Serial One Serial Two Short Stories Main Page
1: So I was late for this lecture, right? and I'm running in to the place, and I notice the lights are down as like the lecturer is going to show a film or slide or something. Then I sit down and realise that there is no one else in the room at all, and at the front it looks like 3 big guys in big suits, sort of maybe gangster like but a bit men-in-black. And they shine the spotlight in my face and one of 'em says, "You have a choice." and leaves it at that, like I'm supposed to know what they mean. then he goes, "We have a mission for you. Accept it and you will win 21,128 quid on the lottery if you enter it in exactly 7 weeks time with the numbers 2,4,12,17,33,45. Do not attempt to win more. If you refuse to accept our mission, which you are free to do, everyone you know, their friends, neighbours, relations, pets, and favourite celebrities, will die by apparently natural causes." "Well" I said keeping a cool head... at the moment, "Before I can decide I would have to know what the mission was."
2: "Your mission," began a voice behind me, "is extremely simple." I looked behind me and noticed this big kindly guy, looked about 70 or so, but wearing shades spookily enough. "That's nice" I said. "Don't worry about remembering it all, we can ensure you do that. Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to do as follows; 1- in three days time, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org during your first break between lectures. Include nothing but the word, "3"." "That's a number!" "How very perceptive." well I had to ask; "Why???" "You have already been informed of the terms of your mission. 2- in precisely 6 days time, you will phone the number 0117 9328685. Leave a message on the decorator's answer machine saying, 'the train arrives at 5:13. It shall not be raining. Bring your assistant.' 3- never attempt to contact either of these people again, nor tell anyone about them, not even in the form of a fictional story serialised on the end of your e-mails" "Dang, how did you know I was gonna do that???" "That is all. Do you accept your mission?"
3: 'Do you accept your mission' he says, the extremely heavy-vibe-bad-karma threat-like grimness he has just thrown upon me as meaningless as a second bowl of serial. "Doesn't look like I have much of a choice does it? Of course I do." "Excellent. Now as I said, we can and will ensure that you remember what to do." "Wait a sec, now what? I mean in these type scenes its just too odd for all you guys to just like leave out the door or something, so you usually- I felt a very brief pain in the back of the head, but after that total blackness and nothinglike dreamless sleep. When I came-to I was in the lecture I was supposed to attend, and it seemed I had just dropped off, you know, as you do. Sometimes. Was it all a dream, I wondered, [but that would be too boring,]-and the numbness of my left arm told me they must have injected their memory-messing-with drugs while I was 'out'. I tried looking in my head at the memories of the past few hours, and they seemed as like a scrabble board spelling out a sentence but with lots of blank tiles, and tiles turning over and letters coming and going. What did I have to do again? E-mail, phone, lottery something like that? Or else oh yeah, everyone would die. That bit stuck in my mind at least.
4: In three days time, all the scrabble pieces had arranged themselves in my head and I was ready. I knew what to do e-mail first, in the first break between lectures. I also realised that they HAD said that I would win money if I "accepted the mission", and everyone dies if I don't accept it. Well since I've accepted it already I don't actually have to do it!! But I also figured these weren't the kind of guys who wanted to be messed around with like that. So I decided to get on with it. Having carefully prepared the e-mail, with a small but perfectly formed 3 in the top left corner, and none of the rubbish I usually put on the end, and carefully removing the reply-to address and stuff just in case, I suddenly had a minor moral qualm; a tremor, that felt like it could well be a precursor to a major quake. What if these guys were hideously evil?!? What if, in some immensely obscure way, I was helping them in their evil plan of global terrorisation, or whatever? What if it was all a big, sick, improbable joke? Or what if they were Good, and in some way I was helping them to crush all evil??? Well I figured I couldn't take the chance, so I hit the send button.
Meanwhile. A toaster glowed bright bluey-white and broke.
5: The e-mail of destiny, containing nothing but the holy and vital number 3, winged its way electronically through the wires and stuff, whatever it is. Then it hit something unexpected, jigged about abit, got stuff added on, bounced some more, and then came back and hit me 'beep' said the machine - new message! How exciting! It was the number 3 and it was also a whole bunch of nasty sounding errors - 'fatal but non-serious error 2344 has occurred expectedly', - 'life-endangering error 7 has not occurred but the detector for it has failed', - 'permanent defect-error bad disk-space bug corrupted file 3.txe has an imperfect previous future attachment which contravenes paradox standard 002a' and some more stuff like that. Not good then. Enhancing my calm, I sent some more number 3s to addressees similar to the one I was supposed to sometimes using other people's e-mail address sender place thingies 4 of them came back with more scary error messages, and I also received 2 very confused replies from complete strangers, who could never know the truth much as they badgered me for it for the rest of my life. None of them seemed to actually work. I couldn't understand it; the guys had seemed so pro, it just didn't make sense that some of their perfect instructions could go wrong unless, perhaps, someone just-as-if-not-more-so pro was working against them, and hence me and that would mean What? I didn't know, but I was determined to pretend nothing had happened.
6: The Right Hon. Fildirch Berekely got up at 9 o'clock precisely, out of bed and dressed before the radio-beeps for the time had stopped [amazingly]. He went through his well-planned ablutions, popped in a few slices of bread in his toaster -[cue incidental bit of music that goes 'diddley doo, doo dap!' that reminds the viewer/reader that this is the VERY SAME toaster that we saw glow bright bluey white and break in episode 4]- he then munched on some Nesquik serial, in full-cream milk, while reading the paper at phenomenal speed. With unerring timing, he went over to the toaster and reached out to catch the pieces, just as they were about to pop out. It was 1 minute to 'exactly 6 days later'. My lecture had been cancelled, which uncannily meant I was able to make the required call without having even to catch up with someone else's notes. The number and message flowed easily from my subconscious to my conscious mind, and despite the fact that the first part of their instructions had gone somewhat awry [maybe, I thought, these guys are SO good that they knew it would go wrong like that, and actually only told me to do it so that I would go on to do whatever else I did because it had gone wrong. Or maybe not...] I was confident that this part would be easy.
7: To Fildirch's absolute horror, the toast totally failed to pop up at the appropriate time. Could he have mistimed it after all these years? Surely not. But even now as he made use of the time carefully adjusting his tie even closer to perfection and putting on his answer-machine, he realised he would have to stoop to the low heights [not the high lows though] of scraping around in the toaster with a knife trying to get his bread/toast [a quantum superposition of states, not unlike Schrodinger's cat] out, and despite the fact that when he did retrieve it, he consumed it at his maximum rate, he was nonetheless a full, shocking, unprecedented, whole minute late as he opened his front door to leave. Just then his phone went, and he nearly collapsed with shock. Should he take the call? Surely everyone he knew was aware of when he left his house? Perhaps that was it. Perhaps they planned for him to be out, so they could simply leave a message on his machine. Some people are like that. I dialled 0117 9328685 and it rang. Not a non-existent number, thank goodness. Three rings and the answer machine should come on and I could leave my message as I was supposed to. It rang twice. Then Fildirch answered it. [oh no!!!!]
8: So I'm on the phone, waiting for the answering machine to pick up. And I hear this click, and then the message. "Hello, this is the Right Honourable Fildirch Berkeley speaking" Yeah yeah, blah blah blah, just cut to the beep, I'm thinking, come on "What do you want?" "Whoa!" I say, "Kind of direct for an answering machine message! OK-" And then Fildirch says, "What are you talking about? This is me right here, actually you're very lucky you DIDN'T get my answer machine as a matter of fact. So what do you want?" "Well, I, um, that is, 'the train arrives at 5:13'" "What train?" "It shall not be raining..." "What the devil are you talking about man?!?" "'Bring your assistant.' wait a minute, did you say Right Honourable?" "That's right. Did you say, 'Prank Caller?'" "What? No! So you're not a decorator then?" "Look here you little piece of scum, I don't know how you've got the nerve to even ring me, but bringing that into it is not going to make it any better for you. Now I'm already later for work than I've ever been before in my life, so I suggest you leave me alone or you'll regret it for the rest of your indubitably pointless LIFE! Goodbye!" And he slammed down the receiver, failing to get it back on the hook but doing some serious damage to nearby crockery, by the sound of it. 'Well' I thought, 'That could have gone better.' The time was 9:03. That evening mum phoned to tell me that our cat had died that morning at 9:04. [don't ask me why she checked the time, she just does things like that. Ok not really, but just go with it. Anyway where was I oh yeah, ] EEEEEEEEEK!!! Oh NOOOOOoooooo!!!!
9: [Please note: persons of a sensitive disposition may, for reasons of their own, be offended by the near-topical and almost-controversial nature of this part] Was this it? Having, in a totally unfair manner, failed to complete any of the tasks I had been asked to do, everyone remotely connected to me was going to die? Surely not. Surely the cat was just a coincidence. Surely I could still win the lottery with those numbers they had told me. Then again, seeing as everything else they had said had gone so wrong, why should they have got those numbers right? If everyone did start dying, what on earth could I do about it? Seemingly absolutely nothing. I could tell them why they were going to die, but then they probably wouldn't believe me. Worse, if the one's who had died had simply been coincidences, just by telling the other people they were going to die, I would have broken my contract, so they would die anyway! What a lot of death, I thought. The very next day I heard about Jill Dando. Was that connected? I still couldn't be sure. It just didn't make sense. Unless maybe they had meant, all of my favourite celebrities, as well as those of all my friends and family but that would mean loads and loads! Well anyway, to cut a long story short, after a lot of mooching about and hearing about people of ever closer degrees of separation from me kicking the bucket all over the place, I finally decided that the situation was totally unacceptable. I decided to complain. Having no-one to complain to was a bit of a problem with this plan, and I decided that the only person I could reasonably complain to was God. Heck, the whole thing was probably connected with him anyway. Sending a prayer of complaint didn't seem quite right to me though, so instead I decided to pick some of the people I knew who hadn't died yet, tell them of the situation, so that when they DID die, they could go straight to The Big Man and get it all sorted out. Sounds optimistic I know, but you don't know who I chose: Tobias Reisch and James Grist. They had never met each other, but I reckoned that once they teamed up they would be a pretty unstoppable team in the afterlife. Provided they died first of course.
10: So I now needed Toby and James to die. Rather generously, they did, the next day. [uh sorry guys, but hey, its just a story!] James was trying to realign the TV aerial with a hacksaw when he slipped and fell to his death. Toby was abducted by aliens, and died instantly from the massive anti-electrical shortage through his brain when the aliens connected a good/evil-o-meter machine to him, as the readings spiralled off the scale in both directions simultaneously. This might have been to do with the fact that he was lightly imbued with alcohol at the time, but is more likely just because of him. So anyway they both went to the spiritual plane and got in the queue for judgement. They were at about the point that says, 'Queuing time from this point, 7 hours', and as everyone started talking to each other, they gradually realised that quite a large majority of them were connected to me. James and Toby explained what was going on, and there was more than a little unrest as people started to get the feeling that it was all my fault they had died. [incidental author's note: how exactly am I supposed to know what happened when they went to the judgement place after death? Clearly, you might be thinking, the complaint went through and they came back to life and told me, in which case the entire story has a foregone conclusion. But then, it could well be that I died as well, and they told me in heaven! And I'm e-mailing this from the afterlife! Or something. Come to think of it, how come I knew what happened to Fildirch's toaster? I don't know. Its just a story, I don't think about those kind of things. Well except now obviously. Anyway ] So it was that a mass of about 100 people, led by James and Toby, went up to the complaints counter and elbowed everyone out of the way through force of numbers. "Oh dear." Sighed the head Seraphim [or whatever it is some bald, holy looking guy anyway], "What do you lot want?"
