Dirty, drenched in sweat and toil, the soldiers finally smashed open the thick wooden door to the tunnel they had been seeking for years. After many long, intense months of battles and near-constant strife, the deaths of many in their company, at long last they had almost reached their goal.
"Into the tunnel!" their brave, relentless leader bellowed, pointing his sword into the dark abyss. "The book is at the end!" Then he galloped in first.
With cries of triumph, and the distinctive whines of the activation of their night vision goggles, his men scrambled into the tunnel after him. The twists and turns were almost dizzying as the soldiers kept up an anxious pace, each one as eager as their leader to reach The Book of Answers. At long last, after fifteen minutes of rushing, they came to a large lighted chamber, just big enough for all of them. As if they had been expected by somebody, torches were flickering all around it, attached to the thick stone walls.
"The book!" one of them exclaimed. There, on a wooden podium, sat a large, dusty, ancient-looking, leather bound book. It was the biggest book they'd ever seen. It appeared to be at least two feet high and to contain an untold number of pages.
Their leader was the first to swing around the podium and lay his hands on it. "Gentelemen, here it is! The spoils of our quest, the Book of Answers! Fucking eh! It has the answers to all of our questions! Any questions we have! How fucking cool is that?!"
His proclamation of the coolness of the book was met with raucous positive reaction, yells and whoops and hollers of his men.
"Sarge, should we put it in the bag now and take it back to the helicopter?" asked one soldier who was carrying a large black nylon case.
"NO!" the Sarge exclaimed as he stared at the book, tracing the intricate flowery patterns etched into the leather cover with his finger. "We're gonna have a look at this thing first! We've earned it!" This met with great yells of agreement. "Now, let's think of some good questions! I hope it has an index of some kind." The book hissed little cracking sounds as he carefully opened it.
"In here you will find the answers you have no doubt sought to all the questions you may have," the first page read in big, bold letters, in a language the Sarge didn't recognize. But yet, somehow, he could read it anyway.
A volley of questions spewed forth from his men, so many that he couldn't single any one of them out.
"One at a time!" the Sarge bellowed as he flipped through the book. It was brimming with an overwhelming amount of information, sometimes accompanied by illustrations and schematics, all in black ink. He skipped ahead to the end and there was indeed an index.
"Who really killed Kennedy?!" one of the soldiers yelled once everybody else had gone silent.
"All right," the Sarge mumbled as he flipped through the index. "Ah, here it is, Page 540,900." After several minutes of flipping and examining, he found it. "OK, who killed Kennedy. Um...it...it says Lee Harvey Oswald."
Some of the exuberance seemed to be sucked out of the room. There were many "ohs" and grumbles at the anticlimactic answer.
"Well, let's try another," said another soldier, "how about, um, did Iraq really have weapons of mass destruction?"
The Sarge mumbled to himself as he flipped back to the index. He frowned, then flipped to somewhere in the last quarter of the book. "Yes. But they didn't work. And they were hidden in Iran."
After allowing the Sarge several seconds to continue, one of the soldiers scratched his head and said "That's all it says?"
"Apparently," the Sarge said, crinkling his forehead. He appeared to be reading something mildly interesting that had also been on that page. "Mr. Rodgers was a homo?!"
"Everybody knew that!" a really tall soldier exclaimed. "Come on, let's ask some real questions here! This is a once in a lifetime opportunity!"
"Like what?!" somebody yelled.
"Are we really being visited by space aliens?!" the really tall soldier blurted. The Sarge flipped back to the index, looked for several minutes, then flipped to somewhere in the middle of the book.
"Let's see..." the Sarge said thoughtfully. "Says here that there are nine thousand, eight hundred and twenty-three other sentient, intelligent civilizations besides our own in the universe. We have been visited by eleven of them. Eight of them lost interest in us after only one visit. The other three come back sometimes, only passing through to take pictures for scrapbooks for their interstellar vacations. Ninety-eight percent of all UFO sightings are hoaxes, misinterpretations of natural phenomena, military craft, and meteors."
Again, mumbles of mild interest and boredom rippled through the group.
