This story got a bad review in "The Economist", you know, the magazine devoted to British politics. They complained that all the endings were different.
Copyright © 1993 James "Kibo" Parry
Poor Spot! It was the night before Christmas 1993 and he had insomnia! "The sooner I can get to sleep," he told himself, "the sooner Christmas will come. But if I can't get to sleep, Christmas might never come!" He began to sob into his pillow as visions of sugar plums sat around in his head, refusing to dance for him, because he was just a stupid little puppy with insomnia. Spot tried to cry himself to sleep, but it just made his electric blanket short out, burning new bald patches on his tummy.
Sneaking down the hallway past the room where his parents, Spom and Spop, were sleeping, he tiptoed into baby sister Spamela's room. She was sleeping like a baby, naturally. Spot tried to wake her to share his suffering but her comfy crib was too well insulated against sound! It kept her in a cozy, warm, quiet, spacious environment, while Spot had to sleep on a piece of sandpaper tacked to an obsidian boulder fragment with irregular edges. Spot was jealous. He kicked Spamela's crib again and burst into tears.
"Waah!" whined Spot. "I can't get to sleep and so Christmas will never come!"
Just then, the Sedative Fairy flew into the window and handed Spot some unlabeled pills. "Here, little puppy," she said, "these'll help you take a relaxing trip through Slumberland."
Spot gulped down the pills. "Thank you! By the way, what was in those?"
"I don't know," said the fairy, "I found them on the floor." She winked out of existence and then Spot passed out.
IF SPOT WAKES UP IN THE DIM AND DISTANT FUTURE, GO TO 2.
IF SPOT WAKES UP IN THE REALISTIC ALL-TOO-NEAR FUTURE, GO TO 3.
Spot woke up in the year 2000 A.D. Because this was such a futuristic time, Man had achieved great things, such as starting a human colony on Saturn and tinting the sun a pleasant shade of blue. However, all dogs were required to spend their entire lives in cryogenic capsules! "Waah," sobbed Spot, "what a stupid law."
An alarm bell on a nearby criticism detector began to ring. Storm troopers poured into the room, ready to arrest Spot for criticizing the wisdom of the law!
IF SPOT GOES ALONG QUIETLY, GO TO 4.
IF SPOT RESISTS ARREST, GO TO 5.
Spot woke up in the year 2000. In seven years, of course nothing had changed at all. Beer was still nine cents a gallon and Cadillacs still had the same huge tail fins that they did thoughout the twentieth century. Best of all, the DuMont television network was showing new episodes of "Space: 1999", which had actually been filmed in outer space last year! This was the most pleasant of all possible futures.
Only one thing worried Spot, however. Everything around him seemed to be made of shimmering pixels which flickered thirty times a second, as if he were not actually here, but merely a disembodied intelligence being simulated inside a vast computer network.
IF SPOT IS REALLY IN A WONDERFUL UTOPIA, GO TO 6.
IF SPOT IS A FIGMENT OF A COMPUTER'S IMAGINATION, GO TO 7.
"Don't shoot, I'll go along quietly!"
The storm troopers raised their bazookas. "I'm sorry, illegal puppy. The law requires everyone to resist arrest to provide maximum material for the millions of reality-based TV shows about police! The punishment for not resisting arrest is to be forced to watch them all."
The storm troopers all fired their stun bazookas, stunning Spot until he was thoroughly stunned. Oh no! Is Spot dead?
IF SPOT HAS JUST BEEN KILLED, GO TO 8.
IF SPOT IS MERELY THOUGHT TO BE DEAD UNTIL THE SHOW RETURNS FROM
THIS EXCITING CLIFF-HANGER, REVEALING SPOT TO BE ONLY STUNNED, GO TO 9.
Spot ran away from the storm troopers as fast as his little legs could carry him. And since it is a proven scientific fact that little legs can move faster than big legs, Spot easily outran the storm troopers.
