Author: Ian Hill
The fat man sits in his high place. His presence is revealed by the twitch and wiggle of an oversized quill over the rim of his lectern. When not penning away, he’s spotted by the crunch of a nut in the jaws of his bearded cracking doll, by the discarded hulls and husks of foreign seeds as they go clattering across the marble. The fat man loves to sit atop his lofted throne, lounging into himself, idly popping kernels into the wild-eyed muncher and actuating its red lever. But, life for the wallowsome fatling is not all tranquil repose; no, he has a job, and it’s a foul one.
The dim chamber’s double doors part at the middle, letting in a dramatic shaft of orange firelight that widens and attenuates before reaching the plinth of his chair. In comes shuffling a tiny worm of a weakling. Here is a querulous man—that’s evident from mere posture alone, since he’s too far below to really see—and he has the nerve to wring his hands.
The fat man peers down the plump hills of his cheeks. “What have we here? Oh me, oh my! A petty little fool doth I descry?”
The timorous supplicant smiles. “A fine rhyme, my Lord.”
The namby-pamby milksop pulls a pained expression and clears his throat. “I said your rhyme was fine, my Lord.”
“Fine, eh?” The fat man licks his gums, sucks his teeth. “Fine doesn’t account for a half of it. A third of it, I say!” He blinks rapidly but soon stops; the weight of his lids fatigues. “I’ll have you know it was not premeditated,” he murmurs half to himself. His piggish hands flutter indecisively on his paunch. One goes for the feather of his quill, the other for a slumping sack of nuts.
“I came to request a thing of you, my Lord,” the cringing doormat declares.
The fat man’s eyes bulge, but his expression quickly shifts to one of delight. “A thing, hm?” He strokes his prolific pillow of a chin. “What sort of a thing? Out with it, knave!”
The cowardly milquetoast gathers enough nerve to raise his chicken’s neck and cast a single wary eye’s gaze up the looming height to the grinning cherub in his kingdom of vaults and cobwebs. “I would have a bountiful harvest for my family.”
The fat man’s guffaw is broken only by the resounding crunch of a thick-shelled kernel. Dust and hard chips rain down and scatter at the mendicant’s feet. “A bounty? For you? And your—” his left hand flips through the pages of a book, “—and your family of nine starving, ill-begotten field mice?”
The weepy beggar somehow manages a stiff jaw. “Aye.”
The fat man giggles and kicks his vestigial feet, loosening one of his fluffy socks. He wipes a tear from his deep-set eyes. “Oh my. No, no, no. Ha!” He clutches his gut. “Ha-ha, I say! You,” he motions down with his nutcracker, making its jaw rattle, “you are too far behind, my agrarian munchkin. Just today I blessed three spacefaring frigates, a research station full of engineered posies, and—listen to this—a computer bigger than a moon!”
“Impressive, my Lord,” the shrinking wretch mumbles, not sure what any of the words mean.
“Impressive! Ha! Yes, you’re right; it is impressive.” The fat man pauses as if lost in thought. After a second, he waves his hand. “Have your harvest. But! If you don’t pick up the pace and develop lasers or reactors soon, I’ll send a blight to drive you into better days. Understand?”
The bewildered rascal nods, loving eyes full of tears. “Of course, Lord.”
“Very good.” The fat man scribbles a note as he chews. “Begone!”