Tempus Fugit :oR: The Garfield Blasphemies

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The Garfield comicstrip always warned of the coming Life Abundance Apocalypse, a time (in creator Jim Davis’ lifespan (though Jim Davis only knew this in his most secret brain)) when civilization will come to an end, and the chaos of life will bloom worldwide. But a lot of people loved the Life Abundance Apocalypse, and that’s why three apocalypse-loving post-temporal travelers (a sentient prom dress, museum-bellied cannibal horse, and a disembodied lung) went back in time to stop the comicstrip from happening.

The problem was the sentient prom dress (whose name was Odi Whati) and the disembodied lung (who was the actual former president James Garfield) loved to party hardcorely much. The incessant chaotic partytime of the Life Abundance Apocalypse made the preapocalypse a quiet and quaint vacation spot and made Odi and President Garfield functional party gods (Odi’s body was partly made of sewn together corpses, so she could pass as human (other partygoers seemed to care little her party partner was a floating lung)). Planning for the Jim Davis mission kept slipping into the near future (linear pacing was always a struggle for the post-temporal). The cannibal horse (whose name was Oiam) had merely academic interest in history as his hulking body contained a history museum (actually Ilty, the tiny the curator inside his body, had the academic interest while Oiam retained the silent stoicism of apocalypse endurance with a body strong enough to keep humanity’s artifacts safe inside him).

Garfield (the comicstrip, not the disembodied lung) started out as a comicstrip about an anarchist in 1890s Boston named Jon Arbuckle trying to right the wrongs committed by President James Rudolph Garfield who in his third term had become America’s first emperor (in this fictional comicstrip eventuality, at least (the disembodied lung President Garfield only tried and failed to become America’s emperor)). It was Jon Arbuckle’s aim to create the Great Bartleby City, a floating utopia containing all the world’s knowledge and upholding enlightenment values like scientific determinism and perpetual progress to combat Emperor Garfield’s regression and dismantling of technology as a recapitulation of ignorant medieval superstition (this was not a very funny comic strip).

Jon Arbuckle built an army of clockwork animals for his Bartleby City utopia, the most prominent of which (though it remained unbuilt for most of the original comicstrip run) was Tick Tock, the Red Wooly Mammoth, upon whom Jon would ride in his raids against Emperor Garfield. Tick Tock the Clockwork Mammoth had a golden dynamo in his belly, and see through windows in either flank allowed audiences to see the golden dynamo spinning, World’s Fair style. That dynamo made a white dwarf star if allowed to go fast enough. A clockwork animal like that could surely bring down Emperor Garfield (hence why the emperor’s forces worked so hard to thwart Jon Arbuckle’s attempts to build it).

Not yet realizing the delights of the Life Abundance Apocalypse, Jim Davis inserted plenty of legitimate hints about the coming catastrophe in his comicstrip (as if a place where death and time had been abolished were anything the world needed to be warned about (sure, human civilization (as it was called by the delusional and machinesouled) had crumbled with time’s loss, but who needed that anyway? (Those stuck in the preapocalypse had little way of understanding this the way a dog learning his master’s language has no way to conceive what he means by “heaven” except to feel it himself))).

For example, the comicstrip claimed Garfield’s vicepresident was halflion/halfstag/halfMetatron and had a torrid love affair with a pumpkin witch (the way the real apocalypse happened/will happen).

Mr Sprinklers, the Pumpkin Witch, wasn’t as vengeful as his godlike position implied, but his sister, Easter, the Rabbit Witch, took delight in exploiting the elimination of linear time to travel history and take the most radical vengeance on anyone who seemed to violate the providence and benevolent dominion of his sister the Pumpkin Witch: Jim Davis, Garfield cartoonist and friend of children and animals, for example (or so the time traveling trio feared). Easter’s army of bloodthirsty godstags likewise delighted in such raw and terrible justice.

(Easter the Rabbit Witch lived with his godstag army in the Ricepaper Astronaut (a giant in whom godlike beings had built a timeshare apartment covered in red velvet walls and furniture made to look like internal organs (the Ricepaper Astronaut most of his life floated face down like a drowned man (because he was technically a dead drowned man) and in the preapocalypse he dressed in the yellowing astronaut costume of his original drowning in outerspace, but in the Life Abundance Apocalypse, he took the astronaut costume off and let his long blonde hair flow))).

