I sat at a workbench struggling with a piece of alien technology I barely understood. The lamp on the bench blazed in the dimly lit basement. Miscellaneous junk I might use cluttered desks and tables throughout the room. Music that would not be released for several decades blared through computer speakers from somewhere behind me.
A faked cough broke through my concentration. I looked up at the girl standing across from me. Greenish brown eyes glared into me from beneath thick, sculpted brows. She was short with an impossible figure that could have been pulled from a Butch Hartman cartoon. Lyra was her name, and even then her gaze sent fire through my soul.
I killed the music. “You’re awake,” I said. “How do you feel?”
“Yeah,” Lyra said, “I’m okay. You apparently have a secret, underground laboratory. I’m legit jealous.”
“Who told you how to find your way down here?”
“You’re little brother, the redhead. Who hides a secret stairway in a bathroom closet?”
Ginger. That little bastard.
“Well, I do,” I said. “You should probably sit down. Ultimately, you’ll be fine, but lost ones sucking on you usually leaves people pretty weak, assuming they survive.”
Lyra sighed. “Seriously, who the hell are you?”
“A really long story,” she said. “I know. I like stories though. So, tell me.”
I stowed away the things I had been tinkering with. After turning on the lights, I found another chair amidst the lab’s clutter.
“Sit,” I said as I set the chair down next to Lyra.
I sat across from her. Telling Lyra my whole story would take a lot of time, but time basically meant nothing to me.
“My story is bigger than me,” I said. “Yes, I’m an anomaly that entire textbooks could be written about, but for you to understand everything, I’d have to start at the real beginning. I’d have to tell you about Cletus first.”
“You’re Cletus,” Lyra said.
“No, not me. Cletus the Caveman.”
A beautiful island once existed far to the east, farther east than where the sun rises today. A jade ocean filled with magical creatures like massive sea serpents and turtles the size of football stadiums surrounded the island. At the island’s center stood a massive mountain of red stone, reaching so high that from its peak the whole world could be seen. Thick forests of bamboo, flowers of every color, strange plants, and magic, ever-ripe fruit covered the island. Dragons, unicorns, phoenixes, and magic foxes filled the forests. For all of time, man never touched the magical island.
A massive stone rested atop the Mountain of Fruit and Flowers since the beginning of time. Nine spires jutted from the stone with a circle of eight holes at the top. Fungus, moss and flowered covered the rock.
One day, the magic stone grew a giant metal blade from its side. Over time, the blade turned to wood, sprouting branches and leaves. The tree eventually burst into flames and burned for years until a great wind came from within the rock. The wind blew out the flame and ripped a hole in the rock. A torrent of water flowed from the hole and carried a giant stone egg. The water washed the egg away, smashing the egg against a tree. The impact cracked the egg open. Cradled inside the remnants of the egg shell lay Cletus. Cletus stood around five-seven. Slabs of muscle and thick hair covered every inch of him. A thick mane of red and brown hair circled his head.
After hatching, Cletus wandered the forest, eating fruit. Within a few weeks, he made friends with all the animals of the mountain. He learned to speak their languages. Cletus made the monkeys and apes his new family because the most closely resembled him and his old family. For years they ate, played, and slept without a care at all.
One day while all the monkeys and Cletus bathed in a stream, they decided to follow the rapids to their source. The apes climbed the mountain until they reached a magnificent waterfall, spraying foam like snow all over the mountainside.
One monkey said, “Anyone brave enough to go through the waterfall, see the other side, and come back alive will be our king.”
All the monkeys cheered and clapped and repeated the offer, but none went. So, Cletus stepped forward. “I’ll go,” he said.
Cletus leaped through the water. On the other side, he stood before a giant bridge, the waterfall only a way to hide the entrance. Across the bridge, a beautiful house rested in a gap in the mountains. Cletus went back through the waterfall and told the apes about the home he discovered. All the monkeys cheered and followed Cletus back to the massive house where they played and laughed.
After becoming exhausted, they all sat together, with Cletus taking the largest chair at the center of the room.
“Alright,” Cletus cleared his throat. “A promise must be kept. You said the one to go through the falls and come back would be king. Where’s my crown?”
