You're sitting in a theater and the stage is completely empty except for a mysterious old barrel. This is the opening scene of Penn & Teller's critically acclaimed "Barrel of Laughs" extravaganza. You sit and watch, but nothing seems to happen. It's just you, the audience, and that barrel.
Here's where it gets a little wild. For the next 35 minutes, that's all that happens. Thing is, you're not even feeling restless because you could cut the tension with a knife.
You can't buy this kind of excitement! Are they gonna pop out of it? Will it explode? What's this barrel up to!? And even though you're on the edge of your seat, it's been a while, so you look down at your watch to see how long this has gone on. But when you look back up, you're not in your seat. You don't know WHERE you are. For all you know, you're not even in the auditorium anymore. For all YOU know, you're not even in Vegas! All you see are dark panels of wood, a ring of metal, and some kind of barrel-esque top.
Wait a minute. Are you trapped in the barrel!? That's when the panic sets it.
Next thing you know, you hear thunderous applause and the familiar, albeit muffled, voices of America's most tightly held national treasures: Penn & Teller. You can't quite make out the words, but it doesn't matter because the voices are now drowned out by the sounds of a rickety chainsaw sputtering to life. You're pretty sure this is all part of the act, but dang if you're heart's not beating out of your chest.
And that's when it happens: light crashes into the darkness of the barrel as the whole thing falls to pieces. And there they are: Penn and Teller. They take you by the hand to help you out, and you don't even notice that they've cut you clean in half. Heck! You don't even care! There you are, legs stage left and torso rolling around on the floor, and you'll be darned if you don't feel brand new again.
You're still processing the whole bizarre adventure when Penn begins uttering a string of incantations in a voice as elemental as the roiling core of the earth itself.
And then poof! You're back in your original seat looking up from your watch, legs and torso intact.
But what's this? Now you're the only one in the theater. It's nothing but you and the barrel now. You don't know it yet, but it's forty years later, the theater has been abandoned, and your children are grown. They will never understand what you've been through, just as you will never fully comprehend the impact your disappearance had on their formative years.
But none of that matters now. You haven't aged and it's the future.
Plus, like we said, you still don't know about how it's 40 years later yet. As you stumble out of the empty theater still reeling, a panic creeps across your chest. Where is my family? Who is the president? Do we even have presidents anymore? And that's when an aged bellhop, wizened and stooped—as a gnarled oak—shuffles up to you. He lays his hand on your shoulder and you swear you can hear the crinkling of his vellum skin.
It is Penn.
In perhaps the reediest voice you've ever heard, he says, "Listen. I can't even remember if I'm the one who talked or didn't talk in our act, and even though I can access Future Wikipedia through my in-brain Bio-WiFi, I just don't really have the time or inclination to do it. I'm old and I don't need the world's super-computer to tell me what I don't know. Besides, I haven't paid my Internet bill to Cyborg-Corp in months, so probably it doesn't even work anyway."
He clears his throat, which only serves to make his voice reedier. "Whatever," he churgs. "That's not the point. The point is this: You were the man we sawed in half. Now it is 40 years later to the day. You are whole physically, but your psyche lay splintered before you. Will you pick up the pieces and reunite with your estranged children, or will you make the mistake you made all those years ago, and pay full price for a Penn & Teller show?"
That's when you're like, "Wait... the whole lesson here is that I shouldn't have paid full price? I should have used some kind of promo code or something? Are you sure it's not that... I don't know... the future is uncertain and so we should always strive to be present around the people we love most?"
"Nope," says Penn. "That's for sure not it. Penn and my long-dead partner, Teller, are only ever about one thing, and that's teaching people incredibly minor lessons in the brashest, most bafflingly destabilizing way possible. So I guess now that I think about it, another lesson is Don't Trust Penn & Teller to Have Your Best Interest At Heart."
Then you're like, "Ummmmmmm, that's a real bummer, man! I'm probably going to carry around this anger for the rest of my life. I mean, you robbed me of watching my two adorable twin babies grow up. I only hope that I can find them and that they'll forgive me."
You say it a little chidingly, which you immediately feel bad about for some reason.
"I wouldn't worry about that," he says, his voice taking on a gentle, loving tone. "Yeah, I wouldn't worry about that because we're literally the last people alive. Like, on all of the whole earth. We're it, bud. Did I not even mention that?"
It's then that the gravity of your situation sets in. "Dang" you whisper. "I really shouldn't have paid full price for that show."