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Max Turns 30: Walking in a Twisted Punderland

By: Zeb Kessler

Max woke up feeling less than one-derful. It was his 30th birthday, and he wasn’t two thrilled. His eyes darted to his alarm clock.

Three-sus Christ! I’m late!”

In Punderland, everyone has to survive a test on their 30th birthday to prove their worth. Max couldn’t wait four this to be over. He threw on some clothes and ran to the cave where his trial would begin.

A deep voice bellowed from the darkness: “Fee-Five-Fo-Fum. Who goes there?”

“Oh, uh, hi. I’m Max. I turn 30 today.”

A large blue tortoise with a tiny top hat emerged and smiled at Max. “Ah. So you’re here for your trial. Let me run through the bay-six.” (basics)

“You’ll walk through a portal at the back of this cave. That will transport you to a seven-nah.”

Max looked confused. “What’s a savannah?”

Blue Tortoise patiently explained, “A savannah is mixed woodland-grassland ecosystem. Think Lion King.”

“Oh,” said Max.

Blue Tortoise continued, “Once you are there, you will be faced with three trials of increasingly difficulty. If you survive, you will earn continued Punderland citizenship and will be given your elder name.”

Max perked up. “Oooh, can I be Maximillian the Gr-eight?”

Blue Tortoise was unamused. “Don’t be assa-nine. Your spirit animal will choose your elder name.”

Max looked disappointed. Blue Tortoise said, “Go on now. It is time.”

Max looked ten-se and hesitated. Blue Tortoise warned, “If you don’t go in, I have to eat you.”

Max sprung forward and walked briskly into the cave toward a swirling purple portal in the back. He gulped, took a deep breath, and walked through. He was instantly transported to a woodland-grassland ecosystem.

Max was surprised to be sitting when he arrived. In front of him was a goblet of wine and e-leven-ed (a leavened) bread loaf. He shrugged, bit off a chunk of bread, and took a swig of wine.

Everything suddenly turned technicolor. The trees started to drip and melt into puddles on the ground.

“Shit. Did that stuff have LSD in it?” Max thought as he stood up.

A high-pitched chorus of laughter erupted around him. Max swiveled around to see a dozen hyenas with black wigs sitting in a wide circle around him.

They spoke in unison. “Hello, human. We are Twelve-is Presley. We are your first trial.”

The hyenas started shooting fireballs at Max. Max froze in terror. He closed his eyes and waited for the fireballs to turn him to ash. A warm feeling embraced him, but it came from inside.

Max opened his eyes again. “What the what,” he thought. Max’s body was outlined in a faint turquoise light. In front of him stood an adolescent cougar — or a pan-thir teen — that was made of the same turquoise light. The cougar absorbed all the fireballs without flinching.

“This must be my spirit animal,” thought Max. Spirit Cougar rolled Max a can. He picked it up and read the label: “Four Teen-acity.” (Tenacity) He quickly gulped it down.

Max felt the muscles all over him bulge, and he suddenly felt invincible. The hyenas took this as their cue to charge. They snarled and descended on Max and Spirit Cougar, but the supercharged duo had no problem dealing with them. Soon, the hyenas were in a mangled heap.

Spirit Cougar looked at Max and signaled with her head that they should move on. They walked through a bundle of trees. On the other side, they encountered a medieval chapel in the middle of the savannah.

A gorilla dressed in knight’s armor riding a zebra emerged from the front door. “I am Gordor, guardian of my lord’s Fif. Teen (fief Turn) around or face my wrath.”

Supercharged Max was not intimidated. As he sprinted toward Gorilla Knight, he could see a sign over the doorway where the words “Sixteen (Sistine) Chapel” were crossed out. Above them, it read “Seven-nah-teen (Savannah-tine) Chapel.”

As Max got close to Gorilla Knight, the knight drew a large rusty sword out of its scabbard and released a very high-pitched and gr-eighteeng (grating) battle cry.

Max instinctively created a lance from the turquoise energy emanating from his hands. Gorilla Knight bared his ca-nine teenth at Max and swung his sword. Max ducked under it and stabbed Gorilla Knight in the chest with his energy lance.