Easter the Rabbit Witch once wiped out a whole village isolated in impassable jungle vines by mass crucifixion (the village’s isolation assured a one-by-one ecstatical murder experience as he crucified each citizen) just because one delusional old elder uttered half asleep “Beware the Pumpkin Witch” in a language only those villagers knew. Easter just made sport of that variety of awfulness.

Easter the Rabbit Witch wiped out the witches of Salem only because one witch citizen wore a pumpkin head in a mock murder play called “The Bedlam of Baal,” even crushed Carl Oldy Olsen beneath a stone because his scarecrow on his garden’s crucifix had hair that was too orange.

(Odi Whati speculated Easter was so unrelenting in his viciousness because he didn’t have a mouth (he was essentially a scarecrow, a bunch of snappy twigs wrapped in blue stuffed animal cloth (overly long arms and overly big hands with overly scary claws (granted, sure, all that, but still a scarecrow who had no mouth, floppy bunny ears, sadly drooping blank eyes, that sort of thing))) so Odi Whati figured anybody named after a candy holiday who could never eat candy must, by necessity, be bitter. He had to sit back and witness as others bit mockingly the bunnies’ brown ears and head off and bit their bodies to pieces. Little could he know this delight. He turned instead to torture.)

(The truth is Easter the Rabbit Witch was the actual Easter Bunny and produced eggs from an orifice mysterious in its origin as a presumably male scarecrow whose insides are composed only of snapping twigs and malevolence has little use for egglaying orifices. The eggs would sometimes crack open to birth a candy child not dissimilar to its father, the godlike Rabbit Witch; sometimes the eggs contained a blood thirsty little babylike insect creature called a Faberge or a Little Apocalyptic who could strip the flesh from an elephant in seconds. Since Easter was from before and after linear time, he could be in all believing children’s houses at the same time squirting out those eggs for a morning surprise.)

Odi Whati appeared to Jim Davis (as a vision in a waking dream (she broke into his bedroom and stood over him screaming))(this was the plan they came up with): “Be not afraid of apocalypse, Jim Davis! For it is the Life Abundance Apocalypse, ‬  and it means the end of death’s dominion and all ecstasies made manifest!”

“Why are you talking like that?” interrupted President Garfield, the disembodied lung.

(Jim Davis was cringing in fear (mostly because Oiam ‬ (the silent cannibal horse) was crazy frightening to wake up to)).

“I’m being prophetical,” Odi said. “Can’t you just let me be prophetical?”

“Just take him into the future,” said the president, being presidential and gratuitously bossy. “He’ll fall in love with the apocalypse, and that will be that.”

“I think my strategy is sufficient for eliminating his apocalypse garfieldery.”

“Hey, Jim,” the president said just diving head first into the sort of requisite selfcenteredness that turns all voices of others into silence. “Wanna go into the future?”

But Jim Davis was weeping in fear.

“We screwed it up,” Odi said. “Abort mission.”

“That’s my call,” the president said. “Abort mission.”

Odi and Garfield stared each other down (as much as a disembodied lung and dress can stare at each other) refusing to abort as the other had ordered.

Meanwhile, Oiam silently walked away and Jim Davis continued to weep, not changing his mind about the apocalypse.

Jim Davis later encountered Odi, Garfield, and Oiam drinking coffee at an outdoor café (drinking coffee in this way was vital to their party vacation lifestyle). It was hard to miss a cannibal horse, a disembodied lung, and sentient prom dress drinking coffee together, so Jim Davis approached the time travel trio. “Oh hey” they all said one by one (except Oiam because he was silent and less prone to such senseless exclamation). But the conversation didn’t progress beyond this since there was little sensible one could say, and only Oiam continued to sip his coffee.

Jim Davis finally sat with them at the table (he was rather kind and open minded and brave (for a cartoonist)) and said, “So…like…the Life Abundance Apocalypse…you love it then? That’s kind of weird.”

Odi said (back to her normal bright tone as the mission became (accidentally) so much easier), “Totally love it. You might not realize this, but I’m a sentient prom dress…”

“Oh, no, I figured that out.”