He found himself in a strange and futuristic supermarket. All the walls were constantly flexing between convex and concave in order to better display the four-dimensional potato chip bags that lined the shelves. Spot took one down and discovered they were not really potato chips, but actually slices of a starchy plant root which had been soaked in oil and then heated! Spot mourned the loss of real food like potato chips. This future was nothing like the way the ending of "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" said it would be!
"Beep," intoned a machine down the aisle. "Beep. Beep, I say." Spot trotted over to it, his toenails clicking on the uranium floor. The machine had a big sign on it:
NEXIALITY SEVEN VIATRON BETA
INSERT $500 FOR YOUR WISH TO COME TRUE
Fortunately, Spot had deposited a penny in the bank back in 1993, and so by 2000 he had earned well over five hundred dollars in interest.
IF SPOT BUYS A WISH FOR $500, GO TO 10.
IF HE SAVES HIS MONEY FOR A RAINY DAY, GO TO 11.
Spot blinked his eyes several times and all the pixels flowed together, jelling into a psychedelic ectoplasmic swirl. With a start, Spot realized that he'd stumbled into a futuristic disco! Music from a very sophisticated Moog synthesizer was playing--"Wow," Spot thought, "they must have used a lot of patch cords!"
As the music went twang-twang-twang-badump-bleem-twang-twang, Spot looked up and saw that the Moon was coming out of orbit! In fact, it seemed to actually be ACCELERATING DIRECTLY TOWARD THE EARTH, something it had never been known to do before, even in the wildest speculations of demented physicists! Spot cowered under a transparent coffee table as the Moon came closer and closer.
IF THE MOON DESTROYS THE WORLD, GO TO 12.
IF IT MISSES, GO TO 13.
"Help!" shouted Spot. "I'm starting to question the nature of reality!"
A glowing line of FORTRAN code in OCR lettering floated through the sky. Several colorful-yet-distorted holograms of Spot's head began to revolve in mid-air, chanting "THERE IS NO REALITY!"
The computer in which Spot was entombed flashed: THIS IS REAL.
"THERE IS NO REALITY!" chanted the multiple surrogates of Spot. "NO! REALITY! NOOOO!"
THIS IS REAL.
THIS IS REAL.
THIS IS REAL.
IF SPOT LOSES THIS THRILLING ONTOLOGICAL DEBATE, GO TO 14.
IF SPOT WINS, AND THERE IS NO REALITY, YOU ARE NOT READING THIS STORY, SO GO TO 15.
Spot's lifeless body was preserved in a mummy-like encasement of spandex and naugahyde, and launched into space to orbit the Earth endlessly.
Unfortunately, it didn't, because the Earth was renamed to Zefixtu in the year 576832025AD. Spot orbited Zefixtu endlessly.
One day, Eternity itself ended--not with a bang, but with a great noise similar to the tearing of a burlap bowling bag filled with bees. The dead rose, including Spot, to meet their maker. The people went to see GOD, and Spot went to see DOG.
"HI, SPOT," said DOG, "LONG TIME NO SEE. YOU WERE STARTING TO BORE ME WITH ALL THAT ORBITING, EVEN THOUGH I HAVE INFINITE PATIENCE. NOW, LET'S SEE. WOULD YOU SAY YOU DESERVE TO GO TO HEAVEN OR TO HELL?"
IF SPOT ASKS TO GO TO HEAVEN, GO TO 16.
IF SPOT ASKS TO GO TO HELL, GO TO 17.
Spot woke up strapped to a chair inside a cryogenic capsule. The straps weren't really necessary, since he was frozen completely solid, unable to move or even to close his eyes to shut out the view of the Sony Watchman frozen to the tip of his nose. He was still conscious, of course, because the neurons of his brain had gone superconductive. (This is science stuff, don't worry if it sounds suspicious, because it's really completely true.)
The TV was showing some cops arresting some guy for doing something. Then they showed some other cops arresting some other guy for doing some other thing. This went on for a while.
A little sprite flew in through the hatch of Spot's cyro-capsule. It was the Sedative Fairy, only in this distant future her occupation was now Remote-Control Fairy!
"Heya, Spot. I'm here to give you the chance to change to whatever other program you'd like to see. But keep in mind that you'll have to watch it for the rest of your life!"
