* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we are a little more cautious than the Vatican in granting sainthood to the dearly departed. Deity, yes, but not sainthood. Please say hello to first-time Big Jewel author David Guzman.

I’m Not Quite Ready To Deify The Dead Leader Of Our Post-Apocalyptic Clan

By:
david.j.guzman@gmail.com

The world we used to know is gone. In this burnt-out landscape, nearly wiped clean of humanity due to a raging, merciless pandemic, our small group has survived a brutal winter, near starvation and attacks from other roving tribes. Even though there’s little evidence of a higher power or any larger meaning to this meager existence, I’m not about to give up. We must endure. We must carry on. We must never lose hope.

I’m on board with all that. What I’m hesitant about, though, is elevating our former leader, who died only a week ago, to the status of demigod. I think our group jumped on that a little too quickly.

There’s no doubt Reynolds united this group. He saw that each of us had a strength and a talent to contribute to the whole and pulled us together. But it’s not because he was psychic and could see events before they happened, as some here have started to surmise. When I heard that, a mere day after he died, I was like, “Whoa, we’re giving this guy magic powers all of a sudden?” If he were psychic, wouldn’t he have foreseen that our deer meat had gone rancid and would lead to his death? Some people have great managerial skills, and can bring out the best in their team. And that’s what Reynolds had. It’s in no way clairvoyant, and it won’t necessarily stop someone from eating rancid venison.

Reynolds was a fine leader, that’s for sure. We wouldn’t have made it through the mountain pass without his command. But he wasn’t infallible. There was that time he called something “gay” and he could see that we were not cool with it. When we met him he had two severed fingers that he laughed off as “the cost of once owning a pontoon boat,” and he severed a third finger while making a catapult we didn’t need. And it took him a good week to realize that we had two Kimmies in our group, and a few more days still to know which one was Kimmy Matthews and which one was Kimmy Gunderson.

But hey, that’s human. What’s not human is the ability to shapeshift, as some are now claiming Reynolds could do. Chet has insisted he’s seen it happen, but remember, Chet also used to make money participating in clinical drug trials. When Chet says he often saw Reynolds morph into a giant worm at night, he probably just saw Reynolds bundled up in a sleeping bag. Chet is great with a crossbow, but let’s not listen to Chet on this one.

Nor should we take stock in the rumor that Reynolds had a pack of wolves who obeyed his every command. And that those commands were communicated via an ancient tonal language. He did occasionally have to chase off stray dogs that were being a nuisance where we had set up camp, but it’s a real stretch to attribute that to anything miraculous or supernatural. Besides, those dogs and other animals wouldn’t have been scouring our site if we had stored our deer meat properly.

I’m just saying give this the proper time to gestate. You can’t force it so soon. It takes generations for myths and religions to develop. It’s very possible that my great-great-grandchildren will one day speak of Reynolds and his power to separate from his shadow, the regeneration of his severed fingers, his magical hacksaw, or his emergence from a cocoon — again, Chet, probably just a sleeping bag — but it’s not credible to buy into those things a mere week after his death.

I know how dire things are. We just may be the last of humanity left alive. But it’s best that we turn to one another for hope and inspiration, and not the so-called “Reynolds Bible” or “Book of Reynolds” that’s been going around. Seeing as how it’s basically a binder of men’s fitness and muscle magazines that Reynolds carried, I don’t hold it sacred. I’ve got nothing against the article about getting better biceps in three weeks, I just don’t read it as the parable of mercy and forgiveness that most of you do.

With that said, I won’t be partaking in Reynolds-based rituals. I’m afraid I can’t help you exhume his body a third time to see if his fingers have grown back. And I’m going to have to excuse myself from tonight’s recreation of the Last Supper of Reynolds — which, by the way, is taken from a well-established practice from another religion.

All right, I’ve said my piece. All I ask is that at the end of the night you please properly store all the food. If you need me, I’ll be naked in my hut, singing songs of worship to Doogan, a discarded carnival bumper car, our one and true Lord.

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we believe if you see something, say something. Preferably you should say something even more twisted and disturbing than whatever it is you think you see. Like Walter Bowne.

Suspicious Activity

By:
the4bownes@gmail.com

Transport for London (TFL) released the following recorded messages from its database of confidential hotline tips during the week of 14 April, 2014. Names in the messages have been edited.

