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Content Starts Chapter 6 – The Gong Has Been Gung

(Transcripts may vary slightly from the published recording, because, you know, improvising. Also, grammar and punctuation may be imperfect…because…umm…Astral Plane.)

: Now, listen. Before I tell you this story, I need you to promise me somethin’. Promise me, you’re going to keep an open mind. Because what I’m about to tell ya is going to sound too wondrous to believe, even for the Astral Plane, but believe it you must.

Our story begins not long ago. Traveler flow had slowed down and I decided to use that time to collect some fallen mesquite pods, which I use to make shack juice as you well know.

Well, I heard a sound coming from the side of the station so I decided to see what’s up.

Mac: Hey, what are you two doing out here?

Tendy: Oh, hey Mac. I thought you were out collecting mesquite pods.

Mac: I was, but then I heard you guys and came over to see what’s goin’ on. Why’s the basement door open?

Tendy: Oh, that? Well, Shirley and I were just going down there for a second to work on something. Do you mind keeping an eye on the store?

Mac: Cash can watch the store. I want to help you guys. What do you need to do in the basement?

Tendy: Really, that’s okay, Mac. Shirley and I can handle it.

Mac: Oh, oh okay, I think I understand. Are you two in love?

Shirley: Excuse me?

Mac: Now, don’t take offense, Shirley, but isn’t Tendy a little young for you?

Tendy: Seriously, Mac? No, we just need to work on something and it’s a two person job. Just help Cash and we’ll be back in a few.

Mac: Okay, fine. But if you end up getting attacked by a basement monster it’s your own damn fault.

Tendy: Noted. Now please, Mac. See if Cash needs anything inside.

Mac: Alright, alright. I’m goin’.

Now, that was strange. Tendy never asked me to watch the store, but he’d been asking me more and more often lately. I didn’t know what he and Shirley had been up to, but now I knew they’d been working on something in the basement. I was obviously a little hurt bein’ left out like that, but even more so, I was curious. What could they be doin’ down there? This was certainly a mystery.

Door Opens – Interior Scene

Mac (muttering): Stupid Tendy, making me watch the store. Basement monster’d probably rip his little noodle arms right off, and then what? Cash!

Cash Turn On Sound

Cash: Yes, Mechanic. How may I assist you?

Mac: Tendy and Shirley are working on something in the basement. Tendy asked me to watch the store while they’re down there. 

Cash: I detect a note of disappointment in your inflection.

Mac: Yeah, well. It doesn’t feel so good being left out like that. You know what I’m talking about?

Cash: I’m never aware of being alone, as I will generally enter into a low-power state when not needed.

Mac: That makes sense. I mean, I think it does. Actually, I have no idea what in the hell you’re talking about. Doesn’t matter though, I can tell you, bein’ left out feels terrible. And it didn’t happen before Shirley got here, either. I feel like maybe I’m bein’ replaced, Cash.

Cash: I’m sure it’s not the Attendant’s intention to hurt your feelings Mechanic, and also certain that no one intends to replace you. 

Mac: Maybe not, I dunno. You got any idea what they’re up to down there?

Cash: Umm, uh. Oh, look. I need to run a diagnostic check on myself. Talk later, Mechanic. 

Power Down Sound

Mac: Are you serious? What am I supposed to do now? I’m so booooored.

Without a traveler to assist or a friend to talk to, I decided to give the video game another try. Now, I hadn’t played it in some time. It just wasn’t that fun. But this time I decided to play as Tendy, despite his lanky weak frame and general lack of humor.

It started out with mopping the store. I actually found that to be pretty enjoyable, like adding a glossy exterior to a painting, or applying a coat of Mac’s Shack Juice to your face, which I’ve found gives your complexion a healthy glow, and brings out the color of your eyes. Be careful though, it burns for days.

