Now that winter has finally passed here in the southern hemisphere, the weather has begun to turn, and the chilly dismal days are becoming warmer. As such, it is now a requirement that I give myself goosebumps.
This is (obviously) the second book in the series. The kid in the dapper button-up shirt dangling in terror from the clock face is us. The sinister grimacing maw is the enemy. The title represents the precarious flow of time which is to be the epicentre of our story. It probably also severely crippled sales of Arnott's Tic Toc biscuits for a short period of time. It could also potentially be a dire foretelling of the incredibly shitty premier of Kesha fourteen years later. You might think this concept ludicrous, until you delve deeper into the time travelling nature of this tale...
The setting is the Museum of Natural History. I'm on vacation with my family in New York City (kids reading this who actually live in NYC are left to assume this vacation was on a remarkably tight travelling budget), and frankly, it's shithouse.
I figured I'd be checking out the Statue of Liberty, kicking it on Broadway, and getting stabbed in Hotel Carter, but unfortunately, I've been dragged around museums the whole time. If this were an accurate recreation of the Museum of Natural History, I'd find myself accidentally heading towards the exit on multiple occasions, because the layout is frankly infuriating.
This is experience talking.
And worst of all, I'm left in charge of looking after my stupid little red-head brother, Denny. I guess the emphasis on his having red hair may later become a plot point, but for now, let's just assume it's supposed to make us hate him more.
The little fucker runs off, and bolts into a room with a sign that warns of dangerous experiments being conducted inside. The scientist, Dr. Peebles, assumes I'm the volunteer for his time travelling experiment. He doesn't ask why a prepubescent child is the guinea pig, he just wants results, dammit.
He gives me a magical stopwatch, and is about to make the final settings on the time travelling machine, but before he can finish, Denny charges into the device. I try and stop him, but he snarls that 'You're not the boss of me!', and in he goes. In all honesty, I didn't try very hard to stop him. I don't really care if he gets lost in time, hopefully he'll end up in the time when he's not a dick.
Maybe in the future he'll be somebody?
I decide to head to the past, mostly so that if I find him, I can tell him that we have to go 'back to the future'. That'd be great. I step into the Chronoport, and then must choose whether to go into the time of knights and castles, or dinosaurs. In the end, I figure, I've already been to England, it's probably going to be pretty much the same, so let's check out some dinosaurs and shit.
No sooner do I arrive, when I'm confronted by a tyrannosaurus rex. Needless to say, that's horribly unlucky. After it decapitates a nearby dinosaur like Johnny Cage (it even puts on the sunglasses and crosses its arms defiantly), it begins to head my way. I run as fast as my little legs will carry me, when, in a swamp, I encounter an even more horrific monster - Denny.
Apparently he's stuck in quicksand. In the process of yanking him from the muck, the stopwatch that holds the key to returning to the present and not dying several million years before my birth, falls into the scuz.
We do a little bit of evasive manoeuvring (accompanied by Yakety Sax) and lose the t-rex, before heading back to search for the crucial timepiece. A volcano goes off, which is no biggie, because we're able to find it and jump in time.
Unfortunately, we're still in the era of dinosaurs. Crikey, weren't they only around for like, 30 years? Tops? Denny thinks 'no more o' this shit', snatches the stopwatch and skips ahead in time, meaning that I can't stick around and watch some eggs hatch. Which sucks, because I really wanted to pretend I was Richard Attenborough, and coo words of encouragement.
It seems that we've arrived in a futuristic city. Winged cars whiz through the sky, the buildings are made of shiny metal, and all around town, they're doing this new dance called the Charleston.
I'm keen to explore further, but I'm immediately arrested by an angry robot, which seems eerily reminiscent of encounters with customs at JFK. I guess I only travelled as far into the future as 2012?
The robot judge (in association with the robot devil) sentences me to either school or the zoo. I consider my options closely... what will my role in the zoo be, exactly? Will I be an exhibit, left before the leering eyes of all robot kind? Or will I be relegated to the role of zookeeper? Will the animals talk to me, like in the Kevin James movie of the same name? Will they show me the light? Will they advise I throw poop at them, because that always works?
Too many questions, too little time. I opt for school, because school is COOL.
In the classroom, the robotic teacher quizzes the human children with impossibly hard questions.
What is the capital of Ulan Bator?
What is 43,000,000 divided by 7.645328?
What is your favourite colour?
One by one, the students fail to correctly answer, and they're put into a metallic box called the frammilizer that seems to make them disappear. 'Frammilized', as the book so aptly puts.
When it's my turn, the teacher asks a question that fills me with bemusement. It's about an ancient wizard Morgred, who used three magical objects to travel in time. My heart sinks, just like it had when I was standing atop the Doom Slide. Another Goosebumps question? What the fuck, man! Has literature diminished so much in the future that R.L. Stine books are considered historically significant?
I stand there, tapping my foot and tilting my head slightly. Were they three white stones? Or a pin, a pipe, and a potato? The stones sounds less ludicrous, but shit, that'd be fun, wouldn't it? Travelling through time with the power of a potato? I guess, if I'm going to die anyway, it may as well be the result of having given the stupidest answer possible.
"A pin, a pipe, and a potato!" I blurt, puffing my chest proudly and shooting a fist to the air. There's a hushed whisper among the students around me, and the teacher considers my answer for a moment, whirring quietly. Either I was right, or I had said something so unorthodox that it took time to process. Or maybe the teacher was having a network error. That would be a winning scenario, too.
...Tragically, Morgred the wizard did not use three random objects that happened to be lying around the house to travel through time. I go down in history as having given, in technical terms, the worst fucking answer of all time. I shrug, strutting towards the lethal box and offering my hand for a high five with the other students as I pass by them. None of them take me up on it.
I climb into the frammilizer, and mysteriously tap my head a few times, as if to say 'I know something'. In the end, the gesture meant nothing, I was just trying to look clever. I die a horrible death of frammilization. On the plus side, my final words are both pensive and meaningful.
"OH SHIT!!"Final result: 21 pages.