I’ve been a reader of your website for quite a few years now, and am submitting the following excerpt from my new book, "Symbolia". The story is about two siblings who get into the world of Symbolia and have to follow the Sacred Path through many adventures to get back Home.
As Luke and Percy approached Krule City, the air got thicker and thicker, and worse and worse. Buildings started getting closer together and taller. Some buildings had very odd shapes. ZarHogs were clogging up the streets and spewing their foul exhaust. Large signs with flashing lights encouraged everyone to worship Morstuff by purchasing the latest fashions or newest techno-gadgets.
Throngs of Morstuffians hustled from building to building, on their way to work for the Indy Giants, or on their way to worship Morstuff at one of the many Morstuffian Temple Mauls that seemed to be everywhere. “Why do some Morstuffians have those big black lines across the seats of their pants?” Luke asked Percy.
“Oh, those are the BottomLiners,” he answered. “How rich they are is very important to them, and the more Buxx they have, the bigger their bottom lines. And having a big bottom line is the most important thing in the world to them. I should know – my father’s a BottomLiner himself.”
“Really?” said Luke in surprise. “He wears pants with a black line across the back of them?”
“Sure. All the time. But that’s not the truly weird part. The truly weird part is that the real bottom line is right on his skin.”
“You mean he has a black line painted across his butt?”
“Well, it’s not exactly painted,” Percy replied. “I remember when I was little, and he used to play with me and take me fun places. But then he became a Rawthafella, and he didn’t have time to hang out with me anymore. All he had time for was work, work, work, and some secret meetings he went to. And if he wasn’t working, he was worrying about work. And slowly this black line began to grow across his rear end.”
“That must have been embarrassing!” Luke said. “But what’s a Rawthafella?”
“That’s what we call the men who control the economy of Bountiful. They run the banks, where people deposit their Babble-Buxx, or take out loans,” Percy explained. “It was embarrassing to me, but not to my father. He’s always been proud of his bottom line. He used to slip his pants down and flash it to all his friends and relatives when they came to visit,” Percy Veerance explained. “And when the line got big enough and black enough, it just started imprinting his pants.”
“Just like those Morstuffians I’ve been seeing,” Luke said.
“Yes. BottomLiners are the wealthiest Morstuffians. Their big bottom lines give them a lot of power.”
“Do you believe Morstuff makes people happy?” asked Luke.
“I’ve known a lot of Morstuffians,” responded Percy, “and going to the nearest Temple Maul to worship Morstuff does seem to make them feel good for a little while. But it wears off pretty quickly, and then they have to go back to the Maul and worship Morstuff again. And underneath it all, I don’t think they’re really happy. They seem kind of stressed and frantic to me.”
“Yeah. I noticed that, too,” agreed Luke. “But who runs things around here, anyhow? Do you have a Hamm here, like they have in the Gulf of SimonSez, or a grand Nimroodi, like they have in Dogmapolis?”
“Oh, no, nothing like that,” Percy answered quickly. “Bountiful is a democracy. We have elections here. We vote for our Unkool..”
“Unkool?” said Luke. “I guess that’s what you call your president or something.”
“Right!” replied Percy. “That’s what we call our Head of State. And we just elected a new one. Our new Unkool’s name is Ponzi W. Skamm. He’s from an old political family. His father, Ponzi H. W. Skamm, was our Unkool about ten fathyears ago. They live at this huge family estate called Skammalot. I’ve heard they’re both Builderbuggers, you know.”
“Builderbuggers?” asked Luke. “What do they build?”
“I’m not sure,” replied Percy. “The Builderbuggers seems to be a men’s club of some kind. They have secret lodge meetings and secret passwords and secret handshakes, and stuff like that.. I don’t know much about them, but a lot of them get to be Unkools or other government officials.”
“I wonder why that is,” mused Luke. “It seems funny to me that a bunch of guys from the same club end up in powerful government positions. Are they smarter than everyone else?”
“They think they are,” said Percy with a wry chuckle, “but I’m not so sure. I think the Builderbuggers just secretly help each other out with jobs and appointments and stuff, to make sure all the powerful jobs stay in the hands of their lodge brothers. In some elections both candidates are Builderbuggers, so no matter who you vote for, a Builderbugger gets elected.”
“How is that working out for the ordinary people of Bountiful?” asked Luke.
“I’m not so sure,” said Percy Veerance. “We elect a new Unkool every four fathyears, but the Indy Giants seem to get their own way about everything, no matter who the current Unkool is.”
“That sounds like the Builderbuggers and the Indy Giants are in cahoots!” exclaimed Luke. “That’s not fair!”
