"It has been said that all roads lead to Rome, but this is demonstrably untrue.
However, all Forlises do indeed lead to Forlis."
"What do you mean, 'Am I familiar with the Big-Balled Hydrosquirrel?' Your understanding of whom you are speaking to must be woefully deficient, if you can even ask me such a question!
How did you get this number? As far as I understand things, it is unlisted, except for a small inscription behind a urinal in the porter's lodge. You do know that this is the Big-Balled Hydrosquirrel Research Facility, yes?"
[A lengthy pause, punctuated only by muffled thumping sounds at regular intervals]
"Ahem. My name is Forlis. I have pressing need of all your information regarding the Big-Balled Hydrosquirrel, and most especially that information which pertains to the dimensions of its testicles, as well as several other nodules of information which I shall come to in due time."
"I see. Well you must understand that such information is seldom parted with lightly. Do you have any notion that you are requesting dangerous arcane knowledge? Or of the degree to which we've had to provoke the squirrels, just in procuring such knowledge? Who, or what, are you working for, and what are your credentials? Speak, sirrah."
"Yes, well, I am working for a man named Forlis. Unfortunately, most points concerning said Forlis remain obscure. Even answers to some of the most fundamental questions concerning this man, such as whether or not he is in fact myself, are unknown to me.
I am relatively sure this individual exists, as he sends me letters. He has even sent me a slew of rather graphic photographs of his nether regions, which I barely took kindly to. In other words, I did eventually take kindly to them, but only just barely. Now you might imagine, as I did, that such images would represent the smoking gun in determining whether or not this Forlis character is in fact myself. Indeed, I have constructed an elaborate artifice of mirrors in an attempt to compare these naughty images to my own anatomy, but have thus far been thwarted by external forces.
As to my credentials, these are comparatively more straightforward. My name is Forlis, as I have said. This alone should prove sufficient, unless you happen to be ignorant of the immense significance of that name, in which case, I'm afraid I cannot help you. This is the very same reason for my implicit trust in the letters I receive from Forlis, and the reason I now operate as his unquestioning disciple.
Before you ask, no, this relationship of servitude does not seem to operate in both directions, and I believe this is due to the fact that Forlis does not yet know that I too am called Forlis."
"...The fact that your name is Forlis, if, indeed, your name truly is Forlis, which I doubt, recommends you extraordinarily highly, and perhaps even more highly than you are even capable of imagining, even, for we here at the Twelve-Balled Hydrosquirrel Research Facility have near-infinite regard for men named Forlis, though the exact reason for this inordinate favor escapes me at present.
I very much wish to trust you, and I do trust you, for your voice rings with the jolly bells of truth. However, the same cannot be said for this Forlis, the 'Other Forlis', who may very well have deceived you with little more than a few cunning slashes of the pen.
I am reminded uncannily of just such a one who visited our research facility several years ago, a man who claimed in similar fashion to be called Forlis, yet at every turned betrayed himself.
At one point during his visit I intended to show him a particularly impressive testicle that me and the boys had salvaged from a slumbering hydrosquirrel, and so I called out 'Forlis!' in my signature high-pitched squeal.
At this sound, the man turned towards me. He had been staring out of a nearby porthole, presumably lost in thought, and I now suspect he was plotting how best to plunder our archives, or some such treachery.
But when he swiveled towards me, his face lacked even the merest spark of recognition at the sound of his name, as though my saying 'Forlis!' were no different from the clangor of a boiler malfunction, or a random seabird's squawk.
But then, before my very own peepers, I witnessed revelation spread across his face, as though he were emerging from the inky oblivion of a bottomless well. The man winked at me, pointed coyly at himself, and laughed, a booming leonine sound which curdled all the milk within radius and made me shrink back in trepidation. Finally, he looked at my specimen, but appeared unimpressed.
I found all this to be a mite bit suspicious, and so I conspired with myself, and several other conspirators who also happened to be myself, to give this 'Forlis' a thorough vetting. I told him I was feeling rather peckish, and asked if he happened to have any gumdrop lozenges with him. He said he did, and rifled through his satchel in pursuit of these naughty little treasures.
From the midst of this cyclonic satchel scrum, a fleeting image of the man's identification papers imprinted itself upon the back of my noggin. Foolishly, I had neglected to check these documents upon his arrival, and could not very well request them at this stage without running the risk of arousing the man's ire, and perhaps arousing other facets of his being in the bargain, but I saw then, clear as daylight, that his papers identified him as 'Forlitz', and not 'Forlis' at all.
When I realized this, it required every last iota of my self control, hard-won during my many years as a circus clown, to restrain myself from going absolutely postal on the imposter.
You may wonder, as I myself have wondered many times over, is it not possible that this 'Forlitz' in fact introduced himself as such, and it was only my extreme bias towards the name 'Forlis' which caused me to perceive that name instead?
If you really do entertain such a thought, and I suspect you may, for the cadence of your breathing has shifted slightly, then consider yourself lucky that there are vast lengths of telephone cable separating us. I have had myself keelhauled innumerable times for asking these sorts of questions, and I will not hesitate to treat heretics in a similar fashion, even if their name happens to be Forlis."
[rhythmic thumping intensifies]
"Hmm. I should wonder if this Forlitz you speak of is not the very same man whom I presently find myself dealing with. It seems a strong possibility that he has recruited an authentic Forlis, yours truly, towards the end of infiltrating your research facility. I shall have to add this as a footnote on my 'Flowchart Which Encompasses All Eventualities Pertinent to Myself, and Pertinent to Select Others Whom I Happen to Give a Rat-Hoot About for the Time Being™.'