#1 Right, I am on the Circle Line…is this the correct number? We just pulled out of High Street Kensington Station towards Edgeware Road…A young man in a black hoodie is sitting across from me holding a bag…There is something inside the bag. What type of bag? It’s beige and canvasy. It has the words Waterstones of Gower Street…He’s…Now what is he doing…He’s…pulling something weighty from it…wait…he’s reading a book, and it’s not any book, oh my! It’s Oliver Twist! Is it a cover? The book hollow? Oh my God! He’s pulling something long and slim from the book. It has string!…A fuse? A fuse? No, no, is it a bookmark? Could it be a bookmark? The bookmark reads, “Words cannot do justice to the pleasures of a good bookshop. Ironically.” What? A young man reading a book! I’ve never seen anything like this!

#2 This is Retired Major…, 3rd East Anglian Brigade. I am seated in the third carriage of an East Coast train, bound for Newcastle, and I’ve been overhearing for an hour what I can only term “highly suspicious activity.” Two young women, of indeterminate ethnicity, have been engaged in animated conversation since York. One said she “was feeling rather drake” after that “bombacaceous night” with her most “crazsian Bombadee.” The other replied that she had a “blast” with some “trigger milf.” Are they planning a terroristic threat? Bomb! Blast! Trigger! Milf! What’s a milf? Help! Help! I’ve never heard anything like this!

#3 Yes, hello, I would like to report highly unusual behavior. A man wearing a turban is concocting something in his lap. He seems rather secretive. I’m on the 20:45 outward train to Bath Spa. Now, it may some chemicals. It smells. I mean, I have lived 65 years, and I’ve never smelled anything like it! No, it doesn’t smell like sulfur, or kerosene. No, no. It smells remotely aromatic. Perhaps even like roses. With a hint of cinnamon and perhaps even…what? Saffron? What’s saffron? He’s filling the contents in his lap in some sort of envelope. It’s yellowy. And pasty! He’s measuring very carefully now! Should I attack him? What? I said, should I throw his package out the window! Wait! Wait! He’s eating it! He’s a human bomb!!!!

#4 This may be none of my business, but I think I need to do my duty and report what is happening. I couldn’t live with myself, if I do indeed live beyond the next five minutes, if I didn’t tell the authorities that a man and a woman are seated next to me. We are on the 70 bus to Queensway/Westbourne Grove. Neither one is texting. Neither one is on a computer. There are no earbuds dangling from their ears. They are not reading books. They are seated, with eyes wide open, gazing at each other, hands entwined, as two becoming one, gazing upon the greater glory that they will both share once they make it to heaven. I have never seen such devotion — I’ve only read about the devotion of those sad, misguided individuals who give up their lives for some greater cause. I have been married now for 33 years, and I’ve never felt such blind passion for my Harold. Do you think the couple may be up to no good? I highly think so.

#5 Right? Yes. Is this the number for a suspicious transaction? A horde of young punks with tattoos and alarming studded belts and black leather boots and black jeans are engaged in what seems like some ritual. I’m standing on the platform of Wimbledon. They seem pagan, as if engaged in some ritual. I’m afraid they plan to kill someone. Like they are looking to sacrifice someone. One is saying, “We are the Knights who say Ni.” And the other responds, “We demand a sacrifice!” And then another says, “We will say Ni again to you if you do not appease us.” What? What? Monty Python! What kind of snake is that? Is it poisonous? Should I be concerned? I’ve never experienced such scary shenanigans!

#6 Please, this is an emergency! I am on the Kings Cross Platform. Number two. A woman is standing next to me with a rather large package concealed underneath a billowy blue blouse. No, I’m not trying to alliterative, you imbecile! I can’t see what she’s hiding. She looks animated. Happy, even. I’m not sure why. No, she’s more anxious, maybe nervous. I don’t know. The look scares me. Is this what fear tastes like? I’m walking away from her now. What? Yes, yes, I’m still here…I’ve been telling people to clear the area…Wait…A girl is running towards her with open arms. The woman is pulling out a package! It’s wrapped! Oh my, it’s a white teddy bear!

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where the graduates of today are the leaders of tomorrow...um, except where time travel is involved, because that always makes everything complicated and confusing. Just ask Nathan Thornton.

Commencement Remarks From Dr. Chronos, Time-Traveling High School Graduation Speaker

By:
nrthornton@gmail.com

Congratulations, Class of…looks like sometime in the 1990s?…No? 2014? That’s fine. There’s virtually no difference.

