Physical Humor is a Dying Medium

A SciFi Short Story Written By Gustavo Bondoni

Physical Humor is a Dying Medium

by Gustavo Bondoni

 

Gustavo Bondoni is a novelist and short story writer with over four hundred stories published in fifteen countries, in seven languages.  He is a member of Codex and a Full Member of SFWA. He has published six science fiction novels including one trilogy, four monster books, a dark military fantasy and a thriller. His short fiction is collected in Pale Reflection (2020), Off the Beaten Path (2019), Tenth Orbit and Other Faraway Places (2010) and Virtuoso and Other Stories (2011).

In 2019, Gustavo was awarded second place in the Jim Baen Memorial Contest and in 2018 he received a Judges Commendation (and second place) in The James White Award. He was also a 2019 finalist in the Writers of the Future Contest.

His website is at www.gustavobondoni.com

More TTTV stories by Gustavo Bondoni: https://talltaletv.com/tag/gustavo-bondoni/

 

Large men in suits led him through endless stark grey corridors and past seven different security checkpoints. Nothing would ever penetrate this facility.

Finally, they sat him down in a small room with a table and two chairs in it.

“Do you have any idea how much trouble you’re in?” a harassed-looking man asked Edgar earnestly.

“That image doesn’t break a single U.S. law.”

“Perhaps, but there’s the fact that you hacked into NASA’s Deep Space Network.”

Edgar shrugged. “They weren’t using all the bandwidth. I just borrowed some. I needed a reliable and powerful comm system.”

“We have a colony on Mars that depends on that working correctly. Do you know how many lives you put in jeopardy?”

“I had it under control.”

“You hijacked,” the man looked down at the top sheet of a pile of paper on his desk, “forty-seven cubesats to build the image.”

“Well, when one has to locate and move a thousand pieces of space junk, you need a lot of helping hands. Every one of them belonged to a company that went broke after their IPOs failed or whatever. I didn’t use anything owned by anyone.”

The other man sighed. “Well, your legal issues are the least of your problems.” He shuffled the papers and pushed one towards Edgar. “This is a request that you be extradited to Angola. They want to have you shot through the lungs. Here’s another one: a holy man in Guatemala has ordered his followers to kill you on sight.” He shuffled the papers. “Here’s a fatwah sentencing you to death issued in… hmm… I didn’t know there were Muslims in Bolivia. Live and learn. This pile is basically all fatwahs.” He pushed over a stack of paper.

“This one is from a Rabbi in Warsaw. He isn’t actively calling for your death but I’d watch out for golems if you happen to be in Eastern Europe. Or in Brooklyn for that matter.”

“Look, it’s just a piece of artwork. I don’t understand what everyone is so worked up about.”

“You built an explicit picture of two people engaged in intercourse a hundred miles wide that can be seen shining in the sky from anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere—”

“Bolivia isn’t in the Northern Hemisphere. Angola… I’m not actually sure about Angola.”

“Anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere,” the man insisted doggedly, “and you didn’t expect people to be offended? Our best estimate is that you offended… everyone.”

Edgar replied sullenly, looking more like a sullen teenager than the most wanted man on the planet. “They said I wouldn’t be able to do it.”

“Maybe you should have listened to them.” He handed Edgar another piece of paper. This one had an ornate header. “This one is from the Vatican. They don’t state their intentions regarding you, but I doubt the Pope wants you for tea. I hear they still have a bunch of stuff left over from the inquisition. Here’s one from the Feminist League of Berlin – they want your nuts for objectifying women.”

“All right. I get the picture. I’ll have to stay in the US.”

“You’ll probably want to stay away from Texas, Alabama, Georgia… Don’t cross the Mason-Dixon Line if you can help it. Also, stay out of Minnesota.”

“Minnesota?”

“Yeah. They’ve decided to give you a Viking funeral there, with or without the benefit of being dead. And that’s just the people who’ve notified us of their intentions in writing. Between us, I’d say that you should probably consider relocating to either San Francisco or Las Vegas. Anywhere else, you’re toast.” He shuffled the papers again. “Here’s a porn production company that wants you for violating their copyright.”

“Can’t you put me in the witness protection program?”

“To be honest, there’s a number of people in the government who called me to see if I could arrange an accident for you. Do you really want to be where no one knows your name?”

