A birthday story, written for the Writer's Cramp Challenge 9/2/19. 704 words.
| Subverting Ronald Grumphett
Ronald Grumphett was a powerful man and he made sure that everyone knew it. Authoritarian to the extreme, he ruled Nofunlandia from his office in the Ivory Manor. Grim and dreary, that was the order of the day for the citizens. Only those select few were allowed to party inside that building, behind the drapes, and that was solely at the discretion of their ruler.
He had a dislike, bordering on abhorrence, about anything fun, unless it was his own, of course. Caught smiling, a citizen would be sentenced to a month of wall building. Laughter was even worse - hod carrying from sunrise to sunset, for a minimum of two months would be meted out to any cackler.
The citizens were resigned to their lives of misery. Their leader was a strange sort; there were mutters of insanity, for who would want to be coming IN to Nofunlandia. The walls, for all of his protestations about keeping immigrants out, were really being constructed to keep the people in.
As with everywhere else, people had birthdays. Another year older was no excuse for celebration, not unless your name was Ronald Grumphett; but a mark could be made on a calendar - just so long as it was not used as an excuse for a smile.
Balloons, cakes, parties, streamers, even cocktails were forbidden. And there would be no hope for either the sender or recipient should a card be given. Ronald Grumphett had a pair of stocks in the grounds of the Ivory Manor for just such instances. A spectacle would be made, when the Grumphetteers pelted the guilty with rotten fruit or vegetables. If none were available, fir cones or pebbles would do.
The people of Nofunlandia could have tried to rebel, but how could they win in a fight against the heavily armed Grumphetter Guard. The few that had tried were still bricklaying; their hands long since calloused and blistered and their posture bent from stooping.
No, much better than rebelling was subverting!
For all his self-importance, Ronald Grumphetter was not very efficient at keeping track of his citizens. He did not much care where they were, so long as they were not enjoying themselves. One out of every hundred citizens simply 'disappeared', and no one in authority was any the wiser.
These select centurions were whisked away to the subterranean world of the Partyfolk. Long forgotten beneath Nofunlandia were tunnels and platforms; and all along the way were great halls, just waiting for birthday celebrations. These were decked out with balloons and pitas; tables were heavily laden with food. Not the everyday plain fare, but crisps and fancy sandwiches, sausage rolls and, best of all, cake!
On this particular Monday, it was Wyatt Penman's 19th birthday. He had marked it on his calendar, then without even a wry lift of the lip, he had made his way to work where he had sat behind his screen, fingers on the keyboard and had set to work. Except he hadn't.
A member of the Partyfolk, selected for a similarity in appearance, had popped out of a manhole cover, shoving Wyatt quickly down it. Nobody noticed, or rather, reacted. The citizens were familiar with the antics of the Partyfolk and their subverting and flouting of the rules.
While Wyatt, his friends and family, were singing and dancing and gorging on cake, their Partyfolk replacements buckled down, kept a low profile, and made the whole thing possible. After dark, when the revellers were worn out from their revelry, they would pop back out of the manholes, and the Partyfolk doubles would vanish back to their subterranean world.
Wyatt went to sleep with the taste of cake in his mouth, the sound of laughter and music lingering in his ears. In the morning he would be back at his workplace, tapping away at the keyboard, but at least his special day would have been celebrated. That, alone, would keep him going until his next underground visit. His mother's birthday, in two months time, would see him at his next party.
Ronald Grumphett could keep his Ivory Manor, and his unfair ways. Let him think he was omnipotent, a ruler amongst men. The citizens, and the Partyfolk, knew better!