The Adventures of Cletus II

Cletus lay trapped in the earth beneath Five Elements Mountain. Fungus and moss grew from the filth in his hair. Mud caked his sunken face. His beard itched immensely. Struggling with all his might, Cletus tried to reach for his face, but his arms would not budge from beneath the stone. Looking up at his two heavenly guards, Cletus said, “Could one of you bastards scratch my chin?”

“Are you hungry?” one guard asked.

“Are you thirsty?” followed the other.

“No,” Cletus said.

“Then, be quiet!” the guards snapped in unison.

Cletus’s days continued. Buddha had trapped him beneath the mountain range for his misdeeds in Heaven. The heavenly guards fed Cletus cold iron pellets to stop his hunger and molten iron to quench his thirst. Cletus rarely slept. Though he could not move his body, his tongue remained nimble with banter directed at his guards. Cletus watched the world move on around him to pass his time.

One day, a brilliant golden light washed over Cletus. He stared into the light until a young woman in a pale blue dress appeared. “I know you,” Cletus said.

“So you do, mischievous, little monkey,” the goddess said.

“Why are you here, Guanyin?”

“Be more respectful and maybe you shall learn.”

“Fine,” Cletus said. “Bodhisattva Guanyin, what do you want from me? Come to release me from my prison, I hope. Immortality is no fun while stuck under a giant rock.”

“Actually, I did come here for something along those lines,” the Bodhisattva said. “How do you feel about deals, Great Sage?”

“What kind of deal?”

“You would be released from here to perform two tasks. If the tasks are completed to satisfaction, you will be freed.”

“I’m listening. What tasks?”

“A monk will come by here,” the goddess said. “He will be travelling west to India. His goal is to reach Buddha’s temple. You will accompany him on his journey west. On that journey, you will protect the monk from all harm that may come his way. You will also repent for your crimes against the gods. Do this and you shall be freed from your stone cell permanently.”

“Done,” Cletus said. “Let me out, and I’ll wait for him here.”

“No, Monkey King,” Bodhisattva Guanyin said. “I will not fall for your trickery. Unfortunately, the monk may easily be fooled by you, but that’s why you’ll be wearing this.”

The goddess slipped a small golden band onto Cletus’s head.

“What is this?” Cletus asked.

“Insurance,” the Bodhisattva said as she disappeared.

Time slowly dragged for five more years before a young boy in yellow robes arrived at Cletus’s cell.

“You there, boy!” Cletus shouted. “Come here.”

The young boy crouched in front of Cletus. The boy pulled away the moss and grass surrounding Cletus’s head. “What have you to say to me?” the boy asked.

“Nothing to say,” said Cletus. “Only a question to ask.”

“What question?”

“Are you the monk sent to the West to gather the Buddha’s scriptures?” Cletus asked.

“Yes, I am,” said the boy. “Why do you ask?”

“Well, young monk, I am the Great Sage Equaling Heaven. Buddha trapped me beneath this mountain range five hundred years ago for my criminal insubordination in Heaven. Then, some time ago, Bodhisattva Guanyin came by here heading east to search for the one destined to bring the scriptures back. That would be you.”

“Yes,” the young monk said. “What can I do for you?”

“Not what you can do for me,” Cletus said. “It’s what I must do for you. I will protect you on your journey to the West. The issue you is that I’m trapped here, but you can fix that easily.”

“So, you are one of the guardians Bodhisattva Guanyin promised me. I have no tools or weapons with me. How can I help release you?”

“You’ve got to climb this mountain and find the spell tag at the top. Remove it. If you do that, I’ll be able to free myself.”

The monk left Cletus there for a few hours.

“I removed the spell tag,” the monk told the caveman upon returning.

“I’m aware,” Cletus said. “I could feel the mountain’s fingers loosen their grip as soon as you did. I’ve just been waiting for you to get off the mountain.”

