March 26, 2011 in Dag

Doodling Chapter 2

A Toast to You

Neville felt lost and alone as he wandered slowly through the asteroid field, looking for a new place where he could settle down. All around him enormous rocks bounced and bobbed. Some were bright and colourful while others were grey and dull. Some were smooth and round while others were craggy and jagged. One had a flagpole on it…

Neville started, then looked more closely. His eyes were definitely not playing tricks on him. It really was a flagpole with a small makeshift flag on the top, fluttering gently in the solar breeze.

A flagpole on an asteroid! Was it possible? Could this mean what he hoped it would mean? Were there actually other people out here in the asteroid field?

Neville quickened his pace, heading towards the asteroid with the flagpole. The asteroid was a little bigger than his earlier preference and it was moving a little faster than he would have liked, but when you’re out on your own in the middle of deep space you really can’t be too picky. Besides, the possibility that there were other people out here, other cast-offs from a world that had left them behind, was too exciting to ignore.

Neville reached the asteroid and climbed on. Its surface was rough and rocky, save for one large space, about fifty metres square. Neville’s heart leapt with joy as he walked onto this space. It had been cleared and flattened out into a sort of plaza, a sure sign of human habitation. The flagpole stood at the far side of the plaza. The flag on the top displayed some sort of silver symbol, roughly rectangular in shape, with two parallel black lines across the top.

As Neville stared at the flag, trying to figure out what the strange symbol represented, he noticed a small group of people coming towards him. They stopped about ten metres away and one of the men, who was obviously the leader, peeled off and approached Neville.

“Greetings friend,” said the man, his hand extended in greeting. “I would like to welcome you to our humble home.”

“Thank you,” replied Neville. “It’s nice to meet all of you.” He smiled broadly at the rest of the people but none of them said a word. Instead they looked at him intently. Neville felt a strange feeling of expectation, as if these people were waiting for him to say something.

“We, like you, are refugees from the world,” continued the man. “We, like you, could no longer handle the pace and the pressure. We, like you, have made the decision to escape the madness and to find here, on our asteroid, a far simpler lifestyle. A lifestyle you are more than welcome to join us in.”

“That’s awfully friendly of you,” said Neville. He looked again at the other people. They stared back at him. Even the leader was now staring at him, a rigid smile fixed to his face. The tension was unbelievable. Neville sensed that these people were looking for some sort of signal, perhaps a message in something he said, but he couldn’t imagine what it could be.

Finally the frustration became too much for the leader of the group. He dropped his smile and looked down at the ground for a second. When he spoke his voice was soft, quavering with nerves.

“I don’t suppose you brought a toaster.”

Neville shook his head.

There was a collective sigh from the group. Suddenly all of the tension had dissipated, to be replaced by an overpowering feeling of disappointment. The other people quickly dispersed leaving Neville, standing beside their leader, feeling somewhat let down.

“I apologise if our reception seems a bit, ungrateful,” said the man. “It’s just that we don’t have any toasters here and, well, we could all really do with a nice hot piece of toast.”

“I’m sorry,” said Neville. “I didn’t think to bring one. It all happened so suddenly.”

“That’s all right, you weren’t to know. None of us thought about it when we let go either. Still, we live in hope that someday, somehow, someone will come to us with a toaster, and then we can once again enjoy our breakfast in a civilised fashion. Till then, why don’t you let me show you around.”

Neville thanked the man and began to follow him away from the flattened square. As the man disappeared amongst the rocks at the edge of the square, Neville took one last look up at the flag. Suddenly he realised what it was supposed to be. Although poorly drawn, it was definitely meant to be some sort of stylised representation of a toaster.

Away from the square, the surface of the asteroid was a labyrinth of weirdly sculpted rock. Neville followed the man along a winding passageway, passing a series of holes carved into the high stone towers. Inside the holes the shapes of people could be made out, setting up homes in this amazing new world. Presently the man led Neville to a particularly large hole, a great open door in the rock, and motioned for him to enter. Neville paused for a moment, perturbed somewhat by the strange high pitched chanting he could hear coming from inside the rock. Then, as the man assured him there was nothing to fear, he walked through the door.

