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Icy Origin (part 1 of 2)
The caravan ran in a straight line one behind another, as close as they could get without crashing. The best protection against the wind was to cut straight into it, leader taking it all on for the rest of the group. Ice grew along the wooden edges of each wagon. Northern sleet was not a friend to the locals, and it surely despised travelers for their coming and going. The grey sky was turning dark, and the wind could only get colder. Koil heard a call from the leading wagon as it began to turn left.
âEUoeLow, low, high!âEU he heard. Behind him, he peered over the edge of his wagon and gazed into the incoming fog. âEUoeLow, low, high!âEU he yelled to the back, hoping to be heard over the whirling of the wind. A few more shouts rang out behind his wagon, and soon a shout made its way back to him. âEUoeFood for the Night!âEU it sounded. He passed the message forward to the leader and thought. Only eight wagons now. When did we lose nine and ten? This isnâEUTMt good.
He shivered as a gust of wind blew across the front of his wagon, the leader no longer a breaker. He pulled his wagon to left, hoping to keep the circle formation the caravan had done the last few nights. It stayed much warmer for the drivers, and the fires could be lit. By the time the final wagon had been pulled around, each wagonâEUTMs driver was huddled around a large bundle of wood, slowly being turned into a warm blazing fire.
After getting some food, the leader started, âEUoeSo weâEUTMve lost another two wagons to the fog. Moving in two lines may be better for safety, though that means weâEUTMll have another frozen driver.âEU
âEUoeIâEUTMll do it,âEU Said Koil, flatly. âEUoeIâEUTMve got second position; I should take second lead if we are doing double lines.âEU The other drivers looked to each other, shrugged and continued eating while their food was still warm and soft. The leader continued to eye him.
âEUoeThatâEUTMs a rather brave thing to do, friend,âEU he said at last. âEUoeWhy would you go through the trouble when there are other, older drivers?âEU
âEUoeItâEUTMs to steel and temper myself. IâEUTMve got a long journey ahead, and some frost is just the kind of start IâEUTMm looking for.âEU
âEUoeYou donâEUTMt think you should relax before your long journey? What kind of mad-man starts his day by running for three?âEU the leader had the look of worry plastered across his eyes as he drank from his wineskin.
âEUoeThe kind of man that wants a story of course. ThatâEUTMs what I want.âEU Koil said, never lightening his smirk, or separating his eyes from the leaders. âEUoeDo you want to hear how this all began? I promise not to make it too long.âEU
âEUoeDonâEUTMt shirk the details friend, we have a long night ahead before we can continue our travels. A good story ought to do us right.âEU The leader smiled with red teeth before taking another gulp of wine. Koil cleared his throat to begin.
A few years back, when I was still a youngling, I had been sent to the local tavern to fetch some beer for my ma and pa. It was there that I learned the power of a story. When I walked into that tavern, the warmth of the hearth and drunken fools welcomed me with open arms and sloshing flagons. I wandered around a bit to warm myself in its glow before ordering the beer, as the short walk there felt like it had frozen my behind.
Red-faced men swayed with the musician as she played songs of warm lands and loose women. They must have thought she was one of them too with the way she winked and smiled. I agreed with them then, but now I see she was working the crowd for some generous donations. EveryoneâEUTMs got to make their meat somewhere. I sat at the bar and listened to the room briefly. It spoke as warmly as it felt, and I smiled a big childish grin.
The owner of the tavern popped up from behind the counter and spotted me grinning madly in his house. âEUoeNow, now, arenâEUTMt you a bit young to be drunk in here Koil? Should I leash you up and bring you back to your old manâEUTMs place?âEU he joked.
âEUoeWould that I were here for pleasure Mr. Gim sir! Me pa âEU~as sent me to pick up a barrel of beer for the week. WeâEUTMre starting to run low, and he said he and ma had some discussing to do, so as not to rush itâEU I told OlâEUTM Gimler.
He gave me a wicked smile and put his hand forth, âEUoeItâEUTMll cost you forty deryls.âEU
Me pa had told me not to give him anything other than thirty, so I scrunched up my face as best a youngling could, and told the man in my biggest voice, âEUNothing gets past me you old rum-button! I know a cheat when I get see one! ThirtyâEUTMs the price for a barrel!âEU
He laughed that hearty laugh fat men have when they feel the joy coming on. âEUoeAch! You got me! Thirty then!âEU I gave him the money and he took it to the back room. He would deliver the barrel the next, as it was late night already. Such was his routine.
I thanked him and got up from my seat to head toward the door when the music stopped. An old drunk put his arm around me and slurred loudly for the whole tavern to hear, âEUoeCome, take a seat whilst I spin you the tale of the GhostâEUTMs KillerâEUTMs Mystery!âEU He set me up between himself and the pretty red-haired musician who had been playing earlier. He drained his wine to the last few drops, belched and rocked his head around to loosen his neck. He nearly fell off his seat attempting the maneuver. He gave another, smaller belch, spit a large glob into his cup, and began his story, without a single slur.
Once upon a time, in the oasis of the west, there was a man. A man who was known enough by his friends and family to be content with his life. He was a happy man, a man who had few quarrels with others. For his birthday, he decided to spend the week drinking to his happiness, and as such remembered none of it. All was well with, oh what was his name, Donny? Danny, yes! Dandy! All was well with Dandy! But on the last day, Dandy found himself awoken in the night by a loud noise coming from outside his window. His eyes opened fast and he shot up from his bed only to be greeted with a sharp blade plunging into his chest. He squirmed for breath, and felt the warmth of his own blood leaking out onto his skin. It was too late for Dandy, and he gasped his last ounce of air before dying.
Luckily for Dandy, during his drunken happiness week, he went to see a witch. The witch foretold his death, but being drunk Dandy had begun to ignore his demise the moment it passed through his ears. The witch, angered with his lack of attention, cursed him to wander the earth forever after his death. And so, Dandy awoke once more from his limp and cold body, only as a ghost. He wisped around his room, slowly coming to awareness that he was in fact, dead.
âEUoeOh dear.âEU Said Dandy. âEUoeI believe I am in quite a predicament here. Best I find my brother such that he may aid me in my misfortune. He floated to the door and reached for it, slipping his hand through the handle. âEUoeWell thatâEUTMs just grand.âEU He said in a frump, before moving through the door. Across the hall was his brotherâEUTMs room.
Another bout of luck for Dandy happened at the start of his celebration of happiness when his brother and best friend, Mark, decided to take upon himself the duty of looking after dear Dandy. In doing such, Mark was also cursed to wander the earth as a ghost after death, which unfortunately was soon after Dandy had been so brutally murdered.
Dandy moved into his brotherâEUTMs room, only to find another spirit levitating there beside his brother. âEUoeCan I help you spirit? I am in need of my brother, and would appreciate you leaving us,âEU he said as cordially as possible.
Continued in Icy Origin Part 2 of 2
OH GOD WHY?!
Icy Origin (part 2 of 2)
The spirit turned over and gazed at him. "Brother Dandy, it is I, your brother Mark. We cursed brothers are dead and wandering this world. But alas, our release is within our grasp already! To break free from our eternal unrest, we must find our killer!"
"But brother! Who could it be? I haven't the darndest clue as to who would want me dead! I spent the last week in a drunken stupor celebrating my happiness and joviality with my friends! Not a man nor woman has a quarrel with me, let alone you!"
"Of course they do! Since you began last week, many a person has been stepped on by your drunken antics. You may not remember it, but I do!"
Dandy knew that this would be a simple solution now! "Great then! Who could I have been so obnoxious to that they wanted to kill me?" Had he a heart, it would have been racing. Being a ghost may sound so simple and calm, but the tug of the next world and the binding of a soul to this world surely weighed heavily on the poor souls.
"Well, I think it comes down to just a few people. It shouldn't take too long to figure out if we stay hidden."
And so, for some time the brother's tracked and traced the enemies Dandy may have made while being a drunken mess. Until finally, Dandy asked a most important questionâEU¦
"Brother, none of these people seem to have had any problems with me. Are you sure it was one of them?"
"Of course, it had to be someone you pissed off with your drunkenness!" he responded brusquely.
"Oh. Okay." Dandy answered back carefully. "Was there any chance I angered youwhilst drunk?"
"OH FINALLY HE ASKS THE QUESTION!" Mark answered loudly. "YES, IT WAS I WHO MURDERED YOU!"
"But brother, why? What did I do in that week that made you so upset with me?"
"Cursed to wander the earth for all eternity? How is that something not to be upset about? Had you even listened to that witch, maybe you wouldn't have wondered who was going to kill you anyway! She told us that I would kill you over this! But no, your drunken ass ignored her and got us cursed for eternity"
"But brother, it foretold the future of your actions! You were the one who did the killing! You could have avoided it entirely! You could have stopped this all from happening!"
"Nonesense Dandy! It had been foretold, my inaction would have merely been a delay of the inevitable, and possibly ruined the lives of those around us."
"But Mark, don't you see? By finding out that you are the killer, I am no longer bound eternally, and neither are you! That witch must have thought that this would happen right?"
The old drunk coughed up some phlegm into his cup again, and ended his story, "And so, the two ghost brother's solved the mystery of their killer, and went on to the next world to live in harmony for however long ghosts live for."
He cracked his knuckles, and stood up heading to get another mug of something to drink when the bard next to me piped up with her angelic voice. "But thatâEUTMs not how the story goes. You skipped over the years of wandering on the earth for the brother's killer, and never mentioned about the witch getting true vengeance on 'Dandy', who by the way was named Daniel, by stealing away part of his life essence!" Her displeasure in the story could be felt just from the pounding she was giving the table with her fists.
"It still was a good story though, wasn't it?" I had the idiocy to ask.
"Hardly a story at all little one, as the ending was torn to shreds and the moral lost in that drunk's lazy storytelling." She looked at me with stern eyes which relaxed as she saw my frightened face. She rustled my hair about and whispered to me. "Koil, you never mind that ol' manâEUTMs story. The moral may still yet be kept if'n the worldâEUTMs right. The adventures of Danny and Mark have quite a few morals behind them, and they always seem to catch those who forget to tell it true. This one has always been, be careful with your blessings, and don't drink them away for you'll end up dead with half a soul, wandering the earth for release." She pulled her head back and winked at me with a wide grin.
I smiled back stupidly and got up from my seat. "Thanks lady! IâEUTMve got to get back home now, me parents will be wondering whatâEUTMs taken me so long." I said before leaving the tavern. I made my way back home and got a few smacks for taking so long on my way back, but ma was just happy to see me safe.
The next day of course, I was scared straight out of my youth. When Mr.Gimler showed up on his wagon with the beer, he passed on a little share of gossip from the night. That old man I had been listening to never left his room in the morning. Flayed that night, someone mentioned seeing the bard taking him back to his room. She hadnâEUTMt been seen since then, but something in me knows that she was definitely the one who killed that old drunk.
"That sir, is why I am starting this adventure. Told as best I remembered, not a word out of place from the man's story, nor the words the bard spoke. I was careful of that." said Koil. He shifted in his furs, and began eating his meal.
The leader took a deep breath, obviously awoken from the storytelling of the young man. "That's quite a story you've got to start your adventure I suppose. That musician sounds like the bard goddess Plectra! But whatâEUTMs that old manâEUTMs death got to do with you taking a frozen front on a caravan?"
Koil swallowed the food in his mouth as he stared into the flames. "I've been wondering if that was Plecta for quite a while. IâEUTMm hoping that it wasn't." He turned to match the leaderâEUTMs gaze. "To make a story for myself with such adventure and power that the friendly bards of the world would kill someone who told a part of it wrong." He took a deep breath. "That's the big reason IâEUTMm leaving the north."
The sounds of the fire cracking, and the creaking of the wooden wagons as the icy wind whipped and whistled on them was the only sounds heard between Koil and the caravan leader until Koil spoke again. "Of course there are other reasons as well. If I'm lucky I'll run into Plectra along the way. She'll keep my story pure. Not to mention the chill up here is purely unbearable, I think my mind would have frozen over if I had stayed in that town for much longer!" He laughed heartily.
The leader laughed with him and wiped the tear from his eye. "Hah, 'tis true! Of course, you gotta have frostbite in your head to think traveling during a storm was a good idea, never mind taking point for it!"
"Well now, how can I have a moral story without making mistakes?" Koil posited forth.
"Hey now," said the leader, "Let me just ask you again. Are you sure you want to take second lead on this caravan?" Koil could see how serious the question was being asked.
Come on, he's letting you out of it. There's no point in risking it all for this adventure. Koil thought. "Yeah. I've got no other choice really." Koil said without batting an eye and producing a slim grin between his lips. "I really haven't another choice."
OH GOD WHY?!
"Professor Aldwin? Are you in there?" A young man in a tweed suit pushed open a glass door that lead to a scientist's lab. Several desks lay around, with mounds of scrap metal, blue prints and various food wrappers heaped on them.
"I am over here, Intern Johnson." An elderly man in a starched white lab coat sat at one of the cluttered desks, his back to the intern.
"You know I don't like being called an intern. How about assistant or even aide?" Johnson walked over, holding some envelopes in his hands.
"I call it like I see it. Anyway! I finished my newest invention! The Parallex!" The elderly professor stood up in triumph, holding a small, matte black orb with a single silver button on it over his head.
"What does it do?" Johnson asked, making space on one of the desks for the mail.
"It alters the fabric of reality, allowing the user to travel between dimensions! More accurately, it shifts from one dimension to another!" Professor Aldwin placed the device carefully back onto the desk.
"Does it work?" Johnson asked, skeptical.
"I don't know."
"I don't know! When the Parallex activates, it automatically corrects any paradoxes. Hence, the user and the world around him do not realize they have shifted realities." The Professor walked over to the mail, and looks it over.
"I see...anyways, Professor Aldwin, the Global Organization for Scientific Inquiry has sent you another summons." Intern Johnson pulls out a large envelope with bright red words spelling out "Urgent" on both sides. The Professor grabbed it and then threw it onto a desk nearby.
"Those GOSI morons just want to steal my ideas! Steal my inventions! They've been trying for years to get their hands on my Cool Fusion Power Generator and take all the credit!" Professor Aldwin began to rant and rave, and Johnson started to edge away.
"I'm going to get a soda. Do you want one?"
"Sure, whatever." Professor Aldwin sat down and began mumbling to himself as he looks over the rest of the mail. As Johnson closes the door behind him, the motion stirs the room a bit, and the resulting gust of wind flings an envelope at the Parallex, bumping into and clicking its silver button.
The rough wooden door is gracelessly opened by the booted foot of Johnson. He made his way in, holding two heavy flagons of ale.
"Here you go, Alchemist Aldwin. Your ale." Johnson placed the large drinking vessel on a nearby desk, covered in all sorts of tomes, quills, and scraps of paper.
"Thank you, Squire Johnson. Much appreciated." Alchemist Aldwin sipped at his drink as he looks over a hefty book.
"So, do you really think your invention, this Parallex, works?" Johnson asked,as he looked at the small black orb with a silver button that lay next to several odd apparatus.
"Of course the Parallex works. We just don't know when it does!" Aldwin said, rolling his eyes at the ignorance of his squire.
"Seems like a design flaw, don't you think?" Squire Johnson asked, pressing the point like a spear to a wild boar.
"Perhaps, but so what! People thought it was stupid to make a powder that exploded when heated, but now they use it in their newfangled cannons!" Alchemist Aldwin stood up again, and straightened his robes. "Someday my inventions will be accepted!" Squire Johnson just stood and nodded, while sipping his ale. A thought occurred to him.
"Alchemist Aldwin, I heard rumors down at the pub that the Kingdom of Gosi has begun to mobilize its army. Do you think there will be war?"
"Of course there will be war. Just like there will be Summer after Spring, or drunken fools in a bar. But I did receive a letter from the Kingdom of Gosi. They demanded that I help build weapons for them. But I refused! Let some other man build for war. I want to build for the aftermath of such things." Squire Johnson was a bit surprised, but silently pleased as well.
"So, do you want another ale? I see you are finished with that one." Alchemist Aldwin looked down at his empty flagon, and chuckled a bit.