“Oh really?” It may be that Odi’s appearance was odd and obvious to everyone, but Jim Davis seemed to know certain things (to be drawn to their presence in that cafe, for example, or to know they (despite their monstrous appearance) only had benign intentions). “Anyway, there’s no such thing as sentient prom dresses in the preapocalypse, so I owe my existence to the apocalypse.”

“Why are you here then?”

“To keep you from warning people about the apocalypse.”

“By drinking coffee.”

“Why wouldn’t we take a break for coffee. You’re not our full time occupation, Jim Davis.” Odi could snap this quick especially for a man who knew her so well in no time and turn the next instant to smartassery, but could she expect any more than this, any deeper and more enduring connection, from the creator of the world’s greatest smart ass cat? “I mean, jeez. Talk about the ego of famous people.”

“I’m famous?”

“Just because you’re the creator of Garfield, the world’s most famous cat, doesn’t give you call to have such a fresh mouth, Jim Davis.”

“Garfield the cat? Garfield’s a president, and the strip is about a freedom fighter.”

“Oh…right…that’s what I meant. Forgot I was from the future for a second there.” Odi was fully aware she was terrible at time travel.

And so on.

So they took Jim Davis to the future to witness the Life Abundance Apocalypse first hand, and he spent his whole time at the Cat Volcano drowning in fur and purring warm bodies, laughing like a crazy person. Odi Whati said, “Dude, there’s a lot more we could go see besides the Cat Volcano, this is like one millionth of the cool stuff here,” but he refused to get out until the last bit of this particular variety of ecstasy was expended and Odi was too annoyed to show him anything else (this was their relationship, mother to child for whom everything is new and amazing (though prom dresses aren’t prone to mammal breeding or motherly affection)).

When Jim Davis changed the Garfield comic based on his newfound appreciation for apocalypse, to be about a gluttonous cat (based on his cat volcano love) big and orange (in appreciation of the Pumpkin Witch), Odi Whati said, “You didn’t turn him into a cat because I accidentally slipped and futurely said you were destined to, did you?”

“No, of course not. I forgot about that.”

“Good because that would create a jelly halo that would rip reality to pieces.”

“Really?”

“No. But maybe. But no. The truth is you can’t stop the apocalypse. Just give it a different personality.”

“Oh. Then why are you even here?”

“Good question. There’s kind of this rabbit monster and his army of bloodthirsty stags who might’ve come after you if you kept up your apocalypse-warning ways.”

“After me? I don’t understand what that means.”

“He’d kinda sorta gleefully slice you to pieces.”

“But that’s not going to happen now, right?”

“No. No no no. Of course. Totally. I mean I’m pretty sure. I mean rabbit monsters are fairly reasonable creatures, right?”

The real reason Odi Whati wanted to stop Jim Davis from making the apocalypse-predicting Garfield was her mother, Better Last, who was an Apocalypse Stopper by profession, and if Odi convinced someone not to stop the apocalypse, this might draw out Better Last so Odi could say, “Hi, I’m the prom dress you’ll make one day in the future when your apocalypse stopping fails.” (Of course an Apocalypse Stopper will know everything about her own future, so this will be no great surprise, but it will feel good to say it.) “I’m glad you made me/will make me with such uncharacteristic delicacy. I’ll become sentient because why wouldn’t I? But you’ll abandon me. Please don’t abandon me. I got married to a great guy. I want you to meet him. I want you to be kind to us and never leave this world.” And so many other things. Manipulating the destiny of Garfield’s creator might’ve been a silly way to do it, but it’s the best a sentient prom dress could think of.

The real reason Oiam visited history was the museum inside his body and Ilty the tiny curator (the microceratops) who was trying to gather all of the Trinkets of Interrogative Pronouns, a collection of mundane objects that granted the user amazing powers and together granted the possessor unlimited wishes. All this was a bit redundant in the Life Abundance Apocalypse where wish granting was just the assumption of existence. Few people appreciated the specialness of magical objects. Ilty loved the preapocalyptic people yet to be awe jaded. He got a lead on the Antineedle of Which which granted the bearer temporal manipulation which appeared to the observer like accelerated speed. It turned out to be a regular needle, but what delight he had in traveling through this quaint bit of history tracking it down. So far he’d only found one of the seven: a pipe reed that let the bearer pierce the permeable barrier fooling viewers into believing pictures were only pictures (totally useless in the Life Abundance Apocalypse where no such delusions exist).

President Garfield’s reason for traveling back in time was, no surprise, to take over the world and shape the apocalypse in his image. He had tried taking over the world once already back when he was president (and Jim Davis had amazingly seen this alternate eventuality) until Better Last obliterated every part of his body but one lung. Better Last cursed him to be a puppet conscience (that is: the Jimminy Cricket-like conscience of sentient puppets (though Garfield’s moral compass tended toward the despotic and the puppet population was too thoroughly permeated by blame fools to ever revive his world conquering by proxy)). He had taken power (back in his full-body president days) based on a sort of energy field called the Gravity-Antigravity-Retrograde or GAR field accessible to all animals with bilateral symmetry, but Better Last reduced him down to one lung, robbing him even of this. That’s why Garfield needed to find his historical self to re-access his old symmetry and his old glory. “Come with me my brother, my self, my future fellow king of all existence!”

But his historical self was characteristically skeptical: “Both of us are left lungs. That’s not exactly bilateral symmetry.”

“It’ll still work. Maybe.”

Odi (lazily hanging out in history with her new best friend Jim Davis) hear on the news: “Cleveland today declared a new emperor who conquered the city despite only being a pair of lungs and a raving madman. His gravity power sent the Flats space bound as he screamed, despite a mouth lack, ‘I just made Grover my b word.’ The meaning of this mysterious phrase is still being deciphered.”

But Odi Whati, normally not predisposed to supporting the despotic ways of organ tyrants, liked the disembodied lung as company and so chose to ignore his city conquering. After all, he was so great at parties (his gravity/antigravity powers were a hit at bubble parties (as they made the bubbles blop around all kattywampus) and earthquake parties (providing the personal earthquake)) (he had his own booth at every discotheque in the city) and to a sentient prom dress who lived most often in a Life Abundance Apocalypse ‬ , someone with the ability to bring the party to the preapocalypse party amateurs always earned extra forgiveness.

Then Odi Whati’s mom showed up. Like that, not a whole lot of fanfare. She had a red mammoth with her with a solar dynamo at its center, but when she and the elephant showed up in front of the same outdoor café where Jim Davis happened to see him, she seemed more like some random lady walking a pet. Odi Whati said, “Oh hey mom.”

“Are you trying to start an apocalypse, young lady? You’re a prom dress, Odi, you know nothing about responsibility.”

“Yes, mother.”

“Now I have to murder Jim Davis, and it’s all your fault.”

“But all those future Garfields you’ll cut short. All that comicstrip joy and cat grouchiness. Why rob the world? Plus murder is kind of bad, and I like Jim Davis. He’s my friend. Plus Jim Davis doesn’t predict anything anymore. He only writes about a fat cat.”

Odi didn’t realize but Jim Davis was still inserting subtle predictions of the Life Abundance Apocalypse in his Garfield strip (many of which he witnessed firs hand due to Odi’s timetravelry): the lasagna obsession, for example, prefigured the way Emperor Garfield layered his victims’ bloody flesh and skin when he fed them to warthogs (an act recreated semiannually in the Lasagna Hog festivals when the long deceased Emperor Garfield became an object of cult worship).

The “I hate Mondays” catchphrase prefigured the way in which the moon weekly during the Life Abundance Apocalypse released the creatures who lived in the moon’s bones (now endowed with too much life to remain immobile) (a sort of giant insect shaped like orange wedges and layered with light blue glowing rock) to pick up victims to bring back to the moon’s arena at its boney core to perform in baffling circuses before being eaten. Everybody hated Moon Days for good reasons, for good bloody murdery reasons.

Garfield’s fear of spiders was a legit fear of spiders. They were crazy scary in the Life Abundance Apocalypse.

“This is what it has come to,” Odi Whati confessed to a priest, the only one who’d listen. “To keep my mother from assassinating Jim Davis, the only thing I can think to do is blaspheme the Pumpkin Witch.”

