The Never Ending Story- Chapter 2

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Long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away, nothing of any great significance happened, but much nearer and sooner a human (well mostly), alien, chimp and flannel materialised right in front of where God was trying to park his metaphor.

Confusion ensued. It was mostly centred on Oddy until Raymond was shoved in the back by something. He quickly span around to confront whoever it was that had pushed him. He fell silent. What he saw was like nothing he had ever known before, he couldn't really look at it head on - it didn't make sense; he had to turn his head and catch it in the peripheral. As far as he could tell, it was a metaphor. Raymond had never actually seen a metaphor head on - he'd heard about them of course, but he didn't think that they actually existed.

It was stunning. Beautifully crafted, the sunlight piecing the extremities, refracting - it glowed. Words that would go together to help describe it would be stunning, shifting, shimmering, soft, sharp, subtle, sparkling, solid, seriously strange and systematically squashing everything in its path. Someone was delivering this metaphor horribly: Somebody who should have bought a simile… a German simile1. He had been in a bit of a rush, but that's no excuse for bad driving2.

Slack jawed and loose bowled, Raymond, X2 and Oddy watched as God heaved himself from a metaphor, brushed himself off, surveyed his parking job and said some truly profound words: "Oh, that'll do."

None of them had a clue what to say, though in Oddy's case he knew that he was very, very angry.

In fact, he was fuming. God always did things like this. Oddy had lost count of how many times he had come crashing from the sky in some kind of symbolic figure of speech, only to confuse things and cause wars. He once again felt an uncontrollable need to bite. He went for one of God's plastic sandals. God was not very happy about this, and decided to make this plain. God picked Oddy up, and with one mighty lob, launched him into space.

Such behaviour Raymond and X2 thought very immature, and jumped into the metaphor whilst clutching the flannel as a necessary security device. By sheer will power they managed to launch the metaphor after Oddy, leaving God standing in the exhaust fumes of misinterpretations.

After a quick scratch of his arse3, God decided he wanted a pie. He wondered if he could create it in less than the week normally associated with such business, but then decided that it was probably much quicker simply to go to the local take-away. But first, he had to find one. Where was he anyway? He looked around - just green hills in every direction, rolling off into the distance. A blue sky stretched overhead. Generally, God was pleased with this place. He contemplated briefly creating a take-away, but then realised that this would defy the point.

He sat down, and watched the wind run through the grass. The sun reflected off individual blades as they bent in the breeze. It was like standing in a bright green sea. He took a deep breath, and knew that everything would be all right in the universe. The question was, how to make it right? First, that would mean working out exactly what was wrong with the universe, and he suspected that this could take some time.

His voice rolled out across his bucolic idyll: "Hmmmmmm," He said. And within that single utterance babies were born, babies died; races, species, life bloomed and then faded across the vastness of the universe; a thousand worlds were created and consumed by fire between the third and fourth "mm"; love was discovered by one race, only to be trampled by the hatred of another within picoseconds; and God ruminated, indifferent to both fair news and foul. Though he saw all, his witness was that of a desensitised teenager reared on a diet of Quake and Star Wars. Soon though the tone of his expulsion changed as his thoughts coalesced into an idea. A Big Idea.

"Too much silicon, I think," he said, nodded to himself and resolved to do something about it.

With great strides he set off, all notions of time and distance meaningless. He didn't even really know where he was going, but he knew it didn't really matter. He would find what he was looking for, and he would fix it. And there would be significantly less silicon in this Universe.

God it was beautiful. Corporate buyers with apparently bottomless budgets, and every time The Mirror, The Sun or News At Ten ran a story about the Millennium Bug and its potential for causing data meltdown at the stroke of midnight on December 31st, Janet's price would magically go up. The cherry4 on this particular pie was currently under negotiation.

"You know," she told the sweating man in front of her. "New Year's Eve is supposed to be a time of celebration. I've got family coming over from the States, offers of parties..." this pause was almost surgical in its precision. The man she was tormenting wiped his eyes as if supremely tired. As he shifted forward slightly, hoping to fill the gap with some trite pleasantry, Janet struck.

"...And you know, it probably won't be as bad as everyone says. In fact, only yesterday I was talking to Callum over at NatWest and he appeared fairly confident..."

The man interrupted her: "Look Miss Partridge, I'm sure you're aware that our Millennium strategy is not adequate. It's your job to know these things. So why don't we forget the Chess and just work out how much you need to be at our head office - with your team - on New Year's Eve."

Without realising it he'd begun to shout and Janet's lips pinched together as if she were hurt by the violence of his outburst. But inside, oh she was smiling!

As Janet was inwardly smiling, Oddy was outwardly snarling5. Recently rescued, and now even angrier, he was steering the metaphor- Raymond and X2 along with it, on a mission of revenge. But as we know, Oddy wasn't particularly skilled at piloting figures of speech. This was due to the fact that they were rarely used on Firminia, people there tend to be much more direct with their language. And ever since the first Firminian interstellar explorers had discovered literature on an ancient, dead planet, the populous had sought it greatly.

Oddy was beginning to wish he'd taken a larger flannel with him.

The whole idea of using a flannel as a propulsion device came from a book that some Firminian explorers had discovered long ago. It just hadn't occurred to them before then. It was entitled ‘Baby’s first words.” The few explorers had sat there, on an alien landscape, totally and utterly engrossed in this book. It had everything: 'Duck', 'Daddy', 'Dirigible'... and that was just the D's. By the time one got to the 'F''s one was truly inspired. So inspired, in fact, some of the explorers had to be tied down by the others. And that was just the one's who didn't see the illustrations...

When they read 'Freddie Flew Fast on his Fantastic Flannel', they were so excited, that some had to close their eyes and count to ten before reading any more. "George grew gigantic geraniums" came as a bit of a disappointment though. So they went back a page, and read the part about the flannel again. It wasn't long before they decided to try it out, leading to the Great Flannel Trials of '789.

Things weren't good straight away though, a lot of injuries were inflicted on the poor test pilots, and in the end they decide to take the big engines off the flannels and then of a better way to get them to fly. The flannels just flopped to the ground, until one explorer stumbled by to see what all the fuss was about, and asked his friends why they weren't using green flannels, which had far greater aerodynamic properties. (He was just back from the pub). Of course, he was ridiculed. He turned, and stumbled off in the vague direction of his burrow. But in doing so he knocked over a tin of green paint. Subsequently, flying flannels were invented. I won't bore you with the details.

The next morning, Oddy had the worst hangover of his life so far. Which was odd because the last we heard of him he was flying a converted metaphor on a mission of revenge. So, some back story... Oddy, with Raymond and X2 in tow was soaring back down to the blue-green planet from which God had just hurled him. God was busily initiating havoc by speeding rumours of a 'millennium bug' as part of a universal initiative to crack down in silicon. So when Oddy managed to (crash) land the metaphor in the location that he was launched from, God was nowhere to be found. Mere seconds passed before Raymond suggested they go to the pub.

Even Oddy seemed to appreciate this idea, but they were confronted by the same sweeping and utility-free landscape that God had been confronted with while trying to buy a pie. They looked at the wreckage of the metaphor. It was indeed wreckage, beyond repair. X2 thought this would be the perfect time for some explanations. The trio sat down in the sunshine, and Raymond and X2 listened to Oddy's fantastic story...

"Chithrorizz batli maifd goinila6" Oddy started, but then x2 interrupted, explaining that he couldn't speak Firminian.

"How do you know I’m Firminian?" Spat Oddy.

"How can you speak English all of a sudden?" Questioned X2.

"Have we met somewhere before?" Raymond asked ponderously.

"Which question," sighed Oddy, "do you want me to answer first?"

"Mine", said Raymond and X2 simultaneously. “Please" they both added, after a moment’s hesitation. As Raymond and X2 descended into argument, Oddy strode7 to the top of the grassy mound behind them. Raymond and X2 barely noticed. Oddy turned, and looked down at his noisy audience before speaking...

"Now will you just shut up and pay attention?” he yelled, using the mound to give him a height advantage. "My name is Oddy", bellowed... Oddy. It wasn't working; Raymond and X2 were fighting over David now. "Shut up or I'll give you a first hand demonstration of just how sharp my pointy green teeth are!" he tried.

Oddy sighed. Then he looked at the two idiots and said: "My friends, the Universe is dying." There was great sadness in his voice, he wasn't shouting, but his voice curled over this beautiful landscape. His eyes were filling up. Raymond and X2 let David drop to the ground and stared, open-mouthed. They decided to pay attention to Oddy instead, and listened intently for once. "Us in Firmia have known this for some time now, but no one else in the universe appears to realise this truth", he paused, and tried to regain some composure before going on.

"The very Universe itself is beginning to cease to exist. We first noticed this some 800 million of your years ago. The edges seemed to be disappearing. At first, our ancient explorers thought this some kind of natural phenomenon, but, sadly, science was later to prove them wrong. The Universe was getting smaller, but it wasn't shrinking back to a singularity, it was unravelling, evaporating into nothingness. Dying." He seemed to lose composure once again, but endeavoured to carry on...

"We sought to discover why, and realised that the very glue, the backbone of the universe was fading" he paused to wipe his eyes and regain his composure, and continued in a week voices "the fact that nobody else seemed to realise what was missing was due to the very nature of what was fading. After some considerable effort, we managed to work out what was killing the universe.”

"When?" Asked Raymond.

"Last week."

"Last week! So it took you nearly 800 million years to work out what was going on?"

There was a brief silence before Oddy answered, "Yes. But this was due to the nature of the problem, rather than any lack of intelligence on our part."

"So what was the problem?" X2 asked eventually.

"The problem is you simply lack the insight. Initiative, insight, imagination - that's all going. You're all getting things to think for you instead of doing it yourself - the universe lacks new ideas, there's no creativity any more. You've become obsessed about reason. As a result, the universe is dying."

Raymond solemnly handed Oddy his handkerchief and said, "There you go, mate. There's only a little bit of snot on it."

Oddy blew, and now the handkerchief had rather a lot of snot on it. "I think we should resume our efforts of finding a pub,” Raymond said, after indicating that Oddy could keep the handkerchief.

Several seconds later the small, green flannel (carrying our three non-heroes) was blazing a trail to the nearest pub, which happened to be 40 miles away. It wasn't until they got there that they realised they were in New Zealand. The South Island to be precise. Not that this really mattered, but it did make a nice change from Essex and Milton Keynes… and space… and definitely crocodile pits.

They were given a hint to their current geographical location when God barged past them outside the pub. It appeared he was just leaving. "Oh, hello my sons", boomed God, "enjoying New Zealand?"

Oddy bared his green pointy teeth.

"Now, now little Firminian" bellowed The Lord, "no need to get testy." Moments later he was bounding over the horizon. Raymond and X2 shook their heads and frog marched Oddy inside.

"Now HE has a LOT to answer for", said Oddy, suddenly needing to drink through the contents of Raymond’s pint.

18 pints later Oddy was sick through his nose.

"Heysh reshponshible for sher shtate sher unishersh ish in, not wanting shnew ideash, making messes of metashors, making people shink shthat shey need shim to shink everyshing for shem." Oddy quietly fell over backwards.

When Oddy woke up the next morning he thought he must have been dying. But it turned out to be a hangover, which was strange because Oddy couldn't remember drinking. He was sick through his nose again.

1The metaphor, however, was a left-hand drive import from one of the less reputable planets in the galaxy.2Suddenly having a heart attack at the wheel, or having a pocket fluff fish suddenly explode in your face however, are.3Well, metaphorically speaking.4For those who do not like cherries, this particular metaphoric item can be exchanged for another edible cake ornament of the reader’s choice.5Quite an impressive sight; with his teeth.6You are unlikely to find a definition of this in any dictionary; mainly because it is very rude and the dictionary would have to be given an 18 certificate.7Well, as much as a small furry creature can stride.

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