Today’s blog continues my long-neglected satirical fantasy, In The Land of the Penny Gnomes
“OK kid, heads up,” Bug said as he poked Will’s arm. Jarred out of his silent revery, the teen looked over toward the gnome and saw something odd.
He was shimmering.
It wasn’t just a halo surrounding his shape, his entire being was simmering like the surface of a lake. Will’s eyes widened and he sat up, suddenly alert.
“What’s going on?”
“It’s the satire shield, kid. Happens every time we pass though it. You might seem some funny things, and you will certainly feel some funny things. Just remember, it’ all temporary.”
“Like what?” the teen asked, whereupon Bug ceased shimmering and shrank to around twelve inches tall. His beard turned long, pointed, and white, and his clothes became a garish mix of reds and greens. He was also wearing a pointy hat.
“Like this,” the tiny gnome squeaked.
Glancing around the cabin of his transport he saw Sindy had shrunk to a height similar to her husband’s, but now had long red hair which fell in curls around her shoulders. She was also wearing an apron and holding a rolling pin. She did not look pleased.
“What’s this?” she squeaked angrily. “A rolling pin? I’m a miner, not a baker!”
“It’s just the shield dear, it’ll wear off soon.”
“I like the red hair, though,” she added, somewhat mollified.
Will continued his scan of the cabin and met the gaze of a being he assumed was Lieutenant Barker. Only instead of wearing his military fatigues and helmet he had bulged into a muscular beast of a man. A bandana was tied around his head and he wore two bandoliers of ammunition across his bare chest. In his arms the hulking soldier carried what looked to be a small cannon.
“Sup?” he said by way of greeting in a deep, guttural, voice.
Will had seen enough, he closed his eyes a rubbed them roughly with clenched fists. When he opened them again, however, the bizarre scene remained, with the notable exception of the transport, which had now become a low-flying helicopter.
“I will complete the mission!” cried Barker, eliciting stares from the others in the cabin. “Sorry,” he added. “This happens every time I pass through the shield.”
“Oh my, Will look at you!”
“What? What’s wrong?” He was both frightened by and curious to know how the shield effected him. His voice still sounded normal to his ears, however, and when he glanced down he noticed his hands still looked mercifully normal.
“Nothing,” squeaked Bug. “You’re the same as always.”
“Oh,” replied Will intelligibly. “Good.”
“Good? I’ve never seen anything like it,” growled Barker. “Who are you?” the Lieutenant added with barely concealed menace. His over-sized muscles flexed and he brought his small cannon up to his chest.
Will was beginning to wonder if jumping out of the Helicopter would hurt all that much, but before he could come to a conclusion the scene in the cabin literally popped. In an instant everyone was back to normal, and Barker offered an apology.
“Sorry, Will. Passing through the shield always makes me a bit paranoid.”
“Uh… that’s ok?” the teen replied.
The Lieutenant nodded his thanks and pointed out the front of the transport. “Anyway, welcome to Boarsblemish. That’s not it’s real name, of course, but inside the satire shield I could say it’s real name over and over and over and it would always come out as ‘Boarsblemish.’ It’s really an incredible invention.”
Will smiled to convey his appreciation for the Lieutenant’s explanation, even though he didn’t understand a word of what he said. Instead of asking a question, however, he tilted his head and looked out the front windows of the transport. In front of him stood the towers of a large city. Looking out the side windows he noticed they were passing through what looked like suburbs, filled with small homes and well manicured lawns. Over head a few people flew toward the city on broomsticks.
“Good,” Barker declared. “We got her just before the morning rush. We should be able to get to the University in no time.” Leaning forward slightly the soldier called out, “Step on it, Sparks. We don’t want to get caught in a carpet jam again.”
“Yessir,” replied an eager voice from the driver’s seat as the transport suddenly accelerated.
It took about twenty minutes to reach their destination, a large University campus on the outskirts of the city proper. As they pulled into the school’s quad they were met by some wizards in white robes, two of whom were carrying a stretcher. As their transport stopped, the group rushed past their vehicle and descended on their companion’s. They quickly extracted the wounded corporal Will had saved, and swept him away toward a large white building. He saw Agents Sills and Other approach their group from the second transport, accompanied by a strange-looking man covered in various brass devices.
“Professor?” Will guessed.
“Ah, yes,” Nobody sighed. “I’m afraid the shield does tend to affect me a bit longer than most.” A high-pitched whirring sound began to hiss from one of Nobody’s devices as a telescopic apparatus came to rest over his one eye. “I would love to know how these all work, though. Did you know our transport became steam powered? How marvelous!” the academic beamed.
“Professor Nobody!” cried a voice from Will’s back. “I’m so glad you’re all right!”
“Ah, Gordon!” Nobody called back as the air around him popped, replacing the brass cyborg with the academic’s normal visage. “How are you?”
The wizard called Gordon sighed. “We’ve been better, Cooly, to be honest. But now you’re here we might be able to fix this problem with the firewall.”
Nobody grinned. “That sounds interesting.”
“Yes, indeed,” Gordon nodded back enthusiastically. “My assistant has prepared some refreshments for your friends, and…” Gordon turned to the two agents and Barker, “BoBCINC would like a report from you three on your encounter with the Horde.”
Barker nodded, “Yes, chancellor.” He then nodded toward Will and opened the door to the nearest transport, motioning for the two agents to join him.
“We’ll be back soon, Bug. Keep Nobody out of trouble until I get back,” order Sills before climbing into the vehicle.
As their three companions drove off Will, Bug, and Sindy were escorted to a plushly decorated living area and offered some refreshments. Will, who hadn’t eaten since the day prior, tore into some delicious cinnamon rolls. He sat back to enjoy his breakfast while Bug and Sindy each poured themselves cups of coffee and took a skeptical sip. Sindy spit her’s back into her cup almost immediately, while Bug winced painfully and swallowed deliberately.
“Ugh. If I didn’t need the caffeine there is no way I’d drink this. Why on earth to people insist on brewing with pre-ground beans?”
“They’re wizards, dear. They don’t know any better.”
“Well, I still think there’s no excuse,” he replied. He then took another sip from his cup, a look of utter distaste on his face as he swallowed the dark liquid. “Really,” he gasped. “This isn’t right.”
As Bug dumped the remaining contents of his cup into a nearby waste-basket, Nobody entered the room smiling broadly.
“Well that didn’t take long,” Bug nodded, impressed.
“Oh no, no time at all,” Nobody smiled back as he helped himself to some grapes.
“So you got everything sorted out, Dad?” Sindy inquired.
“Oh, no I’m afraid not,” Nobody replied as he plopped a grape into his mouth. “We’re all pretty much doomed.” This last bit was offered with a cheerfulness Will thought didn’t match the severity of the declaration, but Nobody didn’t seem to catch on to the dissonance. Instead, he pointed happily to the pot in the corner. “How’s the coffee?”