The Chronicle of Djonniboy, the Inadequately Stupid
I wish I were dumber.
Or smarter, I guess, but I feel like it’s easier to become the other.
The problem I have is that I’m smart enough to ask questions but not to find answers. I guess, actually, I’m not even smart enough to ask multiple questions. Just one question, again and again: “Why?”
Firstly: why me? I am so much the creature of my God that I was named after him. I am his hero, his champion, his prophet. And yet… I’m no great thinker, no great leader, a loser as often as I am a winner. I am a coward, and a drunkard, sometimes a liar and occasionally a thief. I can barely even keep a pet alive, and yet I’m bound by divine command to carry my God’s message to the world of Godville… Whatever the hell that message is.
My God, who insists he is the one, true God, seems more or less happy with me so long as I do one thing — collect these gold bricks to construct a temple in his honour. He wants this temple in the capital, on the main street, a street completely lined with… temples. Temples built from gold bricks by other heroes of other, false, gods. Some are completed, some are under construction. Those that are completed have strange goings on, awful screams and roars can be heard coming from them in the quietest hours of the night. Enormous boats, all alike, begin appearing behind them, built with agonizing slowness and with an effort from those heroes that makes my work seem easy.
And so I ask myself: Why? Why does this God, who seems to arbitrarily help or hurt me; who plucks me from my adventures to pit me against others like me; whose confusing, unclear messages seem more concerned with what to do from moment to moment than any divine moral code or higher purpose; why does this God want a champion like me, and what is it that this God even wants of me, really?
My life is a series of quests which, when I stop to think about them, are strangely arbitrary, and seem mostly to involve walking long distances and fighting for my life against thousands of monsters. These quests are punctuated by countless trips to town to seek serious medical care, sell all these bizarre trophies I take from the monsters I kill, and the drinking.
The drinking. So much drinking. And so, friend, here is the puzzle that sits at the very core of who I am: does my God choose me as his hero despite my drinking and foolishness… Or is my drinking and foolishness the only way to deal with the absurdity, danger, pain, confusion, terror, and unending, merciless violence of this strange life I have been chosen to lead?
If I were smarter, perhaps I could answer these questions. Perhaps I could interpret the Divine Will, perhaps I could preach the scriptures, perhaps I could see the sense, the point, the plan behind my absurd existence. Perhaps my arbitrary actions in a one-dimensional world of which I am an unremarkable part would shine with purpose. Perhaps, if I were smarter.
But I can’t make myself smarter. I can, though, make myself dumber. I watch my fellow heroes and heroines. We drink together, travel together, and occasionally fight together. They seem untroubled by the meaning and purpose of what they do, and seem satisfied by their fight-hard-drink-hard lives. Each is as certain of the rightness and trueness of their God and the falseness of all others, and none seem to find that simple fact confusing.
I envy them. I envy their simplicity, their clarity of purpose, unfettered by half-seen philosophies, by puzzles glimpsed but unsolved, by tensions unrelieved, by wisdom needed but out of reach.
And so, friend. I wish I were dumber. And unlike cleverness, greater heights of stupidity are within my grasp. Or at least, they will be within my grasp if you pour me another beer.
You see, my friend? To you, I just seem too drunk. You think cutting me off is a kindness, your professional responsibility. And I respect that. I do. But to refuse me my beer is to condemn me, friend. Condemn me to an agony of inadequate stupidity.
My needs are simple and few. Please do not keep them out of reach.
The Chronicle of Djonniboy, the Inadequately Thick
Evening, friend. An ale, if you would. I’m not fussy.
I don’t recognise you, but it’s been a few years since I’ve been around. There was a little unpleasantness with one of your less forgiving bouncers one night. I was a little, uh, upset, I guess. Agitated. Your predecessor tried to cut me off at the bar, and I may have, well, argued. Just a little. I recall it being a calm, reasonable conversation — well, monologue perhaps — about the hero’s condition and the importance of the soothing peace of alcohol. I recall it that way, but your esteemed colleagues admittedly had a much clearer perspective than I did. There may have been an… altercation.
Aaaah, yes. That’s good. That first long gulp down a dry throat. The comfort of the encroaching fog.
Don’t worry, friend, I’ll give you no trouble today. Well, I don’t intend to give you trouble, but of course, this might decide otherwise.
Hmm? My diary, of course. You what? Jeez, you really are new, huh? Look around. You really haven’t noticed these things? Half your patrons are carrying them around. There’s one on the table there. Two over there. Hey! Mate! Yeah, you. Buy you a beer if you show us your diary. See? Everyone’s got one on them. Oh, yeah, two of the same, yeah.
Oooh, yes. The ale here’s definitely better than it was three years ago.
Hmm? Oh, that was just a little joke. About the diary making trouble. Well, probably a joke. These diaries, they… You ever keep a diary, friend? Exactly. Why would you? But I’ve kept this diary religiously — literally, religiously — for… as long as I can remember. Which, if I count back the seasons, is another puzzle. Or maybe the same puzzle. I’ve been keeping this diary for about 4 years, since the very first day I became a hero for my God. I was nothing before I became a hero.