Thank you for that warm and generous introduction, Principal Whidmer! And let’s have a hand for Principal Whidmer, who is celebrating his eighth year of leadership, out of a total of 12, when he resigns in disgrace, under investigation for illegal cockfighting before becoming horribly maimed shortly thereafter in a Cheesecake Factory bar fight.

As your principal mentioned, I am Dr. Chronos! Whom you all know from my many journeys into the very bowels of time!

Today I’m here to tell you that no matter how crazy or unrealistic they might be, you must always follow your dreams. It wasn’t that long ago, I was sitting right where you are. That’s right, I was once a student here myself, Class of 2078! Can I hear a “Go Fighting Indians!”? In the future, we aren’t called the “Fighting Indians,” of course — we’re the “Fighting Space Indians.” You see? Some things never change all that much!

Maybe you dream of becoming a famous astronaut, ready to cower in shame at the might of the powerful Tsyll’nl Armada. Or the President of the United States, bowing in terrified reverence before Ulgrakk the Destroyer. Or of one day visiting South America (not Europe, Asia, or 80% of the land mass of Africa, obviously). All you’ve got to do is believe in yourself.

Do you think I listened to the naysayers when they told me I’d never invent time travel? No. I believed in myself. Did I give in to the doubters when Chronosphere 1 exploded on the launch pad? Never! Did I pay attention to the so-called experts who told me to line the inner shell of Chronosphere 2 with a thin film of tungsten to protect myself against Time Madness? Of course not!

I should’ve, though.

But you can’t change the past. Or the future. Especially when clots of Time Madness cloud every synapse of your brain, rendering you unable to tell one from the other.

That doesn’t mean you won’t become a famous basketball player simply because the rise of the Dunkmotrons make human players obsolete in 2029. And it doesn’t mean you’ll never defeat Santa Anna at the Alamo, or watch a dinosaur making out with a robot, or assassinate President John F. Kennedy, or invent fire, or whatever your dream may be. I’m here to tell you that anything’s possible. Except inventing time travel. That job is taken.

I look around this auditorium today and I see all your friends and loved ones, here to tell you to follow your passion, but please, I beg of you, don’t do it. The chemicals in passion cause type 12 diabetes. But dreams, my young friends! Dreams are what make time travel possible. As you may well know, Chronosphere 2 is powered by the stolen dreams of orphans and prisoners. Orphans and prisoners have some pretty big dreams, and I’ll bet many of you do, too.

So when you pass through the hallowed halls where you’ve spent the last four long years… The last four long years, I said. Those seemingly endless four years? Such a loooong period of time. Nothing on this? Okay.

When you leave this auditorium today, do so knowing that you will be walking into a future that is bright with promise. Perhaps today, you’re the senior class president. And perhaps one day you’ll be the president of a Fortune 500 company! You won’t, Emma, but you will help cook and kill the last living giraffe! And they’ll let you keep some of it after you help wash up!

And you, Cayden! Today you’re the star running back, with dreams of blasting off to the stars. And you sort of will! Parts of you, anyway. And not the parts you’d expect!

Maybe you’re our valedictorian, with dreams of a physics degree from Pepperdine University! And accomplishing that dream in just four years, even after getting your girlfriend Madeline pregnant sophomore year. And maybe you dream of raising a child who will raise his own son to share your love of science and not be the kind of dick scientist who repeatedly tells his colleagues that time travel is “for pussies.” Well, Tyler, I’m here to tell you that that least a portion of those dreams will indeed become a reality.

Because students, it is you who are our future. Wait a minute, that’s not right. If there’s anybody here who’s the future, it’d be me, right? Were any of you guys born in or after 2050? No? Just me?

Class of This Current Year, if you recall just one thing from the words I’ve just spoken or am about to speak, I hope it’s this: Nothing is impossible, except changing the past or the future. So keep following your dreams, except for most of you.

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where "plastic surgery disasters" is more than just the name of a Dead Kennedys album. Matthew David Brozik has the whole horrifying story.

Quackpots

By:
brozik@gmail.com
http://matthewdavidbrozik.com

Justin Jedlica…famous for undergoing approximately 140 surgical procedures to look like Ken, didn’t…have the nicest things to say about Valeria Lukyanova, who has transformed herself to look like…a real-life Barbie doll. “She’s an illusionist.” Meanwhile, Jedlica takes pride in [having] taken extensive measures to actually become Ken. “My baby is my shoulders, because nobody has anything like them…I divided these so there’s six pieces — front, middle, and back. Just like the actual anatomy….” — E!

