Dinner Town- a fairy tale
By Azure James
Jim and his family lived a normal life in England. One day, as usual, Jim decided he didn’t feel like eating his dinner, instead preferring to stare at his eggs and gruel with a look of disgust on his face.
“Eww! Every day it’s porridge and eggs! I can’t stand it!” spat Jim, being as annoying as he possibly could. An awkward silence descended around the table like a heavy fog. Jim stared at it and noticed the awkward silence was stifling his lungs. If nobody would break the silence soon, he might suffocate. He coughed.
“Jim, eat your bloody dinner before I shove your face in it!” said Mum, sternly. Jim smiled as the awkward silence cleared up and the room became clear again.
“Jim, I am going to birch your bum if you don’t eat your food.” added Dad, a serious look on his face.
Jim pondered his predicament for a few moments. If he ate his breakfast, he would be submitting himself to higher authority, which was extremely uncharacteristic of him. On the other hand, if he didn’t, he might get slapped and birched.
“Ummmm…” said Jim, attempting to reach a conclusion. He tried to think, but the moving parts in his brain hadn’t been lubricated in years and squeaked rustily as they attempted to turn.
“Jim, eat your bloody supper already! I already told you.” yelled Mum, her face turning red. Her insistence helped Jim’s mind to function properly.
“No.” answered the boy, stone cold on his decision. Mom stood up, amazed but not surprised at Jim’s stubbornness. Dad was scrunching up his face like some strange primate.
Jim somehow knew he had to leave.
Right as Jim jumped up and tried to run to his room, Mom snatched him by the collar and pulled him roughly. Jim burned with rage, not about to lose the fight so quickly. He had to move fast, or else Dad would join the fight and beat on him.
“Let me go!” shouted Jim, voice squeezed so he sounded like a drunk puppy.
His parents ignored his pleading. Jim racked his mind for a way out, but didn’t find enough filing cabinets to rack through. He resorted to brute strength, struggling and fighting his way out of Mom’s grasp. Dad was approaching from behind him.
“NO!” screamed Jim, like an action hero. He slapped his mother and sprinted out of the house before Dad could catch him. Once he had crossed the property line, the boy waited a moment to catch his breath. He was fifty feet from the front door. Suddenly, the door opened and Dad stepped out.
“I have something to discuss with you, Jim!” said Dad.
Oh no! I better get further away! thought Jim.
“Since you’re not coming, I’m going to inform you right this moment!” said Dad. “YOU MUSTN’T HIT YOUR MOTHER!”
Shut it. thought Jim.
The boy realized his dad was carrying a knife. Dad lobbed the knife at Jim, but he managed to avoid it. Jim sprinted out of their yard, into the neighbor’s yard. His dad wouldn’t be able to chase him down, since Jim was faster.
After a rough run down the road, Jim entered the woods. He didn’t cease his running there, though, just to make sure Dad didn’t catch up with him. Jim eventually got far enough to feel very safe and isolated.
After he was confident Dad was not in pursuit of him anymore, Jim sat on a moldy log and thought. Serious thinking was an activity rarely undertaken, but every once in a great while, he was compelled to think.
Hopefully, Dad stopped chasing me. But I don’t really think it matters, because I could hear him and run away in time. Now what would of happened if he hit me with that knife? I probably would have got beat up even more! Whooo! I better not go back there until they really miss me. The woods is pretty cool. But I kinda don’t like it. None of my friends have ever been in here, and it seems to scare them. Oh, what the heck. I’ll stay here anyways.
Confident he had thought the matter over as much as he could without his brain seizing up, Jim stood up and hiked further into the woods. The sun was starting to set, and the bigger, nastier bugs were crawling out of their hiding spots. This annoyed Jim slightly, because he had a short-sleeved T-shirt on. Most of the time, he was too late to prevent damage as he tried to swat the bugs off his bare arms. As the sun slowly sank down under the horizon, it got very dark and windy. The crickets and their friends sang loudly, and Jim decided he was definitely far enough into the woods. As he tried to turn back, the boy realized he was utterly lost. Being at least three miles into the mysterious woods was not a nice prospect, but Jim knew he couldn’t even attempt to get out until the next morning.
