I don't know what to say about this. So I won't say anything before posting The Muppet from MarsBy Kim McFarland ***** Kermit, Gonzo, Piggy, and Scooter inched down a dark tunnel leading deep into the earth. It twisted and turned. Strange creatures crawled on the walls. Weird noises came from nowhere and everywhere. They turned a corner, and a bizarre plant loomed ahead of them, blocking the way. It shook ominously. Pressing a hand to her forehead, palm outward, Piggy said, "Oh no! What shall we do?" Kermit said, "Let's go back. There may be a way around it." Scooter consulted the paper in his hands. "According to the map I've been keeping, there are no side passages." The others crowded around to look at Scooter's map. It showed a path between rectangular blocks representing furniture, boxes, sofa cushions, and other items. Scooter traced their path with his finger. "See, it's been one path for six cushions and four boxes." Gonzo looked at the shivering plant. "Then that means only one thing. We must brave the dreaded carnivorous cave vine! Uh… you first, Piggy." "What?" She snarled at Gonzo, "I'm the princess! I don't fight killer plants!" In a sweeter voice she added, "I'm too delicate." Gonzo replied, "Princess? Who ever heard of a cave princess?" Snout to nose, she snapped, "You have. Just now!" Gonzo paused. "Um…yes. Yes! You are a lost princess who fell down a well. But never fear, Piggy my sweet! I shall protect you!" Piggy took Kermit's arm. "I want Kermie to protect me. Won't you, Kermie?" Diplomatically Kermit said, "Er, ah, we'll all protect you. After all, you're a princess. Princesses need a lot of protecting." On the other side of the cushion wall, Skeeter, Animal, and Rowlf waited. They had built the passage out of the furniture of the nursery, taking cushions and boxes off the back end to add onto the front after the explorers passed through. Animal was growling, squeaking, and generally making weird sounds to set the mood for a scary, creature-infested cave. Skeeter grumbled, "When are they gonna get moving? We got some great stuff to throw at 'em!" Fozzie, who was behind the 'killer cave bush'—one of the potted house plants—said, "You want to throw stuff at them? Okay." He picked up his rubber chicken and tossed it over the plant. The explorers stared at the limp thing that flopped down at their feet. Scooter said, "A rubber chicken? In a cave?" Gonzo stepped in front of them and held out his arms, blocking them. "This is a cave chicken! Watch out, you never know what they'll do! I'll handle this." He took Camilla, his ragdoll chicken, out of his jumper pocket. The others watched as Gonzo held Camilla out and clucked a dialogue between the two chickens. This was weird, but, measured on the Gonzo scale of things, it wasn't quite up to bizarre. Skeeter, peering between the cushions, took the opportunity to whisper to Gonzo. Gonzo pretended not to hear. He finished the conversation, then turned back to the others and said, "It's okay, the chicken's cool." "What'd he tell you?" Kermit asked. "He said that there's a mysterious portal up ahead, and that the plant wouldn't really eat us, it just likes to scare people." Scooter said, "Whew. Then let's go!" "And there's a big hairy hungry monster just beyond." Piggy said, "Big, hairy, and hungry?" Gonzo nodded. "All three." Kermit said, "Well, we can tame it or my name's not Indiana Frog!" He took a spare shoelace out of his pocket and cracked it like a whip. Gonzo cheered, one fist in the air, and Piggy sighed "My hero!" At that moment Scooter felt something wet. He looked down and saw a trickle of water coming from behind the box. "Watch out! It's a flood!" Everyone looked back and saw the rising water that now blocked their way back. Screaming, they rushed past the plant, barely missing Fozzie. They turned a corner and came face to face with a snarling, toothy, hairy, bug-eyed beast. It crawled at them and exclaimed, "Animal Monster! Hahahahaha!" Indiana Frog cracked his whip at the beast, which shied back. Scooter, still updating his map—they would be doomed if they got lost in these caves—glanced around and saw a pair of Nerf guns. The foam darts were missing, but there was a bag of marshmallows by them. He said, "Guys! Here!" Gonzo and Piggy looked over. Piggy said, "Kermie, save me!" and held one of the guns out to him. Uneasily he said, "Um, that's okay. I have my whip." He cracked the shoelace at Animal, who