All the monkeys and apes bowed before Cletus, who officially became the Monkey King.
After three hundred years, Cletus sat at a dinner party with the monkeys.
“What is wrong, Your Majesty?” one little monkey asked.
“I’m depressed,” Cletus said.
“Why? We rule the island. We do as we wish. We are above the birds and the beasts but do not follow the laws of man. The world is ours. There’s nothing to be sad about.”
“I miss many friends and loved ones,” Cletus said. “I’m happy here as the Handsome Monkey King, but day after day I watch apes die all the time. Some day all of you will be old and weak and dead just like your parents and grandparents before you and theirs before them. And in time, I will be alone.”
A small baboon jumped onto the table and said, “If you think that far ahead, Your Majesty must be becoming enlightened. Maybe you already are. Your Majesty cannot die, and only three creatures cannot go to hell; the Buddhas, the Immortals, and the Sages. They are not born, and they do not die.”
“I may not be able to die,” Cletus said, “but that doesn’t keep any of you from dying.”
“But, Your Majesty, you can find a Sage in the human world that could teach you to make others immortal like yourself.”
Cletus pounded his fist on the table and said, “That’s what I must do then. I’ll leave first thing tomorrow. I’ll roam the entire world to discover the secret of eternal life to share will all of you.”
The next day, Cletus sailed across the ocean on a bamboo raft. After several days, Cletus drifted ashore near a village of fisherman. He attacked the village, jumping around wildly and making strange faces to frighten townspeople. Cletus pounced upon one man and stole the man’s clothes. From there, Cletus traveled the land teaching himself the local languages and culture. Everywhere he went, Cletus constantly asked about Immortals and Sages, seeking the secret of eternal life. However, people of the world concerned themselves with money and fame rather than the fate ahead of them.
Cletus spent ten years looking for Immortals without finding one. Eventually, he came to yet another ocean. Since he had found no Immortals in that land, Cletus decided to travel to another. He stole a boat and sailed until he came ashore again.
Once more, Cletus sought the Immortals. One day, he came upon a beautiful mountain. Not fearing the warnings of wolves and tigers and leopards posted all around the mountain, Cletus climbed to the top.
High in the mountain, Cletus found a boy who claimed to know an Immortal. They boy showed Cletus the way to the Immortal’s sacred cave. Within the cave, Cletus discovered the Immortal and his disciples. As soon as Cletus saw the Immortal, he bowed low and touched his head on the ground. “Master Immortal, your new disciple pays his deepest respects,” Cletus said.
“Who are you?” the Immortal asked. “Where are you from? You must tell me your name and address before you can become my pupil.”
“I come to you from the cave behind the water curtain in the Mountain of Fruit and Flowers,” said Cletus.
The Immortal yelled to his other pupils, “Throw him out of my cave for lying to me!”
“I’m not lying, jackass,” Cletus said as he prepared to fight any of the monks that approached him.
“Then, how did you come from so far away?” the Immortal asked? “How did an ugly ape of a man like you come here from an island that only exists in the spirit world?”
“I sailed across several oceans and climbed many mountain paths,” Cletus said. “It took me something like twenty years to find you.”
“What is your name?”
“I’m Cletus. That is the name Buddha gave me.”
“What is your surname?”
“What is that?”
“The name you inherited from your parents.”
“Oh,” Cletus said. He scratched his chin. “I didn’t inherit a name from my parents. I don’t think Neanderthals understood the concept of familial lineage. My parents names were Ahha and Drrl.”
“That will not do,” the Immortal said. “The kanji for monkey and for moon are similar. You’re definitely an ape. However, moon is far too negative for one who wishes to walk the Buddhist path. I shall call you Sun. It’s a perfect surname for you.”
“How about giving me a new personal name too?” Cletus asked. “Sun Cletus doesn’t sound that well in my opinion.”
“Wukong,” the Immortal said sternly. “Sun Wukong. It means ‘Monkey Awakened to His Own Emptiness’. Will that do?”
“That actually seems kind of fucking racist and insulting, don’t you think?” Cletus said.
