Vice Exclusive: I Watched Groundhog Day Every Day For 362,000 Years
362,000 years ago, on February 2, 2018 Wilbert L. Cooper, the Senior Editor of Vice Magazine called me into his corner office at the Brooklyn headquarters. “I’ve got an assignment for you. Your scoop about getting high on computer cleaner fluid and attending the Pacific Southwest Puppet Festival was a huge hit with our readers. “I Got High on Computer Cleaner Fluid and Attended the Pacific Southwest Puppet Festival” got more clicks than any other Vice Media article with the exception of ‘I Did Shrooms With ISIS’. You’re our best reporter”.
“Tell me something I don’t know”. I said.
“Phil, we’ve got a big assignment for you. As you know today is Groundhog Day and we are planning a big feature on Punxsutawney Phil for the February 364,018 AD edition of Vice Magazine. We need you to watch the Bill Murray classic film “Groundhog Day” every day for 362,000 years. Think you can handle it?”
“Now listen,” I said, “I hate that movie and if you think I’m going to watch it one hundred and thirty-two million, one hundred and thirty thousand times, you’ve got another thing coming”.
“Phil, I’ve seen a lot of writers come and go here and I’ve seen a lot of a lot talent go to waste. That computer cleaner fluid story you did was life-changing. Don’t flush your talent down the toilet, take the assignment… For me.”
“Bump my salary up to an extra two eight balls of coke per week and we have a deal” I said.
“Done” Wilbert agreed.
Just then a beautiful woman entered the room.
“Phil, this is Rita, your photographer. She’s going to be working with you on this story”.
“A chick? Wilbert, now you are going too far. I didn’t join Vice Media to work with chicks”.
“What a charming fellow” she said icily.
“You two better learn to get along” Wilbert said. “You’re going to be working together very closely for the next 362,000 years”.
After taking the L Train home, I fired up my laptop and pirated a copy of “Groundhog Day”. As I sat down on my couch to watch the movie my intercom buzzed.
“Who is it?” I said.
“It’s Rita. Can you buzz me up? I need to take some photos of you watching “Groundhog Day”.
“Come on up”.
Before long she was in my apartment setting up her tripod.
“You wanna’ blaze before we watch this thing?” I said, offering her a hit from my joint.
“No thank you,” she said, “I don’t smoke weed. I think it’s unprofessional”.
“Suit yourself. I’m smoking it”.
I pushed the space bar on my keyboard and started the movie.
“Let’s just get this over with” I said.
One hour and forty-two minutes later the film faded to black. Bill Murray overcame the time-curse and got the girl. The end credits played.
“Boy, that was a stupid movie,” I said.
“I happened to think it was a touching, even life-affirming movie with an inventive story line”. Rita replied.
“You would say that. See you later, I’m going to bed”.
For the next 52,714 years day in and day out I watched “Groundhog Day” from beginning to end. Every line, every joke, every frame of that infernal film seared into my brain through constant interminable repetition.
“I’m going to go insane!” I shouted.
Rita, for her part, never lost her upbeat outlook.
“Don’t you think this movie is great? Bill Murray is sarcastic and bitter, but then after living through the same day countless times he begins to care for his fellow man!”
It was insufferable. Here I was stuck covering this inane comedy while my journalistic colleagues were moving on to bigger things. As I labored over the Groundhog Day assignment my contemporaries were writing about the re-election of Donald Trump, the drowning of the world’s coastal cities and the millennia spanning conflict marked by wanton cruelty and technological terror- the Eugenics Wars. Here they were winning Pulitzers and I was stuck watching “Groundhog Day” for eons. I begged Wilbert for a reassignment.
“Be patient, Phil. Keep your eyes on the prize. I have a good feeling about this story”.
It was no use. Gripped by despair I teleported myself from Vice’s Brooklyn headquarters to a trendy pub in up-and-coming East New York where I often chewed the fat with my fellow reporters.
“One glass of synthetic beer,” I told the cyborg bartender; regular beer having disappeared after barley went extinct during “the Pestilence”.
“50,000 dinar” he said. Inflation sure is a bitch.
“How’s it going Phil? Still stuck with the Groundhog Day assignment?” a barfly inquired.
“Yeah, unfortunately. Still not getting anywhere. That story has no legs”.
“You should quit that Vice job and come write for the National Review” said my Triblian insect-man friend, a distinguished conservative columnist.
Several hours later I lost track of how many synthetic beers I had drunk.