caught the tip in his mouth, slurped it in like spaghetti, and ate it. Kermit, at a loss, said, "Sheesh!" Piggy said, "Oh, brother," snatched a handful of marshmallows, and loaded her weapon. Gonzo grabbed the other gun and did the same. Piggy began firing, saying, "Eat this, you big mean monster!" The beast snapped the marshmallows out of the air. Those that missed bounced harmlessly away. When they were out of ammunition it burped, said "Thank you," and crawled out a side tunnel. A cushion slid into place, sealing the passage. The explorers looked at each other for a moment. Then they continued down into the depths of the earth. * They arrived at a tall, ominous, closed portal. It loomed over them, giving no hint what treasures and adventures lurked behind it. Gonzo stepped forward. He said, "Behind this door is a dimension beyond your wildest imagination. Only the bravest and the weirdest can survive!" "Oh, really?" Piggy said skeptically. Gonzo giggled. "Okay, ya got me. It's just Mars. C'mon." He opened the door. It was dark within. Kermit, Piggy, and Scooter followed him into the darkness. Scooter complained, "I can't see to draw my map." "Don't worry. Mars is my turf. I know it like I know the back of my head. Here, lemme show ya around." Piggy crossed her arms. Gonzo had a strange sense of adventure, pretending a closet full of coats and shoes and old boxes was another planet. But she said nothing, because it was quietly agreed that when people were pretending you pretended too, or at least pretended to pretend. Kermit and Scooter followed Gonzo. Patting a box, Gonzo said proudly, "Here's my interociter. Bet you've never seen one before. It's the only one on Earth. Uh. Mars." "Wow. What's an interociter?" Kermit asked. "What isn't it? It can detect aliens and fly spaceships and zap things and even make long-distance phone calls. Want to see it work?" Scooter replied, "Sure." "This I gotta see," Piggy said under her breath. Gonzo reached around the back. There was a strange humming, and then it began to beep. Kermit asked, "What does that mean?" Startled, Gonzo said, "That's the alien detector!" Scooter said, "Well, this is Mars. There's got to be Martians, right?" Gonzo looked around. "Quick, spread out. There's an alien here! It may even be among us!" Piggy said, "There is. He's blue and he talks to chickens." Sometimes it was too easy. "Besides me," Gonzo insisted. He pushed between the coats. Muffled by heavy fabric, he said, "Look everywhere." The others began peering around in the darkness. Their eyes had adjusted somewhat by now. They peered between boxes and under clothes. After a minute of bumping around Gonzo saw an unfamiliar shape. He knew everything in this closet, so that had to be what they were searching for. Assuming it to be a stuffed toy placed there to stand in for a Martian, he said, "I found it." "You did? What is it?" Piggy came over and looked at the fuzzy shape. It was smaller than any of them, and looked up at them with wondering eyes. "It's a Martian. What else would you find on Mars?" Gonzo replied. Scooter said, "Aw, it's just a little one." The eyes blinked, then looked from one to the other. Gonzo was impressed with himself. His imagination was vivid, but this little creature looked absolutely real! He held out a hand and said, "Don't be afraid, little fella. Come with us." The door opened, letting some light into the closet. Skeeter peered in and said, "What're you guys doing in there?!" Kermit said, "We found the Martian." "Martian? We didn't put a Martian in there." "You didn't?" Gonzo said, surprised. "Of couse not. What'd a Martian be doing in a cave?" "Then how'd he get in here?" Gonzo asked. "You imagined him," Skeeter answered. Fozzie and Rowlf opened the door wider and looked in. "What're you talking about?" "We found a Martian," Gonzo said. "Cool," Rowlf said. It didn't make much sense in a cave exploration fantasy, but as long as it was fun he'd go along with it. Skeeter started to say something, then glanced down and stared. There, looking back up at her, was a creature with fuzzy purple fur and a long tail tipped with a ball of fluff. It wore cloth around its waist and walked on all fours. "Wow! I see it too!" Rowlf crouched down. "Hi, little guy. How's tricks?" The Martian smiled at him and wagged its tail. "Not much of a talker, huh? That's all right." He patted the purple head. The baby closed his eyes and made a soft