Sunday, March 17, 2013

Choose Your Own Adventure #100: The Worst Day of Your Life

Last time I tried a gamebook it promised espionage and high adventure but delivered TSA-style airport tyranny, shake-down rooms, the prison diet and way too much sarcastic self-awareness. After that bad experience it's time to return to Choose Your Own Adventure, where completely unaware and totally screwed up is the order of the day.

Speaking of days, that takes us to our subject. Specifically the "Worst Day of Your Life." Anywhere else I'd call this lame hyperbole to drum up some interest but with a cover that features a bull crashing through the window of a suburban house while the "you" avatar runs for cover I think there's at least a small chance it will live up to the advance billing.

Your new dream house in suburban Pamplona.

We start with some classic "I ain't superstitious" denial, despite the obvious fact that every Choose Your Own Adventure character ever suffers from cursed luck. Despite these objections, I'm starting to wake up to the reality that bad luck, sorrow and an early grave are my likely lot in life. Specifically, a "rocket" I "set off" in the backyard hit the neighbor's house. If this happened in 2013 I'd probably be picked up by Homeland Security and held without trial in an undisclosed location for domestic terrorism before being sentenced to death by a star chamber, so count your blessings, kid. I also got suspended from school for accidentally playing the Devil Music (Jailhouse Rock!) over the P.A. system. I guess the whole school board wasn't a purple gang.

Just a little side-project I'm working on.

The upshot of all this is that I have to spend the summer earning money (Yuck, Capitalism! Boo!) at Uncle Norbert's dirt farm in "Moo Mud, Ohio" while my family vacations in Hawaii. As the story proper begins I'm on the bus to the demeaning rural labor, but my lunch was ruined by bugs, the bus breaks down, I'm already late for the slop 'n' plop detail and there's tornadoes and flash floods possible. Not exactly an auspicious start. I decide to leave the bus and walk the remaining six miles to the farm, which for the average American might as well be the distance from the Earth to the Sun. 

I begin the Long Walk, trudging down an empty road while dark clouds begin to gather. Then a van pulls up and a strange man is all "Hey little boy, get in." Yeah. This really happens. I didn't think we'd get a scene like this until Choose Your Own Adventure #248: Trapped in the Penn State Shower Room.

  What could go wrong?

Morbid curiosity wins out and I get into the Molestermobile. The driver immediately starts driving erratically and turns off the main road but the obvious suspicions are proven incorrect because there's a tornado! I don't think I've ever been so grateful for the arrival of a funnel cloud. We avoid it and the driver takes me the rest of the way to Moo Mud. The lesson here is always accept rides from strangers.

It's pouring rain and the farming community has "shut down for the night." Just flip a giant switch and it all turns off, I guess. Go unplug the chickens, it's nighttime, etc. Anyways, I'm in front of a gas station, but it's closed too, so I decide a policy of randomly wandering around is the wisest course of action. Not a lot of self-preservation skills here. A sign mentions a "lost alligator" named "Snappy." I respond by falling down and being swept away by the flood waters.

The next outrageous twist: the gator gives you beer.

Given a choice to "go with the current" and probably be devoured by Pennywise the Clown, I decide to grab a floating "object" which is as specific as the book will get at this point. It's a log. After crawling through thorns and generally getting the business from Mother Nature I'm back on the road, where I hear a voice calling for "Snappy." It's this crazy old man who's all "where's my pet gator?" and "I remember ol' Herbert Hoover" and "by dicky cricky" and all the other b.s. you get out of that segment of the population. Suffice it to say I decide not to go with him.

This is pretty much what happened.

I wait for help, hopefully from someone with a better grasp on reality than the alligator grandpa. Several hours pass in the rain before I run in front of a car and flag it down. It's a Porsche (!) driven by a "woman around your mother's age" or a WAYMA, if you will. "Dear Penthouse..." Anyway, she's all "get in" and it's basically a replay of the "van incident" but totally awesome this time instead of creepy as hell. Time to get another "rocket" ready for "launch."

She takes you to her house and invites you to take a bath. Yeah, I think I know what that's code for. She even tells you to "put your clothes outside the door." Yep, won't be needing those for quite a while. I relax in the luxurious bathroom, reflecting on how my luck has changed. Knowing these books she'll probably turn out to be a cannibal or witch.

The End.

So I pick up the phone to call my friend Steve and brag about what's about to go down, but "Mrs. Barlowe" is already on the line, making a kidnapping threat (!) to your uncle. I love how these books take an already screwed up situation and make it even more ridiculous. I hop out of the tub, but my clothes are gone. Yes, this is a book aimed at eleven-year-olds, why do you ask?

Naked or not, I'm making a break. Wrapped in a towel I dive into a closet, while Mrs. Barlowe is now in full-blown black widow mode, offering "hot chocolate" before discovering my absence. I bolt out the door and keep going, losing the towel on a spiked fence. Naked, alone and pursued by a MILF-led kidnapping ring I blunder into "quicksand" and die. Yes, after all that this is my sorry, completely cliched and truly horrible death.

How many mistakes can you find in this picture?

This was hands-down the most completely fudged-up one of these books I've read so far. I don't even know what else to say. When slowly drowning in quicksand barely cracks the Top Five Most Horrible Moments you know you've experienced something wonderful. I'm honestly afraid to see what else is in this book, so I'll just put it away and we'll all forget this ever happened.

Aaron Zehner's first novel The Foolchild Invention is available in e-book format at and Barnes & Noble.

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