Splotch Scrunch Cruelty-Shaped Cruelty
The courtyard is an oval, bisected by more of the rectangular stone planks and grass plantings. Building’
s faces here show more windows on this side; each has four aligned in sets of two. Short hedges rim the
area. It is the most common thing I have seen here yet. All it is missing is a market at the center.

Wyvern and Brixan are in the alley between two buildings. In front of Brixan is a square of stone with
rounded railings around it. At the center of this box of bars is a stairway, heading down.

Wyvern speaks first. He has his crystal machete out, a thing that reflects images of the past. “I’ve waved
this everywhere. I am seeing nothing. Not even the present.”

Brixan points down at the stairs, saying “It said it was the complaint department.”

“I didn’t hear anything,” Wyvern protests. “And I was with her the whole time.”

“Of course you didn’t hear, infidel. Or see anything. That is your necessary and sufficient function, isn’t
it?” I say to him.

Brixan draws her sword and shoots a look at me for approval. I nod my head and she starts to descend
the stairs.

“You know, territorial imperative has its limits,” the miscreant Wyvern explains.

“Easy for you to say,” I snarl. “It’s not your swamp.”

He asks “Will you listen to yourself?”

I say “As the only authority here, mine is the only voice to be listened to. When it’s not being drown out
by a coward.”

Wyvern points at the stairs, saying “She’s gone. Two steps down and the darkness took her.”

“Probably a trick of the light,” I say, heading to the top of the case.

“I don’t even hear her,” he adds.

She is gone. The black stairs down are vacant. There are dozens of them heading down.

“Thirty-three percent casualties is above my withdrawal limit,” Wyvern says.

“Good riddance,” I mutter.

Before parting he says “I am going for help.” And he probably is. I am too preoccupied to add anything,
although I do stare him out as he wades away. He takes those strides of his, starting across the black
roadway. And I wonder where to. The cat slinks towards him. When last I saw it the thing was nowhere
near. Wyvern halts. A ball of orange flame forms in his gauntlet. The cat holds up, fixed either by the
flame in Wyvern’s hands or the confident smirk on his face. And Wyvern continues his graceful way
across the street. What a waste. At least he left with some dignity.

As to where he went to, it seemed he was headed in the direction of the fence. But where to then? Over
the fence and to the dome? The moment he reached the fence it became the roadway portion defined
by the two buildings that we had first passed through. I saw him leave between these buildings and then
out to the swamp. His boots slip into the stirrups and he gains the saddle of his winged mount, Little Pal.

(Stupid name for a winged horse, if you ask me.)

As the horse curls back, about to make its vault to the sky, I feel the ground beneath my shoes give. Not
give way or move, but rather change from hard to soft. I look down and the stone plate I was on is gone,
along with the railings and the stairs. I am on grey grass.

I un-sling the cudgel from my back and swing it around my head. Let those who need to see the symbol
of my office. Now is the time to smite, not that it ever was any other time. The cudgel makes its whistle,
chimes its chimes and lets loose with white smoke. I inhale the incense deeply and brace myself.

A look across the street reveals the fence has now returned. I wasn’t leaving, anyway. Again the claxon
sounds, which I trace back to the cat. The beast is indifferent, only half facing me and half sniffing
randomly in the air. And I know what I am going to smite first.

The cat stupidly paws at a wisp of smoke as my shadow crosses his back. My cudgel rises and comes
down with swift, two handed force. I felt nothing through the shaft, but the cat’s head came off. Not
splattered or pounded or severed. It just fell and rolled left. The body sagged improbably right, slowly
taking up a curled posture as if to sleep.

It did convincingly stop moving. And the claxon quite suddenly went silent.

Time to break windows. Time to make noise. I start with the glass in the carts. The glass does not
shatter as it should, but breaks into odd cubes. Sides in the cart dent easily, sounding out hollow. What
a useless cart this would be, in any case. No place for hauling hay. Its benches are so low that you
cannot see over the beast pulling it, whatever the beast may be. After one quite fearsome blow of mine,
the entire contrivance erupts with a series of rhythmic bleats. The lamps on its front and back illuminate  
and extinguish in a pattern independent of the noise.

I certainly have made all the racket in the world. This world, at least. I step back and the bleating and
flashing continues. Again, I feel pounding in the ground growing stronger. I whirl to face the giant beast.
“Are you the master here?”

It was heading at its normal trot down the middle of the road, converging upon me. It veers gradually and
then halts at the side of the road, right behind the cart I have assaulted. It falls, although slowly, on its
side and is motionless.

I move to a pace from it. The beast does not seem to be moving or breathing. In truth, if it was ever
breathing, I would not have noticed it. It’s simply lying there. The beast’s round feet show three toe nails
on their face even though the foot shows no evidence of toes.

There is a note on its hairy side. I hadn’t seen it before. I swear it wasn’t there. I pluck it up.

Some authority has cited the beast for resting in a restricted zone. If the beast—an elephant, it says--
would like to contest its fine, it may do so at the complaint department. That term again. Good for the
beast. Where do I go to complain?

The dome. I am not sure if the thought occurs to me or imposes itself. And given my present
circumstances, what would it matter? The dome is as good of a place as any, although I doubt my fat
form can make it over the fence. I start across the street.

No matter how far I seem to move down the fence, the perspective of the dome never changes. Looks at
the buildings inside the road clearly show that I am progressing about the perimeter of this circular world.

At least the field of black about the dome isn’t sprouting anything. I put my hands to the top of the fence
and anticipate hefting my stout self up and then, hopefully, over.

I am back in the alley. Suddenly. Ahead is the way out to the swamp. I take three quick steps in the
swamp’s direction and then stop. My eyes scan the windows of the structures bracing the alley. They are
black. If there are eyes behind them, and it would seem there are eyes somewhere, I cannot see them.

I pivot back in the direction of the circular village. Directly ahead of me, flush with the black of the road,
is the stone rectangle with its curved railings and stairs heading down at its center.

I wad up the elephant’s ‘parking ticket’ and hurl it down the stairs. It lands midway. It does not disappear.

“I have had enough of you! Come up, heathens. I am the spokesman for your local regent and all of the
gods. Don’t make me come down there after you!” I say as I take my first steps down the case.

I can make my thingy three feet long.

I can race up and down the walls or around and around the road, or faster and faster in the black of the
cart’s tires. I can ride the dome or dive into the parking lot. I can be the cat or the elephant. Once the
claxon sounds again there is much for me to do, but no time to do it.

Our agenda is to not have any agenda. No more orders or important people here. They have done
enough, sent all scrunch splotch with their cruelty shaped cruelty and their word shaped rules. Thanks
to presumptions and misgivings they have rendered everything instantly equal, the animate and
inanimate relatives here as one. Although it seems a shame to part with this harmony, for what seems a
moment for the last time a moment needs to seem for me, I must.

Our ambassador has been chosen. We will spit out the dear Brixan. She is filled with too much life and
now just full enough for her to impart and is not so full of it—unlike a certain pan-thesis prelate I used to
be able to name. Up the steps she comes, but then halts in needless sentiment.

I have no use for my still imperious shattered face nor the smoking stick sprawled amidst broken limbs.
Having calmed herself, she snatches the silly relic up and silently sends out prayers--mental fool’s
errands here. She is such a pretty thing. I know no one ever tells her that. I would have, but she was my
direct subordinate—and I owned socks older than her.

I rise out from the liquid oozing from where I was once housed. I salute her with a wave from my four
fingered hand and a bleat from my prehensile tongue.

Damn, can she run!