Helpful Hurting: A Cautionary Tale

By Juan Ersatzman

An Open Letter,
To Whom It May Concern,

I write to you to share my unique perspective on the events of February 11, 2015, and the dark days that followed. As I, personally, have become the target for a great deal of speculation, misinformation, and extremely hurtful language, I should like to take the opportunity to clear the air, and my name.
First of all, of course, I wish to offer my condolences to those who lost family members, pets, income, money, property, and so on during the uprising. I deeply feel your loss; I, too, felt as though some part of me was lost forever during those violent days. Also, for those who are left with lifelong emotional scars, be assured that I, too, am unable to sleep at night. Or during the day, most days. In general, I am haggard, sleepless, and exhausted.

Second, I wish to clarify the purpose of this letter: I write to explain, not to apologize. Of course, I’m sorry for what happened, but an apology is an acknowledgement that I did something wrong, and I didn’t. Moreover, I believe that after the public learns the truth about my actions and intentions during the PFHDDGZ uprising, they will agree that I have done no wrong.

The Prunitidian Uprising, as some call it, began in earnest at about 4:20 p.m. on February 11, 2015. At about 4:15 p.m., I was ambling from one of the employee parking garages of Imperium Holdings LLC (where I was then employed as junior vice president of monitoring for the Ombudsmanship Division, a job I have subsequently lost), to the firm’s main offices, when I encountered a homeless man of particularly shabby appearance, panhandling under the fountain that serves as a soothing centerpiece for the Fauxite Tower plaza.

As it happened, I’d been obliged earlier in the day to pay for an hour’s parking in the garage at the corner of 23rd and Short, and, as I’d left my wallet at home, all the money I had with me was the $20 bill my wife keeps rolled up in the cigarette lighter in our car for emergencies. My forgetfulness is a constant source of money-based emergencies. So, I took and used the 20 in an automated pay machine in the parking garage, because it makes paying and leaving much easier. I had forgotten that those infernal machines can accept all denominations of bill, but return change only in the form of quarters and dollar coins. This practice strikes me as poor planning, poor engineering, and poor form, overall. As a result of my run-in with this blighted waste of technology, I had $15, entirely in coins, bouncing and rattling in my pocket when I saw the homeless man.

Also, it was nearly Valentine’s Day, and my wife had been dropping hints and reminders for several weeks, on account of my having forgotten all about Valentine’s Day the previous year. Consequently, as I walked back to work, love was on my mind. I was watching the people around me, wondering if there was love in their lives, and if so, whether the people they loved left post-it notes on the steering wheel, with “Feb. 14” written in red ink inside of a heart.

So when I saw the homeless man huddled beneath the overhang of Fauxite’s ornamental fountain, I felt a deep sense of empathy and compassion. One glance was enough to know that he didn’t have much love in his life. He was a gaunt figure, miserably compressed into a heap of rags and bones, with his elbows and knees sticking out like the flying buttresses of a collapsed cathedral. His sleeves were too short, and his exposed forearms were bony and pale. His skin had a faint greenish hue, as though he was seasick. His face was long, and very thin, and twisted up in an expression of such bitterness that I was a little startled. He was holding a dented coffee can, and I could see that it was empty. Here, if anywhere, was a person who needed love. I took two brass coins out of my pocket, and dropped them into his empty Folger’s can. I stress that I did this out of a desire to show some love, to redeem the man’s humanity, and because the coins were extremely heavy, and I was afraid they would rip my pants.

It definitely was not my desire to bring about the End of Civilization, nor to unleash the extraterrestrial entity who had been styling himself as a divine being to the members of the Prunitidian Followers of His Demonic Divinity the Ghastly Zorgod, nor was it even my desire to provide myself with the position of relative security I occupied during the grim days of the PFHDDGZ uprising.

