“Why did Mormon missionaries think hippos could survive in Alaska?”
There was one in every group. Don’t get me wrong, I love teaching. Being able to sculpt young minds, to teach, to shape the next generation of leaders, has always been the cornerstone of a healthy society. Because children are our future — unless we stop them now.
“You givin’ me lip, boy-o?”
The inquisitive pledge clammed up. “No, sir.”
“No sir, sir. Didn’t they teach you manners in Anchorage?”
Being an adjunct at an unaccredited university has its perks. I can have as many parking spaces as I want, and I have full discretion over campus funds, which I’ve already used to lease as many cars as there are parking spaces.
Someday I’ve got to learn to drive.
“Sir,” a brown-nosing freshman began, “sir, I doubt anyone who lived through the famine of ’79 will question the wisdom of those missionaries. A single hippo can last a family of four at least a month.” He smiled smugly.
“Excellent grasp of state history…” I ran my finger over the roster, since I didn’t recognize the fellow (but he had the most familiar burning red eyes!).
“Sandrew. Sandrew Darckloud.” He smiled again. “State history is a specialty of mine. Though, I was hoping to learn more about this secret society of yours…”
“The history of Flash Boom AHHH! is fraught with subtleties and intrigue.” This was the answer I usually gave to get them hooked, but for some reason it just made everyone tense. The crowd roared like it was going to tear me apart!
My heart shot up into my throat. Danger. My life was in immediate danger. If not for my rippling muscles, I would have been afraid.
“Where does the name come from?” Sandrew asked. The others either nodded vigorously or shouted in agreement. Some had clenched fists.
“Enoch Boom was one of the Mormon missionaries. In 1948, he convinced the church elders to dispatch one thousand hippopotamuses from the Salt Lake to Alaska, to ween the native peoples onto an animal ‘closer to God than the whale’. The elders thought he was crazy, of course — they just wanted him gone. So he set out along the Rockies with a caravan of true believers and two frigidaires full o’ vittles.”
A spry girl with three pigtails and a “Maverick-U” jersey started hopping around me menacingly: “Did he found Maverick University?! Why isn’t our mascot a hippo?!”
I coughed. They were all staring at me with bulging eyes; I backed up against the fridge that had sat in this office for nearly 60 years.
“No…” They looked ready to pounce, “Maverick University was already here, but back then it was Seward University, after William Seward, the Secretary of State who bought Alaska from the Russians for a bottle of wine and two beads… it was renamed ‘Maverick University’ in 1972, right after Senator Stevens got that huge campaign contribution from Maverick™ Pharmacologicals.”
I wrapped my hand around the crowbar that had been tucked away under the fridge since the great freak-out of ’86.
“But Enoch Boom did come here, to get climate charts from the most learn-ed climatologists of the far north… for the hippo habitats, you see. It was here that he met (and was enthralled by) Geraldine Flash.”
One guy was grinding his teeth so hard, you could see the enamel flying off in torrents of debris. The others followed suit.
“Flash was from a long line of pyrotechnic experts and craftsmen, but had opted for a career in climatology — although that was a mere cover for her secret ambitions. Geraldine Flash was in fact the first woman to be a member of The Brotherhood of Mesmerism, the precursor to Canada’s more militant Black Cheddarist hypnotist movement. There was no official bar against women, but the organization had a strictly observed unibrow provision (§38, BOM Charter).”
Flipping out a lighter, I set the crowbar aflame and shook it at the pledges. They backed up, some hissing in anger.
“Her job was to subliminally prepare Alaskans for Canadian occupation. This was back when Canada was a virtual superpower, mind you. But ’twas not to be, for Geraldine Flash had fallen deeply in love with Enoch Boom.”
I smiled wistfully. “They met in secret and shared their visions of a perfect world. Realizing they couldn’t rebuild a ‘society bereft of gutter crags’ alone, they dragged in some of Boom’s acolytes and Flash’s graduate students. That’s how our secret society was formed. Would-be members would line up at our door, and just as they could say ‘Flash, Boom…’ someone slammed open the door and went ‘AHHH! AHHH!’ to shush them.”
“Hence the name, yo,” Sandrew finished, succinctly stealing my spotlight. The fraud.
