Another grueling day of analysis, diagnosis, strategizing, guessing, humiliation, memorizing, mesmerizing, study, patience, patients and meetings had finally ended. It was very late when Tony staggered into his small apartment that was just the right size for an exhausted medical intern. He was proud of the fact that he’d survived another day, but at this moment, the prospect of becoming a doctor seemed daunting and even foolish.

He retrieved a Schaefer beer from his antiquated fridge because Schaefer is the one beer to have when you’re having more than one. Or at least that’s what those commercials of the 1960’s wanted us to believe. He believed the commercial was right. One Schaefer beer wasn’t going to do much for anyone, so Tony decided to grab the whole six pack and toss it on the coffee table in front of his well-used couch. He sleepwalked his way to the black and white TV that he’d picked up at the Salvation Army for two-and-a-half dollars. The Salvation Army was rotten with black and white TV’s now that the new color TVs were becoming the standard for the average American home.

He turned the sad little TV on and perused the paucity of channels at his command. Three networks and a couple of local stations were what he had to choose from. Public TV was not yet a thing. The world would have to wait for Big Bird and Bob Ross.

“We shall return to our late-might movie, The Hucksters, after a word from our sponsors,” explained the TV.

Tony didn’t really care if they were showing a documentary on how to enjoy watching paint dry. Anything would be a welcome distraction from asking patients to expose themselves to a room full of medical students, then asking the students what was likely wrong with the patient after a thorough explanation of symptoms and family history. Tony was right good at coming up with answers that the attending physician wanted to hear. He was also surprised by the control that a medical pedigree had over people. It was amazing to him the things that one could get a patient to do with even the flimsiest of excuses. But at this point in his day, he wanted nothing more than to put the day behind him so he could get a good night’s sleep and be ready for another day of tedium and abuse. The mental and physical demands that were made of medical interns would sap the strength of Sampson, beer, and mediocre TV were his only refuge.

Tony collapsed on his ancient couch and was treated to a Chevy commercial touting the sexiness and power of the latest model of the Chevy Corvair. It would have put him to sleep were it not for a Schaefer beer that slipped from his slumberous hand and deposited the beer in his crotch. Now that he was somewhat awake and somewhat embarrassed, he gritted his way through three consecutive cigarette commercials. The commercials roused a passive anger. How could such poisonous, addictive things be advertised to anyone watching the TV? Tony was exhausted and the world that he’d been thrust into was making him more callous than doctors were supposed to be but cigarette commercials showing glamorous, suicidal people doing glamorous, ridiculous things was somehow beyond the pale. He’d heard stories that even people in the 1920’s referred to cigarettes as coffin nails. How could so many people be fooled by advertisements for something that they knew would eventually do them great harm? How could it be that otherwise reasonable people were so easily misled?

After the cigarette commercials, the movie resumed and Tony watched Sydney Greenstreet spitting on a long, shiny, presumably oak table around which a number of executives from his advertising firm and Clark Gable were seated.

“Mr. Norman,” the Sydney Greenstreet character droned, “you have just seen me do a disgusting thing. But you’ll always remember what I just did. You see, Mr. Norman,” Clark Gable is the Mr. Norman character, “if no one remembers your brand, you’re not going to sell any soap.”

After buttressing his points regarding his guerilla warfare approach to selling the seven cent per bar Beauty Soap, Mr. Greenstreet began to pound the aforementioned, presumably oak table and shouted, “Beauty Soap! Beauty Soap! Beauty Soap! Repeat it till it comes out of their ears. Irritate! Irritate! Irritate! Irritate them, Mr. Norman. Irritate them, knock them dead!!”

Tony and his soaked crotch rose from the nearly dilapidated sofa to turn off the TV.

“Why couldn’t this have been something happy like Singin’ in the Rain or something. I can’t watch this.”

After turning the TV off, the picture quickly condensed to a single bright dot in the middle of the screen and disappeared shortly after Tony grabbed the five pack of Schaefer’s, placed them back in the ancient fridge, and made his way to his nearly dilapidated bed. As he walked back to the bed, he realized that the commercial may have been wrong; sometimes all you needed was one Schaefer beer.

Tony ambled into the small bedroom, turned on the light, walked over to the yellowed, slightly torn, stiffer than it ought to be roller shade, and closed off the outside world. It was now just him, an old bedside table, a lamp from the late 1940’s, and a bed that should’ve been adorning a rubbish heap.

