Fiction Tuesday – The End Of All Things

Today’s blog continues my long-neglected satirical fantasy, In The Land of the Penny Gnomes

Will didn’t like the sound of Nobody’s pronouncement. Neither had Sindy, who wheeled angrily toward her father. “And what do you mean by that?”

“Hmmm? Oh, well, yes. There is a down-side to every government contract.”

“Dad, what did you do?”

Nobody held up his hands. “My dear, you have to understand. I was determined to find a way to treat fading, but I needed funds. I brought my ideas to the council and they agreed to pay for my research, as long as I explored weapons to combat the lawyers as I studied. Weapons, and something else.”

Will had seen what Nobody’s work could create, he wasn’t sure he wanted to know what “something else” was, especially if the Professor seemed hesitant to speak about it. He recalled Nobody’s statement about not having a world to go back to, and had a feeling this “something else” might be the reason. Despite his reservations, Will decided he needed to know.

“Professor, what do you mean ‘something else?’ What did you make?”

Nobody was sweating. Will noticed, however, Bug had not removed his hat as the conversation increased in tension. Whatever the professor had created wasn’t something he felt nervous about, at least.

“Well, the council wasn’t certain the firewall would be able to keep the hoard out, and they didn’t like our chances in a prolonged war, so they wanted me to create a deterrent.”

“A deterrent?”

“Yes, something to make the Lawyers think twice about invading The Realm. At least that’s what the council thinks it is. I think it’s severely anti-social, which was my second social insight for the year.” When he received no congratulatory remarks, Nobody added, “I’m quite proud I figured that out.”

Sindy clenched her fists, but forced her face into a plaster smile. “Yes, Dad, that’s wonderful. What did you make?”

“Oh, yes.” Nobody glanced at Bug, who nodded. “The council had me make a penny ore detonator.”

Sindy shrieked, “No!” Then proceeded to rush over to her father and shake him by his shoulders. “Tell me you didn’t do this!”

“He had to Sindy, otherwise they were going to pull his funding, and he wouldn’t have been able to come up with his treatment for fading.”

Cindy wheeled on her husband, “How could you? Do you know what will happen if anyone sets that off?”

Bug, who usually shrank back when confronted by his wife, straightened his back and stood up to her vengeful stare. Confused by her husband’s sudden fortitude she lowed her gaze, which prompted Bug to respond. “Yes, Sindy, I do — and so will the Lawyers. They’ll think twice when we let them know about it.”

Will was lost once more. “Uhh, everyone? I actually don’t know what a penny ore detonator does. Can you tell me why this is so bad?”

“Well, Will, Great Roll is located in the middle of the Fifty Peaks Mountains, which are rich in Penny Ore.”

“That part I understand, I think.”

Nobody nodded. “Good. Well, you must understand Penny Ore is an extremely powerful material. It stores energy which allows us to use it in different ways. It’s not simply currency, it’s what we use to power our homes and businesses as well. My recent projects have had me running at a 200 pennies an hour for the last two years.”

“Is that a lot?”

“Oh yes! It’s a remarkable bit of power! I estimate that every pet groomer in the Southwest corner of the city has had to cut back their hours of operation because of the shortage I’ve created. It’s been quite fun!”

“Fun?” Sindy bristled at his choice of words. “A quarter of the City’s pets are going un-groomed while you create a weapon of mass destruction in your basement and you call it ‘fun?’”

“It’s not only a weapon of mass destruction. With my allotment, I created a cure for Fading, weapons which allow us to defend ourselves, and several new kinds of flavored pretzels.”

Will’s stomach grumbled at the mention of food, but he ignored it in favor of highlighting a phrase both Sindy and the Professor used without protest. “Preztels aside, what did Sindy mean by ‘weapon of mass destruction.’”

The professor, however, wasn’t listening. Upon mentioning pretzels Nobody had run over to a cabinet and was rummaging through a shelf. Holding up several small bags he gave a slight cheer and tossed one to each person in the room. Will caught the package and flipped to view the front. Emblazoned on the cover were the words, “Snack like Nobody’s business.” Underneath the flavor information proudly announced, “Radish and Mashed Potato, now with more radish!”

“Those are my favorite,” Nobody crowed, pointing at the in Will’s hand.

Will tucked the bag into his pocket, resolving never to snack like Nobody’s business. “Thanks, but what about the whole ‘mass destruction’ thing?” Will persisted in this line of questioning, even tough he’d begun to wonder if the professors’s pretzel flavors might just be the real WMD. Sindy had opened her bag and was munching on “ketchup and cactus” while Bug was chewing a pretzel from a bag labeled “Sour Cream and Catfish.”

