1. You awake in a white room. My God, you’re colorblind! No, wait, you’re not. Gradually you remember why you are here. The supervillain-psychiatrist Doctor Praetorian has imprisoned you in the monochrome room until you work through issues stemming from your experience, as a child watching through a keyhole, of witnessing your mother ritualistically whitewash your father—or, alternately, so you won’t be able to interfere with his plan to achieve world domination via a threat to evaporate all the world’s oceans.
If you meditate in the lotus position until your mind is clear, turn to section 11.
If you practice the Crane position, a ridiculous but allegedly unstoppable karate stance you learned from your teacher, Mr. Miyagi, turn to section 2.
If you realize, “With a mustache like this, I must be Armenian,” turn to section 3.
2. From the Crane position, you kick, and a door opens. “Oh, it opens outward,” you say. In the last eighteen hours you’d pulled on the door-handle many times but it never opened. “I guess I should have tried pushing.” Outside is a hallway: plush red and blue carpet, aluminum sconces, lined with numbered doors. A hotel, evidently. You take the stairs to the roof. An immense silver Zeppelin cruises past, blotting out the sun. A rope ladder drops from the gondola and a voice shouts, “Climb up!”
If you remember that your severe Korsakov’s syndrome makes the writing of these memoirs a quixotic task, but then forget, turn to section 4.
If you climb up to the Zeppelin but resent being bossed around, turn to section 5.
If your clone, who has been accompanying you but inexplicably hasn’t been mentioned so far, climbs up the ladder while you go for a drink in the hotel bar, turn to section 6.
3. You recall your childhood, toiling in your father’s smithy in rural Armenia. The memories are achingly beautiful. The quivering brown flanks of horses as they are shoed, the acrid smell of quenched metal. The heat of summer, the icy winters—sometimes both at once. What a fool you were to leave your native land! And all so you could become the host of Big Cojones, an inane and vulgar MTV reality show. Oh, television’s siren song! Also, you have reason to suspect you are a midget, a fact that everyone has conspired to keep from you all your life.
If you begin to hum TLC’s “Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls,” turn to section 7.
If you have realized by now that you are the clone, turn to section 8.
This is off topic, but it is becoming increasingly obvious that sometime around 1998 unknown conspirators replaced Nick Nolte with a Claymation action figure in his image, and all his movies since then have simply used special effects to make this Nolte doppelganger appear reasonably lifelike. Where the real Nick Nolte is remains a mystery. Turn to whatever section you want.
9. Many years have passed. You gaze at the ocean, placid beneath warm suns: tawn fore-shores, washed in the cobalt of oblivions. In the shade of thatched palm fronds, you sip milk from a coconut. You no longer remember how you came to be here, but it no longer matters. In your mind’s eye, you reach for something unbearably bittersweet, some reminiscence of a lost love, but it slips away, like a woman disappearing into the shadows and fog of a cold London night, and you’re never sure she was ever really there at all. And then, you die.
11. You mediate for nineteen hours, but all you manage to do is remember all the lyrics to Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” Suddenly the door opens and two men in white coats enter, and again you are unsure whether you’re colorblind. “Time for your medications,” one says in a German accent. The other orderly, a burly giant with a tattoo around his neck reading Twist Here to Open, proffers a tray with a dozen tiny paper cups of multi-colored pills. “Herr Doktor Praetorian’s orders.”
If you immediately swallow all the drugs, turn to section 10.
If you consider how absurd it is that, even though you are both Germans, the orderly speaks English with a comical German accent, turn to section 12.
If you give the orderly a good uppercut, escape, stow away on a train bound for Toulon, jump from the train when on a high trestle bridge into a raging river, swim to shore, and are sheltered by a member of the Resistance, a beautiful young widow who steals into your bedchamber each night, only to never speak of your trysts in the light of day, turn to section 9.
To be continued. . .
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