RUNS LIKE CLOCKWORK! A Gnome's Tale
Mood Music: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DBYjZTdrJlA
Prologue: Everything's Functioning Normally
Click. Whirr. Tick-tick. "Good morning! It is now 0700 hours."
I squinted my eyes shut against the sudden onslaught of pale green light in my room. "Domestic XIV, can't I have five more minutes? It's my thirty-second birthday," I pleaded. "I deserve a little more sleep!" Please turn off the phosphorescent lamps. Just one more dream, one more descent into warm and comfortable bliss beneath my bedcovers. Please!
"I am sorry,"
replied the clockwork gnome, "but if you do not rise now, you are going to be late for classes in the Hall of Knowledge. Please get up."
In order to assist me with this task and provide me with the proper motivation to do so, Domestic XIV pulled back my blankets. I shivered.
"All right, all right! 'Commencing normal operation'," I joked with a wry smile.
"It is unwise to jest about clockworks using such sarcasm,"
Domestic XIV said, but she was kidding as well. She knew me, and how much I hated to drag myself out of bed in the morning on a day like this. I was thirty-two years old today, and what could be a worse way to spend such an occasion than going to school? It was an absolute travesty, and my father's faithful mechanical maid knew it. "Do not worry. You will excel as usual."
"I'm not worried about that," I said. "I'm worried about the GKNAT!"
Every Gnome, once they reached such a milestone birthday as mine, had to sit down and take the dreaded GKNAT: General Knowledge and Aptitude Test. It was not only a measure of your skills and the information you'd learned at the Hall of Knowledge, but it also assigned you the job tasks you would perform for the rest of your life, until (and if) you decided to retire. I was absolutely terrified, which I was sure the rest of my classmates weren't. Most of them knew what they were destined to do. I didn't!
Dear humans, if you're listening to my tale, you may wonder: Why am I still going to classes in the Hall of Knowledge if I'm thirty-two years old? The truth is that our ages, as Gnomes, are double what yours are. So, if you're sixteen years old (and still in school), then I'm thirty-two (and, naturally, still in school). There are many other things about us Gnomes that may seem strange to you, and which I'll explain as we go along. For now, back to our story. Where was I? Ah! The GKNAT, and my birthday, and sleepy eyes...
Domestic XIV asked, "Are you afraid you'll be a waste incineration technician?"
I laughed and shook my head. "No! Only Gnomes who get 1's in class do that."
"A true statement. I wonder, however: why are you so anxious? Your grades are more than satisfactory, except in..." She paused. "That's not your fault. A malfunctioning body cannot be helped, nor a brain with miswired circuitry."
I blushed. Clockworks could be so insensitive at times, albeit unintentionally.
"I apologize if my statement has offended you."
"That's all right, XIV," I replied, hanging my head. "You're correct. Besides, my grades are
good, except in Gadgeteering and GIFT." GIFT
stood for Gnomish Intensive Fitness Training, and I was getting a 2 in it. The only reason I wasn't getting a 1 was because my teacher, Mirna Muscleflex, took pity on me. I didn't cause any trouble. I just couldn't do any of the exercises that my classmates could! I hated GIFT the most out of all my classes, thinking it was more like a curse instead. What good were clockwork jumps, abdominal crunches and leg extensions when we spent most of our time tinkering? That was another thing I was bad at. As a people, we are excellent machinists and builders--the best in the world. All others envy our magnificent architecture and gadgets, even if they can't fit into our buildings or figure out how to use our clockworks. However, not all Gnomes are fortunate enough to be mechanically-inclined, including myself!
Domestic XIV said, "You make your best attempts in both of those courses."
I nodded. "Speaking of 'courses', it's 0715 already! I must get dressed!"
The clockwork gnome gave a nod, turned, and clanked out into the hallway.
Let's see--white linen peasant blouse, khaki jumper over it, and my heavy, clunky orthopedic shoes! It was our school uniform, at least for the girls. The boys wore white workshirts, and a khaki tunic with breeches. We Gnomes are very practical in the way we dress. Even on special days, such as birthdays and our yearly Innovation Celebration, we rarely wear anything fancy. The only adornment I usually wear is my bronze star badge, bearing the number 3. That's my rank as a student. I'd have a silver badge, or even gold, if it weren't for those narfangled
classes I completely despise! Agggh!
Most of my classmates have no badges. That means I'm lucky. I work hard, but you have to impress your teachers in significant ways in order to earn a badge. Since I'm no good in Gadgeteering or GIFT, I bust my brain every day in Math, Science, and Reading. Those five are our only subjects. I hear that people who live on the surface study art, music, acting, and the like, but we have no time for such frivolity. Those things aren't very useful, and we know our time is precious. Why waste it on such impractical amusements?
That doesn't mean we don't have any fun! We have fun in different ways: reading, telling long and complicated tales, playing games, and of course, eating! You wouldn't believe it because of our minuscule size, but we love good food just as much as our taller cousins, the Dwarves. We Gnomes have to be very careful of how much we eat, or our body weight will exceed the size of our frame! I'm guilty of that, but I don't care. Feasting is fantastic!
Speaking of which, when I scrambled down to the kitchen for breakfast, I discovered that Cook V had prepared my favorite dish: eggs, poached medium!
I took a deep breath and inhaled the air. "Mmm! Smells delicious, V!"
Tick-tick-tick. "Thank you. Your father will be here momentarily."
I giggled and rolled my eyes. He loved to sleep late, especially now that he was retired. You could do that once you were 100, a centenarian. In Ded's
case, the word "momentarily" could mean in a minute or an hour! Thus, I sat down at the table and had Cook V serve me up two eggs.
"Three slices of rat bacon, too? Excellent! I'll definitely need extra protein."
Beep! Bloopita-bloopita. "You have your GNAT examination today, correct?"
I snorted. "Aye. What a birthday present, hmm? I hope I don't get a 1."
Cook V turned back to the frying pan and cracked a few more eggs for Ded.
Where was he? Listening closely, I heard the buzzy sound of his snoring, so I laughed again and began eating. My 32nd was turning out very well so far!