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Duchess of Diazepam (1990)

Duchess of Diazepam (1990)

©1990 by Dallas Denny

Source: Dallas Denny. (1990). Entry in Every Entity’s Multigalactic Encyclopedia and Guide, Pocket Edition: Duchess of Diazepam. Unpublished short story.





Duchess of Diazepam, Sad Fate of

(See also Kristofferson, Lost Colony of)

By Dallas Denny

From Every Entity’s Multigalactic Encyclopedia and Guide, Pocket Edition


Popularly known as The Universal Guide to the Unfathomable, Unknowable, Unspeakable, and Unrepeatable, or, in short, The 4U Guide, the pocket edition of Every Entity’s Multigalactic Encyclopedia was printed on 2.3 million sheets of paper .02 microns thick, making it less than two inches thick. It was compiled over seven centuries by the Luddite Freemen of Defeatist Prime, who, since they considered the printing press the work of the devil, wrote every word by hand. Only three copies were made, and only one is now in existence. No one knows where it is, but I was lucky enough to buy these pages on eBay.

This ill-fated deep-space vessel developed an instrumentation problem and limped into parking orbit around Alpha Capricorn, a type G-3 sun in the Lesser Magellanic Cloud (the Greater Magellanic Cloud being temporarily out of commission). The Duchess, bound ultimately for Kama Sutra (the heaven planet), carried ten crew members and a cargo of Dalkon Shields, which dated back to the XXth century and which had been found in an abandoned warehouse in Waukegan (See Also Toxic Shock Syndrome, Great Marketing Ideas of the XXth Century, and Birth Control Devices of the Ancients). The cargo was scheduled for use as dental dams by a race of pseudo-protozoa which reproduced by fission and which were therefore unlikely to have major medical complaints.

In addition to the crew, there were three groups of passengers. The first was comprised of five reporters for the tabloid National Global Midnight Enquiring Intergalactic Star. They were on their way to check out a rumor Elvis was on Hershey (the chocolate planet) and had lost all his teeth. The second group consisted of the entire editorial staff (seven people) of The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. The clock on the cover had reached 10 minutes past midnight; the world had not blown up; they had made it out of town just ahead of the lynch mob. The third group was comprised of sex offenders on their way to New New Australia.

Trouble began immediately after achieving parking orbit. The crew was composed of a chain-creature from Algernon Centralia IX (the planet of the paper dolls). The Captain, an obsessive-compulsive of the worst type, suddenly remembered he had left the water running at home and slipped away in one of the two lifeboats. The rest of the crew, being physically attached to the Captain, had little choice but to go along. The auxiliary lifeboat had fuel for only one trip to Kristofferson, the planet the Duchess was circling. One of the atomic scientists (the one with the pencil protector in his pocket) calculated that even with the lifeboat gutted and the passengers completely nude (a proposition which elicited cheers from some of the sex offenders), and even if the booze from all the tiny in-flight bottles was poured into larger containers, everyone could not be carried. The sex offenders threatened mutiny when one of the atomic scientists suggested they leave their rubber blow-up dolls behind so there would be room for everyone. An ugly situation was defused when one of the reporters, a transvestite, realizing the women would of necessity be leaving all their clothing on the Duchess, volunteered to remain with the ship. The sex offenders asked to stay and watch.

We know the fate of the Duchess only because of the broadcasts of the shipside reporter. A ten thousand thousand thousand light-year trip to Earth did not save the transmissions from savaging at the hand of the Star’s editor. “What’s all this stuff about frilly underwear?” he was heard to growl, as he reached for his red pen.

This much we do know: the atomic scientists set the clock hands back to 11:45 and began an earnest attempt to colonize. The reporters found an image of the Virgin Mary’s’ face on the local equivalent of a potato and rushed to print.

At first, life was hard for the reporters. They almost starved, but one of them hit upon the idea of building a supermarket and from then on the Star sold very well. The atomic scientists scoffed at the tabloid, of course, but they bought it nevertheless, clandestinely reading of reports of women impregnated by walruses, abductions by elephant-like aliens, fetuses killing their mothers in utero, and malfeasances of the nonexistent planetary government.

What might have happened next is academic, for the indigenous intelligent life wakened from estivation and ate the humans– all of them.

It was more than 500 years later when the Duchess’ sister ship, Countess of Chlorpromazine, made an unscheduled stop to allow its navigator to urinate (despite the warnings of the captain, he had neglected to go before he left Earth). The navigator later said, “There I am, doing my business, and this giant asparagus (See Also Hollandaise, Things Good With) stumbles up and claims Liberace carries a slide rule in the afterlife. I said, ‘I beg your pardon?’ and it wandered off mumbling something about finding Jesus at the 999th decimal of pi.”

The Chlorpromazine’s botanist went into the dissecting room with an asparagus. Later, over supper, he postulated that the big veggies had somehow acquired the personality traits of the two groups of colonists. “They’re half chlophyll and half tabloid reporter and half scientist,” he said. “Perhaps they were unable to totally assimilate the alien proteins. Who knows? At any rate, we now have plants walking around claiming John Wayne was a mathematician in his past lives. Einstein and Liz Taylor had a torrid love affair. Bigfoot babbles in binary code. Michael Jackson and Diana Ross and Carl Sagan were all the same person. These are delicious. Would you pass the hollandaise, please?”

The Duchess of Diazepam was later retrofitted as a troop ship (See Also Living Conditions in Deep Space, Sorry State Of).