A Story of Words and Incompetent Tourists
In 2003, I submitted Jed's Dyctionarie to a competition, but it didn't make the shortlist - which may have been because they didn't shortlist more than three stories from any entrant, but I'm not sure. In 2004, the same competition doubled its word length limit for the youngest section, the one I was eligible for, and I rewrote most of the second half of Jed's Dyctionarie for re-entry. Again, the other three stories I entered got shortlisted, and this one didn't, but I like the idea of the cockroach anyway, especially as I have a massive cockroach phobia.
This is a rewrite of "Jed's Dyctionarie". Story and characters © 2003-2004
PLEASE NOTE: When you read this, you think you're reading English. That's true. You are. But when someone in the story talks, it's actually translated from Yaarglish. So just be careful. Or your subconscious might kick in, and you might start talking Yaarglish to everyone around you.
Jed sat up, very quickly. So quickly, in fact, that he rocketed out of
bed, hit his head on the ceiling, and landed on the floor.
"Ouch," he said, rubbing his head.
Jed remembered why he had sat up. He raised a finger.
"Aha!" said Jed. "Aha!"
He stopped for a moment to try and remember what he had been about to say. (His knock on the head could have affected his brain…or maybe Jed just wasn't very smart.) He remembered.
"Aha! I have an Idea! I will write a book of words! I will call it a Dyctionarie."
Jed didn't know why he'd decided on the name. It sounded good.
Jed decided to go out and take some notes for his Dyctionarie. He walked outside and whipped out his Palm m125 handheld computer, before remembering that the Palm m125 hadn't been invented yet. He fumbled for his pocket to put the Palm away, then remembered that pockets (and Pocket Monsters) hadn't been invented yet, either. He shrugged and started inputting data into his Palm, with its measly eight megabytes of memory. At least, he tried to input data into his Palm, but found that he couldn't remember the Graffiti characters for each letter. He went back inside and delved into the piles of papers and logs on the floor to search for his Palm's documentation. He found it and brandished it triumphantly in the air. Then he remembered that he had used the pages detailing the Graffiti characters to light a fire the previous winter, when firewood had been scarce.
"Blasted Palms!" said Jed. This one had cost the equivalent of 3,028,654,193.15 Yaarglish dollars when he'd gone into the future for a holiday a couple of years previously (except that the holiday had been some time into the future), and there was no tech support from Palm on Yaargle. It was sometimes annoying, living in the past (and separated from the Palm headquarters by a mere 2353 million light years).
Jed sat down with his Palm and decided to work by trial and error to find
the Graffiti characters. By mistake, he must have inputted a special keyboard
shortcut. A note popped up:
Remember: You have a keyboard.
Jed thought for a moment. And another moment. Then, gingerly, he tried
another stroke on his Palm's screen. Another memo popped up.
It's under your bed.
Jed raced back into his house to look for his keyboard. It wasn't under the bed. Jed thought again. (His brain was really getting a workout.) He remembered that he had moved his bed according to the advice of the Feng Shui expert he had consulted. He found the place where his bed had been. It wasn't hard. There was an unfaded patch in the wallpaper. (Jed, for some reason, had papered his floor instead of his walls. There was carpet all over the walls.)
Jed looked all over the unfaded patch, but couldn't find his keyboard. There was, however, an unsightly lump underneath the floorpaper. Jed realised why.
It was his keyboard.
Jed started ripping up the floorpaper. Pulling out the keyboard, he looked at it. And stopped.
There was a nest in the middle of the keyboard. It wasn't just any nest.
It was a cockroach's nest. As Jed watched, a giant cockroach climbed out
of it and waved its antennae at him.
"Aargh! What is this thing?" Jed exclaimed.
"I'm a giant mutant cockroach," said the bug. "I've been specially evolved to scare unsuspecting humanoids like yourself."
"You're supposed to scare me? AAAAARRRGGH!" yelled Jed, running around the room. Then he calmed down.
"I am a higher lifeform. I will not be afraid of an overgrown insect. I will do you no harm. That is, as long as you do me no harm," said the cockroach.
