Frank Frink is a character in The Man in the High Castle, by Philip K. Dick. It is set in the U.S., fifteen years after the Nazis won WWII. Frank creates counterfeit artifacts, pieces supposedly from the quaint old days when America was an independent nation - in one case, this item is a Colt .45.
Professors of time travel archeology1
Evil Sugar (assisted by some gummy graduate students from the White Team), Sparrows Fall, and Rainy went through the Institute's portal to the future -- possibly an alternate earth's future (see the ongoing discussion of multiple dimensions and parallel universes
). Dr. S. Potato stayed behind to monitor the portal for stability.
We found ourselves in the midst of the woods. The air smelled of spring, but with a tang of smoke - perhaps a campfire somewhere?
Dr. S. Potato had managed to bring us in almost directly on top of some ruins - today would be a good day for excavation.
At first glance, the bricks that lay scattered at the base of the vast edifice indicated it had been crumbling for some time. Only in retrospect would we remember that many of the stones had not yet been covered by leaves or dirt, and realize that the black soot scars across the rocks may have originated in something other than a campfire placed too close to the wall.
Excited, we began to dig, and soon came upon a mysterious artifact. It looked to have been damaged at some point in the past, and only pieces remained:
We had only begun to excavate the artifacts, however, when a massive explosion shook the ground beneath our feet. In the distance, the sound of gunfire. We hurriedly began packing up our equipment, radioing Dr. S. Potato to keep the portal live and be ready to shut it down fast.
Moments later, the sound of running. If only we hadn't just packed the cameras away! A woman burst into the clearing, her clothes bloodied, a rifle of some sort slung over her back. A cord hung off the backpack, with brightly colored, conical hats (a puffball at the tip of each one) hanging off it like trophies. She gestured at us sharply, "We're falling back to the old tent grounds! Get moving!" she shouted. She sprinted off through the trees. And then we heard it.
The sound of wild laughter coming at us through the trees, and distinctive honking noises that reminded us, strangely, of our childhoods. Where had we heard that sound before?
We decided not to find out. We swept up the few artifacts we'd managed to excavate, and ran for the portal. The terrible sounds were gaining on us.
We barely made it.
Back at the Institute, we set out our artifacts and began examination.
Thorough examination of the artifacts, coupled with the in situ circumstances of their recovery led to a number of speculations. The largest artifact appeared to be a corner torn from a much larger piece. A series of rectangles ringed the outside edge, and the inside of the ring had a series of words repeated again and again - "Super Happy Magic Fun Time."
There was contention amongst the adventurer-archaeologists as to whether it had been the cover of a book, a symbolic map, or else pictographic instructions to children -- or part of a larger board.
Closer examination suggested the latter:
After continued close examination, we came to agreement; it looked similar to a modern board game such as Life or Monopoly -- too similar for it to be anything but a board game, in our professional opinion.
Note how each of the 'spaces' on the artifact would give the hypothetical player advantages or disadvantages - moving them backwards on the board, giving them extra food rations (perhaps this was how score was kept?) or causing other players to move backward on the board.
One thing was clear - clowns were somehow integral. Particularly worrying was the space, partially gone, in which a presumably human player was rewarded with extra rations for turning in other humans.
The other artifacts served only to emphasize the seriousness of what we had found:
Note the severe punishments for what seem to us to be minor rudenesses or accidents.
Also note the concurrent amount of effort required to gain a reward of any sort, at least as implied in these cards. What were the implications for the culture that produced this game?
Conclusions of the learned adventurer-archaeologists:
Dr. S. Potato: This was clearly a game for the indoctrination of human children in a society enslaved by some kind of clown overlords.
Professor Sugar: Also note the importance of 'performances' in this culture - it appears that humanity's primary use, beyond that of base servitude, was to be an adoring audience for the their masters' acts.
Professor Rainy: Judging by the amateur execution, I would say that the clowns didn't use any advanced printing technology, but rather, used human laborers to mass produce the games, using the task of creation as part of the indoctrination process itself.
Professor Sparrows Fall: Also, clearly these 'clown masters' maintained social control through the generations - the presence of a 'young clown master' in the cards implies that their status was hereditary, and humans were not allowed to break class boundaries to better themselves.
Dr. S Potato: It looks to have been a cruel and brutal society.
Professor Sparrows Fall: Notice the preponderance of negative outcomes, and their severity, even in this small sampling.
Dr. S Potato: Although it appears that rebellion has broken out among the human subjects, given the physical evidence in the area you were excavating.
Professor Sugar: And that woman with an AK-47.
Professors Sparrow and Rainy: Godspeed, alternate universe humanity.
This artifact did not actually come from a parallel universe where alien clowns took over the earth.2
We made the whole thing up.
The board was made of a torn bit of cardboard, aged with oil pastels and chocolate:
Rainy and the gummies were of similar size, and worked together quite well.
We burned some of the cards to make them look more authentic.
When the time came to shoot photographs of 'finding' the artifacts, Rainy and the gummies traveled via POCKET, not via PORTAL. (Sparrow and Evil Sugar simply walked.)
No clowns or human slaves were harmed in the execution of this task; however, one brave gummy did succumb to pastel dust inhalation in the service of aging the faux artifacts.
1. Get the artifacts while they're still fresh!
2. If we really had a portal generator, we sure as hell would have been using it to get a flag on top of Sutro.