“OK man, look I’m just a programmer OK? Ummm,” The blognapper I held at gunpoint walked with his face turned just enough to watch me from the side of his eye. He dug in his brain, searching for some tidbit of truth he could serve me without divulging too much. “We’re creating an artificial intelligence, and we need it to have humor, to um, to be funny ya know, so we were using you.”

“What the fuck is that supposed to mean? Who is Manilla Man?!” I barked, nudging the muzzle under his armpit.


Oh right, they don’t call him that and now I look like a maniacal prison escapee. Fine. “Who’s the suit I just buried a pair of scissors into?” I punctuated the word scissors with another stab of the gun muzzle under his shoulder, making him instinctively raise his hands and pin elbows to ribs.

“That’s Brian!” he yelped. “He’s with the H & X group! He’s our boss, he hired us!”

“To do what?”

“To write this AI for his machines.”

I looked over my shoulder for the dozenth time. The door in the ground was far behind us now, still ajar. It was rush hour and traffic was at a standstill, one car after another. We walked by a red sedan. The woman in the driver’s seat made wide-eyed eye contact with me, her mouth opening.

My hostage kept blabbing. “They’ve got all these machines, these human machines… Human-chines. Manchines…” If he had moved on to “auto-man-ton” I know I would’ve pulled the trigger. “They say they look just like humans. I don’t know, they never let me see one. But they contacted us like three months after we’d just started our freelance group wanting help finishing up their code for these machines. They needed a humor patch. It was a big deal for us, biggest contract we’d had by far so we jumped at the chance, you know? We didn’t know they were mobsters or whatever.

“Then we were getting flown all around the country, it was the best job I ever had. They’d feed us, throw us bonuses and tell us to hit the strip clubs, they’d party with us, fly us out to LA, New York City, Vegas, man every night for weeks on end sometimes we partied. We’d have to write code on weekends to catch up from a work week of partying. But they were cool, ya know? They always told us like ‘don’t worry about it’ and they knew we’d deliver what they wanted and stuff.”

I interrupted, “What does this have to do with throwing me in fucking dungeon?” Another look back over my shoulder: a long line of cars and staring drivers, some on their phones, a few already talking to the cops I was sure. And an empty sidewalk.

“Well it started one night, we were in Seattle, been drinking all night and Rob, this other guy at H & X, said we were leaving, so we followed and we ride with him figuring we’re going to find some women ya know? But we went from a party straight to some guy’s house and next thing you know we’re kidnapping some fool blogger!

“We thought it was all a joke, these guys did crazier shit before, I mean these guys’d set their buddy’s coats on fire in a tittybar parking lot and just laugh their asses off at it and shit ya know? I figured it was just some other H & X guy they were messing with. By the time we figured out they were really kidnapping this dude I was like ‘I don’t want nothing to do with this shit man, ya know?’ but then they threatened me and I’m just sayin’ we didn’t want to kidnap you dude! I didn’t! I swear!” He had his head fully turned now, alternating between watching me and where he was going. “I swear to God, man, I swear to Jesus I didn’t man!”

No pleading,” I declared, stiffening my gun arm and he shut up. I took another look over my shoulder. Someone was walking behind us.

Just a pedestrian? I thought. Walking home from the store? He was a tall white guy, closer to me than the tunnel. I remembered how the people who had taken me were pedestrians on this sidewalk. He was walking fast, toward me. Like, silly walk fast. Then he was running. “Shit,” came out of my mouth.

I mean, I heard myself say “Shit” before I could think of doing it consciously.

“Let’s go lesgo lesgo lesgo!” I pushed the gun into the small of my hostage’s back, urging him forward. We ran. We accelerated.

He was faster than me of course, as I was the one who’d just climbed out of a hospital bed in an underground jail cell. The blognapper began to pull ahead. I grabbed for his shirt with three fingers of my right hand, still gripping the gun right behind his back. Cloth brushed fingertips. He was taking off. A diving swipe of my left hand nabbed a handful of his shirt. He surged forward, lifting my running gait onto my toes.