The Sarge nodded as he flipped through the book a little. He stopped on something he must have thought was interesting. "Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches were invented by a woman named Violet Smith on September 5, 1934 in Attica, Indiana. She had a bit of peanut butter and some jelly and needed to make lunch for her kids for school so she put them together. It spread from there. Hm."
"Who cares about that?!" exclaimed a young blonde soldier. "What is the meaning of the universe?"
"Page one!" the Sarge announced after a brief trip back to the Book's index. He slammed the huge stack of pages to the side to get to the first one. It kicked up a bit of dust and caused him to sneeze. After wiping his eyes he read: "A bunch of atoms and molecules bumping into each other in space."
"WHAT?!" the blonde soldier yelled. "I wanna see that!" He approached the book and almost pushed his superior aside to see it for himself. After reading it, he yelled "This book sucks!" Then, disgusted, he walked back over to the group.
"Is there a God?!" a black soldier exclaimed. This was met with many utterances and nods of approval.
"Ah, that's also on Page One," the Sarge said. "Says here that, yes, there is one, his name is...Stan? He, uh, went on a vacation in 1859 to the Panquadratic Fissure...whatever the hell that is...and decided he liked it there and hasn't returned."
"God...God is...gone?!" said one soldier as he began to get choked up.
"No way!" somebody yelled.
"What in the hell is a Panquantoonic Fissure?!" another bellowed in a southern accent.
The Sarge ignored that and flipped ahead. "The Hundred Years War was started when somebody didn't get the correct type of cheese they ordered?" the Sarge said, raising one eyebrow, as he read from a page somewhere in the middle of the book.
"When is Jesus coming back?" a soldier near the back asked.
After some flipping and reading the Sarge said: "Well, says here that the book cannot say for certain about anything that hasn't happened yet. But it does point out that Jesus coming back is highly unlikely because he's dead."
"This book is a fraud!" somebody yelled.
"Yeah, it's all bull shit!" another exclaimed. "We've been duped!"
"Well, he is dead!"
"Shut up, he was resurrected!"
"Yeah, that book's fulla shit!"
"Whoever wrote this thing is probably laughing their ass off right now at us!" a man in the front of the group declared. He was met with many utterances of agreement.
"Genghis Khan had irritable bowel syndrome," the Sarge said as he looked at a page from the middle of the book. "Hmph."
"What'd I eat for breakfast last Monday morning?!" one soldier said with his hands on his hips. "See if it knows that."
The Sarge, after some flipping, came to a page near the end of the book. "Boyd, it says here you had an apple, and, uh...Private Hanley's dick?"
Boyd's face grew red. He glanced nervously at Hanley, who was near the back. His eyes were wide and terrified.
"Well...well...obviously, this, uh, this book doesn't know what the hell it's talking about!" Boyd said, laughing nervously.
"Uhh, yeah," Hanley said as everybody stared at either him or Boyd. The Sarge raised an eyebrow at both of them.
"What is the meaning of life?!" yelled a thin, pimply soldier, breaking a very awkward silence. Yeah!s and That's a good one!s began to pop up here and there.
"Yes, the meaning of life!" the Sarge said enthusiastically as he raced to the index. "Page two." He easily flipped back to the second page. He cleared his throat and, as he was about to speak, he stopped. A very puzzled look washed over his face, he almost spoke again, and again he didn't.
"Well?!" the really tall one prodded.
"It says..." the Sarge was unsure of himself. "It says...says here, you are born, you live, you die. Everything else is, um...up to you?"
"Huh?" one soldier said. "That's what it says?"
"Yes," the Sarge said slowly.
Slowly the company of soldiers emerged from the tunnel. To the anxious group of men around the waiting helicopter, they looked dejected and disappointed.
"Where's the book?!" the General said excitedly to the Sarge. "You got it?!"
"It, uhhhh...well, somebody destroyed the damned thing a long time ago," the Sarge said, "yeah, a real shame. It was just a pile of old ashes. After all this...a real shame....oh well."
The General looked mortified as he watched the Sarge sigh, then walk past him.