“C’mon!” I yelled “Who needs a ride back to the Antares system?”
We piled into my space sedan.
“Buckle up boys!” I said turning the key. We rocketed out of the atmosphere, barreling toward the sun at sub light speed.
“Maybe I should drive” said Rebus, a Centauri paparazzo.
“Phil, this doesn’t seem like a good idea,” screeched the Triblian.
“I am not following your rules anymore!” I exclaimed cutting the wheel just in time to avoid being sucked inexorably into the sun’s gravitational field. The slingshot effect boosted us out of the solar system at breakneck pace.
“I think I am going to throw up” the Triblian muttered.
“All your life you’re always told what to do” I said. “Rules, rules, rules. Who needs them! Do your homework. Brush your teeth. Be nice to your sister. Oh yeah… Don’t fly into black holes!”
“Phil, uh, that’s one I happen to agree with” The Triblian said.
I gunned that thing straight at the accretion disk, the space sedan moving faster and faster as were pulled in by the gravity of the black hole.
“Ahhhhhhhhhhhh!” the passengers screamed.
“we’ll be torn apart once we reach the event horizon! We’re done for!”
Just then we awoke in a pure white void. My eyes watered from the intensity of the light. It was blindingly white. A voice bellowed.
“You are in Liquifactionist space. You have been charged with interstellar trespassing”.
“Phil I’m very disappointed in you” said Wilbert. “Do you have any idea how many hoops we had to jump through to get you out of that prison dimension? Imagine if Shane Smith hears about this!”
“I’m sorry, sir. It won’t happen again” I said with my head lowered, staring at the floor of Wilbert’s office.
“You just better thank your lucky stars that this is a period of rapprochement between the Liquifactionists and the US government”.
“How can I make it up to you sir?”
“Just finish the Groundhog Day assignment”.
More than 100,000 years had passed and I wasn’t making any progress. As usual, every day I would watch “Groundhog Day” and Rita would come with her camera to document the experience.
“Put your little hand in mine, there ain’t no hill or mountain we can’t climb,” crooned Sonny Bono.
“Rita,” I said, “I know we don’t know each other that well, but maybe you would like to join me for a drink sometime?”.
“Sure,” she said, “I’d like that. As long as we keep it professional…”
“Professional is my middle name”.
That night we went to my favorite watering hole in East New York.
“How’s business, Bartending Unit 3927?” I asked the cyborg bartender.
“Meh. East New York is not what it used to be. A lot of yuppies are moving in and gentrifying the place and bars like this are getting priced out. What’ll ya’ have?”
“I’ll take sweet vermouth, Andromeda ale, with a twist please”.
“I’ll have that too. That’s my favorite drink!” Rita said.
“Mine too. It reminds me of the canals of Rigel VII. The way the moonlight hits the water.”
“What shall we drink to?” she said.
“To galactic peace” I said solemnly as we clinked glasses.
We left the bar arm-in-arm, our spirits lifted, and our hearts warmed by the drinks we had imbibed.
“Look!” I said “there’s some radioactive ashes over there! I’ve got an idea!”
I knelt down among the ash and began molding the charred remains of the New York civilians who had been obliterated in the countless wars that had occurred across time.
“Let’s make a snowman out of these ashes! C’mon help me out! I love this kind of stuff. This is good clean fun. I want to do this with my children! I want to do this with my grandchildren!”
“Phil, don’t you think we are taking this a little too fast?”
“I do,” I said as I moved in for a kiss.
She slapped me in the face and left me to sulk in the rubbish heap as dark green clouds began to form and acid rain came down upon me and the skulls of innumerable dead New Yorkers from years past.
I put on Groundhog Day again alone in my dilapidated husk of an apartment building reciting the dialogue as I watched.
“Okay campers. Rise and shine. Don’t forget your booties ‘cause it’s cold out there today. It’s cold out there every day”.
When the end credits rolled, I got up from my couch and picked up my hunting rock. I hadn’t found food in days and I wanted to try to get my hands on some rats to eat before it got dark. As I walked down the street, I ignored the homeless fish-man begging for food as usual.
I soon found an abandoned subway station and headed down the stairs toward the tunnels. After exploring the catacombs for several hours, I couldn’t help but notice a faint, but constant squeaking somewhere in the complex. Could it be? I followed the sound, my stomach growling as the noise got louder and louder. The squeaking was deafening now. Where was it? No. Impossible! There it was! A rat’s nest! The biggest I’ve ever seen! Glorious food! I took out my rock and clubbed the rodents with abandon, placing the carcasses by the dozens in my sack. “These will do for pickling later” I said gaily.
