Author's note: An explanation is probably required here. Some years ago, I entered a local bookstore's short story contest, which postulated, as one of the rules, that the story could be no more than 1,000 words long. Thereby inspired, I came up with this little tale, which received third prize in its division.
That seemed to be the end of it, since this story could not possibly be published in the usual way; regular magazines have no 1,000-word limit, and the point of the story would be lost.
Earlier this year, however, I joined a Subreality Round Robin entitled "Rebuilding Subreality", in which I introduced Freeyit Modukkit Criiso as a major character. It seemed likely that readers of this story might wish to learn who he is and where he comes from, and, consequently, that his story of origin should be posted on some public venue. It is so done.
Maxwell Ashenfelter entered the Golden Pig in a state of misery so pronounced that, had it been a word, it would likely have been "antidisestablishmentarianism". I wondered that he should be so frivolous with his metaphors, since he knew that this was only a 1,000-word story.
"Leonard," he said to me, "the most horrible thing has happened. Waiter, three Manhattans, please."
"Really?" I said.
"Yes," Maxwell moaned. "The most dreadful experience ever to come to…"
"No, I mean, you're really going to have three Manhattans?" I said. "I thought two and a half was your limit for abject misery."
"It is," said Maxwell. "This is beyond abject misery. This is… this is… there are no words in our miserably inadequate language to describe it."
"Well, for heaven's sake, get on with it," I said. "We don't have all day. This is only a 1,000-word story, you know."
"Yes," Maxwell said balefully. "I know."
At this juncture the cocktails arrived. Maxwell downed one of them in two gulps and began.
"At about 7:00 this morning," he said, "I was having a few slices of toast and catching up on a few of the more pressing international crises in the morning paper. I had just finished the day's installment of Peanuts when I was interrupted by a gentle rapping at my door.
"When I opened the door, I found myself face to face with a strange, feathered creature, about four and a half feet tall, jet black, and with the most penetrating eyes imaginable. Four of them."
"Ah!" I said. His tale was beginning to pick up speed.
"The creature said, in a low, raspy voice, 'I am Freeyit Modukkit Criiso, of the ferocious Goorac race. I am sent by my master, the great Leeyøth, to show you some of the splendors of our great civilization of the Realms of Infinity, for my master overflows with joy at the sight of the universe he maintains, and can contain himself no longer.'
"Before I could say anything, he made a gesture with his claw, and I was swept off the Earth and out beyond the stars to see the splendors of the aforementioned civilization.
"I was first taken to a gas giant five times the size of Jupiter, populated by great hulking mammoths with horns as long as the Sears Tower is tall. These beings, I swear, had the same surface area as Pakistan, yet when Freeyit came bearing nothing more than a glowing disk certifying that he served the great Leeyøth, they extended their Titicaca-sized eyes and respectfully let the two of us pass."
"Maybe the disk was actually some sort of advanced weaponry," I interjected. "Did you ever think of that?"
Maxwell looked at me austerely. "No, I do not have the vulgar mind that you do."
I didn't let this faze me. "And what about the gravity? If the planet was five times the size of Jupiter, how were you and Freeyit able to stand?"
"How should I know?" Max said irritably. "The Realms of Infinity possess abilities far beyond yours and mine. Now, are you going to let me finish my tale of woe, or are you going to use up the rest of our word count asking frivolous questions?"
"Oh, go ahead," I said.
"Thank you," said Maxwell. "As I say, I beheld Thufurina – the world, you know – in all its glory. I saw Bakkermal's Holy Place, a cathedral so vast that the Indian Ocean would not fill it all. I saw the Mountain Keppkas, a stately peak as large as all the Earth. I saw all the wonders that a world five times the size of Jupiter can possibly hold.
"Then I was swept away to Mcocq, a world all of water where the dominant species is a shellfish, and the process was repeated. These Mcocqites had harnessed the power of the waves, and they reveled in it. I saw them greet the morning sun – or rather suns, for they had two – with a tsunami vast enough to destroy all of Japan and give Korea cause for concern. I saw the luminous monks meditate on the rocks of Krlogh Trench, the deepest spot in Mcocq's seas.
"Then I went to a world, the name of which I cannot pronounce, which had three suns and six moons. The natives were little more than rough, brown corals that lived in deserts, for no advanced life could survive on their world unaided by the Leeyøth, but the deserts they lived in – oh! The Diamond Deserts, they were called, and well they deserved the appellation. They glistened in the light of whatever sun was up, whether the white, the red, or the yellow. And when night fell, as it did every few decades, they blazed in the light of the six wondrous moons, and one could scarcely tell that night had fallen at all.
"If I had a million years (which I don't, of course, since this is only a 1,000-word story), I could not begin to describe all that I saw on my journey through the Realms of Infinity. I saw underwater palaces carved from single pearls. I saw worlds as hot as Mercury, where the insectoid natives spent their lives in a constant hymn of praise to their master, the sun. I saw anything and everything one's heart could wish for.
"And then, just when I thought I could bear no more, Freeyit turned to me and said, 'All this is but a fraction of Infinity's glories. I could spend all of eternity showing you my master's domain, and we would scarce have begun.'
"I was about to say that I would gladly devote my life to exploring these wonders when… when…"
His voice cracked with emotion.
"Well?" I said. "Go on."
"He... he said, 'Unfortunately, I can't, since this is only a 1,000-word story,' and vanished, and I found myself back on my front steps."
And he put his head in his hands and began to weep.