The Zork spun, four of its six eyes targeted on its tiny human prey. It roared – in the subsonic range, fortunately for our heroes, who have the usual pitiful human sense organs, and would otherwise have been deafened by the hellish noise – brought up its right claw – the one with the tangler in it – and fired.
Let us pause for a moment here to reflect on the peculiarity of the Zorkian race, which developed uncounted light years away from humankind, yet find them just yummy – and not at all upsetting to their utterly alien metabolisms – and go to insane lengths to trap and hencely consume the ugly creatures. There have even been rumors of experimental facilities, where patient Zorkian farmers try to breed domesticated humans for general consumption. Perhaps one day this project will succeed on a scale sufficient to feed the entire Zorkian race, but for now, polls indicate that Zorks which have tasted both domestic and non-domestic varieties prefer wild humans by a ratio approaching 17 to 1. Preliminary research indicate that the superlative tastiness of the wild humans as opposed to the disgusting blandness of the domesticants is, in fact, a function of the Contrary Enzyme which dictates so much of human behavior. True to its name, the Contrary Enzyme contrarily refuses to duplicate itself in breeding stock.
Thoughts to meditate upon of rainy evenings, should you be so fortunate as to reside on a planet where rain is a natural and enjoyable phenomenon. It rains once every fifteen thousand years on Zorkiod Six, homeworld of the Zorks; and the subsequent floods, hurricanes, tsunami and otherdisasterstoonumeroustomention wipe out Zorkian civilization as they know it. Which may account for something of their legendary ill temper.
Now. . .ah, yes. The tangler.
– and fired.
“EEEK!” squeeked Neli, tossing her hair prettily behind one shapely shoulder and cowering with ineffectual daintiness.
“AAARrrrgH!” Biff yelled and flung headfirst into the spinning evil ball of nasty, smelly tangle-cords.
Now, this is not as dumb as you might at first think, you who are safe and cozy and warm from the rain, clearly out of the range of both hungry Zorks and tanglers. Biff doesn’t use his head all that much, seeing as he doesn’t even very often wear a hat, and in light of the fact that he doesn’t have anything else to catch and contain the tangler – besides Neli, of whom he is quite foolishly fond – his head is not a bad spur-of-the-moment blockade.
* * *
This fragment was in a folder with other fragments, the sole non-Liaden piece in said folder, dated in the years 1985 and 1986. Yes, yes, I know you hadn’t been born yet. I had a job, was living in sin with a coffeehouse poet, and, more scandalous still – two cats – a barn cat with delusions of grandeur, and a tugboat cat who had an unhealthy relationship with emery boards.
Now, as regards the above snippet – I’m taking the heat for this one, because I can almost – almost – remember writing it. Which is to say, I remember coming home from work, walking to my desk, rolling a piece of paper into the typewriter and starting to write. I remember, specifically, typing the phrase “of whom he is quite foolishly fond.” Also, when I showed the piece to Steve, he was. . .adamant in his denial of authorship.
So, the above is my fault: I wrote it, I meant to write it, the only question we have left to ask is –
But! Before we get to that, I want to mention two things particularly that strike me about this piece of writing.
The first is that the Zork is ripped straight out of the adventures of Spaceman Spiff, Calvin’s internal space opera narrative in the classic comic Calvin & Hobbes.
The second is that – the original snippet is just shy of two double-spaced pages, typed, and what is notable about those pages is that they encompass no errors. No mistakes, no mistypes, no misspellings, no errors.
As a typist this says one thing very clearly to me: These pages were typed in the midst of a white-hot fury.
No, seriously. When you’re just typing (on a typewriter, now, though you do the same thing when writing on the screen, but the effects are minimized by being able to delete on the fly) – or worse, when you’re writing – all you do is make mistakes. Your fingers stumble, or you change your mind about what you were going to say halfway through the sentence; you’re constantly going back and XXXing out wrong words. The other pieces in the file with this one are riddled with scratch-outs and misspellings – typical first drafts, every one.
This one – it’s spotless. Nobody types two pages of unblemished original copy unless they’re in the grip of the muse – or they’re really corked off.
The reason I’m going with anger is that, had long-ago me indeed been in the grip of the muse – she would have finished the story.
And she did not.
So, there we have it: a Splinter, an Analysis, and an Unanswered Question.
What could have angered past-me so much that she began this story, so very unlike anything else she had written to date, or wrote afterward?
The answer is lost to time.
* * *
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