Gorilla Knight released a blood-curdling scream and disintegrated into ash.

“Huzzah!” exclaimed Max as he pumped his fists in the air.

“Watch out!” a voice warned in his head.

Max looked up to see a gazelle draped in pope’s robes hovering above the chapel entrance. Gazelle Pope’s eyes turned yellow, and he shot a beam at Max.

Spirit Cougar leapt from behind Max and deflected the beam back at Gazelle Pope, who burst into a golden glitter cloud.

“Phew, that was close,” said the voice.

“Oh dang! You can talk, Spirit Cougar?” asked Max.

“Yes, my dear. I suppose I never introduced myself. Hello, my name is Twenty.

“Hello, Twenty. One-derful to meet you.”

Twenty nodded toward her back. “Hop on. I’ll have to give you a lift to the final trial.”

Max hopped on her back and rode Twenty Two the next area. They raced away through a giant patch of briars and emerged at the bottom of a cliff.

Max hopped off Twenty’s back, and she morphed into a giant tree with branches that formed a ladder to the top of the cliff. Max climbed up the Twenty Three (tree).

After Max climbed Twenty Four what felt like forever, he reached the top of Twenty. Five-erflies (fireflies) filled the night sky, and everything seemed peaceful.

There were two shadows huddled by a fire. Twenty reappeared as a cougar behind Max.

“Those two are twins,” explained Twenty. “Six-ters expelled from the depths of Hell for being too twisted.”

“Oh yeah? They seem pretty chill,” said Max.

The Twisted Sisters looked up and turned toward them, all of their movements in complete unison. Their eyes glowed red under shadowed hoods as they floated a few feet above the ground. The air exploded with their laughter, filling the air like thunder.

Zombie animals erupted from the ground all around them. Max created a turquoise bow and arrow and took down a group of zombie chimps that had surrounded him.

Max looked over at Twenty. Seven-ah cats, both undead, were circling her. Before he could do anything, they pounced.

“Twenty!!” he screamed in distress. But without missing a beat, Twenty Eight them in one giant gulp.

“Fuck yeah,” yelled Max as he made a turquoise battle axe and helmet. He and Twenty ripped their way through undead lions, cheetahs, giraffes, and water buffalos. Soon, all that was left standing was a ferocious zombie rhino that seemed larger than a mountain.

“Oh shit Twenty. I don’t know about this. Maybe we could just shack up in the briar patch. That seemed kinda homey.”

“No,” said Twenty. “Nine-sense (nonsense). We’ve got this.”


Zombie Rhino charged. Twenty turned into a pterodactyl, and Max hopped on. Twenty soared high and then dove directly at the beast. Zombie Rhino roared and thrust his horn into the air. Max jumped off just before the horn hit Twenty, who disintegrated into a puff of turquoise.

“NOOOOOO,” screamed Max. Enraged, he sprinted up the rhino’s nose, leapt into the air, did a flip, and dug his axe deep into the rhino’s forehead.

Zombie Rhino threw his head back, tossing Max toward the ground.

“This is it. I guess I failed,” Max thought as he plummeted to the ground.

But, somehow, miraculously, Twenty coalesced into a giant orangutan, caught Max in one hand, and punched Zombie Rhino in the chin. Max saw his opening and threw a turquoise javelin through the rhino’s neck. Zombie Rhino collapsed and melted into the ground.

The Twisted Sisters cackled and vanished. It was just Max and Twenty left standing.

“Very good, Max. You did it. You survived your trials. Now you can return back to Punderland.”

“WE did it, pal. Toge-thir. Ty-amwork makes the dream work.”

Twenty just smiled back in response.

“Will I ever see you again?” Max asked.

“Of course. I will always be with you in your time of need.” A portal appeared in front of them. “Now go on. It’s time to go home.”

Max let out a deep sigh of relief and started toward the portal. Remembering something, he turned back.

“Wait a second. Aren’t you supposed to give me my elder name?”

Twenty smiled, “Yes, of course. I was thinking something like…Maximillion the Great.”


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