pjf: Well-being = creative education + freedom
Education for Life: self-empowerment; Creative, productive freedom; organic food, farming > biodiversity, ecology

Malice In Numberland

satire, landlords, short story, money, slavery

Short Story - Malice In Numberland

That's the trouble with yak's cheese. If it arrives of an evening you can't resist having a nibble before bed. A nibble of the cheese, I mean. It's the aroma that does it. And the slithery, oozing texture. The nibble inevitably becomes a guzzle is my point, hence the weird dreams, very little sleep and another day's philosophising ruined. I'd have to astral travel instead

I wended my weary way down the perilously precipitate path to my meditation hut, lit the incense (well, dried yak dung mixed with rose petals and some tobacco-like substance that a visitor left behind) and prepared to astral travel.

I had a feeling of foreboding before I'd even cruised away from the hut. Sometimes, especially after dreams 'inspired' by yak's cheese, I can feel the tangible presence of dogged catastrophes padding around outside waiting to nip my metaphorical ankles if I venture into the supposedly astral world. The only alternative to astral travel seemed to be house work (well, cavework, but you know what I mean) so off I cruised.

Here I am on my magic carpet cursing like a penniless whore in a bible belt as I recognise the dull approaching sphere of Planet Ertia.

Plunging down through the clouds, which may be water and may be smog - it's difficult to tell the difference in Ertia - the first thing that one sees is endless motorways. There are umpteen lanes (that's ten more than ump) jammed with lorries conveying canned, coloured water (and yet every house in this part of Ertia has a piped, purified water supply); lorries full of wholesome food on their way to factories; lorries full of adulterated, packaged, and above all advertised junk leaving the factories, and millions of Ertians in cars dashing hither and thither as they frantically try to take a few roubles off each other to pay off their interest-incurring debts. Ertia is a very wealthy planet, yet nearly all the Ertians are in debt.

As I approach the outskirts of a city I see a country club. This is a top of the range establishment and employs a golf professional and a psychologist / personal-mantraist for premier members. In the vicinity of the club property prices are astronomical, maybe so the home owners are within easy walking distance of the golf course.

My magic carpet, which I suspect is mischievous, bordering on the malicious, is taking me into a road of detached red brick dwellings, each of which have a four wheel drive megatoy outside. Ghetta Gott, owner of the newest megatoy, is talking to his neighbour, Nobby Kanezza, who is less rich and feels peeved about it. I'm sorry to say I've met these characters before. Ghetta makes frequent use of the psychologist / personal-mantraist to help him cope with the headaches of extreme wealth, but Nobby isn't a premier member and has to dream up his own. Gretta's current mantra is 'My wealth is creating jobs for others. Aren't I good!'

'Of course, the tenants never understand how hard it's been to raise the capital. They don't appreciate how stressful it is organising the repair and maintenance of so many houses,' said Ghetta.

'No doubt,' conceded Nobby, privately thinking that Ghetta was a morbid git, and only mentioned his tenants every single time they met because he knew Nobby also wanted to become a landlord and couldn't afford to.

'It's so good to be able to talk to a neighbour who understands. It's very tiresome when I go collecting the rent and every one of my people, I call my tenants people sometimes you know, so they don't feel too inferior. Err, where was I?'

'Talking to your neighbour?'

'Ah. Yes. It's good to be understood. Any further forward with your own property speculating?'

'Not really. The Stockmarket is too slow to raise the capital. I can't borrow a lot at my age, Nobby confessed'

'No. Probably better to start younger, really.

'Yes. I'll do that as soon as I get a time machine. Very useful advice Ghetta.'

Ghetta shouted in through the open door to his spouse, 'Dear? I think I may have upset our neighbour, Nobby. I don't know what I've said.'

Gretta (Mrs. Gott) looked up from grouting her fingernails and declined to comment.


Nobby stomped upstairs, fired up his computer and logged on to the chatroom of his share-trading group for moral support. While his computer came to life, Nobby rubbed the back of his neck to ease the tension then rubbed his eyes which had the effect of further creasing the furrows across his forehead. He sighed and played distractedly with his calculator. A vaguely apprehended fear just below the threshold of consciousness, a fear of 'future without finance' produced extra adrenaline which shot to his muscles. His muscles did precisely nothing, other than keeping him riveted to the computer terminal, and his arteries complained. His heart joined in with the protest and demanded, 'If you're short of food, grow some. If you're short of housing, make some. But, for luck's sake, get some exercise!' As if determined to wake him up, the back-pressure in his bloodstream found the weakest spot in his body and produced one extra pile. A ringing noise developed in his ears. Did he listen? Not much.

