A vortex opened. Remmy emerged, crashing to the ground and rolling twice. When he took his first breath the pain hit deep in his lungs. Then his skin began to blister and peel. The Seer's words rang in his ears ("...instantly killed ...") as he screamed out in agonizing pain. In the two seconds before he lost his vision he saw that the world he had emerged on was burning. It was a nuclear inferno. He'd landed in the middle of Armageddon.|
They must have nuked the 'maggs ...
Before he could finish the thought, Remmy's body failed and he died just as The Seer had predicted all of them would if they Slid home.
"Well, that was amusing." Li Tieguai declared, and laughed a deep belly laugh to prove it.
"Only because you won." Cao Guojiu snapped.
Li Tieguai laughed again. "I always win. Ha ha ha ha!"
Lan Caihe yawned loudly. "I don't know why we had to keep watching after Quinn died. The game had been decided. What was the point of dragging it out?"
"He wanted to see how long his hero could survive. How much he could endure." Zhong-Li Quan explained disdainfully.
Li Tieguai continued to laugh. "And he surpassed all of your expectations. Admit it! Ha ha ha ha ha!"
Lu Dongbin looked up from his magical sword, which he had been regarding with affection. "You picked well, First One."
"I always pick well! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!"
He Xiangu was annoyed. "Would you stop your boasting? You sound like an old woman braying over her grandchilden!"
The seven others laughed, even Lu Tieguai.
Han Xiang finally broke in with a question. "What became of the three replacements?"
Lu Tieguai produced a vial filled with a chalky yellow substance and cast it to the ground to create a smoke cloud. From the smoke emerged a toneless voice.
"None of them Slid again. Maggie died in the French war of 2010. Diana and Mallory married and had two children. Diana died of a heart attack in 2035 and Mallory died in his sleep three months later. Their children, named Quinn and Wade lived-."
"Enough! We don't want the history of all humanity you blistering idiot!" Quan interrupted as he plucked a peach from a tree that had not been beside his easy chair a second ago. "So, what shall we do now for entertainment?"
Tieguai checked his Rolex Oyster Perpetual. The Rolex company would have been stunned to see the modifications on this particular time piece, particularly the 'Stop Time' button. "Some more interesting people will be born in 50 or 60 years. Let's watch 'I Love Lucy' reruns until then. Dongbin, if you please."
Dongbin waved a hand and a huge projection screen TV appeared. The Eight Immortals gathered close and soon were laughing hysterically.
"I'm bored." Xiangu complained for the 1,567th time this century.
Tieguai looked up from his 64 squares to a row chessboard. "Not more of your complaints, woman."
"I can't help it! We haven't had a good group to gamble on since the Sliders!"
Guolao sighed. "Them? That was 678 years ago. Drop it, already." He moved six chess pieces and snickered at Xiangu. "Your move, mendicant."
Xiangu laughed. "You pitiful fool. Checkmate in under 1,000 moves! Ha ha ha ha ha!"
Guolao took a moment to survey the board and saw the First One was correct. "Rabbit dung! I resign."
"I'm bored." Xiangu complained.
Tieguai looked up from a Monopoly board the size of a swimming pool. "Curse the spirit who led you to immortality! Get a job or something! Ha ha ha ha ha ha! Yeah, that's it! A job! Ha ha ha ha ha!"
"I miss the Sliders. They were so much fun to watch. They endured more than any of the punks we've wasted time on since!"
"Why do you insist on talking about people 2,000 years dead? There have only been 17 trillion people to live and die since!" Guolao rolled the dice and moved his shoe piece 24 squares. The last square was a owned by Xiangu. Hotels, malls, high rise office buildings, and an airport had been built on this particular square.
"You owe me sixteen billion dollars. Ha ha ha ha ha ha!"
Guolao sighed and reached for his stack of $20 bills and began counting them out as he added, go watch 'I Love Lucy' or something."
"I'm bor-." Xiangu began.
"All RIGHT! ALL RIGHT! I can't take it any more!" Guolao screamed, tossing aside 24 card poker hand and jumping up from the table. "What will it take to get you to shut the fornicate up?!?"
