I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream: Gorrister

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Con-man, pacifist, business woman, Nazi, scientist. Five improbable entities stuck together in a pit of darkness. A prolonged nightmare of 109 years conducted by a sadistic self-aware supercomputer with unlimited power. This is Harlan Ellison’s I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream.

Although on the surface IHNMAIMS is a straightforward story about five people trapped in an endless underground complex after a nuclear war, it has transcended into a franchise. The human characters from the short story were greatly expanded upon in the 1995 video game while the supercomputer, AM, gained some depth in a 2001 radio drama. A comic adaptation was created but never published, though a few English panels and the full Spanish version found their way onto the internet. This has become one of my favorite post-apocalyptic stories due to the development of the characters and the themes at play.

In this series, we’ll break down each of the humans: exposing their fatal flaws and then identifying what led them to redemption (and further punishment).

I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream Comic gorrister

Gorrister. The first character introduced in both the text and the video game. Originally, he was a conscientious objector, a peace marcher. In the game, he was an electrician and truck driver before the machine captured him. The only similarity between the two versions of this character is the spoken wish for death. Continue reading

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The Straw That Broke the Camel’s Back

It’s not even funny anymore…

After suffering through the perils of the wasteland, I finally made it back to Abundance. I was beaten up, almost eaten by giant mutant spiders, had all my stuff stolen, wandered through the desert without any water, was captured and almost eaten by a disgusting mutant, AND to top it all off I had my arm broken in three places before I was set free.  So…what do I get for my trouble when I walk into town with a full five gallon jug on my back? Nothing. Absolutely friggen nothing.

I walked into town to find that the town was basically empty. The saloon was all locked up. I heard some hustle and bustle from the fortress wall at the end of the street, so I went to check it out. A line of some hundred people stretched out onto the street. Soldier boys all dressed up in black armor and rusty red fatigues kept the peace from the fortress’ battlements. Something big was happening here.

With nothing else to do, I decide to get in line to see what’s up.  I quickly realized that every person coming out of the fortress was proudly carrying a canteen with a funny looking 47 on it.  Over an hour passed before I passed the fortress gates. I couldn’t believe the inside of this place. Everything was just like the old times! The streets were freshly paved, not a pothole in sight. The buildings were blocky, made of white concrete, and electricity flowed freely. Oasis had nothing on this place.

Another hour passed before I finally got to the front of the line. I came before a table in front of the only two story building on the base. Two guards fumbled with paperwork. The first asked for my canteen. With sharp pain in my arm, I removed my pack and presented the five gallon jug. The two soldiers turned to each other with smarmy grins. One of the goons spoke into a walkie talkie then asked me to step out of line. A few minutes later he showed up.

The notorious James Gray appeared, along with a bald old man wearing a black leather greatcoat covered in medals. The Australian recognized me this time.

“Hey there little buddy, you’re not lookin’ so good. Whatcha got there?”

I presented my jug once again and explained that I had discovered a sustainable water source. I told them that I would just need some workhands to assemble a caravan. The old man let out a light chuckle. His voice was roached out, like he hadn’t had a drink in ages.

“Old Gray here beat’cha too it, son.” He said, placing a fatherly hand on the bushman’s shoulder.

My eyebrow still hasn’t stopped twitching…

-Joe Junkman

In the Belly of the Beast

Well, this isn’t so bad,

10f7365ae3a83129b412f4aeb2ba0b0d  There I was, trapped in a cage like a common animal. My captor was busy nursing a crackling fire. With the cave illuminated, I was able to orient myself to the exit portal. Looking around, I found a mattress, a chessboard resting on a table of stacked car rims, and even a carved china cabinet full of knick-knacks.

I was then distracted by an unpleasant pattering sound that scratched the back of my mind and caused my eyebrows to twitch and my neck muscles to tense. Turning away from the fire, I spotted a collection of drying pots and pans. Licking my cracked lips, I watched as precious water droplets rhythmically plopped into a tin dish. Though my head was still pounding from dehydration, I knew that my captor had must have a sustainable water source if he was willing to waste such a valuable commodity on washing dishes.

A monstrous humanoid shadow appeared on the wall in front of me, growing larger and larger as the sound of crunching sand grew louder and louder. Trembling, I turned around to formally meet my kidnapper. I don’t know what I was expecting.

Grabbing the iron lattice, the mutant revealed himself in all his horrific glory. My captor stood nearly seven feet tall. His flesh was a sickly yellowish green that had the consistency of fresh mucus. His whole body unnaturally oozed and festered, yet not a single drop of slime fell from his body. An odd explosive glow churned in his bloated belly. He wore little more than leather boots, tattered cargo shorts, and a pouch bandolier that seemed fused to his chest.

My captor introduced himself as Urmit, apparently of a race called the hulking horrors. My teeth chattering, I silently nodded my head. Suddenly, the mutant’s body made a grotesque crunching sound, similar to splitting wood. His muscular left arm atrophied until it was little more than a five fingered stump, while his right arm turned into a tentacle, slithering into the cage to meet me with a handshake.

Retracting his right arm and re-growing his left, the horror noted that I was extremely dehydrated. He picked up the tin dish full of drippings and slid it into my cage. As I emptied the curved plate, Urmit asked what I was doing out in the desert without any gear. I plainly told him that I was looking for a water source to help the people of Abundance. It was the truth after all, mostly.