I digress. After mopping, the game instructed me to reorganize the burrito freezer in exactly the order it told me to. Compared to mopping this was extremely boring. And even worse, the way it told me to organize ‘em made absolutely zero sense. Instead of being in alphabetical order, or by ingredients, it was just totally random. Sweet and Sour Chicken, followed by Grits and butter, then Candied Apple and so on and so forth.

But I did it. And the weirdest thing happened. As soon as I finished A pair of floating soft colored lights showed up in the game, outside the window, just above the freezer. They were hoverin’ and bobbin’, almost peaceful in their ethereal glowiness.

Then I got a real weird feelin’, like I should do in real life what I’d just done in the game. So I walked over to the real-life burrito freezer and I organized the burritos just I’d already done digitally.

And then it happened, the lights outside the window.

Mac: Cash!

Cash On Sound

Cash: Yes, Mechanic? If it’s regarding the Attendant and Shirley, I’m afraid I can’t…

Mac: Forget about it, Cash. I just wanted to let you know that I’m about to go outside and there’s a good chance I might die…uh, again. 

Cash: Oh my. Why is that, Mechanic?

Mac: I don’t know. There’s something out there, and it’s hard to describe, but I got a feeling that whatever it is, it’s most likely the most dangerous thing I’ve ever encountered.

Cash: But Mechanic…

Mac: Farewell Cash

Cash: Mechanic!

Exterior Scene

Mac: Fiendish sky creatures that have come to this place, reveal yourself. I am the Mechanic, slinger of the wrench, replacer of the windshield wipers, and I demand that you come down from the heavens, and make yourselves known.

Greg: Whoa there, fella, hold your horses, I’m not sure I know how to get down just yet

Betty: Oh, isn’t he just adorable Greg? He looks just like a little baby with a beard

Mac: The hell’d you say?

Greg: Oh, she didn’t mean nothin’ by it. Betty, he only looks like a baby cause we’re up so high, It’s a distance and perspective issue we’re facin’ here.

Betty: Oh, gotcha. Still adorable though, ya know, at least from this perspective. A little baby with a big beard and hairy arms.

Greg: Hey, what’s he doing there now?

Betty: Looks like he’s grabbin’ rocks, Greg. 

Mac: Call me a baby one more time demon, and I start chuckin’ 

Greg: Looks like somebody’s got a bit of a temper, Betty

Betty: Little guy probably just needs his nap

Greg: Ope, here comes da rocks!

Betty: Oh, come on now

Mac: Grunting sound

Intro Theme

I probably shouldn’t have tossed rocks, but believe it or not, my heighth is a little bit of a sore spot for me. Tendy’s so tall, Cash is small but that makes sense, Shirley is my heighth but much older, and I’m not sure I could even take her in a fight.

Back to the story now, as the creatures started to descend from the sky it became clear that they weren’t malevolent beings but just very normal, levitating, glowing, human beings.

Greg: Okay, there guy. Are we done with the rock throwing? Betty didn’t mean no offense when she called ya a baby, did ya Betty?

Betty: Oh, golly, no. Didn’t mean nothin’ by it. It was just from up there you were small and had a fair complexion. Now that I see you up close it’s obvious you’re a burly man. Like a lumber jack or something, albeit a little bit shorter. 

Greg: Sure, but what ya lack in heighth you compensate for with raw masculine energy. Aint that right, Bet?

Betty: Right as rain, Greg.

Mac: Yeah, raw masculine energy does seep outta me a bit, I guess. I’m sorry for chuckin’ rocks at ya. I was just pretty sure you were malevolent beings come to challenge me in battle.

Betty: What’s a malevolent bean?

Greg: Sounds downright gassy, don’t it.

Mac: Not bean, being. You know, a spirit whose nature tends towards the devious.

Greg: Oh, gotcha. A regular old cheese nipper, huh

Betty: Sorry, we diddin’ even introduce ourselves. This here is Greg and I’m Betty.

Mac: Uhm, well I’m Mac. I do the mechanic work around.

Greg: So, what is this place anyhow? New Mexico, Arizona, Texas?

Mac: Nah, this is the Desert Sphere.