I climbed to the surface and made my way home.
“Sir… Some food, please”. The fish-man implored.
I stood there for a moment and looked at the fish-man. I saw myself in his eyes.
“Here” I said, pouring out the contents of my rat sack.
“May Jesus Christ bless you”. The fish-man intoned.
As the days went on. I continued to watch “Groundhog Day” and hunt for rats in my grounds below the ruins of New York City. Returning from a successful catch I would make a point of giving the fattest, choicest rat to the fish-man vagrant I had befriended.
“May the Lord bless and keep you”. He would say.
As the days went on, I grew closer to the fish-man as he recounted stories of his hard-scrabble childhood.
One day, after a particularly successful hunt I rushed to the surface to see my friend. “Fish-man is in for a treat today!”. But when I found him, he was lying in the gutter struggling to breath. I tried mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, but to no avail.
“We’ve gotta’ get you to a hospital. You’re going to be okay. Don’t you die on me” I said.
But when we got there it was too late.
“I’m sorry, but your friend has passed on” a nurse said.
“No. I don’t believe you. I want to see him” I replied frantically.
“It was just his time”. The nurse said. “Sometimes fish-men get old and die. There was nothing you could have done”.
Thousands of years later I watched “Groundhog Day” in a subterranean, air-conditioned dormitory the directory had assigned me to. Conditions above the surface had become too hazardous for humans to endure for more than a few minutes at a time.
Upon finishing the movie, I joined Rita in the mess hall where we reported to receive our rations.
“I know everything about Groundhog Day”.
“That’s impossible” she said, “no one can know everything about Groundhog Day”.
I proceeded to recite the entire movie from memory.
“Rita, every day I watch ‘Groundhog Day’ and every day I wake up in the same post-apocalyptic nightmare. I can’t make it through this alone. Can you help me?”
“I can try Phil”.
13,000 Years later Rita came to my pod to watch Groundhog Day. Something was different this time. We enjoyed ourselves. We laughed together at all the memorable scenes. As the end credits rolled, she sat there astonished.
“You did it! It’s over!” She exclaimed “It’s been 361,000 years! You don’t need to watch Groundhog Day again!”
“No” I said. “I still have to watch it for 1000 more years”.
“You tricked me,” she said smiling “you told me it was only 361,000 years!”
Having seen Groundhog Day over 100 million times I felt like a new man. I had absorbed the message of this beautiful film and dedicated myself to helping my fellow underground dwellers. What lovely mutants they all were and what beautiful dreams they all had; Zebulon, who dreamed of starting a casino on the moon, Cindy, the mess hall waitress who dreamed of being an actress, Kupla the delightful little Trapsisian who served as our dormitory section-C captain. I loved them all and I was going to help them. And then there was Rita.
Rita always said she was attracted to musicians, so I endeavored to learn an instrument. Since musical instruments were prohibited in the subterranean dormitory, I had to fashion my own and find a hiding place. Over the course of frequent and fleeting visits to the surface I was slowly able to amass a collection of bones and skulls. The larger skulls produced deeper tones when struck with the bones and the smaller, infant skulls produced higher tones. Over the course of three years I was able to build an instrument resembling a xylophone and hide it in a utility closet near the dormitory complex reactor.
Before long I was banging away on my makeshift xylophone and becoming a virtuoso. Using pieces of string I had been collecting over the course of decades I was able to bribe the dormitory guards and hold concerts to the delight of the residents. Zebulon would bring his trademark hooch which he made from engine coolant. We had a ball.
“Something is different about you” Rita said. “You’re the most popular guy in the dormitory!”
After I gave a blistering solo Wilbert took to the stage.
“Everyone, I just would like to thank Phil for everything he has done for us. Not only has he produced the greatest work of journalism in the history of Vice Media, but he has touched us all in meaningful ways. Therefore, I would like to announce that with the permission of the authorities here at Human Storage Facility 6 Rita and Phil are to be granted one of the very few private rooms in this complex”.
We got to the metal door to our room and turned the valve several times to it. It was gorgeous inside. Presumably at one point it had served as part of a sewage treatment plant several thousand years ago.
“Oh my God! It’s beautiful” Rita said. “It has a window! We can see the sky!”
The brilliant sky outside shone a happy crimson.
“Let’s get married,” I said.