“Perfect!” the Immortal cheered.
Cletus trained with the Immortal for almost fifteen years. Cletus learned of the Way and the Great Way. He learned how to cultivate one’s spirit to become immortal. He became stronger and learned how to travel through the sky by summoning a cloud to ride upon. The Immortal eventually banished Cletus for goofing around and showing off his strength because monks should not be so arrogant. The Immortal threatened to tear off Cletus’s skin and crush his bones if the caveman ever told anyone where he trained.
Without discarding his monk gown and sash, Cletus summoned a cloud and jumped into the sky. In two hours, Cletus arrived at the Mountain of Fruit and Flowers. When Cletus called for all the monkeys to come forward, thousands of them came rushing from the forests and caves. The monkeys crowded around Cletus, crying and wailing. They told Cletus of the Great Demon King of Confusion. The demon had taken over the island while Cletus had been gone. The monkeys led Cletus to the cave where the demon slept. Despite the demon being four times Cletus’s size, the caveman still beat the demon with ease. The monkeys reclaimed their kingdom, and Cletus claimed a sword the size of a tree as a prize from the demon.
From that day forth, Cletus trained the monkeys and apes to fight, make weapons and build defensive structures so they would never be defenseless again. The apes’ increase in military power scared the other animals and monsters on the island to the point they all came forward to swear fealty to Cletus and join his vast army.
One day while sparring, an orangutan bested Cletus. The caveman stopped the training exercise. “This sword is too damn clumsy,” Cletus said. “It just does not suit me. I can’t wield it at all. What shall I do to fix it?”
Four old apes came forward and explained to Cletus that no mortal weapon could suit such a great immortal warrior like Cletus.
“The stream beneath our mountain leads to the Dragon Palace of the Eastern Sea,” one of the apes commented. “You should go there and ask the Dragon King for a weapon worthy of your power.”
Cletus nodded. “Wait for me here then,” Cletus said as he departed.
Upon reaching the Dragon King’s palace, the court welcomed Cletus graciously. “I apologize for the intrusion, great Dragon King, but I have come to find a weapon for myself,” Cletus said. “With such an amazing kingdom, I’m sure you have a magic weapon to spare for me.”
“Please, glorious neighbor,” the Dragon King said, “take this Sky-Splitting Sword from my armory.”
The Dragon King’s men offered Cletus a large sword the glimmered as if the blade had been forged from diamond.
“I can’t really use a sword,” Cletus said. “I have no skill with them. I just sort of swing them around really hard. Can I ask for something else?”
“Of course, of course,” the Dragon King said.
So, the Dragon King’s men brought Cletus an impressive spear, and then a grand halberd. Each weapon weighed several thousand pounds and had been blessed with magical powers. Cletus insisted the weapons were too light and did not suit his fighting style. The Dragon King’s guard brought out countless more weapons, but Cletus dismissed each as too flimsy for his liking. Frightened by the caveman’s strength, the Dragon King said, “The only weapon left in my armory is the great iron rod that anchors the Milky Way in place.”
“I’ll take that then,” Cletus said.
“You may,” said the Dragon King, “but only if you pry the iron rod from its place yourself. The anchor weighs nearly twenty tons. None of my men could possible bring it to you.”
The task proved no challenge to the caveman. The ridiculously long, ungodly thick rod sat heavily in Cletus’s hands. The caveman swung the gargantuan pole about.
“It’s the perfect weight, but it’s far too big,” Cletus said.
No sooner than Cletus spoke, the rod shortened to the length of a normal staff.
“That’s much better! If only it fit better in my hand.”
The pole’s thickness decreased to just slightly more than an inch in diameter.
“Now, I love it!” Cletus shouted.
The caveman jumped and flipped about the palace courtroom, twirling the staff around violently. Cletus fought imaginary opponents, changing the shape and size of the pole at will. The entire room watched the strange spectacle in fear. The pole shifted to being four feet long and as thick as the caveman’s head. Cletus slammed the cudgel down, shattering the golden tiles on the palace floor.
“It’s like using a club again!” Cletus yelled.
