Title: Comfy Rascals: Short Fictions
Author: Rhys Hughes
Publisher: Raphus Press, Gibbon Moon Books
DON’T SHOOT THE MESSENGER
He who was King in the land of Booshooba ordered his most trusted messenger to deliver a sealed envelope to another ruler, the King of far distant Zazkhaban. The messenger set off on the dangerous journey and was never tempted to open the envelope and read the message within. He knew he would face terrible dangers on the path, diversions, bandits, doom pits. One diversion might lead him into a dimension of woe. Another might not. As for bandits, there were a great many of those. For countless ages they had been terrorising the lonely passes of the mountain ranges that lie between Booshooba and Zazkhaban. The messenger had to be agile and astute to avoid their clubs, spears and nets. He crawled past their sentries and soon was up and hastening again. He never tired, this most trusted messenger. Little wonder that the King of Booshooba had favoured him!
But the doom pits are worse than the bandits. No one who has fallen into them has returned, nor have even their screams risen out of those grim holes in the gruesome ground. Will the messenger be fit enough and light enough to leap them all in mighty bounds? They fall still, those unfortunates who fell into them, and now they are loose bones tumbling like jugglers’ clubs down and down through phosphorescent infinity.
But the messenger is safe beyond them. After months of hard travelling, he finally reaches the palace of the King of Zazkhaban, who takes the envelope from him and opens it. The King reads the letter with a frown that grows deeper. Finally he reaches for a loaded musket and points it at the messenger‟s head.
“Clearly you have received some bad news,” the messenger says, “but I am not responsible for what has happened. Don’t shoot the messenger! For I have simply completed my assigned task.”
Silently, but with a stern expression, the King of Zazkhaban offers the letter to the messenger. It says simply, “My dear brother, I have one favour to ask of you. Please shoot the messenger who delivers this letter.” The king pulls the trigger of the musket. There is noise and smoke and the most trusted messenger slumps to the ground and his blood flows quickly.
Baldness in men is not natural but a result of civilization. It probably comes from wearing tight hats or eating processed foods. In our original condition evolution would never choose baldness because the moonlight reflecting off the shiny scalp would give away our position to predators in the jungle. Men with thick heads of hair are less likely to be pounced on by tigers. They are more likely to be used as a paintbrush by gorillas, yes, but pounced on by tigers, no! And yet, maybe we need more light at night. Could it be that bald men are necessary? The reflections of the male heads of an entire tribe might provide sufficient illumination for late sessions of applied mathematics to take place. Or for the continuance of guitar lessons.
WHEN I DISCOVERED LAZINESS
When I was young I was full of energy. I read in a book that if every man, woman and child in China jumped up and down at the same time, a tidal wave would be created by the vibrations that would engulf the United States of America. I remember thinking: so why don‟t they do that? If it’s possible, why not make the attempt? Later, I read in a different book that every man, woman and child could fit onto the Isle of Wight standing up straight like skittles, tightly packed together, and that the island would sink. Once again I asked myself: so why don’t we do it?
Even later I was told by a teacher at my school that if every man, woman and child in the world stood on the equator facing east in a long line and took one step forwards, pushing back with their foot, the globe would stop spinning. So why aren’t we lining up and stepping forward, I demanded to know? Then the answer occurred to me. Laziness! That was why there were no human-generated tidal waves, sinking islands or planetary brakes. It was because people were too lazy to make them happen. That was the precise moment when I discovered laziness and what it really meant and its importance to the daily workings and evolving history of the human race.
Our identities can never survive death because they barely even exist while we are alive. They are not constants but variables. Our identities are constantly changing but so gradually that we do not perceive the changes and thus assume we are a single entity all our lives. In fact we are so far removed from the way we were, and the way we will be, that if our past or future selves were suddenly killed, we (the present “we‟) would feel nothing at all. And we do die sometime in the future without feeling a thing now, which would hardly be the case if all our selves through time were connected and merged into one unit. This is what I think and I thought it.
About the Book:
Many rascals are too tense to be comfortable. Real life rascals have much to worry about. But rascals in fiction can afford to relax a little in the waves of prose that surround them, gently swirling on the wit and wisdom, bobbing on the contrivance, floating on the syntax. It is nice to be a comfy rascal. The language and its ambiguity are the territory where Rhys produces his best in fiction. In the flash fiction format, the stories by Rhys at Comfy gets a full language ambiguity game, in the words of the superb author Brian Evenson:
“Each of these stories is a shimmering whimsical fleck which not only satisfies in and of itself but, taken with its compatriots, builds an image of life and language that is pure play and discovery. Like Kafka’s parables, if Kafka’s sense of humour was less dark and had more puns.”
About the Author:
Rhys Hughes has been writing fiction from an early age. His first book was published in 1995 and since that time he has published fifty other books, nine hundred short stories and many articles and poems, and his work has been translated into ten languages. He graduated as an engineer but currently works as a tutor of mathematics. Having lived in Britain, Spain and Kenya, he is now planning to move to India. His poetry tends to be humorous light verse and offbeat lyrical fantasy, influenced mainly by Don Marquis, Ogden Nash, Edward Lear, Richard Brautigan, Ivor Cutler and Spike Milligan.
PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL