|Cybernetic culture research unit|
Playing with Worms
One day, on their way North, three travellers encounter a frog-monster. Before it can block their path, the first traveller rushes past and disappears into a raging snow storm.
Enraged by this manoeuvre the frog-monster seizes the other two.
"This is my road," it croaks "and if you want to go any further it will cost you each a sack full of worms."
"O great and slimy beast," replies the second traveller respectfully. "the land is frozen, the earth is hard as iron, and worms are hard to find."
"Then you should seek them amongst the dead," counters the frog-monster implacably.
The two travellers set off on their long search. After much wandering, and many adventures, they arrive at last at fabled Tchukululok, the City of the Worms, where they are greeted by the dead.
They explain their plight, and beg their ancestors for worms.
"The worms are our treasure," the dead answer cunningly "they are all that remain to us. How can you expect us to give them away for nothing? But do not despair. There is a game of chance we value highly. If you remain here and play with us a while perhaps you can win them honestly."
The second traveller is appalled.
"It is evil to play amongst the dead," he declares. "I should rather abandon my journey altogether." Saying this he returns to the South, and never sees the frog-monster again.
The third traveller is not so easily dissuaded.
He agrees to the bargain, and sits down to play.
Luck is with him.
After many games his sack is full of worms.
But just as he is about to leave he notices a familiar figure amongst the throng of gamblers.
It is his missing friend, the first traveller.
"What are you doing here?" he asks, shocked and perplexed.
"No sooner had we parted than I was caught in a terrible storm" his dead companion replies. "Since then this city has become my home," he continues sadly. "Now you have won what you need and must leave me here to sleep with the worms, and to dream of gaming with those that still live."
The third traveller returns to the Frog Monster to give him the worms he has won. The creature smiles hideously and beckons him onwards.
Up ahead an annihilating blizzard is howling. It sounds as if all the dead of Tchukululok were calling him to his fate.
Redneck Version (Overheard in a Black Lake bar).
You call it the Black Lake Legend and it sounds kind of grand. I call it your typical Tookie crap and that’s nearer the reality of the thing. Judge for yourself. I dunno about this singin’ and dancin’ thing they’re doin’ at the casino, but the story’s simple enough anyhow. Starts with a bunch of Tookies travelling, just travelling, you understand. All their stories take that for granted, they’re always about journeys going nowhere in particular, unless things go wrong, and it turns out they’re going somewhere really bad. You can ask me about the Tookie problem ‘round here and I’ll tell you just as clear as you like: the Tookie problem is your average fucken Tookie. Main thing being that they ain’t got no sense of destination, that’s why nothing ever comes of anything they do. It’s a kind of stubborn meaninglessness at the heart of what they are. They ain’t going nowhere and they never were, that’s the simple fucken truth of the matter. Anyhow there’s these wandering Tookies and they walk slap bang into the devil, although it wasn’t the devil, not exackly, but it must’ve seemed like it to them because it got in the way of their going nowhere - if you follow me - danger being that they might end up somewhere, arrive, and there ain’t nothing for them so bad as that. So this devil-creecha won’t let them pass unless they rob the dead - you see we ain’t exackly in bible territory here - so first you’ve got your bumming around, then comes the stealing, now I’d expeck they’d all get drunked-up a bit at this point, but that ain’t in the story as I heard it, instead they set up a gambling pit and during the course of some hoodoo card-sharping shit with the dead win everything they need to pay off the creecha and head-off nowhere. Now you can call that a legend if you want mister, but in my book anything that starts off going nowhere and ends up going nowhere ain’t saying nothing worth hearing.