Heavy slapping footfalls followed us. I looked behind and it was Runner Number 2 fifty feet behind and gaining. I yanked my co-runner’s shirt left like the reins of a horse, pulling him off the sidewalk just as the brick wall to our left opened onto the entrance to Meadowbrook Court. We tumbled forward. He smacked into the edge of the opposite wall with a gross, slapping crunch, sending him spinning to the ground in front of me. I tripped over his body and fell into a collection of bushes lining the inside of the wall.

My pursuer rounded the corner as my hostage got to his knees, wheezing. Runner Number 2 quick-stepped to a halt and as I scrambled out of the shrubbery he took a perfect, feet-shoulder’s-width-apart firing range stance, aiming at me.

Three things happened in very quick succession:

Both of my hands flew up and I shielded my cowardly flinching face with one empty hand and one loaded pistol.

My hostage stood up groaning.

Runner Number 2 unloaded his gun.

Most of his bullets sprayed the wall behind me, raining bits of shattered brick all over my head, but when the gun was clicking it was evident that at least a few hit his partner in crime.

My hostage looked up at his dumbstruck shooter who stood over him, revolver smoking. “Fuck, Chris!” the bloodied man breathed, his last words.

I remembered I had a gun. I shot the remaining living kidnapper in the leg. He cried out and collapsed.

I approached him and got him to explain the rest of the story to me. Manilla Man Brian was the imbecile brother of some hotshot mob guys. He was working on a plan to take over the nation with AI bots that could replace people. Apparently they were finally realistic enough to warrant a real-world test, and one was being used in my neighborhood.

Whatever. I didn’t hear all of it to be honest, because all I wanted was to be home. I left the bleeding blabbing men behind.

When I walked into my house, my girlfriend was sitting on the couch with me.

Other Me looked up and realization dawned on its stupid robot face. It was a pretty realistic effect, and I’ll admit, I was impressed with the H & X product.

Other Me jumped straight into its Meeting-The-Person-Youre-Impersonating() subroutine. He stood up and pointed at me wearing a horrified expression. “NO! SHOOT HIM, I’M THE REAL JOHN!” he screamed. At me. Before I had my gun out.

Well, it was admittedly an unfinished product. I shot Other Me’s head off. It landed several feet away from where the body smashed into the ground. Cables hung from its neck, most unplugged from interestingly shaped sockets. Some part of me was disappointed. No sparks.

And now here I am. The cops were called about two dozen times on my walk home. I have hired an attorney who has advised me not to type any of this, but I felt you deserved a little closure. I’m afraid I can say no more now, however, until legal matters are resolved and I am free to write a book about this. It’s going to be explosive or something.


So There I Was, Shot In The Face…

I still have no idea how many days later I awoke. So much for my time-keeping system. Felt like weeks, honest to god weeks.

Those first moments of dawning consciousness were like being nudged awake after the deepest, purest sleep of my life. But before my eyelids could even part: pain. Muscles ached. Every breath stopped short by needles in my lungs. The skin of my face was a fire just over the horizon, a blaze of anguish raging behind a veil of sedation.

My eyes opened but there was only darkness. I reached up to my face (spontaneously clutching at injury as we all do) but instead of flesh my fingers brushed against a rough, papery texture. Through the drugs and the pain and the lingering sleep in my head it dawned on me: some sort of bag was over my head.

I removed the hood, bag, whatever it was these people had covered me with. The skin of my face rebelled at the friction of fabric against it, the pain muffled and distant but still there. My senses were returning casually. I surveyed my surroundings.

The room looked familiar. Ah. My cell. The ceiling above my cot, where I lay beneath an array of draped clear tubes. A silver stand looming over me supporting a bag of some clear liquid. The air bore a heavy scent: sweat and blood and rubbing alcohol and iodine and others–the thousand intermingling smells of hasty, amateur medicine.

