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Old 05-05-2014, 10:49 PM
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Default A New Xyxyx Story

8. A Plague of Locals


In the year and a half since XYXYX Towers was completed, the first floor library had gained two more books to go along with The Book of Gismo. One, written by Root’s husband, Boze, was called The Theory of Relativity and was based solely on Amos’ made up story of the first humans. In a nutshell, it stated that everyone was related to everyone else. (It was a very thin book.)

Grandmama had recently returned with the other, a volume called Words of Math Instruction, which held some dangerous information about numbers and such. If rumors could be believed, one young man had used it to create a new kind of cookie—and also discover gravity. That book was immediately locked away forever in a sealed, windowless room by Marion.

After Sessil’s disappearance, an election was held to fill the vacant council spot, and Harold's wife, Meme, threw her hat in the ring. This had nothing to do with the election process, it was just a winter festival tradition where everyone exchanged hats for a day. Occasionally, a brawl resulted when more than one person wanted the same hat. (Amos')

Meme also entered the race for the open council seat. Despite accusations of improprieties during the elections, (hanging Chad had been a bad idea) nothing could be definitively proven. When all was said and done, Meme joined the council. (Chad survived.)

Amos now lived in the apartments on the second floor. The rest were taken up by the council members and their immediate families. The pecking order had already been established, with the most important ones getting the lowest floors because navigating the stairs in that crazy building was a nightmare. (That would change with the birth of Otis and the advent of elevators.)

Everyone agreed it had been a fair fight, although Root’s reputation as the soul of kindness was slightly damaged. Root and Boze got the third floor. Harold and Meme had the fourth, and Daav and Dannil split the fifth.

Amos was in the study where he did most of his work. Since he didn’t really have much work, he had a lot of free time on his hands, which he also spent in his study. He had to admit, it was a nice, well-furnished room.

The large, hand-carved desk had been provided by Daav courtesy of his giant friend in Wood Stock, as was most of the other ornate decor. The bookcase held his book, the original Book of Gismo, and various figurines donated by local craftsman in appreciation of his efforts in keeping Gismo pleased. (Re: out of their daily lives.)

A tall, blond-haired man with a long, sad face entered without knocking. “You rang?” he asked in a deep, gravelly voice.

Amos knew better than to become frustrated with the man; it did no good. He had no idea where he'd come from or who had sent him. He just woke up one day and had a frustrating, maddening servant. Amos suspected Gismo was behind it.

“No, Lorch, I didn’t ring. I never ring. I don’t have a bell-pull.” Amos considered a moment. “Or a bell, for that matter.” The man just stared back at him, blank-faced. Amos sighed. “What is it, then?”

“Someone to see you, sir.” Lorch looked at the parchment in his hand; a daily list of ways to annoy the prophet, Amos believed. “A Mister Horner, and friend.” The man’s eyebrows rose to his hairline in an attempted escape.

“Send them in.”

Lorch stepped aside and rumbled at the visitors, closing the door as he left.

Amos rose and gestured the men to the seats opposite, watching in bemusement as the smaller man pulled one of the chairs to a corner before seating himself. One of his thumbs appeared to be stained a purplish color. The taller man followed in a sort of slithery sidle and stood beside and slightly behind him.

“What can I do for you, Mister . . . Horner is it?” Amos asked as he returned to his own seat.

“Yes,” the little man answered. “Jack Horner.”

“I'll handle this from here,” the officious-looking man said, squeezing the Jack's shoulder. “We're here because the needs of the Fruit and Vegetable Grower's Conssortium were not properly addresssed at the council meeting approximately a year and a half ago.”

“There's a consortium?” Amos asked.

“There is now, and they're forming guilds, too.” The man stiffened even more. “Jack here heads the Fruit Grower's Guild – Local 614. I represent them.”

“And who might you be?”

“Ssimon. Ssimon Ssirpint of Ssimon and Ssimon.” He puffed up.

