The Department of Irregularities
The Department of Irregularities was itself a pretty irregular building. I mean, not many Government divisions are housed inside fish, after all. Situated on the underside of a large cave, the Department was located in the countryside some two minutes away from the residential area known as Business under Substantial Improvement – BUSI for short.
The teapot rang and Wild Fizz picked it up.
“Hello, this is the Department of Irregularities. How may we be of service?” he asked politely.
“There’s a triangle in the squares!” shrieked a shrill voice.
“Okay, madam, and where might we find you?”
“I’m at Home,” the woman said, the teapot going dead. Wild Fizz was still for a moment, and looked around the Department. The room he was in was the Hub, a small, cosy headquarters. Being inside the stomach of the fish, the floor was always a little damp and smelled faintly of bile, but that was a problem easily solved by an excessive amount of woolly rugs and air-freshener. There was a kitchen area, a couple of bookshelves opposite a fluffy sofa and in the corner sat a supercomputer working its ways through a midlife crisis.
Then Fizz remembered the teapot call.
“Bubble, there’s a triangle in the squares at Home!” Fizz called to his partner.
Vile Bubble was an odd man with an odd name and an even odder dress sense. Pink suits were in Fizz’s opinion just plain wrong.
“Hang on; I just need to lock up the leopard,” Bubble replied.
“No need, it’s been locked up ever since it tried to jump in front of that train,” Fizz replied. It had been a grim but rather memorable moment.
“Well in that case we’re going Home,” Bubble said, jumping to his feet.
The two men were so alike they weren’t. Vile Bubble was short and fat but cheery and upbeat. Wild Fizz was calm, quiet and collected about thirty percent of the time. The other seventy percent, he was lavishly scornful and sarcastic. However, the two had been close friends ever since the Boss had rescued them at birth from a defective crane. Some might even consider them blood, or rather, bloodless brothers.
The pair stood under the blowhole, a small opening in the fish’s spine, and a whooshing sound filled the Department. Fizz could hear the suicidal leopard howling in misery, and the supercomputer grumbling about the state of its marriage. With a hop, skip and a jump Bubble and Fizz were rocketed up through the blowhole and out of the murk of the cave. It was never a good idea to stay in the cave for long: vampires weren’t known to be hospitable. Come to think of it, vampires weren’t known for much. They were a reclusive bunch.
Outside, the moon was shining softly in the midday sky, flecked red with homicidal aeroplanes locked in battle with the Government’s heliocopters. Mounting their velociraptors, the two men rode valiantly into the horizon, broke through the horizon and utilised the handy bypass to arrive at BUSI in no less than two minutes. Fizz dismounted and tied his dinosaur to a lamppost.
“So, where do we go from now?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” Bubble replied, getting down from his raptor. “You’re the one with the map.”
“No, you’re the one with the map.”
“No, you are.”
“But I told you to get the map.”
“Did you?” Bubble exclaimed, surprised. “Oh. Well in that case, I forgot it.”
“Fantastic,” Fizz sighed.
After three days of getting lost, a week of temperate darkness and four months of an overall sense of timelessness, Fizz managed to find a cake shop.
“This looks nice enough,” Bubble commented. “No seductive sorceresses or maniacal kitchen appliances, and completely free of rhubarb.”
“The rhubarb wasn’t that bad,” Fizz argued as they stepped into the shop.
“Rhubarb is evil, I tell you! Evil!”
“Vile?” Fizz asked.
Inside, the cake shop was tainted with the tantalising aroma of sugar, plums and arsenic.
“Good evening, gentleman, and welcome to Post-mortem,” the waitress said cheerfully. “Our cakes contain only the finest selection of natural venoms that are all, of course, organic.”
“Ooh, that cyanide pie looks divine,” Bubble drooled hungrily.
“An excellent choice, sir. May I also suggest a bottle of hydrogen per…”
“So sorry, but we’re not here to buy anything. We were hoping you could direct us Home, if it wouldn’t be too much trouble,” Fizz interrupted.
“Gladly. If you turn left, then carry on straight past the Penguin Consul, Home should be on your right.”
“Thank you very much,” Fizz said, prising Bubble away from the counter and dragging him through the door.
Narrowly avoiding a nasty encounter with a troubled walrus, Bubble and Fizz found themselves looking up at Home. Home was a strange building. It appeared differently to everyone who looked at it, taking on the shape of their favourite place in the universe.
