocket laser and burns the napkin with the song lyric on it. Now all he needs is the absinthe.
Like an answer to a prayer, Kharnyvor roars into the bar from the back room. In one hand, he carries a large wooden crate labelled “FRAGILE: DO NOT SHRINK.”
It’s what’s in his other hand that causes Joe’s heart to sink. He recognizes the big black machine just a second before Kharnyvor announces it.
“Ahar, everyone!” the war god shouts. “I’ve found the karaoke machine!”
© 2013 by Douglass Barre, All Rights Reserved.