The Duality of Nothingness and other Mumbo Dumbo

Date: Today of course
The Smelly-Wellie-Tele-Graph

Another class exercise from the Fantastic Fiction module of the Master's in Writing for Children at Winchester University, 2007 - 08. We were presented with a number of objects and each student had to chose at least one and then write a creative piece inspired by the object.

I chose an elephant figurine which was pretty much as described in the story, looking as though the elephant had been cut in half and the back half replaced with a grey net which nevertheless kept the shape as though it was a cloth draped over the elephant's rear end. There was a smaller elephant inside it. I also chose a very small round container, just about big enough for me to dip the end of my index finger in to it.

The Duality of Nothingness and other Mumbo Dumbo

"What do you see?"

Peering out from the bushes, it was pretty obvious what he saw. "Ehhh... an elephant?"


"And some trees?"

"What else do you see? Is the elephant doing anything?"

"Yeah. Eating the trees."

"And how is it managing to do that?"

Davvo gave a deep sigh. "It's lifting up its trunk, grabbing some branches and shoving them in its gob. It's not very difficult. I think it's probably done it before. Quite often."

Carter made a sound as though he was meditating on OM, but the intonation was wrong. "Hmmm!" He held out his hand, palm upwards. Resting in the V formed by the head line and the life line there sat a small, round, wooden container, about half an inch in diameter and maybe an inch deep. It looked like a tiny cooking pot but with no handles, or maybe a honey pot or a sugar bowl, with a lid. There were some brightly coloured markings all the way round, near the rim. Carter held it out towards Davvo and took off the lid. It was empty.

"What do you see?" he said.

"Aw, don't start that again," Davvo was getting exasperated. "Nothing. I see nothing. N-O-T-H-I-N-G. That's what I see."

"That's what I see too," said Carter. "Nothing."

Raising his other hand he curled three fingers and held them down with his thumb, then dipped his index finger in the pot. He moved the end of his finger

around as best he could, brought it out again, then put the finger in his mouth, as far as the second knuckle. His expression suggested that the nothing was good.

Then he held the pot out towards Davvo.

Sniggering at the absurdity, but still cautiously, Davvo did the same.

"Now what do you see?"

Davvo saw an elephant and some trees. As he looked a bit more attentively he also saw sky, a couple of small clouds, sunlight. Nothing unusual. There were leaves on the trees, there were insects in the air, there was a kind of a shimmering in front of the elephant. Wait a minute. That wasn't right.

The elephant was definitely shimmering though, and now great holes were appearing in its skin. Or at least in the back half. The holes got larger and larger until it looked like the back end of the elephant was composed of a huge, grey string vest. Davvo giggled. It was ludicrous, and what was even more ludicrous was that inside of the elephant there was a smaller elephant. Exactly the same in every way. But smaller. Mimicking all the movements of the larger elephant.

"Is it pregnant?" he asked, but Carter said nothing.

And now Davvo realised that the small elephant, the inner elephant - he giggled again at the phrase - wasn't mimicking the big one at all. The big one's movements seemed now to be in slow motion. Or maybe Davvo's vision had gone into slow motion. Whatever it was, he could see now that the small elephant made the movements first and the larger one followed, almost like the smaller one was operating the larger one.

"How does it do that?" he said.

"I don't know," Carter replied, "That's one of the things I'm trying to work out."