A few students were laying faceup on the linoleum, blood running from their noses and ears. Whatever was warping these industrious students into bloodthirsty fiends was burning them out faster than sugar in a gas tank.
“Here’s the twist: one of Flash’s prized pupils was a spy for the Canadian Defense Ministry! Buster Brown, the septuagenarian strategist behind Canada’s response to War Plan Red was posing as a child prodigy with progeria at Seward U.”
By now the students who had fainted were completely revived and bobbing and weaving before me. Their teeth had regrown, too, and they clawed relentlessly at their scalps. Fiery ichor spilled from the cuts.
“The church couldn’t have taken too kindly to Boom’s project, I wager?” Sandrew chuckled, immune to whatever was maddening his peers. Strange lad, that one.
“Well,” I admitted, “he tried to use Canadian hypnotism to give souls to his beloved hippopotamuses. The Mormon church takes a hard stance on that.”
I shivered, “They expelled him forever from Utah and demanded the return of all hippos north of the arctic circle. Boom couldn’t bear to see his ‘children’ sent back to Utah, where they would languish in the Salt Lake without him. So, like the prophetic shepherd he fancied himself, he led the mesmerized hippos a la the pied piper, into the Alaskan wilderness.”
Skin was now dropping off the students in clumps, revealing soft, velveteen fur beneath. Sandrew just stood there, transfixed by my story. Why did he look so familiar?
“Geraldine declared ‘sanctuary’ and remained on campus for the rest of her life, desperately trying to recreate Enoch’s experiments with reindeer and moose, but the love was gone. She fell on a patch of black ice and broke her neck 50 years ago. We proudly continue her work.”
Sandrew grinned. “And Enoch? The hippos?”
“Buster Brown wasted his life looking, but they were never seen again — though some sasquatch hunters… were… found…”
Snarling and foaming, the deformed pledges surrounded me. Gulping, I entered a special combination on the dial lock. You see, this fridge was unlike other fridges.
“A very complete and convincing rouse.”
I threw “Sandrew” a scowl. “It was, wasn’t it Karl?”
*DUN DUN DUNNNNN!*
Sandrew Darckloud’s ever-present smirk melted away as his lanky frame morphed into master sorcerer Karl Überdale!
“When did you figure it out?”
I polished an apple on my sleeve. “Oh, about the time all my students became GIANT RABBITS. Is this your revenge, Karl?”
“Spencer was ex-pen-dable,” he said, stretching out the word like that. “What I’m after is the Brain of Artemis… it may be fused with bubbling lava, but not inextricably so!” He rolled a graph down from thin air, detailing a maniacal device. “I can recover the Brain, but only if I have a 32/65WP/98-C Sump Pump.”
“What a dry hole you are! Only one such pump was ever built, and it’s… oh, SNAP!” I clutched my chest. “I need that to be witty!”
“You won’t need your wits about you where you’re going,” the insane illusionist intoned, scrambling the collegian cottontails to his raised staff.
I gripped the handle. “I was lying, ‘Sandrew,’” I laughed, “Geraldine Flash didn’t break her neck. She was just… out in the icebox.” Cracking up, I slammed the fridge door into a rabbit-pledge’s face and ducked inside.
“STOP HIM! HE’S GOT THE SUMP PUMP!”
A brilliant white light enveloped me and the scratching at the door stopped. Nervous (as if!), I opened the door. The fridge was outside; only it was a different fridge.
Here’s the skinny: Enoch sobbingly left Geraldine, but he didn’t head off alone with his hippos, no sir. He took one of his matching continental fridges, and left the other fridge with his beloved.
Their love was so strong it created a wormhole between the fridges, surviving decades after their death — until today, when I just plunged a flaming crowbar through the back panel.
Finally free of the sorcerer’s wrath, I began my long journey back to civilization — accompanied by the gentle song of the baleful hippopotamus.
Somewhere, in unexplored Alaskan wood, A monument to love once stood. A secret fridge, a hidden stash, Presiding over Boom and Flash Who lay in graves at base of hill, Who lay in wait and wait until The world that spurned them comes to know The gentle soul — hipno-hippo.
Several of your favorite Heroes (or Villains) from all the Universes out there are competing for the dream job of a lifetime. Only the truly deserving will survive the boardroom, the others will be be fired. Who has what it takes to become The Company Apprentice?