"i suspected as much. the whole place seemed quite boring. i expected chaos
to be more...well, chaotic."
"Indeed, it is, my poor, confused, misguided friend. indeed it is."
"So, can you take me to chaos? can you show it to me?"
"chaos, you must understand, is not something which can be found or kept in one place like this. this shoppe is not the sort of front you suspect, tho it is a front. it is something for those people of the world who cannot and will not understand true chaos, it is for them to look at, to point to, and say, 'there lies chaos.' it is for their comfort, their peace of mind. in reality, this place contains as little chaos as possible. that is alright. most people never come in here. they don't want to face true chaos. they try to let it alone. so they avoid this place. they are happy to know that it is here, that man has taken control of it and set it aside somewhere it needs not be dealt with, or often thought about. and so they do not discover that there is in truth no chaos here. chaos cannot be conquered. chaos is everywhere, chaos is eternal. it is also constantly kept in check by order, as order is kept in check by chaos. they are opposing forces of nature which cannot coexist, and which cannot exist apart from each other. and so they are at constant odds, and the balance, or more precisely the imbalance, that is struck between them, is what causes all the universe to be. without this imbalance of chaos and order, there would be nothing."
"But- but, cannot one look upon true chaos, by itself? pure chaos?"
"there is no such thing as pure chaos or pure order. at least, none that could be seen anywhere in the real universe, nor comprehended by man. all is a mixture. however, there are various ratios to various mixtures. few mixtures are equal parts chaos and order. most are more one or the other. there are some that are very much chaos, or very much order. in fact, you can sometimes, if you are particularly lucky or unlucky, sometimes see something that is very nearly, but not entirely, pure chaos or order. and it can be hard or even impossible to tell the difference between that which is near and that which is absolute."
"where can i go to see nearly complete chaos?"
"that is not something that can be determined or predicted. you cannot go out looking for chaos, nor for order. you can only hope that at some unexpected moment, chaos or order may find you. and if you spot extreme chaos in one spot, and later return to look for it, it will almost certainly by then be gone again. things are always in flux, always changing, always moving. all is transitory. such is the nature of life, of the universe, of everything."
"there are no buts. i am sorry. i have told you what i know. you may learn from it, accept it, understand it. or you may not. it is hard to say. but i have told you all i can, or at least all i will." and he finished his sprite. "now, you must go."
so you quicly finish your own drink, stand, and push in your chair. "well, thank you for what you have told me. i'll keep it in mind." then you look down at the glass you've just finished drinking from. "but if you please, could you get me some more of that... sprite?"
the man almost grins, and appears to think about it. "come back some other day. perhaps i'll have some more to offer you."
and so you determine to return, as often as possible. for more sprite... and perhaps, more learning...
"You've been to the city of Chaos Central, have you not?"
"Desperation? Yes, of course. Why do you ask?"
"Ya know the Olde Towne Chaos Shoppe?"
"Of it. But I've not as yet had a chance to stop in."
"Well, I did. Seems I'm the first to have visited it. Anyway, I've been going back there now and again, speaking with, but largely listening to, the proprietor. You really must stop in sometime and meet him."
"Indeed, I have meant to check the place out, eventually. I could go with you one day soon, this week, perchance. And what might his name be?"
"Hmmm? Who? ...Oh, the proprietor. Hmmm, strange, I've never thought to ask. We can do that perhaps when next we go in. I'll have to remember that."
"Yes. So. What, pray tell, have you, moreover has he, spoken upon?"
"Oh, many things...you know, the usual--shoes, ships, sealing wax, cabbages, kings... But mostly, he's been explaining the nature of chaos. Most people greatly misunderstand it, you know. He has some brilliant insights on the subject."
"Indeed. And how- has he said?- comes he by his superior understanding of chaos and such?"
"What? He... well...I've never asked. Odd indeed, the things I forget to ask after. Nonetheless, our talks are always highly worthy of being had. Well, upon my last visit, I inquired as to whether he might not mind my inviting perhaps a few friends to sit with us betimes. And he said I could choose one, and only one, whom I thought would best enjoy and benefit from inclusion in our talks."
"And you chose me."
"Well, Bavisius was otherwise preoccupied."
"Ah, of course. Bavisius. Am I second choice, then?"
"Well, ah, yes. The second name which sprang to mind. And upon more deliberate ponderance, it seems to me as you are, after all, the most appropriate choice. Better even than my dearest comrade, Bavisius. He's a good man, but perhaps not so innately attuned to chaos. And you are recently vice-lord of chaos, hereabouts, are you not?"
"That is one of sundry such titles of mine, yes."
"And as to that, perchance you could as liaise between the Shoppe and the esteemed Lord of Chaos?"
"Kheas? Indeed, I'm sure I'd be most pleased to inform him of such things, as your shopkeeper wills."
"Good, good. Well, then, when mayst I most likely find you available for such trip?"
"Well, I should think, barring any unforseen and urgent requests upon my immediate attentions, on the morrow, of early afternoon. We may lunch together, and thence depart for Desperation."
"Ah! So soon. Very well, 11:30 I'll call on you, and we'll to... where, now?"
"Might as well as not eat in. My house."