Percy nodded, sadly. “I know,” he said. “It’s not fair at all. But I’m not sure what we can do about it?”
Then Luke remembered Lucy. “So, are you sure you know where to find my sister?”
“Oh, yes,” said Percy. “If she fell into the Buxx Chaysur trap, she’ll be at the Giants’ Grooming Station. That’s where the Buxx Chaysur Belt dumps everyone. It’s just a few more blocks.”
Luke and Percy finally arrived at the Grooming Station and, sure enough, there was Lucy! She and Marvin were standing on either side of a large object that looked like a flesh-colored boulder with a shiny top. They were both wearing strange-looking caps that had a small screen that flipped down in front of their eyes from the visors, and they both had earphones in their ears.
Lucy and Marvin held a large piece of soft cloth between them, and they were busily pulling the cloth back and forth across the shiny top of the boulder-like object. There were four smaller, flesh-colored boulders trailing in a line, close together and beside the large boulder. A hill of the same color rose behind them, with buildings on either side.
Luke and Percy hung back in the shadows for a while, trying to figure out the best way to get to talk to Lucy alone.
“Well, Marvin,” Lucy was saying, “we’re almost done.”
“Yes,” said the boy holding the other end of the polishing cloth, “this is the last toe.”
“He sure is big, even for a giant,” Lucy remarked.
Luke looked more closely at the flesh-colored boulders. “Is that really the toe of an Indy Giant?” he asked Percy in amazement.
“Sure,” said Percy, quite matter-of-factly. “That’s the Giant Aitee Entee. Very big and powerful. Lots of Morstuffians work for him.”
Luke looked up and slowly realized that what he had thought was a flesh-colored hill was actually a very large foot, and those five boulder-type objects were huge toes. And as his gaze continued upward, he could see a large ankle that disappeared into a huge pants leg. Above that, Luke could barely make out the form of a huge man, seated in a massive chair made out of several large buildings.
Lucy looked up at the seated giant whose toenails she and Marvin had been polishing. “I think Giant Aitee’s asleep,” she reported.
“Good!” said Marvin. “I’ve heard he often naps at this time of day. I’m going to take a quick break. There’s a great sale going on over at PlastoWorld Temple Maul. I’m off to worship Morstuff!” And he hurried away.
Luke and Percy saw their chance and carefully walked up to Lucy, not wanting to awaken the sleeping giant. “Hi, Lu,” he said quietly, coming up behind her.
Lucy didn’t answer or turn around. Luke walked around in front of her.
“Lucy!” he said, rather loudly. “It’s me. I’ve come to rescue you.”
Sleeping Giant Aitee Entee stirred slightly. Lucy kept gazing straight ahead, at the small screen that she had flipped down in front of her eyes.
Luke could see now that she had small earphones in her ears.
“She’s watching Screen-A-Viz,” said Percy. “She doesn’t even know you’re here.”
Percy reached over and flipped the small screen up into its off position, snug against the visor of Lucy’s cap, and gently pulled the earphones out of her ears. Lucy blinked a couple of times and looked around as if in a daze.
“She’s in a Screen-A-Viz trance,” explained Percy. “Everyone gets that way when they watch it. She hasn’t been watching it for very long, so she’ll come around in a minum or two..”
Finally Lucy recognized her brother. “Oh, Luke, it’s you,” she said. “I didn’t hear you come up. I’m so glad you’re here!”
“Me, too,” said Luke. “Come on. Let’s get out of here before that giant wakes up!”
‘Oh, no. I can’t leave!” said Lucy. “I’m working for the Indy Giants now. Soon I’ll get my salary of Babble-On Buxx, so I can go worship Morstuff. I was just watching this wonderful program that told about how Morstuffians will soon get a tiny computer chip under their skin. It’s called a SillyCon Chip. I plan to work hard and shop often so I’ll qualify for a chip as soon as they come out! It’s so exciting! And if I work really hard and shop until I drop, I may be able to move to the Berbs someday. You can probably get a job for the Indy Giants and get a SillyCon Chip someday, too, Luke!”
“But I don’t want to work for the Indy Giants!” said Luke. “You and I are walking the Sacred Path, Lucy, remember?”
“The Sacred Path?” Lucy laughed. “Why would I want to do that, Luke? It’s not real. This is the real world, here in the City of Krule, working for the Indy Giants.”
“It looks pretty unreal to me,” Luke said, looking around at the smoggy air, towering buildings, and stressed out people. “And I can’t believe you don’t remember being on top of Mt. Vision and talking to Morningstar, the golden eagle.”
“That does sound vaguely familiar,” said Lucy slowly. “Wasn’t that a kid story or something? I’m more mature now, Luke. I can work for the Giants of Induss Tree and worship Morstuff and live here in the City of Krule.”
“It was not a kid story!” said Luke, amazed at how his sister’s mind was somehow being fogged over and controlled. “We were both there – you and me – on top of Mt. Vision – when we first entered Symbolia.”
“First entered Symbolia?” Lucy asked. “I feel like I’ve been here forever. I want to watch Head Copper SilverTongue’s sermon now. It’s my break,” she said, putting the earphones back into her ears and flipping the small screen down in front of her eyes.
“Lucy!” Luke shouted. “Snap out of it! Wake up! It’s not good for you to be here! We have to continue walking the Sacred Path so we can get back Home!”
But Lucy’s eyes were glazing over again as she watched and listened to whatever was on the flickering screen and coming in through the earphones. “I’ll shop! I’ll shop!” she started chanting. “I’ll shop until I drop! I’ll buy! I’ll buy! I’ll buy until I die!”
Suddenly the huge toes that Luke and Lucy were standing beside started to wiggle. “What’s all that racket down there?” shouted Giant Aitee Entee, now fully awake from his nap.
Luke looked farther up the colossal form. Giant Aitee had short, dark hair, and he was wearing a huge black business suit, gray shirt, and shiny black tie, and on his head was a black pirate’s hat with a large white skull-and-crossbones emblem on it.
“Are my toenails finished?” the Giant of Induss Tree boomed, so loud that even Lucy heard him, despite her earphones and Screen-a-Viz.
“Yes, they are, Giant Aitee, sir,” answered Lucy, quickly snapping up the screen and removing the phones from her ears. “Is there anything else I can do for you?”
“That’s all for thisfath,” he boomed, reaching down a giant hand and putting on his large black sock and black shoe, which were sitting a little ways away. “You’ll receive your Babble-On Buxx when your workfath is over.”
“Thank you, sir,” said Lucy, as Giant Aitee rose to his feet and picked up his giant club. Slowly the Giant of Induss Tree stepped over a small building and strode off toward the west. As Aitee Entee was leaving, Luke heard the sound of a giant fart, and the stinky smog in the City of Krule got even worse.
“He’s probably off to Bo Demian Grove,” said Percy.
“Where?” asked Luke, still awestruck by the size of this mammoth being.
“Bo Demian Grove,” repeated Percy. “It’s a very private resort off in a giant conifer forest a ways out of the city. The Indy Giants have a secret retreat there every fathyear. Only members of the Bo Demian Club and their guests get to attend. All the Unkules and Rawthafellas are always there.”
“If it’s so secret, how come you know about it?” Luke asked.
“The secret is starting to get out,” answered Percy. “Most people in Bountiful still don’t know about it, but a few do.. We call it ‘BoGro’ for short.”
“What do they do at BoGro?” asked Luke. “Have meetings and stuff?”
“I suppose so,” said Percy. “Meetings and lots of partying. No one really knows. I hear the place is heavily guarded. Whatever they do in there, they don’t want anyone else to know about it.”
“Interesting,” said Luke. “I wonder what they’re up to.”
“We’ll probably never find out,” answered Percy.
“I guess you’re right,” said Luke.
Then he turned, reached over and took the earphones out of Lucy’s ears himself. “Come on, Lu. Take those earphones off and listen to me!” Luke said to his sister. “You’ve got to get out of here! You don’t want to spend the rest of your life being a slave for the Indy Giants.”
“Don’t be silly, Luke!” said Lucy, sitting on the steps of a nearby building. Luke and Percy sat beside her. “I’m not a slave,” she continued. “I’m free to choose to work for any Giant I want to work for, and I’m free to worship Morstuff in any Temple Maul in Bountiful. I’m not a slave - I’m free!”
At that point Percy joined the conversation. “Sure,” he said, “you’re free to choose to work for any Giant, and you’re free to choose what Temple Maul you want to shop in, but are you free to choose not to work for the Indy Giants at all, or free to choose not to worship Morstuff?”
“Well, not exactly,” admitted Lucy. “At least Mr. Tayshuss and Mr. Boyant didn’t say anything about that. But why wouldn’t I want to work for the Giants and worship Morstuff?” asked Lucy, still somewhat tranced out.
“To get back Home, Lucy,” answered her brother. “We’re walking the Sacred Path, remember? You don’t have to shop until you drop. You don’t have to worship Morstuff, and you don’t have to work for the Indy Giants. You just have to get out of the City of Krule, find the Sacred Path again, and keep walking it so we can get back Home.”
Sylvia Anderson can be reached at <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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