The Longest Joke In The World Part 1

Phenomena and History 072-0478Ladies and Gentlemen I present to you the World’s Longest Joke. It is 10,840 words long and is awesome if you have the patience to read it all the way through. Unfortunately after much searching, I was unable to find the original author. It is too long for one post so I shall break it up.

So, there’s a man crawling through the desert.

He’d decided to try his SUV in a little bit of cross-country travel, had great fun zooming over the badlands and through the sand, got lost, hit a big rock, and then he couldn’t get it started again. There were no cell phone towers anywhere near, so his cell phone was useless. He had no family, his parents had died a few years before in an auto accident, and his few friends had no idea he was out here.

He stayed with the car for a day or so, but his one bottle of water ran out and he was getting thirsty. He thought maybe he knew the direction back, now that he’d paid attention to the sun and thought he’d figured out which way was north, so he decided to start walking. He figured he only had to go about 30 miles or so and he’d be back to the small town he’d gotten gas in last.

He thinks about walking at night to avoid the heat and sun, but based upon how dark it actually was the night before, and given that he has no flashlight, he’s afraid that he’ll break a leg or step on a rattlesnake. So, he puts on some sun block, puts the rest in his pocket for reapplication later, brings an umbrella he’d had in the back of the SUV with him to give him a little shade, pours the windshield wiper fluid into his water bottle in case he gets that desperate, brings his pocket knife in case he finds a cactus that looks like it might have water in it, and heads out in the direction he thinks is right.

He walks for the entire day. By the end of the day he’s really thirsty. He’s been sweating all day, and his lips are starting to crack. He’s reapplied the sunblock twice, and tried to stay under the umbrella, but he still feels sunburned. The windshield wiper fluid sloshing in the bottle in his pocket is really getting tempting now. He knows that it’s mainly water and some ethanol and coloring, but he also knows that they add some kind of poison to it to keep people from drinking it. He wonders what the poison is, and whether the poison would be worse than dying of thirst.

He pushes on, trying to get to that small town before dark.

By the end of the day he starts getting worried. He figures he’s been walking at least 3 miles an hour, according to his watch for over 10 hours. That means that if his estimate was right that he should be close to the town. But he doesn’t recognize any of this. He had to cross a dry creek bed a mile or two back, and he doesn’t remember coming through it in the SUV. He figures that maybe he got his direction off just a little and that the dry creek bed was just off to one side of his path. He tells himself that he’s close, and that after dark he’ll start seeing the town lights over one of these hills, and that’ll be all he needs.

As it gets dim enough that he starts stumbling over small rocks and things, he finds a spot and sits down to wait for full dark and the town lights.

Full dark comes before he knows it. He must have dozed off. He stands back up and turns all the way around. He sees nothing but stars.

He wakes up the next morning feeling absolutely lousy. His eyes are gummy and his mouth and nose feel like they’re full of sand. He so thirsty that he can’t even swallow. He barely got any sleep because it was so cold. He’d forgotten how cold it got at night in the desert and hadn’t noticed it the night before because he’d been in his car.

He knows the Rule of Threes – three minutes without air, three days without water, three weeks without food – then you die. Some people can make it a little longer, in the best situations. But the desert heat and having to walk and sweat isn’t the best situation to be without water. He figures, unless he finds water, this is his last day.

He rinses his mouth out with a little of the windshield wiper fluid. He waits a while after spitting that little bit out, to see if his mouth goes numb, or he feels dizzy or something. Has his mouth gone numb? Is it just in his mind? He’s not sure. He’ll go a little farther, and if he still doesn’t find water, he’ll try drinking some of the fluid.

Then he has to face his next, harder question – which way does he go from here? Does he keep walking the same way he was yesterday (assuming that he still knows which way that is), or does he try a new direction? He has no idea what to do.

Looking at the hills and dunes around him, he thinks he knows the direction he was heading before. Just going by a feeling, he points himself somewhat to the left of that, and starts walking.