"Why not? Make it another round for me and you! And then we can try and create a new way to use Minotaur dung!" Squire Johnson laughed, not entirely sure if Alchemist Aldwin was joking, and turned to the exit, slamming the heavy wooden door behind him on his way out. Alchemist Aldwin sat back down, unaware that the slamming door had shaken the Parallex, and it now wobbled over close to the edge of the desk, and fell, landing on its button.
The blank metal doors slid open with a barely audible "whoosh" sound, and Ensign Johnson rushed into the room, carrying a tea tray with two small cups, and a startled look on his face.
"Master Technician Aldwin! I've got bad news!" Technician Aldwin looked up from where he'd been messing around with some gadget on his stainless steel desk.
"Slow down, you'll spill the tea. Is it Algondian blend? I do so love their flavors." Technician Aldwin looked at Ensign Johnson with a bemused expression as the latter swept some data-slates and star charts off a nearby desk to place the tea tray.
"Tea is not really important right now! The Gosiian Collective just warped several battleships into our sector! The local defenses don't have enough weapons or ships to stop them!" Ensign Johnson was practically shouting, his fear obvious. Technician Aldwin stood up so fast that several things in his lap went flying across the room, striking the far wall.
"Alien bastards are after my technology! I suppose I should have known when I found a Gosiian spy-drone outside my window last week..."
"We need to get out of here! We need to get to a shelter while local government contacts the military! And then wait behind several tons of reinforced battle-steel and mega-crete!" Ensign Johnson scurried around the room, and gathered up what he thought would be useful items, while Technician Aldwin went about at a more leisurely pace.
"Why aren't you panicking?!" Ensign Johnson demanded, as Technician Aldwin looked over some notes on a desk.
"The Gosiian fleet will not reach us immediately. We have a good day before their ships reach the planet. Also, it's my policy not to run or rush. You get crappy results with both." Ensign Johnson made a noise somewhere between a high pitched squeal and a grunt, and grabbed Technician Aldwin by the hand and dragged him out of the room, causing them to bump into several things on the way.
The Parallex, innocently forgotten by both, wobbled a bit on the floor, then rolled around and hit its silver button on the edge of a table.
FOR THE GOOD OF ALL MANKIND!
He felt cold. His bones ached from it. It dried out his skin and turned his hair brittle. It stung his eyes but he didn't close them. It was so cold. He let out a breath and watched the moisture coil through the air in front of him. Then he drew in the frigid air and felt it burn its way down his throat. He smothered a cough with the dirty blanket he had pulled about him. With protesting arms he hugged his knees to his chest, the slight pressure felt reassuring. He instantly regretted the movement when a flood of pain shot through his abdomen.
How long had it been since he had eaten?
His brain worked to find an answer as he watched another cloud uncoil from cracked lips. The cold seemed to affect even his thoughts, his brain laboring to slowly uncover his memories. He didn't know how long he had been here. All he could do was feel it. He felt the pain and the cold. His eyeballs ground in his head, the noise echoing in his skull as he panned them around the room. He tried to see what was around him but he couldn't concentrate on anything else but the hunger and the cold. Why was it so cold? He felt the hard wood of the floor he was sitting on, the rough grains against his feet. He tried to wiggle his toes but found that the energy wasn't there. It got lost somewhere around the knees.
He thought he heard a voice somewhere to his right, but couldn't be sure. His ears had been rather unreliable as of late. He remembered howling wind and the voices of other people, but now there was just a dull ringing. He turned his head left and right, feeling the bones crack and pop as he did. He thought he could just make out the form of someone lying huddled next to him when the floor gave way.
He tried to yell but all that got out of his throat was hoarse rasp. He heard the floorboards snap and splinter as he passed through them. He knew he heard it, clearer then he had anything in his life. Above him a dim gray hole receded into the darkness. In a moment it was gone and he was enveloped in nothingness. He was still falling, of that he was sure. He felt the air as he plummeted and heard it whistle past his face. He also felt heat. He felt it all around him and inside him. His limbs, formerly so stiff and dead began to regain their vitality. He could move, he could hear, he could think, he could see!
And oh, what there was to see.
With a ridiculous pop the tepid blackness was replaced with vibrant color. Soul-lifting blue surrounded him. He looked up and he saw the most vivid sun shining down, its rays tickling his face with their warmth. He turned to look down and saw a giant tuft of pink grass racing to meet him. He closed his eyes in anticipation of the impact but felt only a soft embrace as he bounced gently. He rolled off the strange plant and found himself on a cobblestone path. As he stood up he found that not a single pain remained in his body, and that he felt content, not hungry.
As he gazed around him in wonderment he saw little houses painted in happy, bright colors. They were simply constructed, and seemed to almost sway in time to unheard music. The field in which he had landed extended as far as he could see in either direction, broken only occasionally by the odd purple plants and lush trees. Looking down the path he saw a denser concentration of buildings, like a village of some sort. He decided to head in that direction.
As he walked he felt eyes watching him. Not in a malicious way, like they were hunting him, just a curious sort of interest. He caught sight of movement in the corner of his eye and turned towards it. Peeking out of a window and some yellow curtains was a furry little face. It overly large brown eyes, and short brown hair covered it. As their eyes met its face broke into a smile. It clambered clumsily over the window sill before falling to the ground with an audible plop. It possessed a pudgy body and short stubby limbs which ended in round paws. A tiny cottonball-style tail was affixed firmly to its rump.
Pulling itself upright, the little creature, which was perhaps two feet tall, giggled and began to totter over to him. As he turned around in the road he noticed that there were creatures everywhere, emerging from holes in the ground, swinging from trees, and coming out of houses. They all had friendly smiles and sang as they came. Some danced and cavorted, while others merely strolled up to him. They formed a circle around him, looking at him from head to toe in wonderment and whispering excitedly to one another. He was astonished at the variety he saw. Many of the creatures were fuzzy bears like the one he had first seen, but others looked more like grinning sunflowers, googly-eyed crabs, and a few that appeared to be glowing balls that cooed. One of the creatures, a gray-haired cat with big green eyes extended a paw.
"Hello there stranger! My name's Mr. Fluffles and I'm the Mayor of Lilithop! Who are you?"
He shook the creature's paw, it was soft in his hand. He wracked his brain for an answer to the creatures- No, Mr. Fluffles' question, but came up empty.
"I don't know." He said, smiling sheepishly.
Mr. Fluffles threw his head back and laughed. "That's okay, stranger!" His eyes lit up. He turned to the gathered crowd of pint sized citizens. "Hey everyone, I just thought of a new game! Let's come up with a name for our new friend here!" The crowd cheered in approval and they hoisted the newest member of their town onto their tiny shoulders and carried him down the street, singing the whole way.
* * *
The next few days passed in a blur for him. Mostly because there was no night, only Nap Time, which occurred every five hours or so. The townsfolk picked the name of Senor Gigglepots for him, which he respectfully accepted but preferred that they just abbreviate it Gig. They gave him a little cottage, which he had to crawl around in due to his overly large size. In between nap times he and his adopted neighbors were occupied with playing games, goofing around, and snacking. There were hikes to see waterfalls of kaleidoscopic colors, soaring flights on obliging clouds, and games always more games. He didn't know how much time he spent like this, but he knew that he was happy. He was occasionally bothered by his lack of memory and the feeling that something in his past had bothered him very much, but the feelings were infrequent and always chased away by the arrival of a new game.
One day, Mr. Fluffles called the entire town together. As he waited for everyone to quiet down he hopped from foot to foot, brimming with excitement at the announcement he had for everyone.
"Everyone! Everyone! I have the most exciting news! It is once again time for the greatest game of all!" The crowd stirred and the creatures hooted softly with excitement. Gig smiled. He wondered what new adventures awaited. "All of the neighboring towns have agreed that it is time and that the game will begin tomorrow, right after Second Nap Time. Our friends from Bloopville and Vlubalburry will join us here before we all go to meet the others coming from Queegleheim!"
