by Phil Hahn

Twice below an infinity...

...In the magical land of Nor there was a small country. In this small country was a little village. In this little village there was a tiny house, and in this tiny house there was a young boy. The boy's name was Klop, his house was in the village of Shikishankashar which lay on the eastern border of Sap in the land of Nor.

As our tale begins we find Klop at the breakfast table with his mother. Ever since Father lost all they had in the hopeless employ of a vacuum filter salesman bent on world domination through door-to-door sales, and ever since he went mad and tried to rally all the parrots in their village to rise up in revolt against the tyranny of button holes, and ever since that frightful night of the lemmings, they had lived alone. They were enjoying a delectable bowl of schlops, a vegetable not unlike, yet totally different from a gourd. The schlops was the main staple of food for most of the people of Shikishankashar. As the meal was being greedily consumed, Mother instructed Klop that he had to go to the market in Shikishankashar to get their supply of schlops for the week.

With a mouth full of schlops stew he replied, "Bu I wuv goim po go ou am pway wif vu guyv pogay." Mother slapped him on the back of the head in a devious little maneuver she liked to call the kuf sending the schlops from his mouth flying across the table and landing 6 inches from the garbage bin. Klop repeated, "But I was going to go out and play with the guys today."

"You spend too much time playing with those boys anyway." Mother replied.

"But mom, who else am I going to play with?" retorted Klop.

"Don't end your sentences with prepositions," Mother exclaimed as she gave him another kuf. "Besides, there are plenty of girls around the village. Why don't you get to know some of them?"

"Girls!?" he indignantly snapped. "But they're dirty and smelly and always beating up the boys." Then he added most emphatically, "Besides, all the girls in this village are UGLY!"

Mother shook her head. "I'm sorry you feel that way. You know some day you will meet a girl that will change your mind. Now, put your bowl in the wash-basin and get to the market before all the ripe schlops is taken."

Klop licked the last of his breakfast from the bowl and quite unenthusiastically walked it over to the wash-basin making all sorts of unintelligible indignant noises, until he saw Mother's hand cocking back for another kuf. He quickly grabbed the silver coins from the cupboard then darted out the door and out of his mother's reach.

Outside, Klop was immediately greeted by the guys. "Hey Klop, guess what we figured out! If you take this kind of lizard and rub a mixture of beer, hot peppers, and tobacco leaves into its face for a few minutes it starts to sneeze, convulse, and run around in circles real fast while falling over!"

"That's great guys, but I'm afraid I can't play today, I've got to go to the market for schlops. You can come with me if you want."

"No way man," they replied. "The market's boring. Besides, Jehosephanableen has like twenty of these lizards in his creek. We're gonna see what it looks like when we get twenty of 'em doing it at once." Then the boys ran off without so much as a goodbye.

"Some friends you are," snorted Klop. "Didn't even leave me the one lizard to play with."

"Don't end your sentences with prepositions," screamed a wandering maniac running by.

"Would you quit following me!?" he yelled in response.

Arriving in the market he weaved between the crowds of people who were all bustling around buying their schlops, plagles, bilafins, and apples. Klop drew from his pocket the six silver coins and headed toward their favorite schlops cart at the edge of the market square. As he approached, merely feet from his destination, having almost accomplished his assigned task, within moments of arriving at the schlops cart, something distracted him. He saw a lone cart several feet from the main market square. It was outside of the circle. Klop had never seen this cart before. It was old, dark, and had a strange aura about it. Curiosity won him over and he strayed from his task to explore the unknown. Upon arriving at the little cart he observed that the merchant behind it was old, dark, and had a strange aura about him.

"Who are you?" Klop inquired.

In a mysterious raspy voice he replied, "Why, I am The Merchant, the purveyor of strange and exotic ancient relics. Some relics of great value and some of great power and some... of untold, unspeakable, indescribable horror."

"Creepy," responded Klop, as the strange aura seemed to grow. "So, what is all this stuff?"