Xiangu smiled sweetly, as if knowing that sooner or later her persistence was going to pay off. "Bring them back so that we can play with them again. Only you can do this."
Tieguai looked up, eyes brightening. "What a novel idea! I get Remmy again! Ha ha ha ha ha!"
"I get Arturo again!" Quan piped in from his peach feast.
"I get Wade again." Xiangu said quickly.
"That leaves me with the donkey's bottom Quinn." Guolao replied snidely. "I won't do it. None of them come back unless I get someone better than him. Give me Remmy this time."
"Not on your Immortal life! Ha ha ha ha ha ha!"
Quan snorted. "Quit your whining, my man went out first in one of the lamest ways to die of any hero we've wagered on. Still I take him again, because I believe in him."
"We want in this time. Give us the other four." Caihe pleaded. "I'll take Maggie."
"I'll take Diana." Dongbin put in quickly.
Han Xiang spoke right behind his mentor. "Mallory for me!"
Guojiu tossed his tablet down in frustration. "Gods be damned! That leaves me with the pig's anus himself! Colin! He lived the shortest of all eight of them! He'll fall down a well three weeks in! I hate all seven of you!"
Tieguai grinned at Guolao. "We've chosen then. Raise them, my friend. Raise them from the dead and let us play. The last to live wins! Ha ha ha ha ha ha!"
The Eight Immortals gathered closer to their viewing pond and watched as eight people appeared in a dark, foreboding castle.
"What shall imperil them?" Dongbin asked curiously.
Tieguai laughed loudly. "I have created a demented mass murderer and placed the
David Peckinpah opened his bloodshot eyes. He could hear murmuring downstairs in the greeting chamber of his castle. Who dared violate his sanctum? He jumped to his feet and went to his wardrobe. He selected his best killing robe and wrapped it around him. Whoever it was would pay a high price.
Next he went to his weapon's wardrobe. Hmmmm. Hatchet? Sword? Crossbow? Butcher knife so nasty it would make Crocodile Dundee's legs weak? Then his eyes fell on the perfect weapon. He selected it with sweet anticipation.
Peckinpah grinned maniacally. A very high price indeed.
Quinn, Wade, Remmy, and Professor Arturo blinked and looked around. Maggie, Colin, Diana, and Mallory blinked and looked around from six feet away.|
Arturo felt his chest and then rubbed the back of his neck.
Quinn and Mallory felt their heads as if they had headaches.
Wade rubbed her neck.
Colin's eyes happened across a mirror hanging on the wall next to him and he jumped back.
Remmy took a deep breath, as if glad to be able to breathe without pain.
Quinn turned to Wade and embraced her warmly. "Thank god you're alive!" That broke the tension and everyone was moving and talking at the same time. Remmy was hugging Quinn and Wade. Quinn was hugging Arturo. Maggie was rushing to Quinn to hug him and then Remmy. Colin rushed to hug Quinn. Maggie turned and hugged Colin. Wade and Maggie glared at each other.
Mallory turned to Diana. "We're in our 20's again!
She was surprised. "Then that really happened? I was standing here trying to reconcile the memories."
"Yes it happened." Someone said from behind them. "All of it happened, and all of you have been reborn."
"What is this?" Guolao snapped. "How did SHE get there?"
Xiangu laughed. "She's served us well over the eons. And I like her ... shall we say ... style. Ha ha ha ha ha ha!"
"This isn't fair, including this bitch." Xiangu complained.
Tieguai glanced at her and resumed laughing.
The servants entered with the wine.
Guolao smacked his lips. "At last, a reason to continue to exist. Maybe if I get drunk enough I won't mind when my robin dropping of a champion dies first."
The eight Sliders turned to see a young woman. She wore a thick long sleeved sweater and a mini skirt so short that if she leaned backwards two inches they would be able to see everything. She wore nothing on her feet. She was attractive but painfully skinny except for her forearms. Her forearms were thicker than her biceps and almost as thick as her thighs. The rest of her body was skin and bones.
"You have been resurrected by the Eight Immortals for their amusement." She said in a soft voice. She spoke without emotion, as if she cared little for them or their predicament.
"The Eight Immortals?" Arturo asked, fumbling with his memory. "From Daoist mythology?"