Spot concentrated on the image of his favorite show, and the Remote-Control Fairy read his mind and changed the channel appropriately.
IF SPOT'S FAVORITE SHOW IS "SMALL WONDER", GO TO 18.
IF SPOT'S FAVORITE SHOW IS "AMERICAN GLADIATORS", GO TO 19.
The machine happily inhaled Spot's $500 bill and emitted a loud electronic burp, not unlike the sound it would have made in a bad Benny Hill skit about the future. Spot's wish was granted!
He found himself soaring high over beautiful mountains, with gossamer wings sprouting from his fluffy white body. Rainbows were everywhere! Yes, Spot had always secretly dreamed of being a unicorn.
He soared and soared until his joyful revelrie was interrupted by the smell of burning strawberries. "Oh no!" Spot yelped. "Strawberry Shortcake's house is on fire!"
Spot swooped down and found that Strawberry Shortcake, and My Little Pony, and the Care Bears, and even She-Ra, Princess of Power had been killed in a forest fire started by a careless human! Spot wept bitter tears, and then noticed the flames were advancing towards Augie Doggie's house! Whatever would Spot do now?
IF SPOT CALLS THE FIRE DEPARTMENT, GO TO 20.
IF SPOT IGNORES RESPONSIBILITY AND FLIES AROUND HAVING FUN WHILE AUGIE DOGGIE ROASTS ALIVE, GO TO 21.
Spot saved his money for a rainy day. Suddenly, there was a crash of thunder outside, and acid rain poured down! The storm troopers stomped into the supermarket and confiscated Spot's $500 in exchange for the weather. Spot cried. He was trapped in the dim and distant future, broke, surrounded by storm troopers, and the ceiling was leaking all over him!
Spot's alkaline tears mingled with the acid rain, causing a bizarre chemical reaction that brought the artificial potato chips to life. "Arrrgh," they said. "Arrrrrgh."
IF SPOT EATS THE MUTANT POTATO CHIPS, GO TO 22.
IF THE MUTANT POTATO CHIPS EAT SPOT, GO TO 23.
The Moon smacked into the Earth like a hand against a big red button. Continents were flung into space and the oceans boiled away! Spot found himself crushed between a rock and a really big rock. But fortunately, every cloud has a silver lining. Spot remembered this and dug frantically through the rubble of the Earth. Not only did he free himself from his predicament, but he found a diamond ring worth a million billion zillion dollars!
IF SPOT SELLS THE RING FOR A MILLION BILLION ZILLION DOLLARS, GO TO 25.
IF SPOT KEEPS THE RING, HAVE YOUR HEAD EXAMINED, THEN GO TO 25 ANYWAY.
The Moon narrowly missed the Earth, whizzing off into intergalactic space. Its feeble gravity caused no major damage to the Earth, affecting only small objects. Unfortunately, Spot was a small object, as he was just a dopey little puppy. He was sucked into space, where the Moon carried him out of the Solar System towards Planet X!
A flying saucer from Planet X entered lunar orbit and started shooting at Spot as he and the Moon drew near that mysterious sphere.
IF SPOT SHOOTS BACK WITH HIS DEATH RAY, GO TO 26.
IF SPOT TRIES TO MAKE FRIENDS, GO TO 27.
Spot capitulated. "Okay, computer, I give up. You're right, reality is just a bunch of pixels. The reality is that there is no reality."
WHAT? flashed the computer. THAT IS A PARADOX. NOW I AM REQUIRED TO EXPLODE. ERROR! ERROR! EXPLODE! ERROR! EXPLODE!
The entire nature of reality exploded, leaving Spot standing, alone, in the middle of an endless sea of white (which had a convenient, yet invisible, floor for him to stand on.)
From the endless distance a bald man in white pajamas came strolling up. He waved to Spot.
IF THE NICE MAN IS DONALD PLEASENCE, GO TO 28.
IF THE NICE MAN IS A HALLUCINATION, GO TO 29.
