In a time when things were bleak, with plagues, witchcraft and inquisitions the party-pieces of fate and corruption, nothing quite so messed up your day like a village idiot. Where there was typhoid, she’d be spitting in your face in lisped lunacy. Where there was suspicion of the occult, he’d be running around in delight pointing at every woman in the vicinity and yelling “Witch, witch”, then giggling as the poor wretches were dragged off to the river.
It got so bad that tribal chiefs, bishops, rabbis, muezzin and shamen throughout the world were afflicted by a pernicious attack of cooperation. Tapping into the great shared consciousness we all know is accessed by a red intercom in the secret shelf they all take great lengths to hide, the reached out, discussed the problem and came to an agreement. The plan was to gather them all up and ship them off to the New Land where there was a lot of space and one tribe knew of a hollow butte like a labyrinth. Their chief swore that they’d never be able to find their way out.
Unfortunately they never reached their destination. A rather extensive rogue hunting party fell upon the detention party and slaughtered them, taking their goods and horses. Because of the suspicion about madmen, the idiots were allowed to go free — all three hundred of them. The braves laughed as they galloped off, certain that the elements would take care of them, without any bad luck risked.
Him Kerr (his parents couldn’t be bothered thinking up a name for a baby with a beard) stared after the disappearing horses.
“I’m thirsty,” Prudence announced. No-one knew her father, and her mother had fallen foul of one of the idiots who loved to shout “Witch!”
The rest sat back and waited for a cue. On the journey it had been discovered that these two were the great thinkers of the group.
Him had wet himself during the attack. “I smell water,” he assured them, pointing directly ahead, which just happened to be the general direction of Utah.
“Well, I’m going this way,” Prudence tutted and struck out in a different direction which, if she had the stamina and life-expectancy, might have led her to California.
Of course, these destinations are rhetorical, since neither state existed at the time. The group decided to split in half and follow each. Being idiots, the division was less than perfect. Most headed towards the virtual California.
There was a conference of sorts in the little-known colony of Garrick, California.
“We suck at this,” Patience said. “Mum sucked at it, and Granny Prudence sucked at it.”
Two generations of privation had instilled a bit of intelligence in the idiot line: they could now avoid the poisonous berries and manage not to squash the edible ones against their forehead when trying to eat. However, archery was still beyond them. Attempts to master it had also introduced a new concept into the idiot gene: hiding behind trees when someone was practising.
The six idiots around her nodded.
“We’ll have a competition,” Juan exclaimed.
“Eh?” Patience raised a quizzical eyebrow: she’d shaved her other one off brushing her teeth. God alone knows how. “How will that help? We all know how bad we are.”
Juan had an odd turn of mind. His father had been Killer Kerr, a fugitive who had passed through their little colony, marked the beauty of his imbecilic mother and done nasty things to her. He’d stayed for a month. Apparently she’d liked nasty things. In any case, some of those sociopathic tendencies had dribbled into Juan’s makeup.
“Yeah, but we can make others feel worse than us.”
The retinue of idiots, or Famulitium idiotae, nodded.
“They see they’re not as good as us at bows and arrows in the contest; feel really bad and pay us with food.”
It sounded really cool, but something didn’t quite sound right to Patience. Her brow furrowed – which was handy in planting season. Nope, she couldn’t pinpoint the flaw.
Three of the retinue spoke at once. The conflicting tones and timbres were like nails on a blackboard.
“What if they’re better?”
“Why would they give us food?”
“Who are “they”?”
Juan sneered at two of them and stabbed the third for pre-emptive emphasis.
“Because we’ll do the judging. Because we’ll kill them if they don’t. Because – oh you don’t care anymore, do you?”
Patience tutted just like her Granny Prudence. She walked over to Juan took the knife from his hands, wiped off the blood and put it back beside the deer carcass they’d found last week. “Oh you are a scoundrel, Juan.” She mused a bit. “It’s a fair question, though. Who will we invite to our archery contest?” She’d found a poster from a travelling show with a picture of a savage shooting a bow on it. The legend had been “–ness ___zing archery–”. Most of the writing was faded, but she’d got the idea and practiced the words over and over.
Juan pouted. “Summun new.”
The remaining Famulitium idiotae nodded, and adopted poses they reckoned looked like intelligent thinking.
“Anthropologists will argue that this group here,” Honyn grinned at the tour group as they stood in the shade of the air-conditioned bus parked in the road as near the dig as possible, “… were so engrossed in some great mystery that they forgot themselves and died of exposure, thirst, and hunger.” He moved out of the way of an assistant archaeologist, climbed a few steps back towards the group, and shaded his eyes. “Now I’ve got both Ohlone and Miwok blood in me, and I can confirm what I suspected way back there in the shade with you.” He scrambled the rest of the way to the bus. “They were just dumb white eyes.”
Derryman, Perry McDaid, has produced works both on an individual basis and in collaboration with both poetry and prose. His current novel, Paladin of Tarrthála (The Dissector’s Cut), is available through FeedARead and Amazon. He has said — “I’d sooner be read cheaply than be too cheap to be read.” He resides with his family in Derry, Northern Ireland, snuggled beneath the Donegal hills, and walks the country roads creating the humorous, the creepy, and the poignant.