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Added: 21 September 1999


I am not, nor will I ever be, a morning person, mused Admiral Fontoon ruefully, subliminally noting that it was perhaps the only thing of which he felt truly certain. He winced and made a sucking sound through his clenched teeth as he gingerly touched the bump that had risen on his head.

He was hanging upside down, dangling now after swinging wildly for some time, with all his limbs waving limply, except for his right leg, which had a tightened noose around the ankle. The other end of the rope looped through a pulley attached to the ceiling, and routed from there to a spinning spool that had a base anchored firmly to the floor with steel bolts. It was the furious spinning of the spool that had yanked the rope so suddenly, resulting in the tightening of the ankle noose and the unceremonious hoisting of Admiral Fontoon. The entire apparatus had been triggered electronically by Fontoon's alarm clock; more specifically, it had been triggered by the seventh sounding of the snooze alarm, a result, in turn, of Fontoon's obstinacy, and of his lethargy.

Son of a bitch, thought Fontoon, dangling. He hadn't incorporated a mechanism into the device by which he could easily extricate himself from the entanglement. He was regretting this now. He had stupidly believed that this time it would not be necessary. He spoke several profanities aloud to his uncaring apartment, and punched the air viciously, which caused him to spin.

He felt the lurch of nausea and struggled to control it. He did not think he could bear either the sound or the sight of his vomit hurtling out of his mouth and splashing onto various of his possessions some nine feet below, and he especially did not relish the thought of cleaning it all up. Agh, or the taste of it, he thought, which only made it harder to control. He felt angry at his predicament.

As he continued his internal struggle, Admiral Fontoon looked around the room while the spinning gradually subsided. He admired his good oak table, against which his head had slammed as his body was ripped helplessly past it on its way out of bed and into the air beyond the edge of the loft. He could also see the edge of the bed on which he had been so blissfully stupid only moments before. He remembered the good price he had gotten on the frame, even though that had been several years ago, as he always remembered whenever he looked at it. Down on the lower level of the apartment, directly below him, was an imitation Oriental rug that he rather liked, having selected it in a discount store from among many that he found utterly repellent; to him it represented a wise investment in passable elegance on a limited budget. Partly on that rug was a huge and disorderly pile of newspapers, three months' worth, which he had been meaning to take down to the recycling center, as required by law. He got angry again as he thought of the inconvenience of the recycling system. That pile of papers made him feel a sense of futility, and disgust as well, disgust with the disorderliness that he felt made his whole life seem contemptible.

He also could see a good part of his kitchen, and although he could not see the sink, it reminded him that he had not washed his dishes from the night before and that the task still awaited his attention. He tucked his chin to his chest and looked at his captured foot. It was beginning to go numb. His sense of futility spread a little more, starting from just below his sternum and claiming territory in all directions outward, filling his chest, spreading towards his nether region. He looked out his window at the kaleidoscope of changing colors and twisting shapes that was the building across the street and part of a street lamp. He knew it was a mistake to have looked.

It was always foolish to engage any aspect of Bonkworld while in any state of infirmity or irresolution.

Once he felt the first tiny taste creep through, it was all over. He immediately disgorged the contents of his stomach as his senses reeled with horror at the awful spectacle. He believed that his ears got the worst of it, all in all. In the anticlimactic silence that followed, Fontoon swayed gently from his rope, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, and determined to get himself down.

He tried to reach up to grab his foot, thinking that he might free it manually, although he certainly was not sure what would happen after that, but it was a moot point because he could not reach it. Had both legs been caught, he might have been able to bend his knees, thereby drawing his entire torso closer to his feet; however, with only one leg in place for leverage, he did not have the strength. Nor did his abdominal muscles have the necessary power to bend his body sufficiently. He looked at his flabby belly, which hung now unnaturally in the direction of his head, quivering just ever so. Sucking in his stomach, he peered at it until he could almost see the vague indentations that would have been where muscle definition would go. Thus satisfied that his physical condition was not so terrible, certainly not beyond reclamation, Fontoon felt a moment of contentment before a surge of real concern at his plight took his mind.

He had felt inconvenienced, to be sure, but had subconsciously assumed that there would of course be a way for him to get down. Now he was beginning to question that assumption. How *would* he get down? What if he couldn't? It was a horrible and absurd possibility, but surely history was nothing if not a relentless continuum of the horrible and the absurd. People died in all manner of ridiculous ways. What if this was his destiny? No way to get down. A slow death from starvation, followed by decay until his skeletal foot finally slipped through the noose and sent his bones clattering into an untidy pile on top of dried vomit? Or would the pressure from the blood pouring into his head get him first, causing his brain to hemorrhage, or his arteries to explode? There was nobody who might save him. He did have one friend, the idiot Wally, but he rarely called and was far too insensitive to worry that something might be wrong, even if he hung there drying for months.

It was possible that his mother would call, but he would be unable to get to the phone, and if she even noticed that she was talking to a machine and not her real son, she would think nothing of it at first. She might never think anything of it. He might not survive until her second call. Or she might become obsessive and vicious, full of blame. He might receive dozens of rapid-fire, increasingly insufferable calls from her, unable to do anything but listen and rage impotently. There was no way to tell which way it would go, and it really didn't matter. She would never believe he was really dead, although it would certainly rank high among her accusations if she turned on him. Even when she was eventually faced with her dismal, piteous, pile-of-bones son, she would only tell the story as the tale of a lamentable imbecile. From all vantage points, his tragedy would be ignominious. His neighbors, he knew, would laugh.

Having thus convinced himself of the complete ingloriousness of his anticipated demise, Fontoon was desperate to come up with a plan. The first job, certainly, was to quell the rising panic that, along with the unpleasant smell from below, threatened to nauseate him once again. He dedicated his powers of concentration to this task until he heard the first creaking sound from the ceiling. He looked up and saw that the plaster around the screws that held the pulley was bulging and cracking. Oh god. He looked down at the rancid puddle of vomit far below him. No!

Admiral Fontoon shut his eyes as the creaking grew more urgent and the first bits of plaster powder began to gently rain.

And then, with a disappointingly weak crumbling sound, in a hail of plaster and rope, he plummeted earthward.