Cletus composed himself and turned his cudgel into a small baton. He stood before the court and said, “Honorable Dragon King, you’ve given me this magnificent weapon, but now it feels incomplete. I must demand that you provide me with a suit of armor to match it.”
“I’m sorry,” the Dragon King said. “I have no armor to give you. Please, just leave my palace in peace.”
Cletus pointed the cudgel at the Dragon King and snarled, “Give me armor, or I’ll kill your ass just like I killed the lizard men back home.”
“I have no armor!” the Dragon King yelped. “You should ask go ask my brothers, the Dragon Kings of the North, South, and West. They have many treasures. Go bother them. Please, just leave me alone.”
“Why should I travel the world to see them?” Cletus asked. “They’re your brothers. Bring them to me here.”
The Dragon King ordered a guard to summon his brothers. Within moments, the other Dragon Kings arrived. “Brother, what’s the emergency?” they asked. “Why have you called us here?”
“This demon,” the Eastern King said. “He threatened to harm me if I didn’t give him a suit of armor, but I have none to give.”
“Why haven’t you just had him removed from your castle like the vermin he is then?” the Northern Dragon King asked.
“All of my soldiers are afraid of him. He’s wielding the Milky Way’s anchor as a weapon. Just give him whatever armor you have so that he’ll leave.”
So, the Dragon Kings presented Cletus with impenetrable golden chain mail, a golden helmet covered in phoenix feathers, and a pair of boots that could walk on the clouds. With new gifts in hand, Cletus felt invigorated with youthful joy. He returned to the apes and bragged about the treasures. In his bliss, Cletus trusted the mountains to his Four Ape Generals. He travelled his island and the surrounding sea. Cletus regularly played games and went on trips with the other animal leaders that served him.
One day after a long party, Cletus awakened in chains. On his left, a demon with the face of a horse grasped his arm. A man with the head of an ox held his right arm. They dragged him through a cave into the belly of the earth.
“What is the meaning of this?” Cletus asked. “Where have you taken me?”
“We are leading you through the Underworld,” Horse-Face answered.
“To the court of the Ten Kings,” said Ox-Head. “They will judge you for your mortal deeds.”
“Then, you will move on to Paradise or Hell,” Horse-Face finished.
The demons towed Cletus to a large circular chamber full of demons and an extremely long line of souls waiting to be judged.
“Gentlemen,” Cletus said, “there’s obviously been some mistake. You see, long ago, Buddha gave me immortality. I cannot die. So, how about you let me go?”
“We cannot do that,” Ox-Head said.
“It is your time to die according to the Registry of Life and Death,” Horse-Face added.
“To hell with that,” Cletus snarled.
The caveman jumped out of the demons’ arms. He stomped on Horse-Face’s toe and kicked Ox-Head in the knee before sprinting into the crowd. Cletus struggled for a moment to tear off the chains. Once free, he pulled what appeared to be a small pin out of his ear. With a shake, the pin transformed into his iron pole.
Cletus proceeded to attack the entire crowd, fighting off demons and mortal souls alike. This continued until ten, tall, slender men in yellow robes appeared.
“Stop this madness,” one of the Ten Kings shouted.
Cletus jabbed at the man and barked, “Who’re you?”
“I’m King Yama,” the man said, “ruler of the Narakas and head judge of the dead. Who are you, sir?”
“I’m the Immortal Cletus. I was brought here wrongfully.”
“If you were brought here, it was no mistake,” King Yama assured him. “Your name exists in the Registry of Life and Death. It is your time to die.”
Cletus rushed at King Yama. All the other judges screamed and fled from the monster. Cletus threw Yama to the ground and press the end of the iron pole into King Yama’s throat. “Bring me this registry,” Cletus said.
Yama ordered the cowering judges to leave their hiding places and fetch the Registry of LIfe and Death.
“And bring a bottle of ink and a brush!” Cletus shouted after them.
Two judges returned with an immense, leather-bound book and a large flask of ink. Cletus began flipping through the pages of the Registry of Life and Death, searching for his name.
“I’m not a yokel,” he mumbled. “My jaw is strong and sturdy. My name isn’t Brown or Clemens or Black. Ah ha!”
