In Dingly Dell

I tripped and toppled and tumbled down and down and came to land flat on my back in Dingly Dell. A bump or two to the head during my tumble conked me out, and by the time I awoke, flat on my back in Dingly Dell, the sky was growing dark. Up above, I saw the first flickers of stars. Closer to the ground, too, I saw two small points of light. I reasoned they must be the glittering eyes of a nameless dell-dwelling beast, and I sat up.

Was it a wolf? Was it a badger? It has been said of me that I am insanely courageous when confronted by unknown quadrupeds. I picked up a pebble and chucked it, aiming at a point directly between the two lights.

“Ouch!” I heard.

It was a human ouch, an all too human ouch. I felt immediately mortified. I concur with Terence, who said “humani nihil a me alienum puto”, or “nothing that is human is alien to me”. I was ashamed that I had so thoughtlessly pelted one of my own fellows with a pebble.

“Forgive me!” I cried, before the figure had even emerged from the dusk-struck Dingly Dell duff. When it did so emerge, I saw that it was a man oh! very much like me, but of considerably smaller stature. That explained why the points of light were nearer to the ground, why I had mistaken them for the eyes of something inhuman that crawls upon the earth on all fours.

“Forgiveness is not in my nature,” said the little man who now stood before me, “I am vengeful, and when panic-stricken, irrationally so. Watch!”

And then he performed what I can only describe as a dazzling if incomprehensible fanfaronade of acrobatic imbecility.

“Allow me to introduce myself,” he said when he was done, as if nothing dazzling and incomprehensible and acrobatic and imbecilic had happened, “I am the dwarf Crepusco, helpmeet and factotum to Prince Fulgencio, who lives up yonder far from Dingly Dell in a benighted and crumbling castle swarming with mice and bats. The word most often applied to me, apart from dwarvish and Machiavellian and too clever by half, is indispensable. And it is my very indispensability which caused the green entwining tendrils of envy to form in the heads of Prince Fulgencio’s more dimwitted and brutish henchmen, tendrils that grew so rapidly they choked off what little sense was lodged in those henchmen heads, until come last Thursday several of them lay in wait for me behind an arras anent a balustrade hard by the castle crenellations, and when I passed by with my nosegay and the Pin-Cushion of Gaar, they waylaid me and stuffed me into a sack and carried me off I knew not where. I screeched and struggled to no avail, for I am of diminutive frame and the henchmen are huge great brutes, like giant oxen.

“It is worth noting that just before they tied the sack shut, I saw them trample my nosegay underfoot and toss the Pin-Cushion of Gaar over the castle crenellations, so I can only assume it fell into the moat and is now sopping wet if it has not been devoured by one of Prince Fulgencio’s snapping scavenger fish. The Prince regularly checks their stomach innards with a fiendishly intricate X-ray scoping contraption I devised for him, and Lord knows what will happen when he discovers whatever remains of the Pin-Cushion of Gaar. If he puts two and two together – and I have to say that is a big if, for Prince Fulgencio has a tiny brain like all his forebears – he will learn of his henchmen’s perfidy. His wrath will be apocalyptic. But without me by his side to direct his actions, he will no doubt muck everything up, blaming the alignment of stars in the heavens, hanging the wrong henchmen, and splattering his morning porridge on the castle walls.

“What he will not do is think to send out a search-and-rescue helicopter to search for and rescue me. I am going to have to take care of that myself, though it is beyond even my wit to know how to expedite such a mission. I was thinking hard on that very matter, hidden in the duff, when you pelted me with a pebble, jolting my cranium and thus wreaking havoc with the fine tuning of my elegant cogitations. Now I shall have to begin again.

“You are probably wondering how I know I am in the Dingly Dell, given that I was delivered here while tied up and muffled in a sack. Yes, those traitorous henchmen carried me here all the way from the castle, before depositing me in that dell-ditch over there. By the time I managed to make my escape from the sack and clamber up and out of the ditch, the henchmen were gone. But being ineradicably stupid, they had left behind the steam-powered satnav that had guided them hither. It was almost exhausted of power, and was about to hiss and splutter to a halt, but I just about had time to read the co-ordinates on its display. All I need do now is recover from the effects of that pebble-blow, then work out how to contact the search-and-rescue helicopter control tower. An ordinary, dense person would be helpless, but I am the dwarf Crepusco, and nothing, nothing!, is beyond me!”

I must admit that while the little man was telling me all this, I dozed off. I have only been able to transcribe the entirety of his speech because he left behind him a Dictabelt recording, similar to the Dictabelt recordings made by the police motorcyclists accompanying the presidential motorcade in Dallas on 22 November 1963, that is, acoustically bewildering and fuzzy. But I managed to make out Crepusco’s words after having the recording enhanced using the most up to date new techniques.

I was awakened from my doze by the whirring of helicopter blades. By the time I sat up and rubbed my head and took a sip of Squelcho! from my canteen, the helicopter was gone, taking the dwarf Crepusco with it. I wished the little man well, stood up, placed my empty Squelcho! can in the Dingly Dell Municipal Waste Chute which, as I learned in a lantern lecture I once attended, terminates at the earth’s core, pounded my chest with my fists like a large and energetic monkey, and wended my way, up and out of Dingly Dell, towards the worst horror of all.

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