I want to write about some creatures called gubs in my novel The Big Aha. A gub is a small green pig from the Higher World, about the size of a football, with floppy triangular ears, and in place of a curly tail, a writhing bunch of purple tentacles. One of them might appear in your room, go gub-gub-gub-wheenk! Then streak across the room and disappear right before ramming into your wall.
Thinking about the gubs, I remembered that I wrote about small green pigs once before, in the Freeware volume of my Ware Tetralogy, where they were called raths.
[Find paperback, ebook, or CC versions of The Ware Tetralogy]
So today I’m posting a couple of passages from Freeware dealing with the raths. By way of introducing the material, let me give you a little background on Freeware. People have found a way to program lumps of soft intelligent plastic. The stuff can take on all sorts of forms, such as the large, smart descendents of robots who are now known as moldies. My character Corey Rhizome is making small programmed plastic toys that he calls Silly Putters. He’s family friend of a woman named Darla, and her twin daughters Joke and Yoke.
And now let the “reading” begin…
On the girls’ eleventh birthday, Corey showed up with a set of six brand-new Silly Putters. Chuckling and showing his gray teeth, he upended his knapsack to dump the lively plastic creatures out on the floor. “Remember Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky, girls?” he cried. “Jokie, can you recite the first two verses?”
“Okay,” said Joke and declaimed the wonderful, time-polished words.
’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.”
Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!
As Joke spoke, each of the six new Silly Putters bowed in turn: the tove, a combination badger and lizard with corkscrew-shaped nose and tail; the borogove, a shabby mop-like bird with long legs and a drooping beak; the rath, a small noisy green pig; the Jabberwock, a buck-toothed dragon with bat wings and long fingers; the Jubjub bird with a wide orange beak like a sideways football and a body that was little more than a purple tuft of feathers; and the Bandersnatch, a nasty monkey with a fifth hand at the tip of his grasping tail.
Joke and Yoke shrieked in excitement as the Jabberwocky creatures moved about. The Jubjub bird swallowed the rath and regurgitated it. The freed rath gave an angry squeal that rose into a sneezing whistle. The Jabberwock flapped its wings hard enough to rise a few inches off the floor. The tove alternately tried to drill its nose and its tail into the floor. The borogove stalked this way and that, peering at the others but not getting too close to them. And the Bandersnatch snaked its tail behind Yoke and felt her ass.
“Don’t!” said Yoke, slapping at the Bandersnatch’s extra hand. The Bandersnatch gibbered, rubbed its crotch, capered lewdly, and then seized the back of Joke’s leg, shudderingly hunching against the young girl’s calf.
“I better do some more work on him,” wheezed Corey, grabbing the Bandersnatch and stuffing the struggling Silly Putter back into his knapsack. “I put so much of myself into each of them that I’m never quite sure how they’ll react to new situations. Quit staring at me like that, girls.”
“Uncle Corey’s a frumious Bandersnatch,” giggled Yoke.
“It was so sick how that thing was pushing on my leg?” said Joke.
“Doing it,” whooped Yoke. “Oh, look, the Jubjub bird is going to swallow the rath again and make it outgrabe!”
“The present tense is outgribe,” corrected the literate Joke. “It’s like give and gave.”
[Now we jump to five or ten years later. At this point, a kind of mind-virus is infecting such soft plastic creatures as the larger “moldies” and the small toy Silly Putters. You need to know that an uvvy is a soft plastic telephone. And Corey Rhizome is worried about a Silly-Putter-like toy dog called Rags that some enemies had sent to attack Darla. And now Darla and her daughters phone Corey.]
Joke told her uvvy to call Corey, and moments later Corey picked up. With their uvvies linked, Darla and her daughters could channel Corey together.
“What?” screamed Corey. “Who the f*ck is it?” Instead of using his uvvy, Corey was yelling at an ancient tabletop vizzy phone with a wall-mounted camera and a broken screen. The brah’s only incoming info was audio. The vizzy’s camera showed Corey slumped at a filthy round kitchen table with the rath and Jubjub bird on top of the table, scrabbling over mounds of tattered palimpsest. The table was further cluttered with ceramic dishes of half-eaten food, a clunky Makita piezomorpher, some scraps of imipolex, and, of course, Corey’s vile jury-rigged smoking equipment.
The Jubjub bird opened its mouth hugely and clapped it down on the rath’s curly tail. The rath outgrabe mightily, combining the sound of a bellow, a sneeze, and a whistle. Corey winced and leaned forward into his smoke filter to take a long pull from his filthy hookah.
“Corey,” spoke up Darla before Joke could say anything. “I’ve been worried about you.”
“Darla?” Corey drew his head out of the fume hood and, shocking to see, there was thick gray smoke trickling out of his nose and mouth. “What happened to Rags, Darla? They took my uvvy away. Things are f*cked-up beyond all recognition. How did you deal with Rags?”
“I killed him with the needler, no thanks to you. At least the two Silly Putters that I can see in your place look normal.” The rath extricated its tail from the Jubjub bird’s beak and reared back to drum its green trotters on the Jubjub’s minute, feathered cranium. The Jubjub bird lost its footing and slid off Corey’s table, taking a stress-tuned lava cup with it to clatter about endlessly in the low gravity. The rath outgrabe triumphantly, and the Jubjub bird let out a deep angry caw.
“It’s funny about those two,” said Corey. “Whenever the others try to infect them, they shake it off . They’re stupid, of course, but certainly no stupider than the Jabberwock or the borogove. I think maybe they’re immune because Willy used a cubic homeostasis algorithm on them instead of the usual quadratic one. It’s been a while. I made them for Joke and Yoke’s eleventh birthday, remember?”
“You and your gunjy Bandersnatch,” uvvied Darla nastily.
“The Bandersnatch is bad news,” said Corey. “I admit it.” On the floor, the Jubjub bird and the rath were vigorously playing a game of full-tilt leapfrog; repeatedly smacking into the walls and then bouncing around all over the kitchen floor, cawing and outgribing and biting at each other.
So that’s it for the reading. Check out the whole Ware Tetralogy if you like. And meanwhile I’m looking forward to having fun with my gubs. Raths redux!