"They are strange and exotic ancient relics. Some relics of great value and some of great power and some... of untold--"

"I get the picture! I heard you the first time." Klop interrupted impatiently. "So what is this thing?" he asked, pointing to a sphere hung by a rope from the top corner of the cart.

"Oh, that," The old man rasped. "That relic I would not sell unless I had no other choice. It is a wishing sphere. The owner wears it about his neck and is granted every wish his heart desires. But every last desire granted is a poisonous curse that destroys all, condemns all, and eventually brings about nothing but death and sorrow. Half-off today because of my clearance sale, and it comes with this handy velvet carrying case."

"No, thank you," replied Klop thinking that this was starting to get weird. "What is this box?"

"That's just my 'strange aura' generator, it's not for sale."

Becoming quite unimpressed, he decided to try one more item. "What is this?"

The Merchant paused, and looking very concerned, stared down intently upon the small rectangular box. It was an unimportant looking box. No markings adorned its smooth and unimpressive black surface. "This item brought much sorrow to its previous owner. I sold it to a man who brought it back ten years later. His appearance had aged as if from decades of toilsome troubles and unspeakable hardships." Finally looking up from the box, locking eyes with Klop, and lifting the black box from its surface the old merchant opened it.

"Those are nothing but a pair of old glasses!" Klop laughed. "You know, I almost believed your silly little act. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to change my shorts."

"One moment!" the man exclaimed grasping Klop by the arm. "These are no ordinary glasses! I wouldn't sell ordinary glasses. That wouldn't be a relic of great value, great power, or of untold, unspeakable, indescribable horror now would it? No, these glasses... 'see with eyes unclouded by the outer, perceive what cannot be observed, with undone surface reveal the innermost heart of the things at which that it looks at.'"

"That doesn't make sense," replied Klop unenthusiastically.

"They're X-Ray glasses," retorted the merchant.

"Cool. How much?"

"Three silver coins."

Klop pulled out the three coins and handed them to the merchant. The merchant in turn placed the box into a plastic bag and handed it to the boy. "Thank you for shopping the cart of The Merchant, the purveyor of strange and exotic ancient relics. Some relics of great value and some of great..."

Klop walked away.

He bought three silver coins worth of schlops and headed home. Of course, like any other red-blooded Norian child, he had to open the toy before he got home, but unlike any other child, he did not try to break the toy before he got home. He simply put on the glasses.

Everything went black!

Klop took off the glasses and looked at them. They were clear. He put them on again, but all he saw was black. He stood there still, staring off into nowhere trying to figure out what was wrong. He turned his head and saw something. He strained his eyes and he noticed that as he concentrated on focusing his eyes he started seeing images. He couldn't yet identify them, but things were coming into focus. Klop took off the glasses, chose a barn as his target, looked directly at it, then put the glasses over his eyes. As he focused his eyes intently, he found that it worked like a zoom lens. He saw inside the grain of the wood that constructed the barn, then focused deeper. As he zoomed in, he saw a cow for a brief moment then...

Blood! Organs! Muscle! Eeeewwww!

Ok, that was a little too deep. A man passed by. This was a good opportunity to try focusing. As the man passed and began to walk away, Klop looked at him through the glasses. No matter how hard he tried to focus on the contents of his pockets, the kind of shorts he was wearing, or what was pinned to the front of his jacket on the opposite side, all he could see was the man's guts. He did however, to his disgust, identify quite clearly what the man had eaten for lunch that day. Then to his horror, he identified what the man had eaten for dinner the night before.

This was getting creepy. He put the glasses into the box and put it into his pocket.

He arrived at the gate to his house. He couldn't wait to show mom his new toy. Klop hopped up the stairs to his front door. He burst into the house and excitedly announced, "Mom! Guess what I bought at the market today!"

Mother turned from the wash-basin slowly and intensely. She stabbed Klop in the face with her eyes. "I. GUESS. SCHLOPS."