Cletus snarled as he labored beneath the mountain. Stone ground and cried as Cletus slid his hands under his chest. Rock shattered when Cletus pushed himself to his hands and knees. With a jump, Cletus burst from his prison, scattering stone in a massive explosion. When the dust cleared from the air, Cletus stood in front of the monk. His shame swayed between his hairy, naked thighs.

“I’m the Great Sage Equaling Heaven, Cletus the Caveman.”

“Tang Sanzang,” the monk said. “If you’re going to travel with me, we’ll have to think of a proper Buddhist name for you.”

“Already have one. They used to call me Sun Wukong.”

“That’s perfect. Do you mind if I call you Brother Monkey?”

Cletus shrugged. He pulled a tiny rod out of his ear. With a shake, the rod became a massive iron pole. “If you’ll excuse me,” Cletus said as he stalked into the mountains.

Cletus returned shortly with a tiger hanging limply across his shoulders. He threw down the body and scavenged through the rocks, examining each intently until finding one that he deemed acceptable. Cletus used a suitable stone to dress his kill. The young Buddhist monk watched in disgust.

“You’re lucky you found me,” Cletus said through a mouthful of raw meat. “Travelling out here alone, this tiger could have killed you. Lots of demons in these hills too.”

“Yes, Buddha be praised.”

Cletus stood up and wrapped a large chunk of the tiger’s hide around his waist like a skirt. He used another thin strip of skin to tie his makeshift kilt in place. Jamming the bloody rock beneath Sanzang’s chin, Cletus said with a twisted grin, “Now, what’s stopping me from just killing you and walking away from this whole mess?”
Shaking, Sanzang muttered under his breath. With every word he said, the gold band on Cletus’s head grew unbearably tight. The metal dug into his flesh. Cletus dropped to his knees, clawing at the band and screaming, “Make it stop.”

Sanzang stopped chanting, and the band slowly loosened. Cletus tried to remove the band to no avail. “Only Bodhisattva Guanyin can remove the control band,” Sanzang said.

“What happened to Buddhists being pacifists?” Cletus asked. “I thought you were going to crush my skull.”

Sanzang shrugged. “Maybe. Not sure what would have happened if I had not stopped.”

“So, we’re going to the West,” Cletus said.

Sanzang nodded.

Cletus scanned the mostly barren horizon. Pointing slightly northwest, Cletus said, “That clump of trees there is probably our only chance of finding water before tomorrow morning. It’s late, so we should head out now before it’s too dark to see the forest.”

Cletus took most of Sanzang’s possessions and slung them onto his shoulders. Without waiting for the young monk, Cletus set off for the forest. Hours later, monk and monkey entered the forest. Just beyond the treeline, a whistle sounded from the side of the darkened path.

Six men rushed from the trees with spears, bows, and swords. The blocked the path and shouted, “Where are you going monk? If you give us your horse and your luggage, we’ll spare your lives.”

Sanzang fell from his horse onto his ass and slowly crawled away from the men. Cletus pulled the boy up to his feet. “Don’t worry, Sanzang,” Cletus said. “These men are simply here to provide us with spare clothes and a little extra money.”

“Are you deaf? They threatened to kill us if we don’t give everything to them,” Sanzang said.

“Just stay here with our things while I bash them around a little,” Cletus said.

“There are six of them. You can’t really plan to fight them.”

Cletus ignored Sanzang. Apparently the bandits frightened the monk so much that Sanzang forgot that Cletus had shattered an entire mountain. Cletus walked up to the bandits and crossed his arms over his chest. “Why are you boys blocking our way?” Cletus asked.

“We are robber kings,” one of the bandits said. “This is our forest. We’re famous around these parts. Why come into our forest unless you planned to give your things away to us? We rule these mountains. Leave your belongings with us or we’ll leave you cut to pieces. Your choice.”

“I’m a sort of criminal king myself,” Cletus said. “I’ve also ruled over mountains. I’ve never heard of you boys.”

“Stop calling us boys or we’ll crush your bones into powder.”

“You gentlemen fail to realize that you’re standing before your better. Bring out all your booty. We’ll divide it equally between the eight of us, and then I’ll leave you be.”

