It began, innocently enough, with an email address.
When Gerald Kenny, mediocre lab technician, was hired to oversee the student workers in a biology lab at Oliver Sacks University, he was given an email address in the university's usual format: last name, followed by first initial. In the unfortunate case of Gerald Kenny, this meant that his email address became KennyG@sacks.edu.
This would not end well.
* * *
Subject: Your email address
Hey KennyG, how's your saxophone? LOL!
KennyG! Are you playing your saxophone right now? Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!
KennyG, do you know that you have the same name as the famous sax player, Kenny G? And do you know that your email address is "sacks.edu," which sounds like sax.edu, as in SAX? Do you know that, KennyG? Do you? DO YOU?????
Saxophone. Saxophone. Saxophone. Saxophone. Saxophone. Saxophone. Saxophone. Saxophone. Saxophone. Saxophone. Saxophone. Saxophone. Saxophone. Saxophone. Saxophone. Saxophone. Saxophone. Saxophone. Saxophone. Saxophone. Saxophone. SAXOPHONE. SAXOPHONE.
* * *
The saxophone emails did not get better with time. They got worse. The university's students could not resist, and neither could the many people on the internet with whom those students shared Gerald's email address. And, the many people on the internet didn't just send him bad saxophone jokes. They sent him links, and because Gerald had never spent much time on the internet, he clicked on them all.
First, someone sent him a link to Kenny G's 'Songbird' on an 80-minute loop. Then he received a 10-hour loop of just the saxophone solo in George Michael's song 'Careless Whisper'. Next he got 10 hours of something called 'Epic Sax Guy'. That one gave him nightmares for weeks. After that, he didn't click on links for a long time, until he received something marked "urgent" and decided that he couldn't risk not clicking, as it was apparently urgent. It turned out not to be urgent at all, but instead a link to yet another Youtube video, one which he actually quite enjoyed for a change, until the song was ruined forever by his accidentally clicking on a link that combined that song with the music from 'Epic Sax Guy'. For 10 hours.
(Gerald's lack of internet skills also sadly meant that he had never quite figured out how to stop a Youtube video once it had started playing. There was also no easy way to turn the volume down as it was a university computer, with the controls helpfully frozen to prevent university staff from making changes to what the university, in its university wisdom, had deemed to be the optimum setting. Gerald had tried turning to the university's IT department for help, but the IT people had been among the first to send him the saxophone email links, and they hated to ruin a good joke.)
The breaking point came after one of the student lab workers asked Reddit for good prank saxophone songs to play in the lab all day. As a result, Gerald was exposed to an all-saxophone version of a song that he and every other person in the world had already heard so often, hearing it again was enough to drive almost anyone crazy. Gerald's sanity, which, to be honest, had never been that stable in the first place, didn't stand a chance.
* * *
From the Desk of
Gerald Kenny [Insert Mad Scientist Name Here]
Goal: DESTROY ALL SAXOPHONES
1) Think up a suitable Mad Scientist Name for myself. It should convey my evil genius, and look cool on a t-shirt. Also, it should strike terror into the hearts of saxophone lovers everywhere.
2) Get materials.
• Lab coat -- duh, already have one.
• Goggles -- do I need new goggles? Probably couldn't hurt if I can find a new pair on sale. Maybe something in purple?
• Obtain a weapon that will destroy saxophones. Heat ray? Disintegrator gun? Do I know anyone who has a disintegrator gun? I don't think so. What's in the lab? Ooh, could I dissolve a saxophone with sodium dodecyl sulfate? Hmm, I could poison someone with that, but I don't think I could dissolve a saxophone. Boric acid? Wait, maybe I could set a saxophone on fire after dousing it with ethanol! I would like to see a saxophone on fire, ha-ha-ha-ha!
3) Practice evil laugh. Mine isn't maniacal enough yet.
4) Get an evil lair. (Note to self: is it possible to have an un-evil lair? I think all lairs are evil.)
5) Recruit minions who can help me carry out my evil plans.
6) Decide on evil plans.
* * *
Truthfully, Gerald wasn't a genius -- evil or otherwise -- and he wasn't much of a scientist, either. But he was mad, and he had a to-do list. Gerald was good at to-do lists. Soon his new purple goggles had been acquired, and he had placed an ad in the local paper:
SEEKING: People who hate saxophones, and want to destroy them.
QUALIFICATIONS: Must hate saxophones. Owning a disintegrator gun is a plus.
CONTACT: KennyG@sacks.edu. (Note to law enforcement: this is not me; this is just someone who will pass on information because I can't figure out how to set up an anonymous email address. This person does not know how to find me, so there is no need to contact them. Unless, of course, you hate saxophones. Then please do contact them.)
