The Rundle

Terry Dartnall

image“I can outgrow you,” said the Schemer. He shut his eyes and puffed out his cheeks and began to expand. Soon he occupied most of the courtyard.

“Oh stop it!” said the Rundle. He pulled a hatpin out of his wig and punctured the Schemer with a flourish of his hand. The Schemer deflated with a disappointed ‘pop.’

Then the Rundle inflated. His body accelerated outward at the speed of light, so that the courtiers and the Schemer and Planet Z were squashed into his body.

As he sank into the vast body of the Rundle the Schemer saw the sun rushing towards him.

“You win,” he said.

Huge hands covered him as the Rundle shrank back again.

“What else can you do?”

“I can outlive you,” said the Schemer. He shut his eyes and furrowed his brow, and the hands of the great clock on the castle wall accelerated, slowly at first, then faster and faster. The sun sped across the sky in a pencil of light. There was a pulsing of days and nights, season after season, year after year. The oak trees in the courtyard grew tall, and grew weary. The bulwarks of the castle crumbled away.

The Rundle laughed a great airy laugh and the Schemer felt its breath like Autumn.

Then the Rundle laughed backwards, and the oak trees became young again and the fallen masonry flew back into place. The oaks grew back into the ground and the castle vanished. Mountains rose and fell.

They were standing on a barren planet circling a bright star.

“You win,” said the Schemer.

“But I can outrun you,” he said.

He threw back his head and pedalled his feet. He was stationary for a moment. Then he shot forward so fast that the air around him collapsed in astonishment. There was a BANG as he broke the sound barrier. He ran faster and faster until hills and mountains and oceans and continents fell away behind him. And the faster he ran the louder he heard it, the “Ha Ha Ha, Ho Ho Ho” of the Rundle’s laughter. Now the Rundle was in front of him, smoking a cigar. Now he was behind him, tapping his shoulder. And now, the Schemer realised, he was getting out of breath. He dug his heels into the ground and created a place that people would later call the Grand Canyon.

Then the Rundle ran-and ran very slowly. But the Schemer couldn’t keep up with him, because each of the Rundle’s footfalls lasted for a century (which was why he was running so slowly), and in every second he covered a million miles (which was why the Schemer couldn’t keep up with him). And the Schemer said it for the third time: “You win”.

Now it was the Rundle’s turn.

“I can outlove you,” he said.

Then the Rundle recreated the world and breathed life into the hot brown earth. He laughed, and mountains rose and were covered with roses. He laughed, and chasms cascaded with water. He laughed, and the world was full of people who laughed at him because he was old and fat and ugly. He laughed, and they turned their backs on him and walked away. He laughed and faded into the distance, leaving the Schemer alone.

“It is your world now,” he said.

Then the Schemer wept and his tears became an ocean that was drawn upwards towards the stars. But because he could not follow the Rundle (he could never follow the Rundle) they fell back to Earth in the morning.

They fall back to Earth every morning. But he never gives up.

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