from The Headflux Chronicles, Book 1, by Will Lorimer
THE HIGH FUX
Was there ever such a family in the Natural? In the Secret Histories, only the bloodlines of the Imperators come close. However, rather than throwing bloody games and giving imperial demonstrations of power, ritualizing was the Family’s specialty, and fomenting fear their stock-in trade – nameless fear of the sort that enters without knocking in the dead of night, and lingers all day just out of reach, like the pervasive odour of a kipper planted within the walls of a house by a Numpty seeking to acquire it at a knockdown price. As in spring, the ploughsnan liberally scatters grain in the furrowed fields, so the greybeards of the Old High Council planted seeds in unsuspecting minds and then watched their crops bloom accordingly.
Deception, bribery, and the unfortunate but necessary ritual sacrifice of an illegitimate son of the Marquis of Nippy paved the way for the forged Concordat of sixteen ninety-nine between Dreedland and their larger neighbour to the south. Of course, by then a few temples were already operating in Westminton, but with the privileged access the Concordat brought in the corridors of power, the numbers of Numpties there proliferated accordingly. Soon Temples were established in both Houses of Congress, Judges Chambers, the Inns of the Lawyers, the Constabulary of Westminton – anywhere there was a confluence of power in the Capital of Mingland. Once these gains had been consolidated, the Family cast their net wider, to Knuttland, where the special Dreed bodyguards of the King (who unwisely trusted Numpties more than his subjects) set up temples in Isis, which later were instrumental in overthrowing the monarchy.
The next opportunity came at the start of the Colonial Era, with the founding of new colonies in Rumpty and Tumpty. Trade everywhere was up, and the Family had great plans for the colony of Bigger. Then, with the invention of the steam engine by a Dreed came another upsurge in commerce. What was up was down the next day in the Westminton Stock Exchange, and every time the market turned, Numpty traders in the know sold stocks short, or long, as indicated, divvying the spoils later. It was all going swimmingly for the Old High Council, yet ensconced in Nippy, but then in seventeen oh six, the sum of all their fears returned – with compound interest. On Walpurguis night, their worst nightmare was made flesh in a cellar of Old Beard Temple.
After innumerable invocations over the centuries, and the burning of a page torn from the long lost Book of Squares, which had mysteriously turned up in the temple library, the unconscionable Emissary manifested, but then escaped the bounds of a magic square, which could not be redrawn, or recalled. For no-one present, at least not the Elders, could recall the precise numerical sequences of the magic square, as first set down by Sir Richard Momphry, a knight postulant of the Old Natural Order, who had got it from the mouth of a Blind Knotter Scholar after he had had stumbled into the knight’s tent out of the Maccram Desert, and expired in his arms, gasping out the formula to raise the Manikin. The incident later accorded an entry in the family annals for the Year of Sweet Lord X, 1320, in a chapter dealing with the Second X-Ade to the City of Knot.
This was the stuff memory files were made of. Snatches of conversation, bite-sized transmissions from FUX Media Corp; news from all over, but what was most frustrating: no local news concerning the recent evacuation of Nippy. A jumble of sensation – claustrophobia, condensation, clammy skin … above all, inchoate, enclosing rage.
To my rising indignation, Master was attentive only to the Contessa, curse her. The uncaring oaf even bumped the bag repeatedly against the stairwell railings, as together they descended the stairs to the small tree-lined courtyard below, where Seth was treated to a demonstration of her proficiency at, believe it or not, fuxing Fux Martial Arts. As far I could gather, from where I was positioned, set down at a distance on the cold pavement, her purpose was to teach him the routines of a Fux body trick portentously called the Third Parameter of the Isometric Paradigm. A risible title had not it been for her solemn tone, and I have to admit even I was intrigued when she began by pointing out a detail on the exterior of the tenement they had just left.
‘You mean that rusting enamel plate fixed to the landing up there?’ my master responded. ‘It’s a surveyor’s mark, right? They’re on buildings all round town, but though I pass under it daily, I can’t say I noticed that one.’ He laughed, clearly delighting in his inadequacies in the ma er.
‘Actually, Seth,’ she interjected, in a school-marmy tone I found particularly annoying, ‘That’s a Makkar’s Mark. Ubiquity confers a certain invisibility, as you have just confirmed.’
‘What do the three numbers separated by the Y indicate?’
‘Those are co-ordinates, triangulated on the nearest parameter, which, given the proximity of the Navel, under Old Beard Bridge, is singularly powerful. Pay attention, Seth. Dumpty, Tumpty, and
Rumpty intermesh on parameters intersecting the tablets.’
‘This is the Mesh we are discussing?’
‘Yes, in a manner of speaking, but not the artificial construct that I mentioned previously.’
‘Is this uh … network also artificial?’
‘No, at least we don’t think so.’
‘We?’ my master reiterated.
‘The Fux, who else?’ She said, impatient to get on.
‘The Natural’s parameters are all mapped, by the way,’ she added, briskly, perhaps hoping to pre-empt another question.
‘And the signs?’ he persisted.
‘Seth, please,’ she said, exasperated. ‘The signs were put up many years ago by lower Numpty Orders on our instruction. And before you ask me, in this case, our refers to the Fux, not me before I drew the Renegade Card in a ritual, but because I wasn’t around when the decision was made. Now, please, you need to know this.’
‘Ok,’ my master said, clearly having missed her reference to a card, ‘I’m all ears.’
‘The Lacemakker’s Mesh, as we call it, is constituted of an omnipresent pa ern of lace-like conduits connected to the hook.’
‘Lacemakkar? I’ve got to keep a look-out for Her book?’ my master chuckled, obviously mishearing her; for she had said “hook”.
‘And what do these, ah, conduits conduct?’
‘Simultaneity surf,’ she declaimed, ‘crashing unheard on the Simulacrum Spheres.’ I quote from a Fux poet. In other words, all sorts of untoward events and unnatural happenings occurring simultaneously across the Whole Natural.’
‘Explain, please,’ my master demanded, in his usual truculent tone.
‘Nanos are strange. That’s a truism. Strange to each other and strange to themselves. Now’t so queer as nanos, as the saying goes. We think of the Whole Natural as being separated into Dumpty, Rumpty, and Tumpty, when in fact it is one. Our personalities we regard as similarly split. Ka, Ba, and La, as Ancient Ma’atians described it: conscious, unconscious, and impulse. In other words, ‘double, double, and trouble thrown in for three.’ She quoted from the famous Dreed play nano actors never mention by name, implying she belonged to that vainglorious guild. ‘You know how it is; everything is going fine in your life and then suddenly you get a run of bad luck. It can work in reverse, but whichever way, events usually arrive in sequences of threes. It’s the prevailing pa ern across the Whole Natural. Change waves parcel simultaneous connected events to the parameters of the triangulated grids. That’s how the Law of Three works, where the Mesh is concerned. It connects everything, and everyone, Seth. And the bad luck you experience is visited on others across the Three Interfaces of Nano Existence.
‘Come here,’ she went on, stepping near to where I was positioned. ‘Look, there by the bag, note how those paving slabs are variegated in colour.’
‘Is that lichen?’ my master enquired.
‘No, Seth, look closer,’ she instructed.
‘What is it?’ he breathed, the clumsy young oaf kneeing the bag in which I was held captive as he knelt down.
‘A tell-tale imprint of change, another sign indicating the parameter is near. Curious you put the bag on the exact spot.’
‘The spot?’ my master reiterated, stupidly, shunting the bag aside, inconsiderately applying his boot to my cheek.
‘There, you see, the residual X.’
‘Takes a bit of imagination to see it,’ he observed, I thought a tad resentfully.
‘It’s there nonetheless. The parameter is always marked.’
‘So what comes next?’
‘Dancing on the spot,’ she said, with a girlish laugh, which was surprising, considering her age.
‘Am I to be blindfolded as in a Numpty ritual?’ he demanded, in a tone indicating he was more worried about the potential for humiliation than about my predicament in the bag.
‘Nothing so dramatic, Seth,’ the Contessa soothed.
‘This is a practice exercise to reintegrate your misaligned Ka, Ba, and La.’
‘Are there any dangers?’
‘Theoretically yes. You could fall into the Well.’
‘I don’t see any well,’ my master said, no doubt craning his neck and looking around.
‘Not yet, but you will. It is the pupil of blind Lacemakkar. In other words, the beam of the Makkar’s Eye, searching for you now.’
‘Always, Seth, since you are a candidate.’
‘Shit,’ he moaned. ‘What’s this you’ve got me into?’ ‘You have no choice. You never had,’ she sighed.
‘Now concentrate and follow my movements exactly,’ she continued, brooking no more chat-back. ‘It’s important to mentally remove yourself from your surroundings, as you’ll see. Let me guide you.
Tuck your left foot up against your right calf, raise yourself up on your toes. Staying on the same spot, hop three times. Rest, extend your arms if necessary, but stay balanced on the spot, and repeat. Do it in time as I count. Now! One, two, three … one, two three, and again, one, two, three … Now you’re getting it. One, two, three … Faster … that’s it …’
They went on like this until, somewhere up above, the climate shields presumably parted, because suddenly the Beam of the Eye shone through the thin plastic of the bag, illuminating my confines as, simultaneously, a sudden squall gusting, as it were, out of nowhere sent me rolling until my forehead butted against something hard.
‘That’s quite enough!’ the Contessa said, sharply. ‘I warned you about the Well. We must depart this place. Now! Get the bag from over by that pillar,’ she ordered.
A moment later, my master hefted the bag up and over his shoulder, where I remained, disconsolately bumping his back, as he and the Contessa descended some more stairs into a rising hubbub of countless voices, jabbering in all the known languages of the Three Tablets. I guessed we were in the Gallowgate and somehow all the evacuated citizens were back. But I was wrong; a tiny tear in the bag allowed me a glimpse of a street sign as we passed. I knew then that, with her Fux routines, the Contessa had tricked me, and we were not in any Nippy referenced in my gazetteer of Dreedland street names.
This is a satirical SF novel in the tradition of Swift, with footnotes that give an alternative history of the world.
Will Lorimer is a multi-media artist and the author of a number of books.