Gradually I coaxed my body up, groaning and hissing as I lifted myself and sat on the edge of the low bed. There I rested, hunched, taking shallow breaths and inventory of my situation. A thin layer of dust circled the room and collected in the corners. Around me, the same dust was swept haphazardly away by a multitude of scuffed bootprints, revealing a grey concrete spotted by oily stains. My torso was wrapped in yellowed bandages pressing a pillow of red gauze to my left side. Judging by the pain, the wound beneath was dramatic.

Tenderly exploring the skin of my also-injured face I found bandages stuck to the lower left side of my chin. I worked my jaw open and shut, side to side. It clicked and ached and that clicking and aching reached into the pathways of my brain and surfaced with the remembrance of a gun.

Cocking: clicklik.

Pain: BANG.

A rush of dreamy memories was upon me. Lying on my back, squinted vision filled and burning with overhead light. Tiny scalpel flickering reflected light into my eye. Surgeries. Doctors in a facemask and one… and one wearing a sweatband? A man in a suit. Manilla Man. My mind’s flood gate opened wider: the gun, my grab for it, the fistfight and gunfire and a graph drawn in MS Paint. Me doing some incredible kung fu shit and escaping this hell. This hell I was kidnapped and thrown into.

“OK, OK,” I said. I could dismiss that last bit about my badassery as one hundred percent dream, but the rest was finally back to me, and more than ever was clear to me now. “I should be dead,” I whispered. And then I smiled. I should be dead is a hell of a thing to be able to speak in truth. They should have killed me. But they didn’t kill me. In fact they spared me at great expense.

Voices. Down a hall and fast approaching, “…nother two hours at least,” someone was saying. I swung my body back into bed, wrenching something in my left side and finishing my spin in a collapse of pain, gagging back an instinctive cry. The voices rounded the familiar corner just as I spotted a pair of gauze scissors on the metal tray by the bed. I reached for them and my hand fell to my side as in walked three men.

I shut my eyes. “We’ve lost a lot of time because of you,” someone said. Was he talking to me?

“You’re blogging again today, my friend,” he said. It was the Manilla Man and he was talking to me. That’s when I remembered the bag. I had tossed it aside and forgotten about it! I was lying here faking sleep and he knew it! “And when you’re done we’ll have everything we need out of… ” his voice trailed and in that instant I opened my eyes. There he was to my right, not looking at me but looking down at the floor by my head. I drew my right hand way back, scissors pointed down.

“…aw come on guys, you have to have the bag on his head or we won’t get to call him–” my scissor-wielding fist pounded into his back, plunging the scissors much much deeper than I thought they would. The yelp he made is untypable, some sort of a gagging baby-scream ending with a question mark.

Just behind the collapsing Manilla Man, the two runners and their thug stood wide eyed in blue medical scrubs. One hung his mouth open and emitted a “Whooaaaaaaaaa.” I climbed out of the bed but the obviously against-me odds were like a hand against my chest; I stood with the backs of my legs against the mattress.

The suited dude was bleeding all over my feet, clawing at that spot that’s impossible to itch or get a pair of scissors out of. He rolled over and would you believe that. Nobody saw it coming either. I just knelt down and pulled his gun right out of its holster.

I had to shoot twice at the big guy because shooting a gun is nothing like in the movies and the first one went way high. He fell backward clutching his sternum. After that I just pointed and fired until both he and one of the runners were a heap on the floor. I aimed at the last one who now cowered in a corner behind a little rollaround table he did not fit behind at all.

“What do you want with me?” I asked him, watching the entrance and getting ready to leave.

“Please dude, don’t kill me please,” he whimpered.

“What do you want with me?” I repeated. My mind was made up: if he didn’t answer again this time, I was out of here without the answer to all this crazy shit. This was my chance to escape.

“I’ll tell you man just please let me go let me live please man please,” he kept repeating himself, overwhelming me with pleas for his life. It made me want to shoot him in the face just to shut him up.

“Okay! ” I barked. “Get the fuck out of there, come here.” I coaxed him out with the gun’s aim and stood him in front of me at the gate of the cell. I hastily chose my commands. “Lead me out of here. If we see anyone else or you make a sound I’ll kill you.”