On the page, in tiny writing it read: Cletus the Caveman, Neanderthal, Savior of humankind, honorary son of Zeus, the Handsome Monkey King, Sun Wukong, Great Sage Equaling Heaven, Beast King of the Sumerians, Betrayer of the King, Once and Future King, 324 years of life.
“I haven’t even done half of this shit yet,” Cletus said. “Also, I’ve been alive a hell of a lot longer than three hundred twenty-four years.”
Cletus removed the filthy brush from the bottle of ink and blacked out his name. Then, he flipped through the book and erased several more names out of spite. Throwing the book down, Cletus ran away, yelling behind him, “Leave me and mine alone, or I’ll be back to put your name in that book, Yama!”
A few weeks after his adventure in the Underworld, an old man in white robes visited Cletus.
“I am The Great White Planet,” the man said. “I am an Immortal from Heaven. I have been sent by the Jade Emperor to invite the Immortal champion Sun Wukong to Heaven.”
Cletus immediately ordered all the apes and monkeys to prepare a feast for their guest.
“That is unnecessary,” The Great White Planet said. “We should be on our way to Heaven immediately. You don’t want to keep the Jade Emperor waiting for your arrival.”
“Of course,” Cletus said.
The caveman used his cloud-walking boots and cloud summoning ability to follow the flying Immortal up to the gates of Heaven. Cletus sprinted ahead, but the guards would not let him through.
“You lying bastard,” Cletus said as The Great White Planet caught up. “What gives? They won’t let me in.”
“Worry not, Sun Wukong,” The Great White Planet said. “They won’t let you in because you’ve never been here. Once they know your name, you’ll be able to come and go freely.”
The Great White Planet led Cletus to the palace of the Jade Emperor. They went to a large forum filled with people. At the center of the room stood a massive throne. A man in beautiful white and black robes sat peacefully in the throne. The Great White Planet fell to his knees and bowed until his forehead touched the floor. Cletus stood and shrugged. The gesture shocked and angered the crowd around the room.
“This is the mischievous Monkey King, Sun Wukong,” The Great White Planet said as he stood. “Xuanling High Sovereign, this is the one who bested King Yama and terrorized the Dragon Kings. I have brought him here as you requested.”
“Good,” the Jade Emperor said. “Little monkey, you’ve been causing a lot of trouble. I’m sure it is because you simply need something to occupy your attention. I’m giving you a very important position in Heaven. You will be the Protector of Horses.”
Cletus busted his ass as the Protector of Horses for about two weeks. He cared for the horses better than anyone before or after him. Cletus did this expecting to quickly climb the corporate ladder in Heaven, but he learned his position ranked him as the lowest Immortal in Heaven with no opportunity for promotion. At this revelation, Cletus became so pissed that he freed the horses, destroyed the stables, and returned to his mountain.
Upon returning, Cletus learned that he had been gone for nearly twenty years. Even so, all the apes and bests celebrated his homecoming. The creatures of the Mountain of Fruit and Flowers threw an extravagant party that went on for weeks.
During the party, two demons arrived to plead their allegiance to the Monkey King. The demons presented Cletus with a beautiful yellow robe as a gift. After hearing Cletus’s tale about his time in Heaven, one demon said, “Those fools! Our master is so grand, the Jade Emperor should have named you the Great Sage Equaling Heaven.”
“You know,” Cletus said, “you’re right.”
Immediately, Cletus had banners erected all over the mountain proclaiming him as the Great Sage Equaling Heaven.
Days after the party ended, a man claiming to be the Heavenly General Mighty Miracle arrived on Fruit and Flower Mountain. The Heavenly General demanded to see the Monkey King. Cletus sleepily left his castle to greet Mighty Miracle.
“Who’re you, and what do you want?” Cletus asked.
“I am the Heavenly General Mighty Miracle,” her said. “I’ve come by order of the Jade Emperor to punish you for your crimes against Heaven.”
Cletus pulled a pin from his ear and shook it out into his pole. “You and what army?” Cletus asked. “I am the Great Sage Equaling Heaven. You cannot defeat me. The Jade Emperor himself could not defeat me.”