Amos blinked twice. For just a moment he thought the man's neck expanded, but it was just a trick of the light.

“Do I know you?” Amos asked.

“No, ssir,” Simon replied, adjusting his collar and looking everywhere except at Amos. “I'm new to the city. My . . . our office only recently opened.”

“Really.” Amos leaned forward and rested his forearms on his desk. “This happened about a year and a half ago, you say? I recall hearing about a certain council member who disappeared around that time. Had some sort of speech impediment, they said. Last name of Sirpint, if I remember correctly.”

“No relation at all,” Simon answered. “There are many sserpentss in the garden.”

“Excuse me?”

“Nothing. Never mind. Sslip of the tongue, as it were.” Simon looked around a bit more, then stood straighter. “But let's get back to the issue at hand,” he said. “Misster Horner and his asssociatess ssought redresss from the council in time of need, and were rebuffed. What do you plan to do about it?”

“What can I do about it?” Amos asked.

“Ssimple,” Simon said. “Order the council to ssubsidize the conssortium. Everyone knows they do whatever you ssay.”

“Who is this everyone?” Amos asked. “Never mind,” he continued when Simon opened his mouth. “It was a rhetorical question. Getting the council to listen to me is like herding cats. It can't be done.”

“Cat Herders, eh?” Simon asked, placing a finger on pursed lips. “I wonder if they'd unionize?” He shook his head and pulled a confused Jack to his feet. “It doesn't matter. Come, Misster Horner.” Simon turned back just as Lorch opened the door for them to leave. “You haven't heard the lasst of me.”

“That's what I'm afraid of,” Amos muttered. He looked up when his didn't hear the door close. Lorch was still standing there. “What is it, now?”

“A Mister Peter Peter, of the Vegetable Growers – Local V8, and his wife, Mary Mary of the Flower Growers – Local 12, to see you, sir. ”

Amos sighed heavily. “Send them in.”

Not surprisingly, they were accompanied by Simon. And they were having a vehement argument about what they should grow.

#


Xyxyx was trying to decide where to place His newest singularity when he noticed Amos approaching The Mount and put it away. There were some things mortals shouldn't get too close to. (Sometimes each other.)

Amos, He said. This is a surprise. You've never come here unbidden before.

“I have a problem,” Amos answered, and proceeded to explain.

After the contrary couple had left, he was visited by a Miss Muffet of the Cheese-Makers Guild – Local 74; and another consortium: The Butchers, The Bakers, and The Candlestick Makers – Locals 26, 13, and 47 respectively. Amos poured it all out—his frustration, his anger. Everything. That's what Gismo was there for, wasn't he?

“They just suddenly appeared,” Amos complained as he finished, “like . . . like a plague, or something.” Amos stopped, his eyes suddenly narrowing. “Hey, wait a minute. You didn't have anything to do with this, did you?”

Not I, Xyxyx replied. This goes far beyond saddling you with an annoying servant and a leapy messenger.

“Ah ha! So it was you,” Amos cried, then paused. “What messenger?”

You haven't met him yet? Speedy little gut? Name of Jack? Likes to jump over things? No? Well, no matter. You'll meet him soon enough. Xyxyx chuckled at Amos' expression. They'll grow on you. Back to your problem. I think you know who's responsible.

“I thought there was something slithery about that guy,” Amos said. “What do I do about it?”

I can't help you there, Amos. You'll have to find a solution to this problem on your own. It's why I gave you a mind.

“But, he's your brother. He's a God too, isn't he?”

He has no more power than you in My universe, Amos. Well . . . he can travel about a little more freely . . . but his only power is of persuasion, which you also have. And he has other weaknesses.

“What are they?” Amos asked, a kind of desperate pleading in his voice.

“I can't help you there, either, Amos.

Amos deflated and could think of nothing more to ask. As his disappointed prophet turned and trudged away, Xyxyx took pity on him.