Although he didn't know what was going on, Gig was caught up in the excitement of the crowd and cheered along with them. The crowd soon dispersed, each of the townsfolk rushing home to prepare for the big game. When he asked one of his friends what he should do, the rainbow colored creature laughed and told him not to worry. They would get everything ready so he could play too. He nodded and wandered home, finding no one to play with. They were all busy preparing. He sat in his cottage and snoozed in the fields under the sun. After the bell signaling the beginning of Second Nap Time, he walked into town to wait for everyone to gather. The little square was quiet as the rest of the village slept. Gig sat and waited, drawing pictures in the dirt to amuse himself. Towards the end of Nap Time he head a low rumble. Turning to look down the road upon which he had first entered the town of Lilithop, he saw two large crowds approaching. The citizens of Bloopville and Vlubaalburry, he presumed. As if awakened by their coming, the villagers began to assemble in the square around him. He noticed that they were curiously attired, and that the approaching masses were similarly dressed.
They all had on matching smocks with a sloppily drawn smiley face on their chests. Misshapen metal bowls balanced on their heads and they each carried instruments which reminded him of a child's squirt gun. The villagers met their neighbors with smiles, shouts, and an absolute profusion of hugging. Gig waded through the sea of laughing faces to find Mr. Fluffles, who was conferring with the Mayors of the other towns. As Fluffles saw Gig approach he pointed at him.
"See friends! Our new friend Gig will assure us our victory in the Game!" He proclaimed proudly. The other mayors looked him up and down and nodded approvingly.
"Yes, he's very big isn't he?" The Mayor of Bloopville, a long snouted being said as he slapped gig on the arm. "This will be lots of fun with him on our team!"
Before Gig could ask what exactly the game they would be playing entailed, the bell chimed for the end of Second Nap Time. The three Mayors clapped their hands and donned little bowl helmets of their own. A chittering crustacean came up to Gig and handed him an oversized helmet painted a festive green and one of the silly looking toys. Mr. Fluffles produced a whistle and blew on it with all his might. As one all of the happy creatures turned to face him.
"Everyone, the moment we have all been waiting for has arrived. The biggest game of them all is once again upon us." There was a massive cheer and a few impromptu dances. "Now, I know we've all been very excited about this for some time, and I know that its easy to get distracted once the game gets going." He paused for dramatic effect. "But just remember what the most important thing about any game is" He waited expectantly.
"To have fun!!" The crowd yelled in response.
"Exactly! Alright lets go!" He pointed a little blue and yellow-striped baton topped with a star and the crowd surged forward. Gig was carried along by their momentum. He felt like a boat being carried on an ocean of adorbleness. None of his compatriots reached his shoulder in height. As they left the village they began to climb a nearby hill. They walked on and on, through beautiful landscapes that Gig could only have ever imagined as coming from a dream. He saw mountains of purple jelly and canyons filled with floating rocks that sparkled in the sun. Through all of these Gig noticed that their band was growing. New villages joined their ranks, hosting banners with stick figures, suns, and little doodles on them. Soon he saw ranks of creatures pushing contraptions on wheeled carriages and saw others riding in fanciful vehicles that puttered and released little puffs of sweet-smelling orange smoke. Hearing a peculiar buzzing he looked up to see creatures zipping through the skies in stocky little aircraft. They did loops and twirled through the sky, and the critters on the ground laughed and pointed with glee.
Gig soon stopped trying to count the number of creatures marching alongside him. They stretched from one horizon to the other, on foot and riding in their mystical constructs. They came to a crest and on some unheard signal they halted. At the head of the creatures Gig saw Mr. Fluffles scamper on to a waiting vehicle and brought up a little bullhorn to address them. "The game is set and all the players are here! Over this ridge are our friends from Queegleheim! They have signaled that they are ready and the game will begin in five minutes." He produced an oversized pocket watch and twisted it so that the hands read five. The hands began to click backwards.
Gig noticed that the little bear creature he had spotted when first arriving in Lilithop was standing next to him, hefting a large tube on its shoulder. The tube looped around crazily and Gig could not even begin to fathom its purpose. He leaned down and nudged his fuzzy friend.
"What exactly is this game?"
The creature's eyes lit up. "Oh, its the best game of them all!"
"That's what everybody has been saying, but can't you explain how we play?" Gig watched as the wheeled contraptions were brought up and creatures began to scurry about them, pointing them over the crest and lugging heavy balls which they then dropped down the contraptions gaping maws. He began to have a sinking feeling.
"Sure! We're over here. And the other towns are over there! When the clock rings we're all going to play together!" He laughed as if that explained everything.
Gig stole a glance at the watch. Three minutes left. He saw that most of the other creatures were checking their toys. They were taking little containers from their belts and sliding them into place, flicking little switches on the side, and pulling back on slides which made an ominous clicking sound. He turned back to his friend. "Please. Tell me what the name of this game is."
"Ooh ooh! Only two minutes!!" The little bear jumped up and down, his helmet almost falling from his head. Gig grabbed his little shoulders.
"Please! I need to know what this game is called. I need to know now!" The little bear gave him a quizzical look. Overhead the flyers zipped towards the unseen opponents. The vehicles began to move up and revved their engines. The clock began to count its final minute.
"Alright, silly Gig. I'll tell you. I'll tell you." He smiled and patted Gig's cheek. His eyes shone from beneath his helmet as he leaned in close. He almost shook with the excitement. "This game, Gig, this game is called War." He giggled as the clock counted its final five seconds.
Gig looked around him and saw the fervor in the eyes of all the little creatures. He saw the barely contained joy and expectation written plainly on every innocent face. They were like children at the gates of a theme park. Like little boys and girls creeping down the stairs on Christmas morning. The pocket watch hit zero and a shrill chime cut through the heavy silence which had preceded it. Gig turned to push his way back the way they had come, but he couldn't get through the cheering throng.
Instantly the tubular contraptions bellowed in a series of baritone clangs and boings. Spinning, multicolored balls flew through the air over the crest of the hill, and Gig thought he heard a dim echo of the same noise coming from the other side. With a low whistle other balls began to arc through the air towards the from over the ridge. Looking up he saw what looked like a beach ball shoot over his head before exploding in a rainbow of colors. Brightly colored shrapnel whistled threw the air and into his friends. Scores of villagers toppled over as more shells burst above them. He saw a villager who resembled a giraffe fall to the ground as bright pink blood geysered from a hole in its chest. With a gleeful cheer the group, the entire throng of villagers charged over the hill.
Gig was pushed along with them and found himself running over severed limbs and furred bodies. Another shell detonated in a pack of little soldiers ahead of him, sending bodies flying through the air. With revulsion he noticed that they were all smiling as their charred bodies slammed into the ground. The creatures around him pointed and laughed as they trampled their comrades corpses. As they cleared the crest of the hill, the full horror of the battle was laid bare before him.
From opposite directions, cuddly armies clashed in the central valley. Those on foot fired from their insane weapons, which made slide whistle noises and a host of other circus sound effects. Brightly colored tracer flitted between the two opposing armies and soldiers died in the hundreds. They advanced without fear or even a trace of apprehension. They laughed and danced as they were blown apart. Armored columns cut swathes threw the enemy, crushing the familiar purple plants beneath their wheels and spitting death from trumpet-like cannons. The bombardment intensified as the two armies closed, huge shell craters opening up in fountains of earth and glitter. Around him his fellow villagers jumped into the craters and began to fire at the oncoming enemy.
Gig jumped in behind them and put his hands over his ears at the battle roared around him. A rabbit at the lip of the crater jerk back and slid down the side as hot-pink sniper round struck it between the eyes. The body came to a rest at the bottom of the crater, a look of joy plastered to the villager's slack face. Gig began to sob and shook each time another technicolor explosion rocked his shell hole.
His comrades beckoned him to the lip, and peering out he saw that the battle had devolved into a melee. The valley was littered with dead. Groups of soldiers dashed from the cover provided by shell holes and burning vehicles. Above the flying machines tangled with one another, periodically spiraling down to explode amongst the ground troops. He saw a group of teddy bears overrun an enemy trench and beat the soldiers in it to death with the butts of their rifles. The dying soldiers laughed hysterically the entire time, as if they were being tickled. He watched as a tank was skewered by a point blank shot from a bazooka which looked like it belonged in a Dr. Seuss book. As the vehicle burned, the crew began to bale out, their fur on fire as they tumbled out of the hatches. They rolled on the ground, giggling as the flames consumed them.