“I don’t understand any of that.”

“I know…nobody does.”

Later: “Did you call Easter the Rabbit Witch to keep me from murdering Jim Davis?” said Odi’s mom Better Last (after she totally did).

“No” Odi said and giggled because of how bad she was at lying even though it was totally awkward to giggle while discussing the invocation of apocalypse monsters to stop a murder.

So Easter the Rabbit Witch came along to bring Odi’s whole world to an end. It was a rather dramatic variation on the classic “You never like my friends, Mom!” argument but in terms of world endings and world famous cartoonists.

But one world-ending force (Easter the Rabbit Witch) met another world-ending force (Emperor Garfield), and that would have been especially dramatic if Emperor Garfield (as a disembodied lung) had any hope in abating the savagery of Easter. Even with Garfield’s gravity/antigravity powers, Easter was just too much of a badass; even with two Emperor Garfields, future and present, Easter only busied his murderclaws for a minute and a half. The dying speech of each one, impaled at the end of the Easter’s right and left claws, was very dramatic and heart rending: “Oh what folly that I’ve spent my life in such vain pursuits,” etc. and “Oh that the world had known the beauty of my glory,” etc. Too bad they both delivered their speeches simultaneously, no man willing to cede the floor to the other so it came out as gobbledygook

Long story short, Easter the Rabbit Witch and Odi’s mom battled a lot and it was awesome. To humans caught in the middle, it was a little cataclysmic and tragic and all that, and maybe Odi could’ve done something to stop it, but she was kind of into it.

Odi Whati, torn in pieces by motherneeds so no motion was in her capacity, got yanked aside by Oiam, ‬  and Ilty the Museum curator inside him said, “I think I have a way to save us. Catastrophe Puppets in ancient times created the Trinkets of Interrogative Pronouns based on patterns handed down to them by their mother, the Tailor Angel Yttriel. I’ve been trying to find them all since Garfield told me about their existence and how they’re hidden in plain sight (he learned all about them from his puppet conscience days). The only one I’ve been able to find is the Pipe Reed of Where. Smoke from this pipe allows you to pass through the barrier to any picture, including drawn pictures. In other words, you can travel to any world you imagine as long as you’re able to draw it.”

At that point, they all turned to the world-famous cartoonist Jim Davis.

“I guess this is what they call the 3rd panel inevitability.”

“Who calls it that?”

“Cuh-cartoonists. Cartoonists are the ones who call it that. Never mind. Tell me what I need to do.”

They worked together to sew Odi back together in kindness, delicate and steady hands in contrast to the chaos around.

Odi Whati then interjected herself in the amazing battle between Better Last and Easter the Rabbit Witch and said, “Ahem, excuse me, this battle is pretty great, don’t get me wrong, but we have an offer: if you stop battling, thus saving humanity from your apocalypse-stopping apocalypse, Jim Davis is willing to draw worlds full of Pumpkin Witch blasphemers for Easter to slaughter to perpetually satisfy his slaughter hunger, and your part of the deal, mom, is that you love me and never abandon me ever ever.”

“No deal,” Better Last said though she had no reason once Easter jumped right in the genocide Jim Davis made him. Better Last was left rejecting Odi Whati for rejection’s sake alone, and Odi knew Better Last better than ever, a final gift despite itself.

And so the years passed. Jim Davis daily drew his scenes of blasphemers for the Rabbit Witch to eat and every slaughter stabbed him deep and made him age a little more, smoking that awful pipe he never grew to love.

When the apocalypse he long waited for did come (and hopefully Odi Whati would return with it) Jim Davis climbed to the top of the tallest building in the city to get the best view, but it wasn’t the volcano of cat birth he fell in love with so many years ago. It was wave after wave of some apocalyptic force (whichever of the many possibilities it ended up being) wiping out humanity piece by piece.

Odi Whati was appeared on the roof with him now.

“What happened to the apocalypse you promised me?” Jim Davis shouted over the noise.

“There’s something I forgot to tell you,” she said. “There were a couple of years (back when people still believed in years) when the Life Abundance Apocalypse struggled to be born. My human skin is made out of corpses from that time. I didn’t want to tell you because I was afraid you…wouldn’t like that.”

He didn’t.