Naturally — and if you will examine the salvaged footage from the CCTV cameras in the plaza, you will see that this is the case — I was stupendously surprised when the figure I had taken to be a tragically dissipated beggar began to contort and inflate like the nightmare edition of a car dealership’s dancing balloons. I was so utterly taken aback that to this day, things that grow suddenly — such as birthday party balloons, dancing balloons at car dealerships, time-lapse photos of the life-cycle of plants and zoom effects in blockbuster action films — frequently trigger psychological episodes.

Even in that fateful moment, as the members of the PFHDDGZ, clad in their pitchy heathen vestments gathered around me, waving their war-cudgels and chanting their grim chant, I did not guess the truth. It was really only after Zorgod started summoning fireballs and inflicting irreparable destruction on the business district that it crossed my mind that something might be genuinely wrong. Even then, I was inclined to understand the whole affair as an elaborate practical joke in exceedingly poor taste. I assure the public, and the authorities that I considered, and still consider the chant, “Death to your god, all hail Zorgod!” disgusting, disrespectful, and completely unacceptable for a modern, pluralistic society, even as a joke. Of course, the PFHDDGZ was not joking. They were sincerely embarking on a violent revolution founded on savagery, the worship of an alien, and two brass dollars.

Footage will confirm that just before the PFHDDGZ stormed the Fauxite building, and destroyed the cameras, I joined in the chant. This was purely in the interest of my own safety, as the PFHDDGZ had begun to lay into onlookers and bystanders with their war cudgels.

At no point neither in the available footage, nor thereafter, did I summon any fireballs. It is true that I took up a cudgel and began to flail it about, but I did my utmost to avoid really plastering anyone. When I absolutely couldn’t help hitting someone, I tried very hard to just tap them softly. Either way, it should be clear from my testimony, and the video that these were the actions of an alarmed citizen, acting in self-preservation, not those of a religious fanatic greedily ravaging the financial district.

In the aftermath of that first wild attack, the PFHDDGZ uprising spread through the city, and beyond. Throughout the country, the disenfranchised, the excited investors, and the ghoulish maniacs came flocked from the shadows to trade their jumpsuits, business suits, and highly personal fashion statements for black robes and knobby cudgels. In some cases, knobby cudgels were not enough, and were augmented with auxiliary weapons such as guns, cannons, and bombs.

It is true that during this time of terror, I was installed as the Dishonorably Exalted Liberator of His Dread Divinity. This was the product of a misunderstanding. It seems that the dropping of two dollar coins into the jar was a pre-arranged signal between Zorgod and the PFHDDGZ. They didn’t take into account that someone else might have two dollar coins, and might give them to Zorgod. I came gradually to understand that the rest of the PFHDDGZ believed me to be a fringe member who had brought about a coup, of sorts, by slinking in ahead of the man in line to become the Dishonorably Exalted Liberator of His Dread Divinity. I was held in great esteem for this bit of Machiavellian charity.

It must be noted, though, that mine was primarily an honorary title, and I was neither included in, nor had any power to change any of the decisions made by Zorgod and his closest advisors in the days that followed. Much as I would have loved to publicly condemn and halt the nightly cudgel rampages, I was powerless to do so.

I would also note, for the benefit of my many critics, that these were days in which law was forgotten, the future of humanity hung in the balance, and every man and woman did whatever they thought was necessary for survival and for the protection of their loved ones. Many of those involved in lootings, shootings and other felonious escapades that took place during that time have been allowed to roam free on account of the extenuating circumstance of the PFHDDGZ uprising. It seems bizarre that I should be condemned simply for omitting to point out to cudgel-wielding zealots who both thought an extraterrestrial entity was a demon, and also worshiped him because of it, that they had it wrong, and I wasn’t in ideological communion with their delusional creed.

Naturally, however, I became a witness to the terrible deeds of the PFHDDGZ, and more specifically, the atrocities committed by Zorgod, that pitiless destroyer. I came to see in his gruesome activities the true face of evil. One evening, as we returned from an unsettlingly gory outing to the opera, I resolved, at the possible expense of my life, to take action.

First, I petitioned Zorgod to allow my wife to travel to visit her mother in Huckstable, Iowa, a pleasant rural farming community, ostensibly to win her mother to the true Prunitidian faith. When permission was granted, I asked my wife to find a way to covertly send me a firearm, with which I hoped to restore my own reputation, and end the hellish reign of Zorgod. She managed to do so by concealing different parts of the gun inside three rounds of genuine Huckstable Swiss cheese, a local specialty. Having received the gun and eaten the cheese, I made my plans, prepared myself to die, and waited for a chance.

In planning my assassination attempt, I was unable to make contact with the CIA, the FBI, MI6, the Mossad, or any other government agency, due to the restrictions on my movements as the Dishonorably Exalted Liberator of His Dread Divinity. Consequently, I was not aware of the CIA’s plans to send an operative to assassinate Zorgod by serving him chocolate laced with high levels of gluten, to which he was deathly allergic, due in part to its not being found at all on his home planet.

Because of this ignorance (through no fault of my own) I did not realize that the servant approaching Zorgod with a food tray was an agent of the United States government. All I saw was Zorgod heaving his gruesome body from the throne, and gliding toward the food with his back turned to me.

I stepped trembling from my own modest throne. With a shaking hand, I removed the pistol from the dark folds of my PFHDDGZ robe, took aim at the midpoint in Zorgod’s back, and fired.

I did not realize, and don’t see how I can be blamed for not realizing, that Zorgod’s species of extraterrestrials’ abdomens are composed of a hitherto-unknown biological form of gaseous matter. It never occurred to me, couldn’t have occurred to me, that my bullet would pass straight through Zorgod’s vaporous body without harming him. I could certainly never have planned that the bullet would pass through Zorgod and strike the courageous assassin in the forehead, killing her, and cutting short what I am assured, and fully believe was an extremely promising career in extraterrestrial assassination.

Once again, against my will, I was proclaimed a hero of the movement and elevated to the status of Gruesome Preserver of His Horribility (sic). But I was also reprimanded, flogged for possession of a firearm, and dispossessed of the weapon. Thereafter, my communications were more closely guarded, and I was more completely unable to carry on correspondence of any kind with outside groups.

Additionally, I was bedridden for two weeks, recovering from the wounds I received in the flogging.
Thus I was not aware that other heroic assassins had stepped into the void left by their fallen comrade. Nor, even in the drama of the attempted assassination and unintended slaughter of the assassin, was I made aware that the sticky, elastic nature of gluten products makes them glob onto semi-gaseous beings of Zorgod’s race, just as gluten itself overwhelms and poisons their biological systems.

Naturally, then, when in the afternoon of May 15, 2015, as I crossed the rubble-strewn courtyard of the downtown Regal Suites Luxury Hotel (a place hitherto frequented by my wife and I for anniversary celebrations, but from which I have been permanently barred, and can no longer think of without weeping, anyway), following in the ceremonial train of Zorgod’s entourage, I was not anticipating the onslaught of the final, glorious, and — most importantly — successful attack on his gruesome preeminence.

It was a complete surprise to me when those heroes of freedom, those tireless laborers in the cause of liberty, the CIA spooks who were crouched just outside, commenced to fling turgid tubes of lukewarm whole-wheat crescent rolls at us, in over the brick walls. All at once, my blue sky was filled with wasted pastry. As I spun in confusion, moist pops echoed off the bricks like mildewy gunshots, and sticky globs of dough flopped and squelched all around me. Is it any wonder, then, that I put my hands over my head, and shouted “What the hell? Stop it, stop it, stop it!”? Is it not a monstrous work of misinterpretation to assume that I had some malevolent purpose? Who among us, assaulted by crescent rolls, without being explicitly told that the crescent rolls were necessary for overthrowing an extraterrestrial maniac, would not object?

As the assault continued, the beglutened lumps of doomed baked goods adhered to Zorgod’s misty bottom, and he contorted, twisting in knots around the dough. More tubes rained down, splitting, splatting, splotching and accreting to him. As they beheld his floundering, the PFHDDGZ stood astounded, cudgels hanging limply. Several members started to chant, but they were all different words, and it became a wan burble and died away. From the bubbling, hissing wound on Zorgod’s ephemeral abdomen emanated a curious smell of baking, and a steamy cloud of vapor that curled and distorted in the sunshine. As I stood transfixed, staring, I felt a hard blow to the back of my head. I stumbled and fell to my knees. Melting trails of dough oozed down my neck. Zorgod was thrashing, spasmodically shredding the air with his ruinous talons. Despite his cries, and the popping of the dough, I could hear the upraised voices of brave men and women outside the walls, chanting “USA! USA! USA!” Hope rose within me.

Another tube caught me in the neck and knocked me flat.

I rolled over, staring up. I saw Zorgod, flailing as the CIA’s righteous band of clandestine killers began to clamber over the wall, advancing past the nerveless PFHDDGZ. They were no longer throwing crescent rolls. They were squirting beer out of toy guns, soaking Zorgod’s horrible frame in gluten-y liquid.
It was the end. Zorgod jerked, shrieked, summoned an oily, hiccupping fireball, and was gone. The fireball shot straight up in the air, hissed, spat, and dissipated overhead with a sizzle.

In the aftermath, as I lay prone in the courtyard, I raised my arms to the heavens, and tried to give a great cry of joy, but all that came out was a broken, teary burble. This burble has been misinterpreted by several commentators as a sign of agitation and sorrow at the passing of Zorgod, a charge I thoroughly reject. Unfortunately, the first group to misinterpret my emotion was the CIA. I cannot blame them for their actions, but they took me into custody, along with the bedraggled remnant of the PFHDDGZ.
Since that time, I have become a hot commodity for those who make their living by commenting on the lives of others. My present confinement is, admittedly, not very different from my time in the regime of Zorgod, but I’m permitted a few more media materials. This is a wonderful change, but when I read what is being said in these materials, I’m disheartened.

I’m disheartened by accusations that I was somehow in league with Zorgod and intentionally facilitated his escape. This is ridiculous, and very few people openly assert it. However, I’m also disheartened by those who don’t question my intentions, but loudly criticize my actions. They assert that I ought to have seen the greenish hue of Zorgod’s skin where he slumped in the guise of a beggar. I ought to have noticed the abnormal concentration of people in baggy clothing (concealing robes), I never ought to have interfered with the CIA assassin, or tried to assassinate Zorgod myself, trusting the job to the professionals, rather than bungling it myself, and on and on and on. I ought, in short, they say, to have acted like everything that happened was a likely thing to happen.

These conclusions are invalid, and worse than that; they are the pompous product of commentators stretching a threadbare curtain of intellectualism across the disgusting reality of their pettiness and fear. Their criticisms are based on information I didn’t know, and couldn’t have known. They lean from the windows of their wobbling ivory towers, thrown together with no foundation, and point me out with trembling fingers of baseless judgment. Behind every “You should have done this,” and “You shouldn’t have done that,” and every accusation of “Mind-boggling stupidity” and “well-intentioned imbecility,” all their shrillness boils down to this: “How dare you not know, and act upon information that you could not have known?”

This is a question I can’t answer, and one I don’t intend to. To live in fear of what I can’t know, and of receiving blame for unforeseeable disaster seems to me to be capitulation to paralysis. I was out of my depth, flung into a moment with no precedent for action, and I did the best I could — I did what seemed most right. Am I sorry for the way things turned out? Do I wish I would’ve known what I know now? Of course I am. Of course I do. Do I regret my actions, do I think I ought to have done differently?

Not in the least.

Yours respectfully,
Gerry Urskine Jr.