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Authors: Mark Jacobson

Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Science Fiction

Gojiro

Gojiro

by Mark Jacobson

ElectricStory.com, Inc.
®

Gojiro

by Mark Jacobson

Imagine Lewis Carroll, Julian Jaynes, and Thomas Pynchon collaborating to describe the cosmological quest of a five-hundred-foot-tall mutated monitor lizard and his friend Coma Boy, an amnesiac survivor of the Hiroshima bomb blast. Well, forget it, you're never going to see those writers working together. Thankfully, Mark Jacobson took this task upon his own true self. Jacobson's GOJIRO is a wild and humorous fairytale about the Atomic Age, about a terrifying world redeemed by love, friendship, the survival instinct, and a willingness to break down old inventions for new parts.

GOJIRO

Copyright © 1991 by Mark Jacobson. All rights reserved.

Original Publication:
Atlantic Monthly
, 1991.

Ebook edition of
Gojiro
copyright © 2000 by ElectricStory.com, Inc.

ePub ISBN: 978-1-59729-087-6

Kindle ISBN: 978-1-59729-007-4

ElectricStory.com and the ES design are registered trademarks of ElectricStory.com, Inc.

This novella is a work of fiction. All characters, events, organizations, and locales are either the product of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously to convey a sense of realism.

Cover art by and copyright © 2000 Jamie Bishop.

Original Ebook conversion by ElectricStory.com, Inc.

For the full ElectricStory catalog, visit
www.electricstory.com
.

Baen Ebooks electronic version by Baen Books

www.baen.com

COPYRIGHT NOTICE

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For Nancy

my own true friend

Memo to Fans

Y
OU KNOW HOW IT BEGINS. DON’T YOU?

There’s a vast shimmering sky, empty air. Blank. Except for the dot. The blotch. A tiny piece of fuzz, moving from the right, to the vacant center. What is it? That’s the first question. The first question you ask that you already know the answer to—except right then, while you’re watching, it’s all new again.

Is that how it is for you? It is for me.

You wonder if it’s some dark star, a dim flicker in your eye, or maybe a bug—a mayfly. A mayfly!—spending its whole life in just one day, a fragile bit of being, making its faint hum.

The hum becomes a buzz.

And you see the family. The family on the lush hillside, beside the crystal lake, in front of a towering mountain, a diamond sparkle of snow on its crowning top.

The family. The Dad is taking the picture, standing behind the old camera, his head under the black cloth so you can’t see his face. There’s only his hand, motioning the Boy and the Mom to move this way, that. The Mom smiles. She is beautiful, her skin like heavy cream against maroon satin, her teeth so white.

How often I have dreamed of her, the mother he made, imagined what it might be like to have such a mom—to have a mom at all!

Then you look at the Boy. His clothes are funny: short woolen pants, a blue blazer with the insignia of an academy to which he’d pledged undying loyalty.

Except he never got to be a schoolboy!
Never got to wait for a yellow bus, his books held together with an elastic strap. He never got to raise his hand all freshfaced, flushed with the sheer joy of knowing.

“Smile,” the Dad calls from under the black cloth. The Boy’s fat red cheeks crease. He laughs—
that same high, choking laugh!
—as the Dad comes running to take his place in the shot. They’re all together now. The three of them, waiting for the camera’s timer to run down. The Boy’s in the middle; he has his mother’s eyes, his father’s mouth.

How long he worked on that! To make them fit together, to make a family!

But the hum is louder now, bigger than a buzz. It’s a drone. A dull gnash, anxiety’s nag, a ripping, tearing sound. But they don’t hear it at all. The Dad puts his arms around the Mom, stands closer to the Boy. Their smiles spread—the shutter’s about to click.

And you think, whatever’s up there in the sky, it can’t touch them. Whatever it is, they’ll be safe. Their love will shield them. But the noise keeps on, gnawing, a chainsaw in your head.

The Mom and Dad don’t hear it. They keep smiling, looking into the lens: so proud! But the Boy’s eyes go. The roar takes them, away from that peaceful hillside and up into the sky.

He worked on it for days! So the Mom and Dad he made would never know what hit them, never have that terror stamped into their hearts. But he couldn’t do the same for himself.

The Boy’s eyes go. Up and up.

And there they are—Tibbets, his crew. Those gauntfaced newsreel men inside their Superfortress. The light streams into their glassy cockpit as they count backward, tolling the knell for the former times. Buttons down! Thumbs up! The bottom of the plane opens and another world—his, mine, yours—comes out.

Below, they’re still smiling, that Mom and Dad.
Smiling, never knowing.

* * *

Even now, at the end of it all, I still can’t bear to know
this
was the beginning. Komodo says, “A happy end’s worth a sad beginning.” But I can’t say as I agree. What could be worth shadows seared into stone walls, skin sliding from bones, people jumping from bridges—their minds too filled with horror to see that the river beneath them was on fire? Even now, I want to cry a million tears to douse those raging flames, push those sliding faces back onto the bones, make them beautiful again. Even now, I want to grab that rising Cloud by the neck, choke the fission from it. If it had been up to me, none of this would have happened. But, of course, it wasn’t up to me.