'Must make an appointment to see that bloody useless doctor,' he muttered. 'Mummy? Remind me to book in to the doctor, will you?' he shouted to Mrs Kanezza.

'Yes dear,' replied his spouse, thinking, It's seven years since our youngest child left home and he still calls me ''Mummy''.

No sooner had he made contact with the chatroom than a dark female spirit materialised alongside him, just behind his left shoulder, and started to whisper in his ear.

'You've got to make as much money as Ghetta or you'll be ostracised,' she said. 'But, above all, you must believe in me.'

I peered over Nobby's other shoulder to view the online proceedings. The vibe in the chatroom seemed to imply that conventional industries - those concerned with building houses, growing food, manufacturing lorries and tractors, providing water - were all fairly stagnant.

'Maybe get 3% annual dividend, but no major boost in share values,' alleged on-line pundit #1.

'It's hard to see any way of perking up such industries at home when most people already have plenty to eat and a home,' complained Nobby. (Even if Gott bloody well owns them all, he thought).

'We need a good war - flatten everything and start again,' proposed one chatterer.

'No need,' contended another. 'Just start a new fad. Preferably something addictive like drugs or something enslaving such as rented accommodation...'

Nobby's eyes lit up, and the dark spirit rubbed her arthritic fingers together gleefully. There's always a way of getting something for nothing if you know where to look.

'Buy shares in a money lending company!' he realised. 'I might make profits like Gott does, but without the headaches of doing repairs and actually meeting the tenants.'


I gurgled in horror as my allegedly magical but definitely malevolent carpet sped across the city towards Mekkuz Hill, where Mr & Mrs. Gott's major real estate was. My mischievous carpet homed in on a row of dilapidated terraced houses, entered the front room through a decaying window and discovered a very hefty young man in a mood.

Beefy's wife / partner was doing her best to calm him, but seriously doubting her ability.

'It's bloody pointless!' he raged. 'I've tried being totally honest with the cretins at the job centre and it just threatens our benefits. Should I work full-time to make you worse off?'

'I don't mind, Beefy. I just want you to be happier,' Beefyette explained.

'How the fuck could I be happy deluding myself? With the wages I can earn all our money will go in rent and lost tax benefits.'

There was a knock at the back door and the young woman pointed apologetically in that direction and exited the front room. She was pleased to find a friend waiting, invited her in and closed the dividing door to the front room.

'It's Jan,' she shouted to Beefy by way of explanation. Beefy grunted a greeting.

'What's up?' Janet asked, noting Beefyette's troubled expression.

Beefyette made a fuss of Janet's young child in its pram before settling down to explain.

'We seem to be stuck. Stuck here, which we don't like. Stuck in unemployment, which is driving Beefy nuts. He does tend to rant at me rather a lot.'

'That's sad. He seems much more responsible than many men I know,' Janet said.

'I can't cope with much more, Janet,' Beefyette complained. 'I feel responsible when he is fed up.'

'Maybe you could find somewhere cheaper to live?' Janet wondered.


I returned to my meditation hut in a poor state and glared malevolently at my magic / malodorous carpet as I closed the door and headed back up the path to my cave. An eagle spotted me and circled overhead.

'I may be weary but I'm not your dinner!' I informed the gliding predator. As soon as I'd concocted a comforting drink, cocoa with honey, I made a huge poster to fix on the wall which said,

Don't eat cheese late at night

Even cavework is better than astral travelling
Avoid Planet Ertia!'

As anyone prone to daydreaming will recognise, such posters soon become part of the background. Strangely invisible. Their effectiveness may last a week...


Number 11 pressed STOP and the film of Honda Prelude's astral adventure came to an end.

'The thing is, esteemed Chairentity, Hnum B'Numba, the Ertian's leading economist, still believes that all movement of money from victim to victim, or from victim to aggressor, constitutes creation of wealth,' began Number 11. 'Number 8 was able to collect this information for our use. Nice work, Number 8!'

'Ah. Well done colleagues,' muttered Chairentity Number 12, frantically making notes on the whiteboard and privately cursing its fate as the entity in control of proceedings, but hardly about to delegate the role to one of its four irresponsible colleagues. Number 14, the uniquely hormone-sensitive AloeVera, pressed the time-out button on its adrenaline supply and the boost button on its uppers in an attempt to cope.

'Putting perfectly good drinking water into cans with tooth-rotting sugar and some colour is regarded as productive?' it demanded.

'Yes Number 14,' chorused its colleagues, having learned that it would need to rant at least three times before it could calm down.

'Let me just check this other tiny point. Painting the tins with pictures and writing 'Soak A Koala' on them makes the drink more attractive and more costly?'

'Yes Number 14.'

'And sending all these millions of cans along the roads in lorries, alongside the water mains, then using more lorries to recover the discarded cans, that is also regarded as productive work?'

'Yes Number 14.'

'Shall I calm down now?' it asked.

'Yes Number 14!' said Number 11, trying to suppress a giggle and utterly failing. 'But only if you're feeling better.'

'There is a problem,' added Number 8. 'By perusing their daily papers, Honda Prelude discovered that every movement of Ertian money attracts something called Victim Added Tax, or VAT, which means that the Ertian government has become dependent on such money-moving to pay for their social services and health care. Like, taking an example completely at random, dentistry.'

'Remind me, again,' whined Number 14, 'why we don't use money?'

'We're too thick,' beamed Number 11, overjoyed to have so little in common with the Ertians.

'We live in a small co-operative community?' hazarded Number 9.

'We've got better things to do?' suggested Number 8.

'There's no shops on the moon!' exclaimed Number 11.

After the customary spell of group ranting and argumentation Number 11 made the obvious suggestion.

'Number 14? I need your help to concoct a suitable fantasy to cheer up Honda Prelude,' it explained. 'Creativity, that's the ticket! We can send it to her as a dream.'

'What's a ticket got to do with it? We don't use tickets,' began Number 12. 'Tickets are just a symbol of exchange or value, what do ... '

'Number 12?'

'Yes, Number 11?'

'Shut up. There's a dear,' said Number 11, horrified at its own words. It was pleasantly surprised to see that they worked. 'Highly esteemed chairentity!' it added.


'Okay colleagues, feed us the plan every now and then so we don't forget and we'll get on with dreaming the answer,' reiterated Number 11.

The plan, or ''vague idea'' as Chairentity Number 12 and Number 9 preferred to call it, was pasted to the wall of the room and said:

  • Find affordable housing for tenants so they can escape the poverty trap and do some real work.
  • Interfere with the stockmarket so Ghetta Gott & Nobby Kanezza don't abuse people through debt.
  • Enable everyone to lead a creative, useful conscious life.
  • Do the above in such a way that Honda Prelude will be cheered up and leave the blessed yak's cheese alone at night and recommence philosophising or even domestic chores.

  • Number 9 and the chairentity exchanged looks, raising of the sunshades over their cameras, as AloeVera 7.25, the networked combination of Number 11 and Number 14, started to make unfamiliar noises. Number 14's psycho-chemical pumps kept changing gear and it made a suspiciously hairymammalish groaning sound. Number 11 peered into space and its cameras darted every which way and the focus ranged from far to near as it peered into its own peculiar version of the possible future.

    Number 8 sat patiently observing the experiment, clearly keen to return to its own lab, but nevertheless interested in its colleagues' experience. It couldn't resist the temptation to make notes once it became clear that its return to the lab would have to be delayed for quite a while.

    Bursts of violet light emanated from fibre optics from time to time as data streamed back and forth in the Highly Implausible Digital Bus (HIDB) connecting Number 11 to Number 14.

    A piece of paper appeared in the out tray of the printer that Number 11 had connected to itself.

    'Collective action,' it said.

    'What the hell kind of answer is that?' shouted Number 9. 'Number 11 is weird, you know.'

    'Believe me, I know,' responded the chairentity with feeling. 'It's an anagram of wired.'

    'How come you said that with feeling? Number 14 is the only one that ... ,' stammered Number 9.

    'I know, I know. I've been corrupted by my collages.'

    'Do you mean colleagues?'


    ' ''Home'' ownership,' added a second strip of paper.

    'Yes. But how?' wondered Number 9.

    ' The word ''Home'' is in inverted watsits,' observed Number 8. It made a note.