It was too much for Gig's mind and he barely noticed as the mud he was laying in began to soften. He had sunk up to his waist before he realized what was happening. He felt something pulling on him and called out to the others who were in the foxhole with them. They turned and were about to grab his outstretched hand when a puppy carrying a flamethrower torched with sparkling fire. Gig closed his eyes against the searing heat and felt his head slide beneath the mud.
His lungs burned, but he refused to open his mouth. He felt the moist mud clogging his nose and ears, but he couldn't move. Almost imperceptibly he felt himself being pulled farther downwards. He felt his will growing weaker as he ran out of air. So this was suffocation...
* * *
He gasped and drew in a ragged lungful of air as he sat up in bed. He turned around quickly, looking for the battle, but quickly realized he was sitting in a room. His room. Everything in it was just where he had left it last night. An uneaten midnight snack sat on his nightstand and the desk fan was blowing cool air at full force. On the floor was a pile of stuffed animals and green army men. He smiled as he gazed at the objects. Now his dream made sense. He breathed a sigh of relief and walked over to the window. He threw back the curtains and waved at the man riding the T-Rex down the street.
Alright, so I posted this story in my news to make sure it doesn't have any formatting mistakes. If for some reason it still does, it's also here: http://jennaskook.deviantart.com/art/Hope-357154620?q=galler y%3Ajennaskook&qo=0
"Sometimes I can't write anything but endings," she says.
I look at her. Bony, deathly pale. Dull eyes of eroded emerald.
"What do you mean?" I ask her.
She digs around in her purse. I know she's searching for a cigarette. "I mean, when I try to think of a story to write, I can only think of ideas for the ending."
"Aren't endings hard, to write, though?"
"Not if you don't have a beginning to connect it to." She pulls out a pack, triumphant. Then her smile fades. "I suppose you haven't got a light?"
"You'll catch your death from those cigarettes," I reply.
"Doesn't matter," she says with a shrug. "Everyone's gonna die eventually. What was that saying, again? 'Nothing is certain except for death and taxes.'"
"I'll say," I grumble.
We sit on her maroon sofa. I sit on my side; Alyssa sits on hers. I lean back, and the leather wraps around my head, trying to suffocate me.
"You look ridiculous," Alyssa says, voice chalky and low. She taps her fingers, crosses her legs. Her side of the sofa is covered with cigarette burns and dry piles of ash.
"Doesn't matter now, does it?" I allow my body to slowly slide down. I close my eyes. The leather softens the sounds of everything I hear. If only it could do that with everything else.
Alyssa stands. "I need to go to work."
Her voice is soft, so soft, and I wish I could hear it more but I do not allow myself to. "Go, then."
Her steps congest the small room. She leaves but her presence still lingers.
"Why don't you leave me alone already," I moan. "Leave me alone."
My words are heard by no one but myself.
My calls remain unanswered. But she was always that kind of person, so I'm not worried. But when I read the text Alyssa sends me, my words are choked and mangled before I even think of them.
I write drafts:
<Text> That's horrible. When did it happen? You must feel <delete y/n>
<Text> That's...horrible. I know how you feel <delete y/n>
<Text> Look, I know it's bad now, but it gets better, it really does. <delete y/n>
<Text> I'm sorry. <delete y/n>
In the end I send nothing at all. There was nothing I could write that she couldn't see right through.
I decide to talk to her about it in person. It's better than just sending a text, anyway.
But I never get a chance to.
Hope ((Part Two))
"Lissy, look at this." I show her a piece of paper.
"Stop calling me that," She says. "And what is that?"
"It's a poem," I reply. "By Emily Dickinson."
"I don't like poems. They're too fancy for me."
"Come on, I'll just read you the beginning."
"Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune-without the words,
And never stops at all."
"It's still too fancy."
"Well, I tried." I look down at my feet, slightly embarrassed. "Look, Lissy-"
"Alyssa- I got you something." I pull my hand from behind my back, my fingers wrapped around the stem of a small golden wildflower. "I picked this for you."
"Thanks," she says, taking it. "It's, uh, really nice. Thanks."
"Uh. I just wanted to tell you that you're a really nice person and stuff and you're a really good friend to me."
She stays silent for a while. I'm glad she doesn't talk, because that's how I know she really does like it.
"Ethan, I have to go. My brother's still sick."
"Oh. Sorry. I hope he gets better."
"I do, too."
"Once upon a time there was a prince named Ethan and a princess named Lissy and they went to a magical swamp where there was a huge dragon and it was mean so they slaid it and they got rich and everyone lived happily ever after!"
"That's a pretty bad story."
"Why? It was good!"
"Good stories aren't one sentence long."
I groan. "Lissy, that's asking too much."
"It's not that hard."
"Alright then, you say a story."
She stops talking and thinks for a second.
"Once upon a time there was a boy named Ethan and a girl named Alyssa."
"Hey, that's how I started mine!"
"Be quiet and let me say the story. They went to a small school in a small town. But one day, Alyssa's brother got sick really bad. Her whole family was worried. They went to a doctor and he said he didn't know when he was going to get better. When Alyssa went to school, she was really worried because her brother was so sick. But she made a friend there named Ethan. They played together every day after that, and Alyssa stopped being so worried."
"...Okay, that's a better story."
"Told you so."
I let a huff out. But I'm not mad. I'm glad she's not worried anymore.
I'm glad I made her feel better.
I make a promise to myself. Whenever I see Alyssa's feeling bad, I'll cheer her up. That's what I'll do from now on.
Once upon a time, a boy named Ethan met a girl named Alyssa. He called her Lissy. At first, Lissy was shy and no one noticed her. But one day Ethan saw her after school and she was crying. She told him that she was really worried about her brother cause he was sick real bad. So Ethan told her that it would be all right, cause her brother would get to miss school and get ice cream and presents while he got better. That made Lissy smile and Ethan was happy he made her feel better.
But it was temporary. Lissy-or Alyssa, since that was what she wanted to be called- said that her brother was still sick. She stayed home a lot of times because she had to take care of him. Ethan gave her a wildflower, once. He didn't know it, but when she got home she took it a pressed it inside of a book. It was so it would last for a longer time.
They started to meet together more often. Then, when they were 17, Ethan kissed her.
She didn't talk to him for weeks after that.
But eventually she had to, though it was by text. She said that her brother had died. Leukemia, she said it was. But that wasn't what distressed Ethan the most. It was the fact that she had been completely emotionless in the text. She didn't even say that she was sad, or anything like that. She just wrote it flat out, like some sort of a jaded news reporter. This time, it was Ethan who didn't talk to her.
They didn't see each other until many years after that. But when they did, they were both different from the person the other had known before. Alyssa's voice would crack under her depression, and Ethan had turned stone cold. When they were in the same room, they both felt themselves being asphyxiated by the cruel memories and the blunt silence. Alyssa's brother was long gone, but she never forgot him. She wrote stories about him, stories of hope and friendship.
But every time, the hope was fake, gilded, and the friendship collapsed under the weight of consensual alienation. Her stories didn't feel right. They lacked emotion. They sounded like a report of the day's news, short and without feeling.
But that was only when Alyssa could think of the story at all.
Most of the time, she could only think of the ending.
And every time, her stories ended in the same way.
I finally open the package gathering dust at my doorstep. Inside it is a notebook, with its pages blank and yellowed. Upon turning the first page, something falls out and lands on my lap.
I pick it up. It is a pressed wildflower, browning in spots but still with hints of golden yellow.
Then I see writing on the front cover of the notebook. It reads:
I should tell you, I'm going to die soon.
Are you alarmed? I bet not. I'm pretty old. Of course, you know that already.
Remember, back when we were kids, maybe thirteen or something like that, you gave me a yellow wildflower. Well, I pressed it, and here it is, in the same notebook I put it in. You know, I hadn't opened this old notebook in years. But I always kept it with me. I did that to remember you. Promise that you'll keep it too, and remember me.
"Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune-without the words,
And never stops at all,
And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me."