Perhaps your Master of Secrets knows the answer, He called.

Amos turned back, suddenly hopeful. “I didn't know I had one of those.”

See how good he is?

Xyxyx smiled to himself as Amos snorted and turned back, and new spring in his step. Now, He thought. Where did I put that black hole?

#


Amos pondered his dilemma as he walked back to the city. How did one go about finding The Master of Secrets? In Capital City, if you wanted to know what someone else was up to, you went and found Parsnip. Everyone knew the little street urchin knew everything that was going on everywhere. But that was its own problem. If the fact that you were the Master of Secrets wasn't a secret, you couldn't actually be the Master of Secrets. Could you?

But everyone did know that Parsnip knew everyone's secrets. Soooo . . .

Amos had a sudden flash of inspiration and snapped his fingers. “Of course. Parsnip reports to someone.”

He knew that you didn’t just walk up and say ‘Hello, Master of Secrets, I presume’ to the Master of Secrets. No, one did not do such a thing. There were rules that had to be followed. Protocols that needed to be observed.

He spread the word as he wandered through the city. A few shiny coppers passed out to random urchins here and there ensured that Parsnip would soon know he wished to speak with her. Finally, he settled in to wait at a little café on the edge of Seedytown, the least reputable section of the city, which meant there was some trash that hadn't been picked up yet still lying in the street.

The Lazy Us Café was always on the edge of Seedytown, though it was never in the same place for very long. It was owned by a shadowy man with cleanliness issues, and was constantly being closed down for various health code violations. Three days later, it would pop up somewhere else

Amos sat at an outside table—no-one with any sense went inside. As evening fell and the streets grew dim, a young girl of perhaps eleven approached. She was quite clean and rather cute for a street urchin, in Amos’ opinion, though he had little experience in such things. A mop of brown hair topped a cherubic face, and a long, orangish shirt hung to her knees. Her bare feet puffed street dust in the waning light.

Parsnip obfuscated up to his table, (there’s no other word that properly describes her walk) glanced furtively about for a moment, then asked in a low voice, “You wished to see me, sir prophet?”

“Yes,” Amos replied, “I’d like to meet your employer, assuming you have one.”

Parsnip gave a short, shallow nod. “Secrets?” she asked. “You wish information? Secrets can be obtained with secrets. Also, do you like my ring?” It made a ‘whiiing’ sound when she blew into it. Unnoticed by Amos, every urchin within hearing was suddenly attentive.

“Secrets, eh? Hmm.” Amos thought for a moment, then leaned close. “Butterfly wings don’t have butter on them,” he whispered.

Amos thought he saw her eyes narrow for a moment, but, no. Her innocent-looking face nodded once and she motioned him to follow.

Parsnip slipped through the streets, casting jerky glances everywhere except in front of her, nearly bumping into several passersby. After crossing every street and alley in Seedytown several times, (they almost met themselves once or twice, which would have been very bad, space-time-continuum-wise) she led him back to the tenement next to the café.

“Door number six,” she said, all seriousness now. Amos passed her several coppers as she slipped behind him. “Knock twice, then once. Enter when called.”

When he turned to thank her, she was gone. He shrugged, entered the building, and knocked on the door to room six as instructed.

“Come in, Daav, “ a voice he didn't recognized called, “I’ve been expecting you.”

A tall man was standing at the window, looking out at the city. He was wearing red breeches, and an open, red coat. The collar of a white shirt poked out above the coat. Shiny black boots and a brown campaign hat topped it off, for that extra here-I-am touch. He looked about as secretive as an explosion.

“I’m not Daav,” Amos said as he closed the door, “but Gismo was right, you're the last person I would have expected. Shouldn’t a Master of Secrets report his findings to someone?”

“Don't call me that,” he said as he turned to face Amos. The glare from the window behind him kept his face shadowed. “The urchins call me the Dealer In Critical Knowledge. For the sake of brevity, you can shorten it to the acronym. Parsnip usually does.”

Amos thought about that for a moment. “Oh she does, does she?” he asked. When the man didn't answer he asked his question again. “Shouldn’t a Master of Secrets report his findings to someone?”

“I suppose, yes,” he replied, “if there was something to report. Until recently I haven’t found out any secrets, except a fried chicken recipe. Oh, and some new drink that’s supposed to go well with rum. Nothing to bother the prophet with.

“I send reports to the council, from time to time,” he continued. “I assume the information is immediately dealt with. I'm quite indispensable to them, really.”

“Did Parsnip tell you that too?” Amos asked.

“Why, yes. Actually, she did, bless her cute little heart.”

“I see.” Amos tried to fit the man's 'square peg’ responses into his 'round hole’ idea of a Master of Secrets. He was unsurprised by their incompatibility, but went on, anyway. “Doesn’t your style of dress make clandestine meetings a difficult proposition?”

“If I were to try to attend them, yes, I suppose it would.” He sounded slightly smug. “But I don’t, Parsnip does, then reports to me. It was her idea. This way I can ride about on my ass and no one thinks twice about me.”

Amos choked. “You ride an ass around?”

“Yes. Also her idea. When the information she and her friends gather is important enough to require the attention of the Dealer In Critical Knowledge, she leads them to me. They’re always surprised.”

“I bet they are,” Amos replied, suddenly sure he'd been duped almost as badly as this person by an eleven-year-old. The Master of Secrets was hiding in plain sight, all right, but not dressed in red and riding an ass. The Master of Secrets had disguised herself as the Master of Secrets. It was diabolical. It was ingenious. It was . . . funny.

“Go on,” Amos said, needing to play the scene out. “I’m sure it’s a masterful system you’ve worked out.”

“That’s where Parsnip and her urchins come in. Nobody notices them. They hear and see things, and report them to me. When I need rumors spread, the urchins spread them, and I pay them well to do so.”

It took an effort, but Amos kept a straight face. Gads, he thought, she’s charging him to be her front. “So, why wasn’t I warned of these ‘Locals’ popping up all over the place?”

The man paused for a second, genuinely confused. “They’re no secret. Everyone has known of them for days, now. The urchins almost formed one, until I increased their compensation and vacation days.”

“Why,” Amos asked, nearly choking again, “am I not one of these everyones who knows these things?”

“I don’t know. You should ask Lorch, he hears things.”

“I know Lorch hears things,” Amos muttered. “He hears bells I haven't rung.”

“What was that?”

“Nothing,” Amos said, having fully satisfied himself that the Dealer In Critical Knowledge was exactly what he seemed. He turned to leave. “I wish you well, sir. Keep up the good work.”

Outside the tenement building, Parsnip was waiting for him, a huge grin on her innocent face. “You know,” Amos observed, hoping he was phrasing it properly, “you didn’t have to lead me all over nowhere to not find the person I was trying to find.”

“Exactly,” she said. “You can’t find what you’re not looking for. Also, the DICK’s ass is smarter than he is.”

Amos laughed and nodded, still unsure of what he was hearing, but afraid to admit it. “Consider me unenlightened. Why haven’t I heard anything from anyone before? You know, reports and other secrety stuff.”

“Secrets?” the urchin asked with a sideways glance and smile.

Amos laughed again and held up his hands in surrender. “I guess I’ll hear what I’m supposed to hear when I’m supposed to hear it. Perhaps I should rent an eleven-year-old interpreter.” Amos sighed and looked directly into Parsnip’s grey eyes. “You can help me with this problem?”

“It’s being taken care of as we speak, sir prophet. The Mob will handle it.”

“The Mob?”

“It's better you don't know,” Parsnip said with a wink. “Also, I like chocolate.”

Amos took her small hand, led her to an ice cream stand, and bought two chocolate cones.