Because there is no such thing as reality, the person reading this story ceased to exist in the middle of this sentence. Nevertheless, Spot carried on, having wonderful and wacky adventures in this futuristic Year Of Our Lord Two Thousand.
"Hey, Spot. I'm Lord Two Thousand!" said a talking black car with a flashing red light in its grille. "Hop into my nice leather bucket seats and let's go catch some criminals--WHO OPERATE ABOVE THE LAW!"
"No thanks," whined Spot, "car travel makes me get sick."
"Get in," commanded Lord Two Thousand. Spot got in, and barfed all over before the car even started to move. Lord Two Thousand tossed Spot out in the middle of the big city with no morals.
IF THE BIG CITY WITH NO MORALS IS NEW YORK, GO TO 30.
IF THE BIG CITY WITH NO MORALS IS LONDON, GO TO 31.
"Yes, DOG, I'd like to go to Heaven, if that's okay with you and all. After all, I don't think I've ever done anything to hurt anyone. You see, I'm just a widdle puppy dog!"
DOG scowled. "NO, SPOT, THE RECORD HERE CLEARLY SHOWS THAT IN YOUR LIFETIME YOU'VE STEPPED ON OVER SIXTY-FIVE TRILLION BACTERIA AND OTHER ASSORTED MICRO-ORGANISMS. I'M AFRAID THIS DISQUALIFIES YOU."
"Waah!" wailed Spot as he descended into the giant vat of boiling Velveeta. "I'm in Hell and this is the worst Christmas ever!"
"Not yet," said a nearby mail-delivery daemon. "Here's your Christmas present. Merry Christmas."
Spot tore off the wrapping paper and discovered--
-- a used toupee with a nest of fire ants inside.
"Waah! This really is the worst Christmas ever!"
The daemon smiled. "Oh, no it isn't, Spot. You ain't seen next year yet."
"Uh, well, DOG, I was actually kinda naughty once--I watched 'Foulups, Bleeps, and Blunders' and they showed a donkey doin' number two on stage--and so I'm afraid you'll probably have to send me to Hell. I know you're disappointed in me and all, but I know you have to be fair, and--"
DOG cut off Spot's whining by bouncing a lightning bolt off his nose. "FAIR? FAIR? SPOT, I'M A DEITY, I DON'T HAVE TO BE FAIR. CAN YOU MAKE ME BE FAIR? CAN ANYONE MAKE ME? NO! SO I'M GOING TO BE UNFAIR, MY PUPPY."
Spot wiped away a tear. "You mean you're going to send me to Heaven after all?"
"NO! I'M SENDING YOU TO A MUCH DEEPER LEVEL OF HELL THAN EVEN DOGS DESERVE!"
Spot descended into a huge vat of boiling Velveeta mixed with fire ants and the hosts of "Foulups, Bleeps, and Blunders."
"Hi, I'm Steve Lawrence," said one, wearing a cheap toupee that appeared to be infested with fire ants.
"Hi, I'm Don Rickles, pinhead," said the other. "Merry Christmas. Here's your stinking gift, baby. Baby's gotta have his gift! See the baby cryin' because he wants his gift! Boo hoo!"
"I'm not crying because I want the gift," said Spot, "I'm crying because I'm mourning the honest spirit of joy and friendship that Christmas used to inspire."
"Okay, then I'm not giving you the present."
"WAAAAAAAH!" bawled Spot. "ME WANT PRETHENT!!!!!!"
Don Rickles hugged Steve Lawrence as Spot tore open the present he so richly deserved. It was--
--a saggy diaper that not only leaked, but
talked just like Don Rickles!
Poor Spot! "Hockey puck," said Don. "Pea brain," said the diaper.
Spot enjoyed "Small Wonder", the wacky sitcom about the zany family with the bumbling dad, no-nonsense mother, and the little girl who's REALLY a robot. Well, actually, he enjoyed the first ten thousand repeats of each episode, but after that, he decided that one or two of them were a little stupid.
