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CISCWorld - The Colour of Magic

There it lies basking in the lazy sunshine of an early spring day, moving at a slow and steady pace through the universe on top of what in another place and time would be called a motherboard (probably because it was so big that it could be the mother of all boards), supported by the four stately columns of what in that selfsame place and time would be called tower casings (but why anybody would want to case perfectly good stone is not known) - the CISCWorld[1]. Nobody knows why the gods should create such a strange configuration - a magnetized platter of a world resting on top of four huge columns resting on an even bigger piece of electronic circuitry (of course, the people of the CISCWorld have no idea what electronics is) - as a habitation for living, breathing humans, but then again ... why not? In a universe where all possible permutations may exist, the CISCWorld is just another possibility.

A watcher from space (who would either have to have the keen eyesight of a pickpocket who can see a purse through manifold layers of clothing or resort to a far more simpler telescope), who was to focus his attention on the centre of the CISCWorld, would have seen that there was a curiously smooth and tall mountain jutting out like the raised finger of an irate school master. This is Mount Spindle Shank, the home of the gods of the CISCWorld. This is where all-powerful Emsee Pi[2] ruled over the whole of the world with his coterie of lesser gods. 

If the hypothetical watcher was to now shift his attention a slight distance away from the base of Mount Spindle Shank (slight in astronomical measurements, that is), he would see a sprawling city lying like a drunken sailor after a night out in the town. This is SandPitte – the pre-eminent city-state of CISCWorld. It was not much of a city as cities go but in the CISCWorld, it was a king of cities. Right down the middle of the city ran the river Isabus and much can be written about it (but none of it good). A long time ago, it had actually been the boundary line between two separate cities – Sandy Ego and Pitte Bool – but in the course of time (though nobody knows why time has got to course and not walk like ordinary people), the cities had grown so large that they had naturally come to merge together like two fat, old women clinging to each other for support. Thus had been born the city of SandPitte.

Let us leave the watcher at his voyeuristic task of gazing down at a world spinning on through space and move down to the city of SandPitte itself. SandPitte is a remarkable and curious city in many ways but the first thing that one noticed on entering the city (or rather the first thing one noticed about the city from a very long way off) was its smell. The city had a curiously distinctive smell which could almost be cut into pieces and sold – in fact, someone was already doing it, there was an industrious merchant in the city who was reputed to be bottling the stuff and sending it off to foreign lands to be used as a knockout gas. But to the denizens of the fair city of SandPitte, the smell was almost unnoticeable (except of course by its absence – if they happened to leave the city).

As with all old cities, most of the streets in SandPitte were narrow, dark and smelly in addition to twisting and turning this way and that like a snake engaged in a disco dancing competition. Buth there is one street which connects the two cities in a direct line (well, almost a direct line except for one place where the street staggered a bit but as this was the site of the most well known of the many inns in SandPitte – “The Volatile Ram”- the road workers could perhaps be forgiven the break in geometrical consistency) and this street is named Stig Street. It is towards Stig Street that we must direct our attention because there is a great commotion and a sound of running feet down this street. Of course, one pauses for a moment to envision what running feet might look like as opposed to running people, but the sight that unfolds before us as we look down Stig Street diverts our thoughts.

At the end of Stig Street is a high stone wall – at least, it looks like stone but not like any stone that can be quarried from the ground. It looks like grey stone with a metallic sheen which seems to suggest that the stones are reinforced by some power not known to ordinary mortals. There are two huge gates set in the wall and all the people running down the street are gathered in front of these gates and are staring up as if in anticipation of something happening. These are the walls of the PIT, or to give it its full name, the Pitte Institute of Thaumaturgy – the foremost (actually the only) university of magic in the CISCWorld.

The shouting of the crowd increases but there seems to be no response from within. Then just as some of the more enterprising of those among the crowd were about to resort to stones to attract the attention of those within, there was a creaking noise as if an old trapdoor had been opened and an old man appeared on the wall of the university. He was not a very special looking man – of average build and height and peering around as if he’d been looking at something intently for too long. Not by any stretch of the imagination could one say that he had a commanding presence but for some strange reason, his very appearance seemed to silence the crowd. They stared up at him in silence for a moment and he stared back at them. Things seemed to be at a deadlock till an aspiring diplomat among the crowd decided to get things on the way.

“Hey you old fool! Get somebody in charge up there!”

The old man seemed draw himself up to his full height (not that that made any observable difference to his height) and said in a voice trembling with indignation, “I’ll have you know that I am the Chancellor of the university!”

Though the Chancellor of the PIT was the highest ranking wizard on the CISCWorld and was therefore arguably the most powerful, the irate crowd didn’t seem to be cowed. If anything, it seemed to increase the mutterings and mumblings going on. The wannabe diplomat decided to give it another shot. “We just wants to know what yer people are doing up on Bunglore Hill”

“They say that they’re building an infernal device – a competer or somethin’. We don’t need no competers – got enough competition already.” chimed in another.

The old wizard seemed puzzled for a moment and his brow creased in thought. (Why a wizard uses his brow for thinking while he’s got a perfectly good brain is a mystery that hasn’t been solved yet). He suddenly seemed to realise something and looked up with a relieved air. “Oh you mean the computer that we are setting up?”

“Yeah, that’s what we said – competer!”

“It isn’t an infernal device – it’s a magical one” said the wizard in his best pedantic manner.

“Magical schmagical! It’s going to bring down the wrath of the gods upon us!” shouted another one of the crowd.

“Nonsense! All that you people do by needlessly panicking is to halt the march of progress!”

“We ain’t against the march of progress – it’s the results of progress that we are afeared of!”

“The computer is not going to harm any of you – it will actually help you.” the old wizard looked surprised for a moment as if he’d bitten into lemon and found honey inside, “Yes … it will help you.”

“Yeah right, guv! How is it going to help us?”

“It can help forecast the weather, it can help control traffic, it can …”

What other magnificent achievements of technology were to have been detailed by the Chancellor would never be known because somebody in the crowd decided to put a stop to it by filling up the Chancellor’s mouth with a well aimed tomato. The Chancellor went purple in the face (and it was not because of the tomato clogging up his nasal passage either) and seemed to be about to erupt in fury. He seemed to be enveloped in a halo of light which was of a curious electric grey colour – this was greytin the colour of magic.

The Chancellor would certainly have blasted the crowd below with a magical blast which would have transformed them into something nameless and horrible if there wasn’t a sudden interruption at this point …

[1] While it is possible that in another world which dealt in cyberspace and information superhighways, CISC would have been taken to stand for Complex Instruction Set Computing, in this continuum it just meant that the people just couldn’t think up a suitable name and thus, came up with a set of characters which meant nothing – Common, Innocuous Set of Characters (CISC).

[2] Often shortened to as MCP[3] by the CISCWorld people who were notorious for their laziness – their motto being “Don’t do today what can be put off till tomorrow”.

[3] Though MCP is often used to denote a Male Chauvinist Pig, it should be noted that in the case of  Emsee Pi, the letters were not an indication of the way he treated females.
Copyright © 2005-2008 Fahim Farook