"They founded Daoism, yes."
"But, they fought evil. They were good. And when they weren't fighting evil they were getting drunk. They are often called the Eight Drunken Immortals." Arturo protested.
The woman shrugged. "Some of them are on the wagon these days. And they all stopped smoking a couple thousand years ago. You'd be surprised how quickly people turn evil when fighting cigarette addiction."
Quinn shoehorned in a more practical question. "So who are you?"
"I'm not immortal but I've lived a long time. For the past couple millennia I've lived on this island by myself. Oh, I see those looks. Yes, we are on an isolated island on a dead parallel Earth. This 20,000 square foot castle is the only structure on the planet. I was a tribal priestess on an undeveloped world but was banished here when I fell out of favor with one of the Immortals."
"Do you have a name?" Mallory asked flirtatiously.
She controlled her disgust. "My name is Silfluv but you can call me Silfie." She turned and began walking. "I have no wish to stand here talking. You have free run of the castle, I do not own it. See you around."
Quinn had no intention of letting her get away this easily. He followed her. The other Sliders followed without hesitation. "You've been alone here for thousands of years? What do you do to pass the time?" He asked to keep the dialogue open.
"Please tell me there's a TV here." Remmy begged in vain.
"I take a lot of hot bubble baths. And the rest of the time I mostly stayed in this living room." She told them as she unwillingly led the Sliders into an expansive living room. The floor was covered with a plush imitation yellow trimmed carpet. At least a dozen soft looking oval easy chairs were spread out across the room, a pink telephone on the end table next to each one. On each easy chair was a stuffed kitty. There was one wing backed couch in the center of the room. In front of the couch was an ellipsoidal cocktail table. In the center of the table was a massive book, at least a foot thick. When they got closer they could see the title, "Dancing for the Ages, Volume 26. 1,000,000 ways to do the 2 fingered tango." Another stuffed cat was on the couch but this one was mysteriously shaved. The only other decoration in the room were two nautical paintings hanging on the far wall. The first was of a little man in a boat. The second one was of a tuna boat in a wide blue ocean under a pink predawn sky. The room's light came from oval sunken holes in the ceiling. Next to the door was another table on which several decanters of dark liquids and a tray of muffins sat.
"This looks like a delightful place to spend your time," Arturo said as he grabbed several muffins. "Mmmmm, cherry, my favorite."
Maggie ran to an easy chair and plopped down in it. "I LOVE this room!"
Wade and Diana exchanged uncomfortable glances. "Um, do you mind if we explore the rest of the castle? I only saw Diana briefly when I was ... so I wouldn't mind talking to her."
Silfie shrugged as she draped herself on the couch. "You do not need my permission. I already told you that you have free reign." She pulled a pink pearl necklace from underneath her sweater and began playing with it with her long fingers.
"What did you mean when you said that the Immortals revived us for their amusement?" Quinn asked as the two women left.
Maggie was dialing "O" on Silfie's pink telephone but to no avail. "This phone doesn't work."
Silfie chose to answer Maggie. "None of them do. They are part of the décor. I also already told you that we are the only beings on this planet. Exactly who did you intend to call?"
Maggie blushed but couldn't come up with a plausible explanation or even a face saving retort.
Quinn repeated his question, a little testily.
Silfie spared him a sneer. "I'm not your answering machine. Anything I answer I do so by choice."
"Forgive the child, madam." Arturo said smoothly. "If there is anything you can tell us about our situation we would all be most appreciative." He grinned. "Including me."
Their host rolled her eyes. "Explore. Look around. This is a massive castle. Perhaps you can find something of use or at least of explanation." She kicked a leg over the back of the couch. "It's time for my nap. Maybe I'll feel like answering more questions later."
Arturo checked his watch. If it was correct, and he had no reason to believe it wouldn't be because it had been created along with the rest of him, then it was barely 9:30am. Time for her nap? But he said, "of course, my dear."
"Oh, there's a CD player under the drink table. Can one of you put in my Johnny Mathis CD?"
"That woman gives me the creeps." Wade confided.
Diana agreed. "So did that room. I can't put my finger on it, but something about that room made me feel bothered."
