by Dave Fischer
"My Kingdom for another kingdom of equal or greater value!"
It was a dark and stormy night. The desert burned under the hot noontime sun, but I was stuck in my basement, soaking wet, trying to fix a broken water pipe, and my watch had stopped late last night.
So it was a dark and stormy night.
Physical contact with water hurts my skin, so even though I knew it was psychosomatic, emergency plumbing was a true misery. The view off my deck - an ocean of bubbling black goo as far as the eye could see - was the source of my hydrophobia. I am the proud owner of the Harmless Vapors Hotel overlooking the Salton Sea just south-east of Los Angeles. I had actually been paid a significant amount of cash to take over the property, on the premise that I would be doing a complete cleanup of the toxic waste & contaminated soil.
Instead, I opened the hotel back up for business.
The Salton Sea was created by accident in 1905 via river mismanagement and a few failed dikes. It lies in the middle of the Sonoran Desert, far below sea level, and as a terminal waterway, all of the water that flows in leaves via evaporation. This causes a continual buildup of the impurities that flow in with the water. Since the main source of water is the New River, flowing north from the heavily industrialized areas just over the border in Mexico, the Salton Sea has become, especially in the latter half of the 21st century, a toxic soup absolutely without peer.
Growing weary of the charade, the delusions of plumbing faded away and I went back upstairs to fix a myself a snack. Ten minutes later I was contentedly sipping coffee and eating a croissant out on my deck, in my charcoal suit & gas mask. I must have dozed off for a minute, because I was startled awake by the roaring engines of a UFO landing on the shore a few hundred feet away! Imagine my shock! They weren't supposed to be here until two! Running inside to put on another pot of coffee, I glanced at the clock and saw that it was twenty past two.
The aliens traveled great distances, at great personal risk, to trade with me. I sold them chemical weapons that were completely banned in their region of the galaxy, and which no one had used in many centuries. This gave them an immense advantage in the terrorist activities which they were using to set the stage for their upcoming coup d'etat.
I sold them barrels of Salton Sea water.
They in turn, gave me popular alien pop bands. I had accumulated quite a collection of them, and using the recording studio I had set up in the basement, I made a lot of money selling new releases back to the alien record companies.
A few minutes later I was pouring coffee for three aliens, who adressed me via a slightly incoherent and staticy automatic translation box.
Crackle: "The weapons are acceptable. Did you get the other books in the series that I requested?"
I pulled a few old, worn paperbacks from a box to show them the covers, and then handed them the box.
The aliens were extremely pleased. Aliens love Doc Savage. Go figure.
The translation box crackled again: "Any Robert Eeeeee Howard?"
"Not this time, sorry."
Angry crackling: "A pox upon your family! A pox upon your huminanoid race! A few simple simple few things I might want. I shall return in a month to wipe off forms of life this planet miserable!"
Yeah yeah yeah. "I'll get some Robert E. Howard. I know a book seller in San Diego that has some set aside for me, I just haven't had a chance to get over there."
Crackle: "Ok. Thank you."
And they left.
And all of my rugs had turned green.
When it first started many years ago, it was just a confusing oddity. I didn't pin down when my rugs were changing color for a while, and I'd ignore it, then finally change them when the color began to annoy me. Finally I tried to redo my interior design so that green would look nice, but this shade was just impossible to work with. It was a green that said: "Hello, fill up these pails with bent rusty nails, there's a good nephew.". I never found a wall color to match, so I stuck with Police Brutality Grey, which was always on sale.
Then, when I finally realized the colors changed after every visit of the aliens, I began my chemical analysis of them. Knowing very little about the aliens, any information would be useful.
So I kidnapped chemistry professors from various universities around the world, and kept them locked in my basement.
Ever try to keep a chemist prisoner? Very difficult. Chains corrode, handcuffs disolve, the air errupts into mustard gas when you walk in, birthday cakes always seem to be filled with poison...
And that's just when you've got them bolted to the wall.
I needed them working at a fully stocked wet lab!
But that has nothing to do with Hatestock.
Hatestock was my generation's Festival To End All Festivals.
Not the generation around me, not the generation of those simpering weasel-like human-faced rats that pointlessly cling to life in what little remains of the Earth's econosphere. Not the Bank Generation. No, when I say My Generation, I mean just me.
Hatestock was my generation's cultural peak. When we all (I) came together for music and fun, in a giant outdoor rock concert.
When I heard there were plans afoot for the seventy-third Woodstock reunion show, with a theme of "Hate", I immediately knew I could do better than whatever they were planning. It was perfect for me. So I blew up Yasgur farm, killed the animals, sowed the land with salt, and graciously offered my land & hotel to host the event.
Jeff, the promoter, was an old friend, and was initially suspicious.
"You're going to kill everyone."
"No I'm not. I just want to have a big show here."
"Do you promise not to kill anyone?"
"Woah woah woah. You said EVERYone, now it's ANYone?"
"Seriously. No killing the fans."
This was an unexpected turn of events. I wasn't sure what to say.
Jeff continued: "It's a perfectly normal request to make of an entertainment venue."
Whatever. "All right."
"I'll need that in writing."
"EVERYone, or ANYone?"
Jesus! Well, if this was holding things up, then fuck it. "Alright."
Jeff handed his phone over to his lawyer, and I turned on an endless-loop tape of intermittent "Yep."s and walked away. After a couple of hours, they had all the details worked out and the show was a go.
I never sent him anything in writing. Ha ha ha fucker.
