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The Guffaw

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The Guffaw

When travelers pass through our little hamlet of Rolldune, they invariably ask after the purpose of the large, oak slab that sits in the square, and the many paper notes affixed upon its surface. “Tis the Guffaw’s task board,” Is always our response. Of course, this explanation is never sufficient and a string of additional questions immediately follows: Who’s this Guffaw? Why is the board in the square? When’s the last time it had a proper coat of paint? There isn’t a single denizen of Rolldune that hasn’t had to answer these questions, and a score of others, more times than they care to recount. As you can imagine, the process of educating visitors gets quite tiresome.

That’s where I come in. Our honorable Mayor Austin, may his mustachios never lose their curl, has charged me, Kyla Pennigreene, with penning an official description of the Guffaw and its habits. It’s the Mayor’s intention to have this work, when it’s completed, brought East to Kenley, where they have a marvelously noisy and dirty printing press, so that it can be mass produced as leaflets that the townspeople can hand out to the tourists with their never-ending questions. Goddess bless industrialization!

Where to begin?

Firstly, the Guffaw isn’t a Who; it’s more of a What, or more accurately, a Whatchamacallit. To put it plainly, nobody really knows what it is or where it came from. It has lived in Rolldune for as long as anyone can remember and its presence is well documented in our oldest historical texts. As my Father is fond of saying, the Guffaw has squatting rights.

Some call it a monster.

You can’t miss the Guffaw if you pass it on the street—I have known people who have made it their life’s work to try to forget the sight. It stands about the height of an average man, with half of that stature made up by its enormous head. The Guffaw’s features convey an expression that strongly suggests stupidity–its eyes are heavily lidded, the forehead is flat and prominent, and its jaw generally hangs agape with its long, purple tongue lolling about. Where one would expect to find ears, it has another pair of hands growing on either side of its head. These flip and flop about in a most comical fashion when it runs about. Its skin is a sickly yellow, hairless, and heavily wrinkled. Regardless of the weather and season, it always wears the same pair of faded, patchwork overalls.

If by chance the Goddess graced you with life, but forgot the minor detail of sight, you still can’t mistake the Guffaw for any of Her other creations, for it is always laughing (if you were born both blind and deaf, I’d say you’ve got more pressing matters to worry about than whether or not the thing sitting next to you on the bench is the Guffaw or not). The Guffaw cackles, it twitters, it chuckles, it giggles, it roars, it sniggers, it howls. Morning, noon, and night, the hilarity never ends. Life is a great joke, and apparently the Guffaw is the only one privy to the punch line.

A laughing monster, you say. Big deal. What’s all the fuss about?

Despite its jovial nature, The Guffaw is actually all business–other people’s business.

All the Guffaw wants to do is work. Your work. My work. Anybody’s work. Leave a note on its task board detailing what you want done and the Guffaw will happily do it, free of charge. Want your cows milked? Done. Need to have a letter hand delivered to your much-despised mother-in-law expressing your sincerest regrets that she can’t visit this summer? The Guffaw will take care of it. Can’t get by without another bottle of JoJo’s Black Label ‘47? The Guffaw will take a stroll down to the tavern and hook you up. Wondering if your missing kitten, Mitsy, really did fall in the well and drown like Daddy said? The Guffaw will jump in and have a look (be warned that you probably won’t like the soggy ball of fur it climbs out with).

There’s a bit of magic to the whole proceedings. For one thing, the Guffaw doesn’t seem to be bound by the Goddess’ laws of time and space. I can ask the Guffaw to deliver a package to a friend who lives on the other side of the world, and the creature will return an hour later with a ‘Thank You’ note from the recipient. At other times, a simple task that would take you or I a few minutes to perform will take the Guffaw days to accomplish (perhaps this tardiness is the creature’s way of suggesting you should have done it yourself). Also, the Guffaw always knows exactly what you want, even if your request is not specific. Letting the Guffaw know you’d like it to locate a piece of jewelry that you lost ten years ago will result in its safe return, despite the fact that you didn’t tell it whether the article was a ring, necklace, bracelet, etc., or in what location you think it might have been misplaced.

There is no task the Guffaw will not perform, but one must be careful not to offend it with pranks or labors designed to purposely cause the creature harm, for it you do, the Guffaw will distort the intent of the request in order to teach you a lesson. Years before I was born, a rather unpopular and cranky old man by the name of Denkin got fed up with the Guffaw’s laughter and shenanigans and posted a note that read ‘Hang yourself’. This the Guffaw did without fail, ripping out the intestines of Denkin’s prized bull to use for its rope and noose. Most people attribute the Guffaw’s survival to not having a neck, but detractors simply contend that cow intestines are too slippery to hold a proper knot. Either way, the hanging didn’t take and Denkin got the message.

