Friday, February 25, 2011

The World's Dust (lore)

The first time Billobi sat his foot on the treeless island of Skiff-in-Loch, he was immediately struck by an uneasy feeling that would keep coming back every time he visited the island. The scenery didn't really help, with its sharp cliffs and cold, naked surface, but he'd seen worse. The constant babbling of old Badsey and the monsters that (according to him) inhabited the area was another source of discomfort, but as a reporter for the Inquisitive, Billobi had definitely heard far grimmer tales.

The editor of the Badgerbrough Inquisitive wanted Billobi to find and interview a "strange" woman that supposedly lived on the naked island. After checking with the talkative ferryman, his first clue to finding her was to visit the island's only pub owned by a lady Darnton. But, after first forgetting about the fuel fee and then upsetting the old lady by asking if she was any strange, Billobi nearly got thrown out of the establishment.

His next clue was to head out to the lighthouse on the south tip. But after two hours of banging on the front door without any results, Billobi gave up and headed back to the pub. He spent nearly all of his travelling funds to make up for his previous escapade, and managed to pick up rumours about lone people travelling to the west side of the island now and then. Lady Darnton called it "wasted pilgrimages", since they came back just as crazy as when they left.

Early the next morning he set out for the other side, using a two-seated cart pulled by a monstrous being called a "legger"; it resembled two human legs (only meatier), ending in a round stomach, to which the cart was fastened. The bright green skin of the legger made it easy to spot in the otherwise colourless environment. Apparently, to steer one would shout the desired direction and hope for the best.

After a couple of hours of travelling, Billobi came to a conclusion: it would be impossible to live this far away from the pub and the bridge with not a single tree, plant or animal in sight, or water. The ground was dried up and pale grey, just as everywhere else. It was a depressing landscape, to say the least. After a quick lunch he set off again as quickly as possible.

The west side of the island didn't offer any variation; still treeless, still grey, still lifeless - with the exception of a little girl, who stood all alone on the shore, gazing into the horizon.

"Bloody hell", she said with her tiny voice as Billobi's legger came closer.

"Excuse me?" he answered her.

She turned around and faced him; she looked like any ordinary girl, with brown skin and dark hair. Her clothes were dirty but not torn. She could've been anyone's little sister.

"You are Billobi."

"Yes, but how -"

"You see, that's why I cursed." She turned around and faced the water again with a sigh.

Billobi stepped down from the cart, and patted the legger absent-minded.

"Where are your parents?"

She shook her head, clearly annoyed, and said: "No, that's not the question."

"I don't... What are you doing out here all by yourself? Are your -"

"You've travelled all the way from Badgerbrough to ask me that? From the east side of the mainland to the west, over the strait by boat, from the east side of this dead island on...that, all this way - only to ask where my parents are? I could ask you the same! Ah, bloody hell."

"How... Why are you..."

"Look. Over there."

She raised her hand and pointed into the distance. There, far away over the water, Billobi spotted dark clouds as wide as the horizon.

"A storm?" he asked, while taking notes. "I don't understand, are you a weather-watcher?"

"Sweet sourdough, you're thicker than old Badsey's nose hair! That's not a storm, that's the dust of the world! Good lords, you're slower than honey."

"I'm sorry I... Who are you, and how did you know my name? And what is this dust you talking about?"

He kept fumbling with his notes, trying not to forget to ask anything.

"And...and are you any strange?" he added while reading from a small note. "I mean, I'm supposed to find this strange woman..."

"The dust of the world is what makes things possible", the girl said. "It's not matter, even though it builds things. It's not magic, even though it feeds it. And it's certainly not life, even though it's part of it."

"So what is it? You're talking about that thing, the storm, right?" He wrote 'dust not magic but nearly, is a storm ??'.

"The dust is the flour of which other things are baked. If many weak entities thinks one strong thought, it may become true. They take from the dust and makes a new thing; a being, matter, or means of magic."

Billobi nodded, and added to his notebook: 'or flour ??'

"What's..." - Billobi flipped through his notes - "what's an entity? Is that you?"

"Yes", the girl said. "And you, and even old Badsey. Or that", she said and pointed at the legger. Apparently it was tired, since it sat down on the ground.

"And who are you exactly?"