As he walks, the day starts heating up. The desert, too cold just a couple of hours before, soon becomes an oven again. He sweats a little at first, and then stops. He starts getting worried at that – when you stop sweating he knows that means you’re in trouble – usually right before heat stroke.

He decides that it’s time to try the windshield wiper fluid. He can’t wait any longer – if he passes out, he’s dead. He stops in the shade of a large rock, takes the bottle out, opens it, and takes a mouthful. He slowly swallows it, making it last as long as he can. It feels so good in his dry and cracked throat that he doesn’t even care about the nasty taste. He takes another mouthful, and makes it last too. Slowly, he drinks half the bottle. He figures that since he’s drinking it, he might as well drink enough to make some difference and keep himself from passing out.

He’s quit worrying about the denaturing of the wiper fluid. If it kills him, it kills him – if he didn’t drink it, he’d die anyway. Besides, he’s pretty sure that whatever substance they denature the fluid with is just designed to make you sick – their way of keeping winos from buying cheap wiper fluid for the ethanol content. He can handle throwing up, if it comes to that.

He walks. He walks in the hot, dry, windless desert. Sand, rocks, hills, dunes, the occasional scrawny cactus or dried bush. No sign of water. Sometimes he’ll see a little movement to one side or the other, but whatever moved is usually gone before he can focus his eyes on it. Probably birds, lizards, or mice. Maybe snakes, though they usually move more at night. He’s careful to stay away from the movements.

After a while, he begins to stagger. He’s not sure if it’s fatigue, heat stroke finally catching him, or maybe he was wrong and the denaturing of the wiper fluid was worse than he thought. He tries to steady himself, and keep going.

After more walking, he comes to a large stretch of sand. This is good! He knows he passed over a stretch of sand in the SUV – he remembers doing donuts in it. Or at least he thinks he remembers it – he’s getting woozy enough and tired enough that he’s not sure what he remembers any more or if he’s hallucinating. But he thinks he remembers it. So he heads off into it, trying to get to the other side, hoping that it gets him closer to the town.

He was heading for a town, wasn’t he? He thinks he was. He isn’t sure any more. He’s not even sure how long he’s been walking any more. Is it still morning? Or has it moved into afternoon and the sun is going down again? It must be afternoon – it seems like it’s been too long since he started out.

He walks through the sand.

After a while, he comes to a big dune in the sand. This is bad. He doesn’t remember any dunes when driving over the sand in his SUV. Or at least he doesn’t think he remembers any. This is bad.

But, he has no other direction to go. Too late to turn back now. He figures that he’ll get to the top of the dune and see if he can see anything from there that helps him find the town. He keeps going up the dune.

Halfway up, he slips in the bad footing of the sand for the second or third time, and falls to his knees. He doesn’t feel like getting back up – he’ll just fall down again. So, he keeps going up the dune on his hand and knees.

While crawling, if his throat weren’t so dry, he’d laugh. He’s finally gotten to the hackneyed image of a man lost in the desert – crawling through the sand on his hands and knees. If would be the perfect image, he imagines, if only his clothes were more ragged. The people crawling through the desert in the cartoons always had ragged clothes. But his have lasted without any rips so far. Somebody will probably find his dessicated corpse half buried in the sand years from now, and his clothes will still be in fine shape – shake the sand out, and a good wash, and they’d be wearable again. He wishes his throat were wet enough to laugh. He coughs a little instead, and it hurts.

He finally makes it to the top of the sand dune. Now that he’s at the top, he struggles a little, but manages to stand up and look around. All he sees is sand. Sand, and more sand. Behind him, about a mile away, he thinks he sees the rocky ground he left to head into this sand. Ahead of him, more dunes, more sand. This isn’t where he drove his SUV. This is Hell. Or close enough.

Again, he doesn’t know what to do. He decides to drink the rest of the wiper fluid while figuring it out. He takes out the bottle, and is removing the cap, when he glances to the side and sees something. Something in the sand. At the bottom of the dune, off to the side, he sees something strange. It’s a flat area, in the sand. He stops taking the cap of the bottle off, and tries to look closer. The area seems to be circular. And it’s dark – darker than the sand. And, there seems to be something in the middle of it, but he can’t tell what it is. He looks as hard as he can, and still can tell from here. He’s going to have to go down there and look.