“It wasn’t even that dirty. Just standard guy on girl. I based it off of a still image from Deep Throat. That’s considered a classic, isn’t it?”

“Son, I have no idea what’s considered a classic in your circles. If you’d asked me, I’d have recommended a scene from It’s a Wonderful Life. Maybe Bambi.”

Edgar looked confused. Bambi Woods? From Debbie—”

“No,” the man replied, cutting off any further information about Bambi woods that might have been forthcoming. “Bambi the deer. From Disney.”

“Oh. So what am I looking at? Jail time? The gas chamber? Give it to me straight.”

“I’m letting you go. You’ll have to appear in front of the judge for hacking into the Deep Space Network. You’re probably facing a fine for that one, maybe some community service. The judges I’ve spoken to about this all agree that the first circuit court judge will probably sentence you to death, but it won’t hold up on appeal. The Supreme Court would definitely overturn it if it comes to that.”

The defendant looked stunned. “I’ll be caught up in court for ages.”

“Well, you have to admit it was a pretty boneheaded stunt to pull.”

“Boneheaded? Have you got any idea how much technical skill went into creating that and making it so no one on the ground could turn it off? Just getting the right reflection angles was my PhD dissertation.”

The man sighed. “And have you got any clue how much it’s going to cost us to clean this up? Things are hard enough on American taxpayers without adding this to their burden, don’t you think?”

“Why would we have to clean it up?”

“Because if not, no other government on Earth will ever speak to us again. And I hear the Mars colony is laughing so hard they’re in danger of running out of oxygen.”

Edgar smiled. “Well, at least someone gets it.”

“Oh, they’re not alone in that. The Russians and the Chinese are getting a huge kick out of it. So are the Europeans, unofficially, of course. Officially, they’re ‘concerned and monitoring the situation’, but you know they just have to be loving this. Oh, and Cuba has offered you exile if you want to take it. The sooner we get it fixed, the better.”

“So use my cubesats. Some of them still have fuel in them and you just have to disrupt a few pieces of the composition to break it up. I can probably do it for free in a couple of days.”

The man looked offended. “That’s not how the government of the United States of America works, son. We will send the problem to the correct Congressional Committees and involve NASA as soon as possible. We’ll need the right equipment and personnel, of course.”

“That’s going to be a bureaucratic nightmare of the highest magnitude.”

“But at the end of it, no one will be able to claim we didn’t go through the proper channels or consider all the alternatives. That is the important bit.” He paused. “And besides, I have a feeling that pushing things around, even in space, is union work. If we don’t involve them, we’ll never hear the end of it. Now get out of here.”

“I don’t understand. Why did you even bother to bring me in here? I mean this looks like the president’s bomb shelter or something.”

“Mostly because I didn’t want you to get hurt.”

“Hurt?” Edgar looked around. “I’m sorry to tell you this, but the average man on the street doesn’t know who I am or what I look like. The photos in the news show me with a beard. Unless I do something moronic like run to Angola to avoid paying the fine for the NASA bandwidth, I’m perfectly safe. You didn’t need to bring me to the most secure location in America. Any police station would have been fine.”

The man replied through clenched teeth. “I was trying to protect you from us. I have a seven year old girl who asks me, night after night, what the thing in the sky means, what those people are doing, and night after night, I lie to her.”

“How does locking me in a room alone with you protect me, then?”

“This room is six stories underground. The nearest window is a ten minute walk away.”

Edgar stood. “I guess I understand.”

“I’m glad you do. The guards who brought you in will show you out.”

“All right.” Hand on the doorknob, Edgar hesitated. “Just one last thing. This fine… do you think it will be a big one? I’d rather not have to pay too much.”

The government man hit him, just once, in the gut, and Edgar smiled.

“What’s so funny?”

“I never thought I’d get to suffer for my art. Move over Van Gogh!”

“Get out of here or I’ll show you what it means to suffer.”

Still grinning, Edgar left the room. Muffled curses followed him down the hall.

The guards led him roughly out of the building and essentially tossed him out into the night.

After the man’s warnings, Edgar half-expected an angry crowd to be waiting to tear him apart. Instead, the door opened into an empty parking lot.

He looked up and smiled. The huge image blinked down on him and he looked up at it for a long time. Did they truly not see the beauty in the arch of her back, in the noble thrusting of the male protagonist?

He shook his head.

Philistines.

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