He tossed off the beer-soaked pants and underwear and fell into bed. He wanted some alone time so he could assess his place in the world and feel better about himself. The rest of him would have none of that self-evaluation nonsense; his body quickly shut down, and soon he was snoring loudly enough to be a modest annoyance to his neighbors.

It was a deep sleep and Tony’s mind could finally rid itself of all of the angst it had accumulated during the day. After clearing itself, Tony’s mind created a safe, quiet place for its owner. His world was now dark. It was a thick darkness that inhibited movement and kept him warm and safe. It was a relief to relax, to know nothing, to be able to do nothing and to think nothing. He was aware that he was floating in a dark void. It was so consuming and vivid that it wasn’t as though he was dreaming about these sensations: he was living them. The relief that nothing and no one in this void expected anything of him was quiet ecstasy.

Then his world became a little brighter. The gathering light was a disappointment. The gathering light meant responsibility and the necessity for work. The quiet cocoon of darkness could have gone on for a very long time before he would have felt trapped and entombed. The light exposed details and soon it was easy to see the light was a window and beyond the window was the New York City skyline. Tony looked down and saw a shiny, presumably oak table. He looked down a little further and saw that he was wearing a suit. His thumb and forefinger made their way to the lapel of the suit jacket. He rubbed the material and found this to be a very high-quality suit. He looked up and saw a puzzled Clarke Gable and an earnestly supportive Adolphe Menjou.

Tony was a very self-aware man and was able to realize that this was a dream and that he could end it anytime he wanted. All he had to do was to make a very conscious effort to cry out and wake himself up. But he’d never met Clark Gable and thought he’d play along for a bit before pulling the plug on this dream.

“Irritate! Irritate! Irritate! Irritate them Mr. Norman. Irritate them, knock them dead!!” crowed the corpulent but dream like Sydney Greenstreet at the head of the presumably oak table.

Tony wanted to fit in and thought, “I guess I’m supposed to be respectfully enthusiastic about this. That’s probably what the director wants,” to himself.

“Oh no, Tony” said the blonde, telepathic Bombshell sitting next to him. “That’s not what the Director expects at all.”

Tony was deep into this dream but outside of the scripted movie. The movie scene went on just as it was supposed to, but he was beginning to understand that he had a role to play that had nothing to do with the movie. If this hadn’t been a dream, the lack of continuity would have been very upsetting, but it was a dream and he accepted this disjointed reality that came with just about every other dream he’d ever had. Tony was hungry for something different and this dream was decidedly different. He decided to play along.

“It pains me to say this, but I have no idea who you are,” said Tony.

“Me? I’m just a nobody. Just your run of the mill contract player who’ll do anything, and I mean anything, to get ahead,” cooed the Bombshell.

The male contract player, who had a role as one of Greenstreet’s toadies, piped up, “Oh yeah, Tony! The Director expects you to play along, but not in this movie. He’s got other plans for you. The Director definitely wants to see you.”

“Yes Tony, he certainly does,” cooed the Bombshell. “How are you at autopsies?”

“Autopsies!!??…Well…there’s no trick to cutting up a dead body, but I’m not as up to speed as I’d like to be on the forensics. Piecing together the findings to arrive at conclusions is a skill that needs some honing but…”

“He sure as hell talks a lot,” said the Toady.

“Behave yourself. He’s just the kind of man I like. He’s smart and cute and small and easy to control and has a really big upside even if other aspects of him may be a little disappointing.”

“Why am I even talking to you? I just want a good night’s sleep,” whined Tony.

“The autopsy awaits,” said the Bombshell.

At this point, Tony was willing to sacrifice a lot of bad sleep for a shot at a more restful sleep experience. He took a moment to calm down and concentrate, then tried to yell loudly enough to wake himself. It didn’t work. That it didn’t work was very strange. Sleep yelling had always worked.

“This ain’t your run of the mill dream, pal. Like she said, the autopsy awaits.”

The two dream mates helped Tony from the table. He looked back to see Clark Gable making the point that the marketing ploy for his soap was all wrong and selling seven-cent bars of soap to women who looked awesome in negligees was ridiculous. Tony suddenly he wished he could see the rest of the movie. It would be a long time before it showed up on the Late Show again and it wasn’t possible for him to do something futuristic like go down to the corner Blockbuster and rent it.