"Well, since you don't seem to be able to deduct simple things for yourself..." the little girl said and sighed. "There have always been rumours of a strange woman living on this island, and while lady Darnton may have had her ideas from time to time, she's as extraordinary as a pebble on the bottom of the sea."

"So, you are that strange woman? Or girl..."

"I came to be, yes."

"But you haven't always been that?"

"Only since I was created."

"You mean born?"

"No, created."

"Is that another way of saying 'born'?"

"Sometimes, yes, but not now."

"Why not now, then?"

"I'm sorry, did you fell off the cart and hit your head on your way here? Should I have this conversation with the legger instead? I wasn't born, I was created! Many weak entities thought one thought: 'there's a strange woman living on the island of Skiff-in-Loch'. Rumours linger on and grow in the soil inside peoples' heads, until one day enough of them believed in it at the same time. Dust was taken, and here I am."

Billobi wrote as fast as he could, and didn't stop even as he asked: "And who do you know this?"

"Good! The first nearly intelligent question you've asked! Well, I don't know how familiar you are with the breeding habits of human beings, but..."

"We can't publish that", Billobi said and stopped writing.

The girl cried out a loud pitched laugh, and continued: "Since I'm made entirely out of the dust - unlike any other being - I share its knowledge."

"So the dust can think?"

"The dust consists of small particles - many small entities. How do you think the world was created in the first place?"

"I... I haven't thought of it, actually."

"I'm not surprised! At first, there's only dust, and it consists of many small entities."


"Exactly. And when they start thinking, they sometimes share the same thought, and poof - things gets created. But then the amount of dust is decreased, and thus there aren't as many entities to think as when they started. Do you follow?"

"...yes..." Billobi mumbled, uncertain on how to formulate this in his notebook. He drew a cloud instead.

"So. More and more things are created, drawn from the dust, and less and less similar thoughts are coincided, and when they are, it's not enough entities thinking about it. As the world increases and is populated, the dust decreases. One day it'll all be gone."

"The dust?"


"And then what?"

"Well, no more magic, for sure. Regardless of what manifestation you've chosen, they all take from the dust. Even the little toddlers in school that tries to turn apples into pears are using up the dust. But that's just one of many things the dust is used for."

"So all magic will stop working? Then what?"

"Well, then the Grinding begins! The crushing of all things, turning it into dust again. And then the circle is complete. From dust to things, from things to dust, forever more."

Billobi went back to the legger and sat down next to it. He closed his notebook and tucked it away in his pocket along with the pen. He sighed.

"It's sounds so...pointless."

"Trust me, it's not", the girl said and kicked a rock. "It's its purpose. Do you cry every time you have lunch?"


"No, you don't, because it's its purpose. It's meant to be eaten."

"That's a pretty bad comparison", he said.

"But it made you smile, and that's more important."

She turned around and faced the water, and said: "But now, it's time for you to leave, or else I'll have the Grinding start with you, here and now."

"But I have more q-"

The girl snapped with her fingers, and a trail of dust left Billobi's left index finger - the top of his nail had disappeared! He got on his feet, commanded the legger to do the same, and got on the cart.

"Don't return, Billobi", the girl said. "I'm not your friend."

He nodded, and instructed the legger to head back to lady Darnton's pub. It immediately turned around and started running, as if it too had a desire to leave the shore.

A week later, Billobi was back home in Badgerbrough. He had completed the article and posted it to the Inquisitive while staying at the pub in Skiff-in-Loch. Once home, he found a letter from his editor. It said:

"Hi Bill. I skimmed your story. Rather long and boring, but I saw the word 'magic' in there and something about legs, so I rewrote it. 'GIRL ATTACKED BY LEGMONSTER - NOW BEST FRIENDS'. Nice right? People loves that stuff. Good work otherwise."


  1. The editor's re-write made me laugh. It's great how much gravitas this had just the words, "I'm not your friend" seemed so hostile in contrast to your normal genial tone. Always a pleasure.

  2. Yeah that editor sure knows his audience, although it can be quite frustrating for his writers!

    And thank you!

  3. I agree with the above. This was one of the more sinister stories you have written. I got a good feel for the harshness of the atmosphere Billobi was in. I was sucked into the story.

    I liked the ending as well. Back to reality, in a sense!

  4. Thank you Antepants! I was unsure about the story up till I wrote that last bit about the editor - then it all made sense. He's a real prick (and not in the Swedish sense!).