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FICTION on the WEB short stories by Charlie Fish

Wild Dimensions Part One: Time for a Change
by Matthew Langford

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It all started one day in the future when Deny Greta gazed upon a frost driven morning, muttering something like "Oh bugger - what have I done?"

He was holding onto what looked like a torch with tentacles and wearing an expression that could only be described as wearily astonished. This expression could be seen staring benignly on the arid land, his lips moving slowly and his tired eyes occasionally glancing back at the torch.

"Oh bugger," said Deny. As he said this, the word 'pink' flashed into his mind before disappearing like a distressed flamingo.

He had many reasons to be buggering, on what was a very cold and slippery morning somewhere in the South West of England. Apart from having to endure the extreme chill in his cellar where there was no light or visual stimulation, he had just managed to halt time, utterly. Everything in the cellar and outside of the window was frozen halfway through exactly what it was supposed to be doing. A dog with its leg cocked against a nearby tree was looking suitably embarrassed about its elongated experience.

"God! Look at that," Deny whispered. Pink shoes?

He carefully manoeuvred his finger over one of the many buttons on the torch and pressed firmly. The dog stumbled slightly and resumed its piss in the normal fashion.

"God! Did you see that?"

Deny watched as the dog looked around to make sure somebody was watching and carried on with its daily duties. With a half smile Deny moved his finger to another button on his torch and pressed...

"Ha!" Deny screeched as the dog stopped dead. A leaf that had been dancing enthusiastically on road had stopped abruptly next to the dog's head. Again, Deny stared at the frozen scene and mouthed 'bugger'. He was about to turn his head and look away from the window when he could have sworn he saw a flash of pink sweep rapidly across the corner of his vision.

The cellar was far too cluttered for such an early hour. Extravagant looking objects and an array of long forgotten mugs adorned the surfaces that weren't already taken up by crap. There was no decoration on the walls - a picture of Einstein with the word 'Wrong!' scribed on his forehead and a few badly penned sketches did little to draw the observer's attention away from the badly pointed brickwork, which was splendidly grey and dull. There were screwed up pieces of paper strewn all over hard concrete floor. A dim light bulb hung involuntarily from the ceiling and illuminated very little. As yet, nothing was pink.

Apart from the Black and Decker workmate and a succession of tools, there was little to suggest that from this cellar would actually begin the dawning of a new age in which the world as we knew it was to progress to almost utter perfection.

It had been a long and arduous journey for Deny Greta. He compensated for his copiously lacking wit and charm by being brilliantly clever and staggeringly ingenious. Twenty years earlier he had been a spotty adolescent who had alienated his peers by reading lots of work by Einstein and saying that he would spend his social time trying to prove him wrong. His peers told him that that was fine - no problem. They told him to read his books whilst they drank till they bled and swapped an array of exotic ailments through activities best left imagined. Deny quietly announced his acceptance of this state of affairs and slipped into a private world filled with hard work and a slight sense of pitiful regret as he sauntered through books and life without a single juice passing his lips. How boring they were.

In the intervening time his virginity and his sobriety had remained intact and untouched. There had been many dark times when it had all seemed completely worthless. But now he was standing in a cold, messy cellar with an odd looking torch making a dog stop and start and judder simply because he was stopping and starting time. And why was his hitherto benign obsession with the colour pink becoming more and more insatiable?

"Will you stop doing that please?" uttered a voice behind Deny.

Deny screamed and turned around quickly. There was no one there. He ran a quick and pointless energy-sapping search of the cellar in an attempt to uncover the source of the voice. But he found nothing. The cellar remained stubbornly bereft of life bar one.

"Hello?" breathed Deny. "Is someone there?"

There was a strangely pinkish pause.

"Hello," answered the voice. "Yes. There is."

Deny screamed again. He ran over to the door that separated the cellar from the outside world and quickly drew the seventeen locks into position. Only someone who could walk through walls would be able to get into the cellar now. Deny gave himself a quiet pat on the back for taking such heavy-duty security precautions even though an ordinary dead lock would have sufficed. Only three people in the entire world knew what it was that he was up to. Two of those people were living in a place with foam on the walls and flamingos perched on the dado rails (you had to be there and on the right shaped pills) whilst the other one only ever spoke if his mother wasn't throwing hot cross buns at him whilst shouting 'bring me my panther!' The young Conservatives had chosen wisely.

Anybody else who had even heard of Deny Greta (and they were all preoccupied with regretting a wasted adolescence which had left some of them unable to walk when standing up straight) didn't care about his whereabouts. He was supposedly safe.

"Now try and get me," muttered Deny. As he turned round he was quite unable to suppress the tiny scream that blurted from his lips, because sitting on the Black and Decker workbench was a very smug and unjolly looking man wearing a pinstripe suit and, inexplicably, luminous pink trainers.

"And what do you know about God?" said the man.

"AAHHH! Who the fuck..." began Deny. Unfortunately he was interrupted by the man flying through the air and pinning him to the floor.

"Mad are we?" screamed the man in pink trainers. "We'll soon see about that!"

"AAAHHH! Get off me!" retorted Deny. "What... are... you... doing?"

"You're hysterical!" bellowed the man as he forced Deny's wrists behind his back. "And potentially violent. I need you to be still so I can explain!"

As Deny writhed and kicked the man in the pink trainers hummed a monotonous tune, which sounded uncannily like the theme to the 'Italian Job'.

"Look!" said Deny. "Take anything you want! Take the Time Changer - anything. Just don't hurt me."

The man in the pink trainers stopped struggling momentarily and stared at Deny with a confused expression.

"I'm not going to hurt you," he said calmly. "I told you - I just want you to sit still and calm down a bit so that I can explain to you what it is you have discovered. And then I'll grab a stray dog from the street and get him or her to tell you what it is they have to say."

Deny widened his eyes and tried to speak, but the manic look in the man's eyes somehow pushed all verbs and nouns back into his lungs.

"...And then the governor of dogs will tell you what it is he has to say, and then I may take you to see God. Mind you, this is a Wednesday - God plays tennis on a Wednesday. Or is it banjo practice on a Wednesday? I can't remember. Anyway, you'll speak to a dog, Dribble and maybe God. In-between times I'll tell you everything you need to hear."

Deny didn't hear the final part of the man's speech, which is understandable considering he chose that moment to become so terribly panic stricken that he was compelled to scream wildly and desperately.

"You see?" said the man. "This is why I jumped on you... we are the self preservation..."

Let us leave this scene momentarily and ascend through the air whilst watching the West Country plummet away from under us. Our destination is the sun. The sun is not only a heavenly body that provides all the light and warmth our world needs to survive and prosper, but also a gateway to the truth. As we pass through the first layers of the atmosphere we watch Britain shrink and shrink and the beginnings of the truth will be explained.

It all began several billion years ago, shortly after the creation of the earth - a time when the world was nothing more than a boiling rock of seething matter. It was all terribly noisy and hot, what with all the meteors and comets colliding with each other and trying to form a lava filled sphere within the sun's incalculable electromagnetic field. But after things had died down a bit and God had got to grips with things (he spent the first 2 billion years of his existence sitting on the moon staring into space muttering impatiently and, at times, manically[1]) the earth was ready. He made his way to the surface and created the governors for what he considered, at the time, to be personal reasons. He later justified their creation with the argument 'if you'd spent 2 billion years on a freezing cold moon...' In fact, He justifies most of His bizarre actions with this prefix.

So the beginnings of the Earth's history consisted of the governors all leading a convoluted existence whilst actually achieving very little, and the rapidly evolving humans and animals spreading like spilt beer across the globe all looking for different ways to survive. God remained happily vacant (and, finally, warm) with his lifestyle for a while. He enjoyed being waited on by the governors and watching the humans and animals get more and more sophisticated - and more and more disorganised. After a while it dawned on God that there was a problem developing - all these animals were marauding the Earth. They had been blessed with incredible skills, and yet they were in complete disarray because they didn't even understand what these skills were for. As the dawning receded God was suddenly hit with the full shock of the revelation that the Earth was beginning descend into chaos - simply because there was no one to manage and organise all the animals. He slipped into a period of panic.