11: "You listen here, you religious what-not. This is serious: we are all dead and we shouldn't be! Its not right!" began James. "Yeah," continued Toby, "It wasn't our fault and it wasn't Tim's either. You guys have seriously f-.. uh, mucked up here." Even Toby didn't feel quite right swearing at an angel, or similar type blokey. "Ah" said the bald holy one, "Is this Tim Mannveille we are speaking of here?" "Yeah" said everyone else. "Oh dear, I'm afraid we're going to have to get the Main Man down here to sort this lot out." "What, God you mean?" "No." the Richard O'Brien lookalike replied coolly, and pressed a small intercom button on his pearlescent desk. A nervous sounding voice came across the com: "Uh, hello?" The voice sounded odd as it seemed to be a cross between a nervous nerdy computing maths student, and the pope, with subtle overtones of authority being somewhat counteracted by a slight mangling of the words as if by ill-fitting teeth, a bit like that grey bloke in the twix adverts, but with some dignity. "God? Hi, Sesterpholimeneyer here. Got a bit of a large problem with this Mannveille chap. A few hundred dead people don't seem to be happy, and I think we're gonna have to get the Guy Upstairs onto it" "OK, I'm on it" replied God. "OK if you'll excuse me I'll just put you in a waiting zone until we're ready." Said Sesterphowhatever, and the space around the crowd of complainants suddenly turned opalescent and near-solid as they were subjected to a time-holding field. Seemingly as soon as it had started, it stopped, and a short slightly stooped man came up to them. He had a slightly scraggly grey beard but plenty of hair on top, with defiantly thick black serious caterpillar eyebrows. "Hello everyone," he said, revealing by his voice that he was God, "If you'll come with me please, we'll go on to his eminence, the almighty Splinger, the ultimate Scuntountam, the supreme Master of Universes, the grand highest Lord Mr Bunny.
12: God led everyone onto a strange field of small circles, like the teleporting room place in star trek, except bigger. Once everyone was in place on a circle, God said, "Hold tight! Don't forget to write! Don't try to fight! Travel Light! Get outta sight! Do what's right! Escape your plight! Thank-you and good evening!" for no good reason at all, and then they all teleport-zapped away into the vast and awesome nexus of universes, the home of the supreme Mr Bunny. "Ah! There you are." Mr Bunny said, standing up from his grey armchair, which didn't look good, but was actually the most comfortable chair in all the universes and throughout all time. He was at least 8 feet tall, but was still an ordinarily proportioned man, apart from having a completely flat nose. His eyes didn't seem to have colour, they looked more like vortices in reality leading to the beginning of time, or the end of it, and seemed to suck one's soul and thoughts inside, until he blinked. "This is that Mannveille thing, isn't it?" He asked with certain amount of total certainty in his voice, as he walked across the nothing swirl that in some sense was a nexus of all creations. "Deary me, that boy's got an overactive sense of self-worth hasn't he! Well well well now, let me see; as I recall, you have all advanced one level of existence, and feel that that has been a premature move, yes?" Everyone kind of shuffled their feet around and vaguely nodded, only a handful of them managing not to be completely overawed by the ludicrously ultimate spectacle. "Allow me to explain all that has occurred. Your earth and its associated after and pre-life locations is involved in a completely unnecessary yet rather amusing four-way battle between 'good', 'evil', 'neutrality' and 'anti-neutrality', heretoinforthereafter referred to as G, E, N and A. Now I don't think you are equipped with the time handling ability, nor the true curiosity inclination to sit here for a thousand years as I explain the reason for everything that happened. So I'm afraid I'll have to summarise a little"
Meanwhile, back on earth, a small black pig wandered through the streets of Bristol with a bit of paper in its mouth.
13: Everyone sat down on invisible chairs, without really realising, as Mr. Bunny began the explanation:
"The battle between G,E,N and A will inevitably reach it conclusion in the Armageddon of the year 2561, or thereabouts. Consequently they are all making plans to ensure that they will win. They have established their own rules of conflict, for the sake of earthlings such as yourself: most notably, that they may not intervene directly with any events on earth. The maximum action they can take is the one that they used on Tim: to persuade a victim to carry out certain seemingly inconsequential actions, which will have significant ramifications 500 years down the line. In this particular case, E and A had formed a tentative alliance. Their combined genius came up with the plan that Tim was an integral part of.