“You mean like dat?” the mutant asked, pointing behind me.

I turned around once again to find a reflective pool that stretched as far back into the cave as I could see.

Now I just need to play my card right and get out of here.

-Joe Junkman

Hallucination

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Well….

I let Gray walk off over the mountains before I started following him. I made sure that I was always just out of his sight before continuing on to the next pass. It was obvious that the Bushman was looking for something, but I’m wasn’t sure what. I tracked him for hours, seemingly walking in circles through sandy hills. There’s nothing out here but brush, rocks, and cacti.

Normally, I would have been up to follow Gray all day. Unfortunately, I am not a smart man. I had spent most of the day walking uphill, in the desert, while wearing insulated pants and a long sleeve shirt. At the time, I didn’t even think about taking them off. Not to mention that all of my food and water had been stolen. I developed a horrific pounding headache and it felt like I had been gargling sand.

As the sun dipped below the valley wall, my whole body felt shaky. I was stumbling about on my hands and knees, too weak to turn back. I just hoped that Gray would find me and lend me a sip of water before I turned into a piece of jerky. I crawled as far as I could, making my way over one last hill. Before I passed out, I saw Gray sitting cross legged in a cactus field, his back turned to me. I tried to cry out, but my voice was just a raspy squeak.

I woke up to strange noises coming from ahead. It was too dark to see, but it sounded like shifting sand. I was helpless to do anything. All I could do was look straight ahead and clutch at the dirt.

Cast against the moonlight, I could make out figures surrounding Gray on all sides. I could tell they weren’t human. Their silhouettes were elongated, almost uncanny in their proportions. One stretched out a hand to the Bushman. Its palm was teardrop shaped while its fingers were short, fat, and stubby. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

I dipped my head into the dirt and nodded off again.

-Joe Junkman

The Underground Man: Smoke and Mirrors

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I’ve played a lot of AAA games and I’ve played a lot of indie games, but I’ve never played a game quite like The Underground Man. The game is tagged as a “story rich RPG.” Although the character creation screen is reminiscent of old pen and paper sheets, this is most certainly not an RPG. The Underground Man relies on an old school vibe, similar to Kung Fury or Far Cry: Blood Dragon. Don’t be fooled, this game is a far cry from those it tries to imitate.

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Rivalry

You’ve got to be kidding me…

I was escorted through the tunnels by Gray and that spider woman. On our way out, I spotted a clearing full of supplies, tables, and sleeping bags. A tribe of mean looking women were gathered around a soft electric lamp, enjoying some canned food. At first I didn’t think anything of it. Then I realized that my backpack (and everything in it) had been stolen during the attack. I had nothing but the clothes on my back.

Once we returned to the surface, the spider woman (who Gray called Tarantulanna) quietly slipped back into her hideout. Gray started removing the spider web residue from my body. At first I thought he was helping me, but then he packaged it into a puck shaped tin. I pleaded with the Australian that I needed my gear back. Gray pulled on his hat and pointed me back toward Abundance. I slapped my forehead. I didn’t have anything to trade with; even my dog-tags had been stolen.

The bushman just blinked at me and said, “Such is life in the wasteland.”

I can’t believe this guy. He has so many tags that he clinks and jingles with every step, but he won’t even give me a handful out of charity. He said it was my fault for trespassing, but how was I supposed to know? The mine looked abandoned from the outside!

Worst of all, before leaving, Gray mentioned that he couldn’t help me because he had to find a water source for Abundance and some General. I told him that I had traveled into the wasteland for the same reason and asked if we could team up. He shook his head and started toward the mountains without another word.

I’ll show him.

-Joe Junkman

All Tied Up

I have a headache…

I woke up upside down. I had no idea how long I had been hanging here, but all the blood had rushed to my head. I tried to squirm free, but my entire body was bound in something strong, silky, and sticky. To make matters worse, it was pitch black; I couldn’t see a thing!

After what seemed like maybe half an hour or so, a beam of white light appeared, revealing my surroundings. The walls of my tomb were made of solid rock and wooden pillars, but everything was covered with streams of white silk.

Then I noticed the spider hanging from the ceiling. It was the biggest most grotesque thing I had ever seen. This monster looked like a black window, but was the size of a coconut crab! I tried to stay still as the light came closer, hoping that the creature wouldn’t notice me. Still, I felt sick to my stomach and my eyebrow wouldn’t stop twitching.

“Wakey wakey,” a woman’s voice called out. She shined the flashlight right in my face. I couldn’t see a thing.

When my eyes readjusted to the light, I was able to clearly see my captor. She wore a glossy cat suit and half of her head was shaved, revealing an awful rash or maybe an acid burn. The woman clicked her tongue, causing the spider to crawl up her body and rest on her shoulder.

She turned her head to the darkness and said “Is this the one?”

“Yeah that’s him.” a familiar voice replied.

The woman hissed and clicked at the back of her throat.  The spider leapt off her body and starting biting at my sides. I felt something cold flowing through my veins. I couldn’t even squirm. I thought my heart was going to shut down.

Then I dropped to the floor. My captors helped me to my feet. I thought I was being poisoned but there wasn’t a scratch on me. I still had no idea what these two wanted from me.

As my eyes adjusted again, I was able to make out the distinctive slouch hat and safari gear that could only belong to James Gray. The Australian brushed me off and said that this was the last time he was going to save me.

I really hate this guy.

-Joe Junkman