Thanks for making me smile when we were kids. I really am grateful, Ethan. Though it might have turned sour near the end, I don't regret anything.
So goodbye, and good luck, Ethan.
I love you.
The Lies of Material Feeling
Sometime in the near future, several universities students rent an abandon warehouse in the middle of the old shipping district of the eastern section of the city. The young adults clean the warehouse completely. This is their baby that would change the world. These young dreamers are following the same path that the first computer wizards travel on. They built a small command center that is full with computers and the electrical equipment that would control the room that would be the test room of their project. This room has a one way mirror to monitor the test room, and one door to enter and leave the test center through the command center. Electrical generators power everything. Wires tie with plastic cord made miniature bridges that one could trip over. This in fact happens twice. Everyone bring their own chairs from home. Most of these chairs are folded out chairs that are used to watch ballgames.
The test room is practically an empty room compare to the command center. Anyone would think this. Only these amateur scientists know that all the technology is outside the wall. The sensors and all the doohickeys that are important are focusing on the room. The key is hiding these sensors. Everything is ready to take the first test. The only problem now is who will wear the suit.
The man with the green eyes cross his arms and look disapproving. âEUoeI am not going to shave my head.âEU He rubs his head softly treasuring each strand of hair.
The rest of the group gives a disapproving look. The oldest of the group spoke up. âEUoeCome on Steve, you pick the shortest stick. Be the man and shave your head for the test. You want it by force, or be a good boy.
Steve took a breath. âEUoeAlright, my hair is not all that important anyways. Besides, I am the first to test the first virtual reality room in history. âEUoeHe feels his hair one more time and leaves the room to prep up.
The oldest of the group first to spoke after Steve left the room. âEUoeSteve is obsessed about his hair.âEU The oldest man turns to Mark, which is sitting on the chair half paying attention from the result of sleep depredation. âEUoeYou know him well, why does he care about his hair?âEU
Mark slowly turns his head to Kyle and spoke âEUoeHe feels his hair is a chick magnet. He firmly believes that the ladies notice his hair first. He attracts some fine looking women. âEUoe
Kyle gave a quick smirk. âEUoeI hope the A.I. wonâEUTMt just project his fantasies. We do not want to get scar from Steve sexual fantasies.âEU
Tim got up from his chair and reply to MarkâEUTMs and KyleâEUTMs chit chat. âEUoeHe will be able to feel all those fake looking babes with the suit I created. The suit may look like it came from a lame science fiction movie, but it will trick the body to feel like the real thing.âEU
The door open and Steve enter the room with a frown. He is wearing a black skin tight suit. Plastic white sensors cover his head. He is wearing custom made shoes and gloves to help feel the artificial real world experience. All the wires are to attach to the center of his body. The small computer and battery are keys to this experiment. Steve wears glasses, again custom made, to help to see the images the A.I. will create for this fake world.
Steve frowns and rubs his bald head that is cover with scanners that cover his head. Kyle responds to everyone: âEUoeAlright people! Everyone get to their work station.âEU
Everyone with a quick jolt energy with a touch of anticipation start typing and clicking away to get the project of their dreams ready. Steve just sluggishly opens the door to the test room and closes the door softly. Losing his hair is far worse effect on him then the testing of a possibly new way of living.
Steve stands middle of the room. The bland room turns into to a field with yellow flowers with a mix of red in the center. Steve walks slowly with his eyes slowly scanning this fake world. The suit artificially makes him feel sunlight when he stares at the sun. Steve feels grass and flowers underneath his foot. The glasses show the green eye who his new shoes looks like his feet. He touches them with the gloves. The touch feels like he actually touching his bare feet.
Steve first words in this new environment, âEUoeThis is awesome!âEU
The field changes into another place. The new location is in a hotel room. Steve is staring at the New York skyline at a window that makes traffic look like toy cars. His feet feel the brisk fibers of the floor. Steve feels his new clothing, which is a black silk robe. He walks toward the bed, and places his right hand on the blanket. âEUoeThat definitely feels real.âEU He said.
A feminine voice said, âEUoeWhat feels real Steve?âEU
In a dumbfounded voice,âEU This moment feels real.âEU He said to the woman of his dreams.
She enters from an undiscovered room. She has short curly red hair, brown eyes with the enhancement of makeup, and she has a tan as well. She looks to be a foot shorter than him, and an hourglass figure. She has a black cocktail with white flowery designs decorating the front of the dress. Steve approaches his dream woman and rub her arm. His fingertips feel her soft moisture skin. His green eyes stare into her brown eyes. She leans into a kiss but stops a few inches from his face. âEUoeJoin me in bed.âEU She said in her best seductive voice.
Steve feels no breath from her mouth. He looks confuse. He is obviously feeling her skin, yet there no breath from her face. Inside his gut, there is something wrong. Fear travels through his body. The woman disappear, and the hotel room that has a gorgeous view of New York. The pleasantry he felt is robbed from his as a frown forms his mouth. Darkness engulfs the room. He is in a field with no flowers, but only tall grass. His heart races as he looks around.
He looks around erratically. He looks for something. What is watching him? Sharp knives scratch his back. Blood pours out his back. A heavy creature place his paw on his back, and pin him down. His face is full of grass. Blood pours heavily down his back. Steve holds his breath, close his eyes and waits for the final blow. He feels a heavy a heavy breath at his back. The creature drools over the wound.
The liquid on his back disappears, and no more grass in his face. He opens his eyes. The blandness of the test room is scan by his eyes. He takes off the glasses and enters the command center. He said,âEU Guys, we need to add more alterations to the suit. I need to feel a womanâEUTMs breath on my face.
Tim responds, âEUoeOf course, right away!âEU
Here's another last-minute entry from me! The language was even worse than last time, though this one's more about the idea, right? (It was going to be more violent to bring out the 'revenge' theme, but I couldn't exceed the word limit. :P)
If there is hope...
-Who am I?
-I cannot tell you, child. You have to find out by yourself.
-How can I do that?
-Scavenge for clues.
-Where do I start?
-The Database of Life. I have the key to the Database of Life.
-I have the password. Do you want it?
-Very well. Here, you can have it... but use it for any unwarranted purpose, and you will be destroyed.
* * *
I've met a lot of Tom Smiths in my life. Tom Smith, the electronic musician who has screaming fans wherever he goes. Tom Smith, the senior Party member who likes meeting us proles once in a while. Tom Smith, the popular barman who was tracked down by the Thought Police and is somewhere within the depths of Miniluv - not dead, mind you, or we wouldn't remember his name.
Yet there is only one Tom Smith I will always remember, even on my deathbed. He is the child whose hands I held as we slowly headed towards the campus. It was a beautiful day, and the little child had just been transferred from the local orphanage to the school where I worked. I had earlier learnt that he was deemed fit for literacy. Both his parents were party members who died in an unfortunate accident, I was told. I secretly doubted it.
A few years before, the Party had launched a new program to encourage literacy in the proletariat. It was a strange move to say the least, and I was one of the first to join the program as a trainee teacher. Having mastered the basics of writing, thanks to my ailing grandmother, I breezed through the course. I was the first 'prole teacher' to pass their test. My job is to teach children assigned to me, children I will be teaching throughout the rest their childhood and their adolescence. I have no idea where they'll go when they graduate, except that they will be taken away. Joining the Party is my best guess.
I could tell from the instance I held his hand that Tom was not a usual child. There was something about him that made him different, yet I could not put my finger on it. Perhaps it was the warm smile, a smile I had not seen since my grandmother passed away. Perhaps it was the way he held my hand, or the manner by which he walked. I could not tell what it was, but I was sure it was there.
As he walked, I told him that the rest of his class was on holiday until the following week, and that he would have to catch up during the week.
He nodded enthusiastically. 'I like learning,' he declared. I smiled. Perhaps that's what set him apart.
The next day, I taught him the alphabet. He had already learnt most of the letters in the orphanage, so he learnt quickly. On our third day, I taught him to spell his first word: 'love'. I wrote the word on a piece of paper and asked him to copy it. He looked up without saying a word.
'What is it, dear?' I asked.
'Miniluv?' he asked.
I gasped. How did he know about Miniluv?
'Miniluv?' he repeated.
'Where did you hear about Miniluv, Tommy?'
'Miniluv. My parents live there!'
I could not say a word. Cold sweat swept down my face.
'How did you know, child?'
'The... the life of base... the base of data...'
He tried different combinations of the words 'life', 'data' and 'base' for a few minutes, but eventually gave up.
'The base... I saw it.'
Unable to think of a reply, I decided to move on to the next word, 'hatred'.
* * *
17th January, 2384
My teacher told me to write in you, so I did, but I'm not sure what exactly I should write. She said I should write anything special that happened to me today, and my feelings about it. I don't really get it. It's a pretty mundane day. Why can't I wait till a really special day to write?
Diary, since we've never met, I'll introduce myself. My name's Tom, and I'm seven. My teacher says I've been her student since I was four, but I don't remember much from my early years, not even the day I met my teacher. All I can remember is that my parents live in a house called Miniluv. I've asked around, but nobody would tell me where it is. I don't know why, but every time I ask, they start sweating and tell me to do something else. It's as if they want to hide something. Oh, also, I learnt that from something called the the dase of bata or something. That's all I want to say, Diary. I don't mean to bother you too much, sorry.
* * *
One day, I announced to Tom's class that the next chapter was about the government. I introduced the four ministries - Minipax, Miniplenty, Minitrue and Miniluv - but did not discuss them in detail. The curriculum was only concerned about using them correctly in a sentence.
Tom's hand was the first to shoot up. 'Please, miss, can you tell us more about Miniluv?' asked Tom.
Suddenly, I recalled that episode nine years ago, an episode I had long forgotten. I decided to put it off. 'Let's talk about that tonight, shan't we, Tom?'
That night, when everyone was asleep, I took Tom to my room. He had never been to a teacher's room before, and indeed, it was against the rules to do so (although this particular rule was never enforced). As I opened the door, Tom let out a little gasp. I put my hand over his mouth and told him to speak softly.
After ensuring that there was no-one around, I told him to sit on the chair next to the door while I sat on the bed. 'Tom, can you tell me why exactly you think your parents are in Minilove?'
If he were only a year older, he would have suspected me of being a Party member, and refused to answer the question. Thank goodness he was still young, and had no reason to doubt the woman who had taught him for years.
'I know... from the base of life... that they are there, in Miniluv, in a house near Miniluv, where the walls... have more than just ears.'
After I heard him say that, something went through my mind, but I couldn't catch it.
I decided to tell him the truth. 'Tom, I have been told that your parents died in an unfortunate accident, yet you should not believe a word of it, for the Party lies. Their absence of detail indicates that there is no accident. If your parents are in Miniluv, which is highly probable, then I can assure you that wherever you look, you will no longer find their names. Your parents have become unpersons, Tom; they no longer exist, not in the Party's mind.'
Tom widened his eyes. 'Huh, miss?'
'The party removes people who are a threat to them, Tom, and I'm afraid your parents may have been removed.'
Tom gulped. 'They have?'
Then it hit me. I knew what house he was talking about!
'What did you just say about a house near Miniluv?'
'A house where the four walls have ears and more.'
'I know where it is.'
Tom gasped again. 'You do?'
'Miniluv, with such notorious divisions as the Thought Police, has eyes in every corner of the country. However, a long time ago, it was rumoured that there was one place in the world where their long arm did not reach: the piece of woodland just south of Miniluv. It was said that there was a house in the heart of the forest. In the house, Outer Party members and some proles would meet and discuss freely.
'In a few years, the rumours had reached the Inner Party and another rumour began to circulate, saying that Thought Police had arrested all the regulars of the house and put them in Miniluv. The house itself, however...' I paused, not sure if I should carry on.
'What happened to the house?'
'They could not burn it down.'
'Can you take me there?'
'Not yet, Tom.' I reached for a small bag in the corner of the room, opened it, and took from it an old book. I put it into Tom's hands. 'Read,' I told him.
'The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism,' he read.
'Read it, Tom, from beginning to end, and once you've finished, find me after class.'
* * *
I'm going to be away for a month. The Party trusts me now. They want me to travel around the country and assess the teachers' performance.
Once you've finished the book, go to the house in Xiwang Forest. You must stick to the well-travelled paths, for a lone traveller is sure to arouse suspicion. In addition, you must not near Miniluv or any other government building, for they are sure to catch you, a prole. Remember when I collected your atlases last month? I have traced the route on your atlas. Follow it to the house.
Once you're there, take the path you know is right.
* * *
'Yep, I've done it,' said Tom. 'I've reached the house, or rather, I've reached the hut.'
The hut was by no means a magnificent piece of architecture. Put together by nailing tinplate and wooden boards together, it seemed as if it had just moved there from a slum. Vines had begun to grow on it, and it seemed as though the weight of the vines could cause the house to collapse any moment. By the looks of it, it had been deserted for ten years or so.
He walked around the house like a tiger circling its prey, looking for a door. After four circles, he realised that the opening was on the roof. Looking around, the only way he could get there was to climb the tree beside the house.
Taking a deep breath, he grabbed a branch with his left hand and put his right foot into a tree-hole. He had never climbed a tree before. Then he grabbed a higher branch with his right hand and stepped on a knot with his left foot. Not long after stepping on the knot, his left foot slipped, but he stayed in position thanks to the branches.
After a few trials, he finally reached about the same height as the house. Gripping on a branch ever so tightly, he put his left foot on the roof. Then his left hand let go and the other foot stepped onto the roof as well. Eventually, he right hand's grip loosened... and the roof came crashing down.
He landed on the inside of the house with a thump. Wiping a cobweb off his face, he glanced around. The house was quite empty save for the many spiders, insects and mice that called it home. For some strange reason, he felt a strange presence in the room.
He was about to stand up when a he heard a voice.
Walls have more than ears, my child.
Goosebumps crept all over his body. It was the same sentence that had always lingered in his mind, but whose source he could never determine. It was inside his secondary memory, locked away so deeply in his hard drive that, until now, he had never managed to dig it up...
* * *
>SELECT * FROM People >WHERE name="Tom Smith";
Query executed, 453 rows found.
-Hmm, that isn't quite right.
>SELECT * FROM People >WHERE name='Thomas Smith' AND date_of_birth='2103-04-24';
Query executed, 2 rows found.
-Another guy by the same name, born on the same day. What are the chances? I'll have to do something else... That's it! My school.
>SELECT * FROM People LEFT OUTER JOIN School >ON People.ID = School.ID >WHERE People.name='Thomas Smith' AND People.date_of_birth ='2103-04-24' AND School.SchoolID= '1431';
Query executed, 1 rows found.
-Aha! My father... his name is Gordon Smith. And my mother... she's Julia Jones. I should like to know more about them. How about where they are?
>SELECT * FROM People, Location >WHERE People.ID = FamilyMembers AND People.name='Gordon Smith' AND People.date_of_birth ='2103-04-24' AND People.kindergarten = '1231';
Illegal communication attempted
Error 1235: No such person found
Error 244: Unperson
Unexpected doubleplusungood error occurred, self-destruct in 30 seconds
Table "Unpersons" loaded
-Huh? That's weird. Unpersons - maybe that's where my dad and mum are?
>SELECT * FROM People RIGHT OUTER JOIN Unpersons >ON People.ID = Unpersons.ID >WHERE People.name='Gordon Smith' OR People.name='Julia Jones'
Query executed, 1 rows found.
-Wait... what? My parents... were... disappeared? In the forest near Miniluv...? A house? With four walls?
-Strange. I feel a presence... near me... Who are you?
-Who I am is of no use to you, child. I have come to tell you of one great truth... that there may be more hiding in walls than just ears.
-Your voice sounds familiar, sir. What did you mean?
-That I cannot tell you, child. Good luck.
* * *
-You aren't the same person, are you, madam?
-No, I am not, my child, but that is of no importance to you. I have come to congratulate you. You have done it, my child. You have found the house, yet you still have a long way to go before you succeed.
-What is in the wall, madam?
-Child... I cannot tell you...
* * *
As the voice faltered and faded into nothingness, he felt that something, a force, or perhaps a spirit or a spectre, was leaving the hut, leaving him alone to solve the riddle of the walls.