We have now left the earth's atmosphere and have just hurtled past the moon on our way to the sun. As we gaze at our shrinking home it is worth taking note of the fact that everything humans currently believe to be true is, in fact, wrong. For instance, God is not who we think He is, humans are not the dominant species who should be responsible for all major tasks that go towards the welfare of the Earth, such as maintaining the land, having sex and politics. Elephants are not as nice as we think they are but, in actual fact, they're the most arrogant, hateful and downright infuriating species in the universe who regularly defecate on other animal's heads just for the fun of it. This point is important because if humans could understand something as universally acknowledged as the terrifyingly impotent and under-developed behaviour of elephants, then that would mean that humans understood what dimensions were and how vital it is that they work perfectly and universally. But they don't, so they cant, so it doesn't.

"Elephants?" said Deny. "What on earth are you going on about? And when are you going to untie me?"

"Once you stop screaming and kicking," said the man in the pink trainers. "You have no idea how deeply we all hate the elephants. They have taken every bad attitude and moulded it into one great big ball of rancid hate and... sorry. Everyone does that. We just all hate the elephants so much! The smug bastards..."

"Chill mate. Chill. Who is everyone?" asked Deny.

"Ahh good. You've calmed down a bit. The blood from your eye sockets is starting to congeal."

"I think I've just passed through the third stage of fear and into the 'so unutterably terrified I can't even act scared anymore' stage," said Deny. "I may regress at any moment."

"Fine. I'll continue. The sooner you understand the sooner I can go and play my banjo. We're the self preservation society."

"Stop doing that!"

"Sorry." So with His newly created governors running around trying to come to grips with their many and varied personal and biological abnormalities and the Earth getting more and more chaotic, God reached the end of his period of panic and decided that a system of organisation needed to be installed that involved all of the humans and animals working closely together. After several momentous and multi-faceted failures (one idea involved every single species on earth throwing mud at the moon every Monday afternoon for no apparent reason until it stopped shouting about Coco the Clown) Proxil Doom, who seemed to be the only governor comfortable with his/her/it's appearance and level of intelligence, came up with the solution. Dimensions.

"Dimensions!" squealed Deny.

"Dimensions," confirmed the man. It was decided by God, Proxil and the other governors capable of speech and basic social skills that all the important functions of the world were to be split into fourteen different segments. Each segment, or dimension, went towards a holistic function that ensured that everything and everybody on earth managed to get through each day doing the right thing and enjoying life as much as possible. An animal was assigned the dimension that best complemented their individual skill (as the man in pink trainers will soon demonstrate) and each governor was assigned a dimension to preside over. As we rocket past Venus and wish that we could pass the complex and unfortunate planet Mercury on our way to the truth, we must ask ourselves what it is that humans were left to do since they were not given a dimension.

"But what the fuck are the humans going to pissing well do?" said God to Proxil.

"Let the fuckers manage the whole fucking affair?" said Proxil.

"Fuck yes! Lets get wankered!" said God. And so after many parties and the realisation that obscenities really were unjustified in any context, a role was designed for the newly evolved mankind - managers. Even though they were still fairly primitive, it was up to humanity to discover the dimensions, work out what they were for, organise the animals and then attempt to communicate all of the above to them. As humans would eventually be the strongest and most versatile animals on Earth it was thought that they could handle the job, and so confident was God in their ability that he made one unbreakable rule - humans were to receive absolutely no help in discovering what the truth was. They had to discover not only what dimensions were for but also find out how to 'release' each animal from its dumb shackles. He reckoned that they would follow the evolutionary trail as per normal and pick up the many blindingly obvious hints along the way. Once they had reached a state of mediocre intelligence then surely they would be able to discover the dimensions.

Proxil was the only one to actually see the obvious flaw in this plan and tried to persuade God that the whole idea was very silly and that if humans never found out the truth, the earth would be forever chaotic - he could see, even then, that the Earth would eventually be polluted and destroyed. Humans, although intelligent, were arrogant and single-minded. He explained to God that they would try to do everything themselves and destroy the Earth in the process. But rather than come up with a strong counter-argument, God made silly faces and stooped in a schoolboy manner whilst clucking like a recently plucked chicken. God often does this when challenged. It was then that it was discovered that God moves in mysterious ways.[2] Ultimately, as God didn't consider Proxil's warning and persisted in his new line of negative attention seeking, humans turned out to be everything Proxil said they would - arrogant, misguided and (crucially) easily distracted.

"You missed all the clues!" screamed the man in pink trainers. "You had no focus!"