While he was waiting for the applications to pour in, he spent his time thinking up evil plans, and trying to decide if his studio apartment might qualify as an evil lair. Perhaps if he put black curtains in the windows?
Finally, he put together a minion application form to help narrow down his candidates from the many applications he expected to receive:
Mad Scientist Minion Application Form
Why you hate saxophones: ______________________________________________________________
Do you have an idea for a good Mad Scientist Name for me? If so, please state it here: ______________________________________________________________________________________
The name I should call you as my minion: ____________________________________________
Do you own a disintegrator gun? ___Yes ___ No
Do you have an idea for how to destroy all saxophones? If so, please state it here: _____________________________________________________________________________________________
Do you have black curtains I can borrow? ___ Yes ___ No
As it turned out, Gerald did receive a surprising number of applications, because someone posted his ad on a Facebook group page for people who hate saxophones. Gerald asked them all to fill out his Mad Scientist Minion Application Form, then sat down to go through the results. Unfortunately, only one person bothered to fill out his form. However, that one person, a young woman, had some very interesting answers:
Why you hate saxophones: I have always hated saxophones. When I was a child, I loved my rubber duckie, and I loved Sesame Street. Then Sesame Street made this video about putting down your duckie in order to play the saxophone. That's SO WRONG! Saxophones are evil, because they make people put down their rubber duckies. I want to strike a blow for rubber duckies by getting rid of all saxophones.
Do you have an idea for a good Mad Scientist Name for me? If so, please state it here: Doctor Duckie
The name I should call you as my minion: Duckies4Ever
Do you own a disintegrator gun? ___Yes __X_ No
Do you have an idea for how to destroy all saxophones? If so, please state it here: Go back in time and kill Adolphe Sax before he invents the saxophone.
Do you have black curtains I can borrow? __X_ Yes ___ No
Gerald read through the application again, then read it a third time.
Go back in time and kill Adolphe Sax before he invents the saxophone.
It was a genius idea. Also, he thought "Doctor Duckie" might look cool on a t-shirt.
* * *
After the black curtains had been installed on the windows, Gerald and Duckies4Ever sat down in their evil lair to finalize their fiendish plot to kill Adolphe Sax and prevent the saxophone from being invented.
"So the saxophone was invented by some guy named Adolphe Sax?" asked Gerald. He always liked to get facts like this straight.
"Yes," said Duckies4Ever. "Sax was a Belgian instrument maker who was born in 1814. He patented his invention of the saxophone in 1846. There was a Google Doodle celebrating his 201st birthday on November 6th, 2015, which was really unfair, because that day was also John Philip Sousa's 161st birthday, and Google chose Sax over Sousa. Can you imagine? I bet Google hates duckies," she said, cradling her rubber duckie protectively. "I despise Google."
"That's a big coincidence that someone named Sax invented the saxophone," said Gerald thoughtfully. "But I'm sure you're right. And anyway, anyone named 'Sax' deserves to die." He tried for a maniacal laugh, but instead just made a strangled sound that turned into a coughing fit that didn't end until Duckies4Ever brought him some water. When he recovered, he wiped his hands on his Doctor Duckie t-shirt, then tried to look menacing. "So, how do we go back in time?" he asked.
"I don't know. Let's Google it," said Duckies4Ever.
* * *
Duckies4Ever was much better at the internet than Gerald, but it still turned out to be difficult to discover how to travel in time. This was probably because time travel hadn't been invented yet. But since they didn't know that, they kept clicking here and there, looking for a time machine they could borrow, or possibly purchase with amortized payments over five years. (Gerald didn't want the commitment of a six-year loan.) Unsurprisingly, they had no luck; even Tumblr came up empty. Finally, Gerald suggested that they try another newspaper ad, and as Duckies4Ever didn't have a better idea, that's what they did:
SEEKING: Someone who knows how to travel back in time.
QUALIFICATIONS: Must hate saxophones. Must be able to get other people to the years 1814-1845. Owning a disintegrator gun is a plus.
CONTACT: KennyG@sacks.edu. (Note to law enforcement: I still don't know who this is.)
A few days later, Gerald received an email from someone named Wizard@sax_hating_wizard.org who claimed he could help them travel back in time. Gerald was skeptical -- did this person really hate saxophones? -- but he decided to set up a meeting after Wizard sent him a picture as proof of his credentials. Soon they were in their evil lair, with he and Duckies4Ever sitting on the evil futon while Wizard sat in the evil chair, drinking the evil tea Gerald had made for him. (Gerald believed that everything in an evil lair was evil.)
"I can send you back to the past," said Wizard, "but I have to warn you that you won't be able to kill Adolphe Sax before he invents the saxophone."
"Why not?" asked Duckies4Ever. "I know you said you don't have a disintegrator gun, but I think I can bash his head in with a rock. At least, as long as I can do it one-handed, so I don't have to put down my rubber duckie."