sound. Then he crawled forward, into the nursery, and looked around curiously. Piggy exclaimed, "Oh, he's just a baby! A cute little baby!" "Yeah, I guess you're right," Kermit said as Piggy went over and hugged the Martian like a doll. Gonzo said, "If he's a Martian baby, then there must be a Martian mama around." Fozzie was alarmed. He had seen on TV how protective mother creatures were of their babies, and he'd seen scary alien monsters. "What if she comes here and finds him and thinks we took him away? She'd get us! She could growl at us and take us away and stick us in a cave and feed us nothing but bugs and egg salad sandwiches on stale bread without even cutting off the crusts!" "Fozzie!" everyone else exclaimed. The bear stopped. "Sorry." Kermit said, "He's not a monster. He's a people. Look, see this?" He pointed to the cloth wrapped around the baby's waist. "It's a diaper." Rowlf said, "You mean he's not paper trained? Ew." Piggy said, "He's a little lost baby. We can't just send him back to Mars—or the closet. We'll take care of him 'til his mommy and daddy come back." Animal, tired of waiting for his next cue, crawled over to see what the fuss was about. He saw the visitor. His eyes widened. He came face to face with him. The others watched apprehensively, ready to restrain him if he got too energetic. But Animal just sniffed and stared, and the Martian looked back curiously. Finally Animal patted the purple head and said "Bunny!" Everyone let out a sigh of relief. "Bunny" was Animal-speak for "cute little creature that I like and will not accidentally maul by playing too rough with, probably." The Martian just smiled. "He sure is a cute little fella," Kermit said. Scooter said, "You know, maybe he's a new friend Nanny brought over to visit while we were napping, and she forgot to tell us about him." Skeeter said, "Hey, I bet you're right." Fozzie said, "Hi. I'm Fozzie. What's your name?" He held out a hand for the baby to shake. Piggy said, "Fozzie, he's just a baby! He can't talk." "Oh. I knew that." "Me talk!" Animal insisted. He began babbling to the baby, who listened attentively. When Animal finished the Martian answered in kind. The other Muppets watched the very animated conversation. Scooter remarked, "I guess they speak the same language. Baby talk." Kermit asked Animal, "What's he saying?" "Me not know." Rowlf said, "We have to have something to call him 'til we find out his real name." "How about Junior?" Skeeter joked. Kermit said, "That kinda works, I guess." He addressed the baby. "Can we call you Junior?" The baby smiled and stuck his fingers in his mouth. "I guess that's a yes." Fozzie said, "I bet he'd like to hear a funny joke! Why did the chicken run back and forth across across the road? Give up? Because she wanted to lay scrambled eggs! Wocka wocka wocka!" The other Muppets groaned. Junior giggled. He had no idea what Fozzie was saying, but the bear was saying it in a happy, amusing way. "I don't believe it," Scooter said, shocked by the sight of someone laughing at one of Fozzie's jokes. Piggy said sweetly to Junior, "Wouldn't you rather come to a tea party with moi than listen to terrible jokes?" "Hey!" "You can come too, Fozzie." "Oh, okay." Skeeter said, "You can't have a tea party with a baby. You'd have to have a baby food party." "Baby food! Baby food!" "Martian baby food!" "Gonzo, we decided he wasn't a Martian, remember?" A mild bout of bickering broke out. The baby sat and watched. Rowlf left them to it, and instead went to his toy piano. He began idly plunking at the keys. Junior looked over, then crawled to him and smiled happily. Rowlf said, "You like music, little guy? Okay." He began playing Old Macdonald's Farm. "Old MacDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O,And on that farm he had a frog, E-I-E-I-O,With a 'hi-ho' here and a 'sheesh' there-" It was several minutes before the other Muppets lost interest in squabbling and noticed that the subject matter had wandered off. Rowlf was entertaining him with music, and Junior was babbling along, surprisingly in tune. They came over, and when Rowlf came to the end of the current verse he said, "I think Junior's gonna be a great singer once he learns the words." Skeeter said, "I have an idea. Why don't we play a game? Hide and go seek. Someone can team with Junior." Fozzie said, "Hey, yeah! He can hide, and if he gets found I can run for it!" "That's a great idea! Who's