To discover a dimension a human needed to focus on the major element that was the core of the dimension and somehow tap into it. This would release a wave of reality that would spark the animals into life, so that they could hop/skip/trundle/gallop/swim off to wherever it was they were meant to go. But, of course, it was never going to be that simple. As we reach the sun and pass through the glistening river that is the Sun Rubber, we can now imagine how the world would be if all the animals - the penguins, the ducks, the dogs, the snakes, the elephants (bollocks to the smug bastards), the wildebeests, the dolphins, the iguanas, the ants, the dragons and the dancing clugs along with those dimensions without an animal (sex, happiness and time) - had all worked together, merging their skills to create a perfect and serene world.

Unfortunately mankind got totally the wrong end of the stick, tried to do all the work by itself, turned the animals into pets and mush, and left the Earth in the state it's in now... that is until Deny Greta found out that Einstein was wrong and that there is something that moves faster than light - anything! All you have to do is slow the light down and throw something in the air. Time is then halted and, if you know how, you can move easily between the present and wherever you want to go.

"...And you have discovered the first of the dimensions. What's your name again?" asked the man.

"Greta. So time is part of all these dimensions is it?"

"Yes. And you, Mr. Greta, will be famous! After about a million years of searching for a point to everything, you have discovered it! How does that make you feel?" asked the man. Deny looked down at the ropes binding him to his Black and Decker workmate. He certainly didn't believe anything he had been told and was thinking of very little, apart from keeping the oddly insane man in the pink trainers amused until he could think of a way of escaping.

"That makes me feel just great. Err. I do have a couple of questions though?"

"Fire away," said the man, happily.

"Who the fuck are you?"

"Sorry - haven't I said? My name is List Snapper. I am the governor of time. And if you were dead, I'd be the governor of Heaven minus one."

"Fine. That means absolutely nothing to me. So I'll move on to my second question - why is it that even though I have recovered from the shock of being beaten and tied up, have sat here and listened to your tale, watched in horror as you walk up and down in those pink trainers and as you play about with my very expensive and fragile Time Changer, why is it I still believe that you are nothing more than a loon who is going to kill me for my invention? Or indeed that you are nothing more than a loon who just makes up bizarre and ludicrous stories for the sake of it..."

"...You're getting hysterical again," muttered List.

"Just put down the Changer, untie me and GO AWAY!" bellowed Deny. List sighed, placed the torch with tentacles next to Deny, and walked over to the window.

"You see that dog?" said List.

"Yes I can see the dog," said Deny, irritably. "What about it?"

"What is it, do you think, that a dog can contribute to the welfare of the Earth and all those who live on her?"

"I don't care! Just untie me and go away!" demanded Deny.

"Well, I'll show you," said List, diligently ignoring Deny. "I shouldn't really but God has agreed that you all need a bit of a kick start. You see your problem is that you have no focus. You should have discovered the dimensions thousands of years ago but instead you all parade around pretending you know more and can do more than everything else. But you can't. You're not designed to. You make tools and construct machinery that is completely pointless. You already have animals right in front of you that are classically designed to take care of most basic functions. Now..."

"You're doing my head in!"

"...Look at that dog. What is it do you think that that dog can do better than all you humans put together with all your best machinery and technology?" Deny looked at the ceiling and sighed before dragging the Black and Decker workbench over to the window to stare at the dog that, only half an hour earlier, he had been controlling by means of a time stopping device.

"It's a mongrel," stated Deny.

"Precisely. That mongrel," continued List, "will soon be the most important animal on the face of the earth!" Whilst List is attempting to be enigmatic, it is worth talking a little more about time and how it actually works. Time is like an unused roll of camera film that passes through the Earth. As we know, everybody and everything exists in the 'present'. But what the present actually does is to act as a stamp and leave an imprint on the roll of film - resulting in history being left as an image on time.

To go back through time you must somehow stop the film and pass back through it. Now, to do this you need to stop thinking of time as a roll of film and start thinking of time as it really is - a huge beam of light. To stop time you need to know how to pause the beam of light. Deny's torch actually works on this principle, but slows the beam of light down rather than pausing it - as he presses the on button the beam of light passes through a special filter that slows it down. With a lot of tweaking Deny finally managed to harness this principal properly. To go back in time is quite tricky since you have to, effectively, reverse back through the beam of light. As you do this you view the imprint made by the present and are able to stop anywhere you like and see things as they really happened. The major drawback with this is that you will only ever view an image of what actually happened so you're not effectively there. The solid objects that you see are nothing more than an image left on the beam of light. By the same token you are not really in a particular place and you certainly shouldn't be there, so if you try to touch anything or if you are hit by anything then you will thrown wildly through the air in a pleasant arc.

One advantage of this type of time travel is the fact that you are not bound by any laws of physics, so you may visit a point in history, say the 1966 world cup final, and hover neatly above the pitch and watch the action. Also, the worry of changing important events in history is negated by the fact that what you are actually watching isn't real - all you're seeing is an image of the real event as it was imprinted on an imaginary roll of film. It's like the most incredible interactive cinema experience you'll ever have!

There are some rules that go with time travel - 1/Don't touch anything. 2/You can't go forward in time. 3/Fly anywhere you want. 4/Be careful that you have a piss before you leave the present - you'll end up being propelled through the air under the power of your own urine. 5/Dress appropriately - it's a little clammy and can get hot, but at least the temperature is constant.

"Prove it!" said Deny.

"Prove what?" said List.

"Prove to me that what you're telling me is even remotely true. I'm about as convinced as Mrs. McUnconvinced from the land of Talkingshite!"

"Oh," said List. "Good idea. I never thought of that." With the very slight movement of his hand, List produced a long, black line out of thin air and took hold of it whilst placing his other hand around Deny's shoulders.

"What are you doing?" asked Deny.

"You wanted some proof?" answered List. "Let's go and see the moon being created." Many people for many years have written a lot about God and tried to make him out to be this incredibly holy person with one son who does lots of amazingly miraculous stuff. Unfortunately, nearly everything that has been written about him has been staggeringly inaccurate. Billions of years ago when the solar system was being created, the earth was nothing more than a sea of molten rock that was constantly being bombarded with comets and meteors. During this celestial dance another, much smaller, planet was quivering and pontificating between earth and Venus - much like an embarrassing uncle might lurch drunkenly between nephews on Christmas day.

After a few thousand years of lurching and indecision it finally decided to dive screaming towards our embryonic world. On this day (when a year lasted a week and there were two seasons - red hot and fucking inferno) the earth came into deadly contact with the screaming, lurching uncle planet and exploded into billions of tons of red-hot crap. Luckily, even in its primitive state, the earth was resilient and got away with nothing more than a slight tilt on its axis (which turned out to be quite handy) and a few scars, which healed with time.

The other planet shattered into approximately eight trillion trillion trillion pieces, only two of which actually turned into something useful. Well, one piece is useful - the other piece isn't useless, it is supposed. One of the pieces got caught in the earth gravitational pull and is now referred to as the moon. Although no human has ever bothered to speak to the moon and ask it how it feels, it has this simple message - 'Bring it all back'[3]. In reality it's ok, if a little bored, and is hooked to cricket - it has a special affinity with Hampshire County Cricket club, for no obviously apparent reason. If anyone ever bothers to talk to the moon and ask it some questions, it would probably ask for a cup of tea, a cucumber sandwich and a go at being Wicky.

The other major piece of debris couldn't decide what the hell to do after its altercation with the earth. It couldn't decide whether to crash into earth again or just orbit it. It then got very annoyed and angry, spluttered wildly, and then turned into God. Of course he didn't have a name in those days. He remained in a state of utter confusion for a couple of billion years, which was quite handy because it allowed the earth time to cool, saturate itself with water and evolve some life. At this point God recognised that the earth was in a silly state and spent seven days being quite anal and producing all the governors. He soon grew bored, which then mutated into irritation with all the noise and all the birds. So, as has already been explained, He decided the Earth could look after itself, set up the dimensions, and built heaven at huge expense so that He could enjoy eternity playing tennis and learning the banjo. Some of the more conscientious governors persuaded Him to have a child so that He could pop to earth from time to time and check up on things. Apart from the occasional whim, He has very little to do with the Earth and more or less leaves it up to the governors and Jesus to sort things out.

"See that huge ball of boiling rock?" asked List pointing at the ancient embryonic planet juddering towards its doom.

"Yeah, I fucking see it!" screamed Deny. "It's going to fucking kill us!"

"Of course it won't kill us!" snapped List. "What we're seeing is an image left by a real event. I just explained all that!"

