Why do they keep calling me Number 6394, she wondered. Where am I? She sat on the cot in the little white room with a caged window, trying to piece together the events that brought her here. A thick fog prevented her from remembering anything. She sighed.
The woman stood up to examine the door which didn’t have a handle. Just then, the room began to shake, causing Number 6394 to press her back against a wall in hopes of supporting herself. Finally, as the earthquake subsided, the door groaned open, “Hello Ja… 6394.”
“Mr. King,” she said as an automatic response, not sure how she knew the man, “What are you doing here?”
“You know why I’m here,” he ran a finger through his pointy goatee, “Same reason as last time.”
“Oh yes, of course,” she answered, dreading what was about to come, able to half-recall her previous encounter with him.
Mr. King stood to the side as he clapped his hands. A parade of men with wheelbarrows came through the door. As each one approached Number 6394, they tilted their wheelbarrows forward, pouring rubber chickens onto the floor. This continued until Number 6394 was swimming in a fowl pool.
Mr. King repeated the instructions from their last meeting, “Now, you must spin all of these rubber chickens into comedic gold by morning, or else I will,” he paused for dramatic effect, “kill you,” Mr. King laughed maniacally as he backed through the door. The thud of the heavy deadbolt echoed through the room like a gun shot.
Number 6394 sat down, listening to dozens of rubber chickens squeak under her ass. She began to sob, knowing that she was incapable of producing anything from these stupid birds. She closed her eyes for a moment to consider her options. She looked down and shook her head at the chickens, as if it was their fault. Her head tilted up towards the door; there stood a gnarled-faced troll with puffy, curly, red hair, Is that Pipi Longstocking, she thought, or the Wendy’s girl? But it wasn’t. While the troll did have a twisted, effeminate face, it had the body of a steroid riddled meat-head.
“Why are you crying,” it asked.
“I have to spin these rubber chickens into jokes,” she told the troll.
“Well that’s easy. If you give me your jewelry, I’ll do it for you.”
Number 6394 sighed and handed over a pearl necklace.
* * *
The next day, Mr. King returned to find that all of the rubber chickens were gone. On top of a small trunk in the middle of the room, there was a notebook. “Open the trunk,” Mr. King read the first line. He opened the trunk to find a bunch of props.
The next line in the notebook read, “Take a rubber chicken and put it on the floor. Now, grab the tong. Pick up the rubber chicken with the tongs. Say out loud, ‘This is how you pick up chicks.’”
Mr. King started to laugh. He read through the rest of the notebook, satisfied, “It appears that you have spun these rubber chickens into comedic gold.”
He sat on the cot to consider his options, stroking his pointy goatee as if it was a pet. He decided that he wanted to be the king of prop comedy. In order to do that, he needed more jokes.
“We’ll have to do this one more time,” Mr. King told Number 6394, “If you can make more jokes tonight, I will let you go.”
Mr. King clapped his hands and the wheelbarrows came through the door. Again, Number 6394 sat on the chickens crying. And again, the curly red-haired troll appeared, “Why are you crying,” it asked.
“I have to spin all of these rubber chickens into comedic gold,” she said, “And I can’t.”
“I’ll do it for you, but you’ll have to give me something in return.”
“I have nothing left to give you.”
The troll thought for a moment. “If I help you, then you’ll have to help me. I’ll need to try out my prop comedy on you,” said the troll.
“No, please, not that. Anything but that,” said Number 6394.
“Tell you what. If you can guess my name then you can go free. But if you can’t, then I get to tell you as many jokes as I want.”
“Fine, whatever. Let’s just get this over with.”
The curly red-haired troll set to work on the rubber chickens. By the time morning came, he was all done. Mr. King clanged the heavy door open to find all the rubber chickens gone. A notebook was set on the trunk, just like last time. Mr. King read the first line, “Open the trunk.” He opened the trunk to find a bunch of props.
He read the next lines, “Take out the rubber chicken and the egg that are laying on a miniature bed. Now tell this joke: A chicken and an egg are lying in bed together. The chicken stretches, smoking a cigarette, satisfied. The egg turns to the chicken and says, I guess we answered THAT question.”
Mr. King chuckled, but it wasn’t a hearty laugh.
He continued reading, “Take out the rubber chicken dressed in a ghost’s outfit. Now say out loud, ‘Poultry Geist,’” Mr. King shrugged, “These are getting worse.”
He sighed, “Well, Number 6394. I’m afraid that I’m going to have to kill you.”
Number 6394 called out, “It wasn’t me, it was him! The red-haired troll that comes to write the jokes. It used to be kind of funny, but now it’s just sad.”
The room shook again. This time, the white walls melted away. It felt as if she was being sliced effortlessly by a hot axe through the middle of her brain. To her, it looked as though she was being sucked backwards through a dark hall until there was complete darkness. 6394’s consciousness faded.
Suddenly, she came back, gasping for air. Her body sprung forward but was snapped back down to a hard table where she was bound by thick metal cuffs on her wrists and ankles. Her wild eyes stared up at the red curly-haired troll, who stood over her, dangling a glowing rubber chicken just past her nose. “Chicken Kiev,” it said, “Do you know my name, 6394?”
She called out, “Muffin Man?”
“Guess again, 6394,” it threw the glowing chicken to the side then held up an alarm clock with a chicken on top, “Alarm cluck,” it said.
She screamed, while trying to figure out its name, “Parsnip Face?”
The troll laughed, “Getting closer, 6394,” it said while throwing the prop to the side, “What do chickens grow on,” it asked, holding up an eggplant.
The red-haired troll laughed, “My prop comedy will never die,” it held up a chicken in a Superman costume and said, “Cluck Kent.”
And that is how Number 6394 spent the rest of eternity.