“The Natural History Museum,” Fizz wondered, gazing up at Home. Bubble nudged him.
“I’d prefer the casino any day.”
The two raced into the happy recesses of Home, the ‘Best Place in the World’.
Fizz lost sight of Bubble as soon as he stepped through the threshold. He found himself standing in a large hall dominated by a liopleurodon skeleton. Incredible! Wondering down corridor after corridor, Fizz so lost himself amongst the marvels of taxidermy that he almost didn’t notice the green door.
It was a peculiar door in that it was at least half the size of any other he had encountered. Four squares were set into the frame, and the door had no handle. His curiosity kidnapping his sense of sensibility, Fizz pushed open the door with a creak…
…and someone pushed him through.
He fell onto a soft, bouncy material stained a horrendous shade of green. Brushing himself off, Fizz looked around.
The part of Home he was in was made up entirely of squares. Squares of every shape and size, except they were only really one shape: square. There were no rectangles in sight. No circles, two-sided shapes, pentagons, hexagons or octagons.
Just square after square after square after…
There, in the distance, was a triangle. It wasn’t even a nice triangle, all horrible and scalene and irregular and red.
It was his job to fix this, his job and a tribute to his mild asymmetriphobia.
Wild Fizz started walking towards the triangle but his legs overtook him and soon he was running.
And now he stopped.
And now he was hyperventilating.
And Oh My Gosh he’s going to die!
But no, Fizz picked himself up and wished he hadn’t.
The triangle was still there, taunting him in the distance, not a step closer. All he wanted was to reach that triangle!
And he was there.
Wild Fizz was on top of the triangle – except it wasn’t a triangle.
It was a cliff.
A huge, asymmetrical cliff.
He walked over to the edge of the cliff and peered over. By golly, it was a long way down. A very long way indeed, Fizz thought, as he realised he was falling.
And time stopped.
Silver light shone down from the purple clouds, and a great, bearded face appeared in the sky, accompanied by a drumroll, thunder and a flash of lightning.
“Deus ex machina!” the bearded face said majestically, time still frozen.
“Sorry, what?” Fizz asked, surprised he could speak, yet not succumb to the effects of gravity. The face smiled nervously.
“Deus ex machina!” the face repeated.
“Yeah, you already said that.”
“It’s a… It means the god in the machine,” the bearded face huffed.
“But… You’re not in a machine,” Fizz pointed out.
“Yeah, but… It’s an… Oh never mind. Basically, I’m here to intervene,” the face replied.
“Intervene in what?” Fizz asked.
“You’re falling off a cliff.”
“That I am aware of.”
“And I’m here to save you.”
“How can you…” Fizz stuttered. “Are you God?”
“What? No!” the face said quickly. “I am Hector, the God in the Machine… on work experience.”
“You’re a god on work experience?”
“You got a problem with that?”
“No, no, it’s fine with me. I was just wondering why you weren’t in a machine.”
“Listen, human, it’s an expression!”
“So you’re named after an expression?” Fizz asked, confused.
“What? No… Just… Be saved,” Hector commanded gruffly.
The God in the Machine disappeared.
Fizz landed on a soft, foamy piece of square.
“And where did you come from?” Vile Bubble asked from behind him.
“What? Oh, I just had a conversation with the God in the Machine,” Fizz replied dizzily.
Bubble’s lavish suit was brighter than ever, but the stocky man had a machine gun strapped across his back.
“Where did you get the gun?” Fizz asked.
“Oh, this?” Bubble asked. “I found it in the casino. Stole it from some gangster, I expect.”
“What were you doing stealing from gangsters?”
“I honestly have no idea. I think it had something to do with the quality of caviar…”
Fizz decided not to ask.
“So, where’s the triangle?” Fizz asked, getting to his feet.
“That horrible thing? I shot it and it exploded in a shower of dust,” Bubble replied. “It was unbelievably fun.”
“But… How did you get here?”
“There was a green door in the bathroom. Some uncouth lad shoved me through, and I found myself here, clutching this weapon,” Bubble replied.
“Our stories share some similarities,” Fizz said. “But for the meantime, I think it’s a job well done.”
“A little more than well done, I should expect.”
“I don’t know what you mean, but I’m going to pretend I do.” Fizz laughed. “For now it’s back to the Department.”
“Good idea. But I still think a slice of cyanide cake would do us good.”