ou have reached the last page of the Unknown. You can breathe a sigh of relief. You’ve completed the entire novel. Please stop reading now, and I’ll tell you what happened.
The Unknown all died, of course, in the end, every last one of them.
Dirk lived the longest. He outlived Scott, who had a heart attack at the age of sixty-five while making love to his wife, and William, who died on the toilet trying to overcome a bowel obstruction at the age of seventy while suffering from a severe case of gout.
Dirk was struck by a poultry truck at the age of ninety-seven. His was the most glorious death of the three, as upon striking him, the truck overturned and spilled out live fowl, many of whom attempted to fly away. Some succeeded in escaping the wreck, and went on to start a small colony of feral intelligent chickens, who still prosper in hiding in North Dakota today, plotting the overthrow of the American McChicken consumer, sharpening their beaks and growing stronger, generation after generation.
But we spend too much time dwelling on death. Let us speak of what they did with the remainder of their lives, of the men that they became from the men they were.
Oh shit, I nearly forgot—Frank died tragically at the age of forty-two during his honeymoon in Sweden of a grisly garbage disposal accident.
Their lives (and our story) end thusly:
After the film came out, the Unknown went their separate ways, though they could never quite shake each other because of the damn Internet.
With the success of the Unknown film, William was offered an exorbitant amount for the screen rights to his novel Johnny Werd. He became very rich, though the film was never made. For a time, William was happy. He finished his magnum opus Pox You Bastard Face Him Now Give Jail Quiz K.O., an apparently conventional novel about an inmate in a maximum security prison who overcomes his fear of public speaking and becomes the first incarcerated individual to go all the way on Regis Philbin’s Who Wants To Be a Millionaire and who then buys his way out of the penal system and goes on to start a home for wayward boys on the front acres of his marijuana farm.
Those critics who did not find it overly sentimental loved the book and William received a MacArthur grant. Sadly, his next two books, based on the works of John Cage, were never published, or even read, by anyone. William spent the bulk of his later years actually building and populating the home for wayward boys he had written about. His literary output during this period was substantially reduced, but many of the residents of his home for wayward boys went on to become very well respected and famous writers. Tommy Curlew, the renowned poet of “Garden Tools Bring Me Down” went on to write William’s biography 6 letters shy of an alphabet, 12 volumes over a ton.
Following the dissolution of his cult and his own profession that his entire resurrection had been a sham (though doubters of this story are multitude and certain sects of Dirk continue to thrive in Montana), Dirk, seeking a quieter life away from the cutthroat world of electronic writing and the glare of Hollywood, established a poetry bakery in Covington, Kentucky, where he baked haiku for many years. Initially supported by his former students (he was well loved) at the Cincinnati School for the Arts, who would ask Dirk to write them a cake not only for special events such as birthdays or bar mitzvahs, but also relatively mundane occasions, such as a speeding-ticket-free week, Dirk’s bakery eventually became the toast of Covington, loved not only for the ever-changing 5/7/5 pastries, but also for the exotic and extensive beverage bar. Unfortunately, once the Haiku Café was listed in the Mobil Travel Guide, it became simply to much for Dirk to handle (Entertainment Tonight came by to ask if in fact Tom Cruise had stopped in on a daily basis during the filming of Rain Man 2 — he had, of course) and so Dirk learned Flash! and became one of the greatest Kinetic Poets of the age, as well as the fervent leader of the Ronald Johnson fan club. In his seventies, Dirk moved back to Spokane and started a sheep-and-magic-mushroom farm, where he toiled in obscurity on his masterpiece I is We, a Memoir.
Scott settled down after the film, finished his Ph.D., did some time for charges related to Dirk’s assassination (barely substantiated insurance fraud), was released, got a cushy university job on the east coast and met Thomas Pynchon once a week for drinks. His novel Loose Surfaces never sold as well as the novelization of the unknown, but his Without Stopping met with a Book-of-the-Month Club selection and some critical acclaim. Forthright Lies was his bestseller. Scott lied to his children about what he did for a living, for fear that they might read his books or hypertext novels and be ill-influenced by them.
Frank became a fortune cookie magnate, and discovered that he had a distinct proclivity for blowjobs. He and William Vollman spent many a late night in the Tenderloin, cruising for supple lips. His posthumously published UnderArm won a National Book Award.
Katie Gilligan remains one of the great artists of the 21st century.
Paul Kotheimer just came out with a new album, Wheelchair Songs.
The Unknown critical industry rumbles on—scores and scores of dissertations have been written, best selling pop psychology fanzines have been distributed, appointments have been made and professors have been granted tenure. From freshman english to graduate seminar, from sociology to contemporary philosophy to web archeology, every year more readers come to the ever-obscure example of late late twentieth century hyperfiction. Some marvel at its understated elegance, others at the plethora of historical references that so date it. Most still leave frustrated and go home to read the work of better writers.
Yes, the word has changed. Not so much, and not so well. American letters could have certainly hoped for a better example, but so it goes.
There you have it.