Mad World

Chapter 1 (Teaser): Unreliable Omniscient Narrator

I know everything that's happening here. That makes sense, if you think about it. I used to be God, after all. Of course I know everything that's going on in the city.

Dixon Hill is walking to his office, because the cross-town bus has square wheels today and Dix can't afford a taxi. Giant flying dogs don't come cheap. On his way, he tosses a handful of minnows at the newspaper vendor. "What's going on in the world, Will?" he asks.

The bearded newspaper vendor grins at him. "Absolutely nothing, Dix. Absolutely nothing." He takes Dix's minnows (two of which are still wiggling, fresh-caught) and hands him a sheet of newsprint with nothing whatsoever printed on it. Dix takes it, scans it, and hands it back to Will, reassured that there's no news. No news is good news, after all.

On his way, he passes Geordi LaForge. LaForge has a large, stale loaf of Italian bread in his hands. He's swinging it against the side of a building, and tiny bits of it crumble, the breadcrumbs falling to the ground where they vanish, devoured by invisible pigeons. "Hello there, Geordi! How's it hanging?" Dixon Hill shouts.

"Ah, you know, Dix. Same old, same old." The bread cracks in half. LaForge picks up a new loaf. "It's not exciting, but it keeps the fish coming in."

"That it does, Geordi, that it does."

Elsewhere in the city, the Dancing Doctor pirouettes into the lair of mobster Spot the Cat. "You wanted to see me, Mr. Spot?" she asks.

Spot's muscle, the pinstripe-wearing henchman known as Data, says, "That is Ms. Spot to you, Doc. Spot is pregnant, see, and she wants the best to deliver her kittens." The orange tabby nods.

The Dancing Doctor frowns. "I'm a doctor, not a veterinarian," she says. "And orange tabbies are male."

"You disrespecting the boss, Doc? I do not care how well you dance, no one disrespects Spot the Cat."

She sighs. "Fine. Let me get my tricorder." From her pocket she removes an object that looks like three very long, bulky flutes glued together in the middle. She blows on one of them as she dances around Spot. The cat looks bored.

"Well, your kittens are healthy, Spot, but you're still a guy. I'm going to have to deliver them by c-section when they're ready."

"No problemo, Doc. C is for cat," Data says.

In another place, Durango the gunfighter is counting up her fish. Her last bounty was some time ago, and now her funds are going bad, stinking and rotting like... well, like dead fish.

"Damn, I'm going to have to find another bounty soon," she says. She twirls her gun. "I hope it's one of those 'dead or alive' bounties. I'm a big fan of dead."

She decides to go drop in on Dix. He's got a talent for finding trouble.

When she gets to the door to his office, Dix's landlady accosts her in a tutu and pink-flowered housecoat, his bat'leth drawn. "Where is Dixon Hill?"

"How should I know? I'm not his secretary."

"He is late on his rent again!" the landlady snarls, his craggy brown forehead even more wrinkled than usual, drawn with anger and tension. "If he hasn't got my money, I will slice him to bits like the pe'taQ he is!"

It's good for Dix that he's got the landlady's money, then. He just got paid; a little girl hired him to find her teddy bear. Guy turned out to be halfway across town, in a gay bar, calling himself 'Fred' and buying drinks for guys like the fish were just jumping out of his pocket. The little girl wasn't real happy, but a deal's a deal; Dix got her to pay up even though the teddy bear didn't want to come back to her.

So he's in a good mood when he runs into me. Literally. He trips over me. That kind of hurt. Which is weird because I don't think things are supposed to hurt me. Does God get hurt when you trip over him?


"Oh, I'm terribly sorry. I didn't see you there!"

Which is reasonable, I guess, because I'm lying under a pile of newspapers. Yeah, I know what I look like. I haven't shaved and my clothes are filthy and I smell like I'm drunk. Which is sad, because actually, I haven't had a drop of the stuff. I'm trying to keep my wits together. Such as they are. There's something wrong with my head and I can't figure out what it is, but I'm smart enough to know that getting drunk wouldn't help.

I'm very smart, actually. I'm a superintelligent being. Or I was. It's hard to remember exactly.

"Why don'cha try looking, buddy?" I snarl at him. Newspapers or no, that still hurt.

"Well, I'm afraid I didn't expect to find a fellow lying down in the middle of the street."

"There something wrong with that?"

"You could get hit by the cross-town bus," Dix says.

"It's got square wheels today. It ain't going nowhere," I tell him.

"I suppose that's true."

"Besides, it couldn't hurt me if it did hit me." I get to my feet.

"You don't think so?"

"Yeah. 'Cause I'm God."

Dix laughs before he can stop himself. "Oh, of course you are. I should have recognized you."

"Don't laugh at me! I really am God! I could... I could smite you... or something." I look back down. "If I could remember how," I mumble.

"Well, God, you look as if collections have been down in the temple lately. Do you think you'd have a use for a few fish?" He pulls out a couple of whiting.

I want to tell him to shove his pity where the sodium lights don't shine, but... I'm kinda hungry. I could go for a chocolate sundae or ten, sure. "It's the least ya could do after you tripped on me," I say, holding out my hand. "Yer a generous man, mon capitaine."

Dixon Hill blinks. He doesn't know why I just called him "my captain". Hell, I don't know why I just said that either. And if I don't know, an inferior being like Dixon Hill hasn't got a chance. "Take them with my apologies," he says, and gives me the fish. It's enough to buy myself something to eat. And maybe to drink. 'Cause my head feels like it's gonna explode, and hell, staying sober isn't helping me to figure shit out, so maybe I should go get drunk.

"I'll remember this, Dix. When I... when I figure it all out. 'Cause I used to be omnipotent. So when I figure it out... I'll fix everything. And I'll be grateful for this."

"Of course," Dix says. "Good luck figuring it all out."

He leaves. His generosity's gonna leave him a whiting short of paying Worf the landlady, but that ain't my problem. There's a new dame in town; I can feel her hanging around. Practically smell her perfume. She's gonna hire Dix to track me down.

But I can't let her find me. 'Cause she'll bring me back home. And I can't go home until I figure it out.

"I used to be omnipotent," I repeat, talking to nobody exactly. I'm pretty sure I used to be, anyway. Then there was... some kind of vortex, or... something. Shit, I can't remember.

Gotta keep myself in quarantine till I know what's what. This stuff spreads like bubonic plague on rats. That's why I didn't make any rats here, 'cause they carry the plague. You knew that, right? I'm a rat. Infected. And I don't wanna bring it home. Wherever home is.

I gotta figure it all out. Meantime, I'm gonna go get a drink. And a chocolate sundae.

Notes: This story idea actually comes from an interview with the writers of Star Trek The Next Generation in Cinefantastique, where they talked about doing an episode like this. The opening sequence where Picard runs into LaForge smashing bread for a living, and then the part where Q is a homeless bum ranting about how he used to be omnipotent, both come from that interview. However, all the rest of this silliness is mine.