alexpgp: (Default)
[personal profile] alexpgp
The Thåg were keen judges of character, so when they offered Millard Adler fame and fortune as the putative author of something called The Lay of Rethyfa, they already knew they had their man.

On that fateful evening, two Thåg – short, squat humanoids who dressed like 19th century undertakers and whose facial muscles exhibited all the emotion of petrified wood – walked up to the cabin Adler had rented in the Michigan woods for his self-imposed annual week-long writing retreat, which he normally frittered away either getting ready to write something, drinking cheap beer, or entertaining dreams of having been published. They didn't pause to knock; they simply opened the door, walked in, and stated the purpose of their visit.

"Our civilization will make contact with that of Earth in 233 of your years," said the first Thåg. "Our social scientists have established that historically, the culture shock of first contact with the Thåg can be reduced or eliminated by making Thåg history and civilization known in advance to peoples with whom contact will be made. For this reason, we have prepared a manuscript, titled The Lay of Rethyfa, that we want you to submit to a publisher under your own name. In addition to its value as a source of entertainment, the book provides an all-encompassing summary of the salient aspects of Thåg history, culture, and civilization."

"Our computed projections suggest interest in this book will be strong initially and will increase over the years," continued the second Thåg. "Earth will know much of Thåg when contact is eventually made. If you accept our proposal, you will have a more than comfortable income from royalties, and you will enjoy sustained public popularity. When our civilizations eventually do make contact, you will be hailed as a hero; a man well ahead of his time."

"There are only two conditions that you must agree to observe for us to consummate this transaction, Millard Adler," resumed the first Thåg. "First, you may not change any part of the text. Second, you must take a haakkaa pååle oath to never claim actual authorship of the book. Whenever you are asked about its origin, or how you came to write it, the essence of your answer must be 'I did not write the book. It was a gift from the Thåg.' If you agree, let us shake hands, and a copy of the manuscript will be transferred to your computer. Believe me when I say it will be accepted for publication as it is."

Adler took the proffered hand, not really believing what was happening, and having no idea what a haakkaa pååle oath was. What the Thåg said about the manuscript being accepted came to pass, and the book was published as it had been submitted. When Millard later read a published copy of the book himself and came to understand the technology and practice of haakkaa pååle oaths, he turned pale and swallowed hard.

As the Thåg had predicted, The Lay of Rethyfa was a slow but steady success. Critics compared its popularity to books with cult-like followings, such as Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged and Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land. Adler was a popular item on the talk show circuit, too.

In the early years of the book's popularity, when the book was still a phenomenon, Adler's saying that he hadn't written the book, and that it had been a gift from the Thåg was thought of as a smart marketing gimmick. As the years passed, however, what had been considered a cute gimmick became an albatross around Adler's neck, as hosts and audiences wanted to watch him squirm when asked how he had come to write the book.

"I did not write the book," Millard would say. "It was a gift from the Thåg."

Hearing this answer now caused audiences to titter, whereupon interviewers would rub salt in the wound with some smart remark like "Come off it, Adler! You've been handing us that line for years!" Millard would then blush, and stammer, and the audience would enjoy a real belly laugh.

Returning to his hotel in a network limo after a particularly grueling daytime talk-show appearance, Millard's self-esteem reached the breaking point when a shapely twenty-something female gopher assigned by the network to accompany Millard to and from the studio deftly manipulated Adler's ego and needled him into "admitting" that he had written the book and that the whole 'gift of the Thåg' thing was a hoax. Millard felt bad about breaking his oath, but as he closed the door of the limousine and stepped toward the hotel's front door, he rationalized it as a small, insignificant transgression mentioned privately to one person, which almost certainly would fall well under the haakkaa pååle radar.

He was wrong. The next day, the newspapers all carried the story of how Adler, having taken two steps away from the limousine, had narrowly missed being killed in a freak accident involving a massive delivery of kinetic energy to the limo's passenger compartment by an as-yet unidentified object that had fallen from the roof of the hotel.

From that day on, a shaken Millard Adler never even thought of violating his oath, but the more often Adler gave the answer he swore to give, the more often people wanted to ask the question and make fun of him when he answered. It didn't matter to Adler, though. In his mind, he could still reach out and touch the jagged hole in the limo's roof, and he could see the little drops of fresh blood that had sprayed from the passenger compartment.

Sales of The Lay of Rethyfa continued unabated, and royalties from those sales brought in a steady stream of income. Then he met Rhonda.

Despite his popularity and wealth, a combination of social awkwardness and suspicion had prevented Millard from entering into any relationships over the years, much less get married. Finally, after a lifetime of bachelorhood, Millard met and fell in love with the beautiful and sophisticated Rhonda, and the two of them seemed swept off their feet with joy. He was thoroughly smitten with her, while she didn't seem to mind Millard's awkwardness and appeared indifferent to his wealth. The background check he ordered showed no history of questionable behavior on Rhonda's part; in retrospect, the investigators should have dug deeper.

Millard and Rhonda were married in the spring, and by summer, Rhonda was advancing plans to have Millard declared mentally incompetent, mostly on the basis of his steadfast adherence to claiming he hadn't written his book, and that it had been a gift from some alien culture. "I mean, a guy who believes that little green men made him rich ain't all there, and shouldn't be allowed to run his own finances, right?" asked Rhonda of the high-priced lawyer she had hired with money she had squirreled away in preparation for this coup. Then she laughed. The lawyer just smiled.

So confident was Rhonda of her plan, that she told Millard all about it over dinner in their Manhattan penthouse suite.

"You're such a chump, Millard," she said, draining the last of the champagne from her glass. "I don't know why you stick to that preposterous story about the Throggs, or whoever they are…"

"The Thåg," interrupted Millard, without thinking.

"Whatever…," said Rhonda, as the doorbell rang. "The bottom line is, darling, that you're going to have to either admit you wrote the book – which I don't think you're capable of, frankly – or you're going to have to come up with a hell of a plan 'B' to hang on to any part of your money."

The hotel's butler appeared at the dining room door. "It's Mr. Cheathem, ma'am," he said. "He says he's here to pick you up for your meeting."

"That's my lawyer, darling," said Rhonda to Millard, rising from her chair. "You should know he's also my lover," she whispered, conspiratorially. "We're off to talk strategy, and about our future together. Will you see us out?" Her tipsy laugh tinkled like a handful of change that had dropped onto a tile floor.

Millard thought for a moment, then rose from his chair as well. "Sure," he said. "Let me walk you to the elevator."

Cheathem gave Millard an appraising look as the two men shook hands in the small foyer outside the apartment, the sort of look a lamb gets from a hyena just before the latter's dinnertime. The lawyer then stood aside to let Rhonda enter the elevator and followed her in.

Millard stuck out his hand as the doors started to shut and took a deep breath. "You know, guys," he said, "I suppose it's only fair to say to you that the Thåg have been a figment of my imagination all along, and that of course, nobody but I wrote The Lay of Rethyfa. So now it's you who need a plan 'B', but I don't think you'll have the time to draw one up." Adler then withdrew his hand and the elevator doors closed in front of the utterly surprised faces of his wife and her lawyer.

As he turned to go back to the dining room, he heard a dull mechanical sound – probably the elevator cables breaking, he thought – followed by human screams growing ever fainter as the elevator plunged down the shaft twenty-six stories to the street level.


Date: 2010-06-12 06:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] supremegoddess1.livejournal.com
alex, you never cease to amaze me.

Date: 2010-06-13 02:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alexpgp.livejournal.com
Thanks for the compliment! (In truth, though, this story was sort of a desperate move, as I had a very limited window in which to write this week.)

Cheers...

Date: 2010-06-13 12:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] theafaye.livejournal.com
It's been nice seeing you expand more into fiction this season, especially on a topic that completely stumps me, so I admire anyone who does a good entry on it!

Date: 2010-06-13 02:52 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alexpgp.livejournal.com
Well, it's been a voyage out of my comfort zone, that's for sure! (Which is probably a good thing, I suppose, in the big scheme of things.)

Cheers...

Date: 2010-06-13 04:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] daphnis.livejournal.com

Oh my goodness! WELL DONE!!

Date: 2010-06-13 04:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alexpgp.livejournal.com
Thank you!

Cheers...

Date: 2010-06-14 04:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] furzicle.livejournal.com
whose facial muscles exhibited all the emotion of petrified wood
ha ha ha! love it.

