WHEN LAST WE LEFT OUR WRITERY HERO… er, wait. What was the last update I said? Probably “I’ll have something substantial later”. Well I will. And I do. Slubes is written, edited, re-edited, re-re-edited, formatted, formatted 2.0, and at this point pretty much all I have to do to consider it complete is get the physical proof book in the mail (should be here in a week or so) and make sure it looks good. Before this month is over, I should have a release date!
In the weeks leading up to that release date, I will… probably work on Darmenzi. I never stop working. *plays video games for several hours* What was I talking about? Oh, yeah. When the book releases, I’ll probably have a special release video stream where I read from the book and talk about it and such. More details on that closer to the release date, of course. I’ll also talk about it on Twitter and make some posts here, and I’ll post some excerpts from the completed version of Slubes. On that note, check the end of this post for the first-ever look at the completed for reals this time final version of Slubes.
Before we get to that, though, a few other notes: I’m working on some special projects, updating some things, and other odds and ends. I may be changing a few things around here, whether here means at the DOCC website or my Patreon, since this post goes up at both places. And has anyone seen my new profile image? I sure do look weird! If I’m forgetting anything important I’ll say it later, for right now let’s just get to watching as some slube wakes up.
An orange light cut through the darkness like the first rays of sunrise. Shields squeezed tighter to block out the painful light. A warm sensation fell over the shields. Gradually they opened to let in fuzzy images of a pale red wall with a bright blue circle in the center.
A slube. His thoughts reminded him, I’m a slube. This helpful reminder reached the slube’s brain as slowly as something that moved very slowly. A proper simile hadn’t reached his brain yet; he hadn’t yet even remembered his name.
Numer, that’s it. My name is Numer, I am a slube, and I am very slow at waking up in the morning.
Something about that thought didn’t sound right, but Numer had other things to consider. Where was he? A big, red wall stood in front of him. The blue sky outside was visible through a hole in the wall, so he was inside somewhere. He looked at his bed sheets. He felt the soft, itchy bed made of—hang on, what was it called?—grass, yes, against his back. At the other side of the room, a closet door stood open, showing blue cloth hanging inside.
That’s right, I’m in my bedroom.
Numer rubbed his round snout. It was soft and toothless, but he could hardly open it from the gooey muck that accumulated in his mouth overnight. He needed a drink of water, but for that he would have to get up. The sleepy slube sat up in bed like a trapdoor rising open, and he fell forward. The upper half of his body lay on his lower half so his head rested on his tail.
After dozing off a few times, Numer pulled himself up to look through the window above the bed. The thin hands at the ends of his slender arms rubbed the two squishy eggs that were his eyes. They were almost as big as eggs, roosting atop his head. He looked out into the bright blue morning sky and remembered what it was that hadn’t sounded right about his earlier thought regarding morning: It wasn’t morning. The sun shone high in the middle of the sky and straight through his window.
Now he remembered: My window faces east so the sunlight won’t hit me through it until the afternoon.
That information was a lot to remember so early. Was it early? He’d say early, since his day was just beginning. Numer sat on his bed and looked out the window towards the orchard farms east of his house. Thick trunks of dark gold rose skyward, disappearing into tufts of green leaves with rainbows clusters of fruit among them. Information trickled back into Numer’s awakening consciousness as it did every day when he awoke, as if his brain needed to build back up to full speed.
He was twenty-three years old, a young adult slube. He lived in Nottle on the island Hackney. Nottle was a town inhabited solely by slubes. The volcano far past the orchard was called Mount Chiphus. The planet was known as Mintop. He did not live on New York Avenue.
That reminded Numer of his weird dreams. They were all a bunch of nonsense, usually.
Sure, the one about him being on the giant chessboard made some sense, although he’d never played chess in his life. He wasn’t the one playing chess, anyway. He was a pawn in the dream, and he was almost taken out by an opposing knight when the queen arrived and stopped its advance. After this she guarded him as he traveled to the other side of the board to become another queen.