“You want us to share with you? You talk big for a monk.”

The six men attacked Cletus at once. Cletus fought the armed men with his bare hands for several minutes before easily disarming the bandits.

“You boys must be tired for me to beat you so easily,” Cletus said.

“You’re one tough monk,” a bandit said.

Cletus pulled the iron pin from his ear. The pin morphed into a rod slightly longer than Cletus’s arm and as big around as a rice bowl. “Now,” Cletus said, “let me practice my clubbing with you boys.”

The bandits fled at the sight of the massive cudgel. Cletus ran them down and beat them to death. Not one bandit managed to escape.

Cletus returned to Sanzang with all the bandits’ belongings. He dropped all the clothes, money, and jewels at Sanzang’s feet. “Well, we should be set for our whole trip,” Cletus said. “Let’s keep going.”

“Even though they were highwaymen, you’re asking for trouble,” Sanzang said. “Even killing by accident is such a disgusting act. You just slaughtered them all without a second thought. There’s nothing in you that’s even remotely good.”

“If I hadn’t killed them, they’d’ve killed you.”

“I’m a man of religion. I’d rather have died than commit murder.”

“Than it’s a good thing I’m the one that killed them.”

“You are in my service. You killing them is just the same as them dying by my own hand.”

“If I weren’t willing to kill when necessary, Bodhisattva wouldn’t have chosen me to protect you.”

“If you weren’t such a tyrant you would have never been imprisoned so that she could bribe you with your freedom. With such a disgusting monster as a companion, we’ll never reach the Western Heaven to retrieve the scriptures.”

Rage flared within Cletus as the young monk chastised him. “If you believe that you’ll never reach the West with me, then so be it,” Cletus said as he summoned a cloud. “I’m off.”

With a loud whistle, Cletus launched across the sky on his cloud. The cloud carried Cletus farther east than the sunrise and plunged into the sea. Cletus emerged from the water in the sunken palace of the Dragon King of the Eastern Sea. The castle guards escorted Cletus to the Dragon King’s court. Cletus bowed low before the great dragon. “Hello, old companion,” Cletus said. “How are you?”

“Sun Wukong,” the Dragon King said. “What a pleasant surprise. I haven’t seen you since that mess with you in Heaven. I see you’ve been freed.”

“Yes,” Cletus said. “I’m supposed to be accompanying a young monk to the West. We had a fight. So, I went as far east as I possibly could to get away from him.”

“Why ever would you do that?”

“Because that priest doesn’t understand human nature. He doesn’t comprehend that people are cruel and will not hold his same beliefs. He started nagging about me killing a few simple bandits.”

“Great Sage, if you do not protect the priest and follow his orders, you may as well go crawl back beneath Five Elements Mountain. It’s where they’ll put you once you’re captured. Prove the boy wrong.”

“I’m not sure I care enough,” Cletus said.”

“Don’t ruin your future for an easy life right now,” the Dragon King said.

“I suppose you’re right,” Cletus said.

Cletus returned to Sanzang, and they continued the journey to the West. Over the course of the journey they gained new companions.  Prince Jade Dragon joined the group first. The son of the Dragon King of the Southern Sea earned his exile by burning his father’s jewels. With the ability to transform into a horse, Jade Dragon served as Sanzang’s mount. Then came Zhu Bajie, former Field Marshal of the Milky Way. Heaven disfigured Zhu Bajie with the head of a pig, beat him with an iron rod, and casted him to Earth to atone for his drunken advances upon a maiden. Last came Sha Wujing, ogre of the sands. Sha abandoned his post as a general in Heaven to repent for destroying a vase in a fit of rage.

The four outcasts and the holy monk journeyed together. They faced countless challenges. The five fought bandits, battled demons and spirits, and slayed monsters. The companions scaled mountains, crossed deserts, and braved blizzards. Years they suffered to reach India to meet Buddha and bring the scriptures to the people of China.

After delivering the scriptures, the group returned to the temple of Buddha. Buddha distributed great boons to each of them. Buddha turned the White Dragon Horse’s scales gold and ordained him as the Great Strength Bodhisattva of the Eight Heavenly Sections. Brother Pig lived for eternity and cleaned all the altars in all Buddhist temples until the end of time. Brother Sand became an arhat, the pinnacle of human perfection. Buddha appointed Sanzang as a protector god in Heaven.

After the others received their gifts, Buddha turned to Cletus. “My lovely, ancient friend, this will be your second grand gift from me,” Buddha said. “It was fortunate for you that you gave in to your good side and won glory along your journey. You will be rewarded with high office as the Victorious Fighting God.”

Cletus hissed sharply. “As great as spending all of eternity with the clowns in Heaven would be,” Cletus said, “slowly diminishing in power as people stop believing in me does not appeal in the least. I have to decline the offer, big guy. I just want this thing taken off my head so I can do my own thing. I just want to keep travelling the world.”

“If that is your wish.”

Cletus continued west. He opened passages through mountain ranges and dug wells along his path through the wilderness. He settled in a land filled with orchards and ponds. Cletus irrigated the land and built a massive city called Uruk. Cletus made himself King of Uruk. Once comfortable in his palace, Cletus wrote down all of his previous adventures.

Years went by. Cletus’s time with the Buddhists had failed to curb his rage and blood lust. All males of Uruk regardless of age participated in Uruk’s only sport. Men wrestled naked in the sand of the stadium, often to the death, for their king’s amusement. Cletus required all women to sleep with him before he allowed them to marry. Cletus beat and killed his people at any minor inclination to do so. Cletus terrified and tormented the subjects of Uruk.

In a dream, Cletus watched a meteor crash outside of his city. He sprinted through Uruk’s intricate inner and outer walls until he reached the massive crater. A brilliant white stone rested in the crater. Every imaginable color rippled across the stone’s surface in light. Cletus grabbed the stone and went back to the city. He wanted to show everyone his amazing treasure, but no one in the city cared. A magnificent battle-ax entranced the entire city. The people of Uruk ignored Cletus and began to worship the battle-ax.

Cletus fell in love with the battle-ax. He stole the ax. He ran back to his palace. Cletus’s long-dead mother stood in his bedchamber. Cletus placed the stone and ax at her feet. “These objects represent your salvation,” she said. “These are the symbols of the man who will become your greatest friend.”

Weeks later, Cletus had forgotten the dream. A wedding occurred that day, an important day for Cletus. As with all weddings since the start of Cletus’s kingdom, the bride would spend the night of her wedding in Cletus’s bed before her marriage would be considered binding. On the way to his room, a hairy, gangly man wearing only a fur loincloth blocked Cletus’s path. “You are Gilgamesh, yes?” the man asked Cletus.

“That’s my title,” Cletus said. “I made the word up. It’s like king, but better. Now, if you’ll excuse me.”

Cletus tried to push past the man, but the man grabbed Cletus by the arm. “You must not do this,” he said.

The two men fought in a blur of hair and fists. Their struggle constantly moved, carrying them throughout the city. The men fought violently, to the point the city walls shook. The men brawled for days without tiring. The hairy man managed to trap Cletus in a headlock. Cletus choked and grunted until he threw his opponent to the ground. Cletus climbed on top of the man’s stomach. He shove his hands under the man’s collar bones and tugged as hard as possible while headbutting the man’s brow. Every few blows, Cletus screamed, “Submit!”

Finally, the man gave in. Cletus collapsed in the dust beside the man and began laughing hysterically.

“I am Enkidu,” the dirty, bloody man said with a smile.

Enkidu’s blood smeared Cletus’s filthy face. “You are the greatest opponent I’ve ever faced, and I’ve fought with some crazy shit in my day,” Cletus said.

“It was a very enjoyable match.”

Cletus stood up and dusted himself off before helping Enkidu off the ground. “You and I will be the greatest of everlasting friends.”

For several months, the two friends spent time competing in the city’s games, but quickly grew bored.

“There is a monster,” Enkidu said, “appointed by the gods to guard their Cedar Forest. It is called Humbaba. It is a giant with the head of a lion. Its roar is fire, and its mouth is death. An endless line cuts its flesh, making it appears as if the monster is made from the entrails of a man.”

“We can kill that monster,” Cletus said.

Cletus and Enkidu obtained weapons, armor, and other provisions for the trip to the Cedar Forest. Every night as they travelled, Cletus dreamed. Walking barefoot through a valley, Cletus watched as the mountains on the horizon crumbled and fell beneath the ground. The entire sky pitched into a violent thunderstorm. Hundreds of wild bulls stampeded past him. With a horrible shriek, a massive bird dived out of the sky and bellowed fire across the land.

Cletus awoke covered in sweat and screaming. He explained his dream to Enkidu.

“You fear too much,” Enkidu said. “This is not a bad omen, but a good one. You weren’t harmed despite all the chaos. Only good things will come from this trip.”

When the duo reached the forest, Cletus marveled at the enormous trees that extended higher than he could see. As he and Enkidu proceeded through the Cedar Forest toward the Mountain of the Gods, Cletus continued having the same nightmare. Each morning, Enkidu reassured him of their good fortune to come.

Days of wandering the forest stretched by until Cletus became annoyed with trying to find Humbaba. With shouts of joy, Cletus and Enkidu chopped down several trees. Wood split and logs crashed to the ground until a petrifying roar cut through the Cedar Forest. The ground shook violently. Animals of all kinds rushed by Cletus and Enkidu. An ogre charged through the trees toward the two. It slid to a halt with its massive gut bouncing in Cletus’s face. Humbaba lowered its head until its lion’s mane of red hair almost touched Cletus. “Who’re you, little man?” Humbaba spat swampy breath into the caveman’s face.

“I am Cletus, Gilgamesh of Uruk. I’ve come to slay you for fun.”

“You cut down the Gods’ trees,” Humbaba growled. “You must die.”

Humbaba backhanded Cletus into a tree. Cletus picked himself off the ground and fell into immense confusion. Cletus stood in a barren field of white grass. All around him echoed the sounds of battle raging with swords, axes, shields and maces clashing and men screaming war cries. Cletus pulled a pin from his ear and shook it out into his black iron pole. He called out for Enkidu. Faintly and far away, Cletus heard a reply, but questioned if it was real. Ash and blood rained from the sky. The ground groaned and quaked before crumbling beneath his feet. Cletus fell into complete darkness. The darkness engulfed him, filling him and tearing at his skin. Cletus screamed in pain when on of his shoulders dislocated itself. The darkness flooded into his mouth and down his throat.

“Gilgamesh,” Enkidu cried out.

“I’m here,” Cletus said. “Where’re you? I can’t see anything.”

“It’s the same for me,” Enkidu replied. “It’s some sort of illusion.”

Flames lit the darkness around Cletus. The massive bird from his nightmares soared toward him. It grew larger as it neared. The bird opened its hooked beak, and Cletus could see the flames spark to life deep within the beast’s throat.

A harsh wind tore at Cletus. The wind blew away the bird and the darkness. Cletus kneeled on the ground with Enkidu nearby. Humbaba writhed on the ground beside them. Without hesitation, Enkidu rushed to Humbaba and tied the giant up.

“Some God cares for you,” Humbaba grunted.

“Fuck your gods,” Cletus said as he slammed his arm back into its socket.

“I was using the aura of my garments to fill you with fear,” Humbaba laughed, “but then a great wind blew over me. It had no effect on you two though. A God sent it just for me.”

“Your clothes can cast illusion?” Cletus asked.

“Of course,” said Humbaba. “If you spare me, I’ll give them to you as a gift. I’ll even become your servant if you let me live.”

“Gilgamesh, don’t consider this trick,” Enkidu said. “Don’t even think on it. We have to kill the beast now or be forever shamed.”