They had found a library and were looking through the magazines. "They never have any new magazines in these places." Wade griped. "This edition of People magazine is so old it has an interview with Jesus Christ in it."
Diana chuckled dutifully and wandered to the reference section.
Suddenly the door behind them slammed shut. When they turned they saw a crazed looking weasel of a man. His expression reminded Wade of a jackrabbit high on spoiled carrots. His right hand was behind his back. "Hello ladies." He growled.
Before they could reply he brought his hand from around his back and show his perfect weapon to them.
Both women screamed in horror.
"YES!" Quan shouted joyfully. "Arturo will not be the first to die this time! Moist excellent!"
"May your wine sour in your belly until it stinks like fish brine." Dongbin cursed. "I can't believe Diana shall die first."
Xiangu sighed with resignation. "Perhaps this time Wade will at least keep her head.
"I don't see Remmy in the library! Ha ha ha ha ha ha!"
"I thought you would find this horrific." The man said with a malevolent grin. He was holding a VHS copy of 'Freddy Got Fingered.'|
"AHHHHHHH!" Wade screamed. "Get that away from me!"
"Get it away from me too!" Diana agreed with a screech.
The man suddenly realized what he was holding and looked down with surprise. "Oh, sorry, I meant to grab my knife but this was next to it. I was going to watch this masterpiece again after I killed everyone." He blushed. "This is so embarrassing. I'll go get my perfect weapon and be right back. Sorry." He left through a back door.
Wade, dizzy, grabbed a bookcase. "I would have much preferred a knife. What an >:-#."
Diana took Wade's arm. "Come on, let rejoin the others."
Dongbin and Xiangu stood up simultaneously and raised their arms above their heads. "YES! They didn't die!!"
Dongbin grabbed his waist with both hands and started swinging his hips. "Go Diana! Go Diana! It's your birthday! Go Diana!"
"This murderer sucks like a starving anteater. He had both of them cold!" Quan protested bitterly. "It's going to be Arturo first again, I just know it. He's deader than a Jewish pig roasting restaurant on a Saturday night!"
Tieguai drained his wine glass and snapped his finger for it to be refilled. "Ha ha ha ha ha! That's pretty dead! As for this incompetent buffoon of a murderer, I'm giving him one more chance before I blow him up. Ha ha ha ha ha!"
"I can't believe this place. It seems to go on forever." Colin remarked. He, Quinn, and Mallory had gone off together. They had a lot to talk about and felt an immediate affinity for each other.
"How much of your life before this do you remember?" Quinn asked suddenly as they rose yet another flight of stairs, their eleventh.
"I remember everything, up to when you arrived on the world to find me, with perfect clarity. The following year with you is less clear. I remember it but it doesn't feel as real. Almost as if I had watched it happen to someone else." Colin told them.
"It's the same with me." Mallory admitted. "Up to the point where you and I merged, I remember it clearly. After that it is a lot more foggy."
"It's the same for me. My memories are clear up to the point where we arrived on the world where The Professor died. This is all very difficult for me to accept." Quinn told them. "And the clarity/nonclarity aspect of our memories makes me wonder if this is some sort of trick by someone. The Kromaggs, perhaps."
"It's possible." Colin responded. "But there's not a whole lot we can do about it. We can be cautious and prepared for anything, but we can only deal with what is in front of us."
Directly in front of them leaped a
Colin raised his eyebrows in his best Spock imitation. "How exactly does one 'prepare' to die?"
"Colin shall get it first! Ha ha ha ha ha ha!"
Guojiu threw his wine glass against a far wall. "I knew that pig's anus was the worst choice! Why did I hesitate to pick while you others leaped on choices like rabid ferrets chasing green snakes through sugar cane fields?"
Quinn had a better question. "Why are you naked from the waist down?"
Peckinballs looked down in dismay, then blushed again. "Well, I went back to get my perfect weapon and I had to use the bathroom and I was in such a hurry to come back and kill you all that ... um ... I'll be right back." He turned and ran.
Guojiu cheered. "Even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while! Colin lives! Yay!"
Tieguai glowered. "I have lost my laughter and thus my patience with this bumbling inept numskull who couldn't kill a retarded paraplegic field mouse!" He cupped his right hand downward and jerked it up suddenly.