If, Goddess forbid, people forget to post jobs for the Guffaw to perform on its task board, it goes door-to-door looking for employment. It doesn’t care what time of the day it is or what its unfortunate target is doing when it makes these uninvited house calls. There are few things more frightening in this life than to be awoken in the wee hours of the morning by the Guffaw’s laughter, only to sit up and discover its horrid visage leering in at you through your bedroom window, holding up a tattered piece of paper in its hands with ‘WORK?’ scribbled uncertainly upon it. Although it means no harm, people have died of fright and women have been known to miscarry.

Why does the Guffaw do all these things? There are two popular theories. The first is that the Guffaw thoroughly enjoys helping people, that it finds fulfillment in life by easing the burdens of others. The other hypothesis is not so heart warming. Proponents of the second theory believe that the Guffaw has committed some great, unforgivable sin and is forever cursed by the Goddess. It vainly tries to make amends by performing labors, but can never find redemption no matter how hard it toils. These people say that it’s endless laughter is the only mechanism it has to cope with the despair and madness that ravage its tortured soul.

Well, I guess that about covers it. If your travels take you to Rolldune, feel free to write down any odd job you’d like done and slap it on the task board. Resident or out-of-towner, it’s all the same to the Guffaw.

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Quite interesting and enjoyable. Apparently you have a talent for writing as well. Thank you.

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This is a pretty good story, I'd really suggest you try to draw it out a bit more and get it published.

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Thanks for the comments everyone.

Craigs: This story is actually for a contest/project on another MB I belong to. The idea is that one person writes a story and then another interprets it with a piece of art. I actually did intend for it to be longer when I first came up with it, but didn't make it too long/involved for fear that I'd be distorting the intent of the project (not to mention boring whomever has to draw my art). The theme for said project was to write a story using this quote from Norm Papernick:

"Those who can laugh without cause have either found the true meaning of happiness or have gone stark raving mad."

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Final Fantasy Worlds Apart (ffwa.org/forums) is the website/forums where the contest is taking place.

I was thinking this sort of thing would be cool to try here at Doomworld. We haven't had an art/writing project/contest in quite some time . . .

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Just okay it with the moderators, set up the rules/guidelines, and that should be it.

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Here's my art for this same contest, and the corresponding story I did it for (I don't know who wrote it myself because the entries are anonymous until everything is complete). The deadline for art is this Friday, so I'll probably be able to post the art for my Guffaw story sometime next week, assuming there are no problems with deadline extensions, other people not doing their work, etc.


I used to be a simple man, with a simple life. He was an entertainer, performing in the local Ziburin plays that entertained the locals in Habib's Tavern. It was pretty easy stuff. I played Samingi, a hero of the Dim Sagliz. Then one day, Genan Mudanik asked me to move on to a larger audience.

"It will be fun" he said. With these new holographic imagers, the same images could be seen across the galaxy.

It was what I always thought I wanted. Fame. Money. Women. I know I know, not very "enlightened" of the great Samingi, teacher of the Path. So what. I'm a performer. I didn't even believe that junk. I mean really -- Peace in any time? Not by the feeds I was seeing. It was always war. One group of malcontents or another always trying to prove their abilities by "Restoring" parts of the Empire to the Empire's control -- with their clan leader as viceroy of course. If that's what you wanna call it, OK, but it's all crap, as far as I'm concerned.

And back then, I thought the same of Samingi. It was all crap. Man couldn't live in peace. Or so I thought. It was just HoloTelly. Just a way to make some money. No one thought the Peace and Love message of Samingi meant anything.

So I started making the holotelly images. Well, not just me of course. But you already know the rest of them. Yasina. Samikh. Jamis. We thought it would last a few months mabye a few years at most. But it didn't. We became the heros of the myth ourselves. I guess no one had ever seen Holotelly or at least not a Holotelly version of the Myths of Samingi.

That's how I came to be here, at the Temple of Samingi, signing pictures of myself as Samingi. It's not all it's cracked up to be. Yeah sure, I got the fame. I got the money, but I don't enjoy it much. Supplicants keep wanting me to help them. Say something meaningful. But I'm not Samingi, and I can't do anything to help them.

One case was real hard to ignore. He came up and asked me about how to help his daughter. She had gotten into a bad debt of some sort or another. Some thugs were harassing here trying to get the money back. "please Samingi, help me!" he said.

"I'm not Samingi," I told him. I can't do anything. I can't solve the world's problems. "It's not my problem anyway."

But he kept asking and asking. He just wouldn't leave me alone. "look, I'm not Samingi, I'm Demoni Ruasabou. I'm a performer. I can't help anyone." I honestly prayed that the real Samingi would help him. I felt bad for him. That's how I got started in this mess. Guilt. I know I know, classy right.

"I'll do what I can", I heard myself say. The man was obviously thrilled. I didn't even know for sure what I could really do, but I figured I could maybe I could talk to these guys. If that didn't work, I guessed that a small bribe could probably do. So I went with this guy down to Ganir Street in the old quater. The thugs were actually a gang. They called themselves the Khunab, after the general in the Hilian war. Real geniuses these guys.

The leader was Jamis i-Nabish, and probably had $7000 gulans in gold around his neck.

"Excuse me sir," I said. I figured politeness was the best way to start off. "I understand that you have a problem with this gentleman's daughter."

"Wha, ya mean Okama?" he sneered, "Yeah, she owes us money. What of it?"

"Well ... I'd like you to forget about the debt" I said calmly, or as calmly as I could manage around a bunch of scowling gansters with bulgeing muscles.

"Wha? You can't be serious! She owes us $3000 gulans! We can't jus' drop a debt like that ya know. We have a rep to maintain, punk." Obviously there was something the guy hadn't told me about his daughter. I pinned the old man against a wall.

"What exactly did your daughter do to get 3000 gulans in debt to a bunch of gang bangers anyway?" I demanded. The old man seemed kinda embarassed.

"I ... I dunno." He answered. It was a lie.

"You know why. But I can't help unless I know." It wasn't really true, but I had a bad feeling about the whole thing. For all I knew, I was part of a bad Namaal deal or something. I didn't want to become a part of a drug deal, or anything else.

"It was to save me. She took out a loan from Jamis over there, because I needed medicine for my Paatima Syndrome. Falana is expensive, especially for a bricklayer like me, so Okama took out a loan. I thought I would get more work in the outer rim. That is until the latest war started and all the contruction was halted. We can't pay the debt at all. And now, they're going to take her." I'd heard what some of these gangs did to the girls they took as payment for debts.

I had to do something, but what could I do? I don't have $3000 gulans on me, and was pretty sure the Khunubi Gang wouldn't take any form of credit. I'd have to get creative.

"I seem to have left the money in my other pants," I told Jamis. "Just wait right there and I'll go get the money for you."

"No funny stuff," Jamis growled. I wasn't afraid of him, but I wasn't exactly sure what I was going to do either. I was going to have to make it up as I went along.

"Of course not," I said, with the most convincing worried look I could manage.

On the way home, it hit me. I could use the old props from the Holotelly show to scare these guys. Maybe that would convince them that they couldn't mess with this old man. I returned to the Temple and got all my old gear.

In the back alley, I made my transformation, to that stupid Samingi guy that I'd been trying to get away from all my life. I went back into the room with my dull Katana drawn.

"Stop in the name of the gods" I bellowed in my best Samingi voice. "You shall not prosper if you continue to act unjustly." Jamis seemed visibly shaken. The others simply stared.

"Yeah, an' whaddaya gonna do about it?" Jamis sneered back, trying not to show fear.

What happened next had to have been some kind of luck. Jamis stood up to face me, and I did the only thing I could think of -- I swung the butterknife dull katana at him. But I missed and hit an old rope on the wall instead. The rope held a ladder suspended from the ceiling, and when the rope broke, it fell down on top of Jamis. The other gangsters fled.

The old man and his daughters would be safe now. And as I walked home, I laughed. I may not have been the real Samingi, but I had saved Okama. And the idea of Samingi wasn't so bad after all. The world needs heros, it needs hope, and if Samingi can be a part of that, then may the gods bless Samingi.

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(I read the Guffaw, not the new one you posted.)

Very interesting and quirky with a dark side... interesting to read and a nice short length! I think to continue it on longer as some have suggested may lead to a more contrived and even ridiculous plot. At this length it doesn't take itself too seriously, which creates a nice balance with the darker side of the story.

One thing though - the first paragraph needs to be trimmed of unnecessary words!

For example,
"Of course, this explanation is never sufficient and a string of additional questions immediately follows"

Obviously these questions are 'additional'. No need to state it!

Good work! Keep it up!
Now I want to post my own stories... I kept thinking that this forum was for doom only fiction...

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You're free to post most anything, not just Doom stuff. The forum used to be Doom specific, but it was changed to encompass non-Doom creativity as well.

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