From the author: When does fiction become reality? And which is really better?
ELI’S COMING by David Perlmutter
2, 980 words
ELI-BEFORE HE LEFT:
They said it couldn’t be done, but I did it. I did it, you hear?
I finally managed to find a way to unscramble the video signals sent out from the TV, so that I can actually get inside the worlds of the shows themselves. Now, I can actually visit the places only shown in static images on the screen, and meet the beloved beings whom I worship- so much! The best thing is, I can even make myself look like the characters- so no one can tell me apart from them and give the game away.
Oh, this is glorious!
The switchover from analog to digital signals in the broadcasting world was probably the best thing that could ever happen to me, regarding the transmission feasibility. The old analog system was way heavier and more firmly under the foot of the corporate elite, who wouldn’t dare let a non-important person like myself use it for non-important purposes. But now…..well, anyone with a computer and a bit of knowledge of how the data transmission system works can be a king or queen among men if they know how to use it right. Just ask that Snowden guy.
Myself, I’m not interested in that sort of thing. I’m not the one who should be worshipped. But I know who needs to be worshipped. There are beings inside that TV set who have unquestionable power and influence, only they don’t recognize it-yet. That’s where I come in.
Oh sure, I’ve been laughed at. I had to be in school when that stupid Laura Nyro song hit the charts via Three Dog Night. You know- “Eli’s coming/Hide your heart, girl”. Made every guy with that name seem like a total jerk, including me. But it’s only gotten worse since then. The only shows and the only characters I can relate to-in TV and life-were the ones who were the most persecuted by the mainstream. Well, I say to hell with those who keep saying that- ‘cause they’re the first ones who are going down once I convince MY GODS AND GODDESSES to begin reigning on us- as they damn well should!
They might just be drawings to you, but to me, they’re superhuman, and much better than all the rest of us. Put together.
All I need to do is convince them that that’s what they are. Which I’m gonna do now.
FROM THE FANTASY/REALITY BORDER PATROL:
To all established fictional animation communities:
Be on the lookout for a real human being who has breached the realms of reality, and is prepared to enter each and every one of your areas at his own will and desire, with an almost God-like omniscience. He is under the extreme delusion that you are “real”, able to exist outside of your communities, and able to wield superhuman power and influence in his realm, all of which seem to be simply fallacies created by his extremely disordered mind. We know little about him, aside from this message sent to our general e-mail exchange from an unknown address:
BETTER HIDE YOUR HEARTS, GIRLS
I WANT YOU ALL TO COME WITH ME- AND I WON’T TAKE NO FOR AN ANSWER
Should, at any time, you are approached by a man calling himself “Eli”, please observe caution and do not allow yourself to be seduced by him, for the consequences of this can be extremely dangerous, for both yourselves and him.
That is all for now.
Yeah, I saw him. Of course, I deal with weird magical stuff all the time, but this….
He came up to me, on the street, just like you did now. Only he was frenzied about it. He went and started bowing down to me, like I was some sort of god or something.
He was babbling something about how I was so powerful and whatnot, that I could do so much for him if I came back wherever it was he came from, and so forth. Finally, I had to stick my fingers in my mouth and whistle at him to get him to shut up.
“Would you cut that out?” I said. “Whatever you’re thinking of, I don’t do that. It’s my….”
“I know,” he answered. “I’m a fan.”
“You…and them. We can do big things where I came from. I can assure you of that.”
“Well, I can assure you that you’re off your ROCKER!”
I gasped in horror at him saying that.
“My Lord!” he said. “I meant no disrespect….”
“Never mind that “My Lord” stuff. Whatever you think I am, I’m not. Now, if you don’t get out of my face….”
“Can’t you just introduce me to your….?”
“Oh, I’ll introduce you, all right! HELP!”
My fairy godmother made herself known, then and there.
“What is it, sport?” she asked.
“He’s giving me the business!” I said, pointing at him.
“Uh huh,” she said, knowingly, cocking her magic wand towards him.
The guy got the message, and started running away in the opposite direction before she could do anything. That was the last I ever saw of him.
Fortunately for us, we knew about this Eli fellow long before we actually met him. Seems he’d been asking everyone in town where to find us. Something about how he longed to take us back to his “world” so he could have us be treated with the proper “respect.” And about how he worshipped the ground our Mary Janes walked on.
Hoo, boy! Do we know that type.
So the only thing I could suggest to Bubbles and Buttercup is that we just find the guy and talk to him. You know, get him off the fixation. With care, even though Buttercup didn’t like that idea.
We found him as he was exiting a coffee shop and we were flying overhead. When we spotted him, we flew down in front of him. When he spotted us, he did a spit take with his coffee and started bowing down and mumbling some sort of chant.
“That’ll be enough of THAT!” I ordered, motioning him to rise. Which he did, with some reluctance.
