The Best of Times Short Story Competition

Autumn 2011 Results

The Magical Leaking Wiki

Copyright © Harold Mally 2011

Once upon a time in a magical land called Strange there lived a master magician named Wikinfield. The citizens of Strange were mainly farmers; they were a friendly bunch who would always greet their fellow citizens heartily with the words ‘Hello Stranger.’

Wikinfield loved living in Strange. He loved the Strange roads that snaked around to the Strange farms, but most of all he loved the Strange town, which was situated on the Strange river. Wikinfield decided he would do something for the Strangers, so he created a magical object that all of the Strangers could use. It was a magic book which contained all of the knowledge in the world and he installed it in the centre of town, in the Strange Town Hall where all of the citizens could use it. The one stipulation that Wikinfield made was that they had to approach the book with pure motives, then it would give them correct information. Anyone approaching it with an impure heart would be given nonsense. 

He called it Wikinfield’s Magical Extensive Comprehensive Encyclopaedia of Everything For the Pure of Heart, but the Strangers found that name too unwieldy so they shortened it to Wikipedia. Most Strangers liked the book and found that it contained much useful information.

There were some, however who did not like the book. The Strange High Boodzum was critical of it right from the start. He didn’t like all of the citizens hanging around the Strange Town Hall finding out interesting pieces of information.

"If people need to know anything," he was often heard to say, "they should ask the correct authorities." Many Strangers saw the wisdom of this statement, but others were not convinced. They said that they had found out some useful things from the wikipedia, information about what crops to plant and when to plant them or what to do if their animals took sick.

The Strange High Boodzum loudly proclaimed that there were errors in the knowledge. Once the Strange Exalted Mooyum had wanted to build an extension to the Strange Mooyum Palace and Boodzum had asked the book what kind of tax he should impose on the Strange citizens. The book had told him to tax the Strange Aristocracy. This was nonsense, asserted the imperious Boodzum, for everyone knew that Strange Aristocracy did not pay taxes, they only collected them. The answer was nonsensical. The Strangers had to admit he was right there. 

Ultimately though, the Strange High Boodzum’s campaign against the Wikipedia was not necessary. People just became bored with it. There are only so many types of crops you can plant and so many animal diseases to cure. Ultimately the Wikipedia just fell into disuse through lack of interest. The Strangers were more interested in spending their spare time frolicking by the Strange River.

Wikinfield tried to understand the Strangers. "What’s wrong with wikipedia? It has everything," he said.

"We know it has everything," they replied. "But don’t you have anything else?"

So Wikinfield went away trying to work out what else he could give them, apart from everything. Then he had it. Apart from everything, he could give them nothing. He soon realised that wouldn’t work because he wanted to give them something. Then he had an idea, he could give them something that looked like nothing. Something invisible.

It was a particularly glorious Sunday afternoon. It seemed that the entire Strange population, with the exception of the Strange aristocracy, was enjoying the day off on the banks of the Strange River. Some were swimming in the clear waters, others were cooking food on the banks, while others just enjoyed laying in the sun.

Suddenly one of the strangers pointed out to the middle of the river. It seemed like there was someone out there. Soon they were all looking and pointing. Someone recognised Wikinfield. There he was in the middle of the river coming towards them. They cheered and the festive atmosphere of the afternoon turned into a riotous celebration.

Soon Wikinfield reached the Strangers and they all mobbed him, so enchanted were they by the magic as he seemed to walk over the water. They all wanted to know how he had done it.

"It’s nothing," he said. "Well, not quite nothing. It’s invisible. I call it Wikinfield’s Amazing Invisible Aquatic Craft for the Pure of Heart." They all looked at him blankly.

" Let’s just call it the Wiki," said one of the Strangers. The rest cheered. Everyone wanted to have a turn riding the Wiki. After the first brave soul ventured out, they all tried their hand at it. It was marvellous to be travelling over the water in the invisible Wiki. There seemed to be no danger and it was endless fun. Nobody knew quite how big the Wiki was or, for that matter, how many of them there were, because they were invisible. But whenever somebody wanted a ride, there was one available. If they’d thought about it, they probably would have realised this was because it was magic.

Riding the Wiki became the new favourite pastime for the Strange citizens. They had loved the river bank before, but now they loved it even more because they could travel out onto the river and have a great time on the water.

The Strange nobles did not launch a campaign against the Wiki. They were suspicious and they wondered if there was a way that they could tax it, but they could find no reason to be overly critical of it. They never frolicked by the river with the citizens anyway. The nobles felt that getting your bum wet in the river was well beneath their dignity. So they were content to just look down their noses at the Wiki and find whole idea of it extremely undignified and vaguely distasteful.

After the Strange population had become more adventurous by travelling further and further on the Wiki, one intrepid young Stranger declared that he was going to travel to the land of Mystery in the east.

The older more conservative Strangers warned the impetuous youngster against this adventure. They weren’t sure if the land of Mystery even existed, but if it did they had no idea how far away it was, whether the inhabitants of Mystery (the Mysterious) were friendly, or anything else. There were too many frequently asked questions.

But all of these F.A.Q.s just made the young adventurer even more determined to go. He wanted to find all the frequent answers. So he left on his great adventure.

Days past, then months. The adventurer was forgotten by all but his closest friends and family. The Strangers continued their idyllic existence, farming their farms, paying their taxes and in their spare time revelling by the river and carousing on the Wiki.

One fine day in the distance they saw a wondrous sight. Coming from the east, a colourful mass approached. As it came closer they recognised it as a Wiki, laden with unknown goods. Someone recognised their long lost friend and many moved out into the river on Wikis to greet him.

When he arrived on the shore there was pandemonium and much merriment. The adventurer was overloaded with hitherto unknown valuables. There was ultra-smooth cloth which had been woven by worms, treasures of jewels and precious metals and the most unusual foods: long stringy things and dishes made with fragrant spices. The Strangers were in a state of high excitement. They found out that the land of Mystery really did exist and the Mysterious were not only friendly but they had a plethora of previously unknown treasures in abundance.

Fortunately for the nobles, the Strange High Boodzum had been keeping a close eye on the antics of the Strangers. He rushed straight to the Strange Imperial Mooyum and told him he must have a meeting immediately with the Strange Empirical Rudopper himself. He had information of the utmost importance that had to be discussed.

The day after the adventurer had returned, the Strange citizens all woke up late. They had been partying hard and boogieing all night long. Many of them worked on their farms during the day and did not get into the town until late in the afternoon. When they did, it seemed that everything had changed.

Where previously the world was full of sunshine and the Strangers were smiling and friendly, the town seemed more grey and less friendly, and it was not just that the lateness in the day. There were banner news headlines all over the town proclaiming all sorts of things that the Strangers did not understand. Wiki Confiscated, Wiki Tool of the Enemy, Wiki Banned.

At first many Strangers were confused. They quoted a number of high Strange officials who explained why Wiki could lead to the end of civilisation as they knew it. Once again the Strange High Boodzum led the way in educating the populace. He explained that the Wiki was something that Strange’s enemies could use against them and that they had secret intelligence that proved it.

This all came as a surprise to the Strangers. They had thought that Wiki was a lot of fun, but now they found it could be used by their enemies. This came as a complete shock, because before this they didn’t even know that they had any enemies. The Strange citizens flocked to the Town Hall. They wanted to consult the Wikipedia to find more details of these new things about which they had never heard before, but when they arrived, the Wikipedia had been removed. It seemed that this too was a tool of the enemy.

Well, even if things were bad, they could always go down to the river to frolic around and have fun. So, the Strangers all turned and headed for the river. But when they arrived at the shore, they found that it had been blocked off by red and white striped tape and armed guards carrying sharp looking swords were standing there to make sure that nobody could get through. 