"What? I am not an insect! I am a mammalian being!" said Jed, choosing to ignore the part about the cockroach being a higher lifeform - for the moment. The cockroach pulled a large tome from behind a gigantic wing. It opened the book and pointed to a page. It was headed "FAMILY TREE OF JED". The last entry on the page was "Jed". The first entry was "Offspring of a millipede and a greenfly".
Jed was mildly enraged. In his case, this wasn't an oxymoron.
"That family tree is clearly fabricated and has no relationship to… uh, the relationships in my family," he said in a mildly enraged manner. The cockroach, unfortunately for Jed, turned out to be a scientist-lawyer-hybrid breed. It pulled another volume from its other wing. Jed peered at it.
"On the Origin of Species? What's this? Oh, this is by that person I heard about on my last holiday. Some Charles Darwin?"
"No, it was not written by Charles Darwin; it is a cookbook featuring recipes from the inhabitants from a city named Darwin."
"So why did you pull out a cookbook?"
"Well, this cookbook has good recipes for millipedes and greenfly. In any case, it was the wrong book. This is the right book." The cockroach pulled out a book that looked almost identical, except that it was about two millimetres thicker.
"According to this book on evolutionism by Charles Darwin -"
"Aha! It is by Charles Darwin!"
"That was a different book! As I was saying, according to this book you are descended from" - it opened the book - "a protoplasmic organism that millipedes and greenflies are also related to."
Jed tapped his chin and decided to re-mildly-enrage himself.
"Even if we share a common ancestor, that does not mean that I am directly descended from a millipede and a greenfly," he said in a mildew-enraged manner. Then he realised that he had re-enraged himself the wrong way, and switched his mildew complex to a mild one.
The cockroach was unperturbed.
"According to this book, you are directly descended from a millipede and a greenfly," it said, tapping the page that was still lying open on the floor between it and Jed. "Therefore, it must be true."
Jed upped his rage rating from "mild" to "moderate".
"Do you believe everything you read?" he questioned, in a moderately enraged manner. The cockroach nodded.
"So if you read that you were an organism of order Blattaria, genus Periplaneta and species americana, would you believe that?"
"Yes," said the cockroach decisively. Jed glared at the cockroach and realised that he was looking at a specimen of an organism of order Blattaria, genus Periplaneta and species americana, albeit a rather overgrown one. He shook his head, shaking off his enragement at the same time, and shrugged.
"So, you've made your point. Can you get your nest off my keyboard
so I can use it?" he asked.
"Well, I could, but then technically you would have harmed my mental wellbeing and I would be forced to harm you. However, you can use the keys that are not covered by my nest." Luckily, the cockroach had constructed its humble abode on the numberpad.
Jed was finally able to continue his book of words. He started to type in some words. Unfortunately, he lived on Yaargle, and all the words in the Yaarglish language were made up of some combination of the words "yaargle" and "aargle" (and their variants and diminutives), occasionally with some extra "A"s thrown in for good measure. This meant that, for example, the word "door" was "yaargle aargle aaaargle yaarg". (Remember, all the speech you've read was translated from Yaarglish. We interrupt this story for a brief commercial: Translation powered by Yaargle Aargle Aarg Enterprises. Call us for all your translation needs! And back to the story.)
As Jed entered data on his Palm, whistling away somewhat happily, he was
hit by a time bomb. Well, maybe not a time bomb, but it was a small popup
window accompanied by a very annoying "ping" sound. Jed peered
at the popup window.
Error. Out of memory. Please clear data from your Palm, or install an extra memory card.
"Blasted Palms!" said Jed again. Of course they'd had extra memory cards on sale at the shop where he'd purchased his palm, but due to the exorbitant exchange rates he had spent his last dollar on the Palm. (Or maybe the shopkeeper had overcharged him, recognising that he was an incompetent and ignorant tourist.) In any case, he had no extra memory - even the memory in his head was full. There was only one thing to do.
Jed went back into his house, shoved all the carpet to one side of the
wall and picked up a pencil. He ripped a section of the wall off (ignoring
the fact that the house wobbled rather precariously) and lugged it back
outside. It was time to get to work…