gonna be it?" Gonzo asked. "Last time we played, you were the last one tagged. You start out as it this time." Gonzo said, "Okay!" He ran to the railing at the top of the short stairs in front of the door and hid his face against it. "One, two, three-" The Muppets scattered. Piggy hid behind the curtain in the window niche. Animal shinnied up a lamp and perched under the shade. While the others found their hiding spots Fozzie took Junior's hand and led him into the closet. "He'll never expect us to be in here," he whispered. "Say, you want to hear another great joke?" * "—nine, ten. Ready or not, here I come!" Gonzo looked around. At first he didn't see anyone. But then he spotted the silhouette behind the curtain. Piggy forgot that that trick only worked on cloudy days. He started to tiptoe toward the window, but then he heard a "Wocka wocka wocka" muffled by the closet door. He sighed and murmured to himself, "Decisions, decisions." Well, Piggy would get miffed if he tagged her, so Fozzie it was. Gonzo crept up to the closet, then flung the door open. Fozzie and Junior were right inside. Gonzo tapped Fozzie's shoulder and said, "Tag!" "—so you're the telephone Pole!" As the others stampeded for the railing, which was home base, Fozzie said, "Awwww." "You're it, Fozzie. I'll hide with the little guy." "Okay." The Muppets gathered at the foot of the stairs. Fozzie turned away, covered his eyes, and began to count. The others ran to hide. Gonzo, leading Junior by the hand, went around behind the couch. He whispered, "Shh. He won't find us back here. He never does." "Ready or not, here I come," Fozzie said, and turned back around. He looked around the nursery. Seeing nobody, he dithered for a moment, then looked behind the lamp. At that moment Nanny came in. She looked around, saw Fozzie searching, and said, "Kids? Fozzie, where did everybody go?" She set a tray on the toddler-sized table in the center of the room. Animal peeped out from under the tablecloth and answered, "Hide and seek, Nanny!" "Oh, I see! Well, all-e all-e all's-in-free for snacktime." The rest of the Muppets burst out of their hiding spots and scampered to the table. There were little sandwiches and sliced fruit and vegetable sticks and cups of juice. Kermit asked, "What's the name of the purple baby, Nanny?" "What purple baby, Kermit?" "The one we found in the closet. Didn't you bring him over to visit during our naptime?" Puzzled, Nanny answered, "I didn't bring anybody over. Are you sure you found a…purple baby?" Fozzie said, "Sure! He's little and fuzzy and he has a great sense of humor." Piggy looked around. "Where is he? Gonzo, you were hiding with him." "Oh, heh heh, yeah. Back in a sec." Gonzo ran behind the couch. Nobody was there. He exclaimed, "He's gone!" Nanny said, "We have a new baby in the nursery? Oh dear. I'll be back in a few minutes." She left. The other kids put down their sandwiches and fruit, knowing that Nanny didn't want them to take food away from the table, and went to look behind the couch. Sure enough, there was nothing there. Distressed, Gonzo said, "Where did he go?" Gently Piggy said, "Nanny said he wasn't real. He came from your imagination, Gonzo. Maybe he went back there." "Then I can imagine him back!" Gonzo closed his eyes, gritted his teeth, and imagined as hard as he could. His face was turning red when Nanny returned. She said, "Kids." "Yes, Nanny?" they chorused. "A baby can't eat sandwiches and fruit, so I brought him a snack." She set a baby bottle filled with milk on the table. "Thanks, Nanny," Gonzo said halfheartedly. Nanny left, and they went back to the table to finish their snack. Gonzo gazed at the bottle. Even if Junior was only imaginary, he missed him. A purple nose poked out from underneath the couch skirt. The baby had crawled under the couch and taken a nap in the cozy darkness. Now he smelled food. He crawled over to where his new friends were eating. "Hey!" Gonzo said when he saw the little face peer over the edge of the table between Fozzie and Skeeter. "He's back!" "You must've imagined he was hungry," Fozzie said. "Heh, I guess so." Gonzo picked up the bottle and set it in front of Junior. Junior gazed up at it blankly. Rowlf was the oldest of the group. He remembered when Animal, the youngest, had been a baby, and Nanny had bottle fed him. Then he had started biting through the bottle. He said, "He can't feed himself. You have to hold him in your lap and hold the bottle for him." "Oh! Just like with my dolls," Piggy said. She picked Junior up and put him in her lap. Fozzie handed her the bottle. When she offered it to Junior it only took a moment for him to get the idea. Then he closed his eyes and sucked contentedly. Impressed despite herself, Skeeter said "Wow." Piggy said, "I am good at this, aren't I? One day, Kermie and I will have our own little family." Kermit said, "I, uh, don't think you bottle feed tadpoles." Skeeter said, "I wonder what he is. He doesn't look like a pig or a dog or a bear or a frog or a weirdo." Fozzie said, "Maybe he's a cat." "Nah. Cats have pointy ears. He doesn't have ears at all," Skeeter said. "How about a kangaroo?" "Kangaroos don't crawl, they jump." "I know! I bet he's a planarian!" "A planarian? What are you talking about?" Piggy exclaimed. Fozzie explained, "I don't know what a planarian is. And I don't know what he is either. So if he's what I don't know, then that's what he's gotta be. Right?" For a moment the others were too stunned to reply. Then Scooter spoke up. "I bet I can use my computer to figure out what he is. If we know that, then we can find out where he came from." Without waiting for a reply he ran over to his computer and turned it on. Junior had stopped sucking and was contentedly lying there, the bottle still in his mouth. Piggy took it out and put it back on the table for future reference. Burping came next, she remembered. She raised him to her shoulder and started patting him on the back. Rowlf said quickly, "Piggy, use this!" He untied his bib and offered it to her. "What for?" He set it on the back of her shoulder, under Junior's chin. "Trust me." Scooter put a disc into his computer, then waited for the program to load. The title screen showed pixelated images of various kind of animals. The others, except for Piggy, crowded around. Scooter said, "To play this game you think of an animal. The computer asks you questions about it, and you answer them, and it tells you what kind of animal it is. It always works, so it'll tell me what Junior is." "What about the time you tried it with me?" Gonzo said. "My computer crashed. But you're a special case," Scooter said. "Special? You mean weird," Piggy commented. Gonzo grinned proudly. Then Junior burped, and Piggy found out what the bib was for. She took Junior off her shoulder, wiped his mouth, and said to Rowlf, "Thank you for letting me borrow this. You can have it back now." "No problem." Rowlf gingerly took the bib without looking at it any more than he had to and put it in the laundry hamper. Scooter pressed the green start button. Some pictures appeared on the screen. He said, "Does he have fur, feathers, or scales?" Fozzie said, "He's got fur." Scooter selected that picture. Another set of pictures appeared. "Does he have four legs, two legs, or flippers?" "Four legs," Gonzo said. Kermit said, "No, he's got hands, so those aren't legs. Those are arms." Scooter clicked another picture. "Does he have a tail?" "Duh," Skeeter replied. "Does he have sharp teeth?" Piggy told him, "He doesn't have any teeth at all." "No sharp teeth..." They went on answering questions that got more and more specific. Finally Scooter had the answer. He announced, "Junior's a monkey!" The Muppets all looked at Junior for a moment. Skeeter said, "Monkeys have hands instead of feet. And whoever heard of a purple monkey? Tell your computer he's purple." "It didn’t ask about his color. I can only answer the questions it asks." Gonzo scoffed, "Your computer's never heard of Martians." Scooter didn't answer. He did take a good look at Junior's feet. Gonzo continued, "What if Junior really did come from my imagination? That means I can make things real just by thinking about them! I could change the world! Am I ready for that kind of responsibility?" Fozzie said, "What would happen if you make imaginary things real? Could you imagine some funny jokes for me?" Gonzo exclaimed, "I could do anything! I could make the whole world as weird as I am!" Skeeter said, "Don't do that!" "And if I made everything and everyone weird, then nothing would be weird! In a weird world I'd be..." He gulped. "Ordinary. I'd better be careful what I imagine!" Kermit looked at the little creature sitting quietly on Piggy's lap, sucking his thumb and watching them with great interest, and said, "I don't think Junior's weird. He's just different, that's