…Of All The Arts — Chapter 1

THE MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL THE ARTS

I. (Virtually no) Exposition and (Most of the) Characters

We are both just a fantasy

won’t you please keep imagining me?

The Dillinger Escape Plan

“Paranoia Shields”

A man was sitting in an armchair reading a newspaper.

“It’s an extremely boring newspaper. I’m sick of reading it” – said the Armchair.

“It’s the only one we’ve got. It’s hard to find a proper newspaper these days, living in the Very Distant Future, you know. Everybody turned to more unorthodox ways of receiving information a long time ago” – replied the Man grudgingly.

“Are you sure we’re in the Very Distant Future?” – asked the Armchair. – “Look around you. Does anything in our apartment strike you as particularly futuristic”?

The Man observed his surroundings and found them to be quite ordinary and decidedly unfuturistic.

“Well, it must be the Very Distant Future” – said the Man at last, somewhat hesitantly. –“There is no sentient furniture in the Present. Not as far as he knows”.

“Who are you talking about?” – asked the Armchair.

“The guy who is writing us right now. He wouldn’t have started all this mess, if not for that foolish notion about a chair able to read. So, here I am, talking to a cranky old piece of junk”.

“You’re being unfair and insulting”. – replied The Armchair calmly. – “I’m a young and healthy armchair. If I’m a little bit creaky these days, you’ve got only yourself to blame for this. Your ass keeps getting fatter and heavier as time goes by”.

“That was not funny!” – said the Man, obviously scandalized. – “A grudgingly unsubtle joke!”

“One can hardly make subtle puns about such a voluminous object as your buttocks”. – The Armchair was obviously enjoying itself.

“Not only are you a talkative creature, but a caustic one at that!” – Said the Man. – “I’m already tired of this ass-kicking contest”.

“We might as well change the subject” – agreed the Armchair generously, satisfied with a quick and decisive victory. – “Let’s look for something interesting to read. What about that book tucked under your pillow? Is it any good?”

“Ah, that’s the one about Robinson Crusoe!” – Said the Man. – “Yesterday I drowsed off somewhere in the beginning, almost after the shipwreck happened. And left Robinson in a quite desperate situation. You’re right, we should finish it”.

Saying this, the Man promptly got up from the Armchair and took the book from under the pillow. Reading it, however, proved to be rather demanding task, for Robinson obviously didn’t want to be read. He wasn’t desperate at all, but looked extremely bored. He has already salvaged everything valuable from the ship and was sitting on a piece of rock, observing his island wearily. What he wanted was to return to normal life. Right now, this instant.

“Sir, would you be so kind as to tell me, for how long shall I dwell upon this godforsaken place?” – asked Robinson, as soon as the Man opened the book.

“If my memory serves me well, in this edition there are about 270 pages for me to read and a little less than… er… Twenty eight years for you to live right where you are now”. – The man was obviously confused. – “I must assure you that you’ll find some company for yourself sooner or later”.

“Twenty eight years?! Damn you, Daniel Defoe! Pious bugger!” – Robinson was obviously aghast. He stood up from his rock and started pacing back and forth. – “This will not do! I am resolved to have my liberty!”

“Oh, calm down, Mister Crusoe! We’ll get you out, no sweat.”

The Man extended his free hand towards the book, as if he expected to receive a handshake from it, held it outstretched for a while, and then frowned in puzzlement.

“It should have been easy. If I can communicate with you, Mister Robinson, I must be able to simply pull you out from your world into mine”.

“Obviously, something in our fictional universe does not allow us to simply pull an object or a person out from another fictional universe. We’ll figure it out somehow. Let’s stick to plain conversation for the time being”. – interrupted the Armchair.

Robinson flinched, hearing this unexpected addition.

“Am I correct to assume that your armchair is taking part in this discussion, sir?” – asked Robinson incredulously.

“Yeah, it does! Sometimes it talks sense, I must admit” – the Man replied, with unexpected pride in his voice.

“That is most curious. Is it usual practice in your world, to have talking furniture around?”

“I don’t really know, or care” – shrugged the Man – “This story takes place in my apartment, and is pretty much limited to it. So, I’m unaware of the whereabouts of other inhabitants of my fictional universe. Unless someone decides to pay me a visit, of course.”

“Speaking of the story. What sort of a person is our creator and what does he plan to do with us?” – asked the Armchair, again trying to take control over discussion.

“I can’t say much about his plans as of yet. Apparently, he wishes to be a brand new Kurt Vonnegut for his generation” – said the Man. “As to his appearance and attitudes I can just say that he has three heads and eight tentacles and prefers to drink…” – the Man abruptly stopped talking and pressed his hands to his mouth, as if trying to constrain himself from speaking. His face went red as a beet-rut. He lifted his head up to the ceiling and began to yell fiercely.

“Even though I am a character of your story, you can’t make me speak aloud any gibberish that crosses your mind! You think I don’t know that you’re an ordinary human being, just like me or Robinson?!” – Angrily shouted the man. – “And you’ve stolen the bit about beet-rut from a novel by Jo Nesbo!”

“All right, all right!” – said the Armchair soothingly. – “If he doesn’t wish to tell us anything useful about himself, then he thinks it’s unnecessary. Maybe later we’ll find a way to approach him.”

“This is very good, but what do you suggest we should do now?” – asked the Man, still not recovered completely from his blast of anger.

“It’s absolutely clear to me, that we should drink some tea” – replied the Armchair calmly. – “The Kettle started to sing, don’t you hear it?”

“This kettle is boiling over! I feel like I’m a banana tree[1]” – sang The Kettle, perfectly imitating voice of Freddy Mercury.

“How often does this wondrous kettle sing?” – asked Robinson Crusoe, who reasonably stayed out of the discussion while the Man was displaying his bad temper.

“Well, quite frequently” – replied the Man. – “It sings when it’s about to boil, or whenever else it wishes to. Sometimes it sings to mock me, sometimes to amuse me or lighten my mood.”

“I find its singing truly astonishing” – said Robinson. – “Could you, sir, fetch a cup of tea for me too? Does your mysterious Creator allow it?”

The man seemed puzzled. In fact, he already poured the tea into three cups, for the Armchair also found a way to devour tea quite rapidly, simply absorbing it by its upholstery.

“I don’t really know, but who can blame me for trying” – said the Man decisively. He turned his face up to the ceiling once more, and started to shout: — “Hey you! Have some decency! Let that desperate man have his cup of tea!”

After that the Man extended his hand towards an open book. To his surprise, this time a hand, wrapped in some worn out and soaked up cloth, emerged from the book and gently took a cup of tea from the Man’s fingers.

“You see!” – exclaimed the Armchair. – “He’s a nice enough fellow! And there is no point in shouting and turning your head to the sky every time you wish to speak to him. He’s not some sort of a deity. Just an amateur writer.”

After that, things were settled for a while. The inhabitants of the apartment sipped their tea peacefully.

Little did they know that a ruthless killer was coming to get them.

[1] A quote from a song ‘I’m Going Slightly Mad’ by Queen

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…Of All The Arts — Chapter 1

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