He puts the bottle back in his pocket, and starts to stumble down the dune. After a few steps, he realizes that he’s in trouble – he’s not going to be able to keep his balance. After a couple of more sliding, tottering steps, he falls and starts to roll down the dune. The sand it so hot when his body hits it that for a minute he thinks he’s caught fire on the way down – like a movie car wreck flashing into flames as it goes over the cliff, before it ever even hits the ground. He closes his eyes and mouth, covers his face with his hands, and waits to stop rolling.

He stops, at the bottom of the dune. After a minute or two, he finds enough energy to try to sit up and get the sand out of his face and clothes. When he clears his eyes enough, he looks around to make sure that the dark spot in the sand it still there and he hadn’t just imagined it.

So, seeing the large, flat, dark spot on the sand is still there, he begins to crawl towards it. He’d get up and walk towards it, but he doesn’t seem to have the energy to get up and walk right now. He must be in the final stages of dehydration he figures, as he crawls. If this place in the sand doesn’t have water, he’ll likely never make it anywhere else. This is his last chance.

He gets closer and closer, but still can’t see what’s in the middle of the dark area. His eyes won’t quite focus any more for some reason. And lifting his head up to look takes so much effort that he gives up trying. He just keeps crawling.

Finally, he reaches the area he’d seen from the dune. It takes him a minute of crawling on it before he realizes that he’s no longer on sand – he’s now crawling on some kind of dark stone. Stone with some kind of marking on it – a pattern cut into the stone. He’s too tired to stand up and try to see what the pattern is – so he just keeps crawling. He crawls towards the center, where his blurry eyes still see something in the middle of the dark stone area.

His mind, detached in a strange way, notes that either his hands and knees are so burnt by the sand that they no longer feel pain, or that this dark stone, in the middle of a burning desert with a pounding, punishing sun overhead, doesn’t seem to be hot. It almost feels cool. He considers lying down on the nice cool surface.

Cool, dark stone. Not a good sign. He must be hallucinating this. He’s probably in the middle of a patch of sand, already lying face down and dying, and just imagining this whole thing. A desert mirage. Soon the beautiful women carrying pitchers of water will come up and start giving him a drink. Then he’ll know he’s gone.

He decides against laying down on the cool stone. If he’s going to die here in the middle of this hallucination, he at least wants to see what’s in the center before he goes. He keeps crawling.

It’s the third time that he hears the voice before he realizes what he’s hearing. He would swear that someone just said, “Greetings, traveler. You do not look well. Do you hear me?”

He stops crawling. He tries to look up from where he is on his hands and knees, but it’s too much effort to lift his head. So he tries something different – he leans back and tries to sit up on the stone. After a few seconds, he catches his balance, avoids falling on his face, sits up, and tries to focus his eyes. Blurry. He rubs his eyes with the back of his hands and tries again. Better this time.

Yep. He can see. He’s sitting in the middle of a large, flat, dark expanse of stone. Directly next to him, about three feet away, is a white post or pole about two inches in diameter and sticking up about four or five feet out of the stone, at an angle.

And wrapped around this white rod, tail with rattle on it hovering and seeming to be ready to start rattling, is what must be a fifteen foot long desert diamondback rattlesnake, looking directly at him.

He stares at the snake in shock. He doesn’t have the energy to get up and run away. He doesn’t even have the energy to crawl away. This is it, his final resting place. No matter what happens, he’s not going to be able to move from this spot.

Well, at least dying of a bite from this monster should be quicker than dying of thirst. He’ll face his end like a man. He struggles to sit up a little straighter. The snake keeps watching him. He lifts one hand and waves it in the snake’s direction, feebly. The snake watches the hand for a moment, then goes back to watching the man, looking into his eyes.

Hmmm. Maybe the snake had no interest in biting him? It hadn’t rattled yet – that was a good sign. Maybe he wasn’t going to die of snake bite after all.

He then remembers that he’d looked up when he’d reached the center here because he thought he’d heard a voice. He was still very woozy – he was likely to pass out soon, the sun still beat down on him even though he was now on cool stone. He still didn’t have anything to drink. But maybe he had actually heard a voice. This stone didn’t look natural. Nor did that white post sticking up out of the stone. Someone had to have built this. Maybe they were still nearby. Maybe that was who talked to him. Maybe this snake was even their pet, and that’s why it wasn’t biting.

He tries to clear his throat to say, “Hello,” but his throat is too dry. All that comes out is a coughing or wheezing sound. There is no way he’s going to be able to talk without something to drink. He feels his pocket, and the bottle with the wiper fluid is still there. He shakily pulls the bottle out, almost losing his balance and falling on his back in the process. This isn’t good. He doesn’t have much time left, by his reckoning, before he passes out.

He gets the lid off of the bottle, manages to get the bottle to his lips, and pours some of the fluid into his mouth. He sloshes it around, and then swallows it. He coughs a little. His throat feels better. Maybe he can talk now.

He tries again. Ignoring the snake, he turns to look around him, hoping to spot the owner of this place, and croaks out, “Hello? Is there anyone here?”

He hears, from his side, “Greetings. What is it that you want?”

He turns his head, back towards the snake. That’s where the sound had seemed to come from. The only thing he can think of is that there must be a speaker, hidden under the snake, or maybe built into that post. He decides to try asking for help.

“Please,” he croaks again, suddenly feeling dizzy, “I’d love to not be thirsty any more. I’ve been a long time without water. Can you help me?”

Looking in the direction of the snake, hoping to see where the voice was coming from this time, he is shocked to see the snake rear back, open its mouth, and speak. He hears it say, as the dizziness overtakes him and he falls forward, face first on the stone, “Very well. Coming up.”

A piercing pain shoots through his shoulder. Suddenly he is awake. He sits up and grabs his shoulder, wincing at the throbbing pain. He’s momentarily disoriented as he looks around, and then he remembers – the crawl across the sand, the dark area of stone, the snake. He sees the snake, still wrapped around the tilted white post, still looking at him.

He reaches up and feels his shoulder, where it hurts. It feels slightly wet. He pulls his fingers away and looks at them – blood. He feels his shoulder again – his shirt has what feels like two holes in it – two puncture holes – they match up with the two aching spots of pain on his shoulder. He had been bitten. By the snake.

“It’ll feel better in a minute.” He looks up – it’s the snake talking. He hadn’t dreamed it. Suddenly he notices – he’s not dizzy any more. And more importantly, he’s not thirsty any more – at all!

“Have I died? Is this the afterlife? Why are you biting me in the afterlife?”

“Sorry about that, but I had to bite you,” says the snake. “That’s the way I work. It all comes through the bite. Think of it as natural medicine.”

“You bit me to help me? Why aren’t I thirsty any more? Did you give me a drink before you bit me? How did I drink enough while unconscious to not be thirsty any more? I haven’t had a drink for over two days. Well, except for the windshield wiper fluid… hold it, how in the world does a snake talk? Are you real? Are you some sort of Disney animation?”

“No,” says the snake, “I’m real. As real as you or anyone is, anyway. I didn’t give you a drink. I bit you. That’s how it works – it’s what I do. I bite. I don’t have hands to give you a drink, even if I had water just sitting around here.”

The man sat stunned for a minute. Here he was, sitting in the middle of the desert on some strange stone that should be hot but wasn’t, talking to a snake that could talk back and had just bitten him. And he felt better. Not great – he was still starving and exhausted, but much better – he was no longer thirsty. He had started to sweat again, but only slightly. He felt hot, in this sun, but it was starting to get lower in the sky, and the cool stone beneath him was a relief he could notice now that he was no longer dying of thirst.

“I might suggest that we take care of that methanol you now have in your system with the next request,” continued the snake. “I can guess why you drank it, but I’m not sure how much you drank, or how much methanol was left in the wiper fluid. That stuff is nasty. It’ll make you go blind in a day or two, if you drank enough of it.”

“Ummm, n-next request?” said the man. He put his hand back on his hurting shoulder and backed away from the snake a little.

“That’s the way it works. If you like, that is,” explained the snake. “You get three requests. Call them wishes, if you wish.” The snake grinned at his own joke, and the man drew back a little further from the show of fangs.

“But there are rules,” the snake continued. “The first request is free. The second requires an agreement of secrecy. The third requires the binding of responsibility.” The snake looks at the man seriously.

“By the way,” the snake says suddenly, “my name is Nathan. Old Nathan, Samuel used to call me. He gave me the name. Before that, most of the Bound used to just call me ‘Snake’. But that got old, and Samuel wouldn’t stand for it. He said that anything that could talk needed a name. He was big into names. You can call me Nate, if you wish.” Again, the snake grinned. “Sorry if I don’t offer to shake, but I think you can understand – my shake sounds somewhat threatening.” The snake give his rattle a little shake.

“Umm, my name is Jack,” said the man, trying to absorb all of this. “Jack Samson.

“Can I ask you a question?” Jack says suddenly. “What happened to the poison…umm, in your bite. Why aren’t I dying now? How did you do that? What do you mean by that’s how you work?”

“That’s more than one question,” grins Nate. “But I’ll still try to answer all of them. First, yes, you can ask me a question.” The snake’s grin gets wider. “Second, the poison is in you. It changed you. You now no longer need to drink. That’s what you asked for. Or, well, technically, you asked to not be thirsty any more – but ‘any more’ is such a vague term. I decided to make it permanent – now, as long as you live, you shouldn’t need to drink much at all. Your body will conserve water very efficiently. You should be able to get enough just from the food you eat – much like a creature of the desert. You’ve been changed.

“For the third question,” Nate continues, “you are still dying. Besides the effects of that methanol in your system, you’re a man – and men are mortal. In your current state, I give you no more than about another 50 years. Assuming you get out of this desert, alive, that is.” Nate seemed vastly amused at his own humor, and continued his wide grin.

“As for the fourth question,” Nate said, looking more serious as far as Jack could tell, as Jack was just now working on his ability to read talking-snake emotions from snake facial features, “first you have to agree to make a second request and become bound by the secrecy, or I can’t tell you.”

“Wait,” joked Jack, “isn’t this where you say you could tell me, but you’d have to kill me?”

“I thought that was implied.” Nate continued to look serious.

“Ummm…yeah.” Jack leaned back a little as he remembered again that he was talking to a fifteen foot poisonous reptile with a reputation for having a nasty temper. “So, what is this ‘Bound by Secrecy’ stuff, and can you really stop the effects of the methanol?” Jack thought for a second. “And, what do you mean methanol, anyway? I thought these days they use ethanol in wiper fluid, and just denature it?”

“They may, I don’t really know,” said Nate. “I haven’t gotten out in a while. Maybe they do. All I know is that I smell methanol on your breath and on that bottle in your pocket. And the blue color of the liquid when you pulled it out to drink some let me guess that it was wiper fluid. I assume that they still color wiper fluid blue?”

“Yeah, they do,” said Jack.

“I figured,” replied Nate. “As for being bound by secrecy – with the fulfillment of your next request, you will be bound to say nothing about me, this place, or any of the information I will tell you after that, when you decide to go back out to your kind. You won’t be allowed to talk about me, write about me, use sign language, charades, or even act in a way that will lead someone to guess correctly about me. You’ll be bound to secrecy. Of course, I’ll also ask you to promise not to give me away, and as I’m guessing that you’re a man of your word, you’ll never test the binding anyway, so you won’t notice.” Nate said the last part with utter confidence.

Jack, who had always prided himself on being a man of his word, felt a little nervous at this. “Ummm, hey, Nate, who are you? How did you know that? Are you, umm, omniscient, or something?”

Well, Jack,” said Nate sadly, “I can’t tell you that, unless you make the second request.” Nate looked away for a minute, then looked back.

“Umm, well, ok,” said Jack, “what is this about a second request? What can I ask for? Are you allowed to tell me that?”

“Sure!” said Nate, brightening. “You’re allowed to ask for changes. Changes to yourself. They’re like wishes, but they can only affect you. Oh, and before you ask, I can’t give you immortality. Or omniscience. Or omnipresence, for that matter. Though I might be able to make you gaseous and yet remain alive, and then you could spread through the atmosphere and sort of be omnipresent. But what good would that be – you still wouldn’t be omniscient and thus still could only focus on one thing at a time. Not very useful, at least in my opinion.” Nate stopped when he realized that Jack was staring at him.

“Well, anyway,” continued Nate, “I’d probably suggest giving you permanent good health. It would negate the methanol now in your system, you’d be immune to most poisons and diseases, and you’d tend to live a very long time, barring accident, of course. And you’ll even have a tendency to recover from accidents well. It always seemed like a good choice for a request to me.”

“Cure the methanol poisoning, huh?” said Jack. “And keep me healthy for a long time? Hmmm. It doesn’t sound bad at that. And it has to be a request about a change to me? I can’t ask to be rich, right? Because that’s not really a change to me?”

“Right,” nodded Nate.

“Could I ask to be a genius and permanently healthy?” Jack asked, hopefully.

“That takes two requests, Jack.”

“Yeah, I figured so,” said Jack. “But I could ask to be a genius? I could become the smartest scientist in the world? Or the best athlete?”

“Well, I could make you very smart,” admitted Nate, “but that wouldn’t necessarily make you the best scientist in the world. Or, I could make you very athletic, but it wouldn’t necessarily make you the best athlete either. You’ve heard the saying that 99% of genius is hard work? Well, there’s some truth to that. I can give you the talent, but I can’t make you work hard. It all depends on what you decide to do with it.”

“Hmmm,” said Jack. “Ok, I think I understand. And I get a third request, after this one?”

“Maybe,” said Nate, “it depends on what you decide then. There are more rules for the third request that I can only tell you about after the second request. You know how it goes.” Nate looked like he’d shrug, if he had shoulders.

“Ok, well, since I’d rather not be blind in a day or two, and permanent health doesn’t sound bad, then consider that my second request. Officially. Do I need to sign in blood or something?”

“No,” said Nate. “Just hold out your hand. Or heel.” Nate grinned. “Or whatever part you want me to bite. I have to bite you again. Like I said, that’s how it works – the poison, you know,” Nate said apologetically.

Jack winced a little and felt his shoulder, where the last bite was. Hey, it didn’t hurt any more. Just like Nate had said. That made Jack feel better about the biting business. But still, standing still while a fifteen foot snake sunk it’s fangs into you. Jack stood up. Ignoring how good it felt to be able to stand again, and the hunger starting to gnaw at his stomach, Jack tried to decide where he wanted to get bitten. Despite knowing that it wouldn’t hurt for long, Jack knew that this wasn’t going to be easy.

“Hey, Jack,” Nate suddenly said, looking past Jack towards the dunes behind him, “is that someone else coming up over there?”

Jack spun around and looked. Who else could be out here in the middle of nowhere? And did they bring food?

Wait a minute, there was nobody over there. What was Nate…

Jack let out a bellow as he felt two fangs sink into his rear end, through his jeans…

Jack sat down carefully, favoring his more tender buttock. “I would have decided, eventually, Nate. I was just thinking about it. You didn’t have to hoodwink me like that.”

“I’ve been doing this a long time, Jack,” said Nate, confidently. “You humans have a hard time sitting still and letting a snake bite you – especially one my size. And besides, admit it – it’s only been a couple of minutes and it already doesn’t hurt any more, does it? That’s because of the health benefit with this one. I told you that you’d heal quickly now.”

“Yeah, well, still,” said Jack, “it’s the principle of the thing. And nobody likes being bitten in the butt! Couldn’t you have gotten my calf or something instead?”

“More meat in the typical human butt,” replied Nate. “And less chance you accidentally kick me or move at the last second.”

Part two