Jim sat on a freshly-cut tree stump. His face started to droop onto his knee, even though he was quite scared. Seeing no alternative, Jim tried his best to fall asleep. However, the bugs and strange noises, not to mention the ancient atmosphere of the woods would not permit him to. Every time he would get close to drifting off, some creepy noise would wake him up. The boy heard a noisy rustling in the bushes behind him.
No problem. Thought Jim. It’s probably just some huge bug or maybe a small deer. Or a small bug and a huge deer. Jim gulped, terrified. The rustling was getting closer and closer. Jim knew something was behind him. He could feel it.
Suddenly, Jim heard a dark laugh. It was not a person, sounding instead like some strange messed-up troll voice.
“You thought you kin’ get away with hitting your Mum, Jim. Didn’t you?” Jim spun around. He was standing nose-to-nose with a grinning troll. The troll was almost as tall as him, with yellow tinted skin and a long nose. He wore a long-brimmed hat and heavy clothing, and weighed at least five times more than the scrawny protagonist.
“What are you talking about?” asked Jim, breathing heavily.
“Jim, you get what you deserve n’ this is what you deserve,” croaked the troll.
a present? thought the boy.
Right on cue, the troll pulled out a burlap sack and rope from his back pocket. Jim wheeled and tried to run, he tripped and the rope was thrown around him with expert aim. Jim struggled to get out, but it only got his legs more stuck. The troll kept snickering evilly as the boy fell flat on his face.
“I’ll murder you!” shouted Jim, infuriated.
“I ain’t putting up with you complaining,” warned the troll. He roughly lifted Jim’s legs and slid the bag over him, tying it off. Next, the troll hoisted Jim on his back, which felt extremely uncomfortable to the boy. He struggled to no avail. The troll started to walk away from Jim’s beloved log.
“Put me down!” yelled Jim. His cries were muffled by the heavy burlap. The troll didn’t care about what Jim said, and he kept on trudging along slowly and bumpily. Jim panicked and started to sweat heavily. Maybe someone could save him. It was his last chance. Before he knew it, he could end up being troll dinner or worse!
“HELP!!” screamed Jim at the top of his lungs. He did not stop shouting at all. After he had gone on crying in this way for a lengthy amount of time, the troll pulled out his bludgeon and thumped Jim on the head. He blacked out.
After Jim had come back alive, the troll stopped suddenly. He let Jim and the burlap sack fall to the ground.
“This is Dinner Town. Enjoy your stay.” The troll cackled and trudged away as Jim struggled to rid himself of the burdensome sack, unable see anything except burlap. A while later, the boy managed to rid himself of the bag and look around. He was in a bizarre, foreign land, standing in a grey field with a dark, twisty forest close by him. On the border of the woods was a single, rusty train track. All the other train tracks Jim had seen had two rails, but this one had only a single rail. Beside the track was the rest of the hilly field with a black broken-down barn in it far away. Very far away, following the train track, was a strange old town. Jim decided it would be a bad decision to go into the field.
However, the town referred to as Dinner Town looked just as bad as the surrounding countryside. The little settlement was surrounded by a stone wall. The wall had but one gate. All in all, there were only twenty or thirty buildings in the town. Jim knew the circular town couldn’t be bigger than three or four city blocks.
Jim looked this way and that, until he made up his mind that Dinner Town sounded more appetizing than the alternatives. He walked towards it, noticing the strangely-built structures that looked like they dated from at least four hundred years ago.
Once the boy got to the entrance gate, he noticed no one was there to guard it. Since the wooden gate was wide open, Jim walked right into the town onto the cobblestone pathway. He heard a strange noise behind him and spun around. Someone had jumped down from the tall upper wall above the gate! The person ran quickly to Jim and tackled him roughly to the ground.
“Why did you not announce your immigration to Dinner Town, foreigner?” he barked in a rough voice.
“I’m immigrating?” asked Jim, considerably bewildered.
“What? Everyone immigrates to Dinner Town! We hate tourists!” The guard and Jim got up, and Jim dusted himself off. The guard continued his speech while pointing at the boy.
“We hate our neighbors, too! We also hate our families! We even hate ourselves! We despise everyone! Have a nice stay, you berk!”
With that, the guard kicked Jim in the back, pushing him further into the town. With an ominous clang, the rusty old gate shut behind him.
The colors of the town did not deviate in the slightest from grey and black. The dress code seemed to enforce this strange law as well, with the villagers wearing wool and black leather. Although there was a church in town that used to be white, this also was turning grey with age. Jim knew he was immediately identifiable as an outsider, since he looked different and was wearing a red shirt. Considering how rude the town seemed to be, being an obvious outsider would really be a challenge.
Up high, the buildings stretched pendulously. Most of them were two or three stories, but one near the center of the town was much higher. It had a strange tower that moved out of the centerline as to make the whole building look like it was falling over.
The only lights were a mixture of red and blue torches stuck on the edge of the buildings. Since it was so late and dark, Jim needed to find a place to sleep. There was no hotel or hostel, and when Jim asked a regular person if he could sleep in a house, she slammed the door in his face.
Finding no other alternative, Jim found an old alleyway and slept for the night, always hearing strange rats and vermin squeaking around him. The next morning, Jim awoke to hear a bustle. There were several people walking in the road outside. Jim got up and tried his best to make himself look presentable. However, he still had some dirt on him and his hair was a mess.
It was slightly foggy out and the clouds were grey, but it was a lot brighter than it had been during the night. The citizens were heading towards a market in the center of the town. Jim followed them as best he could, but found himself being pushed around no matter how fast or slow he went. It got so frustrating that Jim pushed an old lady as he walked past her. To his surprise, the lady slammed heavily onto the ground yelling and screaming.
I didn’t mean to cause that much trouble! thought Jim. The boy looked back and saw a policeman dressed in dark navy with a cudgel on his belt running towards the scene. He took another look at the woman, who was trying to get up at that moment. Jim ran again. From a safe distance, he watched the policeman interrogate all of the eyewitnesses while he sneaked off to the market.
Although there was an abundance of stands at the open-air market, Jim discovered quickly that only a few actually sold more than two or three items. Even those that did never seemed to sell anything. Every potential customer would look at the food, grimace, and then walk away, finding some invisible fault in the food. The food was extremely unusual; a mixture of animal products he had never seen before, bizarre baked goods, and strangely colored noodles.
After looking around for a short while, Jim found a stand selling four croissants, one of the only familiar foods he could find.
“How much money are they?” he asked. The owner stared at him.
“Three farhaks,” he replied sternly.
“I don’t have any of those. I have three pence in my pocket.”
“Just give me those,” said the shopkeeper. Jim bought one, but even though it seemed nobody had bought a single item from him the whole morning, the seller was most ungrateful. He looked very mad to part with his precious croissant.
Jim soon got sick of the market and walked towards the store district of the town. In that quarter were a bar and a market. The boy decided to eat his croissant on the way there. Just as he was taking a bite, Jim noticed the croissant was filled with some disgusting undercooked game meat! He spat it out instantly.
“Why would anyone ever buy anything from that stupid market?” Jim asked himself, extremely embarrassed. The baked good was momentarily thrown on the ground. As Jim departed from it, he felt a light impact on his back. Someone had thrown the croissant at him. However, Jim hardly had a concern for something that trivial any more, and after he looked back at the kid who had thrown it, he kept on traveling.
Jim was not of drinking age yet, but he had a feeling that Dinner Town did not abide by a single law, especially food-related laws. Otherwise, the food at the market would have been better-quality. The village was essentially an oligarchy, with the heaviest, strongest people working as the law and the rest confined to the low-class proletariat.
Anyhow, Jim strolled over to the bar. Inside, there were some worn-out paintings, stone chairs, and bare floors. A wooden counter was placed around two sides of the room. It was probably the only object in the town not colored grey or black, aside from the croissants.
The only other customer at the bar just sat there not doing anything at all. He looked at the counter and half-closed his eyes. The bartender sat on a stool and daydreamed.
“I want a beer.” Jim asked. He felt butterflies in his stomach, but he knew that Dinner Town was so bizarre that he might not even obtain the beer in the first place. The waiter didn’t seem to hear him, so Jim repeated his request.
“We don’t have beer here! That’s not what a bar is for,” declared the bartender. Anger swelled up inside Jim.
“Yes it is! I’m sick of this town. All I want is something that works like it’s supposed to. All of you are freaks.” replied Jim.
The waiter looked daggers at Jim, and proceeded to do nothing. After about fifteen seconds, he said something else.
“We have breadwater and we have well water,” offered the bartender reluctantly.
“Get me some.” said Jim, still upset.
The waiter slid a tiny wooden glass of breadwater over to Jim, who drank it slowly, finding the taste bizarre and not particularly thirst-quenching. He looked at the customer sitting next to him, and decided he would attempt to have a conversation.
“Hi.” said Jim. After he didn’t receive a response, Jim got even more angry.
“What are you doing here? You’re not even drinking or talking to anyone! I thought that’s why bars exist!”
The other man finally spoke.
“There’s only one reason why I go here- I have to escape my wife! She’s horrible. I’m not going to talk to anyone here. That’s not what a bar is for.”
Jim wondered how doing nothing could possibly be better than spending time with your wife. That could only happen in Dinner Town. He got up and started to walk away.
“What IS a bar for?” he yelled. The stranger rolled his eyes.
“A bar is for nothing,” said the bartender, resuming his cross-legged position on the chair.
“That will be five farhaks for the breadwater.”
“Five darned pence for one ridiculously tiny cup of water? No thank you.” Jim said.
“Not pence. We’re not in England. You have a lot to learn,” admonished the bartender.
Jim stormed out of the restaurant and spent the rest of the day doing a small amount of exploring, but still keeping active more successfully than the man at the bar or the bartender. He found the church, but the door was locked. There was a museum full of curiosities which Jim enjoyed until he realized that only a small section of it was free.
That night, Jim decided he would be better off sleeping in an actual house. He only had four pence left, but that had a chance of buying him a bed. Jim already knew he would leave the next morning. By then, his parents would probably want him back at the house.
Before the sun set, Jim knocked on everyone’s door. However, most people did not know what that mannerism even meant, so they ignored him. Only one person answered.
“What is it?” said a woman’s voice.
She was not opening the door. No one knew manners at all in this stupid town.
“Open the door!” yelled Jim.
The door opened, and in front of Jim was a woman about forty. He started to fret about how to convince her to let him stay for the night.
“Ummm.” said Jim.
“What?” she asked, annoyed already.
“I need somewhere to stay.” replied Jim. He sounded extremely desperate, which was the truth.
The door was slammed in Jim’s face.
I’m so sick of this. I hate this town. Thought Jim.
Jim went back to the gate but it would not open, and he wouldn’t survive the fall off the top of the wall, so he had to find somewhere to sleep yet again. Someone walked out of their house, so Jim approached him quickly.
“Hey! I need to stay somewhere but I only have four pence,” he said. The man spotted him.
“You need to go to a bank,” he replied. “There’s usually one in that there dark alleyway. Stay out of the brightly-lit areas.”
Jim walked right past a few torches on his way to the abandoned alleyway. Suddenly, a thief dropped down from a building roof and landed right in front of him.
“Give me your farhaks or I will damage you with my mangler!” He held up a contrived device made of small pieces of hardware which resembled a flail. “Right now!” he yelled.
Unfazed, Jim kicked the man over and ran to safety in the dark alleyway. Hiding behind a large stone was a destitute-looking man, which Jim approached.
“Are you a bank?” he asked. The poor man nodded. Jim took his money out of his pocket.
“I have four pence, and I need to exchange them for farkhaks.”
“Four pence- one farhak,” replied the bank man in a strained voice. Jim took it, deciding it was better than nothing. He tried to find a house to sleep in, but had to settle for a recess in a building instead.
The next morning, a pretty girl approached Jim immediately after he woke up and left the nook.
“Hi!” she said. She was wearing a long grey skirt and a brown necklace.
“I’m starving. Do you know where I could find some food?” asked the boy. The girl thought for a moment.
“Come with me. I’ll get you something.” Jim followed her down the road into a house. In the single wooden cupboard, she pulled out a round roll.
“Here,” she said, giving it to him.
“We don’t get strangers very often in this town,” she explained. Jim quickly bit into the roll, but to his surprise, hot porridge sprang out at once, burning him. He screamed in anguish.
“Sorry,” said the girl casually. She went into the cupboard and pulled out another roll. Jim noticed how strange the town was, because she started to eat his roll without getting burned.
“Maybe this will be better,” she said. Cautiously, Jim tried the second roll and found it filled with freezing porridge. He ate it slowly.
“Sit down, enjoy yourself,” said the girl. There were two chairs in the room; one made of pressed, painted egg, and the other resembling a beanbag. Jim’s friend sat on the egg chair, and it jiggled from side to side like gelatin, leaving the boy to sit on the large beanbag-like chair. He descended upon it with a sploosh, and found himself fighting for his life. Porridge was all around him, getting in his lungs, nose, and eyes. The girl pulled him out of the porridge chair quickly.
“Now look what a mess you’ve made,” she said calmly. “I have to go clean that up now.”
They were quiet for a moment.
“I have to go. Bye,” said Jim, trying to regain his composure. He left soaking wet with porridge bits all over him.
Deciding he’d had enough of the town, Jim went back to the gate and attempted to shake it open, but it was still padlocked. He looked at the top of the wall, and noticed there was a way up there. Jim walked over to the steps up the ladder. Luckily, there was no door to stop him from getting to the top.
At the top of the steps, Jim saw a guard sneaking around. He promptly noticed Jim and started to chase him. Jim had about five seconds to make a decision.
Should I jump off the wall? Well, this town sucks. I’m better off dead than in here!
Jim’s internal monologue was already over. He sprinted towards the other side of the wall and jumped off. Just as he left the ground, the guard grabbed him. Jim slammed into the wall, his foot being held-on to by guard.
“I’m gonna get you!” shouted the guard. Jim really wished he had made up his mind quicker.
“You have one decision- to get up here and let yourself be killed by my mangling machine!”
What a weirdo. Thought Jim. He struggled as much as he could, realizing the guard was very strong. He was pulled back over the wall and dragged to the secret room. In front of him was the mangling machine, basically a supersized donut-maker big enough to put a man in.
Just as the guard was about to throw Jim in, he managed to break free and jump off the wall onto a bush below. The fall was about twelve feet, and it hurt, although Jim had not injured himself seriously.
The guard wasn’t about to lose his fight, so he ran and jumped forcefully off the wall as well. His fall was much larger than Jim’s, owing to the guard’s stupidity by jumping instead of falling off from a low stance. The guard ended up falling at least twenty feet. He screamed loudly as he fell.
Jim actually felt kind of sorry for the guard. He crunched into the ground. The boy approached him slowly.
“I can still… get you with my bludger” he whispered, pulling out a heavy stick and swinging it weakly at Jim. The boy grabbed it and wrested it out of the guard’s grasp.
Well, he was going to make me into a donut anyways. Thought Jim. I suppose he deserves what he got.
Jim proceeded towards the train stop. It had a stone bench which he sat on once he arrived. After forty minutes, Jim started to wonder if the train even existed. Why didn’t it have a regular schedule? Jim knew why; because no one would ever want to go to Dinner Town in a million years, and none of the freaks inside would ever want to leave– or be able to leave. The town gate must have been open by special arrangement with the troll. How terrifying.
Please. I need this train. Come on. Thought Jim. It was his only ticket out of Dinner Town. Jim sat down and did nothing. He noticed he was acting just like the man at the bar.
What a strange way to live a life. Jim thought, chuckling to himself.
Suddenly, Jim heard a sound coming from far away. It sounded quite a lot like a train’s whistle. Jim perked up and walked a few feet towards the sound. On the horizon, he saw a small shape. It slowly got bigger. It seemed like the train would be heading towards the forest where the troll had brutally abducted Jim.
Good! Now maybe I can get my way back home, he thought.
The train slowly came closer and closer to the station. It was very small, with only one locomotive and one car behind. Since it only had a single rail, it was precariously slim and tottered this way and that as it slid down the tracks. Jim heard the screech of brakes being applied, and the doors opened up for him. Jim climbed aboard, saw a conductor dressed in blue.
“How much is a ticket?” he asked.
“Five farhaks.” said the conductor. Jim said he only had one.
“Or you can tell me what you learned about life in Dinner Town,” offered the conductor.
Jim thought about what he had learned.
“I learned that Dinner Town sucks.” Jim replied.
“And why did you need to learn that?” asked the conductor. Jim knew he knew the answer already.
“Because I never eat my porridge and I slapped my mum before I ran off into the woods.” said Jim.
“Here’s your ticket” said the conductor, passing it to him. He fell asleep on the way back home. A few hours later, Jim knocked on the door.
“Mom, Dad, are you here?” he asked loudly.
Mum opened the door. When she saw Jim, she picked him up off the ground and spun him around.
“Jim, you little delinquent! Where have you been?” she asked.