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Friday, 15 June 2018

Day 48: Miffed Matt and the Game of Fives #2

EXT. SPOON TOWN GATES - DAY

Dawn breaks hard over the ragged mountains. The wan sunlight illuminates a towering collection of metal, a jutting perimeter wall of ragtag corrugated sheets and vehicle shells and scavenged detritus, looming fifty-metres high and three miles round like a giant hobo’s smashed teeth rising from the desert.

Jutting from one section of the wall is an abscess, the Guard Tower, housing the Spoon Town Gates -- and bleeding out from the abscess onto the sand is a smudged dirty fleck, the Driver, with his line of Prisoners (and Miffed Matt) in tow.

A small hatch slides open in the side of the Guard Tower, and the face of a GUARD, twisted and scarred, pierced with many rings and chains, pokes out from the hole.

GUARD
Welcome to Spoon Town. Witness our might and cower, unholy worm. Password please.

The Driver steps forward.

DRIVER
Right, I know this. The blood of the sewer rat flows uphill.

GUARD
Incorrect password.

DRIVER
Oh, dammit, yeah. I think that’s the password to one of the other barbaric trade hubs I frequent.

GUARD
Don’t worry, that happens.

DRIVER
It’d be handier if they were all the same, wouldn’t it?

GUARD
Oh, no, they should never be the same. What if someone hacked into your brain, with say a serrated cleaver, and found the password. Then they’d have access to all your personal barbaric trade hubs.

DRIVER
Right, yeah, of course. I’ve seen the educational semaphore. OK. Well I’m pretty sure this one has something to do with forsaken. The forsaken shall inherit the Earth?

GUARD
Is that all lowercase?

DRIVER
No. Capital E on Earth. Because otherwise the forsaken are just inheriting earth, common or garden - ha - clod, ground, dirt; rather than the world, our kingdom, the planet that we call Earth.

GUARD
Incorrect password.

DRIVER
The forsaken shall inherit the earth all lowercase.

GUARD
Incorrect.

DRIVER
The forsaken shall inherit the earth each word capitalised.

GUARD
Incorrect. Would you like to reset your password, perhaps?

DRIVER
Yes! I didn’t know that was an option.

GUARD
Of course. Just answer your secret question first. What is your favourite torture implement?

DRIVER
Well that’s easy, the good old cat o’ nine tails. That’s oh-apostrophe tails. Although, hang about, when would I have set up this question? Because I was big into the flaying knife for a time last year. Ahh. I have no memory of this. Let’s go with cat o’ nine tails...

GUARD
Incorrect. You have now exceeded your total number of allowed guesses and for your own safety will be locked out of Spoon Town for ten minutes. Please try again later.

The Guard’s head disappears back into the wall and the hatch is slammed shut.

The Driver looks back at his prisoners and grins sheepishly.

DRIVER
Pain in the irradiated tumour, these things.

The Prisoners mutter their noncommittal assent.

DRIVER
I’m sure I know the blasted thing.

PRISONERS
(in general agreement)
Mmhmm, of course, yep.

No one says anything. The Driver scratches himself, whistles a little. The Prisoners shift their weight, gaze around. The Driver coughs, stares up at the sky.

DRIVER
Looks like more acid rain.

PRISONER #1
Could be.

The Driver scratches himself again.

PRISONER #1 (CONT’D)
Did you see those mutilations out near Futility Ravine last week?

DRIVER
No, I must have missed those.

PRISONER #1
Bad mutilations, they were. Sloppy.

DRIVER
They’ve got no class, the bandits these days.

PRISONER #1
Oh, you’re telling me. Time was, a bandit would tear down your yurt with his modified ramrod, take all your possessions, carry off your daughters, skin you alive -- but he’d do it with a certain √©lan. It was all part of the game. These kids today, it’s like no one taught them the rules. They don’t announce their approach with heavy metal guitar solos. They don’t arrive for a warm-up round of murder and then leave again, promising to return, giving you enough time to hire a wandering hero to protect your family. They just show up, lop off a few body parts, and drive away again. Where’s the flair? Where’s the pageantry?

DRIVER
Take old Guzzlicker the Gluttonous, now there was a bandit with style.

PRISONER #1
Killed my great uncle, did Guzzlicker. Hell of a bandit.

DRIVER
They don’t make them like that anymore.

PRISONER #1
No they do not.

Both men fall to silence. A wistfulness fills the air. No one says anything. A two-headed lizard scuttles past.

DRIVER     PRISONER #1
I was--    It’s funny--

DRIVER
Sorry.

PRISONER #1
You go.

DRIVER
No, sorry, after you.

PRISONER #1
No, it’s just, I was just going to say it’s funny, underneath the leather harnesses, the chainmail, the rat-skull belts, the pierced nipples, the daubed blood of your vanquished foes, take all that away, and underneath we’re not so--

--The hatch snaps open. The Guard pops his head back out.

GUARD
Welcome to Spoon Town. Witness our might and cower, unholy worm. Password please.

DRIVER
Ahh, there we go. Sorry for the delay everyone, I’ll get you chaps moving onwards to your certain deaths in a jiffy. Right. Password. The forsaken shall inherit the Earth one two three. T and E capitalised. Numbers as numerals.

GUARD
Incorrect

DRIVER
Poisoned warts! OK. The forsaken shall inherit the Earth one two three exclamation mark.

GUARD
Incorrect

DRIVER
One the forsaken shall inherit the Earth one two three exclamation mark.

GUARD
Incorrect

The Driver looks about to burst into tears. The Guard, in a tiny moment of humanity winning out against the inexorably churning machine of bureaucratic obstinacy, takes pity on him.

GUARD
You know you have to explicitly state the spaces between words, right?

DRIVER
Of course! One capital-T-the space forsaken space shall space inherit space the space capital-E-Earth one two three exclamation mark.

GUARD
Password accepted. Step forward for your visitor’s band. Relinquish all weapons at the booth. Failure to comply will be met with swift retribution. Please enter Spoon Town, and have a nice day.

The Driver whips his prisoners and the whole sorry procession limps forward, the Driver pausing only briefly as he passes the Guard to raise his eyebrows in a small gesture of thanks that, though small, still to the Driver means everything.

Miffed Matt trudges with the Prisoners, his head down, through the gates and into the waiting maw of Spoon Town. He says nothing.

CONTINUED...

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