Neville found himself in a large cave. As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he could see that he was not alone. All around him people crouched on the ground, as if at worship. In front stood a man wearing ceremonial garb, holding a book and chanting and wailing in some sort of indecipherable language. Every so often the chanting would reach a crescendo and the people would leap up off the ground. Then they would crouch back down on the floor again.

The man from the plaza was standing next to Neville. “Welcome to our temple,” he said.

“Who is the man up the front?” asked Neville.

“He is our high priest,” replied the man.

“Why?” asked Neville. “What’s so special about him?”

“He brought to us the Holy Book.” The man indicated the book the priest was reading from.

“The Holy Book? What sort of Holy Book?”

“Do not question. Just listen. Let the wonder of the words enter your soul and fill you with life.”

“But I can’t understand what he’s saying.”

“Listen. Listen hard.”

Neville listened hard and found he was able to understand what the priest was chanting.

“…adjust thermostat if necessary to attain desired degree of darkness. For rye and raisin toast, a lighter setting may be required.”

He squinted his eyes and was just able to make out the title of the Holy Book.

Operating Instructions for the A367 Toasterama.

“Your Holy Book is the instruction manual for a toaster?” cried Neville in disbelief.

“It was in his pocket when he let go of the world,” said the main reverently. “He can’t explain why he had it there but we regard it as a sacred sign.”

Suddenly Neville realised what the people in the room were doing, why they were crouching down and then leaping up. They were toast. This whole ceremony was some sort of ritual imitating the making of toast.

Neville turned on his tail and walked quickly out of the cave. This was as much as he needed to know.

The man from the square hurried after Neville. “Where are you going?” he cried.

“I’m leaving,” retorted Neville.

“But you only just got here.”

“I don’t care. I’m not going to spend the rest of my life living in a world where people worship toasters.” Neville reached the flattened plaza. He hurried to the edge and climbed off the asteroid. The voice of the man followed after him as he made his way back into the asteroid field.

“But you don’t understand. Our prophecy tells us that some day a toaster will come, and on that day we can all sit and eat toast and jam and crumpets and steaming hot muffins and…”

Neville suppressed a laugh as the man’s voice faded into the distance. Their prophecy was clearly ridiculous. If anyone was desperate enough to make the decision to let go of the world, the last thing on their mind would be what kitchen implements to bring along. Besides, even if someone did bring a toaster, what use would it be? They didn’t have anywhere to plug it in.

As Neville set off again, he suddenly heard a loud whooshing sound. It was the world spinning past again, now moving even faster than when he had let go. If Neville looked closely he could actually see the people on its surface running to keep up. And even as he watched, a number of people let go and were left lying in its wake. Some of them instantly leapt up and chased after the world. A couple even caught up and grabbed hold again. The others gradually got their bearings and began to wander into the asteroid field. Most of them made a direct line for the asteroid with the large flag flying.

Maybe, just maybe, the prophecy of the Toaster People was about to be fulfilled.

Wondering how Neville got out here in the first place – check out Doodling chapter 1.

Doodling available from:
March 19, 2011 in Dag

Doodling Chapter 1

Falling Off

Neville Lansdowne fell off the world.

Actually he did not so much fall off as let go. The world had been moving so quickly lately and Neville was finding it almost impossible to keep up.

It hadn’t always been that way. There had been a time when keeping up was not a problem. A time when the world was moving at a nice, leisurely speed and a gentle walk had been sufficient. But then the world began to get faster. Suddenly Neville found himself jogging, and then running. His cheeks became flushed and his lungs panted and puffed as they struggled to get the air he needed to maintain his pace.

Still faster and faster the world went. Neville’s life was a dash, a hundred metre sprint. There was no way he could keep this going. As his legs turned to jelly and collapsed under him, Neville grasped in desperation for something to hold on to. A tree, a stick, a small crack in the footpath. He dug his fingernails in and gripped tightly as the world dragged him along, his hair flying wildly behind him and his legs kicking loosely at the air. His whole body strained and tears began to well in his eyes as the wind rushed against his face.

Slowly, surely, he could feel his grip loosening, could sense the strength departing from his fingers. He couldn’t hold on much longer. Any second now and the strain would be too much. His arms would break. His fingers would be ripped off. His whole body would snap into two. The pain was unbearable. Something had to give.

Neville let go.