As List said this, the uncle planet collided in a catastrophic manner with the infant earth. "AAAHHH!" screamed Deny, rather appropriately.

"You wanted some proof?" said List. "You didn't believe anything about the dimensions, so I used time to prove to you everything I just told you."

"TAKE ME HOME! AAAGGGHHH!" squealed Deny.


Deny was just about to be swamped with some of the unimaginably hot debris that had exploded from the impact of the two planets when he was suddenly and quite simply back in the cellar.

"AAAGGGHHH!" stated Deny.

"Be quiet. Do you believe me now? Do you understand that it is mankind's destiny to discover the dimensions and set free the animals from their shackles so they may go forth and do their work?"

"What the fuck happened then?" bellowed Deny.

"We travelled back in time to the point where God was created following the collision of two proto planets - one of which became the earth. Now, do you believe me?"


"Oh, stop being so obtuse. This is an important part of the plot and it's starting to drag a bit because of your lack of belief! Now, do you believe me?"

"Oh, all right then," said Deny. "I was going to say something along the lines of 'eyes, good image of fire and rocks colliding - you could have drugged me up or something', but that would have been incredibly dull."

"Yes, it would have been. Come on then, lets get you untied."

As Deny was accepting the truth, the dog outside the window decided that the wind direction was just about right. It sauntered up to the drainpipe next to the cellar window, thought momentarily about food and genitals, then sniffed at the protruding plastic tube. No scent. Wahey! With this in mind Vippi (for this was the dog's name) went about his task.

Vippi had been a dog for about two years now and was beginning to get very philosophical about it. After the initial excitement of having to coordinate his legs and demonstrate his cute nature to all humans he came into contact with, things had become a bit dull. Even now, as he directed his urine loosely in the direction of the drainpipe and vaguely listened to the raised voices coming from the cellar, Vippi felt a slight desolation creeping into his life. Surely I shouldn't feel embarrassed about spreading my pee? Thought Vippi in his simple but aggressively private vernacular. For two years now he had gone about his normal duties, diligently mimicking all the other dogs by digging, running, licking, rolling pointlessly around in shit, trying to look cute and then running off to kill and maim small animals. In all this time, however, he had felt a great sense of emptiness in the pit of his stomach. And no matter how hard he tried, he simply couldn't shake the feeling of utter humiliation every time he cocked his leg and went for a piss.

As he gloomily sniffed at an iridescent leaf that had been splattered from the drainpipe he could vaguely distinguish human voices through the sharp breeze whipping around his head.

"Get it then!" one whispered.

"You fucking get it!" snapped the other.

"Don't swear!" said the first. "God and Proxil deduced ages ago that obscenities do not necessarily lead to a more constructive conversation - much to God's dismay. Anyway, you get it."

"For fuck's sake!"

As Vippi was about to lurch forward and find another object to douse, his world suddenly went very dark and very constricted.

Vippi's mind was very simple and accepted things without much bother. The sudden shock of being hustled into a sack and dragged into a dark cellar had waned immensely and he was now quite happily sat on a Black and Decker workbench watching the two humans argue viciously with each other.

"Pink's a good colour," said List.

"No. No! Don't. You don't really think it is! Surely! Not now! Not today! Not ever! It's bad. Anyway, I thought you were going to do something specific to this dog."

Vippi recognised the attention had turned to him and wagged his tail. Deep within his canine mind Vippi realised that something good was about to happen - something in the eyes of the human in the pinstripe suit suggested that he loved Vippi, and that he wanted to do nice things to him. Vippi shuffled slightly and whined a little with his tongue flapping indiscriminately.

"What you have to do, you see, is focus on what it is that the animal is good at. Everyone has a talent and everyone is good at something. It doesn't matter that a person or an animal doesn't excel or is fantastic at something - all that matters is that their minds and bodies are designed to complete a certain task in a pragmatic and unglamorous manner."

"No idea and no concern about what you're saying," said Deny.

"Now what do you think," said List, ignoring Deny. "It is that dogs are good at? What is it that dogs are built to do?"

"I don't know," said Deny. "Hunt? Smell? Sniff? Dig?"

"Ahh!" screamed List. "Dig! That's it. Now - think more broadly."

Vippi was starting to realise that the attention had again turned away from him. He put his tongue away despondently and laid down on his belly and started to wonder why it was that he was compelled to stick his nose up the arse of every other dog he bumped into.

