Tessa Schlesinger was born with ink in her genes. She is a teller of stories, an author, a poet, and a writer.
Ma-Jinx declared a council of war. There were less than 18 months to go before Advent, the first day of the new continuum. She was in great danger of not fulfilling her contract to the Ruler of the Universe.
"Jzzman," she called to the leading imp, "When is the gathering taking place? I see no one in the great hall."
No one has come," he said to her.
Ma-Jinx exploded. Sparks flew. Her carrot top hair frizzled and grew straight again. Her skin turned blue. She sat down, quite beside herself. "We have a contract to fulfil with the Creator and we are in danger of losing our place in creation if it is not fulfilled," she bellowed to the recalcitrant imp.
"You know the circumstances, Ma, how it’s been for two thousand years. Things are just not the way they used to be. Humanity no longer has respect for the law. They want to do what they want to do. They’re becoming individualistic and breaking a lot of laws while they’re doing so.”
"Well, the law is the law is the law!" Ma-Jinx exploded once again, then took an enormous breath and continued, "The law just isn't being respected the way it ought to be."
She sat down then and wondered what it would be like to be relegated to the backwaters of the universe. No fun, she imagined. The assignment on earth had been the highlight of her life and she saw great things for herself if she achieved the necessary ends.
Jzzman watched her. He felt a deep sympathy. He, too, knew what was riding on the contract and it was not for nothing that he had shoo'ed away the few who had gathered at the great hall. Ma-Jinx sometimes left things a little late and Jzzman felt that a bit of creative manipulation might benefit him.
What, after all were imps for? And he did have that rather magical idea. So why give the glory to the rest of the Imps when it was all his very own?
He was long due promotion. He had learned much as the protégée of Ma-Jinx but the problem was that it was difficult to surpass her. Promotion would only come when the protégée surpassed the master - when he out-jinxed her. To be the Imp with the Jinx - translated as the Imp belonging to Ma Jinx – was rapidly beginning to mean more than his place of employment. His route to promotion was jinxed!
"I know a way to fulfill the contract," he said.
"You do?" asked Ma-Jinx, hopefully. Not for two thousand years had she known how to fulfil the contract. Imps, after all, worked gremlin style. There was magic, and then there was upside-down magic, which was the magic the Imps used. The glory of it was that while doing one thing, the solution for another thing arrived. Yet, with eighteen months to go, and having done many things, the answer had not revealed itself. Perhaps it had revealed itself at last.
"Break the law some more," Jzzman responded and waited with rushing adrenaline for the game to begin. He had chosen his words carefully, just giving away the barest titbit of information – enough to start the guessing game; yet not enough to give the game away. If she guessed, then once more he proved that he could not out do her and there would be no promotion. Yet, how he loved this game of riddles, the guessing as to what he had in mind. He would throw clues and conundrums, and lead his quarry on in a bewildering maze of haze, until either the enigma was solved, or the quarry defeated.
He savored his potential victory. Accolades for an imp were seldom forgotten and it was with glee that he thought of the saga that would be told of this moment, over and over again through the age to come. His name would be up there with the greats - for Jzzman had no doubt that he could make the contract with time to spare. And the added glory of a riddle not penetrated.
Ma-Jinx's mind meandered in a dizzy cloud. The contract was to bring full understanding of the law to man, so that man would use the law to his advantage, had proved more difficult than she had anticipated. Man, it appeared did not understand what law was, never mind how it came to be. How were they going to be taught how to use law to their own advantage?
Mankind was out of control. Why, the other day, one man had set himself up as Aide to the Ruler of the Universe and had no shame that it was all a hoax to gain that green stuff that these earth-men so loved. Green notes, indeed. One couldn't eat them.
How could breaking the law teach mankind how to use law and what law was.? These people had been running wild these past two millennia and, in particular, these last few hundred years with increasing vigor? They had broken it and re-invented it and discarded it. The imps had tried madly at first, with volcanoes and hurricanes and floods and threats of eternal damnation, to alert human kind to the possible wrath of a King not obeyed. Yet mankind had not heard. For he had grown beyond the fairy tales of his mother's knee.