“Maybe you’re just jealous, you violent animal,” Humbaba said. “You left your home in the trees and fell at the feet of this great man because no one else cared about you. You’re worried that he’ll be happier with a great fighter like me at his side instead of you. I’ll be his closest companion instead of you.”

“Shut up, you stupid ogre,” Cletus said as he jammed his heel against the side of Humbaba’s head.

“Curse you both!” the ogre snarled. “I’m a servant of the God of the earth and the sea. The two of you will be punished endlessly.”

Cletus smashed his iron pole into Humbaba’s meaty neck, snapping it instantly. “I said to shut the fuck up.” Shrinking his pole down, Cletus collapsed against a tree. “Fuck this place,” he said. “Enkidu, we’re cutting down this whole forest. We’re gonna chop down every last one of these cedars and float ‘em back down the Euphrates to Uruk.”

“The city will prosper greatly from such fine timber,” Enkidu said as he held up an ax.

Upon returning to the city, Cletus left Enkidu on the river and returned to his chambers to write his newest adventure with the rest. Then, Cletus took his first warm bath he had taken in months. After scrubbing away all the filth from his skin, he put on brand new royal garments and tied his thick mane up in a curly bun at the back of his head so that he could wear his crown. Once dressed, Cletus turned to leave his chamber, but a tall, raven-haired woman blocked his path. “Gilgamesh,” she whispered in her silky voice. The woman wore only a scarlet skirt with no top. “You look so handsome. You’re so powerful and victorious. I saw you kill Humbaba. I want you to be mine.” She bit Cletus’s ear. “I want you inside me. Become my husband, Gilgamesh. I will give you infinite life and health.”

“I’m already immortal, Ishtar,” Cletus dismissed the goddess. “I refuse your request. Your lust is momentary. Besides, all your past lovers have either been killed, tortured, or turned into animals. Why would I fare any better?”

A sword materialized in Ishtar’s hand. The goddess pressed the blade against Cletus’s neck. “If you do not accept my offer, I’ll kill you where you stand,” she said.

Cletus grabbed the blade and centered it on his heart. “Do it, bitch,” he said with a smirk. “I’ve lived for so long. Much longer than you, fairytale whore. I’ve lived a good life, a long life. And none of it relied on a bunch of assholes believing in me. So, do it, whore. I’ll be one less person that believes in you.”

Ishtar disappeared in a burst of light and smoke.

Several days later, the earth quaked while Cletus and Enkidu walked through the streets of Uruk. “What the hell is going on?” Cletus asked.

“In the sky, Gilgamesh. Look!”

Cletus stared into the clouds. The sky swirled violently. A pathway opened in the sky, and a giant white bull came charging down from the heavens. The bull bellowed and the ground split open, engulfing countless people. Cletus stood calmly while frightened citizens ran about the streets in a panic. The bull landed, opening more fissures. The bull stomped about the city, tearing open more cracks that swallowed Uruk’s people.

Enkidu growled and jumped onto the bull’s back. Within seconds the bull threw Enkidu to the ground. The bull spit on Enkidu before turning and spewing a massive pile of steaming manure on the hairy man. Enkidu wiped the filth off his face and screamed at the top of his lungs, “Fucking Heaven Bull! I’ll destroy you!”

Enkidu rushed forward and grabbed the bull by the horns. Cletus jumped on the animal’s back, and the three of them grappled about the city. The bull threw Enkidu over its shoulder into a wall. The wild man rebounded and seized the bull’s tail. “Kill it, Gilgamesh!”

Cletus whipped out his iron pole and speared the bull through the back of the head, killing it almost instantly. Enkidu stepped forward and ripped the bull’s heart out. “For the sun god!” he screamed.

Enkidu and Cletus skinned and hacked apart the giant bull. A piercing screech tore through the city. Ishtar stood on Uruk’s outer walls. Her raven hair thrashed in the wind. Anger boiled the air around her. “Curse you,” she said. “Curse you both.”