"Well I don't know, do I!" snapped Deny. "They dig for things. They hide things and dig them up later."

"OK," said List. "What possible contribution to the welfare of the world and the people and animals who live in it could that skill possibly have? Think about it - what is it that humans dig for?"

"All sorts of things," said Deny. "Coal, gold, oil. Loads of things. Are you saying that rather than running around chasing sticks and eating shit, dogs should actually be down all the mines digging for coal and oil? That's so cruel!"

Vippi gave a little whine. He was starting to feel hungry.

"No, no. You misunderstand. They're biologically designed to mine natural resources - their minds and bodies evolved specifically so that they could take care of all the minerals in the world. They wouldn't just charge off down load of mines and oil wells - they've got their own methods of extracting the stuff."

Deny looked at Vippi with a sense of awe, and for the first time since the arrival of List he accepted everything that was being told. He couldn't believe it! Dogs were made to mine! Time was something you could pass through as easily as a breath of wind! The world was made up of lots of different things and List spoke of God in the same manner as somebody would talk about a parent who'd just been released from an institution. The enormity of the truth suddenly exploded in Deny's mind. A million questions and a million wonders suddenly tried to clamber towards his mouth. He fainted.

Three seconds later he woke up and screamed. Then he fainted again before waking up for the last time, feeling strangely calm and serene. Standing next to Vippi was a very tall, gangly man who wore nothing except an enormous pink tie that covered his entire body.

"Morning," said the Pink Tie man.

"Who the fuck are you?" Deny asked calmly.

As the man burst into heartbreaking sobs, List turned sharply on Deny.

"I told you not to swear! Dribble doesn't like it. It reminds of the days when God used to subject him to personal abuse and private humiliation."

"Who?" asked Deny as he pushed himself from the dusty floor.

"This, Deny Greta, is Dribble Farkharson - the governor of dogs, natural resources and Heaven plus 4."

Deny took a step towards Dribble Farkharson and put his hand out.

"Hi!" he said brightly.

Dribble stopped crying and darted behind List and cowered in a very poncey manner, his tie flapping wildly and exposing his paunchy torso and flaccid member.

"Don't let him near me!" he screamed.

"Sorry," said List. "He always gets a little nervous around new people."

"He might have piles!" screeched Dribble. "Bring me my onion blender and make me queen!"

Deny looked at Dribble and shook his head before glancing at Vippi and letting out a muffled scream. Whereas before he had been lying on his belly dreaming of anal passages, now he was standing on his hind legs looking out of the cellar window.

"What's that dog doing?" Deny said to List.

"What? Oh, I think he's seeing what the weathers like."

"Why?" asked Deny.

"Well, why don't you ask him?"

Deny looked at List as if he were mad before remembering the reason for his blackout. He fainted again for about twenty minutes before waking up to a wet rasping on his face.

"Get up! Get up!" shouted a strangely barkish voice.

"What?" said Deny.

"They've gone!" said the voice.

"Who've gone?"

"The governors! It's just you and me now! Wow! This is amazing! You've done it! I understand! Wow! Look at that tree! It's fantastic!"

Deny sat up and rubbed the dog's mucus from his cheek.

"Will you stop talking in exclamations and calm down a little!" said Deny.

"Sorry. Sorry," said Vippi. "It's just that after being imprisoned in ignorance since the dawn of civilisation, I'm finding my new found skills a little hard to control. The sun's coming out!"

"Is that why you keep pissing on the floor... and my leg!"

Vippi unconsciously turned one of his floppy ears inside out.

"No. I always do that."

There was an embarrassed pause until Deny gave Vippi a 'not to worry, it'll wash out' look.

"So what happens now?" asked Deny.

"Well, myself and all the other dogs will now meet up and discuss what our first actions will be. Then we'll toodle off and start regulating all the natural resources of the planet." Vippi said brightly. "And as far as I can tell, our most important task is to sort out the mess you humans have made of it all!"

"Oh," said Deny. For some unfathomable reason he was rather hurt by that. He felt compelled to apologise on behalf of humanity for the mess they had made.

"That's ok," said Vippi, sadly. "It's nothing compared to what the iguanas will say."

"Why?" asked Deny. "What do the iguanas do?"

"You'll see."

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