For a couple of seconds he lay, breathing slowly. Letting the strength flow back into his body. Waiting for the feeling to return to his arms. Then he looked up and saw the world spinning away, disappearing into the darkness of space. Neville was seized with panic. He leapt up and began chasing after the world. Trying to catch up with it again so he could get back on board. But he was too slow. Soon the world was nothing but a tiny dot, no bigger than a golf ball.

Neville stopped and watched as the world diminished into a pinhole of blue and then vanished. He was alone. All around him was nothingness. Neville shivered. He wasn’t used to such quiet. It felt strange and slightly unnerving. What could it mean? How should he feel? What was he to do?

Neville looked around. High above, the lights of the stars twinkled. To his left, a comet flashed past. To his right, a sudden blaze of brightness flared, a distant supernova. It was a beautiful sight. An everlasting silent night.

Suddenly Neville was overcome by a feeling of peace. No more desperately rushing to keep up. No more frantically clinging on for dear life. Neville didn’t need the world anymore. He was free.

He looked around and noticed a stream of lights gliding past. Asteroids, some glowing like small planets, others seemingly no bigger than a teapot. Suddenly Neville had an idea. He would find himself an asteroid and make it his home. One that was not too big or too small, just comfortable. Then he could start again, from scratch. He would fashion for himself a new world. A world that worked exactly the way he wanted it to. And then, at last, he could get down to the important business of just being Neville.

Neville scanned the asteroid field, carefully trying to discern which would be the best asteroid to choose. Many of them rushed past like speeding racehorses in an intergalactic derby. Neville didn’t want an asteroid that moved fast. He wanted a slow one. One that gave him time to do all the things he wanted to do. Finally he spotted the right one. It looked to be about the size of a large house and it dawdled sluggishly across the sky like a lazy, sleepwalking pony.

Neville walked quickly towards the asteroid and climbed aboard. It was perfect. Maybe slightly bigger than it had appeared from a distance, but not by too much. There was enough space to play a football match but no risk of having to run too far to get the ball. It might have been cold and rocky and barren, but after the helter and skelter of his previous life Neville found it strangely appealing. This was just the place to start creating his new world.

First things first. Neville would need a country and countries need borders. Using his heel, he marked out a series of lines on the dusty surface. A couple of straight lines on one side and a couple of twisty, windy lines on the other. When he was finished, the lines enclosed a space about eighty metres by fifty metres. Outside the lines was foreign territory, distant and unknown. But inside the lines was Neville’s country, the place he was proud to call his new home.

Now onto the next thing. Everyone knows that countries need a name. Neville decided to call his country Bolivia. It was a place he’d always wanted to visit. Now he could finally say that he had.

Having achieved so much in barely a couple of minutes, Neville sat down to consider his position. Here he was, the ruler of his own country. He could do anything he wanted. So what should he do next? Neville thought about all the other things a country needed to have. A capital, a language, a flag. A culture, an economy, a national tree. It seemed like there were an awful lot of decisions he was going to have to make.

Suddenly Neville felt hopelessly out of his depth. This was not how it was meant to be. He didn’t want to have to take all of this responsibility. He wanted to be an average guy, to stand back and let somebody else make the big decisions. He was happy to be one of the ruled, not one of the rulers.

Neville knew what he had to do. His country needed a leader, and in this brave new democratic world there was only one way to properly select one. Have an election.

Neville cast a secret ballot, carefully tallied the result and then loudly announced that the new President of Bolivia was the large rock twenty-seven metres to his left. Neville pledged allegiance to the rock and then left it to get on with the difficult matter of running the country while he began creating his new future.

His new future lasted exactly thirty-seven seconds. President Rock? It lacked a certain something. Neville couldn’t see it doing any of the things presidents are supposed to do. Attending functions or making speeches. Organising policy at both a national and international level. As a head of state, his rock was sadly inadequate.

At that moment, Neville came to a sad realisation. Much as he’d come to love Bolivia and feel comfortable and welcome there, he knew that it was never going to be the sort of world he had hoped it could be. It was time to move on.

After saying a fond farewell to the President, Neville climbed off the asteroid and trudged away into the inky blackness of the universe. In search of a better place for a Neville. In search of somewhere to call his home.

Doodling available from: