"It's Not Fair!"
The outraged voice bounced over airways and out a hundred radio speakers. Thunderous applause blared out behind it.
"I deplore it. I denounce it! Yet the facts remain. The statistics for the election show that this month alone there have been four political casualties! It's disgusting!"
Without a missing a beat, Peronit, one of three candidates for president and the man behind the indignant splutter, then went on to personally slander a librarian's reputation, and destroyed it so completely it went into hiding, never to return, creating the fifth casualty. The current president, Busnit, and the other candidate, Clintnit, agreed. On all other issues, however, their various bickerings had plunged on long and painfully like an ingrown toenail. Clintnit, who'd been campaigning for a year, said that Pres. Busnit spent too much time (not to mention taxpayers' hard earned money) campaigning to stop the Higs from fighting. What was needed, he felt, was help for Nits! Nits whose caves did not have crystals. Nits whose feet had blisters. A President who cared for the People!
Pres. Busnit was indignant. At a national supporters meeting, held one week after the day he'd woken up and realised he was up for re-election, Busnit had earnestly cried: "Yes, I've helped the Higs! I'm proud of my participation in their business. I single-handedly prevented War of the Caves II! My grandparents fought bravely in WC I, and I stopped WC II before it started ! Quite an achievement, huh?" He beamed happily at the audience, who beamed back encouragingly.
"But Clintnit!" He roared suddenly. "Where were his grandparents? They would not fight! They stayed in their home town in Jaggland and left our grandparents to make the mud balls we needed to survive!"
This was old shoe to his supporters. As they'd already read it several times on the billboards that lined the track there, the news had all the exotic fragrance of an unwashed sock.
"I've checked my records, I've done my homework, and that's why I should be re-elected! I am the best Nit for president!" With that flourish, he finished to scattered applause.
Peronit, on his television appearance the next night, said firmly: " All of us have heard idle gossip about the candidates for President, but I for one will not listen to dirty rumours that Clintnit was seen exiting the Anklet Hotel with his mistress at three 'o clock this morning. Neither will I repeat the disgusting tales of how our good president Busnit tried to raise his own salary secretly last Wednesday to triple what it is already. Let's face it, some people will say any thing to get attention."
He'd been speaking in their defence.
Even so, President Busnit thought things had gone far enough. After a hasty conference with his Aides, he made an important announcement.
"I'm electing a Truth Official," he said.
Munchnit was sprawling comfortably in an overstuffed couch, eggnog in hand, when his door crystals chimed. He wasn't pleased at being interrupted. It had been one of his long mornings, delivering newspapers that nobody wanted. Ms Witnit had been in a grouchy mood and had accused him of writing garbage. When he tried to explain that he was not responsible for that part of it, she had thrown an ink bottle at him. The new immigrant, Hignit, voiced his three day suspicions that Munchnit was probably getting paid for polluting their minds, was a proper propagandist, was a pagan too no doubt, he'd seen plenty of that kind and could spot them a pavement away. Munchnit knew it was all simply nerves about the election but it didn't seem right that he should bear the brunt of it. All's fair in home delivery, though, and he was forced to admit that last election the postman had gotten it. Having just settled down, he had been trying to psyche himself up for the late afternoon edition by harmlessly watching a live talkshow taking place on his battered television set, when the door crystals chimed. It just wasn't his day.
"What? Elected Truth Officer?" Munchnit was dazzled. "Why me?" He peered gloomily at his cousin Neechnit through large caramel-coloured eyes.
"It's an honour," she reminded him, tugging absentmindedly at the long gardening gloves that almost permanently covered her slim olive green hands. He smothered a snort.
"Who told you?"
"Grandnit. She gave me the directions for the politician's private entrance to the convention hall so you could get there unnoticed. She wants you to meet her there at four this afternoon to tell you the news herself."
"Just my luck to be grandson to the President's former nanny!"
A sudden rare smile softened her serious features. With a last pull on the sleeves of her gloves, she left quietly. He sighed, ambled over to switch off the T.V. and squinted as it flashed into darkness. Then he put his head between his knees and groaned.
At three he left his comfortable bachelor cave to lope the sandy trail that led out of suburbia into the heart of town. Following the secret directions that Grand nit had told Neechnit to tell him, he wove his way through the bustling streets, the noisy stalls with their tantalising smells and curious merchandise, in, out and about the dry mountains and valleys that comprised his hometown. Passing the awe inspiring Statue of Libernit, the graffiti at its base still wet with the morning's enthusiastic comments, he sidestepped through various alleys and exits until a more natural expanse of scrubby land thudded under his feet. He stopped, glanced around the lonely stretch to make sure he hadn't been followed, then studied the ground carefully. And there it was. A trail on the valley floor, twisting quietly through the harsh wild grass until it spilled gracefully into a cool, mossy hollow shaded by an over hanging cliff. Since Heelcliff suffered a climate similar to the Sahara spots like this were few and far between, so Munchnit, feeling the sudden moist change of temperature on his rangy limbs, gazed around in well-placed admiration. Scattered boulders rested on the moist, springy turf. The dark fungi had attached itself to almost everything except a large, organically shaped rock in the middle of the hollow. He peered at the bare rock. Evidently, cousin Neechnit's plant repellant spray worked perfectly. A small bit of tragedy mixed in with that last thought as he trod forward to touch the cold rugged surface. Poor Neechy. He remembered how, in her haste to get the ozone-friendly, biodegradable vegetation-killing spray formula ready for anonymous buyers, she'd spilled the chemicals all over her hands, turning them an irreversible green. Others had cruelly taunted her:
"So, you're green fingered, huh?"
"Are those miniature palm-trees?"
"Too green or not too green - what a question!"
until she was forced to wear gloves when she went out. Only Munchnit knew the most painful truth of all...before the accident, Neechnit had taken a quiet pride in her hands. Placing a firm grip on the rough exterior he hauled himself to the top of Neechnit's rock with a strength that came from throwing thousands of newspapers. At the top, hidden from bottom view, a wide hole formed a pit-like entrance. Congratulating himself, he dumped himself down it. He almost stubbed a toe on a sharp purple crystal, one of billions that spiked the hollow inside. With the size of that toe, tough as the skin underneath it was, Munchnit came very close to knowing the Meaning of Pain. However the lucky toe, with its attached body, was already striding along the hidden corridor that began inside the rock.