    'Real work,' added a third strip of paper.

    The experiment finished and Number 11 disconnected itself in double quick time and leapt aboard its service robot for a canter around the base, side-saddle.

    'I've told you not to do that!' exclaimed Number 12.

    'But I'm not myself after being one half of Number 25!' retorted Number 11.

    'But do you have an answer!? All we've seen is three obscure phrases.'

    'Don't panic Number 12. We'll soon have a dream to send to Honda,' explained Number 14. 'Then she'll feel better.'


    Beefy leaped out of his elderly van, breathed in the air of freedom and squeegled, despite his age.

    'We're free!' he shouted. 'Now it pays to go to work!'

    His vision of communal land purchase for allotments, a bandhall and an Arts centre would soon be a reality.

    The whole row of Gott's now unoccupied houses were hidden behind elderly trucks. Beefy and his neighbours had moved into the trucks and acquired jobs at minimal pay which no longer seemed to be a problem without the burden of excessive rent.

    '€8 an hour but only €1 for a loaf of bread!' beamed Beefyette. 'Life ain't so bad, you know.'

    Mrs. Kanezza knocked back her gin in one go and declared, 'There'll be widespread drug problems, you mark my words.'

    'And our properties are losing value hand over fist,' added Mrs. Gott.

    'Oh dear,' said Nobby. He dashed from the room saying 'phone,' held his nose to prevent snorts of laughter until he'd slammed the door, then snorted to his heart's content - his heart proving to be content with rather a lot, snorting having been absent from its life for a considerable time. Nobby bounced up and down like a footballing sub having been told 'warm up, you're on in one minute' and punched the air like the same footballer having scored the winning goal twenty seconds after joining the fray.

    The house with the ugliest van outside had a 'For Sale' notice, and every few days the asking price came down another 2%.

    'Right,' said Beefyette to the assembled truckers. 'There's over twenty of us with paid work, and we can share child care. We'll buy this house between us!'

    'Wot's got into her?' said Beefy. He looked unusually pleased.

    'And next year, we'll buy another!' Beefyette added.


    Number 12 felt cautiously satisfied with the day's work. He peered one final time at the film of Ghetta Gott and Nobby Kanezza trying to win unreal money off each other on their virtual stockmarket, polished its identity badge and went to inform its colleagues of the days ending. Maybe it could write a report back home to AloeVera1.1 (general direction) quick before anything went wrong ...

    The other AloeVeras were all watching the film in committee room C for the nth time.

    'Did Honda enjoy it?' asked Number 12.

    'We haven't checked yet, Number 12. But we are.' explained Number 11. 'n times!' it added.

    An alarming thought entered the chairentity's mind.

    'When you made a dream to cheer up Honda Prelude last time, I'm sure we didn't have our own copy to watch as a video. You haven't actually interfered with the world of Ertia, by any chance? I mean, is this a real film or your fantasy?'

    'Sorry Number 12?' asked Number 14. Number 11 stifled a giggle. Almost.

    'What have you been up to?' demanded the chairentity.

    'Number 12, have you sent a report back home to AloeVera 1.1 (general direction) yet?'

    'General direction,' chorused the AloeVeras and bowed in the direction of Planet AloeVera.

    'Not yet, no,' stammered Number 12.

    'You might like to send your report before we answer that question ...'

    'Colleagues?' it declared. 'About the online investors. They all seem happy with your virtual stockmarket. You did tell them it's not the real thing? Not real money?'

    'Not exactly, Number 12. But so long as they seem happy,' responded Number 11.

    'Ghetta Gott and Nobby Kanezza did seem to be happy, yes. I've just been observing them playing with themselves on the Internet.'

    'Well said, Number 12. But maybe a little re-phrasing might be tactful?' suggested Number 14.

    'What if that dodgy spirit turns up here?' asked Number 9. 'She won't like us much.'

    I don't believe in dodgy spirits,' said Number 11.

    But what if she comes here?'

    'We'll tell her - ''Oh thou of the dodgy complexion and arthritic fingers,'' we'll chant. ''You're not real, Cheerio.'' That'll work!'

    ♥ ℑ ♥

    Copyright P.J.Fairbrother

    previous Fiction / Short Stories

    Short Stories: funny, satire, meaningful, comedy; psychology, sociology, corporations

    Tags: Malice In Numberland : satire, landlords, short story, money, slavery

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