The running halfnaked man was twenty feet from them when he suddenly exploded, coating the walls with blood and gore which glistened briefly and then faded slowly until it was gone. The three Sliders looked at each other.
"While you were talking before that nut appeared, I was thinking you're an idiot." Mallory told Colin. "But I'm starting to see that you're right. We'd be better off dealing with things moment to moment."
Satisfied with the extinction of the inadequate murderer, Tieguai picked up a book the size of an 18 wheeler trailer. On the cover, in 12 feet high letters, were the words "The Complete Book of Villains." Below, in smaller, more hesitant letters, was added, 'Volume One.' "I shall find someone who will kill them most pleasingly! Ha ha ha ha ha!"
Professor Arturo and Remmy had discovered a billiard room and were playing a game. To Remmy's utter shock, Arturo was beating him like millions want to beat the scriptwriter of Tim Burton's "Planet of the Apes."
"Damn, where did you learn to play like this?"
"You'd be surprised what you start doing to occupy the years when you're left behind by your friends."
"Aw, man, you're going to start in with the guilt trip?" Remmy asked plaintively. "Come on, if we'd known it wasn't you with us we'd have found a way to come back for you. But we didn't-."
"This is boring, let's look in on Maggie! Ha ha ha ha!" Tieguai said abruptly as he waved a hand. The scene changed to a view of Maggie sitting by herself in the kitchen, consuming an entire vat of peaches and cream yogurt. She looked lonely and a little depressed to have been left by herself.
"Ah yes, this is much more entertaining." Han Xiang snapped.
"Wait a minute. What did he say? WHAT WAS HE SAYING?" Quan demanded, shoving aside ripe fruit and wine glasses.
"Some drivel about billiards. It matters as little as toe fungus matters to fleas. Ha ha ha ha!" Tieguai replied causally.
Quan got up and stormed to another, smaller viewer.
"I've decided who the real killer shall be. Ha ha ha ha ha! This will be fun!"
Maggie returned from the freezer with a fresh vat.
"Don't worry about them, I'll take care of them." Someone said from the doorway. "I'll take care of them all and then you and I can finally be alone together."
Maggie looked up and her face brightened when she saw who it was.
Shannen Doherty stood in the doorway holding a whip. She was dressed in black latex.|
"Shannon! I've always loved you! You've been my hero since I was a little girl!" Maggie gushed. "I always knew I would grow up to be as big a bitch as you! Go get 'em tiger!"
Shannen grinned and departed with a swish of her hips.
Maggie stuffed another vat of yogurt down her gullet, wondering if she should have sicced the Bitch Goddess From Hell on her friends. Then that thought was replaced with a wonder if there was any Code Red in the fridge. That stuff was Cherrylicious.
"That's no excuse to leave me behind and never look for me!" Arturo raged, sinking another combination shot.
Remmy rolled his eyes. "How much longer are you going to bitch about it? I said I was sorry! Sorry! A thousand times sorry!"
Arturo smirked. "I've got you, the King of Complaining, asking someone ELSE to stop complaining. That is punishment enough."
The door shattered open. Shannen Doherty strode through, her latex gleaming like a new speed boat. She cracked her authentic Indiana Jones replica bullwhip and grinned at them both. "Did someone say 'bitch?'" She asked balefully.
"Arturo's going to die first! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! While he is being beaten like an 'Enterprise' scriptwriter, Remmy will be able to leisurely stroll away. There is no way Arturo can outrun Remmy! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!"
"Not so fast!" Quan said, his eyes burning with millennia old rage. "You cheating doglicker! You overgleeful, hyena laughing, grape quaffing, pole humping, Toyota driving, NERFHERDER!"
The silence was complete. For the first time in at least a million years Tieguai was speechless.
Quan was slobbering with rage as he advanced. "You double crossing, hockey liking, cowlick having, beach crab eating, spotted owl tongue kissing, leaf licking, mendicant! You cheating, scumsucking, cooked spaghetti spine having, water boweled dirtbag! I'm going to pull your hair down to your ass and tie a fonging KNOT!!"