The two fought with awe-inspiring grace, like a dragon swimming in a river, but Mighty Miracle stood no chance against Cletus. When the battle finished, Cletus spared the General’s life. “Return to Heaven,” Cletus said to Mighty Miracle. “Inform the Jade Emperor that I cannot be defeated. I’ll return to Heaven when the Jade Emperor decides to admit that I am the Great Sage Equaling Heaven.”
The next day, another opponent appeared. He claimed to be the mighty Prince Nezha. Nezha wielded six, magic, Heavenly weapons against Cletus. Their battle went on for days and days. The earth quaked and lightning crashed with every blow. They battled all over the island. Nezha’s strength and skill equalled Cletus’s, so much so that they could not harm each other. It seemed neither fighter could win until Cletus kicked sand in Nezha’s eyes. Crying out in frustration, Cletus smashed his cudgel into Nezha’s shoulder. Nezha wailed in agony as he retreated to Heaven.
A few days later, The Great White Planet arrived on the Mountain of Fruit and Flowers. He explained to Cletus that while the last two wanted the Monkey King dead, The Great White Planet had changed the Jade Emperor’s mind. As long as Cletus agreed that there would be no more mischief, Cletus could return to Heaven.
Upon accepting the offer, the Jade Emperor made Cletus the Great Sage Equaling Heaven. Cletus had his own palace and office in Heaven near the Queen Mother’s peach orchard, where he was the Administer of Peaches.
One day, Cletus grew bored and hungry. He sent away all of his subjects and began eating his way through the magical peaches of Heaven. He ate so many that he fell asleep in a tree. A group of fairies awakened Cletus. They had been sent by the Queen Mother to pick peaches for a banquet, but almost none remained.
“There’s going to be a party?” Cletus asked. “And they want peaches for the party? I haven’t heard about this. I’m the Administer of Peaches, I should be warned about these things. When is the party?”
“It is today, Great Sage,” the fairies said. “You were not invited. We must go now to tell the Queen Mother that there are no peaches for the banquet. You will surely be punished, Great Sage.”
With that, Cletus knocked the fairies out. He rushed to the banquet hall intending to demand an apology for not inviting him to the party. When he arrived, the banquet hall stood empty. Several of the barrels of Heaven’s amazing wine lined the walls of the banquet hall, which Cletus promptly guzzled down.
Full of wine, Cletus waddled away until drunkenly stumbling into the castle where the Immortals hid their greatest treasure, the pill of refined elixir. Only those of the highest standing in Heaven received the pills of refined elixir. Each capsule had the power of ten gallons of elixir. Eating a single one could make a person infinitely strong and nimble, eternally youthful, and turn their skin to an impenetrable armor. Cletus ate all of them.
Out of fear of punishment, Cletus left Heaven and returned to his mountain. Sitting with his monkeys, Cletus learned that he had been gone for two hundred years. The thought that his monkeys would never experience the glory of Heaven saddened Cletus. To make up for it, he organized a monumental feast to celebrate the return of the Monkey King, but an army of gods interrupted the feast when they attacked the island. Cletus’s entire force of beasts and demons assembled to defend their home. A terrifying battle ensued where Heaven’s forces captured or killed all of Cletus’s armies except the caveman. Cletus fought them off throughout day until the gods retreated with nightfall before returning in the morning.
After several days of fighting, the armies of Heaven did not return in the morning. Instead, a single god approached Cletus. The god wore a phoenix feather hat and a magic jade belt. The god carried a trident as his only weapon. “I am the legendary hero, Erlang,” the god said. “I’ve come to vanquish you.”
“Bring it on, asshole,” Cletus said.
The two Immortals fought brutally for days. Cletus almost defeated Erlang until a gargantuan, golden band fell from the sky and slammed into Cletus’s head. With Cletus distracted, Erlang attacked, knocking Cletus off his feet. Before Erlang chained Cletus up, the caveman shrunk his pole and hid it in his ear.