Amateurs, the both of them. Not that I don’t respect what they’ve done…but all they’ve done is had their bodies altered — on the outside — so that they’ll look like the bodies of fashionable dolls — but humanoid dolls. So big deal. And while I agree with “Ken” when he puts down “Barbie,” I do think it’s the acrylonitrile butadiene styrene pot calling the polyvinyl chloride kettle uniformly pinkish-beige, as it were. Neither demonstrates true, unreserved commitment. I, on the other hand, have taken great pains to resemble — inside as well as out — a less obvious, but no less popular, choice of plaything: a rubber duck. Plus, while those two nutjobs have been turning themselves into toys for personal satisfaction, I’ve been doing it selflessly for the children. One child anyway: my daughter. My daughter loves rubber ducks. She’s almost two.

Of course I consulted with numerous doctors about the best way to go about turning myself into a real-life rubber duck. Almost every doctor I spoke with referred me to another doctor, and in almost every instance that second doctor was a psychiatrist. Never one to be dissuaded from what I believe to be “the right thing to do,” however, I kept knocking on doors until I found the man willing to help me. As it happens, Mr. — formerly Dr. — “L” (not his full name or his real initial) had just that morning surrendered his medical license voluntarily in a deal that allowed him to avoid multistate criminal prosecution for something or other, but that didn’t change the fact that he was — is — an extraordinarily gifted surgeon, which is just what I needed to turn me from an average-looking human into a beautiful duckling.

One hundred forty (approximately) surgeries, Ken? That’s all? I’ve undergone 500 to date, and we’re not finished yet. The “Doctor” and I — although these days it’s mostly him, I confess — are always identifying something else that can be nipped, tucked, tweaked, or grafted with rubber or a rubber-like material such as vinyl plastic, depending on market prices. Not that cost is an issue — I’d be willing to spend every penny I made (when I had a job, before I decided to become a rubber duck) on this quest, but the good Doctor agreed to donate his surgical services to the cause for free. He just wanted to stay in practice, he said, and I certainly wasn’t going to argue with him, if he wasn’t going to argue with me about the wisdom or sanity of what I’d proposed. A meeting of minds is a truly wonderful thing.

I won’t go into great detail about the half-thousand major and minor procedures involved, but an overview with highlights should suffice. We started at the bottom, so to speak, by which I mean we first tucked my legs under my butt and then secured them there, forming the base of the duck I was going to become. (It was, we decided, important to get the general shape squared away first, before we tackled texture, color and other details.) Pinning my arms and hands permanently to my torso gave me the basic wing structure I was looking for. And of course we shaved off all of my body hair, because rubber ducks are more or less completely smooth. This also meant removing my ears (the external parts, anyway) and fusing my nose with my lips and moving my nostrils to the top of my new “beak.” My eyelids had to go, too, because rubber ducks don’t blink.

When we had me in the right shape, the good doctor had a brainstorm: one of the most amusing things about a rubber duck is that it floats, and this is because it is hollow. So, with my permission, my partner in this adventure took a break from reimagining my outside appearance to remove my internal organs, one by one, paying careful attention to which could go and which were absolutely essential to my survival. You’d be surprised at what fell into which column, I’m sure. The end result, though, was a decrease of approximately half my original body weight, increasing my buoyancy in bathwater by more than 300% — which any engineer will tell you is true efficiency. One of the other truly ingenious things the brains of this operation thought to do was modify my vocal chords so that anything I try to say comes out like a squeak. Pure genius (he squeaked with genuine admiration)!

To report that my wife and daughter were impressed and appreciative would be only half true. My daughter was thrilled when her “Daddy Duck” was left on the doorstep of the house where we all used to live, together, as a happy family. She was still clapping her hands and squealing with delight even as my wife — my ex-wife, I should say — dragged her upstairs and into a bedroom, locking the door and screaming the whole time. It started to drizzle, but ducks like rain, so I just sat on the welcome mat until the police arrived, with an animal control specialist. When the effects of the tranquilizer wore off, I was in a child’s wading pool in a precinct stationhouse, and Doctor L was already there to collect me. (A tattoo on my underside identifies him as my veterinarian.) On the ride back to his office, he informed me that he had spoken with my ex-wife and explained the situation, and that she had calmed down considerably. The bad news is that my daughter doesn’t love ducks quite as much as she used to. She’s been growing ever fonder of frogs recently, but I shouldn’t be disheartened because he has a new plan. And he doesn’t think it will require removing my heart.

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