Personal Journal, Day 31 since appearing at the Land of Talking Equines
Earth’s Date: September 14, 2012, according to my watch.
(I know I’ve been writing a journal every other day, but this being the one-month ‘anniversary’, I want to make a recap.)
The Holy Shit:
It’s weird how people can gain the trust and esteem of the locals, but it certainly seems that I have done so. The current occupants of the castle do seem to make a big deal of it, from the white queen apparently having made a pronouncement about me (in particular), the black princess taking some interest on me, the scholars pulling me into their discussions (despite me still not understanding almost anything of the local language), down to the maids smiling at me wherever I go and slipping chocolates on my bedclothes.
Or should I better say ‘starting by the maids and up to the queen’? I guess this last assertion fits better, considering that this invention should make the maids not have to empty chamber pots anymore.
Yeah: I ‘invented’ a modern toilet.
I guess I should explain: I arrived at the castle exactly thirty days ago. I don’t remember too much detail about that day (my mind was completely in turmoil, after all), except for the fact that the highly ornate bathroom adjoined to my highly ornate suite had every non-electric convenience… except that, rather than a toilet, it had a chamber pot.
It blew my mind that these people could have the conveniences of indoor plumbing, thus have faucets, showers and bathtubs here, but prefer chamber pots to flushing toilets! Nevertheless, I needed to go (I hadn’t since using an outhouse at the campground with the escorts that picked me up), so I had to squat for the first time in… at least two decades!
Thankfully, they did know about toilet paper, after a fashion: square-cut pieces of apparent newspaper, punched through a corner and hanging from a conveniently placed hook on the wall.
Ten minutes later, after thanking the convenience of a pedal-operated faucet, I was opening the writing desk on the studio.
An hour after that, after much cursing the effect of quills on left-handed writing, I had a readable schematic sketch of a conical basin connected to a U-bend and fed by a water cask, which was both filled and flushed through pedal-operated valves.
An hour after that I had drawn a comic as an explanation of how to use a toilet, and showed it to the maid that later came and wheeled in my dinner.
The next day, the apparent head maid came and read my comic strip, then looked through the bunch of sketches I had finished by then.
Two days after that, a commission of a dozen maids and two soldiers had escorted me into the city down the mountain and into a pottery shop. Six hours later, the actual potters escorted out about half of the contingent, considering that they didn’t want to wait for the clay to dry before being fired.
By the way, I should mention that there are three types of talking equines: pony-sized donkeys, which seem to just make a drop in the bucket of the population; winged unicorn horses, which I have only seen two: the queen and her young princess; finally, ponies, which make the lion’s share of the population. These last ones are classified in three: plain ponies, pegasus ponies and unicorn ponies, which can use magic. And this explanation was relevant because: Unicorn potters seem to specialize on a very useful spell: something that dehydrates the clay for firing!
On the seventh day since my appearance in this land, this castle’s very first toilet was installed in a broom closet affixed to the maids’ rec room. It was not fool proof (after all, I had to design on the fly a small horse-sized toilet), but the maids were still exceedingly happy with it. And they were very pleased with me as well, considering that I stopped using the chamber pot altogether, visiting the maid’s rec room two or three times every day.
The very next day we had to install a tower pipe (like a 19th Century toilet), but it hasn’t failed ever since.
A week after that, while I was working with the linguists to try to make sense of the local system of measurements, the white queen had me summoned into her (…unsurprisingly modest…) chambers. She discretely returned my reverence, then guided me to her rest room and pointed me at her barrel-sized chamber pot.
The next ten days had me sweating bullets: the second toilet I had to design in my life, and suddenly I’m already on “offer you can’t refuse” territory! Never forget the additional handicaps: nobody knowing my language, no measuring tools I could read and a general technological level pointing at Ancient Greece (judging by the apparent lack of waterwheels and windmills).
Considering that I understand that royalty can be petty, and that I rather enjoy having a head on my shoulders, I overbuilt it as much as I could: the bowl is large enough for me to hide in it, and the water doesn’t get simply fed onto an upper ring, but half of it is jetted down eight nozzles pointed forty-five degrees counter-clockwise (so they wipe the bowl), the other half shooting forty-five degrees up from a fifth nozzle at the very bottom of the bowl, force-feeding a monstrous S-bend and making it create a low pressure to help it suck up… ahem… the royal waste. A two-storey pressure-building aerated pipe, fed by a twelve-or-so-gallon tank, feeds the beast. And, have I mentioned that the bowl sticks about a meter into the ground, almost as much as it sticks out of it? Or that the potters and me had a minor panic attack when we noticed that the monstrous bowl would not fit inside the kiln, only alleviated when the potter’s guild produced a brick-making kiln?
I wonder what would Soviet naval engineers think about somebody designing a toilet inspired on their rocket-powered, supercavitating torpedoes. I’m sure, however, that ANY engineer would be either excited or alarmed at hearing it roar. The white queen certainly seemed pleased at hearing the sound, as she immediately pushed me and the assisting architects and bricklayers out of her bathroom, let us wait a few minutes until we heard the roar again, and then put a fat sack of gold into my hands.
I tried to distribute the money among my helpers, but none accepted. The linguists have tried to explain me: so far, I think that the money was intended for me.
That was a week and a day ago. Today I attended a ceremony at the throne room, being about unveiling a stained glass window celebrating how six young ladies turned the dragon-chimera-guy into stone. I should mention I met them a month ago: they are the six ladies that leached the crazy colours and crazy attitudes out of us humans. Later on, at the reception, the pink one pulled me again into a crazy dance, much to my chagrin but not to my annoyance. The group then assembled again and gave me reverence for saving the yellow one from the Spaniard soldier.
They shouldn’t be thanking me. The only think worse than Spaniards would have been early British settlers.
From our first full day at the castle, me and the other not-imprisoned humans have been having daily classes with what I think are linguists, followed by the group being led to a dining room for a buffet lunch, then followed by the group breaking up and an instructor following each of us into our individual suites for a short one-on-one instruction. And it may have been a month, but none of the four of us have been making much progress toward understanding or speaking the local language: both Hikaru (the Japanese) and me have enthusiasm but no luck, Shi-Pun (as I think the Chinese lady is called) is rather disinterested, seemingly expecting the ponies to suddenly start understanding her orders, and Robbie-the-blob seems to simply be lazy, much to everybody’s irritation. I also wish that constant practice would make my face stop hurting from trying to pronounce this vowel-poor, grunt-rich language.
Not everything is going badly, though: while speaking the language is still a distant objective, both Hikaru and me have begun making strides into written mathematical language. The glyphs keep confusing me at times (considering that this is worse than Roman numerals: it’s like Aztec, where a given glyph represents a magnitude rather than representing magnitudes by the order of the glyphs), but Hikaru has drawn me some nice quick-reference tables; I, in return, have been teaching him how to do arithmetic on this Mayan-like base-20 number system, something that Mexican nerds tend to learn for fun. Besides, the Mayan numeral system has such an incredible intrinsic logic that I’m frequently doing operations on a purely visual basis, later having to do a conversion so I can understand what I just did in Arabic (occidental base-ten).
By the way, talking about Floppy-Robbie, I think I’ll request him to be put on a diet as soon as I can say that much, thus convince the people here that no, he isn’t getting ready to hibernate. I think it will serve him right for all the times he has ask me “what did she say?” ever since he discovered that I’m a perfectly fluent English speaker, and that I am actually trying to learn the local language. I should also mention that Blubber-boy has me convinced that no, he isn’t sick of anything that would make him fat? He claims he is, but that’s pretty unconvincing after watching him stuff his face.
Another project I’m working on involves creating a metric system. While this country does have a system of measurements, it’s so… medieval… that even the people who have been living here all their lives have trouble using it:
(1) Cloth merchants and their clients both carry their own measuring sticks, and seem to haggle more on which stick to use than on the price of the cloth.
(2) While small distances are measured in measuring sticks (which are about 1.2m long) and smaller distances are measured in hoof-widths (which change from pony to pony, but hover around 10cm), long distances aren’t even measured as such: travel is actually measured in days, so much that there is an ordinance stating that there has to be a campground every half-day of travel!
(3) Grain vendors carry their own measuring stones, but these are not standardized. Also, people cannot buy what they need, but rather need to buy a ‘unit’. Much haggling follows.
(4) Fruit vendors don’t even bother having scales: the fruits are sold by the piece. I can understand that working for cantaloupes, grapefruits and even apples, but I find it ridiculous when I’ve gone to the markets and have had to count cherries. And those cherries were pricey and sour.
(5) While there seems to be some standardization in bakery, as all buns look the same, I’ve seen that there exists ‘the baker’s dozen’, which can mean that the bread standard is shaky at best.
In the end, it is all a mess!
I just hope to actually get on with working on it: the only time I could actually make any progress on it was the time between installing the maids’ toilet and the queen asking for her own: I managed to create a standard meter (derived from my height of 1.805m), then was working on making a thirty-centimetre ruler when the queen dropped me her little bombshell. And while I’m done with the queen’s porcelain throne, now I have apparently been inducted into the potters’ guild (considering that they gave me a collar like all of them wear, and now expect me to wear it whenever I’m with them) and can’t get them to stop taking up my time by making me look at sketches and decorations.
So now I’m making a summary of the people I’ve met? What, don’t I feel that spending an hour between writing and waiting for ink to dry is enough time waste? No: now I’ll have to go through my past journal entries, just checking for mentions of anybody I can’t remember from the top of my head.
Well, lets see…
• The dragon-chimera guy I met inside that Salvador Dali town, that now ‘lives’ inside the sculpture garden in the castle’s west courtyard.
• The six young ladies who turned him into stone. I especially remember the funky pink one, although I don’t think I’ll ever forget the adorable little yellow one who I saved from the Conquistador. I don’t think anybody will be forgetting them anytime soon, anyway, considering that the throne room has them immortalized in stained glass.
• The white queen and her marine-blue princess. But what’s up with their thrones being side by side and the same size, anyway? And why is it that the princess is rarely seen to begin with?
• The soldiers: the longer I look at them, the more I envision them as Buckingham parade ponies rather some Praetorian warhorses. Enough said.
By the way, I believe that I’ve been calling them ‘soldiers’ in all of my entries so far. Do you really go calling ‘soldier’ somebody who may not be able to fight their way out of a paper bag? I think that, from now on, I’ll call them ‘guards’.
And now I’m glad of having decided to do this recap, even if I started it just because I get crazy from having nothing to do after hours. If I ever get home again, I’ll never take for granted my Kindle again.
• The maids: I’ve never seen more than a dozen at any given time, but I’m certain that I’ve seen something like two dozen different faces wearing those aprons and caps. There may be more, though, considering that their rec room has forty lockers and all of them are closed.
• The linguists: the six ponies that have been trying to teach us horse language. Their names still remain unpronounceable (and trying to write them using the Latin alphabet is nothing but frustration, as attested by my first couple of journal entries), but their efforts have yielded that I have some rough translations of their meanings: He-Who-Reads-A-Lot, Stacks of Books, She-Who-Cuts-Quills, He-Who-Listens-Well, She-Who-Talks-A-Lot, Bottle Of Ink. The first three ones seem to be into their forties or fifties and all exude an attitude akin to senior professors; the three other ones are young adults and seem to be apprentices or interns. Our daily class has the six of them only one time every seven, with us having five teachers a day the remaining six. Is this some sort of rotating rest day? And is this also proof that ponies have a seven-day week, or is it simply a coincidence that we perceive a seven-day rotation the caused by us having six teachers?
Something else that I’ve been capable of learning from the teachers is sexual interaction: both Bottle of Ink and Talks-A-Lot seem to be in a relationship with Good Listener, yet they seem to be cooperative rather than competitive toward each other, either taking turns or giving each other the space to be with him. This looks like a bigamic relationship, but I cannot discard the possibility of this being a very subtle competition, where both girls are pressuring him to choose. This could also be some sort of domination: while he seems to be good sport, I can’t remember anytime when he takes the initiative, and I can’t forget that geek in my high school that got picked up by two girls as a homework-doer.