Date: 2010-06-14 04:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alexpgp.livejournal.com
I should freewheel more often, I guess.

Cheers...

Date: 2010-06-14 04:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] furzicle.livejournal.com
And of course: haakkaa pååle

From NY Times: "Yet Finns seem to relish stories of military prowess. One of the hit records of four years ago was ''Hakkaa Paale'' or, roughly, ''Make Hash of Them!'' a battle cry of the Finnish dragoons serving in the Royal Swedish army of the Thirty Years War."

Date: 2010-06-14 04:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] furzicle.livejournal.com
from: http://www.nytimes.com/1983/10/16/travel/finland-s-heritage-on-parade.html?&pagewanted=2

Date: 2010-06-14 04:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alexpgp.livejournal.com
I must track down the song, or at least a recording of someone saying the expression. The abundance of vowels has always intrigued me.

Cheers...

Date: 2010-06-17 05:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rattsu.livejournal.com
Haha I thought it sounded familiar!

Date: 2010-06-14 02:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] teaberryblue.livejournal.com
This was freaking genius. I loved it, loved it, and seriously, it was awesome to read something so different from what you usually do and see that you are excellent at this as well.

So awesome. I love stories about stories and this was just so well done.

Date: 2010-06-16 04:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alexpgp.livejournal.com
Thanks for the kind words.

Cheers...

Date: 2010-06-16 05:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] teaberryblue.livejournal.com
Of course. I absolutely loved this and it really proves that as wonderfully pun as your personal narratives are, you're just as clever with fiction.

Date: 2010-06-15 06:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alephz.livejournal.com
Creeeeeeeeeepy. Much love. Much, much love for this'n.

Date: 2010-06-16 04:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alexpgp.livejournal.com
Thanks!

Cheers...

Date: 2010-06-15 07:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cacophonesque.livejournal.com
Very entertaining. There's something very endearing about the awkward protagonist--and I really liked that Millard finally had his moment of genius in coming up with Plan B.

Date: 2010-06-16 04:55 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alexpgp.livejournal.com
Thank you! I felt I had Alfred Hitchcock looking over my shoulder when I wrote this.

Cheers...

Date: 2010-06-15 08:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gratefuladdict.livejournal.com
"I hate to see her go, but I looooove to watch her leave."

Well done!

Date: 2010-06-16 04:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alexpgp.livejournal.com
Thank you!

Cheers...

Date: 2010-06-16 12:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] beautyofgrey.livejournal.com
Mwuhaha! This left me rubbing my hands with glee! This is a fantastic and inventive piece, I truly enjoyed it!

Date: 2010-06-16 04:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alexpgp.livejournal.com
Thanks for the compliment! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Cheers...

Date: 2010-06-16 02:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fourzoas.livejournal.com
That was great fun!

Date: 2010-06-16 04:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alexpgp.livejournal.com
I'm glad you liked it!

Cheers...

Date: 2010-06-16 03:08 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] beldar.livejournal.com
Brilliant.

Date: 2010-06-16 05:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alexpgp.livejournal.com
Thanks!

Cheers...

Date: 2010-06-16 07:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alycewilson.livejournal.com
This is great! I hung on every word.

Date: 2010-06-16 04:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alexpgp.livejournal.com
Thanks for the compliment!

Cheers...

Date: 2010-06-16 03:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lawchicky.livejournal.com
I finished this piece and felt like yelling out "muhahaha" like an evil villan. Well done!

Date: 2010-06-16 04:45 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alexpgp.livejournal.com
Thank you!

Cheers...

Date: 2010-06-17 02:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lapis-lazuli615.livejournal.com
Nice twist. Very nicely done!

Date: 2010-06-18 06:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alexpgp.livejournal.com
Thank you for the kind words!

Cheers...

Date: 2010-06-17 10:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] comedychick.livejournal.com
Ahh, such delightful revenge! I enjoyed the premise in the beginning and am glad the story continued to intrigue me until the end.

Date: 2010-06-18 05:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alexpgp.livejournal.com
I'm glad you liked the story!

Cheers...

Profile

alexpgp: (Default)
alexpgp

October 2017

S M T W T F S
1 2 3 45 67
8 9 10 11121314
15 161718192021
22232425262728
293031    

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Oct. 17th, 2017 04:49 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios