Ice on my fingers and my toes and I’m a Taurus.
“Hey, Eliza,” I said. “Check out what came in the mail today. It’s Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Volume Six on DVD.”
“It’s what?” she said.
“You know, Aqua Teen Hunger Force. It’s that show on Cartoon Network’s late night Adult Swim lineup. It’s about Master Shake, a talking milkshake, Frylock, a magical carton of French fries, and Meatwad, a clueless meatball, and all the crazy adventures they have. Oh, and their crude, disgusting neighbor Carl, too.”
“This is something you actually watch?”
“I promise, it’s really funny. You’ve got to check it out.”
Eliza rolled her eyes in that way that she always did whenever she wasn’t sure about something but about to try it anyway. She sat down on the couch next to me as I opened the package and took out the two-disc DVD set, containing 13 episodes that originally aired in early 2008.
Then, as the disc tray slid out of the player, the entire house rumbled as a voice boomed from the heavens.
“FOOLISH MORTAL! THOU KNOWEST NOT WHAT AWAITS THEE UPON VIEWING THIS DVD! WHEN THOU PRESSEST ‘PLAY,’ THE UNIVERSE SHALT REND APART AND THOU SHALT LOSE THY FRAGILE HOLD UPON ALL OF REALITY! VERILY, THOU HAST BEEN WARNED!!!”
“Huh,” I said. “That was different.” Then I put the DVD in the player.
“Oh, my God!” Eliza screamed. “Your hand!”
Somehow, impossibly, as the disc tray slid back into the player with the DVD, it had taken my right hand with it, so that my wrist was now a paper-thin tissue connecting my arm to my DVD player.
Now it was my turn to scream. “What’s happening?”
Panicking, Eliza picked up the remote and aimed it at me. “What do I do? What do I do?”
“Eject! Press eject!”
I felt a tingling sensation—not a pleasant one. Bluish-white streaks of pure electricity shot out of my arm, and continued until my entire body pulsed with popping lights.
“Oh, no!” Eliza said, tears forming. “Oh, I’m so sorry.”
“Sorry?” I asked, with miniature streaks of lightning spurting out of my mouth.
“I pressed ‘play’ by accident,” she whimpered. “I’m sorry.”
“What?!?” That was the last word I got out before I lost control of my senses. My vision blanked out, so that all I saw were the exploding white lights surrounding me. My skin lost all feeling and my hearing was drowned out by the crackling, thunderous energy. For a few seconds, I thought I heard a deep voice laughing at me, and I thought I saw a hand reaching out to me through the chaos. I wanted to reach toward it, but couldn’t.
After that, everything went black.
“Is he alive? Is he conscious? Where did he come from?”
“Quit it with the stupid questions. Just take his wallet and let’s get outta here.”
I didn’t know where I was or how long I had been out. I was aware of lying on a hard surface, and that my eyes didn’t feel like opening. I had a vague sensation of rubbing my own eyes. That, and someone was nearby, talking about my wallet.
“He’s regained consciousness,” the first voice said.
“But has he regained subconsciousness?” the second voice said.
I opened my eyes and sat up. I had ended up in the middle of the street in an ordinary middle-class suburb. My right hand had returned to normal. Looking around, I couldn’t see where the voices had come from. Not wanting to get run over, I stood and groggily walked over to the nearest front yard, where, for apparently no reason, someone had placed a refrigerator and an electric guitar, right in the middle of the lawn. A squirrel playfully scurried around some distance from them.
“Get away from us!” the refrigerator said. This was the first voice I had heard.
“Either that or give us your wallet,” the guitar said, which was, of course, the second voice.
“You can talk,” I said.
“So can you,” the fridge said. “Astounding, isn’t it? Now give us your wallet.”
“Where am I?”
“You’re in the Kingdom of Give-Us-Your-Wallet,” the guitar said. “Price of entry: Your wallet.”
“I’m not giving you anything!” I said. “Now tell me where I am, really.”
At this point, the squirrel ran over and looked up at me with its big, cute eyes.
“Hey, little fellah,” I said.
“Put on your Satanic bikini,” the squirrel said. “It’s time for another one of Satan’s Jacuzzi parties. The Satanic flow jets produce such warm, relaxing Satanic bubbles. It’s Satanic bliss!”
With that, he scampered off to the other side of the lawn.
“Um…” I started.
“Don’t mind him,” the fridge said. “That’s just Chuckles the Squirrel. He hardly ever says anything, and when he does, all he talks about is Satan’s Jacuzzi.”
“We can make him go away if you want,” the guitar said. “All you have to do is give us your wallet.”
I felt a headache coming on. “I have to get back home. This isn’t right. All I wanted was to watch my new Aqua Teen DVD with…”
“The DVD!” the fridge screamed. It seemed to shiver with fear for a moment. “He has beheld the DVD!”
“What?” I said. “What about the DVD?”
“Give your wallet and we’ll tell you,” the guitar said.
“Look, I just wanted to watch the new Aqua Teen Hunger Force DVDs with my girlfriend Eliza—she’s a roller derby star, by the way—and the next thing I know, I’m here. Now, are you two talking inanimate objects going to tell me what’s going on, or what?”
Impossibly, the refrigerator and the guitar turned to face one another.
“You know what we must do,” the fridge said.
“Yes, I suppose we do,” the guitar said. “But his wallet…”
“The time for that is past, dammit!” the fridge said. “Summon forth the Atlantian!”
The guitar’s strings vibrated, as if strummed by an invisible hand. The ground rumbled with a rockin’ power chord, blasting so loudly I had to cover my ears and drop to my knees. The street next to us broke apart in a massive crevice. The power chord faded, replaced by the sound of a roaring engine. The biggest monster truck I had ever seen came driving up from underground, its tires larger than most of the two-story homes on this street.
“You must ride the Atlantian,” the fridge said. “It will take you where you need to be.”
“But first you must give us your wallet,” the guitar said.
The fridge turned to the guitar again. “Will you stop it with the wallet? I’m telling you, that ship has sailed.”
A ladder lowered from inside the truck. Against my better judgment, I climbed up it, into the truck’s cab. The fridge, guitar and squirrel were already inside, with the fridge sitting at the steering wheel. I climbed over it and sat between it and the guitar. The squirrel ran over and sat on my lap.
“How’d you three get up here?”
“Never mind that,” the fridge said. “Prepare for tachyon speed!”
The truck’s engines rumbled to life and it sped forward, pressing me against the seat as streaming pink and red lights flashed past all the windows. I assumed they weren’t taking me home.
The Atlantian stopped in front of a massive gothic mansion. The skies over it were heavy with grey thunderclouds. I walked toward the structure, feeling the eyes of its many sculpted gargoyles on me. The fridge, guitar and squirrel followed closely behind me. I had given up trying to figure out how a fridge and guitar could talk, move, etc.
“He who beholds the Aqua Teen DVD must meet with Krongor the Insatiable,” the fridge said.
“Great,” I said.
“This totally isn’t what I wanted to do today,” the guitar said. “I wanted to go to that place at the mall that has all those different kinds of chocolates. Not to buy anything, just to smell.”
I knocked on the mansion’s front door. It opened, seemingly by itself. Cautiously, I stepped inside.
“Hello?” I called, my voice echoing through the gigantic foyer, which was tastefully posh, if a little dusty.
“I am a pretty little girl, but he who watches Aqua Teen is an even prettier one,” a scratchy, high-pitched voice said.
I looked up and saw a wrinkly old man walking down the mansion’s opulent main stairway toward me. He wore only a diaper and mud-covered combat boots. At least I hoped it was mud.
“You must listen to Krongor the Insatiable,” the refrigerator said. “He knows all.”
Krongor walked up to me, eyeing me with scrutiny.
“The writings of the ancients have foretold of the day when one would behold Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Volume Six,” he said. “Also, if you play the song ‘Downtown is Groove Town’ by the Funky Plungers backwards, that too predicts this moment.”
“All these non-sequiturs and this surrealist humor are getting to be too much,” I said. “Just tell me what’s going on.”
“Come with me,” Krongor said. He led us into his drawing parlor, where we sat on his ornate antique furniture.
“I was never meant to be here, wherever ‘here’ is,” I said. “All I wanted was to watch the DVDs with my girlfriend—she’s a roller derby star, by the way.”
Krongor smiled. “First of all, you’re not fooling anyone. Your girlfriend works in a pharmacy. You just wish she was a roller derby star.”
Dammit, I thought. How’d he know that?
“Second, one does not merely watch Volume Six of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, one experiences it. On the surface, ATHF appears to be little more than an absurdist comedy cartoon made for late-night TV, but it is so much more. It is a state of mind.”
“Yeah, it’s a great show,” I said. “Now about getting me home…”
“Your consciousness has been expanded,” Krongor said. “And your subconsciousness has been doubly expanded. The answer to the mystery that is Aqua Teen Hunger Force lies not in the show itself, but in the precise conjoining of the both show and your own brain.”
Krongor leaned back in his chair, stroked his chin with one and adjusted his diaper with the other, and smiled. His teeth were all yellow, except for one dark grey one.
“Therefore,” he said, “I will cut out part of your brain.”
“Awesome!” the fridge said.
“Oohh, yeah!” the guitar said. “This is gonna be way better than smelling chocolate at the mall!”