He was led from the table, past the cameras and gaffers and makeup artists and people holding clip boards to a door in an oak paneled wall that was supposed to have nothing of any interest beyond the door. But, instead of an empty sound stage and angled 2×4’s holding up the walls of the set, the door opened into a white, brightly-lit room with a former human being lying on the table. Tony guessed the overweight man lying on the table was probably in his mid-to-late seventies and probably died of some cardiac insufficiency.

“It’s an old fat guy; he probably died of a heart attack. Can I go now?”

“Of course not, silly. Oh, here’s the Director.”

A man entered the room wearing a suit, the quality of which Tony found unimaginable. Suddenly, he felt as though he were wearing a burlap sack.

“Show us what you got, kid. The cutlery is right there,” said the Director.

A table full of gleaming implements just right for dismantling humans appeared beside the table. Tony picked a couple of them up and ran his finger perpendicularly across the blades. This was the sensible way to see how sharp the blade was, as opposed to running one’s finger down the length of the blade risking a, in this case, very serious laceration. After testing the blade, Tony was of the opinion that if one were extraordinarily skilled, it might be possible to split atoms with any of the blades in front of him.

“Well? What is it, stage fright, fear of commitment, getting squeamish? You better get used to working in front of an audience. Play your cards right and there will be a lot of that in your future.”

“It’s not so much any of that, I was just wondering if I might have a mask,” asked Tony.

“What the hell is wrong with you? It’s a dream, dumbass. You can’t contract a disease from a dream,” bellowed the Director.

“… …,” said Tony. Then, “… … …” And finally, “It…uhhh…would just make me feel safer.”

“Weirdo,” the Director said almost under his breath. “Here’s an N-95. Better?”

“What’s an N-95?”

“Sorry Mr. Director, sir, but N-95s haven’t been invented yet in this timeline,” said the Bombshell.

“This is so irritating. Shit used to be so much simpler. Here’s your damn mask, now put it on, Tony.”

“Thank you, Mr. Director…sir,” said Tony. “Wow, this is pretty hard to breathe through.”

“Our complaint department was eliminated quite some time ago. GET ON WITH THE AUTOPSY ALREADY!!”

Tony slipped of his suit jacket, rolled up his sleeves and readied himself for the grotesque task ahead of him. The sheet was thrown back and the nameless man’s final indignity was underway. The blades and saws and knives went through flesh, bone, and sinew as though they weren’t even there. The heart wasn’t in great shape, but it didn’t seem to Tony as though a failing heart prompted the man’s demise. There were certain irregularities in the brain that were noted without being understood. Everything was more or less as it ought to have been until he got to the mid thorax.

“How??…” said Tony.

“What the…” said Tony.

“Why would…” said Tony.

“They’re everywhere…” said Tony.

The Bombshell, Toady, and Director just stood by smiling their best smug smiles.

“Pills! Every major organ is packed with pills! The spleen, the liver, the kidneys, the lungs, pockets of the intestine, even the scrotum has this…well, I’ll say it, disgusting dark goo.”

“Start digging them out, Tony,” commanded the Director. “Toss them in the bucket.”


“There’s no bucket there, boss,” said the Toady.

The observation was met with a slap across the face that sent the Toady airborne and flying into a wall.

“Sorry, boss, I guess I deserved that.”

“GUESS??!!??!!!!!” the Director roared.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with me today, boss. Of course I deserved that, no question about it, you don’t need no one who’s gonna guess about stuff, I’m really sorry about that, your hand okay cos if it’s not…”

“Shut up!! I did not know that there was such a thing as too much sycophancy. Thank you for the enlightenment,” said the Director.

The Toady couldn’t come up with a single thing to say that didn’t have the possibility of further enraging his boss, so he did the wise thing and stayed mute. Then a large silver, presumably silver, bucket appeared at Tony’s feet.

“Get the pills out, Tony,” said the Director.

Tony was a diligent guy. He went through every cubic inch of the former human being and ended with one presumably silver bucket completely topped off and another about half full of pills.

“Hey, Toady. Grab the buckets and get the pills cleaned off so we can reuse them.”

“Right, boss.”

The puzzled look on Tony’s face was enough to elicit an explanation from the Director.