all." Gonzo asked, "He isn't even a little weird?" "Nah. Remember the koala that we thought was from outer space? He only seemed strange because we didn't understand him. We just have to let Junior show us what he's like." Piggy said, "That's right, Kermie. He's cute and cuddly. It's hard to believe that Gonzo made him up." Rowlf said, "Anyway, he's found his way to the nursery. It doesn't really matter what he is or where he came from. He's one of us now." The others all agreed. Gonzo told Junior, "And, heck, it's not so bad not knowing what you are. I've made a lifestyle of it!" "Yeah. Nanny's real nice, and we'll all have lots of fun together," Kermit said. "And we can explore Mars together. We can visit whenever you get homesick!" Junior squealed and clapped. Gonzo said, "Oh, ya wanna go to Mars now? Okay, c'mon!" Animal interjected, "Me go too!" "Let's all go," Skeeter said. The group went over to the closet. Gonzo opened the door and turned on the light. A loud beeping startled everyone. Gonzo hastily reached around the back of his interociter and turned it off. "Sorry. It was still in Martian detector mode. Anyway, isn't it beautiful today? There are two Saturns in the sky!" Gonzo gestured toward the closet ceiling, but the other kids saw in their minds the planet that Gonzo described: a red, rocky plain, with sharp-peaked mountains on the horizon and a starry sky. Scooter asked, "Why'd we come here at night?" Gonzo answered, "It's always night on Mars." "How come? Mars goes around the sun just like Earth, so there's gotta be day." "Not really. Mars is out in space, and space is dark." Scooter scratched his head. That didn't seem right, but he didn't know where the flaw in that argument was. "Besides, we can see by the light of the Saturns. Hey, look! Here's a colony of Merdlidops." Muppets investigated the shoes on one side of the closet, looking for creatures within. Junior watched for a moment. Then he heard something, and looked at the other side of the closet. He heard it again, and crawled over. Only Animal noticed the distant voice; the others were busy playing whack-a-mole. He watched as Junior crawled over to a box against the back wall and squeezed behind it. Once behind the box, Junior found himself in a cave tunnel. He crawled forward. The familiar voice called again, "Yoo-hoo!" Junior crawled faster, tail wagging excitedly, and made a loud, happy sound. A moment later another creature like him, but bipedal and brown, appeared in the tunnel. It hustled over and said, "There you are!" He picked him up and scolded in a very mild voice, "Great-Uncle Matt has been searching all over for you. I was so worried!" Junior just smiled, gazing up at the elder, and tugged gently on his mustache. Then he rested his head on his shoulder. Matt couldn't even pretend to be annoyed in the face of such cuteness. He said, "Well, no harm done, Great-Nephew Janken. Let's get back before anyone starts wondering what happened to us." Carrying the baby, he walked down the passage. * After a thorough investigation of Mars, and a game in which the Merdlidops won on points, the Muppets declared the mission a success and returned to the nursery. Gonzo looked around. "Hey, where's Junior?" "Probably still in the closet. I mean, on Mars," Rowlf answered. "I'll get him." Gonzo went back. When he came out a minute later he said, "He's not in there! I looked everywhere!" "Maybe he went back into your imagination," Fozzie said. "I mean, if that's where he came from, he could go back, couldn't he?" "I guess," Gonzo said unhappily. Piggy said, "Don't worry, Gonzo. If he's in your imagination, we can play with him in ours." "Yeah, you're right. But I sure thought he was real." Animal crawled back into the closet. He found the box that Junior had gone behind. He said, "Bunny?" and pulled the box away from the wall. Junior wasn't there. There was only the wall. Animal patted the wall, making sure it was solid. Then he said, "Go bye-bye," and crawled back out to rejoin his friends. ***** All characters except Janken Fraggle and Travelling Matt are copyright © The Muppets Studio, LLC. Travelling Matt Fraggle is copyright © The Jim Henson Company. All copyrighted properties are used without permission but with much respect and affection. Janken Fraggle and the overall story are copyright © Kim McFarland (firstname.lastname@example.org). Permission is given by the author to copy it for personal use only.