Fogland

 

Again this story was written a while back. I like the energy of the story but I would be tempted to change some things. I love the way that Alison Ironic explains what the problems of Fogland are. It is the kind of feverish expression which I think works in writing. I hope that the characters aren’t too predictable despite being archetypal. Obviously Fogland and England are related here. I’m not sure I succeed in adding that much irony to Alison’s character but I am happy with the way the antagonist comes across.

Fogland

Legends say that one day the sun turned into a golden sword. Later that same day the moon changed into a silver bottle and all the stars in the sky became tiny, blue buttons. These strange transformations could only be seen from the island kingdom of Fogland.

The King and Queen of that island were named King Olwyn and Queen Winnie. They were terrified by the events but for a week pretended nothing had happened, hoping things would return to normal.

 

Eventually Queen Winnie decided she needed to talk about it. It was, after all, like pretending there wasn’t an elephant in the room.

“The people are worried,” said the Queen spreading butter onto one of her croissants.

“The people are always worried.” The King looked around the breakfast table hopefully.

“We can’t ignore it any longer Olwyn. The sun and moon have never done this before. The people are saying it is an omen.”

King Olwyn sprinkled salt on a croissant and began to eat.

“Have you even been outside this morning?” asked the Queen finally.

The King shrugged.

“It simply isn’t normal,” said the Queen.

But neither the King nor the Queen needed to go outside. The sun was shining through a window from behind a cloud. You could see the shape of it through the corner of your eye. It looked like a long golden sword hovering in the sky. It had turned all of Fogland an eerie golden colour.

 

The moon, once bright and dependable was now bottle-shaped. It was round at the bottom and there was a clear spout coming from the top. Every night people would sit gazing at it.

All of the stars had changed into metallic blue buttons. This bottle moon was in the same place as the ordinary moon used to be and followed the same course, even waxing and waning through the month. It was literally silver coloured.

The sun was still intensely bright but whenever it went behind a cloud you could clearly see its long, thin sword outline with hilt, handle and blade.

When the people of Fogland (who were already unhappy with the monarchy) went about their business, they felt as if that sword might fall on their heads at any moment. It was very unnerving for them.

The people believed Fogland was in a crisis. But the royals, who held most of the power in Fogland, were genuinely out of touch with their people and took a long time to finally act.

 

The King ordered messengers to spread the following message throughout Fogland: “Among the many intelligent and valuable little people of this great land, we are searching for someone who knows why this metamorphosis has taken place and who may reverse the process. Candidates who think they can change things back to normal will receive a treasure chest full of great riches.”

But only three people came forward in response to the royal challenge.

 

In the palace throne room, the good and the great were gathered. The atmosphere was heavy. A man dressed casually in jeans and a yellow T-shirt entered the lavish hall. He had a spring in his step as he walked.

He stopped in front of the King and bowed. Then he sat cross-legged down on floor, his trainers squeaking on the marble as he did so.

The man said, “Your majesty, my manner is casual but my intentions are good. My name is Colin Comic. And I believe I have the solution to Fogland’s problem….

Did you hear about the man who went to the doctor with cheese stuck up his nose, celery in one ear and chips in the other?”

“What man?” asked the King “What are you talking about?”.

“Bear with me your highness…The man I speak of said, ‘Doctor, doctor, I don’t feel very well’.

The doctor replied, ‘I’m not surprised. You aren’t eating properly.’”

Bad jokes in pressurised situations don’t always work. Colin Comic was lucky. The King hadn’t heard a joke since the constellations had changed. He grinned and laughed. The court laughed a few seconds after and the heavy atmosphere dissolved. Colin Comic smiled broadly.

“I’m trying to show that there may be an amusing explanation to these astronomical anomalies. I reckon we are in the middle of a celestial joke. Some kind of farce if you like. One which we shouldn’t be taking so seriously because piles of jokes, light-heated humour and tonnes of laughs and jolly japes still make the world go round. Let me illustrate…”

Just then Colin Comic began to wink with one eye. This started the Queen giggling. Then he began not just to wink, but to make a clicking noise as he did it. Then he started to wink, make the clicking noise and smile. Then he started to do all this and do a kind of nudging motion with his elbow in the air. The Queen and some of the courtiers were still laughing. Then he started to wink, grin, do the clicking, the nudging and nod his head up and down. After this, he did the same with his other eye and elbow. This lasted for about ten minutes with the King saying, “He’s a likable chap” and “He’s got something” (although he did say, “What is the man doing?” towards the end of it).

Colin Comic stopped, stood up and said, “You see how strange behaviour should never be taken too seriously? It’s the same with these changes…it’s a kind of unearthly humour which requires the right reaction from the people of Fogland. My light-hearted approach may yield results that a more serious person would miss. I’ll have the answer for you in a week. Or the moon’s a balloon…or, in this case, a bottle.” He winked again.

King Olwyn liked Colin Comic. “Okay, stay here and get back to me when you’ve figured out this crazy business.”

 

The next person to enter the throne room was a young woman with short, red hair.

“Hello,” she said, bowing, “My name is Alison Ironic.”

“And how do you intend to return things back to normal?” asked the King.

“In my book ‘Cosmic Irony’ I studied how some phenomenons appear to be influenced by an outward force, an ironist if you will.” Alison Ironic coughed and looked a little embarrassed.

“What I mean to say is that it seems unlikely that these events are just natural, as has been inferred. And while we remain unaware of the reason for these transmutations, we are perhaps the unwilling objects of some great celestial irony. We are all, if you like, alazons.”

No-one knew what she was talking about. Alison Ironic often struggled making people understand her.

She took a deep breath. “Anyway…I can explain the buttons…I think. It is ‘funny, strange’ that the stars have turned into buttons because some people think the dark night sky is a bit like a cloth with pin-pricks through it. It is ‘funny, strange’ that the sun should turn into a sword like the sword of Damocles hanging over a guilty nation. It is ‘funny, strange’ that the moon should turn into a bottle when the country is drunk with dark thoughts and whispers.”

“What whispers?” asked the King, sitting up.

“I don’t think you truly understand me,” announced Alison Ironic, then suddenly realizing who she was talking to she added quickly. “Think of the Kings of Siam, your majesty. They punished those that displeased them by sending them sacred white elephants. It wasn’t exactly the kindest of gifts simply because these elephants were so expensive to look after that the recipients would have to spend all their money to care for them. In the end the white elephants would leave them penniless. And no-one in Siam can refuse a gift from a king.”

“I shall write to the Kings of Siam about that,” said King Olwyn, “What are you getting at?”

“Here in Fogland, I think some greater power has caused the sun and moon to form strange shapes to test the kingdom. But about those white elephants. What if one of the people who got one charged people to take rides on the elephant and sold pictures the elephant drew with its trunk as artwork? And suppose that person began to break even and started to make a profit from the animal?”

The King smiled.

Alison Ironic added triumphantly: “And what if that person then wrote to the King of Siam and asked for another?”

She held up her hand, “Ah, but I intend to do the equivalent of such a person here, today, in Fogland. And in so doing I shall return the sun, moon and stars back to their original appearances.”

The Queen dismissed her and said, “Let’s see you put legs under your words. Next!”

 

“Your royal Highnesses, may I introduce myself?” The man who walked into the throne room had a presence about him, which caused the women of the hall to take notice and the men to approve. He was dressed in a smart black suit and had shiny black hair and a scar on his unshaven right cheek.

“Who are you?” asked the King.

“My name is Tiger Tragic and I know why this event has happened.”

Tiger Tragic placed a hand on his chin and stood before the King and Queen, his legs slightly apart. He looked confident and didn’t seem to be living up to his name at all.

“I’ll explain why the sun and moon have changed shape. The sun and moon are symbols for the King and the Queen. The sun being you, King Olwyn and the moon you, Queen Winnie. The stars represent the people. The recent change is a herald for a radical change from monarchy to republic. The symbol of a sword indicates some kind of force being used. A revolution, no doubt. The bottle is a symbol of assassination, probably with poison. The stars have changed colour because the people will back a new government.”

The King and Queen looked aghast, “Will this definitely happen? What can be done?” asked the King.

“It is not predestined. I will show how much I can do by the end of the week. I already have an idea of who might want to kill you both.”

“I only hope you are wrong,” said the Queen.

“If only I was,” replied Tiger Tragic in a low, sad voice.

The King motioned to the servants and this man also left for his quarters.

 

That night Tiger Tragic was murdered. Dead. A maid went into his chamber the next morning to open the window, letting in birdsong and the eerie golden sunlight. When she turned she screamed and fell out of the window. There was Tiger Tragic, naked, stabbed through his heart so that he was pinned to the bed by a golden sword, with his blood still wet on the bed sheets.

 

Alison Ironic and Colin Comic were summoned back to the throne room.

“Last night,” said King Olwyn, “a dreadful act took place. Your competitor Tiger Tragic was fatally stabbed. Suspicion, must unfortunately fall on you two. You will be detained in the royal tower. As for the sun, moon and stars, this issue must wait because I do not foresee any great changes taking place in the near future.”

“Beware,” said Alison Ironic, “that your words do not prompt the cosmic ironist into action. By arresting me, you have made a tragic mistake. I haven’t the heart to kill and you saw that I didn’t bring any belongings here with me. Why would I even want to do this? Don’t pin the blame on me.”

All the King and Queen heard were the words ‘Beware’ and ‘Tragic’ and ‘Heart’ and ‘Pin’ and in their eyes Alison Ironic seemed very guilty.

Colin Comic just stood there and winked at one of the servants. Then, he and Alison were led away to their prison cells.

 

In the royal tower, Alison Ironic was placed in a cell next to Colin Comic. She found that she could talk with him if she spoke near the door. “Did you do it?” she asked.

“You know the funny thing?” sneered Colin Comic, “It’s that by this time tomorrow it isn’t going to matter if I did or didn’t because my accusers will be eliminated and Fogland will be a republic.”

“So Tiger Tragic was right then? That’s why you killed him, because he had hit on the truth.”

“I think it was just a stab in the dark for him that just happened to be true, pun intended. One of the servants provided the weapon. We thought it would be fitting to use a golden sword, surely you can appreciate that. And as for the bottle, it was the moon which gave us the idea of using poison tonight. By the look of things the people will support a revolution with those ridiculous royals out of the way. So what are you going to do to stop me Alison? Escape?”

“Funny you should say that,” she replied in a whisper.

 

That night, the servant who Colin Comic had winked at poured poison into the King and Queen’s red wine night-caps.

“Are you sure she did it?” asked the King, climbing into bed in his pyjamas.

“Well, she seems a bit strange,” replied the Queen, “Funny I mean. In the head.”

“It wasn’t you then jellybeanetta?” the King started to tickle his wife.

“Desist!” she ordered and the King stopped.

“At least it has done one good thing,” she said.

“What’s that my Macwinkly-tinkle?”

“It has taken everybody’s minds off the sun, moon and stars. I haven’t thought about them since this morning.”

“Will you give me a kiss?”

“No. Drink your wine.”

 

Back in the royal tower Alison called for the guard.

“I need the toilet!” She shouted.

The guard appeared at the door. “Use your chamber pot then,” he said.

“I would, but you haven’t left me one in here.”

“All cells have chamber pots.”

“Ironically, mine does not. Now would you mind fetching me one or I shall appeal to the court of human rights.”

The guard sighed and disappeared, eventually opening the cell door with a chamber pot. Alison was hiding behind the door with her chamber pot in her hands. When the guard entered she brought it down on his head with a crack, which knocked him unconscious.

 

Alison was like a shadow. She avoided all the guards between the royal tower and the palace. Palace security was renowned for being bad. From the courtyard she could see one light still on in one of the second floor rooms. There was a drain pipe leading up to the roof past the window. Alison began to climb.

 

King Olwyn picked up the poisoned wine and raised it to his lips. It was then that Alison Ironic came crashing through the window, heels first. She got to her feet, rushed towards the King and Queen and knocked the wine glass out of the King’s hand.

“How dare you?” shouted the King.

Suddenly they all heard cheers from the guards outside. Alison turned and walked towards the open window. She looked outside, up at the moon and the stars. They had returned to their normal shape and colours.

 

After this the people looked on the royals with new eyes…here were a King and Queen who had survived an assassination attempt. Colin Comic attempted to joke with the judge at his trial, asking him if he was bald underneath his wig. Unfortunately for Colin, the judge really was bald and he sentenced him to five life sentences.

Everyone decided, under the circumstances that it would be right to reward Alison with the treasure chest. With some of the contents she bought herself a luxury boat and called it ‘The King of Siam’.

 


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