The most excellent Damon Lindelof has kindly offered to share a serialized story with NextDraft readers to help us, and him, through the quarantine. The first 11 chapters are here.

Chapter Twelve: I Only Started Writing This Shit Because I Was Told This Would All Be Over By Easter

In the end, it was not chloroquine that led to over a million worldwide deaths, but Pop Rocks and Coke.

Not literally, of course. Literally, it was Ivermectin, but culturally it was Pop Rocks and Coke, or, as it would later be dubbed in a very dense and extremely pretentious research paper out of The University of Michigan, “The Gilchrist/Morgenthau Effect.”

Jon Gilchrist was a child actor who appeared in a television commercial for Life Cereal back in a time when there was “Life Cereal” and “television commercials.” Gilchrist played Mikey, an adorable tot with an unfortunate haircut who hated everything until his two brothers forced him to eat Life cereal. Mikey did not hate Life Cereal. Quite the opposite. As such, the catch phrase “Mikey Likes It!” catapulted into the public consciousness, spreading among the tastemakers of the day in the same way that LOLCats, Harambe, and All Your Base Are Belong To Us would decades later. Yes, Mikey was a meme before anyone knew what a meme was.

And then his head exploded.

Gilchrist was just shy of four years old when he appeared in the spot for Life. The spot for Death happened seven years later when his mother received a call from a woman in tears, expressing her deepest condolences regarding the tragic accident that had taken the boy’s life. The culprit, a lethal combination of Coca Cola and Pop Rocks.

Pop Rocks. Mythical. Magical. The result of infusing scalding hot liquid sugar with carbon, the chemists who mixed it clad in moonsuits to protect themselves before smashing the hardened result into tiny pieces with nine-pound sledgehammers. All so children everywhere could empty a packet into their mouths and feel a satisfying sizzle upon their tongue.

Gilchrist, now on the precipice of adolescence but still drunk with the celebrity of his toddlerhood, was showboating in his school cafeteria when he emptied six packets of Pop Rocks into his mouth, pulled the metal tab from a can of Coke, brought it to his lips and began to chug. The boy realized almost instantly something was very, very wrong, his face contorting in pain and confusion as a hissing crackle, began to emanate from his mouth like the sound of a fuse leading into a stick of dynamite.

A little girl in pigtails exclaimed “Mikey doesn’t like it!” a moment before the boy’s eyes shot out of his face and flew across the cafeteria like bottle rockets. The children shrieked in terror as they were sprayed with jets of red, frothy foam from Gilchrist’s nostrils in a hot geyser of carbonated blood and cola. Those kids standing on either side of the boy felt only temporary relief in being spared as liquefied brains burst from Mikey’s ears and all over them in a sickening spewing sploosh, like tourists in the front row at the Shamu SeaWorld show, back in the good old days before folks came to the fairly obvious conclusion that captive Killer Whales were sad and alone and suicidal. Suffice to say the details only get more gory from there and also none of this ever happened because it was all complete and utter bullshit.

Mikey did not die from ingesting Coke and Pop Rocks because that is the stupidest thing in the history of stupid things. But it was catchy and that’s all that matters in the end. Catchiness.

Once the rumor was in the public imagination it spread like wildfire, a phenomenon even more impressive considering there was no internet. No, this was good old-fashioned-word-of-mouth-flim-flam and the R naught was 5.7. If you do not know what “R naught” means, just know that it is the reason you are currently trapped in your house getting sick of frozen pizza, which you never, ever thought you’d get sick of. Suffice to say, everyone who heard about Mikey’s face exploding told many other people about Mikey’s face exploding and those people told many other people and so on and so on ad infinitum.

Gilchrist was, in the meantime, very much alive, a fact the company that made Pop Rocks blared in hundreds of full page ads in every major metropolitan newspaper. Alas, the damage was done. No one was going to give up fucking Coke and the risks were too great. Pop Rocks were sunk. No child in their right mind would buy them and eventually, three hundred million pouches worth of the shit was buried in landfills.

So now you know the Gilchrist in the Gilchrist/Morgenthau Effect.

As for the Morgenthau, well frankly, I’m gonna need the weekend to figure that one out. But I promise it will most definitely tie into the unfolding time travel opus of the Rosenberg family in essential ways and I’ve got an amazing plan for how this all ties together in the end.



To Be Continued…