“Waste not, want not, right Tony? Look, I get it. But things around here get a little dull, ya know what I mean.”

“Actually, no, I don’t,” said Tony.

“Okay, I’m going to completely ignore that. We’ve been carefully helping the pill pushers. They’ve been creating pills that give profound relief to specified ailments while creating other ailments as a side effect.”

“The human physiology is very complex and the medical profession fights to eliminate as many diseases and ailments as possible. To have an understanding of how anything entering the system will affect each physiology would take a godlike understanding of cause and effect. There are too many variables for there not to be some side effects of any medication,” said Tony.

“Bought that crap hook, line, and sinker didn’t ya? What’s your favorite flavor of Kool-Aid?” asked the Director.

“The Kool-Aid reference will not make any sense to him. The Kool-Aid thing hasn’t happened yet…Mr. Director, sir,” said the Bombshell.

“…This is so irritating. Shit used to so much simpler. Look, the key to good health is diligence. What did you eat today, how much sunshine have you gotten, what have you done to tone and stretch muscles, what have you done for your heart and brain? Lassitude!! That’s what keeps the Hucksters in business.”

Sydney Greenstreet then suddenly appeared in the room. It looked as though he was ready to put on a show, then…“Where’s my presumably oak table.”

“Improvise, dumbass,” the Director strongly suggested.

Sydney moved around to the table where the disemboweled former human lay before starting his well-rehearsed schpiel.

“Pills! Pills! Pills! Repeat it till it comes out of their ears. Irritate! Irritate! Irritate! Irritate them, Tony. Irritate them, knock them dead!!” then in a sudden change of intensity, “Was that sufficient, Mr. Director?”

“Nothin’ that a million other people couldn’t have done, but yeah, that was good enough. You can go.”

“Thank you, sir,” Sydney’s exit was delayed by Tony.

“Will Clark Gable be making an appearance? I’ve always wanted to meet him.”

“What!? Like I ain’t celebrity enough for you,” harpied the Bombshell.

“Well, it’s not like that at all. I just know his career well and had some questions for him.”

“Look here, doctor boy, Clark Gable ain’t here, this is just a dream and he can only tell you what you already know. I, on the other hand, am very real. Want me to prove it to you?” asked the Bombshell.

At this point, Tony wanted to avoid any sort of an interaction with anyone, even if it was a beautiful woman, without looking gay.

“No, uhhh…that won’t be necessary. It’s just…” Tony was relatively pleased about being interrupted since he couldn’t think of a single helpful thing to say.

“Oh, okay, so you’re one of them,” said the Bombshell.

“I’m not one of anything; I just want a good night’s sleep.”

“I can tell when…”

“STOP IT!! Spare the rod and spoil the demons. Look at Toady. He’s behaving perfectly, but only because I smacked him into the wall. I ain’t above smackin’ women because I know what you really look like.”

“Sorry, boss.”

“Not sorry enough. Look, Tony, you have a road ahead of you that will garner enormous authority, enormous wealth, and enormous responsibility. All you have to do is be a good soap salesman or, in this case, pills and vaccines. We already own the world to a certain degree, but we want more. You know why we want more control?”


“Frankly, neither do we. It’s just what we do, you know? We got all this power and watching Netflix and drinking microbrewed beer just ain’t gonna do it for us.”

“Boss?” the Bombshell said as meekly as possible.

“Yeah, timelines, I know. So, we decided to up the ante and do stuff we’re good at, tricking people. You’re going to work on a vaccine someday that will more or less help some people but it “accidentally” causes sterility. You gotta make sure this stuff makes it to the kids because the midwits in first world nations can get to be a real pain in the ass when they get upset about something. And if we just straight up kill them, that’ll upset some of the people currently on our side. Making sure the kids of midwits can’t make more midwits makes things easier. These things must be done delicately, know what I mean?”


“’Cos we’re freakin’ bored. Do you know what the worldwide population is?”


“Do you know what it’s gonna be in the 21st century?”

“I’ve seen projections, but…”

“It’s gonna be a freakin’ mess, that’s what it’s gonna be. One big freakin’ mess and although we generally are big fans of messiness, everybody’s got a limit, know what I mean? Wanna graduate first in your class, Tony? Want to have more money than you know what to do with? Wanna have world-wide authority and fame?”

“You’re serious?”

“No. I’m the Director. The question is, are you serious?”