So I sit and watch. Like I always do. Like you do. And see the Boy, his blazer singed, steam rising from the brim of his cap, as he stumbles through the wreckage of the City.

“Mother!”

“Father!”

Alone. Alone in Death’s world. Disappeared from all he knew, all he might ever come to know, a single figure on the ruined landscape, nothing there except him and Doom itself.

The Boy and the Cloud! That’s the part when I break down, when I want to turn away. It’s just that he’s so brave. How he turns and faces it, walks right into it! He enters Death and comes out the other side!

Through the roiling misery, the burning bodies, the hands writhing from the pyre, the Boy goes out to that hillside once again, to the bluest lake beside the snowcapped mountain. And he begins to call: “Gojiro! Please come in, Gojiro! Please come in. Please heed this humble servant’s plea!”

The Supplication! Kills me, the supplication.

“Gojiro! Please come in, Gojiro! Please heed this humble servant’s plea!”

And then, looming five hundred feet or more, red eyes twin laser beacons through the gloom, the great Beast is there, sounding his familiar ear-piercing shriek. He extends his massive claw, snatches that Boy from the Heater’s maw. Gojiro! King of Monsters, Friend to Atoms.

Him.

Me.

* * *

That’s what you’d call the beginning, isn’t it, zealous zardpards? You’d swear it, wouldn’t you, Gargantuan G Gluttons, followers of the Foremost Frequency?

Sixteen moron movies, sixteen beginnings. And is there a ’tile-o-file alive that didn’t love it every time? I wouldn’t even care to dig deep into my monster’s mailbag to count how many bleating communications I’ve gotten on the topic. “Dear Gojiro, I was over at the mall and some guys sitting on the hood of the raffle car said you were gonna cut out the beginning. I just got sick. This is a terrible idea! I will do serious physical damage to myself if this happens. Without the beginning my life won’t mean a thing.”

Shit. I mean, what’s a mutant lizard to do?

Got to hand it to ole Shig. Can’t say the dude don’t have a real grasp of the modern mindset. I hate to say it, zardpards, but if Pavlov had the likes of you around drooling, he could’ve saved a lot of money on dog food. Like any smart producer-packager, Shig knows the value of Skinner’s box, that you’d need a handy beginning, a little touchstone of pretitle knee jerk.

But I ain’t here to complain. I’m past complaining now. Past near everything. Everything except the telling. So that’s what I want to do: tell. Tell and tell.

Gojiro’s story. The real one. From the behemoth’s own POV. Who else’s story am I supposed to tell? Get up close and personal with Napoleon and Josephine, scoop the inside dope on Waterloo? No, man. This is Gojiro’s story, and where’s the beginning of
that
?

Komodo, Joe Linear, says, “Why not start at the beginning?” Thanks a lot. Where’s the beginning of me? Should I return to those earliest of times I believe myself acquainted with, a misty sixty-six million years ago, to that great hole the comet tore in the dinosaurs’ continuum? Maybe I shouldn’t even stop there. Why not skip back to the Big Bang itself? What better way to satisfy cosmological longing than to start from absolute nothingness? Maybe
all
stories should begin there, every sitcom on TV, every jerkwater movie. Yeah! Check out Fred and Ethel’s primeval antecedents every episode. Exposition’s too maligned a commodity in today’s overheated information marketplace. Start from the Void, I say, dredge up witty anecdotes to kill time during the slower Devonians and Silurians.

It’s just an idea, a narrative tactic. But why push my luck? I might not be a master like Shig, but I do believe I can recognize the integrity of a tale and an audience’s tolerance for that integrity. Even if I’m going to die tomorrow, it ain’t like I was born yesterday. A judicious hand is necessary, if one wants to tell
everything.
I’ve got this completist streak, you see. Or maybe it’s just that I know that’s the way
he
would have wanted it: beginning, middle, and end. I owe him that much, my greenskinned former self.

So, check it out, the official once-upon-a-time regarding that biggest, baddest five-hundred-foot-tall lizard ever to quake a globe: Let me say that once he was small, a regulation herp living on a quiet seaside rock surrounded by his fellows. Except then they came in planes, those custodians of the Modern Age, and they busted open the millennium right in his face like an exploding cigar. When he woke up he was somewhere else, inside another skin, alone, forever separate, a most singular red-eyed, multi-ton monster with a telepathic brain inside his giant, addled head. That could have been that, except Komodo, the Hiroshima Jap, escaped at last from his nuclear-induced coma. And the two of them were friends, living on an uncharted South Pacific tract they called Radioactive Island—the same place from where I’m talking now. And then some others came too, poor unfortunates, children called Atoms. And they all lived together on Radioactive Island, this grumpy monster and his ingenious pal and those strange kids . . .

Cut! Hold press. This isn’t going to work. I just can’t tell it straight out, hip bone connected to the thigh bone. You been through the ruckus I been through, your logic gets scrambled, locution fractured. Besides, if you’re a G-fan, follower of the Foremost Frequency, you know all this stuff already. You got the origin story memorized, been doodling it on the backs of schoolbooks for years, etched it into your skin. Shig has seen to that. No King of Monsters could have asked for a more determined, four-walling Boswell—go ahead, ring up a yogurt-eating Yugoslavian, any Bolivian in a bowler hat, a thousand denizens of the Surabaya back alleys, they’ll rattle off the leviathan’s saga. So what if Shig left out next to everything and changed the rest; Truth in twenty-five words or less, that’s his credo. And who’s to say, in this day and age, maybe that’s Truth enough.

Could be it’s only me who needs to hear it told this way, big and messy. Could be it’s only me who needs the ever-lurching arc to make sense of Gojiro’s life and times. Could be it’s only me who has to play it out, step by convoluted step, so as to get the gist of the great Green Machine’s most recent super-thrilling adventure and know what really happened in that Valley of the Crossroads.

Komodo says I got to be patient. He warns ten generations might go by before what transpired in the Valley gurgles up from graycurled sub-basements of the mind to emerge in the noonday glare of conscious thought. Even then, Komodo says, it might only be the poets who know it, faraway-eyed handwringers who, in their emotion-wrought imaginations, will point the way to the rest. “The poets are the halfway house,” Komodo says. He’s romantic like that. Gojiro, though, he was more of a bah-humbug kind of guy. Gojiro always wanted something more concrete, a tire to kick. He would have said later for Yeats and his slouching falcons, get me Joe Friday. Gojiro would have said maybe drummers in jungles got a million years to simmer tales and legends, boil them down to parable and allegory, but the facts, ma’am, the
true facts
, are fleeting, you got to catch them while you can.

Still, Komodo contends, it’s inevitable: Sooner or later everyone will recognize what Gojiro did. But then again, Komodo believes my story. Like he would.

Myself, I’m not so sure. I mean, how do you think it feels to be unable to shake the conviction that, on an exceedingly bright early morning in the middle of a desolate southwestern desert, you became God, or some rough equivalent, for 0.0247 seconds? You think this is an easy concept to accommodate? Wouldn’t you rather confess to insanity than keep on believing in it? Even now, inside this rubberized volcano, merely approaching the outskirts of the idea causes me near thermoregulatory shutdown. But I can’t stop thinking
something
happened out there in that Valley. Something that catapulted me across all time and space, beached me up in this place where I am right now, which seems so familiar yet so undeniably different.
Something
happened that separated me from what I once was and what I am now.

Memory says one thing and all sense says another.

That’s why I’ve decided to tell you everything: to see what you think, to see if you’ll follow the tale of a former monitor lizard and his Japanese friend, if you’ll get even the smallest gist of the world they made, the things they thought—like how for every Beam there’s a Bunch, and that Reprimordialization is no walk in the park. To see if you’ll believe that for 0.0247 seconds you—along with everything else in creation—were in me, and I was in you.

Listen, zardpards, make up your minds. I wonder what you’ll decide. Will you throw down your Crystal Contacts in disgust, renounce the supplication, go off to patronize some other, less demanding superhero, one who is more scrupulous about answering his fanmail? I wouldn’t blame you. After all, those parietal tattoos were only weekend jobs; on Monday morning the teacher never knew. Maybe that’s the level at which things should have remained: commerce, another cruddy clot of disposable celluloid. After all, it’s one thing to sell someone an idea and another to ask them to
believe
in it. That’s the catch; that’s always been the catch.

“Go on,” Komodo says, “tell it.” He says there’s a poet in everyone, that you never know what chord might be struck. Telling might even reduce full recognition by two, perhaps three generations, Komodo says, with a straight face, which is how he says most everything, boy scout that he is. Great. I’ve only got to wait six hundred years to find out if you believe my story, instead of eight hundred. What a markdown! I should let Komodo keep talking. Maybe he’ll knock off another century or two.

Not that it matters all that much. I estimate I’ve got about thirty-eight hours left to go . . . make that thirty-seven hours, fifty-nine and five-sixths minutes now. Tick, tick, tick. Hourglass city. It’s such a strange feeling, knowing, finally, it’s going to end. That the passage of time means something.

Oh, my life!

To think that back through primeval mists, before there was a Heater and a Gojiro, it seemed that time hardly moved for me and my Bunch. Must be that cold blood, but things do go slower for reptiles, you know. That’s how it is, being a zard, part of a Bunch whose Line goes back beyond remembering. If I was still among them—my former crew—there’s no way I’d be telling this. Because when you’re a ’tile there’s no need for life stories.

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