#


The next day, three large, well-dressed men wearing shaded glasses entered Sssss' office. The middle one, slightly smaller than the others, was carrying a silver service tray which he set on the desk after one of the others swiped everything off it.

The two larger men each put a heavy hand on Sssss' shoulders, preventing him from leaving. The other removed the cover from the tray, revealing a large pile of succulent crabs legs, and took a seat opposite him.

“Good afternoon, sir,” he said cheerily. “My name is Bob, and the two gentlemen next to you are also called Bob. We represent what you might call The Mob.”

“The Mob of Bobs?” Sssss asked. A nervous tick appeared over his left eye.

“Exactly,” Bob said, picking up one of the crab legs and snapping it open. It sounded very loud in the small space. “Help yourself,” he added, gesturing to the pile.

“No, thank you,” Sssss replied. “I'm not very hungry right now.”

Bob shrugged. “Now, see . . . the thing is . . . we hear that you've been organizing certain labor guilds, and we don't allow no organizations what don't belong to our organization.” He looked at the men on either side of Simon. “Ain't that right, Bobs?”

“Dat's right, boss,” they said.

Sssss winced when the head Bob snapped another crab leg. The men were still touching him, holding his shoulders, and he hated being touched. But he hated pain more, so he remained very still.

“See . . . the thing is . . .” Bob continued, “if you'd just come to us first, there wouldn't be a problem.” Snap. “But bad things happen to those what don't come through us. Ain't that right, Bobs?”

“Dat's right, boss.”

Sssss was very angry right then, but could do nothing about it in his current form. When will I learn not to physically appear publicly! he raged to himself. I really, really hate these organisms!

“What can be done to remedy this ssituation,” he asked aloud.

“See . . . it's like this. You cede control of all your guilds to us, in perpetuity, and then you disappear.” Snap. “Voluntarily would be best for all involved, but you will disappear. Ain't that right, Bobs?”

“Dat's right, boss.”

#


And lo, it came to pass that on that day, all the guilds in the land were delivered unto the Mob, and all was as it should be.

#


“You rang?” Lorch asked as he entered the study.

Amos, having given up on reminding his servant that he did not, in fact, have a bell, said, “Yes, Lorch. What is the status on the plague of locals situation?”

“Taken care of, sir. There will be no further problems from that direction.”

“That’s good, that’s good.” Amos eyed Lorch suspiciously, wondering how to ask his next question. He decided to be direct. “Are you part of Parsnip’s organization?”

Lorch rumbled quietly before answering. “Organization, sir?”

“Never mind. You wouldn’t tell me and I’d rather not know. Carry on.”

“Very good, sir.”
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Last edited by Two Rivers Man; 05-06-2014 at 04:04 PM.
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Old 05-06-2014, 03:17 PM
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Default Note

This story may be a bit confusing for those of you who never read the first seven stories. The were on the old Yuku boards, but I removed them a couple of years ago. (reason explained there)

re-edit - Link to The Book of Xyxyx is up again here
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Last edited by Two Rivers Man; 07-16-2016 at 10:23 AM. Reason: Story is up on Wattpad again
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Old 07-16-2016, 10:38 AM
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Default Part 1 (Genassist) published

After 11 years, Part One of The Book of Xyxyx - Genassist - is being republished by Smoking Pen Press in the first of an anthology series called Read on the Run. A description of the first edition - A Step Outside of Normal is below, along with a link to their website.

http://smokingpenpress.com/books

Looking for something short and fast to read? Check out the first in the Read on the Run series... a series of short story anthologies for when you're on the run, and need something quick to read.

A Step Outside of Normal is now available on Amazon, Google Play, Kobo Books, and iBooks.
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Old 07-16-2016, 11:00 AM
GonzoTheGreat GonzoTheGreat is offline
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Congratulations.
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Old 07-16-2016, 11:36 AM
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Thanks
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Old 07-20-2016, 04:07 PM
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Awesome, congrats
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