Once more Ma-Jinx trembled when she thought of the cold, dark and distant outposts of the universe. She wondered which was worse - loosing a riddle to her Aide or being relegated to the obscurity of an unending empire. It didn't seem a good choice.
She wondered what Jzzman had seen that she had not. Breaking the law, he had asked. How did breaking the law encourage the keeping of it? The riddle raced to and fro through her busy cerebral passages and in a moment a beginning to the end of the poser was made.
"If gravity were to go to bed and the moon refused to shine.
If man forgot to charm woman
and grapes did not turn to wine
then would the law be broken."
Jzzman stood. He had been ousted. Why was he always Jinxed? Why was he always beaten to the draw? Ma-Jinx knew the riddle and instead of high esteem, he would be forever listed in the book of the lost. It would be difficult to rise from this. His purple heart turned white, and the green mop on his head flopped in a defeated frazzle.
Still, he thought, after a moment or two, the plan needed to be carried out and there were no other Imps about, and it may be that he could still snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
The task was great. It had to be carried out in a way that would aid humanity to arrive at the right answer, without any indication that an outside agency had been used. That would be a failure of the contract. The Ruler of the Universe insisted that his favored tribe arrive at their own conclusions. It was all about taking personal responsibility, he said, and while chaos was always the way the imp brought about his desired results, this had not worked in quite a while. Just take the way this last continuum was ending - on a confused note and a lot of hype. Worse, nobody seemed to mind a bit.
"A writer! A stirrer, and manipulator of words!" thought Jzzman. That would be his tool. Surely, there were a great many writers out there who would woo fame and fortune - and if there was a little ridicule too, well, these things cost.
"And what would be an appropriate and profitable law to breach?" He hadn't considered that and considered it now.
"You have a strategy?" asked Ma-Jinx.
"Yes," replied Jzzman and his silence told the ruling imp that that was all she would get. She knew then that it would be a run for power. If Jzzman implemented the plan without her input, then he would be the next head imp and she would start the path again. Yet, there was nothing for it. Rules were rules. Anyone could challenge anytime.
"I will now implement it," said the imp with the Jinx. "I will be away for a year." And with that, he vanished.
Further away, Isaac Penbrath played with his pen. He knew he was on to something remarkable and if he presented it to the reading masses in just the right way, then his name was sure to engrave the books of popular history. He had dreamt all his life of being a man of words but somehow those words eluded him. Now they lay before him and he felt quite inspired.
The small man climbed down the tree and picked up the apple. Then he climbed up again and found a different branch. He threw the apple down and it floated. It stayed exactly where his hand had left it. Yet two inches to the right, on another branch, gravity had come into play. The apple had done the proper thing, the lawful thing, and fallen to the ground. Isaac Penbrath thought he understood.
The media was agog with the strange phenomena that had become the talking point of the human race. No one had being able to explain why nature was running amok and chaos becoming a way of life. He was, sitting on the branch of a tree when the answer had popped into his head.
Next to him, Jzzman gave a grin. Visionary ideas were his speciality and popping them into another mind, the practice of many a millennia. Penbrath visualised his leading story. His name would be in all the newspapers of the world. It wasn't quite the way he had wanted it. When he was a boy, he had visualised books on the shelves of all the leading stores, books in all the leading universities. Just books, books and more books with his name on it. Well, it would be the press instead, and perhaps many books would be written about his dazzling explanation instead.
For he would most definitely change the evolution of man. Man was, after all just getting into the stride of understanding who he was and what he was capable of. This new information would have to be carefully presented so that a greater backlash did not result instead. The point, after all, was to make the law a friend, to give to man the power to use the law in a way that added, rather than subtracted.
Penbrath considered the consequences of his revelation. There would be those that understood and then, there would be the remnant that would insist that the law had to be obeyed because breaking the law had consequences. They would format the law in such a way - such an extreme way - that all individuality would a threatened. He had to present his findings in such a way that the worst would be avoided. Individuality must be retained, and the importance of the law must be understood.