At any rate, would you please fax me all of your documents relating to the Big-Balled Hydrosquirrel? All of this silliness with Forlitz aside, I am actually a Big-Balled Hydrosquirrel Research Facility Auditor, and your facility has come up for audit this quarter. You might think me a slippery eel for not mentioning this sooner, but I like to give our clients a chance to express themselves before they understand the full gravity of their situation. And yes, you are my client. This audit, comprehensive as it is, is a service rendered for you and you alone, so that you might better understand the power of the Big-Balled Hydrosquirrel Research Facility Accounting Firm. Now, do you have any initial questions concerning the audit your facility will presently be experiencing? I'm all ears."
"Does this mean that your name isn't really Forlis? And who the devil authorized this audit? An audit which I do not at all consider to be a service to me!"
"My son, at no point have I deceived you. I only took my time meandering around to the real purpose behind my call, but all that I've shared with you is Forlis' own truth. My name is indeed Forlis, Forlis F. Forlis, to be exact, the F. naturally being short for Faulkenheimerovolovicharalovapovalovolovich. I am as formidable as any other man who wields the name Forlis, and perhaps even more so.
As to the authorization for this audit, it was initiated by one of my superiors, a man who I have yet to meet in person. I have communicated with this individual only via post, and the odd phone call, and yet I am still unclear on his name. It is apparent enough that the first syllable is 'For', but the second syllable is always obscured by either smudges of ink in the case of the written word, or by crackling static in the case of our telephone conversations.
I have actually established a flow chart for the purpose of triangulating his name, and have reduced the possibilities down to two-hundred and fifty-six names, including Forlis, Forlitz, Forlips, Forlisp, and so on. Eureka! A thought just suddenly occurred to me; this character may very well be the same man who sends me lewd pictures, but I have no way of confirming this."
"Well, my friend, you are almost certainly in a deep state of coma if you imagine that I will fax you what you desire. Incidentally, what is your fax number? A nasty little idea has just spawned in the sewers of my dome. I am going to send you something after all, the nature of which may be familiar to you.
Alright, alright! I'll tell you! I can't contain it any longer! It's going to be graphic photos of my nether regions! Ha ha! HahahaharughahaheehaHAHEAURGHARRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Admittedly, I am somewhat concerned with the speed at which this idea occurred to me, almost as though I have done something of this sort before.
But no matter! Your pesky little audit will be stalled in its tracks, as your eyeballs smoke and boil in the face of my tasteful photographs, and you remain in agonizing ignorance of the noble hydrosquirrel, and its bulging anatomical features!"
"Dear me, I had hoped to avoid this. If you refuse to cooperate with the investigation, I shall be forced to initiate drastic measures. This will likely, but not definitely, assume the form of an exorbitant glut of documents, files, notices, and etcetera, which will shortly be invading your mailboxes. Inexorably, you will become frustrated by all this, not only due to the confusing nature of the documents in question, but also because the environmentalist in you will become appalled at the flagrant wasting of so much paper and ink, and - are you speaking to someone else?"
"What? No, I was just listening to your flaccid threats."
"Oh. It just sounds as though you're having a conversation with someone else. It sounds like he's threatening you. What, my threats aren't good enough for you?!"
"Not at all, my good Forlis. There is only you on the line. You have my near-total attention, and I only say near-total because I have reserved some small scrap of my awareness for monitoring what I believe to be a second conversation you are simultaneously holding with another, someone whom my deductive faculty indicates may be yet another Big-Balled Hydrosquirrel Researcher. Do you deny this?"
"You wound me, Forlis. I speak to you, and you alone. But if you will not reveal to me the source of your phantom conversation in good faith, I shall be forced to hang up and initiate punitive measures against you at once, which will likely take the form of a lengthy and condescending written censure, telegraphed over in double-quick time. And will you please shut up that ranklesome pounding?!"
"Do your worst, coward! You are no Forlis at all! As a Forlis of immense mystical clout, I revoke from you the name Forlis forevermore! Ah ha! And that irksome pounding has been coming from your end the entire time, you gibbering moron!"
"Argh! You . . . you don't have the authority to do that! What tier of Forlis even are you, even? You've . . . you've overreached yourself, you simpering mongrel! I'll see you in court!"
Forlis slammed down both phones at once. He looked around his office, blinking rapidly. Who had he just been speaking to?
Forlis was uncertain.
I shall have to consult my Flowchart, Forlis thought to himself. The flowchart had been his only source of security in recent times.
He stood and walked around the periphery of the small room. Articles and photographs covered every last square inch of the walls, and each one connected to every other by lengths of red twine.
The incessant pounding grew louder by the minute. Forlis knew he didn't have much time; the Big-Balled Hydrosquirrel Confederation had found him at last. He shuddered at the thought of their chattering teeth nibbling him apart, their oversized balls smothering him.
Forlis was resigned to his fate. Heaven knew he had provoked the squirrels enough over the years. But one final thing remained unfinished.
Forlis lit a match and walked slowly, reverentially, towards his Flowchart Which Encompasses All Eventualities Pertinent to Myself, and Pertinent to Select Others Whom I Happen to Give a Rat-Hoot About for the Time Being™. Every last piece of red twine intersected at a single point, the singularity node, a point representing the final revenge of the Big-Balled Hydrosquirrels.
Forlis smiled to himself as he ignited the flowchart. The squirrels would undoubtedly ransack a great many treasures from the research facility, but they would not get his Flowchart, the radiant crystal heart of it all.
The eastern wall quickly became a raging inferno.
Forlis retired to his desk, picking up both telephones for one final conversation with his friend Forlis, who also happened to be a Big-Balled Hydrosquirrel Researcher. By now, the pounding sounded like it was coming from the hall directly outside the office.
At least my name is Forlis, Forlis thought to himself. He dialed the number, and only moments later his other phone began to ring.