A Fine Day for a Picnic
1195 words long
It was a splendid outing, and nothing at all went wrong for anyone who mattered.
Notes from the author:
A fictionette from last month, "And Did You Bring Enough For Everyone?" was indisputably fanfic of E. Nesbit's Psammead Trilogy. This week's offering is more of a satire.
Nesbit's eponymous Five Children live in a household staffed with "servants" whom, it must be said, they treat abominably. Quarrels that between equals would be merely infuriating become deeply unjust and downright life-threatening. The children prank the staff vindictively, blackmail them with threats of dismissal, and visit potentially terrible consequences on them via magical misadventure. And, for the most part, the author seems to approve.
The four friends in this week's fictionette might be imagined as teenaged or college-aged versions of Nesbit's protagonists in a world whose class divisions are post-apocalyptically sharp. But I'm not sure the effects of their vices on the underclass are necessarily more fatal than those hinted at, or downright demonstrated, in The Phoenix and the Carpet or Five Children and It.
It was Angie's idea to go picnicking in the Deadly Caves of Chmyria Dh'ree, and Angie who suggested it; but the suggestion raised no argument from Kate, Duffy, and Bran. Indeed, the other three grew excited at the suggestion. "Wouldn't it be something," said Duffy, "if we came back with new information about the Dread Hydra or the Thing Without a Mouth? Why, they would award us medals, and write feature articles about our discoveries in the Daily Times!"
"I think it sounds like a stunning afternoon out," said Kate. "It's too sunny out for the Gladiator Pit, anyway."
"A pox on the Pit," Bran scoffed. "The Pit's old hat. I'm for something new for a change."
They prepared for the outing as thoroughly as had any scientist or philosopher before them. At least, that was their intention. They brought a secretary, to take notes for them, and waitstaff to serve up the lovely picnic that they'd wheedled out of Cook, and a butler to choose and pour the wine. Each of them brought a valet who tended to their luggage, in case changeable weather should necessitate a change of clothes. And of course they brought spear-carriers, shield-bearers, celebrated archers, and several condemned gladiators. Because they were such regulars at the Pit, they had no trouble persuading the Pit-keepers to loan them a few.
It was, you understand, quite rare in those days to actually encounter the Dread Hydra, the Thing Without a Mouth, or those monsters of lesser legend all known to make their home in the Deadly Caves of Chmyria Dh'ree. This is why so little information on the beasts is available. Still, such encounters were by no means impossible, so you must agree it was wise of our four brave heroes to take precautions.
Also, the journey to the Caves obliges any adventurous picnickers to travel through a deep, dank, and dark forest dripping with the venom of vipers and sharp with the claws and fangs of saber tooth tigers. If the four friends hadn't had the foresight to bring such a skilled army along with them, why, who knows what might have happened. Gratifyingly, they lost only their single secretary along the way, snatched up by an overly playful saber tooth tiger cub. Having no valuable scientific notes upon his person at the time, he was counted as no great loss.
"But imagine if that brute had got your valet!" said Angie to Bran.
"Or into the larder," agreed Bran. "We really are quite fortunate."
This has been an excerpt from the Friday Fictionette for August 21, 2015. Subscribers can download the full-length fictionette (1195 words) from Patreon in PDF or MP3 format depending on their pledge tier.
Friday Fictionettes are a short-short fiction subscription service powered by Patreon. Become a Patron to get a new fictionette every first through fourth Friday and access all the fictionettes of Fridays gone by.