“Oh, well…” Nobody paused as he rummaged around in the cabinet for his own bag of pretzels. He opened up a bag of “Sea Salt and Espresso” pretzels before continuing. “It’s quite simple, really. Because Penny Ore contains so much imaginative energy, were it to be suddenly released by tearing apart the molecular structure of the ore, the resulting explosion would probably flatten the Fifty Peaks Mountain and turn The Realm into a wasteland. Are you going to eat those pretzels?” Nobody motioned to the bag sticking out of Will’s pocket, which the teen gladly tossed over.

“I can’t believe you did that, Dad. If that thing gets set off, it’ll be the end of us all!”

“It’s not meant to be used, Sindy. The council only wanted a way to make the hoard afraid to invade!”

“And a wonderful job it’s doing, at that!”

“I know, my dear. I know. The Council believes that this deterrent will work. I just think it’s mad.”

“But you built it anyway?”

Nobody nodded. “Yes, I did. It was quite an exciting…oh!” Bug had crumpled up his pretzel bag and threw it at Nobody’s head. Thus awakened to the danger of Sandy’s wrath, he added, “But you are right, it is terrible.”

“Professor?”

“Yes Will.”

“You said if I go back there may not be a world to go back to, right?”

Nobody nodded. “That seems to be like something I’d say, yes.”

“But, why? I mean all this stuff is going on here. Why does it matter for where I’m from?”

“Ahhh! Yes, an excellent question! See, Will, if the device gets detonated it will destroy the realm, and your imagination along with it.”

Will’s mouth opened. When he couldn’t find anything suitable to say he closed it again. He repeated this action several times, and found his hands had begun to shake.

“Kid, did you stick a pretzel in your mouth without anyone noticing?”

Will was shocked back into coherence by Bug’s voice. He glanced at the gnome and responded with an eloquent, “Huh?”

“It’s just that your mouth has been moving up and down for a few minutes now. I thought you might be chewing on something.”

“Oh! Did you get a large chunk of radish? I added those special in the last batch!”

“I’m not eating a pretzel, Professor.”

“No?”

“No. I just handed them back to you, remember?”

Nobody glanced down at the bag in his hand in shock, but then recovered and asked, “Then what are you doing?”

“I’m trying comprehend how your big bomb could somehow destroy my imagination.”

Nobody smiled. Sindy had steam seeping from her nostrils. Bug finished his pretzels, crumpled up the bag, and belched. “That is another excellent question, Will!” the Professor exclaimed.

“Yes, Dad, it is an excellent question. I can see why you’d be so inclined to create a device which will utterly destroy his ability to ask such interesting questions! They can be such a bother.”

Nobody frowned. “Oh my dear, I did say the device wasn’t meant to actually…”

“Look, you two can argue later. I want to know why this thing is so dangerous for me!” Will shouted the last line. Doing so slowed the tremors in his hands significantly.

“Oh, right. Yes, well Will you have to understand what the purpose of The Realm is.”

“And that is?”

“As far as we know, we’re the source of your ideas, kid. Every painting, every story, every good question, anything which takes imagination to form comes from the spark of the realm.”

“What? You’re saying all the things we do, you do first?”

Through the steam, Sindy smiled. “Oh no Will, nothing like that. Though the archetypalists think that’s exactly how The Realm functions. Most of the peoples in The Realm believe our spark is what encourages the people in your world to see possibilities. The healthier The Realm is, the healthier imaginations in your world are.”

“We don’t know what form your ideas will take, Kid, it’s one of the reasons we go shopping in your stores. We’re interested, see?”

“I wish you’d stop calling my bedroom a ‘store,’ but I guess I see what your saying. So, if The Realm ceases to exists we’ll lose something…”

Nobody smiled, “We call it ‘The Spark of Imagination.’ It is one of the most fundamental forces in any world.”

“OK, so we loose this Spark, and we stop coming up with new ideas. I guess that’s bad, but why’s it end my world? I mean, I don’t want to appear unsympathetic, but my GrandPa has been saying ‘there are no new ideas any more’ for years.”

Nobody nodded. “Yes, your Grandfather seems to be an unusually wise man. It is true new ideas have become scarce in your world. Most people simply tweak something which already exists and then call it ‘new.’ It’s been this way because The Realm hasn’t been healthy for quite some time. But what we’re talking about is different, not a slow down of imagination, but a cessation of it. People wouldn’t be able to do so much as pick out a outfit, write a shopping list, or schedule a meeting. All these things require the Spark of Imagination. Without it, everything in your would will simply, stop.”

