“What…what happened? Where am I?” I asked, as I woke up from what felt like an eternity of sleep. Something like sleep, anyway. Possibly more like death, whatever that feels like.
“Oh, what happened? What happened?” replied a voice that was vaguely familiar, yet it had a distinct Estuary accent that it never had before. “What happened is that you almost reduced the whole universe to a quivering heap of jelly. That’s what happened!”
“You mean like grass jelly?” I inquired, still in a daze.
“Yes, just like that. Just like grass jelly. The whole universe. Billions of stars and planets. All those civilizations almost reduced into something that you’d find at the bottom of a drink in a Cambodian restaurant.”
“But, how did I do that? I don’t remember anything.” I looked at the figure standing near me, but it was still a blur. It seemed like whoever it was, it was manipulating some controls. The figure didn’t reply, but instead appeared to pull a large lever. The whole room shook with a tremendous jolt.
My vision began to clear, and I recognized the figure working the controls. It was none other than my slightly famous culinary compatriot. But I had no idea where we were, how we got there, or why he was speaking with that ridiculous accent. I managed to sit up, and I asked him what was going on and why he was talking like that.
“I’ve already told you what’s going on”, he answered. “And what do you mean why am I talking like this? How am I supposed to be talking?”
“Not like Gordon Ramsay,” was my retort. At least I had kept my sense of humor through the ordeal, whatever it had been.
“And why not? Don’t you even remember who I am?”
“Of course I remember who you are. You’re Arr…”
“I’m The Masticiphitator,” he interrupted.
“Mastic…what? What kind of a name is that? How am I even supposed to pronounce that?”
“Mas-tic-i-phi-a-tor,” he said impatiently. “The Masticiphiator. That’s me.”
“The Masticiphiator? That’s it?”
“That’s it. The Masticiphitator. Isn’t that enough?”
“Well, I guess it is. But when did you start calling yourself The Masticiphitator?”
“I’m 1,500 years old. When you do you think?”
“Well, alright, Masticiphitator. Are you going to tell me where this place is and why you look exactly like Arr…”
“Ah!” he interrupted. “Masticiphitator!”
“Right. You’re The Masticiphitator. I get that. Now, for the last time, where in the world are we and why do you look exactly like Arr…?”
“First of all,” he said, “we’re not in the world at all. And I’ve never heard of this Arren fellow in my life. I haven’t the slightest idea what you’re talking about.”
“Ah ha!” I interjected. “You never let me finish that name. How did you know what I was going to say?”
“Lucky guess, of course,” he said, but his countenance looked a bit concerned. “Anyway, sit down and I’ll try to explain all of this to you.”
I took a seat, and as I did, I added, “You’d better really tell me, or else I’m just going to get up and leave.”
The Masticiphitator didn’t look up from whatever it was he was doing, but he pointed toward a small slot high on the wall and said, “good luck with that.”
I realized that wherever I was, I was going to be there for a while, so I sat and listened as The Masticiphitator recounted the story in his Estuary accent:
“It all started when you got that crazy idea to buy those strange snacks at the Asian market. And you thought they were all so funny and delicious. You just couldn’t keep it to yourself, could you? You had to share it with the world. At first it was just pictures with funny captions. But then the captions got longer and longer, and they turned into stories. You started writing stories about these strange foods. And they weren’t even stories about how the foods tasted. They were about some place called East Mangoustan, and how the East Mangoustanis were out to get you.”
“The East Mangoustanis are out to get me,” I interrupted testily. I fumbled in my pocket looking for my FBFCR badge, but it was gone.
“Right, of course they are. Anyway, you came up with all these funny stories about mangosteen and jellyfish, but then someone suggested that they could help you keep the stories going. Do you remember that?”
“Of course I remember that! It was you!”
“Don’t be silly. I’m The Masticiphitator, not some half-baked blogger who writes about soursop as if it’s some kind of vast conspiracy.”
“Soursop is a vast conspiracy! At least I think it still is. I don’t even know anymore.”
“So you brought this person on…”
“I brought you on.”
“You brought this person on. Why?”
“I brought this person on because he wrote his doctoral thesis on the 700 ways that the structure of the universe resembles a can of Ching Poo Luong.”
“Wasn’t it fascinating? I’ve come up with 14 additional similarities since I wrote that!” exclaimed the Masticiphitator, his face almost giddy with delight. Then a moment later he realized his mistake.
“Ah!” I shouted. “I knew it! You couldn’t resist bragging about that paper! Now drop that ridiculous accent and tell me what’s going on here!”
“What ridiculous accent? Oh, you mean you think this accent is fake? Well, it’s not. And let me tell you, if you think jaunting through time and space to maintain the proper balance of sweet and salty snacks is hard, it’s nothing compared trying to talk like you.”
“Maintain the proper balance of sweet and salty snacks? Space and time? Are you ever going to explain this to me, or are you just going to keep throwing these things out there as if I’m supposed to understand them?”
“Alright then,” he said. “It’s really very simple. I’m an Earl of Edibility. This place is the SIDRAT. I use it to travel through space and time to make sure the universe is supplied with tasty treats. It’s a terribly important responsibility.”
“You make it sound like you’re some god of snacks. How important can that be?”
“Incredibly important!” he snapped. “How would you like to try getting through one of your days without your afternoon candy bar? What about the poor soul who couldn’t move one more box without a bag of Nacho Pizza Chips? Or the student who, on the verge of complete collapse, finds the strength to solve one more system of equations thanks to a chocolate-coated ice cream cone?”
“Well, you have a point there,” I admitted.
“Maybe we should take a walk why I try to explain all of this to you.”
“How are we even supposed to get outside?” I asked, as I gestured toward the small slot near the ceiling.
“Right through there,” replied the Masticiphiator…or whoever he was.
“Sure. It’s bigger than it looks,” he said, as he pulled a crooked lever. Instantly, I felt as though I were right-side-up, upside-down, moving forwards, moving backwards, spinning like mad, and holding perfectly still, all at the same time…
CONTINUED IN PART 2