One Man's Descent Into Madness

Note: This report was written by our reporter in New York, and his opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of this page or its webmaster.

At 7:00 am Eastern Standard Time on the morning of Tuesday, August 31st, 1999, I awoke to the alarm's dissonant tones. This day, I had a sacred mission. Groggy from lack of sleep, I sped through my morning tasks, determined to maintain my critical schedule. Abruptly, I found myself deep beneath the surface of the chaotic streets, hurtling desperately southward in the belly of a great metal serpent.
My destination: the locked and guarded gates of a grim-yet-colorful edifice at the nexus of 34th Street and Broadway.
My timetable: perilously fleeting.
My goal: to capture for one who needed it a fearful and terrible beast of pastel hue.

For today was Furby Babies Day.

I arrived at Toys "R" Us at approximately 8:20, a full thirty minutes before the store was due to unveil the downscaled progeny of the gumdrop-shaped, awkwardly-pluralized monstrosities known to mortal ears as Furbys. I was vaguely aware that some sort of ceremony was to be involved, but I had no real idea of what to expect that fateful morning. I was soon to receive an education in true terror.

The first sight that greeted my sun-blinded eyes as I emerged from the dark recesses of the 34th Street subway station was a line that stretched around the corner of the block, closely flanked by security forces. This turned out to be a group of people waiting for some special promotion at the HMV across the street, however, so it will not be mentioned again.

The true line extended from the other side of the store and held only about fifteen or twenty people so far. I hurried to take my place, just to be on the safe side, and waited to see what might develop. As the line grew, I became restless, and so I requested that the patient people behind me secure my spot while I ducked under the guide-cord and sought to gain a better view of my surroundings.

Three or four employees circled the storefront, garbed in the blue robes and masks of hospital surgeons. They were, I discovered, distributing simple blue and pink papers inscribed with the following text:

First @
34th St.
Tomorrow, August 31st 8:30am

* Free Bubble Gum Cigar to the first 500 People

As they disbursed the fliers to curious passers-by, the doctors crossed out the "Tomorrow" and write "Today" above the line. Conspiracy? Who can say?

The majority of the storefront was hidden behind a massive red theatrical curtain, from behind which a gentleman in doctor's clothes occasionally peeked. In front lay a large red carpet. The display windows contained numerous pentagonal boxes, as well as an angled, foreshortened model cityscape festooned with taxis and miniature Toys "R" Us and Furby Babies logo billboards. Overhead flew storks bearing fuzzy pastel bundles.

And in front of the curtain, pacing indomitably back and forth, was the greatest horror of all:
a four-foot Furby, all neon purple, orange and green, slowly blinking its whirling, draconian eyes and flapping the great sails of its ears. I can only assume that this creature had been set as a guard, charged with protecting the sanctity of the fortress from those who would seek to breach its curtain-shrouded walls.

Fleeing this fearful sentry, I returned to my place in line, which by now had reached and perhaps extended beyond the corner of the block. From my new vantage point, I observed the rapidly swelling ranks of the news media. With them came the aristocracy, officials bearing the coats of arms of their respective kingdoms: Toys "R" Us and Furby, their colorful symbols in stark contrast to the somber black shirts to which they were affixed.

As we waited, more surgeon-doctors emerged to distribute candy cigars to the remarkably civil crowd. The blue "It's a Boy!" cigars vastly outnumbered the pink "It's a Girl!" ones, although I dare not interpret the portent of this seeming prophecy. Behind the surgeons came the swarm of reporters, cameramen and secondary promoters, the latter enthusiastically handing out stickers and magnets advertising local radio stations and the like. The first Furby baby of the day, apparently an early birth and, I suspect, the offspring of the warily pacing sentry, was apparently given as a prize to a woman close to the front of the line. She appeared pleased with her fortune, and was rapidly swarmed by cameras. As the crowd braced itself for the imminent arrival of the Furby-spawn, line members were interviewed as to the reason for their presence at this much-anticipated unveiling (I was later to discover that my arm had made it onto at least one televised broadcast. O, Fame!). Though I kept my ears pricked for revelatory breakthroughs, I learned little more than that people considered the unearthly creatures to be "cute" and "neat." Little did I know that a scant twelve hours later, many members of the crowd would also consider them to be "easily scalped for a significant profit on eBay." Live and learn...