• My fellow humans: Hikaru was a sararyman (office worker) in some Japanese corporation, and his last memories of Earth have him on 1992. Robbie
was is a morbidly obese emo teenager, American, and comes from 2022. Shi Pun is impossible to communicate with, but I know she’s Chinese and, judging by her bound feet, she must hail from no later than 1930, and possibly centuries earlier. The Spaniards down in the dungeon aren’t uniform, either: the Conquistador was apparently looking for El Dorado and disappeared from Francisco Pizarro’s group as they traversed a jungle in 1542, while the Inquisitor was in New Spain judging against ‘heretic Indian witch doctors’ in 1712. Considering that I was removed from 2012, I first suspect that there’s a pattern and Shi Pun must have also been removed from a year ending in 2.
A second pattern I’m finding among our group is much more disturbing: none of us can be considered as exemplar human beings by any extend of the definition. Robbie is an amalgam of everything I despise about apathic teenagers, and especially of people who choose to become morbidly obese and then demand society to deal with their self-provoked disability. Shi Pun doesn’t only have another self-provoked disability, but also conducts herself like everybody but the queen is beneath her notice. Luis Ernesto, the Conquistador, proudly states his allegiance to a gang that made itself famous for exterminating whole villages just for sport. The Inquisitor, Padre Rui, hails from an institution that made pathological lying, victimization, terror, torture and hate-crimes into a way of life. I know I look normal (except for being stern and grouchy), but I know I am a borderline sociopath and would likely be an assassin if my life circumstances had been different. It’s worrying that the best adapted of us might be Hikaru, who happens to have as much personality as a windsock: a vacuous smile that’s always following the current.
Could it be that we were brought here because of our ‘imperfections’, rather than despite them?
My gosh, I am really bored! Well, I’m not going to list every item I own: I’ll just point at the inventory I made on my first full day at the castle, then I will list the stuff I’ve acquired since getting here.
I arrived with: the clothes I was wearing (jeans and a full-weight kaki shirt, plus my underwear), some Italian-styled shoes, one of my favourite cargo vests, a leg holster, a ton of photography equipment, a notebook, a few trinkets (like my wallet, my multitool and my keychains) and a book.
I got from the dragon-guy: the Sigma, an extra camera, an extra tripod, a telephoto and two pocketfuls of gold. I wish I had the fish eye and one of the generators he appeared, but those disappeared. And without the generator, all of my electronics (except my watch) are useless.
The white queen has given me: another fat load of gold, and two pronouncements.
The maids give me: tons of little gifts, mainly consisting on chocolates. I make sure to eat a few everyday and leave out the empty wrappers, but that doesn’t stop my candy stash from growing by the day. I wish I knew how to tell them that I would trade all the chocolate in the world for having a glass of milk with my supper, but I fear that could be offensive. Do these people have livestock, other than the hens that must be laying the eggs they must be using for bakery purposes?
The palace got me made: five sets of copies of my clothes, and two sets of indoor slippers. I don’t even know when were my clothes or me measured or studied, but on my third day in the palace I returned from lunch and found the first set (and a hamper), then found the remaining two days later. They don’t feel anywhere as durable and the colours are just wrong (Canary-yellow trousers, anybody?), but they don’t stand out against the colours of the various locals, their cut is tasteful, and sure beat having to wash my clothes every night.
Stuff I’ve bought:
• A bunch of trinkets, mostly survivalist-oriented. I guess that you can take the man out of the grinder, but you cannot take the crazy hobbies out of the man.
• Two pairs of shoes, which are well-intentioned experiments I commissioned from a farrier and a saddle-maker. The ones from the farrier have little grip and are far noisier than I feel comfortable with, and the ones from the saddle-maker suffer from non-leather and non-petrochemical materials, being little beyond glorified slippers. If nothing else, I may need to commission another set from the farrier, then send them for finishing with the saddle-maker. That, or I will ask Hikaru where did he get his wooden sandals.
• Socks, which I had to look for like crazy and finally found on a shop that had a feeling of being lingerie oriented. I don’t know who would ever buy woollen lingerie, though.
• A light cloak and a rain poncho. Two days ago I found this shop with a sign of an umbrella under a snowflake and immediately marched inside. I left behind ten gold coins and an intrigued tailor, and have two receipts that I’m supposed to change tomorrow.
• A safe. As it happens, the head maid at some point guided me to a shop with a sign of a piggybank. I then had to insist to pay for it myself. The next day, some technicians came in real early and bolted my safe to some metallic slots I hadn’t noticed on the floor on one of the corners of my bedroom. And if I didn’t believe in magic by then, I had to believe now: the safe is keyed to my blood! The outside of the door has no other feature than a handle, but on the inside there is a slot where the techies inserted a paper slip with a drop of my blood. Remove the slip, and anybody can open the door; put it back, and the handle will turn uselessly unless it is I turning it.
I wonder if someone could make me bleed and then have the handle work for them, but I prefer not thinking too much about that.
Ah… what the heck!
A brief description of the local’s anatomy!
Well, let’s go in order:
1) The donkeys look like small donkeys (duh!), except for their foreheads being full and their eyes looking smart.
2) The queen and her princess: the queen is perhaps the largest horse I’ve ever seen, being more easily comparable with the size of a large camel than any horse. She also happens to be perfectly white (I could swear she glows from within!), and her mane and tail, which always are billowing like they were floating in water, seem to change colour depending on which angle you may be looking at them. I haven’t seen much of the dark princess, except that she’s slightly larger than the ponies and still looks adolescent, meaning that she’s still growing. And they both have a horn and wings.
3) The ponies: I think I should refer to them as ponies, considering that, while they don’t look anything like stunted, goat-sized, petting zoo animals, on average they only weight twice as much as I do and their shoulders only come up to my navel. Just like the donkeys and the royals, they have bulging foreheads and expressive eyes. They come in every colour (with a prevalence of pastels among females) and in three varieties: with wings, with a horn, or with neither.
Curiously enough, what I find the most fascinating about the ponies is their hooves: the hoof itself is pretty much what you would expect from a giant fingernail, except for being semi flexible (it can close from the omega shape to a full circle); what is fascinating is the stuff in the middle: like a thin and delicate layer of skin covering a thick gel, which they can harden with a thought. By closing the hoof they can then push out the gel-pack, and by hardening it they can grasp stuff. It would sound like a weak, clumsy grasp, but given evolution and generations of practice, I see maids picking up platters and pulling sheets, nobles picking up teacups, children on the street tossing and catching balls, and your average pony having a much easier time than your average human at the simple task of picking up a coin from the floor.
And I still have no idea what to think about the butt tattoos on the royals and the ponies. I’ve made many hypotheses, each weirder than the previous one. I’ve finally decided that I will avoid thinking about them until I can actually read the dictionary; so then I can understand the answer.
I continue being plagued by the following question:
Are we prisoners here?
This comes from the fact that all of us humans live under constant surveillance. While my own guard has been taken over by the housekeeping department (except at night), all of us are kept under constant watch by a number of guardians equal or greater to our own number, and none of us is ever separated from our guardians by anything thicker than a door. And even inside our individual suites, we are watched: I’ve discovered that the balconies are locked at night (so I can’t use the Sigma for stargazing), and whenever I open mine during daytime, the outer wall guards keep looking at me like hawks.
I can certainly imagine a few “happy” explanations why we are kept under a microscope, but I’m not putting money on any of them.
I just hope I can gain everybody’s trust at some point.
I also hope that, if I make my way through this world, people will eventually forget about me inventing toilets. Please, Horse World: remember me for metrication, or for any other thing, but if you want to remember me for the crappers, please be kind enough to just forget my name.
And now it’s past midnight, and I'll be woken up for breakfast shortly after dawn.