“Fuck off, you hag!” Enkidu screamed as he threw one of the bull’s legs at Ishtar. “Get out of Uruk before I throw you out.”

Ishtar disappeared into a burst of red smoke. Cletus clapped Enkidu on the back. “You’ve started to talk like me now,” Cletus laughed. “I bet you’re going to confuse people just as much as I do.”

The two friends finished butchering the bull and handed meat out to the entire city. They went to the Euphrates and washed off the blood and gore. Cleaned, they strode through Uruk, absorbing the admiration of the people.

That night, Cletus awoke to Enkidu screaming. Cletus rolled out of bed and lit a lamp. A low, orange glow stretched across the room, illuminating Enkidu. Cletus walked over and sat on his friend’s bed. “What’s wrong, my trembling friend?”

“I had a dream,” Enkidu said through tears. “I dreamed of the gods. They were holding a meeting to discuss what to do about the two of us.”

“What did we do to them?” Cletus asked. “What’re they going to do to us?”

“The gods are enraged at the things we’ve done. They’re angry that we killed the Bull of Heaven and Humbaba. They’re especially upset that we cut down the Cedar Forest. They want to kill us; however, they’re only going to kill one of us. That way, the other one suffers until they die.”

“Which of us is going to die?”

“They didn’t say.”

Cletus sighed heavily. “I can only hope that it will be me,” he said. “I’ve been alive a long time. You still have a life to live. I deserve to die, not you. I could not bear to watch you go.”

Within days, Enkidu fell ill. The wild man lay in his bed and cursed everything.

“Fuck you, Cletus the Immortal,” Enkidu feebly said. “Fuck that whore that convinced me to leave the wild. To hell with these human clothes. I hate all of this. I hate all of you.”

Enkidu clenched Cletus’s arm and cried. His feverish skin burned Cletus.

“Don’t worry,” Cletus wept. “When you’re gone, I’m going to have a statue of you built in the center of the city, and everyone that sets foot in Uruk will know how glorious Enkidu was.”

Enkidu fell fast asleep. The next time Enkidu woke, he smiled.

“Gilgamesh, I no longer curse you or anyone. I too have had an amazing life, even if it was short.”

“I love you, my friend,” Cletus whispered.

“I had another dream, Gilgamesh. I was alone on a dark plain where I was attacked by a man with a lion’s head and an eagle’s talons. We fought furiously, but eventually he beat me. He transformed me into a bird and dragged me to the underworld. I wish Humbaba had killed me. I would have been blessed to die in battle. Those who die in battle are glorious.”

Enkidu never spoke again. He suffered for twelve more days before he died. Cletus cried for several days after. He ripped off his royal clothing and put on the furs Enkidu once wore. Cletus never left ‘s side. the caveman paced restlessly in a circle around Enkidu’s body. The city elders came to convince Cletus to continue governing the city. Uruk’s society crumbled without the strength of the city’s leader.

“Shut up,” Cletus said. “He is my only friend. He was a child of the forests, the son of animals. Enkidu was the greatest companion any warrior could want. Someday, may he be reborn. He will return as a stronger fighter than any other, and we shall be reunited.”

The whole city mourned Enkidu’s death. Cletus led a funeral procession to a massive tower of cedar logs. Cletus summoned all the craftsmen of his kingdom. The craftsmen erected a statue of Enkidu made from gold and jewels to honor his deeds and celebrate his life.

Cletus stayed beside Enkidu’s rotting corpse for days. He never slept or ate. He never left the unlit funeral pyre. When maggots crawled about Enkidu’s body, disgust overwhelmed Cletus. He stripped off Enkidu’s furs and covered his friend. Cletus lit the mountain of cedar logs to send his friend gloriously into the afterlife.

The lonesome caveman turned away from the flames and wandered into the wilderness.

The Adventures of Cletus I

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?”

“That’s—

“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.”

“Deal.”

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.”

“I’m listening.”

“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.

“Cool.”

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.”

“Probably?”

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.

Fair.

Do you want me to keep going with the story?

Hell yes.