“My ladies,” he said solemnly. “I meant you no disrespect….”
“SHOVE IT!” snapped Buttercup, going into attack mode. “You come anywhere near us, and I’ll…”
“HEEL!” I ordered her. She shot me a dagger look with her eyes, but still stood down like I wanted.
“He doesn’t seem that bad,” Bubbles mused innocently. “He did call us “ladies”….”
“Not in that way,” I pointed out. “He thinks we’re GODDESSES!”
“You mean, like…?” Bubbles asked.
“Yeah,” said Buttercup. “But we’re not. Are we?”
“No,” I answered. “We’re just a slightly more advanced form of human being. We aren’t goddesses- at least the way he thinks we are.”
“My ladies,” he interjected. “Please consider what I am asking. I offer you…”
We hardened our faces and shifted our bodies into battle mode, having had enough of his nonsense.
“Consider your offer REJECTED!” I snapped. “And also consider yourself SEVERELY INJURED if you don’t leave us alone RIGHT NOW!”
He got the message and left, post-haste. Fortunately for us- and for him- we never saw him again.
Yeah, Eli. I remember him. He helped us with one of our projects. It was a little weird that he kept calling me “My Lord” all the time, but I got used to it after a bit. He really did a good job with helping us build the zeppelin. Too bad it took off with him inside of it- I don’t how, but it did- before we could talk to him more about going off to whatever it is he came from and taking it over. Sounded like fun….
Eli? Ah, you mean that one! Rotten little bastid, wasn’t he? I don’t know how the hell he knew all that stuff about me and my family, but I seriously wanted to strangle his scrawny little neck when he….
Start at the beginning? Whadaya ya mean, ”start at the….?” Oh, yeah. That’s what ya really meant. Sorry ‘bout that.
Anyhow, when I met him, I was headin’ out to avoid the….uh….domestic situation goin’ on at my house and slowly kill myself with alcohol poisoning, if you get my meaning. Suddenly, I hear footsteps and somebody calling me:
“Mr. Griffin! Mr. Griffin!”
And I thought, “Who is this guy? He can’t be from ‘round here.”
I should explain. People either call me “Peter”, if they know me, or “Griffin”, if they don’t know me or they hate my ass. Surprisingly large number of those, for some reason. It’s never “Mr.” Griffin-unless I’m in the hospital or court. Surprisingly large number of those appearances, but that’s kinda getting off topic there a bit.
Anyhow, the guy comes up to me. Young fellow, thin like I am fat, wearin’ a pair of those glasses Lennon used to wear. Nothin’ at all like mine. He comes up and starts shakin’ my hand like he got the St. Vitus Dance or somethin’, but eventually I pulled it away from him.
“What?” I said impatiently. “Whadaya want?’
“My apologies, My Lord,” he said. “I did not mean to….”
“Did…you just…call me…..?” I laughed out loud.
“I did,” he said. “Is that not your preferred mode of address?”
“Preferred mode……?” I laughed again.
“What do you find so funny about that?” he asked me, in genuine confusion.
“Buddy,” I said, recovering, “you’re in the wrong town for that kind of stuff. Lovecraft was from PROVIDENCE, not here!”
“But I came here for you.”
“Yes. And your family. I thought that, perhaps, given the recent loss of your dog….”
“How the hell do you know about THAT?” I snapped. He had touched a raw nerve there. Brian wasn’t even in his grave one day then, and here, he….
“I….saw it happen…..sir,” he stammered nervously.
Now, the number of times I get called “sir” is even less than the number of times I get called “Mr.” Probably even less than the number of times I get called “Dad” in a way that’s not sarcastic, insulted or angry. So I decided to humor him.
“So you saw it happen,” I said.
“You were walking down the street when that jerk was driving his car, and you saw…”
“Whadaya mean, no?”
“I saw it on television.”
“Television? They didn’t cover….”
“Not your world’s television. Mine.”
“Your world’s? You mean, you’re a….?”
“No! Your world is a television program in mine. It’s been on the air since 1999- and I’ve been watching it all this time. Along with millions of other people.”
“You mean I’m not REAL?”
“If you don’t believe me, get in touch with Mr. MacFarlane. He created you.”
“He did NOT! GOD created me!”
“No. You’re a fictional character, and you….”
But I was done listening to him. I quickly pulled my belt off of my pants, and started coming towards him.
“You GODDAMNED SON OF A BITCH!” I snapped. “I’m gonna whip the shit out of you if you don’t leave me alone! Saying that you been watchin’ me since 1999, and that ya saw somebody kill my dog without doin’ nothin’ about it. All you been watchin’ is yourself doin’ BLOW!”
“Please!” he said. “I didn’t mean….”
Too late for that! I went into action with the belt, and had him yelpin’ with each hit until he was safely out of town. Good thing he hasn’t been back since, or so help me….