If they could not go to the river they would just have to go back to their farms and think about the new dangers that they previously didn’t know had existed. But just as they were all about to return to their homes, the citizens saw coming towards them a Strange procession.

All of the Strange nobles were marching to the river in a most dignified manner. They stood aside and let their leaders pass. The Strange High Boodzum, the Strange Exalted Mooyum, the Strange Empirical Rudopper himself and even the Strange Magisterical Gilgobbler herself marched by. The aristocrats had their heads held high and marched proudly along, their minds focused on high level business that the general populace could not imagine. They marched past, oblivious to the citizens, who bowed their heads in deference their exalted masters.     

The guards made way for the procession and let them through to the riverside, where their imperial highnesses stepped into Wikis and set out onto the river. Wikinfield had joined the Strangers, approached the guards and tried to warn them of the fact that the Wikis only worked for those of pure heart, but his passage was blocked by the guards. He hoped that the intentions of the nobles were honourable, but he could hear words like ‘conquest’ and ‘pillage’ and ‘treasure’ being bandied freely about.

The Strange Aristocrats and their well-armed retinue set out Eastwards on the Wikis to the confusion of the amassed Strangers. If these things were the work of the enemy, why were they climbing onto them? The Strange citizens were having trouble digesting all of this new information that they were confronting in such a short space of time.

Suddenly they heard a high pitched screech emanating from the direction of the Wikis. "My feet are getting wet," screamed the Strange Magisterical Gilgobbler herself. They all agreed that their feet were getting wet. Now their ankles.

"Aaaaaaaaaagh. Wiki leaks," screamed the Gilgobbler. All of the majestic entourage began screaming and shouting "Wiki leaks. Wiki leaks. Wiki leaks." After an anarchic few minutes of pandemonium, they all ended up in the river in a most undignified manner. The Strange Aristocrats were helped to shore by their guards to the great amusement of the Strangers who took up the chant with gusto.

"Wiki leaks, Wiki leaks, Wiki leaks," they chanted. They laughed and laughed to see so much nobility with wet bums. "Wiki leaks, Wiki leaks, Wiki leaks."

The next day banner headlines screamed ‘WIKI LEAKS.’ You could not walk a few metres down the street without seeing another banner. ‘WIKI LEAKS’ they all said. Then, before you could say ‘Wiki leaks,’ you would be walking past another headline that also said ‘WIKI LEAKS’. The Strangers soon got the message and the message was most assuredly ‘Wiki leaks.’

Wikinfield saw the writing on the wall. He could hardly miss it; the letters were two metres high and read 'OFF WITH HIS HEAD'. He did not stop to wonder whose head was in jeopardy. He did not even stick around to read the small print which was 'BY ORDER OF THE STRANGE MAGISTERICAL GILGOBBLER HERSELF'. The magician simply disappeared.

It is not known where he went. Legend has it that he went to the land of Mystery in the east, where he presented the Wiki to the Mysterious, only to be met with the same result; others say that he went searching for the mythical land of Truth. In some versions of that legend he found it, in others he is still looking.

But it is all speculation. None of the Strangers really knows what happened to the Strange magician.

The Strangers settled back into life as they knew it before the Wiki, with some slight modifications. They worked longer hours because they had to pay more tax to pay for the defence of the Land of Strange. But they were happy to do this now that they knew that they had enemies out there.

Working longer hours they were unable to spend much time frolicking by the river any more, but they weren’t too worried about that, either. They were happy at their narrow escape and considered themselves lucky that their masters had exposed the devious ways of the magician before he did any real damage with his leaking Wiki. Many wondered how they had been taken in, others said that they had been suspicious all along.

But sometimes they would remember those carefree days and sigh wistfully. And you can bet that if a Stranger ever laughs out loud for no apparent reason, he is thinking about the time all those dignified royals got their bums wet.