Jzzman laughed as he sat on Penbrath's ear. He had chosen his man wisely, his quarry with care. The man was a schemer, with a perceptive head and a harlequin mind.
The next morning the headlines screamed in a myriad papers round the globe, "Major discovery kept under wraps."
Isaac Penbrath, it was announced, had found the secret to the current chaos on earth, and would reveal all in a televised presentation, starring Isaac Penbrath, on the day before Advent, a mere week away.
Ma Jinx was in hysterics. "You're cutting it fine, you brazen imp," she yelled. "What if he mismanages?"
Jzzman stared up at her. Yes, he thought, what if Penbrath blew the coop, what if he got cold feet, what if he mismanaged? There was no back up. There was no escape plan. And he, the imp with the Jinx would no longer be the imp with the Jinx; he would most likely be the imp with the broken jugular. Not a pleasant future.
But oh, he thought, what a win and what glory – what a splendid accomplishment to present to the grand congregation of imps. Style and dash, finished with a flourish and presented to the Creator, deed accomplished, with just the right nod to that distant fate, "I can carry it off. Did you ever think I couldn't?"
The day before Advent arrived, Isaac Penbrath arose early in the day. He prepared himself, did a practice flourish or two, and then transported himself with his new found skills to the place where his fate would be sealed. It would be a happy fate, he thought.
The drums started, the cameras rolled and the imp with the Jinx went to town with all his tricks. Then a man flew quite unexpectedly into the air, his arms flailing in all directions and his feet stamping air until he finally landed on the top of a mangled motor car.
Penbrath grabbed a microphone, "That man did that,’ he went into it without any grand introductions, ‘because I told him to. Just focus on what you really, really want, or focus on what you expect, and see what happens.’
The imp obliged. It was the signal to fulfill the vast, conflicting needs of humanity. There was a need for him to nudge things along in the beginning, so that they could get the hang of it.
Around him, cars materialized, sometimes on top of someone. It was instant death to the unlucky spectator. The weather went bizarre. Sunshine and stormy weather vied for each square yard. Women seemed to shed their weight and men grew crops of hair. Mountains of money popped up all over the place, sometimes causing injury to those who were in the way.
‘Stop!’ yelled Penbrath, as loud as he could manage. The thunder of the microphones interrupted the events and instantly some order returned.
The press demanded answers. "How was it done?" they asked in a plethora of ways.
"Easy," replied Penbrath. "We have been a people who lived according to law, and while we did, all the energies followed our example. The flowers bloomed in spring according to the law. The bears hibernated in winter, according to the law. The tides swept the beaches according to the law and the moon showed its light according to the law. The sun gave its warmth according to the law. But now, we on earth, we like to do what we want to do and we forgot about our ancient agreements with the other powers. The order in the universe was simply our agreement and commitment to keeping to a certain order. When we forgot about that agreement and each of us became the masters of our own particular universe, then we set up different laws – and these clashed with old, established ones.
“We’ve forgotten that our thoughts and actions have a consequence. We’ve forgotten that the only way we can all live together is by agreeing to keep to a certain way of doing things.
"There never was law, until we created it. And we created it for our well-being and for the well-being of all that shared this earth with us.
"Gradually, with more and more people forgetting the laws we agreed upon eons ago, those agreements dissolved. I can do what I like and every single one of you can do what you like, and all the supporting energies of the earth can do what they like, because we no longer agree," and then he pointed his finger at the nearest writer. It was his erstwhile competitor from his previous days as a journalist. Penbrath wished the man dead and the man fell down, murdered in full view of all.
The decision of mankind was instant. They finally understood law.
Law and order returned the next day. Isaac Penbrath had his name in all the papers and a plethora of books. Ma Jinx completed her contract and swayed the reigning king to allow her to retain her position.
The imp with the Jinx was designated his own planet and gained glory. Better than that, he was now named Pa-Fix. He had his own protégée, the Imp with the Fix and he hoped it would be a long time before he was out-fixed.
© 2019 Tessa Schlesinger
Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on March 21, 2019:
Interesting story. I enjoyed it.