Back in Heaven, the gods tried to torture Cletus, but thanks to the pills of refined elixir, nothing harmed him. They set Cletus on fire, but he did not burn. Not even lightning hurt the caveman. Finally, the gods escorted Cletus to the furnace used to refine the elixir and locked Cletus inside. Cletus found a nook in a wall where the fire could not reach him and hid. The heat from the furnace burned away his robes and all of his armor melted.
After almost two months, the gods opened the furnace. Cletus burst out, naked and in a rage. Cletus attacked everyone nearby, creating chaos. He defeated all the warriors of Heaven and continued killing until a celestial hand punched him across the expanse of Heaven. Cletus looked up to see Buddha in the sky above him.
“YOU!” Cletus snarled. “You did this to me. You made me immortal. You took me from my family, from my people, and trapped me in that egg for eons. I’ll kill you!”
Buddha scooped up Cletus and squeezed and shook the caveman about. “You insolent little monkey,” Buddha said. “I made you what you are. I can easily destroy you.”
“Let me go!” Cletus screamed over and over.
“Calm down,” Buddha said. “I’ll make you a deal, little one.”
“If you can escape my palm, I’ll leave you be so that you may slaughter all of Heaven,” Buddha said. “I won’t even try to stop you. However, if you cannot, I will punish you for all that you have done here.”
“Fine,” Cletus said.
Buddha opened his hand, and Cletus leaped into the sky. Cletus summoned a cloud and flew away. Cletus traveled all the way to the end of the world, marked by five stone pillars. On the second pillar, Cletus signed his name and took a piss before returning to Buddha’s hand.
“Done,” Cletus said as he landed in Buddha’s palm.
“What is done?” Buddha asked.
“I left your hand,” Cletus said. “I traveled to the ends of the world and back without you stopping me.”
“Look behind you.”
Cletus turned. The caveman read his own name clawed into the flesh of Buddha’s ring finger. A puddle of urine coated much of Buddha’s hand.
“I don’t understand,” Cletus said.
“You do not,” Buddha said. “I hold the world in the palm of my hand, Cletus. No matter how hard you try, you cannot escape me.”
Buddha forced Cletus out of Heaven and crushed the caveman beneath his palm in a desert. Buddha’s hand transformed into a mountain range where Cletus remained imprisoned beneath the stone for centuries.
“That’s the start of it,” I said.
“So,” Lyra said, “what you’re telling me is that you’re crazy. I mean, you were the Monkey King? The Monkey King?”
“Not me. Cletus the Caveman. He was the Monkey King, yes. After helping fight an alien and travelling beyond space and time where a time ghost stole a piece of your soul, you draw the crazy line at the Monkey King?”
One corner of Lyra’s mouth twisted into a smirk. “I’m just giving you shit,” she said as she winked at me. “However, I should probably go home. If your brother had the date right, I had an anatomy exam like a month ago that I should probably study for.”
I drummed my fingers on the workbench. “I’d really like to keep talking to you?” I said, my inflection changing at the end of the sentence. “Like, after this conversation.”
Lyra looked away as she smiled. “Yeah, me too,” she said.
We exchanged phone numbers, email address, and screen names for various websites and programs.
I walked over to the elevator doors in the lab. I began punching information into the panel outside the doors. “You wouldn’t know the coordinates to your apartment to like an inch, would you?” I asked. Lyra looked at me weirdly. “Of course you wouldn’t.”
After I made a few more adjustments, the doors slid open. I handed Lyra a piece of metal about the size of a guitar pick and ushered her into the small room beyond the doors.
“Okay,” I said, “this’ll get you back to your campus about ten minutes after we originally left.”
“We’re not gonna take the time machine?” Lyra asked.
“This is also a time machine. The first one I built, actually. It’ll get you there. Probably. Just hit the big blue button after the doors close.”
The doors glided closed followed by a flash of electric blue light peaking through the crack between the doors. The blue light faded. I took a seat at my desk and immediately sent Lyra an instant message.
So, do you want to hear more?
Holy shit, Lyra responded. It’s been like three weeks. Thought I’d never hear from the crazy time traveller again.
It’s literally been seconds for me.
Do you want me to keep going with the story?