Tieguai finally found his voice. "Quan, that wasn't the last shrimp I just consumed. There is another basket of them in the fridge. Look behind the cottage cheese. That's probably why you missed it. I don't know why we still have that cottage cheese, no one eats it! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!"
"Oh, so we're going to play innocent, are we?" He turned to the others. "THE WRONG ARTURO SLID! Can anyone tell me what this means?"
Han Xiang broke the silence. "Um, that QBall79 can finally find another cause?"
"No, but thank you for that helpful guess, dullard. Any other moronic guesses?" Quan sprayed.
Guojiu snorted. "It means that one of the other Sliders is more incompetent than Colin. Whew! At least Colin always made the Slide. Until he was turned into Scooby Snacks by Dr. Geiger, that is.
"It MEANS," Quan yelled, "that the original Arturo, the one I bet on, LIVED LONGER THAN EVERYONE ELSE! He outlasted Remmy by 14 years! I just looked it up! We all thought that the original Arturo died on Maggie's world but it was not he who died, it was his evil twin! Which means that I WON THE SMEGGING WAGER and this giggling oaf let me think for all these eons that I had lost!" He reached for Tieguai. "I hope your hair will fit up your-."
Tieguai raised a staying hand. "Are you trying to say that Arturo lived the longest?"
"YES!!!!! I just heard them talking about it! And then I looked it up in the hall of records!"
Tieguai dried his face with one sleeve. "Then we have a disputed wager. We didn't negotiate any Slider switching before we made the wager. We assumed there would be none."
Quan looked confused. "What do you propose we do about it?"
"We have go back and do it again! And get it right this time! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!"
Dongbin cursed. "Aw man. Time travel? I don't know if I can handle disco a second time around!"
Quan looked pleased at a chance to win outright. "Very well. Rack it up. Let's do it again."
Dongbin reconsidered. "Well, at least this gives them another chance to reach Perfection, does it not?
"And we all get to wager this time! Yay!"
Shannen was straddling Arturo, her long legs wrapped around his upper chest and her hands wrapped around his neck. His hands flailed uselessly against her breasts and arms. Remmy approached from behind her with a chair. Arturo waved his friend off. "No thanks!" He squeaked. "I've got control of the situation!"
Remmy gave Shannen an admiring glance. "I'll bet you do."
Shannen disappeared. Arturo cursed and sat up. He looked around, spied a ball towel lying under the pool table, grabbed it and put it in his lap. His expression was glum.
"She would have killed you, man."
"I know that!" Arturo snapped. "But if you had the choice of dying with HER on top of you or being run over by an elephant, or Rosie O'Donnell for that matter, which line would you be in?"
"You have a point." Remmy agreed as they both disappeared.
Maggie had turned a yogurt vat upside down and was watching it rush toward her mouth when she disappeared. The yogurt passed through the space she had just occupied and splattered the chair she had been sitting in. The vat landed on top a second later.
"So the doctor inspects him and then says, 'My god man, your finger's broken!" Mallory was saying.
The other two burst out laughing. "You're a lot funnier when other people write your material." Colin gushed between giggles. They disappeared before Mallory's slapping hand reached him.
"So you see," Wade explained, "I wasn't refusing to come out of my trailer, the damn door was stuck! All this time people have thought I was a prima donna when it was all a result of an improperly sized door that gets stuck when it gets cold."
Diana dwelled on that for a second and then nodded. "I agree, men are pigs."
Wade frowned. Before she could ask Diana what flavor of CRACK she was on ... they both disappeared.
Silfluv appeared in the kitchen several hours later to get some bananas and crème. She glared at the mess on the chair and floor. She raised her voice, "thanks a lot you bastards! Just vanish people in mid gluttony and leave the mess for me to clean up! No problem!" Irritated, she decided to retire to the hot tub for another couple hours.
Quinn suddenly sat up in bed. He glanced at the alarm clock as it went off.
"Morning Bay Area. Spaceman here." The radio said. "Shatterin' your sleep with the truth and nothing but."
Quinn rubbed his eyes wearily. "Jesus God." He muttered. "I think I'd rather be trapped in that nitwit's head than listen to THIS moron." He frowned, wondering why he'd said that or what it meant. Within ten minutes, by the time he was bantering with his mother, he had forgotten all about it.