Yeah, I remember him. We get so many strangers around here you wouldn’t think I would, but he was different. For one thing, he actually seemed to like me. A lot. Doesn’t happen much, I’ll admit, so I’ll take it where I can get it.
I was in the bar, drinking like usual, when he came in. I’d already had a couple, so I wasn’t “completely sober”, as my wife puts it, but I was sober enough to know he was there. He shook my hand and called me “My Lord” and said a lot of other weird stuff besides, the significance of which I didn’t realize until later. Typical for me! Anyhow, he very generously offered to settle my current bar tab when he ordered something for himself, on account of the fact that he was a “fan” (whatever that means) of mine. Then we started talking, and then I realized exactly how different he was from the rest of us.
He didn’t seem to mind that I got his name wrong, which is usually a big deal breaker with stranger. I kept calling him “Elliott” and “Elijah” and “Elvis”, even though he kept saying his name was “Eli”- as in Wallach. I only figured that out later, so cut me some slack.
Anyhow, he got my attention when he started talking about some of the things that had happened to me earlier. Especially the stuff only me and my family- and the town, in quite a few cases- know about.
“How do you know about all this?” I asked. “You from here?”
“No, sir,” he said. “I come from somewhere else.”
“As in?” I prompted.
“Well,” he said nervously, “I don’t know if you’d understand….”
“The only way I’ll know if I don’t understand is if you don’t tell me. Or…something like that.”
So he told me. Apparently, I and my family have been the subject of a TV show that’s been airing since 1990 or so wherever he came from. Real popular, he said. Even made a movie about us. Complete news to me. That’s when it got interesting.
“You mean, where you come from, we’d be like…..SUPERHEROES or something?”
“If that’s how you’d like to think of it, then yes.”
“Well, that actually sounds good. Are you planning to stay around long enough for me to convince the family it’s a good idea.”
“Yeah,” he said. “I could do that.”
That’s as far as it went at my end. Lisa can tell you the rest- owing that she’s the one who 86’ed the whole thing. I love her, for damn sure, but sometimes…
I knew something was up when Dad mentioned the whole thing to us when he got back home that night. He was drunk, so I knew from experience to take this with a grain of salt, but he was so gung-ho on the whole idea of us being “gods” in some weird far-off place where we were being featured as characters on television. Not like those freak-show families on reality TV, I hope. Uggh! If that we’re the case, we’d have a show that would run for a century-at least!
Fortunately, I’d already done my homework, as it were. I had friended the Fantasy/Reality Border Patrol on Facebook some time ago, just to help keep us safe from people like Eli who can jump the border so easily with the conversion to digital transmission. It’s getting to be a real problem now, and none of us are truly safe from it. But I knew about Eli, from the message the Patrol sent out and from the various stories other people posted about their encounters with him. So, after I finagled the name of the motel he was staying at from Dad, and re-assuring my mother yet again that I would be perfectly fine, I went to see him.
He gasped- either in horror or delight- as soon as he saw me, and then shut the door in my face. I knocked again, and then he opened it again and let me in.
“All right, Eli,” I said. “I….”
I stopped. He was bowing down at me. Like I was some sort of cheap pagan shrine. The bastard! It was time for me to get tough.
“GET UP!” I shouted, ferociously.
He did so, immediately.
“My lady….” he began, but I didn’t give him a chance to continue.
“That nonsense,” I said, “didn’t win you any friends anywhere else you’ve been, and it won’t make you a friend of mine. And if you call me “my lady” again, you’re gonna GET IT! Understand?”
He was still clearly awed with me, but he said nothing further. This allowed me to say exactly what I had to say without being interrupted.
“I want you to understand something,” I said. “We are NOT gods! None of us! We are merely people trying to live our lives in peace. The same goes for all those other places you visited, and all those other beings you encountered. We aren’t interested in whatever alternate lives you want to offer us, or whatever convoluted higher plane of existence we have in wherever you come from. Our lives may not be perfect, but we prefer them to whatever you think is better for us. Our lives are the only ones we know. Just like yours is the only one you’ve known. Only you can’t accept that- and you want something better than that. Something you think we can offer you. Well, you, sir, are mistaken. And if you can’t see that, then you’re a much bigger than fool than any of us. Even my father.”
“Now, tomorrow I want you out of here. And out of any other place like this, ever again. Otherwise, I’ll report you to the Border Patrol, and they can deal with you much worse than I ever could. You got that, FANBOY?”
I left him alone to his thoughts. I felt good about myself, like I usually do when I have to come and vanquish one of these dragons the rest of the town can’t deal with, somehow.
At least until the following morning. When I found out he had shot and killed himself. In that very same motel room.
This story originally appeared in Rejected (2014).
A history of television animation in the United States from 1948 to the present, with critical analysis of programs and biographies of major figures involved in the production of series.
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