by D.M. Jewelle
The courtyard of the The Vaticanny Place is called just that by those who work there; Call a spade a spade, they said. It is the central area surrounded by the various building and structures that make up The Vaticanny Place, and the easiest way to get from one building to another opposite the courtyard. There have been various attempts to shorten the distance between the sections, but it did not take the engineers long to realise that the shortest distance between two buildings was a straight line. Since building sky bridges connecting the buildings got extremely messy (as one could imagine, thirty bridges piling eighty metres into the sky was not a pretty sight), they decided to landscape the courtyard instead and save a ton of money. It was the best idea they ever had – not only had it become a fairly profitable tourist attraction, it made sure everyone got a little exercise each day.
To the Commons and beyond it is known as the crossroads where all points of the universe converge. It is where all of various faiths, creeds, species, mating habits, sexuality, tastes in music and fashion sense congregate, where they can hold discourses of faith, philosophy, and politics without fear of rebuke or oppression; where snail-men may freely slither without being laughed or mocked for being slow or disgusting for leaving trails of slime behind. It is the mecca of acceptance and peace, and the Holy Knighthood of The Vaticanny Place swear to uphold the integrity of the place and all it stands for, even if it means beating people into the cobblestoned ground until they get the point, damn it.
The courtyard was also known as Gobiroth’s Court in honour of a traveller reknowned in the universe for his highly bigoted, misogynistic, discriminatory, and racist opinions on just about everything – once, he refused to use any bathroom on a planet because the populace had three legs and insisted that the bathrooms would be thrice dirtier than other bathrooms. The people of this world thus named the courtyard after him confident in the knowledge if Gobiroth saw what it represented, he would launch into a raging fit and die of a heart attack, which he did several hundred years ago when they officiated the name and blithely ignored his cries for a doctor. Posthumous spiteful irony really was the best revenge against the most offensive person…thing in the universe, indeed.
In the middle of the courtyard stands a fountain known as Gobiroth’s Raging Spout for all the reasons mentioned. A circular structure measuring eight metres in diameter and fifteen metres tall, it was an important landmark as much as the courtyard itself. Tourists and pilgrims often sat at the edge of the fountain taking in the atmosphere, the eastern winds cooling their heavy travelling robes, the sweet taste of the fountain’s sparkling water after a hard day’s trek, and the thrill of listening to a spirited orator rousing his audience, piqueing the curiosity of many a philosopher seeking to engage in lively debate, strugging to make their voices heard amidst the gushing and gurgling waters of the fountain.
Weekdays brought significantly less people; today a few small tour groups were more content to explore the museums and public areas of The Vaticanny Place, while a pilgrim or two milled about the courtyard. At the fountain, there was a strange robed beast, three feet, no taller. A simple cotton hood concealed most of its face, but did not attempt to hide its long white hair and beard, reaching down to its feet. Its beady eyes were weighed down by bushy white eyebrows. A thick tail peeked out from under its gown, dangling from the fountain’s edge. It clasped a wooden staff with its stubby fingers no taller than it. Accompanying him was a man twice his height. This man had dark brown skin that made his wrinkles less visible to the naked eye. A pair of rabbit eats sprouted from his mop of salt-and-pepper hair, though one black-and-brown dappelled ear flopped at the tip. He was dressed in a myriad of colourful fabrics, the mess of stripes, polka dots, and swirls in clashing colours was enough to blind anyone.
“So you see Mjnske,” the short beast said, “In a universe with only six hundred inhabitable planets – of which half are truly populated in every sense of the word, the possibility that every God is connected to their colleague is fairly high.”
The rabbit-man nodded, one hand supporting the other hand’s elbow, a finger pressing on his chee. “Not all the Gods are Foreigns, I have it on good authority that at the Upper Senate, their one-quarter Foreigns quota is strictly enforced. Prevents them from usurping too much power, I hear.”
“They have to, Mjnske. These Foreigns, the Commons even, they get power-hungry. Who wouldn’t want to play God? Build a planet, govern a mass of sheep under your beck and call, it’s the siren’s song, that’s what it is. Personally I wouldn’t want to be one of them.”
“Let us assume that out of six hundred planets, three hundred are governed by Foreigns. Each Foreign hails from their own planet, also governed by a God…”
“It comes to a point where a colleague is the God of your world. Now if you’re a Deus Inferior, and the God of your land is Deus Superior, there’s no cause for worry – hiearchy and common courtesy will always dictate that the lower treat their seniors with due respect and reverence.”
“But if your God is in the Lower Senate, then the dilemma of respect arises…”
“Exactly, my friend.” The short beast stroked his beard. “You’ve just learned all there is to know of governing a body teeming with life, what makes you different from your God? His seniority? His experience? His ability to better maneuver internal politics? The fact that he created you, somewhat? And then what if a colleague were to be a subject from the planet you govern? Do you subjugate him, treat him as your equal, plot his accidental death, what? The question of hiearchy clearly comes into question. This is why Foreigns should not be allowed into Parliament.”
“I beg to differ, K’nig’it,” Mjnske’s ear twitched. “You would then need to restrict the entry of Commons; their behaviour would be no different from the Foreigns after all. A Common meeting the Gods who govern them, the ambition to climbin higher and be on par with the Upper Senate would be an inevitability.”
“The Upper Senate would certainly restrict upward mobility-”
“-Causing dissention in the ranks. “Why should I not be as them simply for my lowly birth,” cries the Common. No K’nig’it, the rules for Foreigns does not apply to Commons. Foreigns like us know that we are creations of a higher power, so when we are told our advancement is limited, we accept – the Created can be a Creator, but they cannot be the Creator of All, that is a Universal Truth.” The rabbit-man paused to gather his thoughts. “Commons are only so because the blood of the Pura Matris does not flow in their veins.”
Mjnske solemnly bowed his head, “Surely if the Pura Matris’ blood did not run thin, they would not be so eager to open their doors.”
“It goes to show that even the world of the Gods cannot stave off change…do you hear a humming sound, my friend?”
From the administration wing, a faint figure sped towards the fountain. The humming was heard only to Mjnske at first, but as it approached, K’nig’it heard the same. As the figure grew clearer, the sound increased in intensity, until a audible string of words were heard.
The figure – a bespectacled young man clad in black slacks and a dishevelled maroon shirt – kicked up a dust cloud, his steps so heavy that the sharp clicking of men’s shoes against cobblestone obnoxiously intruded on the courtyard’s tranquility. His screaming and rushed speech left no measure for a breather, the duo observed. Their eyes followed as he sped off through the ornate iron gates leading to Parliament, and Gobiroth’s Court was once again filled with the bubbling of Gobiroth’s Raging Spout, as peaceful as it had been prior to the interruption.
Mjnske and K’nig’it patted away the dust and grit from their robes (in K’nig’it’s case, from his beard as well), and turned to face each other again.
“Oh that reminds me K’nig’it,” Mjnske’s face lit up, “I met with the most interesting orator last weekend – she had quite the story about a round orange fruit she’d stumbled upon during her travels.”
K’nig’it shuffled closer. “Really? Do tell.”
“Well, I was headed to the bakery to get my morning muffin as usual…”