I didn’t need to hear any more. I bolted out of my seat and ran for the exit. Back in the foyer, two muscle-bound men in black suits and sunglasses jumped out of nowhere and grabbed hold of me.
“Good work, boys,” Krongor said, walking towards me as I struggled against the two men. “Take him downstairs. To the lab.”
Stanza Number Four
Before I knew it, I was in Krongor’s laboratory, strapped to an operating table set at a convenient 45 degree angle from the floor. I could see around the room, where the fridge, guitar and squirrel watched the proceedings. What I couldn’t see was what Krongor did behind me, although I at times heard clinking metal instruments and squishy, fleshy sounds.
“You’re not really giving me brain surgery while I’m lying here awake, are you?” I said.
“You won’t feel a thing,” Krongor’s voice came from behind me.
“Stop it!” I screamed. “My brain isn’t going to tell you a thing about some DVD.”
“On the contrary,” Krongor said. “Aqua Teen Hunger Force is within your mind and all around you—all at once.”
At this point, Chuckles the Squirrel playfully pranced up to me and said, “At Satan’s Jacuzzi parties, Satan’s wives usually serve some Satanic cheese on Satanic crackers. It’s a Satanic delight.” He then hurried over to the corner and pooped on the floor.
“Just relax,” Krongor said to me. “Relax, and open your mind.”
I didn’t feel like relaxing, but my eyelids grew heavy, and my mind drifted…
Suddenly, images and half-thoughts flashed, lightning-like, in my head.
FLASH! This volume of ATHF is nothing like the others.
FLASH! With the exception of the three Aqua Teens and their neighbor Carl, there are almost no other recurring characters in this volume.
FLASH! In addition, this set begins with a multi-part episode that barely features the Aqua Teens at all.
I groaned in pain. “No Mooninites? No Plutonians? None of the show’s usual running gags? How can this be?”
Krongor stepped around in front of me. Grinning, he held a jar containing a small grey blob in it.
“Is that a piece of my brain?” I asked.
“You’re doing very well,” Krongor said. “Now tell me, just why are these DVDs so brilliant?”
“Because…” I said.
“Yes?” Krongor said.
The fridge and guitar leaned forward in anticipation.
“Because…the show’s creators are experimenting. They’re trying new things, exploring new kinds of writing, and, as a result, Aqua Teen Hunger Force takes off in exciting—and yet still hilarious—new directions.”
“Congratulations,” Krongor said. “You have achieved enlightenment.”
With that, I felt my soul lift away from my body, rising upward from Krongor’s lab, his mansion, and whatever odd suburb I had found myself in. In this non-corporeal state, I was surrounded by images and feelings from Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Volume Six. I saw the multi-part opening episodes about Carl trying to sell the Aqua Teens’ house with them suspiciously absent. I experienced great character-based episodes, such as when Shake stole Frylock’s laser eye powers, the effects a “chick magnet” has on all three of them, or Frylock’s attempts to make new friends on MySpace. Then, I floated through some of the more outrageous ones, such as the characters joining the Marines, or their house overtaken by partiers in animal costumes, or Shake’s unusual radioactive transformation. I drifted higher and higher into new planes of existence, where I beheld unpredictable, experimental episodes about the characters finding a genie, or a “chick magnet,” or a scary ventriloquist dummy, or a mysterious monster lurking at the bottom of Carl’s pool.
As my spirit journeyed farther into the ether, I saw how the show’s audio and video look as good as can be expected, considering its low budget. Bonus features swirled around me like a morning fog, revealing a bunch of “I’m Pissed” short cartoons starring Carl, a live action “Terror Phone” short film in the same humorous tone as the series, a mock look at Radical Axis animation studio, more “Funny Pete” promos for the series, and all the cut scenes from the ATHF Playstation 2 golf game.
The atmosphere broke apart around me, and then I was in space. The stars and galaxies were far away and right next to me at the same time. I knew my transformation into a higher life form was complete, except for one final step. Off in the distance, one final object floated in space, waiting for my arrival. I guided my ever-expanding mental self toward it, to discover the final piece of Volume Six’s greatness. There, in the exact center of the universe, at the very foundation of creation itself, that’s where I found the incredibly cool sheet of stickers that come with the DVDs.
I wasn’t sure how much time had passed after I became one with all existence, but it couldn’t have been that long, because I appeared back on my couch, sitting next to Eliza. She looked over at me and smiled as the ATHF closing credits played on the TV, complete with Shake’s “Dancing is forbidden” sound bite.
“You’re right, this is a really funny show,” she said. “Weird, but funny.”
“Yeah, it’s…” I started. “Hey, wait a minute.”
I checked my pockets. “Aw, crap! My wallet’s gone!”