NOTE: A previous, more juvenile version of this entry was presented as having been written by musician/songwriter Roger Hodgson. It was a failed attempt at “quirky” humor/satire, and I am grievously sorry for any and all offense it may have caused the artist. It was unnecessary, and all such references have been removed.
We begin, of course, with the 19th century birth of the corn flake, as supervised by two diametrically opposed brothers in the sleepy hamlet of Battle Creek, Michigan. John Harvey and Will Keith Kellogg were strapping lads of considerable means, both accustomed to the texture of human blood upon their unblemished flesh. It was a ritual learned from their warlock-dwarf parents, and common among the superstitious aristocracy, who believed it assured immortality and prosperity. W.K. and J.H., as the men were known among polite society, used the Kellogg family fortune (obtained through lycanthropic pillaging of defenseless townships) to finance a most unspeakable scheme using the innocent-seeming kernel of corn. It wasn’t until 1898 that the dastardly duo perfected what we now know as the “corn flake,” but once it became widely available, people began to die. Their bodies were delivered to Battle Creek, where their mortal vessels were stripped of meat and drained upon the Kelloggs’ quivering lips. (In a half-hearted attempt at humanity, they used stray animals for a time, but the dark lords howled their piercing disapproval.)
Once the world was addicted to the oven-toasted shard of doom, something extraordinary happened. J.H. began developing a conscience as his brother became more greedy. His infernal appetite for eternal life seemed unquenchable. J.H. watched in horror as his more enterprising partner began sweetening the deadly flake with cane sugar, something to lure even younger victims to the godawful breakfast genocide.
“I will NOT have our wares marketed to the innocence of babes!” J.H. reportedly balked as W.K. made known his nefarious intent.
“I am sorry to hear that, dear brother,” chortled Kellogg the younger as he drew his revolver. “I feel there’s no future in this world for romantics.”
“You bastard!” J.H. snarled as W.K.’s henchmen emerged from the shadows. He struggled valiantly against their assault, but ’twas for naught. As J.H. expired, his lifeblood spilling sorrowfully from his wounds, he watched his wife and brother make love atop a hill of shredded wheat. Gently W.K. destroyed a tattered morsel against Ella’s shapely buttocks. Her adulterous cries of passion reverberated through W.K.’s empty shell as he drew his final breath.
“Can you hear me?” came the voice, piercing the darkness. All remained black as nothing.
“Can you hear me?” the voice asked again.
A blur of colors struggled for cogency.
“Subject is online,” another voice, more authoritative, announced. “Vital signs normal. He appears to be responding to stimuli. Try again.”
“Can you hear me?”
Focus came violently. An antiseptic room swarmed into view. Cold steel. Angry contraptions. A back wall calendar announced the current year: 1952. Two pairs of hopeful eyes stared into his. He couldn’t move.
“What is your name?”
The whir of a search ticked within, like memory but not. More commanding and precise. The subject impulsively scratched at his leg then recoiled, startled at its texture. Fur? A quick peer south verified this as so: orange and white, with black stripes. Data swam into the system, a long list of names. Finally one was selected as most likely correct.
“And what is your primary directive, Tony?”
The cogs whirred more efficiently, settling into their duties.
“To bring out the tiger in all who consume Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes.”
“Are they good?”
Tony was taken aback by the ludicrous question. It did not compute, yet somehow, it did. He felt a pang of marketing rumble through his wiring and into his artificial voicebox.
“Good?” he barked, incredulous. “They’re grrreat!”
Satisfied, his interrogator pressed a button and spoke to a force unseen. “The experiment is a resounding success, sir. Would you like to meet your newest ‘mascot’?”
Two electric doors parted with a clipped hush. Tony could only watch as this most familiar figure approached, a malicious smirk painted across his carefully preserved flesh. “Tony the Tiger,” he chuckled. “It’s so wonderful to meet you at last.”
Tony remained silent, his interest piqued.
“I don’t expect you to grasp the most delicious justice of your predicament,” the man continued. “But we were once very close, you and I. Almost like brothers.”
The emphasis stirred a wild hair Tony’s programming didn’t recognize. He wrestled with his bindings but could not escape.
“Ah,” his tormentor gasped. “I see that perhaps you do retain some of that fighting Kellogg spirit. Good. Excellent! You’re going to need it in your new duties as spokestiger for the very cereal whose creation you once despised!”
Tony struggled harder, confused. The man inched closer, as if homing in for the kill. “Yes,” he whispered. “I feel the anger surging within you, brother. It gives me strength. It gives me power!” With that, he walloped the captive beast against the snout.
