This is Chapter 1 of the novel, Dirk Destroyer's Less Destructive Brother, which means that lots of stuff came before it that you may or may not want to look at in previous posts. This story is a satire, which is not a concept I really understand except it keeps me from being sued.
Boiler Plate Opening Chapter to Novella
It was a typical morning. I awoke on the dirt. It wasn’t so bad. Long ago, I’d learned how to make the earth soft, like a fine mattress. I sat up and looked around.
A ram and ewe were standing by a small patch of stinkweed. It was the closest thing to grass in sight and the ram was eyeing me as if he thought I might fight him for his precious stinkweed. The ewe was munching placidly. Swampy landed on a rock next to me.
“Need fish?” said Swampy. He said it as a question, as if he was offering me fish, though I don’t think that was his intent. Swampy was a swamprat bird, a remarkably ugly creature, which normally would have the capacity for a few words only. Swampy had a large vocabulary, largely because he was about half as old as I was. I think Dirk did something to him, though I have no idea what. Dirk is cleverer than I am, and though neither of us is magical, we’ve learned to do a few things over the years.
“Need fish?” said Swampy again. When he says that around some people, they feel obligated to go and catch a fish for Swampy, like he was a sheep, or something. I know that Swampy is not offering to fish for me, and he should know I won’t fish for him. I don’t particularly like Swampy, though I’ve known him longer than any other being but Dirk, and I’ve spent a lot more time with Swampy than Dirk.
The stupid rat-bird won’t leave me alone; I have no idea why.
“Stay with Elmer,” says Swampy as if he’s read my mind.
“Wonderful,” I grumble. I focus on the dirt, bacteria, and other unuseful organisms clinging to my body since I fell asleep. After a few seconds, it all falls away. Swampy swoops down and feeds on a worm that must have spent the night with me.
“Well now, I’m clean, and you’re fed,” I say to Swampy – not that I’m looking to start up a conversation with the rat-bird, but I guess it’s better than talking to yourself. “Now it’s time for my breakfast.”
I squat down so that I can lay my palms flat against the earth. I concentrate on vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, proteins and fats. I feel my body begin to absorb the nutrients, until something buts me in the back.
It’s the ram. He’s looking at me as if it’s my job to give him anything he wants. I feel like punching him between the horns, but you never know where Moist might show up to enforce the thirty-fifth idea, so I move away submissively. Swampy flies by and farts in the ram’s face.
At times, Swampy isn’t such bad company.
One of the advantages of living out in the open is that you have nothing to defend. Sure, the sheep were annoying, but they weren’t a threat. They couldn’t take anything from me because all I had were my clothes and whatever I could fit in my fanny pack.
I wandered over the rise that had once been a grassy bluff. The soil was loose and sandy now, with an erosion ditch that led down to the river. How long had it been that way? From the height of the rise I could see quite a ways. I saw lots of sheep, lambs playing, ewes clumped in groups as if they had anything to fear now that nearly all the wolves were dead, two rams were butting each other across the river, probably over a large group of ewes nearby, though maybe over a patch of short grass. There was surprisingly little grass.
“How long has it been this way, Swampy,” I asked. The rat-bird had followed me, as it always did.
“Need fish?” said Swampy.
A single worm isn’t much when you’re a rat-bird, I guess. I was still hungry too. The ram had interrupted my breakfast, and river soil is rich in nutrients. Swampy flew ahead as I made my way down the rise.
The river was muddy; filled with silt. There must have been some flooding downstream, though I couldn’t remember any particularly heavy rain. I didn’t notice rain much since I learned the secret to repelling it. It was a pretty simple trick – one of the first I learned when I was only three or four hundred years old. Every once in a while I let the rain drench me; just to remember how it felt.
I knelt by the river. Swampy waddled over to join me, his greasy wings flailing, and his seven rat-tails stirring up the sand behind him. He stared at me with one gray and puce eyeball. Birds don’t stare at you straight ahead. He didn’t need to say anything, I knew what he wanted. I thought about him farting at the ram and laughed. I leaned over and dangled my fingers in the water. It took longer than usual to attract a fish – it must have been all the silt. It wasn’t very big.
Swampy pounced. That would keep him quiet for a while.
I imagined that my body might still be able to digest fish, but I didn’t try to catch another. I just put my hand flat in the river shallows and soaked up nutrients. It was pretty poor for river soil. Maybe there was some natural disaster going on that I didn’t know about. Plagues, famines, earthquakes, floods – they didn’t affect me much anymore. The first few were exciting, but after you live through a hundred or so, it’s kind of like diarrhea, go about your business and it passes after a short while.
I wasn’t hungry anymore. I reached into my fanny pack for a cigar and noticed that I was down to two. It was a good thing that sheep didn’t like the tobacco plant. I’d have a hard time obeying idea thirty-five if flocks started threatening my cigar supply.
Not surprisingly, I was short on matches too. One of the matches was wet. I pulled it out and smelled it. It smelled like sheep urine.
How had a sheep managed to pee into my fanny pack and onto one, but only one, match?
I was just glad the other matches were all right. I once spent a couple centuries trying to figure out how Light Bringers made fire come out of their fingertips. It would be a useful skill to have, but I couldn’t learn the trick. I asked Lenny Bruise to teach me once and he made fire come out of his middle finger.
“Flick – you, Elmer,” he said or something like that. I can’t quite remember exactly what it was.
I guess that meant no. Maybe Light Bringing wasn’t a skill, but actually magic. I always expected magic to be more dramatic.
“Well Swampy,” I said, “if I don’t want to run out of cigars, I better go see the Ceasarans.”
“Going to town,” said Swampy.
I fished the earth for gold or silver. It’s a lot like soaking up nutrients, but I had to stop the mineral before it entered my body. There was still plenty of precious metal in the ground, and it only took a few minutes before I had a decent sized wad of silver, and a smaller one of gold which I put in my fanny pack. I did a similar thing with river algae, drawing it up into a couple of rough bar-shaped lumps. I pushed the moisture out of the bars, along with any harmful bacteria. Algae bars might not taste good, but if there was a famine in the land, one of these would keep a body alive for a day or two. I wanted to keep the Ceasaran family alive. They were the only cigar-making family I knew, and had been selling me cigars for… well, quite a while.
I didn’t bother asking Swampy if he was coming. Of course he was coming. The stupid rat-bird never left me alone.
I might mention here that I created the character Swampy before I ever saw Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs, though I imagine the screenplay writer had the concept first.
Sometimes muses mess with us like that. Here's a clip from the movie.