Well now, your beer seems to go down quickly. I’ll have another.
I mean that literally, you know. I was nothing before I became a hero. Before I became a champion of my God. Is this beer stronger than usual? Seems strong. Good and strong. Now, I know my God is true and all-knowing and all-powerful. Obviously, I know that because he’s told me so, and if you can’t believe your God who can you believe, eh? And of course I’ve seen miracles, been healed, been resurrected again and again. I’m going to punch that particular card for the 50th time any moment now, believe it or not. Yeah, cheers, here’s to 50 more-or-less-glorious deaths.
Mmph. That was still pretty full. Another, friend. Hey, you again, how many times you died for your God? Sorry sorry, Goddess. Ooh, good man! Another for my scarred friend here too. Here’s to perpetual reincarnation, and the utter unattainability of peace! Cheers!
Sorry sorry, friend, sorry. A little bitterness escaping there. I mean don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean to sound ungrate— burp —grateful. Another two, friend, and one for you too if you want. Y’welcome.
The diary. See, it’s, it’s like this lantern. This’n here. Now… My God, my great and powerful God, is supposed to be the flame. A burning flame of righteousness ‘n truth in the foetid darkness of the backalley tavern of life. No, no, no offence intended friend. I like foetid backalley taverns, obviously, ‘m’ere aren’t I? So. So. God, he’s the flame. And I’m the moth. Drawn irresistibly to the flick’rin’ holy light. ‘N the diary, well, s’supposed to be the shadow there, flitting across the wall. Just a shadow cast by my God’s light shining on me. It’s, it’s the shadow. Mmhmm. ‘Nother round? Friend? Mmm. That one was particularly good.
Oooh, see that? Her over there. Heroine with the real hot outfit. You saw, you saw, I saw you see. Redheads, friend, lit’rally slay me. Keep losin’ in th’rena, too distracted. Anyway, anyway. She just walked in, right? Walked in. Looked thirsty. Started walking to the bar, woulda sat right here. ‘N then she sudd’nly stopped, pulled the, the diary out, scribbl’d in it, ‘n left. Real sudden like. Marched out all awkward like, like, like a marionette. Eh? You saw, you saw. Bit weird right? Now, now maybe, maybe it was her God. Goddess. Nev’r tell from lookin’. Whichever. Maybe was divine influence, an irresistible holy whisper in that pretty head. But I betcha. I betcha she heard no voice. I betcha that diary entry jus’ says somethin’ like “Weren’t thirsty. Gon’ get back to questing.” Eh? You know what I’m talkin’ ‘bout, friend. Usu’ly, usu’ly, s’fine, you quest, you fight, you drink, you pray, n’ you write it all down. But sometimes… don’ sometimes you get the feelin’ you’ve done something because you were about to write it down, not th’other way roun’?
Same again. Redheads make me thirsty.
So, so, here it is. Eh? Who’s the shadow here? Am I the marionette, the moth, or’m I jus’ the shadow on the wall? C’m’ere, c’m’ere, listen. Listen. Do I project m’self into these pages, or do these pages project me s’mhow? Am I merely a shadow, a, a, a… a story, projected onto some, some… divine screen, like a, like a shadow-puppet show for the Gods. S’that all we are? A shadow, a story? ’N do I write the story, or does that story write me?
’Nother, frien’. Yes, I’m sure, ’nother.
It’s like… It’s like ’m a livin’, breathin’ telegram. ‘N like a telegram, I’m jus’ paper thin. Sure, I might look thicker’n that to you, ‘n I sure as ‘ell bleed if you stick me, but ‘m hollow. A hollow shell, jus’ as thick as a shadow. Or a telegram. I’m a, I’m a… a hollow-gram.
Guild doctor thinks ‘m all jumbled, up ‘ere. Calls it deperss– deperson’l– depersenelzation disorder. I tol’ ‘er, I said, s’not me that’s disordered. S’the whole world. Whole damn world jus’ as thick as a shadow. Doc gives me pills, worthless. ‘Spensive ‘n worthless. Only one thing that helps. S’beer.
Speakin’ of. ‘Nother. Yes, dammit, jus’ gimme ‘nother beer. M’not thick ‘nuff yet.
Beer makes me thick. Foggy, ‘n thick. Bett’r a fog than a shadow, eh frien’? I try real hard, drink real hard, sometimes I even forget. S’not easy, that. How d’ya forget yer a shadow? Get thick ’s ya can, tha’s how. ‘N this’s how, beer. Mmm, cheers.
Oooh, thass the stuff. Lemme, lemme get s’nother round. Y’look a li’l thin t’me, le’s get thick, eh? Barkeep, ‘nother two. Huh? Frien’, frien’, jus’ one more. No no, don’ be like that. M’not think ‘nuff yet. Thick, thick. Dammit, jus’ gimme a beer, ‘kay? I’ll, I’ll be quiet. Quiet as a shadow. Can I jus’ get another damn beer?
Oookay. Okay. A’right. M’goin’. M’goin’.