“Would you like to see what your foolhardiness has wrought upon you?” asked the man. “Shall I reveal the fruits of your futility?” A mirror was produced and rammed into Tony’s face. “Look!” snarled the keeper as Tony screeched in pain, his eyes fused shut. “See! Embrace your freakish fate!”
Tony opened his eyes slowly and regarded his reflection. He was consumed with terror and rage. He resembled an oddly shaped feral cat, with drooping eyelids and a face proportioned like a half-chewed football. He was emasculated and naked, save a fashionable necktie. Why was he thrashing so violently? Why did this revelation damage him so? Was this not him? He plumbed his memory banks for answers, finally discovering a carefully sealed data folder labeled “J.H. Kellogg. CLASSIFIED.” His circuitry overrode the security codes and everything came flooding back. Battle Creek, Michigan. The innocent days of sanitoriums, quack medicine, an unhealthy obsession with the sex drive of young males, and the development of healthy breakfast digestables. The corn flake. His younger brother’s betrayal. His wife’s alarming infidelity.
The man, who now had a name known to Tony, a real name linked by blood and birth, watched the realization creep across his captive’s matted face. “You remember, don’t you?” he smiled. “You remember everything.”
“I…remember,” Tony purred, his eyes narrowing to slits.
“It’s a pity we couldn’t have worked something out,” W.K. shrugged. “But I was too young and impetuous, hungry for power and the intoxicating bouquet of carnal sin. I so wish we could have found another way. We could’ve ruled this empire together and crushed our enemies. Post. General Mills. Quaker. Nabisco. Oh, my brother, you should’ve seen it. In 50 years’ time we seized control. All the world’s children look for our ‘K.’ They’re drawn to it, as if hypnotized by our festive hues. As one we would have been unstoppable. But, alas, it was not meant to be.”
“Where’s Ella, you bastard?” Tony demanded. “Where is she?”
“Oh, yes, your ‘devoted’ wife. Hm. Well, it appears she too was not long for this cruel, unforgiving world. She lacked the necessary vigor and vision. I tried, John. I really did. And she put up such a fight. In fact, she was your predecessor on the Frosted Flakes campaign. Unfortunately, her spirit was unwilling. As a result, the children didn’t respond to Katy the Kangaroo like our marketing department had hoped. Therefore, she was, in the parlance of this savage business, ‘discontinued.'”
Tony swiped at his binds to little avail.
“My, you’re a feisty tiger. But I fear I must inform you that even if you manage to free yourself, I have personally installed a failsafe measure within your system that prevents you from harming me in any fashion. It’s, shall we say, my insurance.”
Tony rode the hot verge of tears. “You heartless cur,” he sniffed. “How could you have violated the Kellogg’s principles with such impugnity?”
W.K.’s laughter rattled the room. “Oh, John!” he howled. “You pie-in-the-sky simpleton! You deluded child! You can’t stop what can’t be undone. Fifty years of market domination. That’s five generations of servants who have sold us their souls. We’ve such a backlog of blood in our vaults I can endure 17 eternities with nary a stolen draw of breath! We have an unparalleled line of breakfast comestibles. A fleet of nutritionists in our back pockets — well, at least the ones we didn’t program ourselves. We are a force larger and stronger than life and death itself. We’re a merchandising juggernaut, the textbook American dream! We control the story. We turn the pages. We are Kellogg’s!”
“That very well may be,” Tony smiled, suspiciously at peace, “but in your fat-cat capitalist gorging, you forgot one thing.”
Tony licked his lips and deposited his useless shackles to the floor. “I’m a Kellogg too,” he said, “but unlike you, I prefer my blood fresh and straight from the source.”
W.K. began to retreat. “No,” he protested. “No! Your programming! The failsafe!”
“It matters not, brother dear,” Tony salivated, swiping chunks from W.K.’s surprisingly giving flesh. “Despite the artificial fur and electrodes, instinct overrides programming.”
Kellogg the younger’s screams went unheard in the hollow empire. Tony dined uninterrupted, slurping sinew like spaghetti, pawing at viscera, gnawing at bone, lapping up blood.
It was this fortitude that made Frosted Flakes the breakfast-nook dynamo for the ages. Five generations later it remains a morning ritual, with Tony an ever-watchful presence. And according to legend, if you pour the box at just the right angle, you can hear that shift of brotherly power echoing in every sugary rustle.