Suddenly, flashing lights and a deafening blare pierced the morning calm! With strobes flashing, a custom ambulance, its sides bedecked by Furby-related script and images, pulled up in front of the store, then thankfully shut off its siren. Alas, the peaceful silence was not to last. Apparently, the driver had inconsiderately failed to show off the vehicle to the entire crowd, and so he was directed to back the ambulance up and slowly drive it forward again, lights and siren at their maximum pain-inducing levels. Even after the ambulance parked once more, the sound and lightshow continued for a good two or three minutes.

The back doors swung wide. As a ramp was lowered from the ambulance to the street, several more giant Furbys emerged from the sterile darkness to join their kin upon the red-carpeted pavement. Although their pregnant condition was not physically obvious, the urgency of the situation was made abundantly clear. Men and women in doctor's garb quickly ushered the expectant mothers-to-be behind the curtain. As it fell closed behind them, an involuntary hush came over the gathered crowd. Long minutes of silence passed as we watched... waited... held our breath for tidings, whether joyous or grave.

Jubilation! A nurse emerged from behind the crimson shroud, proudly bearing a tiny pastel bundle. Smiling children in miniature surgeons' gowns issued forth, each carrying a fuzzy, yellow-beaked infant. As the crowd pressed close for a better glimpse of the events, the junior doctors showed off their newborn charges to the human children and babies at the forefront of the crowd. There was, as it is said, much rejoicing.

After a few minutes of these festivities, I noticed that the doors of the Fortress of the Backwards "R" had been unbarred by some unseen gatekeeper. As there had been no official pronouncement of this fact, none of the spectators had actually ventured within as yet. Hesitantly, I made my cautious way inside. Guided by metallic balloons bearing the features of my quarry, I made my way to a flight of automated stairs. These transported me rapidly to a subterranean level of the keep, where the blue-garbed denizens of the place ushered me toward a distant corner of the catacombs. There I found the nest of the creatures, a wall decorated with cartoonish images of a nursery, flanked by row upon row of what could only be the Furby's eggs. From the transparent confines of each peered forth a tiny creature. The mother-Furbys, though nowhere to be seen, had been terrifyingly productive.

Five thousand hungry beaks gaped wide. Ten thousand piercing eyes met mine, and I was the first to blink and look away.

Swiftly, I shifted my gaze to a small table at the nest's far wall. There stood a pair of maidens clothed in stark white nurses' dress. They cooed over the hatchlings fearlessly cradled in their arms and smiled, their teeth flashing frighteningly brightly, as they distributed the creatures to waiting reporters. Nearby stood armed security forces. Were they there to protect the hatchlings from the customers, or the other way around?
I wasn't sure that I wanted to know the answer.

Then, a swell of voices and the thunder of a hundred pairs of feet rumbling inexorably closer. The crowd above had discovered at last the open gates and now they stampeded en masse towards the nest. Any moment would bring down upon my head the horror of a Furby-frenzied mob. Quickly, I hurled myself at the daemons' nest and seized an eggling bedecked in a relatively tasteful shade of pale blue. I hastened upstairs, making use of a motorized elevation conveyance to circumvent the driven consumers. Warily, I made my way to the front of the fortress and paid my tithe to the keepers of the place. Then, precious cargo at my side, I crept toward the gates, always watchful for any attempt to recapture the eggling. As the portals slid silently shut behind me, I breathed a sigh of relief. I had escaped that den of iniquity unscathed - in body, at least, for the memory of those ten thousand eyes boring into my soul may never fully cease to haunt my thoughts.

And what of those poor innocents who flocked willingly to the creatures' nest? I saw nary a one emerge from that terrible place. I dare not ponder their fate.

My prize was secure, my oath fulfilled. What horrors the Furby-spawn may unleash upon an unsuspecting world, I cannot guess. But such matters are a concern for another time. Today, I was triumphant. Let tomorrow come as it may.

In the belly of the B-Train, I made my way back home.

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