Time Frame: This story takes place when I was 17, meaning Tim was 21, Guindyl was 19, Jake was 11, Paige was 16, and Faye was 7. If your character exclusively appears in the Lands Beyond, you shouldn't be your age when I was 17 (I'm older than almost everybody, that'd make almost everyone still a child O_O), you should be a little older.

Part 1: Gracie's World


Gracie (walking home alone from school): Today's going to be so boring, home alone, because Tim decided to take all my brothers and sisters out to his college party. I'm glad he had the sense to leave Faye and Jake out, they're too young for whatever his party is about... But even they have somewhere to go with mummy and daddy! I would go, but I'd be as bored as being home alone. This world is so dull...

I sigh so hard, a sparrow nearby stops singing and flies away.

I don't look up. I simply continue home, through the dull streets of London, too bored and tired to call a cab.

I reach my house, and unlock the front door.

Gracie (flops on couch): Now, let's see what's to do... eat a pineapple, read comics, watch boring Friday shows, make something with dull cardboard boxes... What...?

I see an old blue police box. I go up to it and feel the old wood.

Gracie: What do we have here...?

On the front, there's a sign that reads:

๐‘ƒ๐‘‚๐ฟ๐ผ๐ถ๐ธ ๐‘‡๐ธ๐ฟ๐ธ๐‘ƒ๐ป๐‘‚๐‘๐ธ


๐น๐‘‚๐‘… ๐‘ˆ๐‘†๐ธ ๐‘‚๐น๐‘ƒ๐‘ˆ๐ต๐ฟ๐ผ๐ถ

๐ด๐ท๐‘‰๐ผ๐ถ๐ธ & ๐ด๐‘†๐‘†๐ผ๐‘†๐‘‡๐ด๐‘๐ถ๐ธ

๐‘‚๐ต๐‘‡๐ด๐ผ๐‘๐ด๐ต๐ฟ๐ธ ๐ผ๐‘€๐‘€๐ธ๐ท๐ผ๐ด๐‘‡๐ธ๐ฟ๐‘Œ

๐‘‚๐น๐น๐ผ๐ถ๐ธ๐‘…๐‘† & ๐ถ๐ด๐‘…๐‘†

๐‘…๐ธ๐‘†๐‘ƒ๐‘‚๐‘๐ท ๐‘‡๐‘‚ ๐ด๐ฟ๐ฟ ๐ถ๐ด๐ฟ๐ฟ๐‘†


There's also a taped paper next to the sign, that reads:


Gracie: Grandaddy always talked about these. Cool, I guess. Something to study. Something to do instead of "enjoy" how boring life is.

She enters the booth, to find out it's bigger on the outside.

Gracie: What the...? This sure is new. This place is interesting. Look, a map.

She finds a map and rule book next to a lever on the console in the middle.

Gracie: What an interesting map. It's very strange, the countryside is one I've never heard of or seen before. How does this game work?

Rule book: Find a place you want to travel to on the map. Pull the lever once you're ready, and you'll be transported to the Lands Beyond.

Well, I guess I will travel to...

She randomly points to a place called Dictionopolis.

Gracie: Alright... Dictionopolis it is.

She pulls the lever, and is thrown off her feet.

Gracie: This was unexpected...!

After a while, the machine calms down and seemingly lands.

Gracie: Ouch, broken beak.

I take the map and rule book with me. At the door, I notice a First Aid kit. I pick it up and find a nose bandage.

Gracie: That should help a little. Time to explore this new world...

Beyond Expectations

I open up the door to realize, I am in a completely new place.

Gracie: Huh. Interesting game. Maybe a board game where I'm playing the piece? I'll just roll with it.

I walk along the paved path, and see magnificent trees, growing so fine and undisturbed, with endless fields of flowers of all sorts of shapes and colours. The grass was the sweetest shade of all greens. I heard birds seeing their morning songs, and smiled at all of it. After a while, I spot a sign on a small house to the side of the road saying, "WELCOME TO EXPECTATIONS," carefully carved. "INFORMATION, PREDICTIONS, AND ADVICE CHEERFULLY OFFERED. WAIT HERE AND SHOUT 'ABSQUATULATE'."

Gracie (struggling to pronounce): Absquatulate-

???: My, my, my, my, my, welcome, welcome, welcome, welcome to the land of Expectations, to the land of Expectations, to the land of Expectations. We don't get very much travelers these days; we certainly don't get many travelers these days. Now what can I do for you? I'm AnonymousDuckLover the Whether Man.

Gracie: Is this the right way to Dictionopolis?

Whether Man: Well now, well now, well now, I don't know any wrong road to Dictionopolis, so if this road goes to Dictionopolis at all it must be the right road, and if it doesn't it must be the right road to somewhere else, because there are no wrong roads to anywhere. Do you think it will rain?

Gracie: I thought you were the Weather Man?

Whether Man: Oh, no, I am the Whether Man, not the Weather Man, as it is more important to know whether there will be weather than what the weather will be. (releases a dozen of balloons and sail off into the sky) Must see which way the wind is blowing. (chuckles)

Gracie: What kind of place is Expectations?

Whether Man: Good question, good question, Expectations is the place you must go before getting to where you're going. Of course, some people never go beyond Expectations, but my job is to hurry them along whether they like it or not. Now what else can I do for you?

He quickly rushes into the house and reappears with an umbrella and a coat.

Gracie: I think I can find my own way.

I really didn't. But I barely understood this duck, so I might just move on, until I found someone who's sentences didn't always sound as if they'd make as much sense backwards as forwards.

Whether Man: Splendid, splendid, splendid. Whether or not you find your own way, you're bound to find some way. If you happen to find my way, please return it, as it was lost years ago. I imagine by now it's quite rusty. You did say it was going to rain, did you?

He opens his umbrella and looks up nervously.

Whether Man: I'm glad you made your own decision. I do so hate to make up my mind about anything, whether it's good or bad, up or down, in or out, rain or shine. Expect everything, I always say, and the unexpected never happens. Now please walk carefully; good-bye, good-bye, good-bye, good...

His last good-bye was drowned out by an enormous clap of thunder, from a small cloudburst of rain that only seemed to be on him.

The path dips into a broad green valley, stretching towards the horizon.

Gracie: That Whether Man was the most peculiar person I've ever met.

I start to daydream, and pay less and less attention to where I was going. In a short time, I wasn't paying attention at all, and that is why, in a fork in the path, when a sign pointed to the left, Gracie went to the right, along a route which looked suspiciously like the wrong way. Things began to change. The sky became quite grey and, along with it, the whole countryside seemed to lose its colour and assume the same monotonous tone. Everything was quiet, and even the air hung heavily. The birds sang only grey songs and the road wound back and forth in an endless series of climbing curves.

Mile after

mile after

mile after

mile I walked. and now, gradually, I waddled slower and slower, until I was hardly moving at all.

Gracie: Looks like I'm getting nowhere. I hope I haven't taken a wrong turn.