He walked left out of my cell, a few paces and then turned left again. Ten paces later we were at a set of stairs leading up to a large rectangular metal door. My hostage stopped and looked back at me. It’s amazing what a glance and a nod with a pistol can communicate. He climbed the stairs, pulled back two metal sliding posts and pushed open half the doorway, the door-lid slamming open on the other side.

It was daylight. The sound of cars. I couldn’t believe how close I had been to the exit all this time.

My hostage and I climbed out and I found myself in the exact spot I had been kidnapped from, less than a mile from my house. “We’re walking back to my place,” I said to the mother fucker I had at gun point in broad daylight. “Start talking.”


Chapter 2

I had fantasized about the moment of my rebellion for days. There hadn’t been a bag over my head since Manila Man had become my escort to the Blogging Chamber and I just knew, eventually, I’d be led down that hallway for the last time. I had imagined myself muttering something under my breath like “It’s payback time,” before exploding into a fit of vengeful violence:

We’re walking away from my cage, a gun to my back, when I stop dead in my tracks and slam my elbow backward into my kidnapper’s gut (he drops the gun). I turn and whale on his doubled-over body before sprinting to the exit and safety.


There’s a gun in my face. I steady my gaze, careful not to telegraph anything, ensuring the person looking down the barrel doesn’t see what’s coming for him before I smack his hand away with my left (he drops the gun) as my right gouges out his eyes. I leave him behind, screaming, bloody hands pressed to his face. I sprint to the exit and to safety.


Resting against the back of my head is that familiar pistol. I chat casually over my shoulder about whatever is on the screen, turn as though intending to explain further and then SNATCH!–I have my enemy’s crotch in a vice-grip. He drops the gun because I yank him into a backflip by the balls. While he’s flipping in the air I kick him in the back, sending his still-flipping body into the brick wall. He groans in pain among shattered bits of wall and what remains of his reproductive organs as I sprint to the exit and safety.

The list goes on. One of my imagined scenarios was going to play out any day now. I just had to wait for the right moment, and pick a better one-liner to deliver when the shit went down.

So there I sat, explaining to my gun-wielding kidnapper what had become a facet of comedy so painfully meta I would never again explore it, and for reasons I still don’t fully understand, I could not wait any longer. No plans, nothing thought-out, no surveying of the surroundings or first moves guaranteed to capture the element of surprise. Nothing at all like that in fact. One second I was describing how telling the same joke for hours at a time made it funnier. The next second:

I was on my feet. The gun fired LOUD. Never heard anything so loud, and after the explosion there was no sound in the tiny room at all. The left side of my torso was warm and wet. Both my hands on the gun. Fingers groped, wrists and elbows angled in attempts at rending the pistol from the other’s grip. We danced, our swaying arms and shuffling feet making no sound I could hear at all.  My gaze met his and there was no fear in Manila’s eyes–it was the grim look of a man determined not to lose his life. “It’s… payback time,” I grunted. He head-butted me, forehead-to-nose. My eyes welled up. I staggered. Deafened silence gave way to ringing. My grip must have loosened. He shot me in the face.

I’m Alive…

I’m back. The bullet wounds are healing. Where was I? I don’t have a lot of time…


“It’s kind of a meta-joke,” I explained for the fourth time. “The graph is a joke about joke funniness over time. You tell a joke. It’s funny. Or not funny. It gets a reaction of some sort.” I pointed at the first trough in the graph. “Then it’s done, and if you repeat the joke it is absolutely 100% guaranteed to be not funny. You might get one retelling that’s not devoid of humor but after that, comedic value dips to zero. Are you with me so far?”

Manila Man scribbled feverishly at the bottom of a yellow legal pad, flipped the sheet over the spine and began again at the top of the next page. He was on page four. I had been attempting to explain this lame-ass frankenstein of a joke for the past twenty minutes. His pen, one of those cheap clear ball-points with no cap, wobbled clumsily as he wrote. It clacked against the trigger-guard of the gun which he somehow held in the same hand.

“Mhm,” he hummed at me, never looking up from his writing. “So first, the joke is funny. Then it’s not funny.”

I gazed at his writing/gun-wielding hand: transfixed, partially in awe of the circus-act going on in the hand and head of the man before me. Primarily though, I watched the gun. It was that very gun which had been held either in my face or against the back of my skull for the better part of the last 24 hours; and maybe I told you this already, but I wanted it. I was going to have it.

“But then it can be funny again?”

“Not for a little while.” I looked away from the gun. “You repeat the joke, over and over again, all along this line here,” I pointed at the bottom of the graph. “Around here, people think you’re an imbecile. ‘Didn’t he just tell that joke?’ they say to themselves.

“Here, they know you’re one.

“Around about here they start to hate you. ‘Why is he doing this to us?’ they will ask themselves and, later, each other. But here:” I pointed to the graph’s upward slope. “Someone hears you start it up again. That same. Old. Joke. The elements of surprise and humor no longer enter the equation. But something magical happens. This guy chuckles anyway. You’ve hardly even begun the joke and someone’s already laughing again. Why?”

The man didn’t answer, he just wrote and wrote, probably transcribing every word and missing it all. His jotting hand slid from one side of the paper to the other, the gun he held with it wavering from side to side. I swayed, keeping out of its aim. It was so close. I could see the red band around the safety switch (off), the grooves along the side of the barrel. I took a preparatory breath, then jerked when he spoke.

“I thought a joke was funny or not funny, how can it change like this?”

“The joke is not funny. The joke is dead. Long dead,” I explained, looking away from his weapon with affected casualness. “At this point it’s not the joke that’s getting laughs. It’s the meta-joke: the fact that you’re still telling this joke… is now the joke.” Manila Man was back to his writing, nodding absently as though he were “getting it.” He wasn’t getting it. Hell, I wasn’t getting it. This stupid ugly graph picture was supposed to be a joke based on the ridiculous notion of trying to explain comedy with a set of rules. Now it had itself become a joke repeated ad nauseum, the very concept it described. It had not yet gotten funnier over time.

Maybe that’s why I went for the gun.

Day 12 Of My Captivity: Q & A

Lately I’ve gotten a lot of questions from readers about my situation, which I’d like to take the time to answer here.

Caroline from Ann Arbor, MI writes: Hey John, You keep saying “Day X of my captivity.” If you’re locked away without a view of the outside world, how do you know what day it is?

Thanks for writing, Caroline. When you never see sunlight, you don’t lose track of time completely, you just end up inventing your own method of tracking it. For instance, I have no idea what day of the week it actually is, however I do feel (though I can not be 100% certain) that I know how many days I have been here. Each day I stay awake until my eyelids are having trouble staying open. I sleep, and when I awaken I call it “tomorrow.” I get up immediately, resisting the urge to snooze on the cot, and in this way I keep my sleep schedule regulated and hopefully unchanged. So while I may not know for certain if the people outside are calling this moment “morning,” or even if the sun is shining, I do have my own “mornings,” “afternoons,” and “evenings” corresponding to certain daily rituals, such as doing an hour’s worth of push-ups and sit-ups, or being taken to the Blogging Chamber to sit at this very keyboard and answer imaginary mother fuckers from Ann Arbor who DONT EVEN EXIST, BECAUSE NO ONE CAN WRITE TO ME, BECAUSE ALL I HAVE IS A WORDPRESS ACCOUNT, AN ANIMATED GORILLA CONVINCED I NEED THE ASKJEEVES TOOLBAR, AND TWELVE READERS WHO JUST KEEP READING MY BLOG INSTEAD OF CALLING. THE. POLICE. What the hell is wrong with you people?! Have they built a perfect android replica of me to take my place? I can’t be even five miles from my house. You are checking all the wrong underground prisons.

Manila Man came back the very next day. I was sitting on the toilet doing my business when he slid into view on the other side of the bars, hands behind his back, a most satisfied look upon his face. I sat there with my pants around my ankles glaring at him.

My displeasure in seeing him wasn’t merely due to the Gun To Your Head Humor Writing course he had taught the previous day. That didn’t do anything to improve trust in our relationship mind you, but you see, I’m the kind of guy who upon entering a bathroom sits down in a stall (the handicapped one of course, those things are the penthouse suite of any public restroom) and then waits for everyone else to leave.