Betty: The desert what now?

Mac: The Desert Sphere, first sphere on the Astral Plane.

Greg: Did you say Astral Plane.

Mac: Uh-huh.

Greg: Oh my god, Betty. We really did it?

Betty: oh, Greg, I knew we could. Julio’s gonna be so proud.

Mac: I’m sorry, Julio

Betty: Oh, Julio is our instructor.

Greg: Wow, Betty, he’s gonna be tickled.

Betty: Oh-fer sure. I can’t wait to tell him.

Mac: Now, I’m not trying to be pushy but I don’t understand a lick of what’s goin’ on right now. You mind expounding a bit. Why are you floating? Who’s Julio? Are you dead? Why aren’t you driving a skylark?

Greg: Well, I’m not sure where ta start. Betty, you wanna take dis one?

Betty: Fer-sure! So, startin’ with Julio. Julio is our meditation instructor and he’s been so pleased with Greg and I don’t-cha-know, oh, Greg here is brutter.

Greg: And Betty here’s my little sister.

Betty: I’m sure he figured that part out after I said you were my brother, Greg

Greg: Oh, sure, Oh sure.

Betty: Well, anyway, so Julio says we’re doin’ such a great job that he said we were ready for the advanced class. That’s actually where we are right now.

Mac: Uh, no you’re not, you’re right here.

Greg: He’s got us there Betty. He’s got the bronze of a rock chucker and the brains of a professor.

Mac: Um, thanks.

Greg: What Betty is sayin’ is we’re in the class right now, and here right now. See, Julio has been teachin’ us something called Astral Projection.

Mac: Astral Projection?

Betty: It’s when da physical body and the Astral Body get separated and can move around a bit.

Mac: So, you’re not dead?

Betty: Oh, golly no. We’re retired, which is pretty close.

Greg: Oh, c’mon now

Betty: I’m just playin’, but no, not dead, very much alive.

Greg: I’d say even more alive now that we’re not workin’

Betty: Preach, Greg, preach

Mac: So, let me make sure I got this straight. The two of you are on the physical plane, but your, I dunno what you’d call it, your spirit I guess, is here in the Astral Plane.

Greg: That sounds about right, except Julio calls it our Astral Bodies

Betty: I was hopin’ mine would look a little younger

Greg: Yeah, I was hopin mine would be a little lighter, and I got my wish, I spose.

Betty: We’ve told you quite a bit, Mac, how about you tell us about this place.

Mac: Well, like I said, this here is the Desert Sphere and it’s the first sphere on the Astral Plane. The Astral Plane is the plane that comes after the physical, so when you die, you come here.

Betty: Ooooh, very interesting

Greg: Huh, this is the afterlife, huh? It’s a little different than what I expected.

Mac: Well, this isn’t reeeeally the afterlife. It’s more like the place between the first life and the next life.

Greg: So, you’re dead?

Mac: Uh-huh

Greg: You don’t look dead

Mac: Nuh-uh

Greg, Huh, okay then. What else.

Mac: Well, this gas station you see here is Desert Skies. When someone dies, they show up here.

Betty: Everyone?

Mac: Everyone what?

Betty: Everyone who dies shows up here?

Mac: Maybe? I’m not really sure. Anyways, when they show up here I service the vehicle they’ll be driving to the next life. My friend, the Attendant, Tendy for short, he makes sure they’re prepared for the journey with supplies and information.

And then there’s Shirley, she’s an old lady who worked at the same gas station when it was on the physical plane, then she died, and now she’s started hangin out with Tendy a bunch and it feels like I’m losin’ my best friend and she’s better at fixin stuff than me and Cash says I shouldn’t be worried but

Greg: Sorry, Cash?

Mac: Our Cash Register

Greg: Your Cash Register talks to you?

Mac: You act like that’s not normal.

Betty: Oh, that’s not normal.

Greg: Not at all.

Mac: Well, some might argue that what you’re doin’ ain’t normal, what with your astral projection’ and what not.

Greg: He’s got us there, Betty.

Betty: Oh, this is definitely not normal.

Greg: But it sure is fun.

Betty: And interesting.

Greg: Oh fer-sure very much so. Hey, Mac was it, I didn’t understand about half of what you said, but from the bit I gathered rightly, you and the others here help dead folks get to the next life.

Mac: That about sums it up.

Greg: And how long you been doin that?

Mac: I dunno exactly, a very very very long time ago.

Greg: And why don’t you, ya know, go onto the next life?

Mac: Well, I like it here. This is where my friends are. It’s where I make my jerky, and read embarrassing childhood memories, and brew my shack juice.

Betty: Doesn’t that ever get boring, though?

Mac: No, I mean, sometimes I guess.

Greg: Betty and I can’t stand bein’ bored. That’s why we join all these classes.

Mac: You mean the meditation class?

Betty: Oh, sure, but that’s just one class we’re a part of.

Greg: Oh, yeah, there’s a lot of ‘em. Let’s see, we got pottery class on Mondays

Betty: Glass blowing on Tuesdays

Greg: Wednesdays we take a class at the community college, Patternmaking for Dog Garments

Betty: Oh, that one’s really fun

Greg: What’d Parky think of that little coat ya made him

Betty: Oh, he chewed it to hell but I think he liked it

Greg: Thursdays we do Brainteasers down at Mindy’s 

Betty: That’s a bar our cousin owns. Greg’s so good at those brainteasers

Greg: Not as good as you

Betty: That’s true. Okay, where were we, on Friday’s we…

Mac: I get it, you keep busy. Well, we aint got a lot of clubs around here. The coyotes do stargazing from time to time, but that’s about it. For the most part, it’s just the same thing over and over around here.

Greg: Really, nothing new happens.

Mac: Sometimes, but not usually. Meetin’ you is something new. Shirley showin’ up was new. Oh, and we got a arcade game now.

Greg: An arcade game?! Me and Betty are part of a group that goes to the arcade on Friday’s.

Betty: Well, not really part of a group. There’s a group a teenagers that meet down there and we just kinda show up.

Greg: And they ask us to leave, but I know they’re just playin’

Betty: I’m not sure they’re playing 

Greg: Yeah, maybe not. They always hog the games and we never get to play. You don’t suppose I could try your game, huh?

Mac: It’s not very entertaining, but you’re welcome to give it a try. Float after me.

Transition Music

Mac: So I took Greg and Betty inside, well sort of, they just floated through the walls. Apparently their Astral Bodies don’t have a whole lot to ‘em, which makes it hard to interact with the Astral Plane. That explained why I couldn’t hit them with the rocks, even though I’m normally an excellent shot! Those rocks were just goin’ straight through ‘em.

Greg was pretty disappointed when he wasn’t able to actually play the game, but I showed it to him anyways. First, I played as me. I serviced a few skylarks and reunited the scorpion with his tribe for the hundredth time. Then I played as Tendy. The mopping part was still fun, but then we got to the burrito reorganization level, which is, as you know, boring as shit

Mac: So basically, I got this list over here on the left, and I just put the burritos in the order it tells me to.

Betty: Well, that doesn’t sound very fun.

Mac: It’s not, and I think everything is fun. Ain’t that right, Cash?

Cash: Yes, Mechanic. You delight in almost every facet of your existence.

Betty: Oh, so you’re the talking cash register. That is amazing.

Greg: How do you do that? Is there someone hidin’ around here with a microphone?

Mac: Why are you guys so obsessed with a talking Cash register?

Greg: Oh, gee, I don’t know. Cause Cash registers don’t talk

Mac: You’re silly. Next your gonna tell me coyotes can’t drive

Greg: I’m sorry, what?

Mac: Okay, I’ve finished reorganizing the burrito freezer. Now look at the screen here behind the freezer, their in the window.

Betty: Oh my, why, that’s us. That’s you and me Greg.

Greg: Well, that’s spooky. Why are we in this game here?

Mac: I wanna ask you the same thing. You’re in the game. Tendy never mentioned floating light people when he was playing, but it changed today, when you showed up. Can you think of any reason why that might be?

Betty: It’s clear as mud to me. Greg?

Greg: Maybe it doesn’t mean anything. Maybe this game just reflects what’s going on in the real world, if you can call this place that.

Mac: I thought maybe you might have some answers. We were convinced this game meant somethin’. That it was important.

Betty: Well, we’re not givin’ up just yet. Let us think for a moment.

Greg: We better hurry, our session with Julio has to be coming to an end soon. How long have we been here?

Betty: Oh, I’m not sure.

Mac: Yeah, time is iffy on the Astral Plane.

Betty: Well, we better figure this out soon then. Did you try changing the burritos around in real life to match what you did in the game?

Mac: Yep

Betty: And what happened?

Mac: You two showed up.

Greg: Hmmm, I don’t know. This one’s a real brainteaser.

Betty: What’d you say Greg?

Greg: I said this one’s a real brain-teaser.

Betty: That’s it, Greg! We’re thinking of this thing like it’s a video game, but it’s a brainteaser. We’re great at those!

Greg: Holy smokes, Betty! I think you’re right! This isn’t an action game, it’s a puzzle game.

Mac: So, what’s that mean?

Greg: It means we need to reproach this with logic. I’m thinkin’ that most of what you’re doin’ here might be a distraction from the actual puzzle. And if I had to guess I’d say the answer lies somewhere in the Burrito Freezer

Betty: Burrito Freezer.

Greg: Jinx, you owe me a pop Betty

Mac: What in the hell is a pop?

Betty: Let’s take a look at that freezer, Greg

Greg: Okay, tell me what you Betty

Betty: Well, my guess is it’s a word puzzle. All these burritos have different names on ‘em. Let’s see, starting left to right on the top row, Lawrence and Debbie’s Chicken and Waffle stuff burrito, that a weird one.

Greg: Sounds pretty good actually. Wonder if we have those back on the physical plane.

Mac: You don’t.

Greg: Well, maybe I should try makin one. I bet I could sell the hell out of those.

Betty: And to the right of that we have Debbies Devil’s Food Cake. Another weird one. What’s the story with these burritos there Mr Mechanic?

Mac: They’re the flavor and essence of a person’s existence should that person try to return to the Physical Plane.

Betty: I have about one hundred questions, but we might be short on time, so I’m just going to come back to that.

Greg: Alright, moving on we got Donny’s Pineapple Pizza flavor, Annie’s Squid Flavor, Uriah’s Breakfast Burrito Flavored Burrito, Bobby’s Dog Poop flavor?

Betty: Dog poop?

Mac: Yeah, haha, that guy was a real piece o’ shit.

Greg: I’m not recognizing a pattern here, Betty.

Betty: This is one heck of a mystery.

Mac: I started thinking that maybe Greg and Betty were wrong, maybe the answer wasn’t there after all. Then I started thinking about microwavin’ some of Bobby’s Dog Poop flavored burritos and tellin’ Tendy and Shirley there were Devil’s Food Cake since they were bein’ such poop heads but that seemed a little mean.

Then all of a sudden…

Betty: I think I got it

Greg: I think I got it

Betty: Jinx, now you owe me a pop, Greg

Mac: What in the hell is a pop?

Greg: Before I say what I think the puzzle is, you go

Betty: Are you sure? Maybe you should go first in came I’m wrong

Greg: Are you kiddin? You go first

Betty: No you, I insist

Mac: Stop bein so damn polite and just say it

Betty: Well, okay, I think it’s a cheat code

Mac: A cheat code?

Greg: Exactly what I was thinkin’ Betty. A cheat code, like those teenagers are always talkin’ about.

Mac: Explain

Greg: Well, a cheat code is where you push a sequence of buttons in the game and you unlock somethin’. Look at the first word of every package here, ya got Lawrence, Debbie, Donnie, Annie, Uriah, Bobby, Lonnie, and so forth?

Mac: And that’s a cheat code?

Betty: Well, yeah. The first letter of these names. They correspond with a button on the game, Lawrence, L, like left. Debbie, D, like Down…

Mac: Annie, A, like up

Greg: Now you’re gettin’ it. Mac, get back over to that game. I’ll shout the directions and you punch ‘em in.

Mac: Got it!

Greg: Alright, you ready?

Mac: Ready!

Greg: Here we go. Left – Down – Down – A – Up – B – Left – Left – Right – Start – Right ….

Mac: And it went on like that for all 35 varieties

Greg: Right – Up – A – A – Start. Okay. That’s it. Anything happening?

Mac: The screen went black!

Betty: Uh-oh. That’s not good

Mac: Wait, it’s doin’ somethin’ It says:

Upon the screen thy quest does end
But haven’t any fear
For now the quest begins again
Upon the second sphere

What in the world does that mean? Wait! What’s this thing doin’?

Short Circuiting Soundd

Mac: No no no! We broke it. Tendy’s gonna kill me!

Betty: Oh, geez. Oh, no. I’m so sorry. We didn’t know it was gonna break.

Mac: I finally thought I was doin’ something useful and I broke the dang machine.

Clinking Sound

Greg: Hey, what was that?
Betty: It sounded like the corn return

Mac: Maybe it’s the token we put in when we first found the game.

Mac Reaches into Coin Return

Greg: That ain’t no coin you got there. That looks more like a…

Mac: It’s a car key, to a Skylark.

Betty: It says something.

Mac: Token 2. What do you think I’m supposed to do with this? The only Skylark we got here already has a key. HueHue and his crew have it right now.

Meditation Gong Sound

Mac: What was that?

Betty: Sounds like that’s our queue to go

Greg: The gong has been gung as they say.

Mac: Nobody say that.

Betty: Farewell, Mechanic. This has been really fun. Sorry about calling you a baby.

Mac: Yeah, well, sorry about throwing rocks at ya.

Greg: See ya round

Mac: Will you ever come back?

Greg: Not sure how we managed it this time, but if we can do it again, you can count on another visit

Mac: After they left, I was gonna go find Tendy and Shirley and tell them what happened. But then I got to thinkin’ about it. The key came to me. This was my chance to prove my worth. I had to get this key to the second sphere. If I told Tendy he’d try to stop me, what with bein’ a worry wort and all.

Anyways, all that to say. I’ve never been to the second sphere, but I know you have! The first time Corson visited you escorted him out of the Desert Sphere. So what do you, will you do this with me?
Huehue: Mechanic, I was born for this. Hop in. And put your seatbelt on. I don’t drive slow, and I don’t drive safe.

Mac: HueHue, you crazy son of a bitch. Punch it!

HueHue and Mac Howl – Car Peels Out

Interior Scene – Door Opens

Tendy: Mac! Hey, Mac, where are you? We’re ready to show you what we made! He is going to be so excited when he sees what we made him.

Shirley: I certainly hope so. I’m happy I was able to help.

Tendy: Cash

Cash On Sound

Cash: Attendant

Tendy: Where’s Mac, Cash? We can’t find him anywhere.

Cash: The mechanic has asked me to relay a message to you Attendant.

Tendy: Message? What’s the message.

Cash: I am leaving the Desert Sphere with HueHue. Have to save the Astral Plane. Try not to worry. It’s a long story. If the floating glowing people who talk funny come back, they can explain everything.

Shirley: Floating glowing people who talk funny?

Tendy: Oh my God. Mac is gone. He’s never left the desert sphere. What if he’s in danger? This is all my fault. He thinks I was ignoring him.

Car Arrives at Station

Shirley: Is that him? Maybe he’s back

Tendy: No. That car was coming from the Physical Plane. It’s a traveler. Shirley, stay here and keep them busy.

Shirley: Why? Where are you going?

Tendy: I’m going to find my friend.