Mile after

mile after

mile after

mile, and everything became greyer and more monotonous. Finally I stopped altogether, and, hard as I tried, I wouldn't budge another inch.

Gracie: Well, look at that. I wonder where I am. This must be one of those "risky paths" like in LIFE.

Faraway voice: You'

I look around to see no one.

Another voice: Yes...the...Do...drums...


Freakishly close voice: The Doldrums, my young friend, are where nothing ever happens and nothing ever changes.

I jump, for, a small creature was lightly on my shoulder, the same colour of my now very dull purple shirt.

Freakishly close creature: We are the Lethargarians, at your service.

I look up, to see them all over my sneakers, all over the path, and lying all over trees and bushes. They were all the same colour of what they were on. They all looked very much alike.

Gracie: I'm very chuffed to meet you. I think I'm lost. Can you help me please?

Sneaker sitter: Don't say "think", it's against the law. (falls asleep)

Third: No one's allowed to think in the Doldrums. (dozes off)

As soon as one fell asleep, another continued the conversation.

Another: Don't you have a rule book? It's local ordinance 175389-J.

I quickly grab the book from my back pocket.

Gracie (reading): Ordinance 175389-J: It shall be unlawful, illegal, and unethical to think, think of thinking, surmise, presume, reason, meditate, or speculate while in the Doldrums. Anyone breaking this law shall be severely punished!

Gracie: How ridiculous. Everyone thinks!

Lethargarians (all): We don't.

Daffodil sitter: And most of the time you don't. That's why you're here. You weren't thinking, and you weren't paying attention either. People who don't pay attention often get stuck in the Doldrums. (topples over flower and starts snoring in the grass)

I laugh at their strange behavior, even though it might be rude.

Orange-red one on my head: Stop that at once, laughing is against the law. Don't you have a rule book? It's local ordinance 574381-W.

Gracie (reading): In the Dodlrums, laughter is frowned upon and smiling is permitted only on alternate Thursdays. Violators shall be dealt with most harshly.

Gracie: What do you guys do all day?

Another: Anything as long as it's nothing, and everything as long as it isn't anything.

Gracie: Does everyone here do nothing?

Two of them: Everyone except the terrible Watchfox of the terrible Doctor.

Gracie: Watchfox? Doctor?

Another: THE WATCHFOX. THE DOCTOR. (faints)

Racing down the road, barking furiously and kicking up a great cloud of dust was the very fox of whom they had been speaking.







They disappear entirely.

Watchfox: GRAOOOOOOOOOORHFU (or whatever you'd say a fox noise sounds like)

In front of me, I see a perfectly normal small arctic fox with a ticking alarm clock on his side.

Watchfox: What are you doing here?

Gracie: Just killing time, you see-

Watchfox: KILLING TIME! (alarm goes off) It's bad enough wasting time without killing it. Why are you in the Doldrums anyway-don't you have anywhere to go?

Gracie: I was on my way to Dictionopolis when I got stuck here. Can you help me?

Watchfox: Help you! You must help yourself. (he winds himself up with his left hind leg) I suppose you know why you got stuck.

Gracie: I guess I wasn't thinking.

Watchfox: PRECISELY. Now you know what you must do.

Gracie: I'm afraid I don't, and wasn't there another guy here that doesn't waste time-

???: Tock! Who is this young lady?

Watchfox: She was wasting time, so I quickly asked her what she was doing.

Gracie: Who is this? The Doctor?

The Doctor: Yes, I am the Doctor!

Gracie: Doctor? That's it?

The Doctor: Nothing else. Just the Doctor. You?

Gracie: I'm Gracie Somerville. Middle child of six children.

I wasn't sure if I'd want to explain I wasn't really penguin.

The Doctor: Interesting! That's a nice name!

He had brown spiky hair and brown eyes. He wore a brown pinstripe suit and a pair of red converse. I quickly assumed the Watchfox was his pet.

Tock: Well, since you got here by not thinking, it seems reasonable to expect that, in order to get out, you must start thinking.

With that, he hopped onto the Doctor's head.

Tock: Mind if we join you on your adventure? We love adventures.

The Doctor: Allons-y!

I begin to think as hard as I can. It was hard since I never really did. I thought of birds and fly and fish that swim. I thought of Pyrrhia and my parents. I thought of my best friends at Pyrrhia, Prawn and Tern, and my best friends on Earth, John and Jordin. I thought of words that started with J and numbers that ended in 5. I thought of my huge and confusing family tree. And, as I thought, I began to regain my ability to walk.

Tock: We're getting somewhere, think harder.

I started to waddle faster and faster as my brain whirled with activity, and down the road we went. Soon enough, we returned to the main path and the countryside was restored to its original brightness and colours. As we continued our walk I thought of all sorts of things; detours, wrong turns that were easy to take, of how fine it was to be moving along, and most of all, of how much could be accomplished with just a little thought.

Welcome to Dictionopolis

The Doctor peers closer at me, noticing my nose bandage.

The Doctor: Did the TARDIS give you a little trouble getting here?

Gracie: I think I hit my beak when it starting moving. It's all fine, though.

We continue to walk towards Dictionopolis

Tock: *Tick, tick, tick, tick...*

Gracie: Why are you named "Tock" when you go "tick"?

Tock: I had a brother named Tick. My parents named him before discovering his true sound. But once he started to wind, he went tocktocktock. My parents rushed to the Hall of Records to change his name, but it was already inscribed and nothing could be done. They had me afterwards, naming me Tock, not wanting to make the same mistake they did with Tick, assuming all their pups would make the same noise. But, I went tickticktick, and my parents gave up on having pups all together. (ugly sobbing)

Gracie: But how did you become a watchfox?

Tock: That is traditional. My family have always been watchfoxes- from father to son, almost since time began. You see, (no more ugly sobbing) once there was no time at all, and people found it very inconvenient. They never knew whether they were eating lunch or dinner, and they were always missing trains. So time was invented to help them keep track of the day and get places when they should. When they began to count all the time that was available, what with 60 seconds in a minute and 60 minutes in an hour and 24 hours in a day and 365 days in a year, it seemed as it there was much more than could ever be used. 'If there's so much of it, it couldn't be very valuable,' was the general opinion, and it soon fell into disrepute. People wasted it and even gave it away. Then we were given the job of seeing that no one wasted time again. It's hard work but a noble calling. (stands on the Doctor's head) For you see, it is our most valuable possession, more precious than diamonds. it marches on, it and tide wait for no man, and-

Tock falls over and his alarm rings furiously

Gracie: You alright?

Tock: Umpphh, sorry to get carried away, but I think you get the point.

He continues to quote the great philosophers and talk about his great adventures across time and space with the Doctor.

Gracie: That old phone booth is your time machine, your home? You're an alien? Your journeys sound fantastic!

The Doctor: I'm a Time Lord from Gallifrey in the constellation Kasterborous! I've recently found this place, the Lands Beyond. It's only been a few months since Tock and I have started stopping people from wasting time. Dictionopolis is great, I think you'll like it.

Gracie: What is the rest of the universe like?