Will had never though scheduling a meeting took much imagination, and privately thought the inability to do so might be a good thing, but he had to confess he understood Nobody’s point. A world without any imagination at all would be truly horrible. “Professor, why on earth would you build something like that?”

“Well, I did mention I needed funds for my research.”

“I don’t care if you needed money to fly to the Moon! You’re talking about destroying your world out of spite, and taking my world right along with it!”

“Flying to the moon? What a marvelous idea. I could merge an egg-beater with a Television remote and…”

“Will you stop that?” Nobody looked up into Will’s eyes, and quickly turned away uncomfortably. “I don’t care about how you’d get to the Moon, Professor. I want to know why!”

It was Bug who answered. “Destroying imagination may be the only way to save it in the long-run, kid.”

Will wheeled on the gnome, who stepped back a very ‘avoid-Sindy’ fashion. The teen’s anger was beginning to frighten him, but not enough to keep him from discovering the reasons why such a horrible weapon could be created. “That’s insane, Bug. If you destroy imagination it’s gone. How could that possibly save it?”

“Ah, well I have the answer for that question, Will.” Nobody seemed to regain some of his composure as he switched to lecture-mode. “You see, your current imagination would be destroyed, but it would eventually re-form into a new imagination.”

“And how long would that take?”

“Several centuries, at least. You see, if your imagination dies so does your civilization. You’d be starting from the beginning, you see.”

“Our civilization would… die?”

“Yes. It’s happened before. Whenever a civilization loses it’s Spark of Imagination it dies – and is eventually replaced by a new civilization.”

“And your telling me this has happened before?”

Bug rolled his eyes. “Kid, what do you think the ‘Dark Ages’ were?”

“I think I need to sit down.”

“Oh good! Come here, Will.” Nobody took Will’s arm and led him to what he could only assume was a chair, but it looked like a cross between a stool, a recliner, and a wet-mop. The professor sat Will on the wet-mop, put his feet on the stool, and reclined his arms out from his body. There was no back-rest.

“I call this my thinking seat!”

Will couldn’t remember ever so uncomfortable. “You use this to help you think?”

“Yes, when I sit there I think of all things I could be spending my time on! The longer the list, the longer it will be before I have to sit in the chair again!”

Will stood up and allowed the feeling to come back to his arms. “I think I’ll pass, thanks. How about you tell me why ending my civilization is better than letting the Lawyers invade?”

It was Sindy who spoke first. “While I in no way approve of what my lunatic father and idiot husband have done, Will, I do see the pale imitation of logic they used to come to their conclusion.”

“OK. And that is?”

“If I’m right, the council is afraid the Lawyers will successfully control imagination — and their fears convinced these two dingbats to see that would never happen.”

“What do you mean, ‘control imagination?’”

“She means, Kid, if the Lawyers take over The Realm’s imagination won’t die. Which sounds like a good thing.”

“It does, actually.”

Bug shrugged. “Yah, well, imagination wouldn’t be dead but you’d need permission to use it.”

“Huh?”

“If the Lawyers control The Realm, kid, then they control the Spark of Imagination. Feasibly speaking, they would then be able to keep people from having new thoughts or asking questions.”

“They would also be able to make shopping lists severely limited,” chimed in Nobody. Will got the impression the Professor felt this was the worst all crimes.

Bug glanced at Nobody, sighed quietly, and continued. “The Point is, the power of imagination is supposed to belong to everyone. But if the Hoard takes over The Realm it would end up being the prerogative of only a few. If that happens, we believe your civilization would begin to fade, but without full access to imagination most people wouldn’t be aware of it.”

“And Will,” Added Nobody. “If that happens, your civilization wouldn’t end — it would just stall.”

“But people would live.”

“People would exist, Kid. They wouldn’t really be ‘living’ because they wouldn’t have permission to do that.”

“So you’re telling me you’ve come up with two ends to the war with the Lawyers. The first is to be conquered, which would severely limit our imaginations. The second is to blow up The Realm which would destroy civilization but that would OK because a new one will form eventually.”

Bug nodded. “Yup, that’s pretty much it. Except for one thing.”

“Which is.”

Nobody reached up and placed his hand on Will’s shoulder. “You can help us stop the Copyright Hoard, save The Realm, and jump-start imagination in your world.”

Will didn’t even have time to stare at Nobody in disbelief. At that moment, the doorbell rang.

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