"I'll be there, then. Fare thee well."
"Ah, you've returned, my friend. And you've brought your guest. Good."
"Yes, now, I wanted to ask your name, and to finally tell you mine. Odd, how such things have always before slipped my mind. I am Butayde Ploddeviss."
"It's no accident these and other things have not occurred to you. All part of my plan. And then, how did it now occur to you?"
"It occurred to me. I am sir teknomage, knight of the Square Table, wandering mage, vice-lord of chaos, keeper of one of the four Wheels of Worlds, member of the Handle Empire, Commandant of Freenet, protege of Adam Cain, WVDiner, and various and sundry other assorted things. I am honored to make your acquaintence, friend. And now, you were about to divulge your name?"
"Just so. I am...well, perhaps it is best I save my name until the end of my story. I come from the future. How far I cannot tell you..but I can round off. About 20 years or so."
"I think we should settle ourselves down for the story," said tek.
"Yes, and please to get us some sprites," said Butayde.
"You'll love these, tek."
"Of course he will," said the shopkeeper, setting glasses in front of the now seated teknomage and Butayde, and one in front of his own chair. Pouring from a bottle, he said, "for it was tek who introduced me to Sprite- as history originally went, at any rate- and to various sodas of other natures. But Sprite has always been my favorite."
"Really? And how does tek know of them?"
"They come from my world, sodas do. My world and my time. I've never been entirely sure just how this realm relates, spatially and temporally, to my own. And I don't really care. It's enough that I can travel between worlds. My world has many wonders. I've shown you some few of them, Butayde."
"Yes, I suppose you have. I'd like to go there, sometime. It must be a most magical place."
tekno and the shopkeeper smiled at that. the shopkeeper had been to tek's world several times, and understood the irony in Butayde's innocent comment. By now, the proprietor was also seated, and continued with his story. "Ah, 20 years. Much happened between now and when I departed to come here. I've been back to my own time but rarely in the past year.... Anyway, I came back to this time on a mission. I had to prepare for a meeting. Two, actually. and now, finally, the second is underway. I had to set up a Chaos Shoppe. I chose the town of Desperation, which, not by coincidence, is sometimes referred to as the City of Chaos Central. That is very complicated to explain, but I knew tek would understand. You've read plenty of time travel stories, of course."
"Yes, good stuff indeed, if you've a head for following such chaotic things. I think we here all do."
"Yes. You've introduced me, among many things of your world, to some of your favorite fiction. Books, short stories, comics, movies, television, etc. Incredible stuff. So, perhaps I'll try to explain the whole history of Desperation, and Chaos Central. some day soon. But not today, it's not entirely integral to what i have to tell you both today.
I went back first to some good years before this time, back to before Desperation was conceived, much less built. But not far before it was conceived. I was there when it happened. Jez Hillar...great man, in many ways. Founder of Desperation, his greatest accomplishment, one of many. Well, I was in his small group of planners of this town of his. There were five of us altogether. I was involved of course in several things in the planning and building of the town. But the main thing I did was to establish the Olde Towne Chaos Shoppe. Of course, no one else understood what I meant by the name of it, but I knew tek would appreciate it."
"Indeed I do."
"I don't," said Butayde.
the proprietor carried on. "Well, there's much to say about all that, the others' reactions and my explanations of things. All lies, of course, but necessary lies. Well, I'll tell you about that another time. The real purpose, of course, was one day to attract the attention of teknomage here. But that would come ages after the founding of the town, and the Shoppe. And history (as well as an understanding of the minds of the people of this town) told me no one would enter the Shoppe until this year. I knew Butayde would be the first, and that after visiting me a number of times, he'd bring tek along. And so, after getting the place set up, I just left it open for business, and left. I told my friends in that era they might not see me again. And so far, I haven't visited them. I said nothing else. Didn't even say I was leaving at all, so they may well have thot I was still there every day in the Shoppe. Why bother checking in? Well, I don't know. At any rate, I went back to my own time, or to a couple years after my own time. You really oughtn't to confuse things in time travel. You should always go to roughly the same amount of time you've spent elsewhen past when you left."
"Huh?" asked Butayde.
"Please don't ask me to explain that. Please."
"Uh..okay. Do go on."
"Thank you. I'd been in the past nearly two years, most of that time in getting to know the other people who would one day build Desperation. And finally in the planning and building of the town. So I was happy to finally be back in my own time, or nearly two years past my own time. I had to catch up on things with friends and family. After awhile, I travelled back again in time, to nearly a year before this day. Since then I've been spending my days waiting for Butayde to show up. After he did, I've stayed in this time constantly until now, not returning to my own time, as I did a few nights of the year while I waited for him. Now I may again return home, and come back to the Shoppe here and now only occasionally, when we have plans to meet."
"What if we should show up by surprise, or if an emergency should arise?" asked Butayde.
"That won't happen. Or if it does, you can handle it without me. Believe me, I know whenof I speak. At any rate, we'll not have much left to speak of after today. I'll soon have to leave you entirely on your own. But not quite yet. I've still a few things to tell you."
"Such," said teknomage, "as your name."
"Yes. At the end of our further discussion."
"Ah, and perhaps that would be the purpose of all this?"