Friday, February 01, 2008

The Gremlins of York

-Seven past midnight, Fourteenth of April, the fourth year of the Queen's reign.

Private Tucker and Corporal John walked along the quiet lane, talking to each-other. "I'm sure they've been in my pack," Tucker said angrily. "My field pots are all ruined, and I'm sure that I didn't do anything to them since the night before. All the other guys are saying the same thing."

"Come on, man," John reprimanded. "You're letting your superstitions get the better of you. There's no such thing as gremlins!"

"I'm telling you," Tucker grumbled. "You'll see, when they get to your gear."

As the soldiers crested a slight rise, they saw a small figure - about two feet tall - on the glade before them. It looked up at them, panicked, and fled.

"Okay, now I believe you," John admitted. "Let's get the guys."

-Two past noon, Fourteenth of April.

"We've seen three more of them so far, but they're hard as the dickens to catch," John complained. "We need nets, gear..."

"Yeah, the muskets haven't half the range you'd need to catch one of those buggers," Private Thomas seconded.

Then he tripped and swore. "What the hell was that?"

The men gathered around. There was a hole - cunningly concealed, but more than wide enough to hide a gremlin. "Come on, then, dig!" John ordered, and they went to at it with a will. A gremlin darted past, and Tucker skewered the creature on his sword, grinning. Then another spadeful of dirt fell away, and sunlight pouring in showed dozens of the gremlins, pressed in tight, cowering.

"Jack's pot," John said. Tucker just whistled.

-Eight past noon, Fourteenth of April.

"I think I'm going to make a throne of these things!" Private Franklin exclaimed, holding a dead gremlin in each hand. More were scattered all around the men.

"You think the missus will appreciate a throne of bones in her dining room?" Tucker asked skeptically.

Franklin considered.

"A hat?" he suggested.

"Sure, why not?" Tucker agreed. Cutting off a gremlin head, Tucker held it with both hands above his own. "What do you think?"

"I'll work on it," Franklin decided.

-One past noon, Sixteenth of April.

"It's insane," John complained to the royal inspector. "We've killed - oh, a hundred of the things. But there's no end to the things. We even got a cannon in - but every time it fires, more appear!"

On cue, Franklin lit the fuse, and the men scattered for cover, holding hands over their ears. With a roar, the cannon blasted a cowering gremlin into giblets; but even as it died, another appeared in its remains.

"Every time it fires, more appear," the inspector repeated.

"Yes, and... ohhhh," John said with a look of dawning comprehension on his face.

-Noon, Seventeenth of April.

"By the dispatches from the fleet, the Navy should be engaging the Spanish at any moment," the inspector commented with a look at the sun overhead. The men sat upright, looking at the spot in the hole (now much widened) in which the gremlins seemed to appear.

One minute later, a gremlin appeared. It looked about, panicking, and fled straight into Franklin's sword; but more and more began to appear, burgeoning very nearly into a flood. The men were hard-pressed to contain them; until, hours later, the flood slowed, then stopped.

The inspector looked upwards again. "I expect that we will find the battle stopped around this time," he commented smugly.

-Eight past noon, Nineteenth of April.

"So we have a hole that produces gremlins any time a cannon fires, anywhere," John said, still unbelieving.

"Well, no," the inspector said. "It produces gremlins any time a bronze cannon fires. It seems that, oddly, iron or steel cannon have no such effect." He pointed to the cannon arrayed in front of the hole. "Still, it is quite a quandry. I haven't the faintest idea of what can be done to halt this plague - even if England were to stop all use of bronze cannon, at vast expense, the rest of the world would scarcely do the same."

"What if we don't stop it?" Tucker suggested.

"What?" the inspector asked. "I hardly think we can afford to have a squad of men stationed here permanently, all hours of day and night - it's quite unreasonable, and not to mention demoralizing. What to do with all the dead gremlins?"

"Well, that ties into what I was thinking," Tucker said hesitantly. "It's bad if these gremlins appear if it's a problem. But what if we can use them?"

"For what?" John asked, cutting in. "I hardly think we could tame them."

"Look at them," Tucker said, gesturing to a corpse. Another gremlin appeared, randomly; Thomas ran it through, then returned to oiling his blade. "They're two feet tall. Not that much bigger than a chicken, really, and smaller than a cow or sheep."

"You're suggesting we eat them," the inspector said, his voice flat.

"Well, I can't think of a better idea," Tucker said.

John, holding his nose, said: "You first."

-Nine past noon, Nineteenth of April.

"Hey, that wasn't too bad!" Tucker said, as the odor of roast gremlin wafted over. He took another bite. "Tastes like... mutton?" He chewed. "Nah, tastes like chicken."

-Six past midnight, Twenty-Sixth of April.

"It keeps excellently," the royal inspector said to the Royal Navy procurer, gesturing to the barrels and sample plates on the table beside them. "The taste is generally considered tolerable, and it lasts twice as long as salted mutton in comparable conditions."

"What do you call it?" the procurer asked.

"We call it... devilfood," the inspector told him.

The devilmen of York kept their secret for many a year, making a handsome business of killing gremlins as they appeared and selling their remains as food and fertilizer. But in time, the age of bronze cannon passed - and, quietly, the number of gremlins began to decrease. The devilmen fell on hard times; and, eventually, had to find other work. They had quite a time explaining their lack of skill in any known profession - but that is a tale for another time. This was: THE GREMLINS OF YORK.

[Inspiration for this story: how complex must a casual connection between two things be before a cat cannot link them? For instance: the door opening and food appearing...]


King Kessler said...

In my sickened state, I can't think of anything original to say, but this was entertaining and nifty in its originality.

Cavalcadeofcats said...

Thanks! (disease? OH NO)