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Pandemos -- Is This What Sanity Looks Like?
The Chloroquine Wars Part LXXI
“Will a day come when the race will detect the funniness of these juvenilities and laugh at them--and by laughing at them destroy them? For your race, in its poverty, has unquestionably one really effective weapon--laughter. Power, Money, Persuasion, Supplication, Persecution--these can lift at a colossal humbug,--push it a little-- crowd it a little--weaken it a little, century by century: but only Laughter can blow it to rags and atoms at a blast. Against the assault of Laughter nothing can stand.” -Mark Twain, The Mysterious Stranger Manuscripts
Somewhere, out in the Ocean, a beautiful and thriving civilization spans the island of Pandemos. Larger in land size than Australia, you might miss it on a map, er, due to distortions in scale caused by Mercator projection.
The lush and resourceful Pandemos has allowed for the Pandemosians to engineer an amazing modern society. Pandemosians are often so wealthy that their children sit in chairs for twenty or more years before learning the basics of how to hunt, cook, differentiate between reality/internet, or build shelter. Thanks to Medicine Men of generations past and present, many parts of the island have recently been rendered safe from harmful things. Naturally, the snake oil salesmen take the most credit.
Late in 2019, Pandemos went topsy-turvy when a novel species of two-foot-long monitor lizards showed up on the island. Some thought they climbed up out of caves, while others believed them to be snakes that magically transformed. Still others conjectured that the lizards might be the result of Doctor Faucinstein’s laboratory mischief. Mostly, people just knew that large lizards sometimes eat people, and that’s bad news for people who don’t run so fast!
Over a period of several months, the novel lizards spread out all over the island, reproducing at an alarming rate.
These lizards first showed up in the large village of Chi’nah where they began eating a few unfortunate residents. The Pandemosian health protectorate, Watchdog Health Observers (WHO), at first declared the lizards not to have legs, thus relatively harmless. However, once they realized their error, they quickly declared a state of PANDEMONIUM. Despite the fact that the lizards run far slower than 99.9% of humans walk, the WHO declared, “No one is safe from the lizards!”
Word of the PANDEMONIUM spread to other villages. However, the Chi’nese Medicine Men made the astute observation that lizards dislike fire, and so began chasing lizards away with torches. Residents were advised to stand still for a few minutes until the danger had passed, so as not to be noticed by the fleeing lizards. Soon after, nearly all the lizards left Chi’nah and headed to other villages in search of easier prey.
Knowledge of the torch solution quickly made its way to other villages, though sometimes after a few villagers were devoured. In some villages, torches were handed out freely for everyone to use. These villages had few problems with the lizards.
Oddly, a handful of villages banned torches. The Medicine Men of those villages proposed experiments whereby some lizard attacks were ignored, but in other cases, the Medicine Men threw torches at mostly consumed Pandemosians, often burning flesh. “See, random experiment fail. Torches dangerous!” More and more lizards stuck around these villages.
Without torches, villagers tried other means of driving the lizards away. In the village of Sweed’n, the lizards were allowed to eat the slower people until there were no slow people left. Most of the lizards then left, and Sweed’ners resumed normal life, largely ignoring the PANDEMONIUM declaration.
In other villages, Pandemosians took to wearing scary wooden masks to frighten the lizards. When some Medicine Men pointed out that the lizards didn’t seem to care, others threw rocks at them, told them they were very bad Medicine Men, and declared them “Trump’an,” a strange Pandemosian word that means both “rotten orange” and also “grand champion,” depending on whom you ask.
Some villages turned PANDEMONIUM into a game of “Simon Says”. When the game began and ended with, “Simon says stay in your hut all day,” villagers grew anxious. Some were eaten in their homes.
Meanwhile, some Medicine Men sold expensive snake oil, telling people that even though it didn’t work on snakes, there was good reason to believe it would ward off lizards. They also built bicycles for slower villagers to ride, but villagers too slow to walk away from lizards proved too uncoordinated for that and fell off the bicycles and were quickly gobbled up. Sometimes they were handed torches while riding the bicycles, which didn’t help. That was taken by the snake oil salesmen as further proof that torches didn’t work. Then they hired villagers to spread rumors of a torch shortage.
At some point during the PANDEMONIUM, one observant Medicine Man noticed that lizards seem to be repulsed by people who have recently eaten the tropical fruit vite’dy. Vite’dy is quite abundant in Pandemos, and those who eat it walk and run faster. So, not only does the smell of vite’dy repulse the reptilian menace, it confers upon those who consume it the almost magical ability to walk around the lizards and go about their lives.
Skeptics called this story “fruity” and claimed that no experiments confirmed the result. However, a Medicine Man called Castillo from the village of S’pane ran an experiment in which some slow-moving villagers held torches, while other slow-moving villagers held torches and munched on Vite’dy. While few of the villagers with just torches were eaten, only one of the villagers with a torch and munching Vite’dy was even approached by a lizard, but safely walked around it, successfully using the torch as a shield.
While it seemed the Medicine Men of S’pane may have finally ended pandemonium on Pandemos, the snake oil salesmen were not happy. They refused to even speak Castillo’s name, acting as if they’d never heard of him or his experiment. The day after the Castillo experiment, the newspapers, which were funded by the snake oil salesmen, didn’t mention the successful experiment at all. Instead, the headlines ran, “Expect thousands more to be eaten by lizards by next year!”
In retrospect, it was very strange how they already knew that torches and Vite'dy would not gain popularity.