"You're right!" Klop replied exuberantly. He wasn't stupid. He knew what would happen if he confronted a stare like that. "I bought schlops, but the price doubled this week, so I was only able to by half of what we usually get."

Yes, he lied. Okay, I'm sorry if your innocent little mind cannot handle the fact that sometimes little boys lie to their parents. But he knew what was in store for him if he told the truth, far worse than a kuf for wasting money.

Klop dropped off the schlops on the table and went outside. He put on the glasses. It was incredibly difficult to focus images. In fact, the more he practiced, the more he ended up seeing inside objects instead of through them. Then the boys showed up, looking quite strange from the inside. But they all huddled quickly around him, too quickly for Klop to put away the glasses.

"Klop!" They exclaimed. "We found some rotten eggs in the garbage heap. We're gonna go throw them at farmer Gavin's pigs. You want to come with?"

"You can't end sentences with prepositions!" said the maniac.

"Don't you have a home!?" yelled Klop.

"Come on. We've been waiting for you to get back all morning," they eagerly urged him. "Hey. Did you get new glasses?"

"Um, yeah," said Klop in his most incriminating tone. Not wanting to arouse suspicion, he pretended that his vision was a little blurry and the new glasses were just a trial pair. "I'm not even sure if I'm going to keep them. They don't help my vision too much." Klop quickly changed the subject off of the mysterious glasses. "So where are the eggs?"

They shouted, "Right here! Let's go!" as they pulled him along to farmer Gavin's pig pens.

Klop spent the rest of the day with the glasses on his face. To his alarm, he was actually becoming quite fascinated with the images he saw.

As the weeks and months progressed, he began to prefer the world viewed through his magic glasses. It actually came to the point where he never took them off and became used to the images. He saw the world on the inside. The inside was now all he knew, and he forgot what the world looked like through normal eyes. He wore them unaware of the fact that he was adapting so completely that he no longer noticed that he was wearing the glasses. He began to believe that this was the way the world actually looked. And aside from occasional strange comments like, "Would you look at what that guy ate for dinner." Or, "That man's organs look weird." His friends didn't even notice. Mother was given the story that his friends had given the glasses to him and he didn't want to take them off because he thought they made him look smart. Mother thought his mouth was smart enough to do that, but generally ignored the boy's new appearance.

Time passed, events happened, life went on and things did whatever things do... until one day.

Klop was walking down the morning path to the market and passing on the other side of the road was a girl. Klop stopped in total shock. He couldn't believe what he saw. She was a girl, with skin and clothing and hair. He saw an outward appearance! Not familiar with outward appearance, her looks were totally captivating. He saw her as a normal human being, and not just any normal human being. She was breathtakingly gorgeous. She was the most beautiful sight he had ever seen. Not remembering that he wore magic glasses, nor what people originally looked like, he saw a beauty beyond explanation. As she passed by on a busy errand of her own, she didn't even notice the boy frozen in his tracks with mouth agape gripping a clump of his own hair.

She turned the corner and disappeared behind some trees, and Klop realized that he felt as if he had been deprived of oxygen and was about to pass out. Then he realized that his body was supposed to be breathing. But it wasn't. His brain shortly remedied that by sending signals to his lungs telling them to suck in. After regaining his color and composure he followed off in her direction.

He followed her all the way to her home, roughly 10 miles from his own house. As she turned to close the gate she saw Klop coming. Mildly startled by a stranger following her home she yelled out before he could reach the gate. "Who are you?"

He stopped and quickly answered. "My name is Klop, I'm your neighbor about 10 miles down the road. I've never seen you before and I just wanted to meet you and introduce myself."

Slightly relieved by his friendly tone, she opened the gate and waited for him to walk in.

"I'm Klop," he said sheepishly. "What's your name?"

She looked at him questionably, "My name is Alathia."

"Why haven't I seen you before? Who are your parents?" he asked eagerly.

"My family just moved here from across the river. We didn't have enough land to farm there because of the overcrowding, we couldn't yield big enough crops to pay the bills. So we came here." She could tell by the massively unintelligent look on his face that he was no threat, so Alathia continued, "My parents are Laul and Mesifree Fair. They are farmers, but you knew that now."

She began to open up to this stranger quite quickly. But what Klop didn't know was that she opened up because most people didn't talk to Alathia. She was kind of lonely. In fact she had only had one friend at her previous village, but that girl had gotten married and moved 2 years previous. She was quite delighted that someone was willing to talk to her with such interest. Most people didn't give attention to girls like her.

"Who are your parents?" she asked, trying not to dominate the conversation.

"Well, I live with my mother," he began, "but I haven't seen my father for years."

"Oh, I'm so sorry. What happened?" She requested with concern.

Klop just looked down at his feet. "He kind of went mad and ever since that frightful night of the lemmings we haven't seen him."

Curious, she inquired, "What happened on that night?"

"Oh, no." Klop answered, "We never speak of that night. That was the night of the lemmings. But Mother and I have lived in our house for the last 17 years. She is a seamstress."

Klop and Alathia continued to converse and share details about their lives. Captivated by both her beauty and her vibrant personality, Klop felt something he had never felt before. He had never really talked to a real girl before, let alone show real interest in her company. But Alathia was different. She was fun, friendly, and her laugh filled his heart with a warm glow that he couldn't contain. And she was beautiful... a concept that he could not identify. He had not seen a girl in well over 2 years, well, from the outside anyway. He couldn't understand how she could look so different from everyone else, but still look human. He identified her with his memory of what people used to look like, but Klop didn't even realize the connection. Before they knew it, the sun was setting. They didn't even notice that hours had passed.

"Well, Alathia Fair," said Klop with a glint of sadness in his eyes. "I guess my mother will be worrying about me by now. Will I see you again soon?"

"Of course!" She replied. "You're the first friend I've made in 2 years. I would love to see you again. Goodbye Klop."

They quite unintentionally hugged goodbye. As they walked away from each other they realized this strange phenomenon. Once they were out of earshot from one another... "I've never hugged someone of the opposite sex before," they unknowingly said simultaneously. Klop had never before wanted to do it and Alathia had never before had the opportunity. Alathia, you see, had never known a boy to find her attractive.

No one knows why the glasses chose Alathia. One can never tell for certain why magic relics choose to do the things they do. But the glasses deceived Klop. Alathia was not a beautiful girl. In fact, by most people's standards she was quite homely. She warmed up to Klop so quickly because no one had ever before wanted to talk to a girl as ugly as she. This was not an evil deception by the glasses, but one intended to reveal the truth. The glasses, for the first time in Klop's experience, chose not to show him the inside of her body, but the inside of her heart. Alathia had the most beautiful heart of anyone Klop had ever encountered, and that is what the glasses chose to show him.

The next morning Klop leaped out of bed hours before his mother usually woke him. He had schlops ready and waiting on the table when she got up. Mother shuffled into the kitchen and saw the schlops steaming on the table. Dazed and confused, she looked up and saw Klop standing there with a stupid grin on his face holding a fresh baked loaf of bread.

"Good morning Mother!" Klop exclaimed exuberantly.


Klop drew back shockingly unprepared for the whack. "Why did you hit me?"

"What did you do this time?" Mother exclaimed, quite unimpressed by his obvious attempts at bribery.

"I've cooked breakfast for you." He squeaked happily, still smiling in spite of the kuf.

Mother sat down at the table and began to eat her schlops. "Cut to the chase then, what do you want."

With smile bursting, he closed his eyes, threw his arms out and began to twirl about the room. "I want this day to last for the rest of eternity! I want to soar on the wings of seagulls! I want to capture the stars and put them in my pocket only share them with every lonely soul in the land!"

"Okay, did you find that box under my bed with all the dried leaves in it?"

"No, Mother I met the most beautiful girl in the world yesterday. Although I've known about that box for three years now."

Mother grinned. That completely explained his stupidity. Only drugs, love, and lack of oxygen can do this to a boy's mind. "I told you that you would meet someone someday. What's her name? Do I know her?"

"Her name is Alathia Fair. Oh, Alathia Fair. That name hangs on my eyes like a fragrant melody." He sang her name as he began to twirl about the room again.

"Where is she from?" she inquired, attempting to cut her way through the sap.

The maniac thrust his head into the window and shouted, "A preposition is a terrible thing to end a sentence with!" Mother punched him in the face sending him soaring backwards into the grass.

Still spinning he answered, "She lives ten miles north of us. Her parents just moved there from across the river." Dizzy, he plopped down in a chair and let out a violent sigh.

Not willing to put up with this kind of psychosis for the rest of the day she gave up on him. "Well, you're no good to me today. Go on out and play with your new friend."

Before she completed the word "friend" he was out the door and running toward her house. He didn't even notice that he was running right past his buddies.

"Klop!" The guys shouted with surprise. "You're not usually awake by now." Not wanting to be rude, he stopped. But before he could dismiss them, they tried to pull him right onto the bandwagon. "Mud slingshots, Klop! Mud slingshots! We've already killed 2 chickens this morning and Persephone just got a new dress. We're on our way to her house now." Klop looked off in the direction of Alathia's house searching for the words that would get him out of this plot. "C'mon Klop! What do we have to do, draw you a picture? 'Persephone's new dress plus mud slingshots equals fun time had by all.' Now let's get moving."

At a loss for creativity, Klop just said it, "I don't want to fling mud at Persephone."

The guys' jaws dropped and they all went silent. "Do you remember what she did to your hair at the last village festival?"

"Yeah, I know, but I have more important things to do." With that, he ran off to meet his Alathia Fair.

"Lot of good he is. C'mon fellas, It's Mud Time!" And they marched off to meet Persephone.

He leaped over her gate and ran up the path to her house almost running over her father. "Hello there son," Laul bellowed in a deep friendly voice. "My daughter told me a lot about you. You and her spent a lot of time alone together yesterday. So I just have one question." He leaned forward and examined Klop closely. "What are your intentions with my daughter?"

Without allowing his brain to even process the question, he blurted, "I intend to marry her!"

"Oh, well welcome to our home then. Can I get you anything to drink? Would you like to stay for supper?" Laul led Klop up to the door, she was waiting on the steps to meet him. As Klop ran to meet her they leaped into each other's arms with an embracing hug as if it was the most natural thing in the world. Acting as if they had been in love for years, they spent the rest of the day laughing, sharing their favorite stories, eating fish fruits under the willow in her father's field. They behaved this way the entire summer. As the months flew by, Klop spent less and less time with the guys and began to spend every spare moment with Alathia. His friends couldn't understand how Klop could leave their company to spend time with a girl like that.

"Have you taken a good look at her Klop?" they would often inquire.

"Haven't you?" retorted Klop sternly. He didn't understand why they had such a problem with Her. Alathia was his closest friend, his most trusted companion. She had the most beautiful heart of anyone he had ever met. Every moment spent with her was a dream he never wanted to wake up from.

"Don't end your sentences with prepositions!"

I'm the writer! I can type whatever I want! You're only a wandering maniac, I could write you out of the script with one twitch of my fingers on the keyboard. So go correct someone else's grammar. Now where was I? Oh yes...

Eight months passed by. Klop and Alathia were more in love than ever. They were taking a walk down a moonlit path shortly after nightfall. Klop was holding her hand and they were discussing their future.

"I love you Alathia Fair," Klop sighed nervously.

She sincerely replied, "I love you too Klop."

Klop's hands started to quiver. "Wouldn't you want to spend the rest of our lives together, never having to part company?"

"That would be lovely," she replied.

Right then, Klop got down on one knee and pulled out a plain silver ring. "I know it's not much to look at, but... Will you marry me Alathia?"

"Oh! Yes!" she shouted as she threw her arms about his neck, toppling him to the ground.

"Alathia," he said tearfully looking up at her, "as much as I wish this moment in your arms could last forever, the gerbil now trapped beneath my back is quite uncomfortably trying to escape." The couple stood to their feet and held hands as they watched the terrified gerbil gallivant off into the cool, starlit fields.

They really did love each other enough to get married, but as we all know, Klop had a secret that even he didn't know. He had still never seen her as she really was, a homely and ugly girl that no one liked.

We now find our hero getting dressed the morning of the wedding. He was so happy, excited, nervous, and sweaty all at once. He was ready to begin a life with the girl he loved. After tying his shoes he got up and ran toward the door to take his last breath of bachelorhood before heading to the chapel to finalize the contract. As he flung open the door, his left foot caught on his right and he tripped. He tumbled down the stairs and landed face first in the earth. Stunned by the fall and the pain, he clenched his eyes as he got up. He wiped the mud from his face and slowly opened his eyes.

Light! Color!

The Glasses had fallen off his head and landed beneath him! They were destroyed! He looked down at the broken glasses and then felt his naked face once more. Klop looked up and saw birds flying with feathers blowing in the wind. He looked across the road and saw a farmer painting the outside of his barn. He looked down at his hands and saw... skin! Suddenly it dawned on him. The last three years all rushed back to him in a furious storm of light bulbs igniting all at once above his head. He understood why no one liked to play 'guess that guy's last meal' with him. He understood why he had gifted tendencies toward internal medicine. He understood what the guys had said about Alathia...

"Oh no," cried Klop, "what does this mean for Alathia and I? We're supposed to marry today! What have I been seeing as I've looked at her all these months?" Klop hit the ground with his knees. "Why? Why me? Why now? Couldn't these stupid glasses have found someone better to do this to?"

"Preposition!" said the maniac.

"I don't know if I can even face her. I don't know if I even want to find out why people react to her the way they do. Do I even want to see the face I've so often heard described to me? I dismissed the comments for months as mere jealousy."

Klop dropped his head. This was his wedding day, a decision had to be made and quickly, the ceremony started in an hour. Slowly Klop lifted his head and starred steadily at the chapel on the horizon. With tears in his eyes he got up. He clenched his fists and tightened his lips. "I at least owe an explanation to Alathia. I love her and I cannot leave her standing at the altar without an explanation. I have to face her, if only to tell her the truth."

He gathered up all his strength and walked toward the chapel steadily. By the time he arrived at the front doors, he realized that the ceremony started in only five minutes. Everyone was already inside waiting for him. With one final, dedicated wave of courage he flung open both doors and standing in the doorway, looked down the center aisle. On either side were fifty to a hundred people staring back at him.

And before him stood the ugliest, most hideous face, mounted upon the most awkward shoulders, atop an unnaturally bulgy body. But farmer Gavin's deformed sheep was blocking his view of the front of the chapel. So, he pushed the incredibly wrong animal out of his way.

Looking all the way to the front he saw, roughly 35 feet forward, the minister in black and the girl standing in a spotless white wedding dress. Alathia turned and faced him.

Then he saw her face, and to the disgust of the crowd, she smiled. She wore no veil. Klop for the first time quite clearly viewed her without the filter of the glasses, and tears began to slowly fall from his cheek. He dropped his head with hands covering his face. The crowd didn't know what to make of this gesture. He then lifted his eyes and locked a truth-telling gaze with Alathia as the tears now began to flow.


And here Phil ended the story. "What?" you are protesting. That's right, he made me read it without the ending just to get me back for writing "Pretty" (a story found elsewhere in the Compendium). Fortunately, he included an ending, which I read after his attempt to upset me failed. Haha.The Compendium

© 1998-2024 Zach Bardon
Last modified 7.19.2019
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