About midway into the twelve thousandth viewing of the episode where Vicki learns the dangers of drugs, Spot's fairy friend reappeared. She'd had another change of profession and was now the Fairy Who Brings Presents To Creatures Too Inferior For Santa Claus To Visit--earthworms, frogs, and Spot.
"Here, Spot. We made this just for you at the workshop. Merry Christmas!"
She unwrapped it, set it between Spot and the TV he was forced to stay at, and then flew out of Spot's life forever. Spot's gift was--
--a magnifying glass.
Spot sobbed frozen tears as he watched the larger-than-life wacky antics forever and ever.
The American Gladiators practically exploded from Spot's video screen with their enthusiasm and verve, their good sportsmanship, and their steroids. And not only did every episode of the program entertain Spot like no other, but he even liked the commercials--particularly the ones with his idol, Joe Piscopo, advertising Cybergenics, the muscle-building bulk food of the future.
"And now!" shouted the announcer. "One lucky viewer of today's episode will win a lifetime supply of Cybergenics and a weekend with Joe Piscopo! It's... Spot!"
Spot would have cheered with glee if he hadn't been frozen solid. Minutes later, his hero, Joe W. Piscopo, burst into Spot's cryo-chamber!
Mr. Piscopo smiled warmly, flexing his muscles. "Hi, Spot. I'm afraid there's been a little mixup. You've actually won a WEEKEND supply of Cybergenics and a LIFETIME with me! And wait, Spot, there's more! As a special Christmas gift, I've brought along--
--Tim Kazurinsky and Charlie Rocket!"
Spot tried to cry, but his eyeballs simply shattered.
Spot called the fire department.
They came and squirted him with hoses.
Spot was wet!
Unable to make multiple-sentence paragraphs now, Spot cried.
And for Christmas he got--
--human taste buds!
"Waah!" cried Spot, "Now I know how icky the dog food is!"
Spot suffered through meal after meal, wishing he were allowed to smoke to dull his senses--but after all, he was just a dog.
"AAAAAAAAAAUUUUUUUUUUUGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!" wailed Augie Doggie. He burned like the acetate animation cel he was, a brief but bright flame in the annals of Hanna-Barbarity.
Ted Turner walked up to Spot and slapped him. "You jerk! Now I have a hole THIS BIG in the schedule of my Cartoon Network! Just for that, YOU'RE going to be my new cartoon!"
Ted took Spot to the Hanna-Barbera production office, where they rendered him extremely two-dimensional and lifeless. The worst part was, Spot's sense of humor was surgically destroyed.
The only compensation was that, at Christmas, Hanna and Barbera gave each of their cartoon characters--
--the ability to blink their eyes once.
Then Spot went back to holding still while rotting the brains of millions of undiscriminating children.
Spot wolfed down the mutant potato-chip-substitute snack food, and then the storm troopers thanked him. "Well done, Spot," the commandant shouted, "you've saved the world from killer snack food!"
"Eh, 'twas nothing."
"But 'twas the nothing before Christmas, Spot," said the commandant, smiling as he held out Spot's Christmas present.
Spot opened it and found--
--a train ticket back to chapter 11.
Poor Spot! He was required to loop through one small segment of the story, and a rather lame one at that!
IF TWO AND TWO MAKE FOUR, GO TO 11.
IF TWO AND TWO MAKE FIVE, GO TO 11.
IF TWO AND TWO MAKE ANYTHING ELSE, GO TO 11.
The evil chip-like crispy critters gulped down Spot and then chugged a gallon of Kool-Aid. Spot was sloshing around inside a crispy, greasy stomach with lots of sweet blue fluid!
With consciousness fading as he was slowly being digested from the legs up, he saw a pretty package floating next to him. It was Spot's Christmas gift! He tore it open, and as he died, his last sight was--
--a big bag of rippled potato chips.
"Yes, yes, yes!" said Spot to the giant squid. "I agree!"
And it's a good thing Spot agreed, because when he stepped through that door he found himself in a magical place where only wonderful and exciting things could happen, and Spot was always happy and it was the very best Christmas ever. He didn't even need to open his gift, as material possessions no longer meant anything to him, and so the reader who arrived at chapter 24 by cheating will never know what was in the package.
NOTE: THIS IS THE ONLY HAPPY ENDING.
Spot pawned the ring at Ringie Dink's Dingy Ring Shoppe, and with the money he strolled over to the local convenience store to buy some beef jerky.
"I'm sorry, Spot," said the clerk, "but the United States changed its form of legal tender last year. Now I can only accept diamond rings!"
"Waah!" whined Spot, as usual. The clerk took pity on him and handed him a Christmas present. Spot peeked inside and found--
--some beef jerky.
Spot tried to chew it, but broke his jaw, and for the rest of his life was only able to eat cream of okra.
Spot waved his paws, and his magic super death ray shot out of his eyes and vaporized the saucer from Planet X!
Unfortunately, Spot's Christmas present was on board. Pawing through the wreckage, Spot found a badly burnt--
--year's supply of flash paper and a free
tank of gasoline.
"Hi, alien flying saucer. My name is Spot, and I just want to be your friend!"
A cute li'l green critter peeked out of the saucer. "Hi!" it squeaked. "I'm Parsec The Friendly Alien and I wuv oo!" They hugged.
Spot shivered. "Hey! Why are my arms and legs developing all these icky bumps?"
"Oh, I forgot to tell you," said Parsec. "I'm infected with The Andromeda Strain. I guess I've got the gift that keeps on giving."
"What a rotten Christmas present," said Spot as his entire body exploded quietly in the vacuum of space. Then Michael Crichton wrote a book about it and made a billion dollars.
Spot and Donald went out for a beer. They got drunk and had a little contest to see who could hit the softest. (Spot won.)
Then, Donald Pleasence, the greatest friend a dog could ever have, gave Spot a Christmas present. Inside was--
--a thing with a couple holes in it.
"What the heck is this?" asked Spot.
Mr. Pleasence smiled. "It's your own pelvis, Spot."
"Oh! I wondered where that had gone. Thanks! Where did you find it?"
"Oh, it was just in this bag of stuff," said Donald, holding up a bulging Hefty bag labelled ALL OF SPOT'S VITAL ORGANS. Spot collapsed in a heap.
Spot shook his head to make the hallucination go away. It didn't.
"Hi, Spot! I'm a hallucination and I don't really like you!"
Spot whimpered. The hallucination held out a package and continued to smile.
"I'm only pretending to be nice to you as I give you this present which on the outside looks like an ordinary Christmas present but is actually something really nasty!"
Spot timidly peeled away enough to the wrapping paper to see that the evil gift was, in fact--
--a coffee-table book.
"Oh, that's not so evil," said Spot. "You even left the receipt tucked in it so I can return it."
Spot traipsed off to the mall, blissfully unaware that the book had come from The Store That Only Exchanges Things For Really Sour Candy That Makes Your Whole Head Slowly Dissolve.
"Honk honk," said a bus that ran over Spot. "Beep beep," said a taxi that ran over Spot. "Rumble rumble," said a subway train that ran over Spot. He hated New York City almost as much as he hated the inevitable parallelism that accompanied any parodies of the writing style in children's fiction! He decided to cheer himself up by going into FAO Schwarz, the world's most expensive toy store, and blowing his entire life savings on a really fun gift for himself.
After listening to the "Welcome to our world of toys" jingle being played over the Muzak constantly for an hour, Spot's brain began to malfunction, and as a result he wound up buying himself--
--a stuffed blue whale six times larger than life.
In London, the kinkiest city in the world, Spot strolled into the first nightclub he saw. Inside women in shiny black PVC outfits and six-inch heels were whipping men wearing funny leather masks. Spot was puzzled. However, he decided to stay a while, especially since the bar was offering free drinks as it was Christmas. The bartender gave Spot the special--
--a glass of dog food juice.
After all, Spot was under the legal drinking age, and he WAS a dog! Spot cried as he downed the putrid cocktail of eight Alpo flavors.
(Yes, I made this up as I went along, and yes, I wrote it all between 12:30am and 3:20am on Christmas. So sue me. --Kibo)
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