|Illustration by Mike Lee|
No one has handguns in England, not even the cops — true or false? True. Now: In England last year, they had 14 deaths from handguns. F-f-f-f-f-f-f-f-f-fourteen. Now: In the United States, and I think you know how we feel about handguns — Woooo! I’m getting a warm, tingly feeling just saying the fuckin’ word, to be honest with you; I swear to you I’m hard — 23,000 deaths from handguns. Let’s go through those numbers again because they’re a little baffling at first glance: England, where no one has guns, f-f-f-f-f-f-f-fourteen deaths. United States (and I think you know how we feel about guns — I’m gettin’ a stiffie), 23,000 deaths from handguns. But there’s no connection. And you’d be a fool and a communist to make one. There’s no connection between having a gun and shooting someone with it, and not having a gun and not shooting someone.
—Bill Hicks, 1961–1994
I’ve been performing nightly — double shifts on the weekend — at the Temple of Retribution, a virtual dive inside a violence program called Quake III: Arena. I do pretty much the same show each night. Here’s a recap of last night’s performance: I took the stage at 8 p.m. and stood quietly with my machine gun, doing nothing much. (Nothing much is my preferred opener — I hate it when people appear onstage and immediately do things. Too easy.) After a few seconds, someone armed with a rocket launcher approached the stage, killed me, jumped for joy and ran off laughing like a pirate: Arrrrrrrrr.
A few seconds later I appeared on a different stage, a smaller stage, downstairs, reminiscent of downstairs LunaPark. Another heckler — someone resembling an unshaven Rush Limbaugh on steroids with a shotgun the size of a pit bull — appeared onstage beside me and promptly diced me into eensie red smithereensies with a single shot. I hadn’t even gotten past my opener.
But then, I’d received no introduction. The Temple of Retribution’s MC isn’t big on public relations. No Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for the very funny of any kind. Instead, just a very terse, bass “Visor, Stripe, Grunt, Daemia” — strange names that I later found out belonged to the four most violent audience members. Not one mention of yours truly, Dottie-Boy. (Stage name.)
So what? So maybe the MC didn’t like me, or maybe he didn’t like anyone. I tried not to take it personally. I’ve worked in worse places than this. Figured I’d just do my set, get my check and leave.
Perhaps owing to the virtual circumstances, the second murder didn’t hurt, and a few seconds later I again regenerated into a healthy, machine-gun-toting Dottie-Boy, this time on what appeared to be the main stage. Several hecklers returned from the restroom simultaneously. The MC announced “quad damage,” and a bright-blue gyroscope appeared on the ground beside me. I picked it up. My machine gun began to glow neon blue. I felt suddenly energetic. This time it was I who fired upon the hecklers with a series of quad-damage-enriched hack one-liners and dead-on impersonations of Bradford Dillman and Lois Nettleton.
I killed. I slayed them. Two hecklers died; a third escaped. I took off after him. Found a plasma gun floating at the head of a staircase. Grabbed it and headed downstairs. Stairs led to a stone corridor; I could hear a gaggle of reconstituted hecklers ordering zombies and nachos, pinching the waitresses, leaving no tips, murdering one another in the room at the end of the hall.
I crept down the corridor to where it opened into a series of graystone arcades. There, at the far end, the escaped heckler had joined three others in ripping themselves apart with machine guns, shotguns, plasma guns, rail guns and rocket launchers.
I knew what I had to do. I rushed toward them, firing off round after round of electric-blue Charlton Heston– impersonation plasma, whittling the hecklers into bloody stumps, broken zombie glasses and half-eaten plates of nachos.
The MC for once applauded my efforts over the PA: “Excellent! You have taken the lead!” But before I could say thanks, Rush Limbaugh re-diced me into smithereensies with a single pit-bull shot.
“You have lost the lead!”
Thanks. Probably by coincidence (but who knows?), violent computer games — violent games in general — have never interested me. Not in the least. Until about halfway through December, right around the time that our Supreme Court announced that our Executive Branch had purchased our Judicial Branch and grafted it onto our Oligarchy Tree.
As I may have mentioned, it’s probably just a coincidence. I’m not a violent person; the nastiest unprovoked act of savagery I’ve committed was quenching someone’s face with a glass of water in 1987, an action for which I still atone at least monthly. I have as little interest in harming the U.S. president or his Supreme W. Court as I do in harming any other helplessly fortunate sons or high-priced legislative hookers. Or anyone.