“And they lived ██ily ever after…”

The letter arrived just like any other — that is to say it was heralded by caterwauls and the colorful ravings of our postman, ‘George’. (We’re not even sure if that’s his real name, but any attempt to converse with the fellow is promptly met by a savage, guttural noise that sounds an awful lot like ‘George’, apart from the spittle. So…)

Once free of the cat, he deposited the letter by the small crack in the windowpane, tucking it neatly beneath the rat trap. I just so happened to be filing a layer of gunk from its hinges at the time, so I tipped him tuppence and bade him a good riddance. I then retrieved the curious letter and stuffed it away.

Not a minute later, in the comfort of my study, I sifted it from the foul-smelling contents of my overcoat pocket (the poor girl has had her day), and after flicking a mite or two from the rear flap I fetched myself a pen knife to slip it open.

It reeked strongly of ethylene, and upon examining further I noticed that some of its verbiage had been blackened out by opaque strips of a foreign substance.

It read:

Messrs Poorley,
Number two, Letchworth Commons

(Note to post agent: if not visibly numbered, look for the most precarious structure in the vicinity)

Goiter & Crawe,
Protectors, Promulgators, and Publishers of the Literary Arts

Dear sirs,

When Fortune smiles upon us, it is often from such unlikely places! In the most recent case, good luck comes to us and to you all the way from the Far East, the glad tidings carried on the lips (and in the attaché case) of one “Very Admiral” Yon (we believe this to be a military title, but it’s awfully hard to tell), spokesperson for and legal representative of the Dear Leader of the People’s Republic of ██████.

The Eternal Republic, it seems, has given up on attempting to spread the message of their ██████ ideology to the governments of the West, and, with the theory that true power resides in the hands of our Corporations, is seeking to work with them instead. ‘Interesting though that may be,’ I can imagine you asking, ‘What could this possibly mean for me, a diligent creator of content in this capitalistic system?’

On this occasion, it is very good news for you. For you see, the Glorious Republic has conceived of a product with which to begin the transmission of their ideals to the powers that be in our lands: “Our Most Glorious Product of Dear Leader Verbal Subversion Suppressor”. This product is ingenious in its simplicity: a ████ (and coming soon! several shades of off-████) fluid is brushed over printed or hand-written words and letters that are determined to be subversive, counter-productive to the interests of the Party, &c. Judicious use of this “Subversion Suppressor” can really change a ██████ and unhelpful piece of █████ into one promoting everlasting harmonious progress!

The Very Admiral Yon’s generous offer of funding is available to pieces of writing in essentially any genre (except that, after some rifling through dictionaries on both his and our part, it emerges that he has an unexplained aversion to recipes) which funding is, however, entirely contingent upon the redaction of selected letters, words, or phrases with the desired result being a substantial change in the piece’s thrust or tone. We inquired whether the end result should specifically promote his people’s message, and we think you will be pleased to hear that he does not regard this as necessary; their Dear Leader wishes first and foremost to demonstrate the general virtues of this formidable product to our corporations, who he believes will find it so undeniably useful that they will leap at the chance to ██████ with the Extremely Legitimate People’s Republic!

Thus, the principal thing is to produce an astonishing change in a text you have written yourself, in order to showcase the potential of the Verbal Subversion Suppressor. We will publish the top stories that have been ████ed by the Verbal Subversion Suppressor, stories which we earnestly entreat you to submit to our office at your earliest opportunity.

You have the Dear Leader’s, as well as our own, sincere thanks for the role you will play in the dawning of a bright new day!

████████ly yours,

G&C


Dear Reader, I cannot properly express the horror that gripped me in that moment!

Censorship!

That foul beast!

That most abominable plague of any free-thinking writer!

And mine the sacrificial writings-to-be!

I ask you: would a heavenly minstrel silence his Muse? Would an impudent mortal dampen the mighty bow of Artemis? Must I really place some vexsome clamp upon my entries for Children’s Chortlings? And all for the sake of a power-mongering despot with a penchant for verbal one-sidedness?

The zealot within me cries, ‘Nay!’

Yet I know we are slave to our fellows in craft. But like the pharaohs of old, I needn’t perform the grueling sacrifice myself. I therefore appoint my wiser (and somewhat more detached) brother to do the foul deed and carry out the unpleasantness.

But if you, dear Reader, are so inclined, you may glance at Part One of ‘Daisy and the Prince’ in its unpublished, unsullied form over here. (And Part Two over here.)

And in light of this mockery, I am insisting on an unsullied ‘Part Three’, just as soon as this wretched Sponsor is parted from our midst.

As for the rest of you Philistines: Read on, ye wayward █████s! Read on!

Daisy Dorey and the [CENSORED] Patma Prince, Parts One & Two

Little Daisy Dorey ███████ ████ ███ ███████ ████ ██ ███ ████████████ ██████ █████ ██ ███ █ ███████ ███████ ████ ███████ spilled upon the window sill ████ a plain and cheerful Yellow.

‘████ █uck!’ cried Daisy, leaping nearly twice her height. █████ ████ ██ ████ ██ ████ ████ █████ ███ ██ her tiny hand ███ shook █ ██████ █████████ █████ ███ ███ ████ ███████ ████ █████ ███.

█uck?’ groused a ███████████ voice from the window █████ █ █████ ██████ █████ ██████ ███ ██████ ████ ███████. ‘███ ████ ███ ███ ████ ██ █████ you silly girl█ ███ ██████ ███ ███!’

It was ███ ███████ ███████ Peabody█ █ ███████ ███ ████████ ████ █████ ███ █ ██████ ████ ████ ████ █████. Out swung the door and in████ ██ ██████ trailed ██ █████ █████ ███████ ██ ███ ███ ███████

██ ██ ████ █████ ████████ █████ Daisy, her tiny whiskers atwitter. ███ ███ ████ █████ █ ████ ██████ ██████

She huffed ███ ███████ ███ ██████ with a flap█ ███ ███ ███ and grumbly █████████ ██████ ██████ ███ speckled eyes█

███ ███ ███ ███ ██ ██████ ███ ███████ █████ ██████████

███ █████ then snorted █████████

█████ ██ ███ ███████ ██ ████ the fine print ███ █████ ████ ████ ████ █████ ██████ ███████ ████ ███ █████ ██████ ████ ██ ███████.█

Daisy██ █████████ ████ twitched. Then ███ █████ ████ ██████ ████ █████ ████ ███ █████ read the fine print. ███ ███ ███ ████ ██ ███████ ███ █████ ███ ███████████ Prince Groopert █████ █████ ████ ████ ██████ ███ ███████ had gone missing? It had only been four-and-a-half years ████ ███ ███ ████ █████ ██ ██████ ████ ████… Surely the Prince would be ████ ████████████

███ ███ ████ ███ ███ ███ ███ █████ ███ █████ ██████████ ██ a █████ █████████

███████ ██████ ███ sickly █████ ███ ███████.

████ ███ █████ █████ █ ███████ ninny-minny ████ ███ █████ ███ ███ █████ ███ ████████ ██ ███ █████████ ██████ ██ █████?█

Daisy crumpled ███ ███████ ███ ██████ ██ ███ ████. She felt the tears sting ██ ███ ████ and ███ ████ █████ ██ prickle ████ ███ ██████ ██████ ██████.

Peabody eyed her ████████ ███ ██████ ███████ ██████ ███ ███████

███████ ██ ███████ ████████ ██████ █ shame ██ █████ ██ ██████████ ████ ███ ████ ████████ ████ █████.█

Daisy turned ███████ ███████ █████ ███ █████ ███ ████ ████ █████ ███ █████ ██ ████ ███ ████ ███ ███ █████ ███ █████ ██████ █████ █████ ███ █████████ ████ ███████ ████ ███████ ██████ █ cloudy, mottled ████████ ████████ ███ █████ ███████.

She looked miserable.

And in a moment██ ██████ ███ ████████ her dowdy blue ████████ ████ ████ rags ████ ███████ ██ ███ █████████ ███████ ██ ███ █████ ██ ███ █████ ███ █████ ███ ██ ███ ██████ ██ ███ █████ █████ ██ ███████ █████ ████████ stitched together ████ █████ ████ ██ ███ ██████ █████ and ██████ ████ █████ ████ made her wet brown eyes █████████ pop.

‘Don’t you see, my child?’ whispered ███████ ██ a reedy voice.

██ ███ ███████ ███ ████ ██ █████ ██████ ███ ███ ██████ █ ███████████ █████████ ████ ███ ███████ ██ ██ ████████ ████ ██ ████

‘You have no chance██ ██ ███████ ███████ ██████.’

Daisy felt ███ ████ ████ low██ and █████ █████ her tiny paws ██████ ██ ████ ██ █████ ████ cradled her shuddering ████ ███ ██████ ██████ ███ ███ ██████ ████ ██ █ ██████ ██████ █ ██████████ ███body ██████ ███ ████ rather stiffly.

‘No, no chance at all, my dear,’ ██ resumed ██████ ████ the little █████ whimpers ███ ███████ ████ █ ████ of vile pleasure ██████ ███ █████████.

‘That is, unless-s-s-s…’

███ █████ ███ ██████ ███████ ██ ███ █████

███ ███████ ████████ Daisy pulled herself ████ ███ ██████ up ██ ███ ████████ with eyes that shimmered ████ ████████.

‘Unless what█ ██████ ███████?’ she squeaked█

██ ███████ ██ ███ ████ ghoulishly. ███ ███ ██ ███ ██████ ████

‘Unless you ████ ██ agree to█ ███ ███ ███ █ ███████ ███ ██ ████ ███ ███ ███ ████ █████ refuse. ██ ███ ███ ████ ███’

██ ████ ████ ███ ██████ ██████████ ███ ███ ██████ ███ ██ ████ ███████ Daisy looked spellbound.

‘I █████ refuse ███ ██████ ███████! Honest!’

His lips curled back █████ ████ and ████ ██ █████ █████ winked █████ █████████.

‘Be my daughter, then,’ he declared ████ █ ███████ █████ ██ ███ █████.

Daisy went pale. She █████████ ███ ████ ███ ███████ had asked ████ ████ █████ ██████ but ██████ ███ refused, knowing full well he would only use her ██ ████ ████ ███ █████████ ███████ ██████. He had███ been ████ ██ ██████ ███████ ███ ██████ ███ █████ █████ ██ a dreadful mess ██ ███…

‘Be my daughter,’ he continued, ████ ████████ ‘and we might both stand a chance ██ ████████ ███ ██████.’

Could it be? Would she qualify? Could she ███████ capture the affections of the ████████ Prince of Patma?

Daisy felt █ ████ ████ ███ ████ ██ ███ ██████ ██ ███ ████████ his ██████ ███ jewelled fingers grip███ her harder still.

‘It is the only way you will ever leave ████ ██████ █████ ███ ███████ ███████ ███████ ████ ████ ███████ ██ ███████.’

Daisy bowed her head, thinking ██ ███ ███████ ███ ██ ███████ ███ ███ ███████ ███████ ███ ██████ ███ ██████ █████ ██ ███ █████ ████ ████████ ███ ███████ ██ █████ ██ ████, for once, to feel fine ████ ███████ ██ █████.

Wiping her █████ ████ ████ ████ █ ██████ ███ ███ ████████ eyes with determination█

██████ ███ ████████ ██████ ██ ███

█████████ ████ ███ ███████ ███████ ███ ███████ they left the old cottage behind.

[ End of Part I ]


Days and weeks ███████

██████ gave way to ███████

███ ███ ██████ ████ ██████ ███████ ██████ ████ ██████ ██ ███ ██████████ █████ ███ ██████ ████ ██ ████ bloom. It wouldn’t be long before ███ ██████ █████ ████ ██████ ████████ ████ █████ █████ ███████ ██ ██ ██████ ███████ ████ morning ██ ██ peered over his bowl of ████ █████████

█████ ███ ██████ ██ █████ ████ ██ ████████ ███ ████ ████████ █████ ███████ ██ disgust. ████ ██ ███ █████ █████ █ ███ █████ ████ █████████ ████ ██████ ████████ ████ █████████ ████████ █████ ████

The poor little mouseling rose from her bruised knees and ██████ ███████ ████ █ █████████ █████ ██ ███ █████ ███ tossed yet another soiled cloth into █ ██████ ██████ █████ ███ ████ ██ ███ ██████ ██ ███ ███████ ██ ██████ ████ █ █████████ ████ ██ ███ █████████ ████ ██ ████ ████████ ████ the filth of ██████ █████████ ███ ██████ ███ █████ ██████ Peabody’s gloating smile ███ ███ ███████ ███████ ███████ ███████ █████████ and continued to scrub, scrub, scrub away ██ ███ ████ ████ ██ █████ ███████ ███ ██████ ██████ ███ ███████████.

‘Good girl,’ hummed the armadillo, munching ███████████ ██ ██ ██████ ███████ a fifth bowl█ ███ █████ ███ ████ ██ ██████ ███ ██████ ██████ of █████ ████ █████████ ████ ███ elbows.

Just a few more days,’ she whispered to ███████ ██ her adoptive father █████ ███ ███ with a loud burp. █████ █ ███ ████ ████ ████ ███ ███████

In her time ██ ███ ██████ Daisy had only managed to █████ ███ ███ ███████ █████ ███████ █████ ███ ███ ████ ██ ███████ ██████ █████ ██████ ██ ███ █████████ ██ █████ ██ ███████ ███████ █████ ██ █████ strain ██████ ███ █████ ████ █████ ██ ██████ ███ ██████ █████ █to say nothing of the appalling state of the bathrooms ███████████. But among the worsening sores on her █████ ███ ████ ███ ███ █████████ █████████ ███████ █████ ███ █ ██████ ███ ██ ████ ████ █████████ ███ █████ █████████ ████ was ████ ████ a ████ █████

██ ███ █████ ███ █████ bump ████ ███ ████████ ████████ ███████! It was there she might █████ ███ █████████████ ██████████ ███ █████ █████ ████ ███ █████████ ██████ ████ ████████ ████ ██ ███ ████████ ██ ████████ ███ ██ ███ █████ ████ ███ █████ ██████ ██ █████ █████ ██████ ███ ████ ████████████

███ █████ ██████ ████████ ████ ██████ █ █████ ██████ █████████ ████ ████████ █████ ██ █████ ███ ████ ███ █████████ ██████ ██ ███████████ ███████ ███ █████ ███████ ██████ ████████ ██ █████ ██ ██████ pick ████ █████ ███ ████████████ ███ ████████████ ███ █████████ ██ the upper crust█ ██ █ ██████████ ██████ ██ ███████████ ██████████ █████ ███ ██████ ████ ████ ███ █████████ ████ ██████ ██ █████ ███ stand out for all the wrong reasons?

███ ███████ ███ ████████ ███ █ █████ █████████████ ███ █████ ██ ███ ████ ██ ██████ ██ █ ██████████████ █████. But the closer they drew ██ ███ ███ ██ ███ ████ the more she █████ ██ █████ ███ ███████████ ██████████ ██ ██████ ███ ████ ███ ██████ ██ refused ██ ███ ███ ███ ██ ███ ███ █████ █████ ██ █████████ ████████ ███ █████ ██ █████ █████ ███ ████ █ █████ ██ █████ ████.

‘May I at least see it?’ squeaked Daisy after unloading ███ ████ ██ her ██████ ██████ ██████ ████ ████████ ███ ███████ █ ██████ ██████ ████████ █████ ███ █████ ███ furrowed brow.

‘See what now?’ burbled the pajama’d Johnston Peabody. He was relaxing in his second-favorite ████████ ███ ███████ ██ █ bit of gunk ██ ███ █████.

‘The… the d-dress,’ she tittered after absorbing █ █████ ████ ███ ███████ ███████ █████████

████ ████ ██ ███ ███ █████ ████ ██████ ██ █████ ██ ████████ ███████ a row of his nubby white incisors. ‘Are you absolutely sure?’

Daisy nodded, her button eyes pooling with █████

███ █████████ █████ ███████ ████ ███ █████ ████ a loud, squelchy grunt ███ ██████ ███ █████████████ ███████ █████.

‘Come with me,’ he grumbled and began to shuffle off toward the old attic stairway.

‘It’s — it’s in the attic?’ Daisy gasped█ ███ ███ █████████ ██ ████ █████████ ██████ ██ ██████ ███ ███ ██████

████ ████ ████ █████ ████ ███ █████ ██████ ██████ ██ ████████ ███████ ████████ █████ as the floorboards squealed their mournful cry.

Daisy tiptoed in his wake, careful not to disturb the ████ ███████ ████ ████ █████ ███ ████ ███ ███████ ██ ████ ██████████ ███ ominous █████████ ██ ██████ ████ █ black snake ██ ██ █ ████████ ███████ █████ █████ ██ █████████ ████ that made one shiver to look at it.

The armadillo glanced up, snout puffing, ███ ███████ ██ ███ ██████████ his old claws clicking █████ ███ █████ ███ ███████ as he did so. Daisy followed ███ ████ ████ █████ ██ the creature who seemed to be chasing up the steps with surprising speed. She arrived panting█ ███ ████████ █████████ ██ ███ ████ █████ █████ ███ ███████ ███ █████████ ██████ ███ ████████ ██ █████ ███████ like a bear while ███ ██████ █████ ████████ ██ ████ ████ A ████ ██ █████ ███████████ ██████ ██ ██████ ███ look of loathing ████ contorted his wizened features█ ███ ██ █████ █████████ ████ ██████ ███████ ████ ███ ██████ ███ ███████████ ██████.

‘Mister Peabody, sir,’ she whispered, prodding his leather█ ███ with an ungloved ████ ███ ███ arm█████ ████ ███ ██ ██████.

Instead, ██ ███████ a claw ██ ███ ██████ ████ ███ gave ██ a violent twist█ ███ ████████ ███████ and shuddered as ███ foot-thick ████ ███ █████ █████

█████ ███ blackness ██████

█ ████████ █████ ███████ smothered their senses ███ █████ █████ ███ █ █████ ██ ███████ ███ ████████ ████.

‘This way,’ barked the gray-faced ██████ ████████

██████ ██████████████ ███ ██ ████████

███ ███ ████ ██████ ██████ ██████ █ ██████ ███ ██████████ ███ ████ ███ ██████ ██████ ██ ███ ███ ██ ███████ ███ little girl through the door’s threshold ███ ██████ ██ ████ ████ █ ████.

The little mouse ██████ ███ ███████ ███ cried out in fear█ ████████ ███████ █████ and chattering █████ ██ ██ ████████ ████ ███ ███████ ███ ███████ ███ ███ ███ █████████ ██████ ███ ███ silence ███ ███████ ███ ███ ████ ████ ███ █████████ ███████ ███████ ███████ ███ ████ ███████ ███ ███████ ████ █████ ██ █████ ██████ ███ █████ for the rest of the evening.

A chiming bell sounded. There was someone at the █████ ███ ███ █████ ██ ██ ██ ████ █████ █ ███████

███ stately ██████ ███████ ████████ ████ ███ █████ ████████ ███████ ███ front door █████ █ ██████ █████ tugging ███ █████████ █████ ███████ ██ his gorgeous lily white robe█ ███ ██████ █████████ ███████ ███ ███ ████ ███ ████ ██ █ ████ ███. It scooched open a crack to reveal exactly three tenths of █ █████ █████ █████ ████ ███ ██████████

█████████ ██ █████ █████████ ████ ████ ████ ██ ███ █████

███ █████████████ ██████ ██████ his contentment as the door swung wide and the two clapped arms.

‘Tell ████ ████ ███ ████████ ███████ ██ ██ ███████ the creature ███ ████ ███ ███████ ███ █████████ we’ve been looking for██

██ ██████ ███████ ███████ ████████ █████ ████ ███████████ ████ ██ █████ ████ all we need now is a willing participant.’

‘Oh, I’ve already taken care of that,’ said Peabody smoothly. ‘She’s just upstairs. Would you care to meet her?’