"The weapon's not the problem," said Wizard. "The problem is what is known as a predestination paradox. You hate saxophones, so you want to go back in time to kill Adolphe Sax and prevent him from inventing the saxophone. Say for the sake of argument that you succeed. In that case, here in the present day there are no saxophones for you to hate, so you have no reason to go back in time and kill Adolphe Sax, and so he lives and invents the saxophone. Then here you are in the present day again, with saxophones." Wizard took another sip of evil tea. "See? It's impossible for you to get rid of the saxophone."
Gerald nodded his head as if he understood, but the truth was, he had lost the thread early on. Anyway, he thought, it didn't really matter. He was a mad scientist with evil plans, and even if those plans were doomed to failure, he had to proceed with them. They were on his to-do list.
Wizard gave up and told them how to travel back in time. The method was surprisingly simple; simple enough for even Gerald and Duckies4Ever to get right. Wizard then went home, pulled out his time-stream monitor, and started monitoring the time stream. He watched the changes to Adolphe Sax's life unfold:
• When he was 2 years old, he fell out of a second-story window and fractured his skull.
Gerald and Duckies4Ever had thrown Sax out the window of the tallest building they could find. Unfortunately, skyscrapers were in short supply in 19th-century Belgium.
• When he was 6 years old, he mistakenly drank boric acid.
Gerald hadn't been able to find the sodium dodecyl sulfate in the lab.
• When he was 9 years old, he fell over a small cliff and broke his leg.
They'd wanted to toss him head first, but Duckies4Ever could only use one hand because of her rubber duckie.
• When he was 11 years old, he contracted measles and was in a coma for nine days.
Meanwhile, Gerald was laid up for 10 days due to the salmonella he contracted from their premature celebratory meal.
• When he was 14 years old, he broke his arm when he caught it in a carriage door.
This one wasn't caused by Gerald and Duckies4Ever. Adolphe Sax just had a bad day. It happens, even to people targeted for murder by deranged time travellers.
• When he was 19 years old, he was struck on the head by a falling brick.
They hadn't been able to find a rock.
• When he was 23 years old, he almost died from the effects of tainted wine.
Gerald had finally found the sodium dodecyl sulfate.
• When he was 29 years old, Adolphe Sax invented the saxophone.
And there it was, the saxophone. Wizard had known they would fail to prevent it from being invented. Then he noticed something else in the time-stream monitor, and smiled.
* * *
Wizard found Gerald and Duckies4Ever in their evil lair, despondently sitting on their evil furniture.
"I'm sorry you didn't get rid of the saxophone," he told them sincerely. "But you might like to know that you did make a significant change to history. You interfered with Sax's development of the saxtuba."
"We did?" said Duckies4Ever. "But I've never even heard of a saxtuba."
"Exactly," said Wizard. " You won't remember, but before you changed history, saxtubas were all over the place. Youtube even had a version of 'Let It Go' from Frozen done completely on the saxtuba." He shuddered. "But since you didn't go back in time to prevent the creation of the saxtuba, you were able to go back in time and prevent the creation of the saxtuba."
"You mean we succeeded?" asked Gerald, raising his head. He had never succeeded at anything really big before.
"Congratulations!" said Wizard. He really was thrilled. He had hated the saxtuba even more than the saxophone. He went on to tell them how, in this new version of history, the lack of saxtubas had allowed for the invention of the sousaphone, which was named after John Philip Sousa. Both Gerald and Duckies4Ever had heard of sousaphones, and were very excited that they'd played a role in their invention.
"That'll teach Google to care more about Sax's birthday than Sousa's!" exclaimed Duckies4Ever. "The sousaphone is a much better instrument than the saxophone. You don't have to put down your duckie if you want to play the sousaphone. And people can use their sousaphones to make lightsaber noises during their pretend lightsaber battles. I love the sousaphone!"
Gerald got up, strode over to where his to-do list was taped to his evil refrigerator, and then carefully, with great ceremony, put a little check mark next to his evil plans. Then Duckies4Ever put on her favorite song and began dancing around the apartment. Soon Gerald was dancing with her, and even Wizard joined in, because believe it or not, I have picked up a few dance moves from the 21st century.
* * *
There's not much more to tell you. I went back to my job as a time traveller, shaved my beard, and took up the bass guitar. I also altered history by stepping on a butterfly and got rid of Oliver Sacks University, so no one will ever again have "sacks.edu" as an email address. As for Gerald and Duckies4Ever, they remained friends, hanging out together in their evil lair, watching evil television and listening to evil flute concertos. Eventually they decided they needed new evil plans, so they went into business together making giant rubber duckies to strike terror into the hearts of saxophone lovers everywhere.
Oh, I guess this story did end well after all.