As some of you have just been told, he was ordered to carry out several obscure actions, with the reward of a lottery win and the punishment of the mass death that has just occurred. Incidentally, the lottery win could never actually happen; all sides of the four way battle are baffled by results every week, as their most advanced prediction methods always fail to predict which balls will win. This is due to a super-intelligent race, the Schoshchinta, as they call themselves, who have somehow evolved to a greater level of intelligence than the gods and demons of their own universe, without advancing to the next plane of existence. They amuse themselves by toying with air particles on inhabited planets in neighbouring galaxies, and have a competition to fix the lottery balls to whatever they want. But that is beside the point.
The order to e-mail a number 3 was planned to go wrong; the rules would not quite permit a direct e-mail, so Tim's mind was chosen, as it would attempt an appropriately similar address. One of the men who received this e-mail and demanded of Tim what it all meant, found the entire incident extremely bizarre, and would tell one of his friends about it. This man would go on to write a book on the chaotic results of linking the world population together through the internet, and as he was writing it, just before going to the shops for some lucosade, he would pause to consider whether to include this incident. He would decide that it was too trivial to mention, but the brief pause that he took meant that he was to arrive a little later at the shop, and as he crossed back across the road, he would be run over by a double-decker bus, thus preventing him from starting the bloodline that would eventually educate the 3rd Christ.
The phone message to Fildirch was indeed supposed to get through to him rather than be picked up on the answer machine. Fildirch had had some terrible problems, when a judgee [or whatever the word is for a person who get judged is] of his took a perverse revenge for his conviction: he entered Fildirch's phone number in the yellow pages as a decorator, leading to a lot of irritation and confusion. For this reason, Tim's mentioning of the decorating enraged Fildirch such that when he slammed the receiver down, and missed, he broke his nesquik cereal bowl. Putting it in the bin, it sliced a small gash in the lining, and as he carried it out to the wheelie-bin a tiny drop of milk escaped. The eventual effect of this on the global ecosystem was that it would be a beautiful day, rather than a rainy one, on the day E and A had planned to have their celebratory picnic in Hyde Park.
N found out about this, and although they did not realise what the effect would be, they decided to try to stop it. They used their influence to cause a malfunction in the machine used by the Schoshchinta, which would cause Tim to remember his instructions incorrectly, and phone Fildirch after he had left his house. The Schoshchinta permitted this malfunction to go through as they found it amusing, but A found out and counteracted by putting about rumours in the right circles that got Fildirch's toaster into terrible trouble with the toaster god, who then smote [or smite-ed, maybe]it with his great power. Thus the phone call went as planned.
The forces of neutrality also planned for the entire thing to go wrong, as they realised that the net effect of all the people Tim knew dying would be beneficial to them in the long run. Hence they managed to subtly influence events such that certain key people in Tim's life would die, causing him to tell you two, Tobias and James, what to do when you died. Thus by breaking his contract, E and A could set about killing all of you with reckless abandon - this was made easier by a subtle loophole in the laws of engagement concerning broken contracts, which permitted them to use more direct methods than usual.
This type of subtle adjusting of your world occurs all the time, but does not usually go as crazily wrong as this. This is because there was, at a critical point in the process, an unexpected defection from N to A, and another doing precisely the reverse. Thus with the unusually high flow of information, we achieved the unexpected and unprecedented effect of mass slaughter.
Well that pretty much explains everything. I personally believe that the loophole in their law, which has been subsequently corrected, permitted an unacceptable level of interference with the normal flow of events. Consequently you will be pleased to know that I have reversed all the events, and you shall all be returned to your normal lives - although with no memories of these events, I'm afraid - procedure, you know how it is. But I have chosen to allow Tim the privilege of the memories, and have sent him a note of apology. Goodbye."
And everything was as He said. I saw the pig leave the note by our doorstep, and by the time I got there he had run away, but I unfolded the note, and read:
"Dear Tim. Sorry about all that. Please find enclosed all your memories. Do not tell anyone about this to prevent further insanity. In case of emergency, never phone this number: 019##%//111111x1
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