History Repeating, Part 9
See part 1 for disclaimers
The question was characteristically blunt, but Homer had no real answer for it. He stared sadly at his slowly warming beer before asking, "Moe, have you ever felt really bad about something? So bad that you wish you could go back and change it?"
"Sure. When I was in the navy, I..."
"No, have you ever said something to someone you loved and then regretted it?"
"Sure; same story. But that happened after her she got her tests back." Moe blotted the already damp bar with a rusty, decrepit rag. "Hey, Homer, you ain't upset about Lisa being dead again, are you?"
Homer visibly winced. "She's not dead, Moe."
"Homer, I ain't a doctor or some fancy junk, but your kid was ready to take a dirtnap when she went missing. If she ain't dead now, she's gonna die soon, that is if she wasn't, yanno, killed..."
Moe's reflexes, sharpened by years of violence, did not fail him as he tumbled to the floor. Broken glass and warm beer rained down over his back, mercifully, for once, not cutting his skin.
He didn't leave the floor until Homer raged his way out of the bar, the rusty hinges screaming for mercy behind him.
Silence rang louder than Lisa's final musical repose. Every muscle in Leela's body tensed, prepared to jump at the least threatening motion.
The beings began to fall to their knees in a ring around Lisa, murmuring reverently, "chosen one! Chosen one!"
Lisa's expression reflected her confusion and anxiety. Leela fell to her knees beside the beings, her view obscured by her bowed head.
"Congratulations! You are the Chosen One! Here's your coupon book!"
"Thank you," Lisa said bashfully. "It took a lot of work..."
"Rest your voice! Your coronation ceremony will occur tonight, when the moon is low and the buffet is empty!"
"Lisa," Leela pulled herself out of her kneeling position. "I'll help you dress."
"Wonderful. Take the Chosen One to her quarters and prepare her!"
Leela took the stunned child's hand in hers. A blue veil-wearing creature, who otherwise resembled the other creatures, led Lisa and Leela from the room.
"And you! What is your purpose?"
"I'm The Chosen One's...personal shoe-polisher! And since she's not wearing shoes..."
"Guards, take the servant to the livery; there are shoes to be polished!"
Panic crossed Fry's face as he was led out another door.
When Leela located Fry in the large, glittering pit of white marble that was the coronation room, he could not stop rubbing his knuckles.
"What happened to you?"
"You wouldn't think they need shoes, Leela, but they do. So many, many shoes." His voice reflected some dark brutality.
Fry noticed Leela's costume then; light blue ceremonial robes, looped like a toga around her white tee-shirt and black pants. "You look nice."
"Thanks. You look...sweaty."
A large, circular door at the end of the hallway swung open. With great dignity, Lisa entered the hallway, flanked by two elders in knee-length, billowing red robes made of gauzy material.
Lisa looked different enough to be another girl. Her eyes were lined heavily in kohl powder, her lids covered in red polish; her cheeks wore two identical spots of dark indigo, and her lips were painted bright teal. Her robe, tied over the spray-on overalls, was ornate, compared to the plainness of the others; heavily jeweled with sequined suns and moons, and on her head she wore an elaborate veil made of gems strung together with thin golden thread.
Two of the creatures, considerably larger than the girl, assisted her climb to the top of a jagged group of obsidion-dark rocks, which had married so well with the surroundings that neither Leela nor Fry had initially noticed it.
>From the same door, with equal drama, came a black-robed creature. From the way the gathering of beings bowed their heads, Leela understood that this figure was a religious elder.
His climb up the "stairs" was facilitated with far more ease. Lying a huge hand upon Lisa's head, he intoned:
"The chosen one has arrived. She is here to lead us in peace and in war."
"War?" Lisa's tiny voice was muffled by the hand enveloping her head.
"THIS IS THE WAY OF THE PEOPLE!"
"THE WAY OF THE PEOPLE!" Echoed the assembled, until Fry joined in with pronounced enthusiasm.
"What say you, young child?" He removed his hand from her head.
"I...want my coupon book?"
"BRING THE CHOSEN ONE HER CUPONS!"
Lisa received them and busied herself with the pile.
"And now, the apex of the ceremony; The Chosen Once's first bloody assault on the Surface Holders!"
"What?" Lisa lost her grip on the coupons, and they fluttered across the alter as birds shot from cannons might do.
"It is in our bylaws. The Surface Dwellers hold one of our own...we belive his name to be Stew...as a prisoner for years now. Each year, we have laid waste to the ones holding him hostage, but they refuse to yeild in their assault! We have dreamed through these long years that the Chosen One would lead us through a successful battle."
"But I don't even believe in AMERICA'S war policy!"
A gasp rent through the silence.
"SILENCE!" Bellowed the authoritarian black-robed creature through the anonymous shocked voices. "Take her to...the Playground!"
Fry's dramatic gasp made the only noise in the chamber as Lisa was led away.
Pressed between the black-robed figure and two green-dressed bodyguards, Lisa could not see nor feel where she was being taken, but the journey was not long. When he stepped out of her way, she realized that the stony, cold room was some sort of dungeon.
"This is what we do, Chosen One, to Pretenders who disobey the law."
"But she has passed the test!"
"...And behaves as though she has not!"
The words blurred to nothingness in Lisa's ears. The walls were lined with heads in jars.
Not just any heads; famous heads. Bob Dylan and Michelle Phillips she recognized instantaneously. Abbie Hoffman sparked a memory; the sign before his jar read "Steal This Jar, Man!". She swiftly understood that the walls were lined with revolutionaries of the sixties. And they all appeared to be alive.
"Hey, man, do you have a smoke?"
"Can you free us?"
"Ain't no free love in a jar!"
The voices were so random and rapid that she couldn't answer a single question. Fascinated but dazed, she stared at the hundreds of faces floating around her.
"...Leave us!" Concluded the elder. The two guards exited, leaving Lisa alone with the elder.
Lisa spoke, through a crackling throat. "If I choose to avoid war with the people on the surface, you'll chop my head off and leave it in a jar?"
"Yes, Lisa. And a girl with a brain as active as yours would never be satisfied just watching the walls, would she? This is but what we do with those who don't believe in war and finding The Stew. You have your choice, Lisa; live forever in this dungeon for the entertainment of the people, or lead our people to the surface."
Lisa locked eyes with the head of Joni Mitchel. She said nothing, but tilted her chin with pride, then burst out with a chorus of 'The Times, They Are a Changin''.
"I would rather live without a body than destroy my ideals."
"You have chosen your path." The elder said, shrugging his shoulders. "I warn you, this will do more than tickle."
He wrenched a cobblestone from the floor, revealing a large, heavy sword. Lisa darted to the left, slipping behind a wall of heads, trying desperately to blend in with the damp stones, her heart beating a desperate rhythm in her chest.
Now all of the heads were singing.
"Stop your noise! STOP!"
But the heads continued to sing, until he covered his ears from the pain of it, rushing out of the room.
For a beat, Lisa hid herself. She rushed out from her hiding place.
"Peace, man, peace."
She smiled at those returned words, then ducked down the hallway, trying to locate Fry and Leela among the departing creatures.