I spend most evenings out on my deck, watching the sun set. To be safe, I had special glasses made with 1/2 inch thick lead lenses, and as my spinal neurons became accustomed to the energy tendrils over the years, I found I could watch almost the entire spectacle without any real lasting damage.
It was truly beautiful to behold. There was nothing else on earth that compared.
I had made a wise decision when I moved into this hotel. Everything about the surroundings wound up agreeing with me. It all seemed natural and neighborly, once it failed to kill me.
A little over ten miles away, along the southern shore, is the blind colony. Several hundred people eke out a living along the delta here, where the New River flows into the Salton Sea. They sing, they dance, they live off the land, and they tend to the eye beavers. Eye beavers are an endangered species found only in this section of the New River. They are the only species of beaver in the entire world to construct their dams using only human eyeballs, which they delicately pluck from the heads of sleeping babies.
In this section of the river, the surface has a noticable rise and fall as the river breathes, and if you're quick, you can run across the surface all the way to the other side. This should be done barefoot, as the rubber most shoe soles are made from bursts into flames on contact with the river surface.
It was like living in the middle of a giant amusement park. And now I had become the entertainment director! For the big day had arrived.
Today was Hatestock.
I had arranged for the trains to arrive in the big field out back where I had set up the stage, and the aliens to arrive out front by the shore. Both arrived on time, and for a few hours I was worn ragged running back and forth keeping track of both sets of guests.
As the Hatestock guests stumbled out of their packed cargo cars, they shielded their eyes from the bright sun and only slowly took in their new surroundings.
"OH GOD, WHERE ARE WE? WHAT IS THAT!"
Horrible faces and finger-pointing at my sea. Realizing they were all vulnerably drugged, I jumped on the PA:
"YOU ARE IN A BIG FRIENDLY FIELD OF ORGANIC PLANTS. THERE ARE BUNNIES FLYING THROUGH THE AIR. THERE IS NO TOXIC SEA, THAT'S JUST A BAD TRIP AND HANGUPS FROM YOUR PARENTS. YOU SHOULD BELIEVE THAT YOU'RE HAVING A GREAT TIME, OR YOU'LL FEEL LIKE YOU GOT RIPPED OFF."
That should do it.
I started wrapping up each audience member in barbed wire. When they would try to stop me, I'd simply explain: "We don't have enough fencing to surround the entire premises, so for your safety, we're individually securing each member of the audience. This is to protect you from wolves."
Surprisingly few of the audience even noticed.
The first band had finished their sound check by now, and by the way the lead singer's eye stalks were twitching, I could tell this was going to be one hell of a performance. They kicked it off with their latest big hit number, whose title has no pronouncable, printable, or comprehensable equivalent in any human language, and the crowd went wild.
Wandering around the site, I handled a few last-minute problems with the sound board and back stage handlers, and managed to kick back and enjoy a few bands.
Finally it was time to deal with the day's real business.
I gave the crowd one last look before heading back in to talk to the aliens. A two-headed fourth-generation acid tester was at the mic, trying to drum up support for the impromptu soup kitchen he and his cohorts had assembled.
"We're all feeding each other, man. Now, down at the Avian Flu Hog Farm Food Tent, we need some liver. So I want everyone to line up and donate an organ. It's free, man. Wait, I want to be first!"
And he jumped off the stage and disappeared into the crowd.
In the distance I could hear the echoing booms of explosions reverberating off of distant cliffs. There was a pack of rogue submarines living in the Salton Sea, and from time to time they like to shell the town to the west that's just out of their range. The town is shaped like a half-empty dog dish, and the submarines believe it was settled purely to tease them. Which it was.
It made a nice background for the alien acoustic-twee-pop that was now coming from the solo act onstage.
I went back inside to my waiting aliens.
"Let's go fishing."
The aliens did not understand at all, so after suiting up in protective gear, I led them down to the dock and pointed at my boat.
They still did not understand, so I led them aboard, and motored out a mile or two into the sea. Then I handed out fishing rods, and explained that we were out here to kill small marine creatures.
This, they could understand. Truly, murder is the universal language.
"Spare any change, mister?"
"Not today, sorry."
Now that was embarassing. Nothing like being harassed by the homeless while you're on an important business trip. The Salton Sea was known for its population of homeless scuba divers, but they usually stayed more towards the north coast, where guilt-wracked college kids were more likely to be on hand.
But the aliens knew this whole fishing thing was just a pretense for a sales pitch, and they didn't like wasting time.
Crackle, crackle: "You have new trade item an interesting?"
"Yes. You saw the crowds in back of my hotel?"
Crackle, crackle: "Yes. Many huminanoids. Much biomass."
"They're for sale. Want 'em?"
Crackle, crackle: "Crackle, crackle."
The aliens chattered amongst themselves for a bit.
Crackle, crackle: "You drive a very hard bargain, yes. We buy all the huminanoids. Take away in nets. Make very good toothpaste."
"Great. What do you offer in trade?"
The aliens chattered amongst themselves for a longer bit.
And they made me an offer, there in the middle of the Salton Sea, that made me the happy man that I am to this day.
We fished for a little bit longer, but the glares I was getting from the younger submarines had me worried, and I decided to end the fishing expedition a little early. We headed back to the hotel, and the aliens rounded up all the audience members in big nets and took them away in their UFOs.
They had their toothpaste, and I had my (sound of tearing wrapping paper) BALL OF TWINE THE SIZE OF MY HEAD, IF MY HEAD WAS JUST SLIGHTLY SMALLER!
And that's how the story of the greatest outdoor rock festival to ever take place ends.
With a great big smile!