He paced around the interior of the hut, wondering what it could be. As he paced, his fingers raced on the tinplate wall, making sounds.
All of a sudden, it hit him. He noticed that two of the tinplates walls were slightly detached. It revealed that the wall, in fact, consisted of two layers.
He leaned onto one of the walls to look between the two layers. Much to his surprise, the wall collapsed, and he fell flat on his face.
When he got up, he had the surprise of his life. The walls were filled with books. He picked up a few books to read their covers. They were written by names of whom he had never heard: Locke, Voltaire, Rousseau... who were they?
He started reading the first page of the Locke's book. When the sky started to dim, he realised how much time had passed. Abandoning the book, he headed back to the campus.
* * *
My fellow students, be it known that once we have completed our education with flying colours, we shall be deemed fit for the Outer Party, and thereby, we shall become assets of Big Brother. As great an honour as it may seem to you, I am convinced that it is not.
Allow me to explain. When I was very small, I had an experience. I was permitted access to the Database of Life - that allowed me to see where my parents were. As it turned out, my parents were unpersons who were killed in the Ministry of Love, or Miniluv as it is known in Newspeak.
Before their arrest, they were regular visitors of a hut in Xiwang Forest, one of the few places which escaped the Thought Police's surveillance. Thanks to Ms Harrison, I have been able to locate and visit the house in question. That was two years ago. Shockingly, I discovered piles of books hidden inside the walls of the hut. In the past two years, I have been visiting the hut every day to read them. Once I finished the last of them, I felt enlightened.
In the coming meetings, I will discuss their teachings in detail. Before I do that, I would like to outline a plan, a plan to overthrow Big Brother and save our world.
I propose the formation of a brotherhood similar to Goldstein's fictional one - Goldstein's brotherhood only exists in party propaganda, by the way. We are the initial members. Once we join the Party, we shall locate potential members in the Outer Party, and we shall have them join our cause. We shall never make any contact with Inner Party members. We shall also spread our ideas among the proles, and eventually, the ideas will return to the Outer Party like a boomerang.
Once we have a large enough brotherhood, we shall gather the proles, and revolution...
* * *
A shadow emerged from the darkness. The shadow was humongous, and every boy and girl in the library turned to face it. Slowly, it shrank, and on the other side of the room, a figure grew, a figure so familiar that, to see such a face, and at such a time, was haunting to them. As the figure grew, it was increasingly clear that he held something in his hand.
'Thirty-nine criminals in one night. Big Brother will be pleased.'
It was Mr Williams, the teacher of the next class.
'Ms Harrison, I'm sure you will appreciate the honour of being the first to die,' said Mr Harris as he slowly raised his pistol.
Ms Harrison smiled. Walking briskly towards her colleague, she swiftly drew out a sword from her bag.
'My grandmother gave this to me. I knew I would put it to good use one day.'
Mr William's expression first turned into one of disbelief, then into one of anxiety. 'Hold on. We can deal with this.'
'No, we can't,' replied Ms Harrison as she thrust the sword into Mr William's abdomen.
As Mr Williams fell, Ms Harrison reached for his gun. Failing to do so, Mr Williams managed to fire a shot at Ms Harrison, a shot which went straight for her neck. Overconfident, Mr Williams tripped on a pencil and fell, and Ms Harrison went for the gun again. The two wrestled a bit with Mr Williams firing random shots. Ms Harrison dropped her sword and reached for Mr William's gun. The children were too shocked to aid their teacher. Finally, after a long fight. Mr William was dead, Ms Harrison having delivered a fatal blow to his head.
Ms Harrison, sustaining another shot in her lap and bruised all over, lay on the floor. 'Children... I am weak... I will be gone... before dawn breaks... kill big brother... my death... not... in vain...'
* * *
TIMELINE OF THE REVOLUTION
2403: Led by a group of Outer Party members, the Second Revolution began in the northwesetern city of Geming. The proles stormed the government buildings, and all Party members either surrendered or were killed.
2407: News of the Revolution began spreading. Some party members in other areas of the country flee to Geming.
2414: The new state, now named the Republic of Liberty, captures five counties and three major cities, and occupies the westernmost portion of the country.
2417: Liberty troops trample on River Ducai, capturing ten counties and seven major cities. Most of the southwest is under their control.
2420: Liberty troops expand in two directions at once, and occupy half the country. Most states now recognise Liberty.
2427: Liberty troops capture two more counties, and are closer and closer to the capital.
2430: The old regime fights back. Liberty troops retreat and capture the Northeast.
2431: Liberty troops capture the southeast. The capital and its surrounding counties are surrounded by Liberty on three sides.
2435: Liberty troops arrive at the Capital.
* * *
The scouts had done a very good job of locating Big Brother's headquarters. Before, only the innermost of the Inner Party had access to it or even knew of its existence. Now, the Liberty troops had a map of the whole place, including the locations of booby traps and vulnerable spots.
As spring was edging near the country in February 2437, ten million Liberty troops, including proles and Outer Party members, stormed the Capital after six-month siege. One by one, Inner Party members were killed. They had no choice of surrender - not one of them were to be trusted.
After one day of shooting, killing and chaos, they reached the darkest, most cunningly concealed chamber of the Capital. It was a small conference room. On each side of the table sat seven men. On the far end of the table, a short man stood, obeying their every command. He was not human... not any more. He was... Big Brother.
About fifty of Liberty's elite forces broke the door open. The men did not like being interrupted.
'Go away!' barked one.
The solders ignore the command. Quickly, the men in suits came to realise that their visitors were not their generals, but Liberty soldiers who had come to kill them.
A voice piped up not too far away. 'The end is here, Big Brother. You will be annihilated.'
The fifty-odd soldiers stormed the room, and soon, all the manipulators were dead. One soldier, having finished the last of them, lunged at Big Brother, who had both his hands in the air. 'Please have mercy!'
'Hold on, Luke. I'd like the pleasure of killing him myself.'
Tom drew out a sword from his leather sheath, smiling. It was Ms Harrison's sword. As he walked towards the evil man, the soldiers went silent, their hearts beating wildly. All of their glances were fixed on Tom.
'Big Brother, over a period of five hundred years, you have killed ten billion people. What an achievement, Big Brother. You have turned our once magnificent country into a network of slums and torture chambers. You have killed my parents, and the parents of many other children. Do you think you will be spared?'
'It wasn't me...'
Tom thrust the sword into Big Brother's abdomen, just as Ms Harrison had done to Mr Williams. Whimpering, the once charismatic leader fell to his death.
Tom cut off the head that had haunted the nation for half a millennium. Then he stabbed the dead leader's body again and again, enjoying every stabbing. Once the body had become paste, he held it the head in the air and waved it to the soldiers as if it were a trophy.
'Big Brother is dead! The old regime is dead! Liberty is ours!'
Nobody could hear the rest of his speech, for his voice had drowned amidst the chanting of the soldiers.
Suddenly, Tom felt a tapping on his shoulder.
'Sir, this is urgent. You have a call from Geming.'
'Can't it wait? We have a state to found here.'
'It's about your son.'
'My son? I'll get the phone.'
'It's already here, sir.'
Tom took the phone from the soldier and held it up to his ear. 'Our son, Jason, is dead,' said his wife's voice.
'I was pregnant before you left Geming. I tried telling you, but you always ignored my calls.'
Tom was silent for the moment. He could not believe it. He had a son, he'd never seen him - and he died!
When the moment had passed, he could not control himself. 'Noooooooooooo!'
Then he fell to the ground, unconscious.
* * *
>SELECT * FROM People >WHERE name='Jason Smith' >AND date_of_birth ='2414-05-29'
Query executed, 1 rows found.
-Good. It can be done...
> UPDATE People > SET death_date = '2500-01-01' > WHERE name='Jason Smith' > AND date_of_birth = '2414-05-29'
Illegal communication attempted
Error 1243: Access denied
Unexpected doubleplusungood error occurred, self-destruct in 30 seconds
I told you not to do it, child. You will be destroyed.
Slowly, the great man, the saviour of his nation, sank into the deep, black void, into the pit of endless suffering...