The Doctor: Beyond your wildest dreams.

We reach Dictionopolis. It looks like something out of a fairy tale. It was beautiful and beyond anything I could describe.

A guard approaches us. They were shining, as if made of ice. Actually, as I strolled closer, he was actually made of ice.

Guard: Welcome! Today is market day. What's your reason for approaching?

Gracie: We don't really have one?

Guard: Well, you've traveled all this way on flipper. That's one tiring and long journey! I can't just turn you three around, so let's see...

He starts literally digging through the ground.

Guard: (hands Gracie a medallion that reads "WHY NOT?") There's a good reason! Go on, you are free to continue!

The gates open, and Gracie realizes most of the people are ice-penguin hybrids.

Gracie: This place is amazing. Why are most of these people ice penguins?

Tock: The king was the first Frostbite, the ice-penguins, to come to the Lands Beyond. He discovered he could create more, so he did, but he soon felt it wasn't necessary to create citizens when he was gaining a lot by the minute.

Soon, we're in the middle of the market. Everyone's advertising their words at their stalls, looking for words, or trying out some words.

Five men approach us. They look just like my uncle. They then talk in turn.




Good Afternoon!


They start reading from heir scrolls.

By order of King Adam the Unabridged-

King of Dictionopolis-

Monarch of letters-

Emperor of phrases, sentences, and miscellaneous figures of speech-

We offer you the hospitality of our kingdom,









Gracie: Do all these words mean the same thing?

They continue:

Of course.





Gracie: Wouldn't it be simpler to use just one? It would certainly make more sense.

They continue:






First one: We're not interested in making sense; it's not our job.

Second man: Besides, one word is as good as another โ€” so why not use them all?

Third advisor: Then you don't have to choose which one is right.

Fourth person: Besides if one is right, then ten are ten times as right.

Fifth penguin: Obviously you don't know who we are.

And they presented themselves one by one as:

Dendrologist of Definition, researcher of wooded plants.

Mammalogist of Meaning, analyzer of mammals.

Entomologist of Essence, experimenter of insects.

Carpologist of Connotation, scientist of fruits and seeds.

Ufologist of Understanding, investigator of UFOs.

I then remember my question from earlier.

Gracie: Do you happen to know a penguin known as Gary Somerville, an inventor? He looks exactly like all you guys, except you five have different ties and coats.

Dendrologist: Long story,

Mammalogist: Deep tale,

Entomologist: Lengthy novel,

Carpologist: Lasting record,

Ufologist: Extensive myth.

Dendrologist: Meet Dr. Dischord, and maybe he'll explain the story on how he cloned himself.

Gracie: Why can't you just explain-

They continue over me.

Mammalogist: We are the king's advisers, or, in more formal terms, his cabinet.

Dendrologist: Cabinet, 1. a small private room or closet, case with drawers, etc., for keeping valuables or displaying curiosities; 2. council room for chief ministers of state; 3. a body of official advisers to the chief executive of a nation.

Mammalogist (bows to Dendrologist): You see, Dictionopolis is the place where all the words in the world come from. They're grown right here in our orchards.

Gracie: I didn't know that words grew on trees.

Entomologist: Where did you think they grew?

A small crowd begins to gather to see the little teenager who doesn't know that letters grow on trees.

Gracie: I didn't know they grew at all.

Several people shake their heads sadly.

Carpologist: Well, money doesn't grow on trees, does it?

Gracie: I've heard not.

Ufologist: Then something must. Why not words?

The crowd cheers his display of logic and continues about their business.

Mammalogist: To continue, once a week by Royal Proclamation the word market is held here in the great square and people come from everywhere to buy the words they need or trade in the words they haven't used.

Carpologist: Our job is to see that all the words sold are proper ones, for it wouldn't do to sell someone a word that had no meaning or didn't exist at all. For instance, if you bought a word like ghlbtsk, where would you use it?

Gracie: It would be difficult. (But there were so many words that were difficult, and I knew hardly any of them.

Entomologist: But we never choose which ones to use, for as long as they mean what they mean to mean we don't care if they make sense or nonsense.

Carpologist: Innocence or magnificence.

Ufologist: Reticence or common sense.

Gracie: That seems simple enough.

Entomologist: Easy as falling off a log! (falls off a log with a loud thump)

Dendrologist: Must you be so clumsy?

Entomologist: All I said wasโ€”

Mammalogist: We heard you, and you'll have to find an expression that's less dangerous.

The Entomologist dusted himself off as the others snickered audibly.

Carpologist: You see, you must pick your words very carefully and be sure to say just what you intend to say. And now we must leave to make preparations for the Royal Banquet.

Mammalogist: You'll be there, of course.

But before I had a chance to say anything, they were rushing off across the square as fast as they had come.

Ufologist: Enjoy yourself in the market!

Dendrologist: Market, an open space or covered building in whichโ€”

And that was the last I heard as they disappeared into the crowd.

Gracie: I never knew words could be so confusing.

I bend down to Tock to scratch the dog's ear.

The Doctor: Only when you use a lot to say a little.

Gracie thought this was quite the wisest thing she'd heard all day.

The Doctor: Come, let's see the market. It looks very exciting.

Confusion in the Market Place

I can see crowds of people pushing and shouting their way among the stalls, buying and selling, trading and bargaining. Off to one side a group of minstrels sing songs to the delight of those either too young or too old to engage in trade. But above all the noise and tumult of the crowd could be heard the merchants' voices loudly advertising their products.

"Get your fresh-picked ifs, ands, and buts."

"Hey-yaa, hey-yaa, hey-yaa, nice ripe wheres and whens."

"Juicy, tempting words for sale."

So many words and so many people! They were from every place imaginable and some places even beyond that, and they were all busy sorting, choosing, and stuffing things into cases. As soon as one was filled, another was begun. There seemed to be no end to the bustle and activity.

The Doctor and I wander up and down the aisles looking at the wonderful assortment of words for sale. There were short ones and easy ones for everyday use, and long and very important ones for special occasions, and even some marvelously fancy ones packed in individual gift boxes for use in royal decrees and pronouncements.

Salesman: Step right up, step right upโ€”fancy, best-quality words right here. Step right upโ€”ah, what can I do for you, milady? How about a nice bagful of pronounsโ€”or maybe you'd like our special assortment of names?

I had never thought much about words before, but these look so good that I long to have some.

Gracie: Look, Doctor, aren't they wonderful?

The Doctor: They're fantastic, if you have something to say!

Gracie: Maybe if I buy some I can learn how to use them.

I look around, finally deciding on three words: "Quagmire", "flabbergast", and "upholstery". I had no idea what they meant, but they looked very grand and elegant.

Gracie: How much are these?

The salesman whispers the answer before quickly putting the words back on the shelf.

Salesman: Why not take a few pounds of 'happys'? They're much more practicalโ€”and very useful for Happy Birthday, Happy New Year, happy days, and happy-go-lucky.

Gracie: I'd like to very much, but-

Salesman: Or perhaps you'd be interested in a package of 'goods'โ€”always handy for good morning, good afternoon, good evening, and good-bye.

I did want to buy something, but the Doctor and I had no money on us, and Tock, of course, had nothing but the time.

Gracie: No, thank you. We're just looking.

As we continue, I notice a wagon different from the others. On its side was a small neatly lettered sign that said "DO IT YOURSELF," and inside were twenty-six bins filled with all the letters of the alphabet from A to Z.

Man in charge: These are for people who like to make their own words. You can pick any assortment you like or buy a special box complete with all letters, punctuation marks, and a book of instructions. Here, taste an A; they're very good.

I nibble carefully at the letter and discover that it is quite sweet and deliciousโ€”just the way you'd expect an A to taste.

Man in charge: I knew you'd like it. (pops two G's and an R into his mouth) A's are one of our most popular letters. All of them aren't that good. Take the Z, for instance -very dry and sawdusty. And the X? Why, it tastes like a trunkful of stale air. That's why people hardly ever use them. But most of the others are quite tasty. Try some more.

He gave me an I, which was icy and refreshing, the Doctor a P that had pits, and Tock a crisp, crunchy C.

Man in charge: Most people are just too lazy to make their own words, but it's much more fun.

Gracie: Is it difficult? I'm not much good at making words.

???: Perhaps I can be of some assistance โ€” a-s-s-i-s-t-a-n-c-e.

I look up to see an enormous dragon, about twice my size.

Spelling Dragon: I am Poko the Spelling Dragon. Don't be alarmed โ€” a-l-a-r-m-e-d.

Tock ducked behind the Doctor, and Gracie, who had never known dragons could exist, began to back away slowly.

Spelling Dragon: I can spell anything โ€” a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g. Try me, try me!

Gracie: Can you spell good-bye?

Spelling Dragon: Perhaps โ€” p-e-r-h-a-p-s โ€” you are under the misapprehension โ€” m-i-s-a-p-p-r-e-h-e-n-s-i-o-n โ€” that I am dangerous. Let me assure โ€” a-s-s-u-r-e โ€” you that my intentions are peaceful โ€” p-e-a-c-e-f-u-l. Now, think of the most difficult word you can and I'll spell it. Hurry up, hurry up!

Tock (to self): He looks friendly enough.

Gracie: Spell 'ambidextrous'. (it one was that always troubled me in school)

Spelling Dragon: That is a difficult one. (winks to letter man) Let me see now... hmmmmmm... How much time do I have?

Gracie: Just ten seconds. Count them off, Tock.

Spelling Dragon: Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear, oh dear... (Just as time runs out, he spells out as fast as he can-) a-m-b-i-d-e-x-t-r-o-u-s.

Letter man: Correct!

Everyone cheers

Gracie: Can you spell everything?

Spelling Dragon: Just about! You see, years ago I was just an ordinary dragon minding my own business, smelling flowers all day, and occasionally chasing around sheep and pigs. Then one day I realized that I'd never amount to anything without an education and, being naturally adept at spelling, I decided thatโ€”

???: BALDERDASH!!!!!!!!!!

From around the wagon stepped a white penguin with brown hair dressed in a white gi, black mask, and a tri-colour scarf.

White penguin: Let me repeat โ€” BALDERDASH! (he swings his staff around and clicks his heels in mid-air.) Come now, don't be ill-mannered. Isn't someone going to introduce me to the handsome man, the snow dog, and the ginger?

Spelling Dragon: This is jay the Humbug. A very dislikable fellow.

Jay: NONSENSE! Everyone loves a Humbug. As I was saying to the king just the other dayโ€”

Spelling Dragon: You've never met the king! Don't believe a thing this old fraud says.

Jay: BOSH! We're an old and noble family, honorable to the core โ€” Insertions Humbugium, if I may use the Latin. Why, we fought in the crusades with Richard the Lion Heart, crossed the Atlantic with Columbus, blazed trails with the pioneers, and today many members of the family hold prominent government positions throughout the world. History is full of Humbugs; I have 7,943 siblings, only one being a sister.

Spelling Dragon: A very pretty speech โ€” s-p-e-e-c-h. Now why don't you go away? I was just advising the lass of the importance of proper spelling.

Jay: BAH! As soon as you learn to spell one word, they ask you to spell another. You can never catch up โ€” so why bother? Take my advice, malady, and forget about it. As my great-great-great-grandfather George Washington Humbug used to sayโ€”

Spelling Dragon: You, sir, are an impostor โ€” i-m-p-o-s-t-o-r โ€” who can't even spell his own name.

Jay: A slavish concern for the composition of words is the sign of a bankrupt intellect.

I had no idea what that meant, but it seemed to infuriate Poko, who flew down and took the Humbug's scarf.

Gracie: Be careful!

The Humbug catches the dragon on the foot with his staff, knocking over a box of W's.

Spelling Dragon: My foot!

Jay: My scarf!

The fight was on!

Poko soared dangerously in and out of range of the Humbug's wildly swinging staff as they menaced and threatened each other, and the crowd stepped back out of danger.

Gracie: There must be some other way toโ€”

The Doctor: Watch out!

Too late.

There was a tremendous crash as the Humbug in his great fury tripped into one of the stalls, knocking it into another, then another, then another, then another, until every stall in the market place had been upset and the words lay scrambled in great confusion all over the square.

The dragon, who had tangled himself in some bunting, toppled to the ground, knocking Gracie over on top of him.

Spelling Dragon: Help! Help! There's a penguin on me!

Jay sprawled untidily on a mound of squashed letters on the Doctor, and Tock, his alarm ringing persistently, was buried under a pile of words.

Officer Shrift

Salesman: Done what you've looked!

He meant to say "Look what you've done", but the words had gotten so hopelessly mixed up that no one could make any sense at all.

Another Salesman: Do going to we what are!

For several minutes no one spoke an understandable sentence, which added greatly to the confusion. As soon as possible, however, the stalls were righted and the words swept into one large pile for sorting.

The Spelling Dragon, who was quite upset by the whole affair, had flown off in a huff, and just as I got to my feet the entire police force of Dictionopolis appeared โ€” loudly blowing his whistle.

Someone: Now we'll get to the bottom of this. Here comes Officer Shrift.

Striding across the square was a blonde, brown penguin police officer. He wore a blue uniform with white belt and gloves, a peaked cap, a necklace, and a very fierce expression. He continued blowing the whistle until his face was beet red, stopping only long enough to shout,

Officer Shrift: You're guilty, you're guilty. (reaches Gracie) I've never seen anyone so guilty. (Turns towards Tock, who was still ringing loudly) Turn off that dog; it's disrespectful to sound your alarm in the presence of a policeman. Very pretty, very pretty. Who's responsible for all this? Speak up or I'll arrest the lot of you.

There was a long silence. Since hardly anybody had actually seen what had happened, no one spoke.

Officer Shrift: You, (points at Humbug) you look suspicious to me.

Jay: Let me assure you, sir, on my honor as a gentleman, that I was merely an innocent bystander, minding my own business, enjoying the stimulating sights and sounds of the world of commerce, when this attractive trioโ€”

Officer Shrift: AHA! Just as I thought: gingers are the cause of everything. They have no souls.

Gracie: Listen up you littleโ€”

The Doctor: I'm no gingerโ€”

Tock: I will hurt youโ€”

Jay: Pardon me, but I in no way meant to imply thatโ€”

Officer Shrift: SILENCE! And now, where were you on the night of June 16?

Gracie: What does that have to do with it?

Officer Shrift: It's my birthday, that's what. (Writes down "forgot my birthday" in a small black notebook, "gingers always forget other people's birthdays") You have committed the following crimes: having a dog with an unauthorized alarm, sowing confusion, upsetting the applecart, wreaking havoc, and mincing words.

Tock: Now see here,

Officer Shrift: And illegal barking. It's against the law to bark without using the barking meter. Are you ready to be sentenced?

Gracie: Only a judge can sentence you.

Officer Shrift: Good point. (takes off his cap and put son a long black robe) I am also the judge. Now would you like a long or a short sentence?

Gracie: A short one, if you please.

Judge Shrift: Good, I always have trouble remembering the long ones. How about 'I am.'? That's the shortest sentence I know. There will also be a small additional penalty of six million years in prison. Case closed. Come with me. I'll take you to the dungeon.

The Doctor: Only a jailer can put you in prison.

Judge Shrift: Good point. (removes his robe and takes out a large bunch of keys) I am also the jailer.

Jay: Keep your chin up! Maybe they'll take a million years off for good behavior.

The heavy prison door swung back slowly and the trio followed Officer Shrift down a long dark corridor lit by only an occasional flickering candle.

Shrift: Watch the steps.

The air was dank and musty โ€” like the smell of wet blankets โ€” and the massive stone walls were slimy to the touch. Down and down they went until they arrived at another door even heavier and stronger-looking than the first. A cobweb brushed across my face and I shuddered.

Shrift: You'll find it quite pleasant here. (he opens the door with a loud creak) Not much company, but you can always chat with the witch.

Gracie: The witch?

Shrift: Yes, she's been here for a long time.

In a few more minutes they had gone through three other doors, across a narrow footbridge, down two more corridors and another stairway, and stood finally in front of a small cell door.

Shrift: This is it, all the comforts of home.

The door opened and then shut and the trio found themselves in a high vaulted cell with two tiny windows halfway up on the wall.

Shrift: See you in six million years. (his footsteps get fainter and fainter until they can't be heard at all)

Gracie: It looks serious, doesn't it, Doctor?

The Doctor: It certainly does.

Gracie: I don't know what we're going to do for all that time; we don't even have a checker set or a box of crayons.

The Doctor: It seems the door is wood. I can't sonic any wood.

Gracie: What?

Tock: His multi-purpose Sonic Screwdriver. It can't do wood.

Gracie: That's total pants.

Tock: Don't worry, something will turn up. Here, wind me, will you please? I'm beginning to run down.

Gracie: You know something, Tock? You can get in a lot of trouble mixing up words or just not knowing how to spell them. If we ever get out of here, I'm going to make sure to learn all about them.

???: A very commendable ambition, young girl.

I look up, very surprised, and notice for the first time, in the half-light of the room, a pleasant-looking neko quietly knitting and rocking.

Gracie: Hello.

Neko: How do you do?

Gracie: You'd better be very careful, I understand there's a witch somewhere in here.

Neko: I am she.

I jump back in fright and quickly grab Tock to make sure that his alarm doesn't go off โ€” for I know how much witches hate loud noises.

Neko: Don't be frightened. I'm not a witch โ€” I'm a Which.

Gracie: Oh.

Neko: I'm Faintly Macabre Hailey, the not-so-wicked Which, and I'm certainly not going to harm you.

Gracie: What's a Which?

Hailey: Well, I am the king's friend. For years and years I was in charge of choosing which words were to be used for all occasions, which ones to say and which ones not to say, which ones to write and which ones not to write. As you can well imagine, with all the thousands to choose from, it was a most important and responsible job. I was given the title of 'Official Which,' which made me very proud and happy. At first I did my best to make sure that only the most proper and fitting words were used. Everything was said clearly and simply and no words were wasted. I had signs posted all over the palace and market place which said:

๐“‘๐“ป๐“ฎ๐“ฟ๐“ฒ๐“ฝ๐”‚ ๐“ฒ๐“ผ ๐“ฝ๐“ฑ๐“ฎ ๐“ข๐“ธ๐“พ๐“ต ๐“ธ๐“ฏ ๐“ฆ๐“ฒ๐“ฝ.

But power corrupts, and soon I grew miserly and chose fewer and fewer words, trying to keep as many as possible for myself. I had new signs posted which said:

๐“๐“ท ๐“˜๐“ต๐“ต-๐“ฌ๐“ฑ๐“ธ๐“ผ๐“ฎ๐“ท ๐“ฆ๐“ธ๐“ป๐“ญ ๐“ฒ๐“ผ ๐“ฝ๐“ฑ๐“ฎ ๐“•๐“ธ๐“ธ๐“ต'๐“ผ ๐“œ๐“ฎ๐“ผ๐“ผ๐“ฎ๐“ท๐“ฐ๐“ฎ๐“ป.

Soon sales began to fall off in the market. The people were afraid to buy as many words as before, and hard times came to the kingdom. But still I grew more and more miserly. Soon there were so few words chosen that hardly anything could be said, and even casual conversation became difficult. Again I had new signs posted, which said:

๐“ข๐“น๐“ฎ๐“ช๐“ด ๐“•๐“ฒ๐“ฝ๐“ต๐”‚ ๐“ธ๐“ป ๐“ซ๐“ฎ ๐“ข๐“ฒ๐“ต๐“ฎ๐“ท๐“ฝ ๐“ฆ๐“ฒ๐“ผ๐“ฎ๐“ต๐”‚.

And finally I had even these replaced by ones which read simply:

๐“ข๐“ฒ๐“ต๐“ฎ๐“ท๐“ฌ๐“ฎ ๐“ฒ๐“ผ ๐“–๐“ธ๐“ต๐“ญ๐“ฎ๐“ท.

All talk stopped. No words were sold, the market place closed down, and the people grew poor and disconsolate. When the king saw what had happened, he became furious and had me cast into this dungeon where you see me now, an older and wiser neko.

That was all many years ago, but they never appointed a new Which, and that explains why today people use as many words as they can and think themselves very wise for doing so. For always remember that while it is wrong to use too few, it is often far worse to use too many.

When she had finished, she sighed deeply, patted Gracie gently on the shoulder, and began knitting once again.

Gracie: And have you been down here ever since then?

Hailey: Yes. Most people have forgotten me entirely, or remember me wrongly as a witch not a Which. But it matters not, it matters not, for they are equally frightened of both.

Gracie: I don't think you're frightening.

Tock wags his tail and the Doctor nods in agreement.

Hailey: I thank you very much. You may call me Aunt Faintly. Here, have a punctuation mark. (Holds out a box of sugar-coated question marks, periods, commas, and exclamation points) That's all I get to eat now.

Gracie: (takes a comma) Well, when I get out of here, I'm going to help you.

Hailey: That's very nice of you, but the only thing that can help me is the return of Rhyme and Reason.

The Doctor: The return of what?

Hailey: Rhyme and Reason. But that's another long story, and you may not want to hear it.

The Doctor: We would like to very much.

Gracie and Tock: We really would.

The Which rocked slowly back and forth she told them this story.

Faintly Macabre Hailey's Story

Hailey: Once upon a time, this land was a barren and frightening wilderness whose high rocky mountains sheltered the evil winds and whose barren valleys offered hospitality to no man. Few things grew, and those that did were bent and twisted and their fruit was as bitter as wormwood. What wasn't waste was desert, and what wasn't desert was rock, and the demons of darkness made their home in the hills. Evil creatures roamed at will through the countryside and down to the sea. It was known as the land of Null.

Then one day a small ship appeared on the Sea of Knowledge. It carried a young prince named Douglas seeking the future. In the name of goodness and truth he laid claim to all the country and set out to explore his new domain. The demons, monsters, and giants were furious at his presumption and banded together to drive him out. The earth shook with their battle, and when they had finished, all that remained to the prince was a small piece of land at the edge of the sea.

'I'll build my city here,' Douglas declared, and that is what he did.

Before long, more ships came bearing settlers for the new land and the city grew and pushed its boundaries farther and farther out. Each day it was attacked anew, but nothing could destroy the prince's new city. And grow it did. Soon it was no longer just a city; it was a kingdom, and it was called the kingdom of Wisdom.

But, outside the walls, all was not safe, and the new king vowed to conquer the land that was rightfully his. So each spring he set forth with his army and each autumn he returned, and year by year the kingdom grew larger and more prosperous. He created two fine young sons with a Snowstone to whom he taught everything he knew so that one day they might rule wisely.

When the boys grew to young-manhood, the king called them to him and said: 'I am becoming an old man and can no longer go forth to battle. You must take my place and found new cities in the wilderness, for the kingdom of Wisdom must grow.'

And so they did. One went south to the Foothills of Confusion and built Dictionopolis, the city of words; and one went north to the Mountains of Ignorance and built Digitopolis, the city of numbers. Both cities flourished mightily and the demons were driven back still further. Soon other cities and towns were founded in the new lands, and at last only the farthest reaches of the wilderness remained to these terrible creaturesโ€”and there they waited, ready to strike down all who ventured near or relaxed their guard.

The two brothers were glad, however, to go their separate ways, for they were by nature very suspicious and jealous. Each one tried to outdo the other, and they worked so hard and diligently at it that before long their cities rivaled even Wisdom in size and grandeur.

'Words are more important than wisdom,' said one privately.

'Numbers are more important than wisdom,' thought the other to himself.

And they grew to dislike each other more and more.

The old king, however, who knew nothing of his sons' animosity, was very happy in the twilight of his reign and spent his days quietly walking and contemplating in the royal gardens. One day as he was strolling peacefully about the grounds, he discovered two tiny pookies that had been abandoned in a basket under the grape arbor. They were beautiful, one with brown air and the other blonde.

The king was overjoyed. 'They have been sent to crown my old age,' he cried, and called the queen, his ministers, the palace staff, and, indeed, the entire population to see them.

'We'll call this one Locy of Rhyme and this one Lucy of Reason,' he said, and so they became Princess Locy of Sweet Rhyme and Princess Lucy of Pure Reason and were brought up in the palace.

When the old king finally died, the kingdom was divided between his two sons, with the provision that they would be equally responsible for the welfare of the young princesses. One son went south and became Adam, the unabridged king of Dictionopolis, and the other went north and became Charlie the Mathemagician, ruler of Digitopolis; and, true to their words, they both provided well for the little girls, who continued to live in Wisdom.

Everyone loved the princesses because of their great beauty, their gentle ways, and their ability to settle all controversies fairly and reasonably. People with problems or grievances or arguments came from all over the land to seek advice, and even the two brothers, who by this time were fighting continuously, often called upon them to help decide matters of state. It was said by everyone that 'Rhyme and Reason answer all problems.'

Then one day they had the most terrible quarrel of all. King Adam insisted that words were far more significant than numbers and hence his kingdom was truly the greater and Charlie the Mathemagician claimed that numbers were much more important than words and hence his kingdom was supreme. They discussed and debated and raved and ranted until they were on the verge of blows, when it was decided to submit the question to arbitration by the princesses.

After days of careful consideration, in which all the evidence was weighed and all the witnesses heard, they made their decision:

'Words and numbers are of equal value, for, in the cloak of knowledge, one is warp and the other woof. It is no more important to count the sands than it is to name the stars. Therefore, let both kingdoms live in peace.'

Everyone was pleased with the verdict. Everyone, that is, but the brothers, who were beside themselves with anger.

'What good are these girls if they cannot settle an argument in someone's favor?' they growled, since both were more interested in their own advantage than in the truth. 'We'll banish them from the kingdom forever.'

And so they were taken from the palace and sent far away to the Castle in the Air, and they have not been seen since. That is why today, in all this land, there is neither Rhyme nor Reason.

Gracie: And what happened to the two rulers?

Hailey: Banishing the two princesses was the last thing they ever agreed upon, and they soon fell to warring with each other. Despite this, their own kingdoms have continued to prosper, but the old city of Wisdom has fallen into great disrepair, and there is no one to set things right. So, you see, until the princesses return, I shall have to stay here.

The Doctor: Maybe we can rescue them.

Hailey: Ah, that would be difficult. The Castle in the Air is far from here, and the one stairway which leads to it is guarded by fierce and black-hearted demons.

Tock growled ominously, for he hated even the thought of demons.

Hailey: I'm afraid there's not much a teenager, a strange man, and a fox can do. That being said, not a whole lot of people can do a lot. But never you mind; it's not so bad. I've grown quite used to it here. But you must be going or else you'll waste the whole day.

Gracie: Oh, we're here for six million years, and I don't see any way to escape.

Hailey: Nonsense, you mustn't take Officer Shrift so seriously. He loves to put people in prison, but he doesn't care about keeping them there. Now just press that button in the wall and be on your way.

Gracie pressed the button and a door swung open, letting in a shaft of brilliant sunshine.

Hailey: Good-bye; come again! (the door shuts as the trio exits)

Gracie, the Doctor, and Tock stood blinking in the bright light and, as their eyes became accustomed to it, the first things they saw were the king's advisers again rushing toward them.

Advisors: Ah, there you are.

Where have you been?

We've been looking all over for you.

The Royal Banquet is about to begin.

Come with us.

They lead the trio to a small wooden wagon.

Gracie: How are you going to make it move? It doesn't have aโ€”

Dendrologist: Be very quiet, for it goes without saying.

And, sure enough, as soon as they were all quite still, it began to move quickly through the streets, and in a very short time they arrived at the royal palace.

The Royal Banquet

Cabinet: Right this way.

Follow us.

Come along.

Step lively.

Here we go.

We enter the Royal Palace. We rush up a large marble staircase and along long corridors.

Entomologist: We must be terribly late!

We finally reach a large room with a large table, many faces arguing and speaking in their chairs. At one end of the table, there was a throne covered in crimson cloth. Directly behind, on the wall, was the royal coat of arms, flanked by the flags of Dictionopolis.

I noticed a few people that were in the marketplace. The letter man was busy explaining to an interested group the history of the W, and off in a corner the Humbug and the Spelling Bee were arguing fiercely about nothing at all. Officer Shrift wandered through the crowd, suspiciously muttering:

Guilty, guilty, they're all guilty. (notices the trio) Is it six million years already? My, how time flies.

Everyone seemed quite grumpy about having to wait for lunch, and they were all relieved to see the tardy guests arrive.

Jay: Certainly glad you finally made it, young lady. As guest of honor you must choose the menu of course.

Gracie: Oh my.

Spelling Dragon: Be quick about it, I'm famished- f-a-m-i-s-h-e-d.

As I tried to think, there was an ear-shattering blast of trumpets, entirely off key, and a page announced to the startled guests:


A large frostbite majestically walks to his throne at the table, settling down and saying:

Places, everyone. Take your places.

Adam (sees Gracie, the Doctor, and Tock): What have we here?

Gracie: If you please, my name is Gracie.

The Doctor: I'm the Doctor and this is Tock.

Gracie: Thank you very much for inviting us to your banquet, and I think your palace is beautiful.

Dendrologist: Exquisite.

Mammalogist: Lovely.

Carpologist: Handsome.

Entomologist: Pretty.

Ufologist: Charming.

Adam: SILENCE. Now, young girl, what can you do to entertain us? Sing songs? Tell stories? Compose sonnets? Juggle plates? Do tumbling tricks? Which is it?

Gracie: I can't do any of those things.

The Doctor: Tock and I can-

Adam: I never asked you. Anyways, what an ordinary girl. Why, my cabinet members can do all sorts of things. The dendrologist here can grow the oldest trees. The mammalogist organizes mammals. The carpologist makes the most ripe fruit and spread their seeds the farthest. The entomologist leaves no insect behind. And the ufologist, (finishes ominously) hangs by a thread, him and his silly X-files bull. Can't you do anything at all?

Gracie: I can play the triangle, trumpet, saxophone, but I see no instruments around here. I can count to a thousand?

Adam: AARGH, numbers! Never mention numbers here. Only use them when we absolutely have to. Now, why don't you and your two friends come up here and sit next to me, and we'll have some dinner?

We settle next to him. I can feel the cold coming off of his ice skin.

Jay: Are you ready with the menu?

Gracie: Well, why don't we have a light meal?

I remember that my mother had always told me to eat lightly when I was a guest.

Jay: A light meal it shall be!

The waiters rushed in carrying large serving platters and set them on the table in front of the king. When he lifted the covers, shafts of brilliant-colored light leaped from the plates and bounced around the ceiling, the walls, across the floor, and out the windows.

Jay: Not a very substantial meal, but quite an attractive one. Perhaps you can suggest something a little more filling.

The platters are removed.

Gracie: Well, in that case, I think we ought to have a square meal ofโ€”

Jay: A square meal it is!

The waiters reappear carrying plates heaped high with steaming squares of all sizes and colors.

Spelling Dragon: (tastes one) Ugh, these are awful.

No one else seemed to like them very much either, and the Humbug got one caught in his throat and almost choked.

Adam: Time for the speeches. (all the platters are removed, everybody looking glum) You first. (points to Gracie)

Gracie: Your Majesty, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to take this opportunity to say that in all theโ€”

Adam: That's quite enough. Mustn't talk all day.

Gracie: But I'd just begun!

Adam: NEXT!

Jay: Roast turkey, mashed potatoes, vanilla ice cream.

Gracie: What a strange speech. They're all supposed to be long and dull.

Spelling Dragon: Cheese pizza, macaroni and cheese, cheesecake โ€” c-h-e-e-s-e-c-a-k-e.

The Doctor: Tea, crumpets, crumble.

Tock: Deep fried pears, lemmings, freeze dried ice cream.

Shrift: Frankfurters, sour pickles, strawberry jam.

And so down the line it went, with each guest rising briefly, making a short speech, and then resuming their place. When everyone had finished, the king rose.

Adam: Pรขtรฉ de foie gras, soupe ร  l'oignon, faisan sous cloche, salade endive, fromages et fruits et demi-tasse.

The waiters reappeared immediately, carrying heavy, hot trays, which they set on the table. Each one contained the exact words spoken by the various guests, and they all began eating immediately with great gusto.

Adam: Dig in. I can't say that I think much of your choice.

Gracie: I didn't know that I was going to have to eat my words.

Adam: Of course, of course, everyone here does. You should have made a tastier speech.

I look at my two friends that actually have something decent to eat. Then I look down at my unappetizing plate. It certainly wasn't worth eating, and I hadn't had a single thing to eat in hours.

Dendrologist: Here, try some somersault. It improves the flavor.

Carpologist: Have a rigmarole.

Mammalogist: Or a ragamuffin.

Dendrologist: Perhaps you'd care for a synonym bun.

Entomologist (mouth full of food): Why not wait for your just desserts?

Ufologist: How many times must I tell you not to bite off more than you can chew?

Dendrologist: In one ear and out the other. (attempts to stuff one of his words through the entomologist's head)

Mammalogist: If it isn't one thing, it's another.

Carpologist: Out of the frying pan into the fire. (burns himself)

Entomologist: Well, you don't have to bite my head off! (flies at the others in a rage)

The five of them scuffle wildly under the table.

Adam: STOP THAT AT ONCE, or I'll banish the lot of you!

Carpologist: Sorry.

Mammalogist: Excuse us.

Entomologist: Forgive us.

Dendrologist: Pardon.

Ufologist: Regrets.

The rest of the meal finishes in silence until the king, wiping the gravy stains from his vest, calls for dessert. I, who has not eaten anything, looks up eagerly.

Adam: We're having a special treat today. By royal command the pastry chefs have worked all night in the half bakery to make sure thatโ€”

Gracie: The half bakery?

Adam: Of course, the half bakery. Where do you think half-baked ideas come from? Now, please don't interrupt. By royal command the pastry chefs have worked all night toโ€”

Gracie: What's a half-baked idea?

Adam: Will you be quiet?

Before he can begin again, three large serving carts are wheeled into the hall, and everyone jumps up to help themselves.

Jay: They're very tasty, but they don't always agree with you. Here's one that's very good.

He hands it to me and, through the icing and nuts, I see that it says "THE EARTH IS FLAT."

Spelling Dragon: People swallowed that one for years, but it's not very popular these daysโ€” d-a-y-s.