The lizard’s grin stretched wider still. He flicked his tongue.

‘Would I ever!

[ End of Part II ]


Afterwards…

He stumbled up the rickety stairs by leaning his weight forward and leaving it up to his legs to keep moving and not fall, stopping when he reached the top and, more gently than he had expected, bumped his head against the wall there. Ian Poorley felt cheerfully ferocious or, he supposed, perhaps ferociously cheerful. Probably both.

In his hands, he experienced the weight of two heavy paper sacks; this sense had been passive until the exact moment in which his consciousness fixated on it, and then the effect of the fixation was like a too-bright spotlight, temporarily blinding his mind’s eye. When the brilliance faded to a manageable level, he remembered: kitchen! As in, this was where he was to take the sacks’ contents.

He navigated the hallway with his head still tilted far forward, and would have had a great deal of trouble with the door to the apartment he shared with Donovan, had Donovan not at that same moment opened the door to see who was clomping so noisesomely about the hallway at this hour. Ian’s effusive greeting came not so much in the form of distinct words as in the abstract concept of words, and he rushed past his astonished brother and into their living quarters, making it most of the way to what passed for a kitchen before carefully laying the sacks on the floor and then coming to his own horizontal rest there as well.

Donovan rolled him over, appearing concerned in a way Ian couldn’t help but find hilarious. Ian did, it turned out, more or less remember how to speak with concrete words from the real world, and used them now primarily to deflect Donovan’s rapid questioning about where he had been, what he was doing with two heavy sacks, what could be in them, and whether he was perhaps intoxicated in some way.

He did find he was very interested, however, when his brother asked, “What’s this, then? This scrap of paper pinned to your coat’s lapel?”

“How should I know?” he asked in return. “Give it a read, will you?” (This actually emerged as something closer to Shuh engho? Eedih!)

Donovan unpinned the paper, put the pin absently back into Ian’s lapel, and obliged him.

“I can’t imagine what it might mean.”

Ian managed to assemble a string of speech roughly approximating the sentiment behind, ‘Read it aloud, dear brother!’

“It says:

The best revenge is.

Denial is not.

And curiouser.

Ian was now not only trailing off but trailing on as well: “…ought to figure it better in morning…”

Donovan hardly seemed to think so, but he moved on to more questions. Namely, now, attention was drawn to the sacks resting on either side of his collapsed brother.

“…’s a nice…sort of…advance payment. That’s what they called it.”

Looking into the open mouth of the first sack, Donovan saw a loaf of bread, a wheel of cheese, and what appeared to be a string of dried sausages. It was now his turn to become inarticulate in his astonishment.

Ian rolled onto his side and fumbled with one hand in the other sack. It emerged holding a much-bent and hassled envelope. “Letter for us, too,” he said, unable to hide how pleased he was with either his successful retrieval thereof, or his enunciation of the phrase, or both.

Donovan took the letter and saw that it was, as usual, sent from the offices of Goiter and Crawe. Whether a note of acceptance of a past submission with payment enclosed, or, more likely, yet another call for Sisyphean submissions, he clearly had a difficult time focusing on the letter. The sudden bounty of foodstuffs normally far outside the means of the Brothers Poorley, and their mysterious origin, occupied all his attention.

“An advance payment? What are you being paid for? Who are your employers?”

“Can’t rememember at t’moment. Think the note is…they wrote it.”

“Which brings us to the question of your altered state. Have you been drinking?”

Ian’s expression became very solemn. “I — am tox — in-not-icated.”

Donovan sighed. “How I do worry about you, little brother. What has become of you of late? You go missing all day, you haven’t done any writing — ”

“Have so,” Ian cut in.

“ — no writing that I’ve seen, at any rate. Arriving at home in the middle of the night, incoherent regardless of whatever you have or have not ingested…”

“‘m sorry.”

“We’ll have to address it in the morning, when I hope to be able to get some more sense out of you. Can you get yourself to bed, or shall I drag you?”

In response, Ian maneuvered once again onto his back and stretched his arms up and out. Donovan sighed and stuffed the letter into his trouser pocket before taking his brother’s hands and pulling him along.



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