I can not crap with someone else in the room. I especially can’t crap with someone making full-on eye contact with me on the commode. It had taken me three days in this hole to determine the time when no one walks by for five minutes so I could empty my bowels in peace. Now here was Mister Hard-Copy, smiling like it was his birthday, ruining everything.

After five or six interminable seconds staring at one another I asked, “Can we reschedule this? I’m a little busy.” He withdrew his hand from behind his back and Well how about that, if it wasn’t my old friend his gun! “You’re pointing a gun at a dude sitting on a toilet behind bars,” I said attempting to shame him into leaving me alone to finish. Of course, it didn’t work.

“Stand up, Blogger,” he said, twitching the gun upward. “Nice and easy.”

I stood, pulling up my jeans in the process and wondering what sudden moves he thought I might be preparing with my pants at my feet. Manila Man opened my cell door while I fastened them. I flushed, because even after twelve days I have not yet lost my humanity, then he directed me out and down the hall with more pistol motions and muzzle-jabs in the lower back. When I was finally seated in the Blogging Chamber, the gun rested casually at the base of my skull.

“It seems putting a gun to your head has inspired you,” he said behind me, having no idea what he was talking about. “Yesterday was some of your best work.”

“Don’t you read what I write in here? That part about how life-threatening demands to be funny are the exact opposite of–”

“Draw me that comedy graph you mentioned,” he interrupted.

There was no use talking to this guy. I sighed and opened the Start menu, finding one of the only apps still available to me on the Compaq: Microsoft Paint.

Creating the image shouldn’t have taken long, but having a gun to your head makes thinking difficult. Luckily, dude in the suit didn’t seem to mind; he and his firearm waited patiently behind me. Sadly, I was only minutes into my drawing when he broke the silence with smalltalk. “I came up with a good idea the other day,” he said. I said nothing, but my lack of interest didn’t phase him. “I want to start a band.”

Oh my god. Of course you do. I contemplated going for the gun right then and there. Worst case scenario: I get out of this “conversation” before it goes any further.

“Me and some buddies of mine really like My Morning Jacket. Do you know them? They’re incredible live. Anyway, instead of My Morning Jacket we’re gonna be My Magnum Dong. We’re gonna be a Morning Jacket cover band, except take all their songs and make them about dicks.”

I have to write this down, I thought. I had never been truly speechless until this moment. But my life depended upon finishing the graph picture first, so I kept at it, filing the conversation away in my mental list of things to blog about.

The next 10 minutes were spent listening to a list of dong-songs and finishing this masterpiece:

Funniness of a joke charted against time
Funniness of a joke repeated over time

He slammed every finger against the Prnt Scrn button as soon as the picture appeared. I took a breather and just watched him go at it for a while. Once I had printed the beginning of this post (a blank page, just the graph), he was out the door.

He was gone for maybe half an hour while I wrote, then in an instant he was bursting in, gun raised and between my widening eyes.

“Explain it,” he said.

There. It has taken me 3 days to write this. I think.

Much has happened and I’m beginning to no longer feel like myself. Tomorrow (day 13, i believe): the graph explained, but briefly. Much has happened, and I want to finish my story.

I want that gun.

Day 9 Of My Captivity: The Rules Of Comedy

I finally saw someone other than the Runner Twins and Big Security Guard yesterday. It was Manila Man. And it was not a pleasant experience. I was sitting on the cot, feeling particularly frustrated by my situation, when a man in a suit sauntered up to the cage. I stood and spread my arms:

“Hey! Manila Man!” I erupted in faux excitement. “What’s up you shit eater?!” In hindsight, I can see how this got things off on the wrong foot. I really shouldn’t call the guy “Manila Man” to his face, I’m sure he has a name.

The suited man looked stunned, his lips parted as though he had been about to speak before my enthusiastic greeting robbed him of his big gloating entrance. He stared at me through the bars instead. Just as I was preparing my next witticism (I think I was gonna say “How’s your mom?”) he jerked open the cell door. Thin Manila Folder Man’s hands went to his jacket as he rushed in. His face, eyes staring up at me from behind a furrowed brow, had darkened. I thought I saw a pistol appear in one hand but the other hand was already behind my neck and gripping tightly, shoving me out of the cage door and into the hallway. My initial thought, He didn’t put a bag over my head!, faded quickly once the gun muzzle pressed under my chin.

I was in the Blogging Chamber quicker than I could realize what was going on. Manila’s grip on my neck mashed me into this seat, facing this abacus, and then a gun was against the back of my head. It rested there casually, without force, and somehow that lack of physical pressure drove home the ease with which a tunnel could be carved through my skull. I didn’t move. On the screen Microsoft Windows logos flew toward us in a dazzling six-color array.

“You haven’t been doing your job, John,” he mocked. “I told you to write something funny for us.”

“No you didn’t.”

The gun slid an inch higher against the back of my head. “Do not toy with me, blogger.”

“No, really, you didn’t. You said something like ‘You work for us now or you’re through,’ and then you stormed out of the room. I have no idea what this is about! I mean, if this is–”

Enough. Of your games.”

Everyone thinks they know what a gun being cocked sounds like. Most of us think it sounds like the hollywood sound effect: a cool, crunchy, metal-on-metal collection of slides and clicks. Some have heard the sound in person, cocked a gun themselves, and they know it as a much less impressive, more practical sound: a hammer clicking into place or a new cartridge entering the chamber. Yet even those familiar with the gun rarely take time to inspect the sound it makes. But when you’re sitting in silence, and you hear the sound of a gun cocking behind your head, you discover that you’ve never actually heard that sound before in your life. It is the sound of time–an infinity of it you had unwittingly expected your future to be filled by–vanishing into a vacuum. The sound of rocks and pebbles tumbling down a cliff whose edge you’re stretching over. That sound when you shut up upon realizing a silence is spreading over the entire room because something amazing, or terrible, has happened.

Manila Man cocked that gun behind my head. “Write something funny.”

I wiggled the mouse and WordPress appeared, already running. That sound of the gun cocking behind me? It sounded like being seconds away from death. That is the sound of shit getting real. And shit getting real…

Is the antithesis.

Of funny.

I was utterly stumped. Seriously, what do you say or do with that? A gun was propping up the back of my head and I had moments to come up with something that made the murderous freak behind me laugh. Here is, unedited, what I typed:

Jesus fuck.
Ummm is it ok to talk to you while i do this or do i have to type? OK typing with a gun to my head what is funny? What is funny?
Dude, what is funny? OK, falling back on the rules of comedy.
Rule #1 – everything is funnier with monkeys. Monkey eating breakfast cereal. Monkey on Wall Street. Monkey Jesus and twelve other monkeys walking around in the desert preaching to monkeys.
OK that’s not translating well. I mean, I laughed at the monkey gospel a little but the gunman didn’t
Rule #2 – the worst joke is funny if repeated long enough. Shit thats not going to work I don’t have the time to tell the same bad joke for three months
Rule #3 – all jokes follow the same funniness graph when repeated over time:

At this point I knew I was going to die. I literally could not be funny to save my own life. My next step, assuming he continued to spare my life, was about to be a raw brain dump of all the things that had occurred to me in the last week of being locked up–a list that would have begun “Girls are really good at not talking about it when they’re on their periods.” But I realized Manila Man had lowered his gun. He was leaning over my shoulder, staring at the screen in astonishment.

I think he muttered “my god” under his breath, then he reached over me and began frantically pressing the “Prnt Scrn” button. A few bewildered seconds later and I figured out he was trying to get a printout of the page. I hit Ctrl+P and the printer in the back corner began its work. Manila waited at the printer eagerly, yanked the paper off the tray when it was finished, and gazed at it wide-eyed. He was still reading it, talking to himself, when he strode from the room.

“You could just look at it on the website, man,” I called after him. Why not be green, right? But he was already gone again. I peered outside and Big Security Guard Guy was standing there, so I came back in and now I’m done typing.