He picks up a long one that states "THE MOON IS MADE OF GREEN CHEESE" and hungrily bites off the part that says "CHEESE."

Spelling Dragon: Now there's a half-baked idea.

I look at the great assortment of cakes, which are being eaten almost as quickly as anyone could read them. The carpologist was munching contentedly on "IT NEVER RAINS BUT IT POURS" and the king was busy slicing one that stated "NIGHT AIR IS BAD AIR."

Tock: I wouldn't eat too many of those if I were you. They may look good, but you can get terribly sick of them.

Gracie: Don't worry, I'll just wrap one up for later.

I fold my napkin around "EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR THE BEST."

The Humbug Volunteers

Dendrologist: Couldn't eat another thing. (clutches stomach)

Mammalogist: Oh my, oh dear. (breaths with difficulty)

Entomologist: Mmmmffmm. (desperately tries to swallow another mouthful)

Carpologist: Thoroughly stuffed. (loosens belt)

Ufologist: Full up. (reaches for his last cake)

Jay: A delightful repast, delicately prepared and elegantly served. A feast of rare bouquet. My compliments to the chef, by all means; my compliments to the chef. (turns to the Doctor) Would you kindly fetch me a glass of water? I seem to have a touch of indigestion.

The Doctor: Perhaps you've eaten too much too quickly.

Jay: Too much too quickly, too much too quickly. To be sure, too much too quickly. I most certainly should have eaten too little too slowly, or too much too slowly, or too little too quickly, or taken all day to eat nothing, or eaten everything in no time at all, or occasionally eaten something any time, or perhaps I should haveโ€” (he topples back and continues to mumble indistinctly)

Adam: Attention! Let me have your attention! (he slams the table in front of him and slightly leaves some frost)

The command is entirely unnecessary, for the moment he begoms to speak everyone but Gracie, Tock, the Doctor, and the distraught bug rush from the hall, down the stairs, and out of the palace.

Adam: Loyal subjects and friends, once again on this gala occasion we haveโ€”

The Doctor: Pardon me, but everyone has gone.

Adam: I was hoping no one would notice. It happens every time.

Jay: They've all gone to dinner, and just as soon as I catch my breath I shall join them.

Gracie: That's ridiculous. How can they eat dinner right after a banquet?

Adam: SCANDALOUS! We'll put a stop to it at once. From now on, by royal command, everyone must eat dinner before the banquet.

Tock: But that's just as bad.

Jay: You mean just as good, dog.

Tock (growls): That's fox to you.

Jay: Whatever. Things which are equally bad are also equally good. Try to look at the bright side of things.

Gracie: I don't know which side of anything to look at. Everything is so confusing and all your words only make things worse.

Adam: How true. There must be something we can do about it.

Jay: Pass a law.

Adam: We have almost as many laws as words.

Jay: Offer a reward.

The king shakes his head and looks sadder and sadder.

Jay: Send for help.

Drive a bargain.

Pull the switch.

File a brief.

Lower the boom.

Toe the line.

Raise the bridge.

Bar the door.

He sits down once the king glares furiously in his direction.

Gracie: Perhaps you might allow Rhyme and Reason to return.

Adam: How nice that would be. Even if they were a bother at times, things always went so well when they were here. (stares thoughtfully at the ceiling) But I'm afraid it can't be done.

Jay: Certainly not; it can't be done.

Gracie: Why not?

Jay: Why not indeed?

Adam: Much too difficult.

Jay: Of course, much too difficult.

The Doctor: You could if you really wanted to.

Jay: By all means, if you really wanted to, you could.

Adam: How? (glares at Jay)

Tock: How?

Jay: A simple task, for a brave lass with a stout heart, a steadfast fox, and a smart, clever handsome man.

Adam: Go on.

Gracie: Yes, please.

Jay: All they would have to do is travel through miles of harrowing and hazardous countryside, into unknown valleys and uncharted forests, past yawning chasms and trackless wastes, until they reached Digitopolis (if, of course, they ever reached there). Then they would have to persuade the Mathemagician to agree to release the little princessesโ€” and, of course, he'd never agree to agree to anything that you agreed with. And, anyway, if he did, you certainly wouldn't agree to it. From there it's a simple matter of entering the mountains of Ignorance, full of perilous pitfalls and ominous overtonesโ€” a land to which many venture but few return, and whose evil demons slither slowly from peak to peak in search of prey. Then an effortless climb up a two-thousand-step circular stairway without railings in a high wind at night (for in those mountains it is always night) to the Castle in the Air. (pauses for breath) After a pleasant chat with the princesses, all that remains is a leisurely ride back through those chaotic crags whose frightening fiends have sworn to tear any intruder limb from limb and devour him down to his belt buckle. And, finally, after the long ride back, a triumphal parade (if, of course, there is anything left to parade) followed by hot chocolate and cookies for everyone. (bows and takes a seat, very pleased with himself)

Adam: I never realized it would be so simple.

Jay: Quite simple indeed.

Gracie: It sounds dangerous to me.

Jay: Most dangerous, most dangerous.

Gracie: Who will make the journey?

The Doctor: It sounds like a job for us three, Tock, Gracie, and I. I have been to the end of the universe and back with Tock, and I'm sure Gracie here would make a fine companion.

Adam: There is also a problem we must discuss.

The Doctor: That being...?

Adam: I'm afraid I can tell you that only when you return. (he claps his hands three times)

As he did so, the waiters rush back into the room and quickly clear away the dishes, the silver, the tablecloth, the table, the chairs, the banquet hall, and the palace, leaving us all suddenly standing in the market place.

Adam (acts as if nothing happened): Of course you realize that I would like to make the trip myself; but, since your friend offered to take it, you three shall have all the honor and fame.

Gracie: But you see-

Adam: Dictionopolis will always be grateful, milady. (puts an icy arm around Gracie and the Doctor, patting Tock with the other) You will face many dangers on your journey, but fear not, for I have brought you this for your protection.

He draws from inside his cape a small heavy box about the size of a schoolbook and hands it ceremoniously to Gracie.

Adam: In this box are all the words I know. Most of them you will never need, some you will use constantly, but with them you may ask all the questions which have never been answered and answer all the questions which have never been asked. All the great books of the past and all the ones yet to come are made with these words. With them there is no obstacle you cannot overcome. All you must learn to do is use them well and in the right places.

I thank the king and walk to the edge of the market.

Adam: You will, of course, need a guide, and, since he knows the obstacles so well, the Humbug has cheerfully volunteered to accompany you.

Jay: Now see here-

Adam: You will find him dependable, brave, resourceful, and loyal.

Gracie: I'm sure he'll be a great help.

The Doctor: I hope so.

Adam: Good luck, good luck; do be careful!

The Doctor, Tock, and I wonder what strange adventures lay ahead. The Humbug speculates on how he's ever become involved in such a hazardous undertaking. And the crowd waves and cheered wildly, for, while they didn't care at all about anyone arriving, they were always very pleased to see someone go.

Part 2

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