He really hoped that the becoming a queen part was just a coincidence with the game’s labels. He knew he was male. He hoped his subconscious didn’t have a second opinion. He could at least accept subconscious fears about being a nobody and how he would handle becoming somebody. He had conscious fears about that anyway.
Most of his life he had lived in a bigger city where several different species resided. A few years ago he moved to Nottle, a small, quiet town. It was more a village than a town, really. No, he had told his parents, he was moving there to prove he could live out on his own, not because it was so small, quiet, and undemanding. His parents thought he was lazy, but he would show them. He would show himself, too. He wasn’t lazy.
Now then, nervous? He was definitely nervous. Cowardly? He was afraid to say. Uncertain? Certainly. Yellow? Indeed, both in skin and disposition.
So Numer had come to Nottle. It was such a small community that nothing ever happened. He could show that he wasn’t lazy and keep his nervousness from getting in the way.
Numer looked at the bright afternoon sky as a lone cloud drifted by. He supposed his nervousness still held him back in some ways. He usually slept in to avoid the bustle of the day’s beginning. Numer preferred the day to have already been started, for its mood to be established. Then he could follow the work of the early-risers. He wasn’t much of a leader.
That was obviously why he woke up late. Numer nodded his squishy head in agreement with the answer he gave himself; the same answer he gave himself every morning were he awake, but he never was, so instead it was every afternoon.
Behind Numer’s house stood the fruit orchard that separated Nottle from the rest of Hackney. He looked at a cherry tree and smiled, thinking of her. There was a very good reason he had stayed at Nottle, and his heart swirled at the mere suggestion of her name.
He had fallen in love with Cherry: a beautiful, strong, intelligent, sociable, bold—well she was pretty much everything Numer wasn’t aside from a slube. His nervousness got in his way there, too. Every time he tried to talk to Cherry, his brain froze and his mouth felt mushy.
In short, she was wonderful, he was lame, and he had no idea how he could get her to notice him.
That probably explained why, in his dream, the queen appeared as Cherry. And just as he about reached the other side of the board to be made her equal, he was attacked and removed from the board. Even in his dreams he was a lame loser.
And every time he had a similar dream, the king piece beat him. Why a king piece? Maybe he just didn’t know any other chess pieces. Wasn’t there a square one? And a round one?
Numer shook his head. Okay, so that dream made sense. Sort of. He didn’t understand the other one at all. A giant thimble wearing a top hat demanding money from him and chasing him around a square board on which stood red buildings the size of his head? He’d never even heard of a board game like that.
The sleepy slube yawned. He’d sat on his bed long enough. It was time to get up and head out. He pushed his bed sheets off his tail and wogged over to his closet, the undulation of his tail pushing him forward.
Numer put on one of his two blue skeshes, the loose slube clothing with sleeves that reached from below the neck to just above the tail. He flexed his tail, rubbing it against the soft, grassy carpeting. He always imagined Hackney’s grass felt how a fluffy cloud would. It made a good material for carpets, and the farmers who gathered it and the weavers who made it into carpets were truly talented. They didn’t worry over their work.
Numer wogged to room’s exit, halting to push aside the two slube-sized leaves covering it. The slubes who picked the leaves from trees and the slubes who designed them into hanging covers were also talented. They didn’t fret over failure and avoid their work.
He touched the wall made of rough, dried clay as he passed through the exit. All the slubes who worked on making that house were talented. Every one of them did it for no monetary reward; it was all for the community. They were very community-minded and not at all afraid.
Numer’s old city used small pieces of metal for money, but Nottle never adopted that system. Slubes took what they needed and shared what they had, be it time, talent, or supplies. If anyone took more than they needed they were ostracized.
But what could Numer do? Hardly anything. He didn’t have any particular talent. He didn’t grow food. He had plenty of time when not asleep, so he helped gather fruit at the orchard and he helped others with small jobs carrying this or that or moving one thing or another. He certainly wouldn’t impress Cherry with such paltry achievements.
Still, it was all he could do. He could think of no other alternative, and it wasn’t like something would just fall into his lap. Numer passed through the bare front room of his house and wogged to his front door. It was time to face the day and greet his fellow Nottle residents.