Day 6 Of My Captivity: I Have Thought Up A Bunch Of Band Names

The past several days since “Day 2” have all been very similar.

I wake up at some point and someone has left a cup of water and a bowl of what I have decided is luke-warm Quaker Oats instant oatmeal. One day it had little lines of syrup drizzled over the top in the shape of a smiley face.

I sit on my cot or the toilet for hours. I pass the time doing pushups and situps and stuff, drawing in the dust on the ground, and making shadow puppets (I can do the dog, the cat, the aligator, and I just got Abe Lincoln with a top hat). Mostly though, I think about what to blog.

Eventually they bring me into this room, which I have deemed The Blogging Chamber, where until today I have toiled away at the description of Day 2. I’m caught up on that now, and I can safely say the days have been mostly unremarkable ever since. Yesterday featured the only exception so far.

I was sitting on my cot when Runner Number 1 came by and jerked open my cage. “Get on up you baghead,” he taunted. Runner Number 2 was close behind. They crowded in and threw the familiar hood over my face again before I could speak–their typical course of action while leading me to the Blogging Chamber–before once again zip-tying my hands behind my back.

“Guys, really, you don’t have to put a bag over my head anymore,” I reasoned from within the head-sack. “I have seen your faces. I have seen this whole place. I have no idea where we are.

“What did we tell you, baghead?!” Runner 2 exclaimed. There was rustling, then my head was pressed and jerked about as they put another bag over the first bag, punishment for talking. Riotous laughter.

I was led down the hallway. But further than usual. Then up some stairs. What was going on? Clanging, the squeak of metal hinges, then–the sound of traffic? And oh my god fresh air! I could feel it, smell it, even through two head-bags!

This joy upon the realization that, after five days locked in a cell, I was once again being led outside disolved into fear. I was being taken outside–but I was still a captive. The change in routine was suddenly unwelcome. In the cage I already knew what to expect: I would shit in a little toilet, sleep on a little cot, and blog on a little Windows machine swearing under my breath at that sonofabitch purple gorilla in the corner of my screen. Now I was being led away. To where? For what purpose? Questions filled my mind as they led me out into the sun and then stuffed me into a car. More car doors closed around me and the vehicle sped away from wherever we had started.

We drove for several minutes. No one spoke, a silence I dared not break. It’s a funny thing that happens when your life is in danger. As your mind begins to explore the possibility that your captors are, in fact, taking you to your death, it’s not exactly fight-or-flight that you feel. It’s freeze. It’s maintain. It’s a sense that if you do nothing, everyone else will do the same. If you don’t move, don’t rock the boat, then things will remain in exactly the same state forever, and you will still be alive. It feels a lot like covering your eyes and believing no one else can see you; all the while you know the feeling is utterly irrational, but somehow it’s still the best plan you’ve got.

And so we drove. Twists and turns but very little slowing until finally, a heavy left turn. We were pulling in somewhere. In my mind I could see the empty lot we pulled into, in some forgotten industrial area where I would be removed, put to my knees, and later discovered with a bullet in my skull and not one but two bags over my head. The headline: Double-Baghead Discovered, Shot Dead At Old Saw Mill on page C-3. Bottom left corner. Next to a shoe sale ad. We slowed to a stop.

The car sat idling for a minute and my mind reeled. I almost spoke up, but then we lurched forward. Then we stopped. Another long sixty seconds… then we crept forward once again. I heard the whir of a power window going down.

May I take your order?

I let out a breath I hadn’t realized I was holding. “Are you guys getting fast food?!”

Something jabbed into my ribs. “Don’t. Say. A word,” the man next to me whispered. The driver placed an order for some chicken sandwiches as I sat there, incredulous. We pulled forward and my bagged face turned toward my backseat companion despite my only seeing the back of the two hoods over my eyes.

“Is that supposed to be a gun?” I asked.

The driver was paying for the food. “It is a gun.”

“That is your finger.” The driver got his order and we listened to a college radio movie critique show all the way back to the prison.