“Happy birthday to you,” the two sang, “Happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear penguin, happy birthday to you!”
The penguins in their minds used Jim and John’s muscles to contract their lungs and force air over the candles on top of the cake so quickly that the combustion was interrupted. The candles went out.
“Ten years! Who’d have thought, ten years ago, that we’d be where we are now?”
The penguins over their shoulders each said “Well, me, this is pretty much exactly what I told you isn’t it?” but both characters ignored their constant companions.
“I, for one, was extremely skeptical” said John, “I’m not really even sure what made us start on this crazy adventure.”
“I thought it was you!” said Jim, “you suggested we build these siduals, give them control, spread them as far and wide as we could and try to judge the results of that experiment.”
“Yeah,” admitted John, “but it was your idea to do that first animation.”
“I only decided to make the cartoon, it was you who said we should do something, that we should make something, actually put the thing to the test.”
John and Jim looked at each other’s eyes. Nodded.
“I blame the penguin,” they both laughed.
“What was it you said we should aim for?” Jim asked, “‘Riches? Fame? Influence? Truth? Love? Sex? Global understanding? World peace?'”, something like that.
“We didn’t get it all. Not by a long shot.”
Jim nodded his agreement, “Well, they were pretty wild aims.”
“I’d have been happy with half of that.”
“I’d have been happy with any one of the bunch.”
“Now you come to mention it, did we actually get any of those things?” John asked, suddenly doubtful.
“I definitely had some sex during the last decade, I think you did too,” Jim pointed out, “some of it wasn’t too bad either.”
“Some of it was awesome.” John phased out there for a second, remembering.
“Can we really credit the penguin for that though? We’d both had some sex before we met the little critter.”
“I think I credit the penguin for how awesome it was.”
“Yeah,” Jim also phased out for a second, lost in the act of remembering.
“I definitely think the penguin brought us whatever meager riches we enjoy. I don’t work in a god damned bookshop any more.”
“The fame too, what small amount of it we’ve had. Frankly I wouldn’t want any more of it. You don’t have to sign many autographs before it gets tedious. One stalker is more than enough for me,” Jim had secretly wanted a stalker for most of his life, but the actual experience wasn’t what he’d imagined.
“Does the penguin himself count as a stalker?”
They both laughed, as did the penguins on their shoulders.
“I doubt I’d have got back together with Storm without the penguin giving me the explanation for the way her so-called magic worked.” John said, “giving me the understanding of how her mind worked.”
He closed his eyes and remembered being in bed with her that morning, waking up with her, holding her. Remembered marrying her, all the ridiculous hippie wedding paraphernalia she’d insisted on. He remembered not caring about any of it, just wanting to make his Mini-Storm more accurate, more a part of him. More alive. More conscious. He wanted her living, existing, conscious in his mind.
He looked across the beach they were lounging on towards their yacht, rented for the month, floating on the bright blue sea, “Do you think we found truth?”
“What is truth?” asked Jim, “What does it actually matter? We have our wives, we have each other, we have a whole community of friends around us. We have a yacht, and the beach, if only for this month. If we brought it with lies, with pretend sidual magic, then it cost nothing.”
The Scientist-John bristled inside him. He wanted truth. If the penguin at the back of his mind was a lie, he would prefer to be without it, “I think we found truth,” he said, “and that we spread it. That we encouraged truth in others.”
The penguin on Jim’s shoulder agreed, but then it would. Jim suspected that whatever had happened over the last ten years, even if they’d both been thrown in jail and made bankrupt, the penguin would have insisted they’d found their goals, met their aims.
“Anyway,” Jim said, “I call the experiment a success. I for one have everything I need, and still have a chance at everything I want.”
“Exactly,” John agreed, “at least part of the things I want is to continue to be challenged, to continue to have unsated desires, to have a need to continue to strive.”
“We start work on the writing tomorrow then? The best penguin movie ever made!”
“I’ve already had a few ideas about that” said John. “Let me tell you
about them over a cocktail.”
“Fuzzy Penguin’s all round?”
“Pineapple and shots! Perfect!”