The Man in the Pie Castle

Literally half an hour ago, I was enjoying a chicken, bacon and mozzarella with a side of extra crispy onion rings in my local pie bar, just like every Friday.

However, I had noticed that whenever I settled down to a pie lately, Cat Fences (PDFD’s resident inflammatory pun artist and dystopian speculator) came to bother me with whatever crisis struck her as most important – anything from the university’s policy on tidiness to the non-ethically sourced flour that Neil, the guy who makes the pies at the Fox and Frog, had been sneaking past her Fairtrade Brigade.

For that reason, I had eschewed my regular booth in the centre of the bar, opting instead for a shadowy corner. Not content with half-measures, I had also donned a pair of dark glasses and a stylish floor length coat. Sure, I could hardly see what I was eating and the heavy coat was making me sweat, but at least I didn’t have to listen to Cat Fences rant about tidiness being “an affront to life’s essential chaos”.

I was halfway through my delicious pie (nicknamed the Cheesy Delight) when a gentlemen sporting a coat very similar to mine sat on the table next to me. No worries, I thought. Everyone has a right to a Friday Pie, even people who wear stylish floor length coats for non-espionage related reasons.

Yet this was no average Member of Pieliament. I couldn’t help but notice, as I poured more gravy over my chips, that he kept shooting me curious glances. I did my best to avoid eye contact, but after six tense minutes our eyes, behind their identical dark glasses, met. (Or, at least, I think they did.)

The man stood up, picked up his plate of steak and stilton with mash, and came and sat at my table.

Now I don’t know how it is in your native land, dear reader, but here in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland one does not at another Pierate’s table sit. Only in completely desperate situations (weirdo at the bar won’t leave you alone, might miss out on having pie) would this be considered anything other than sheer lunacy – and yet here this man – this lunatic – was, sitting across from me, munching his green beans.

I was completely shocked, my pie-laden fork frozen halfway to my mouth. Twenty years of existence on this Earth had by no means prepared me for such brazen insanity – should I call the police? an ambulance? make a citizen’s arrest?

I was building up my courage to ask the gentleman what (on Earth he thought) he was doing, when he leaned across the table and said, “The pastry is blind-baked at midnight.”

Something in his fanatical sincerity rang a bell. With a sinking heart, I realised that this was no random maniac. This was Cat Fences herself, for some reason dressed as a Cold War spy. Despite myself, I was curious.

“Hello, Cat Fences,” I said, as cheerfully as I could manage. “Why are you dressed like a Cold War spy?”

Cat Fences whipped off her glasses, the better to glare at me. “What do you think you’re doing?? Be quiet.” She hissed. “I see from your getup that you got my message.”

I felt it would be unnecessarily cruel to contradict her. “Oh, yes,” I said.

“Good. This is a safe place. We can talk here.” Cat reached into her bag, pulled out a heavily annotated copy of Erika Gottlieb’s Dystopian Fiction East and West and placed it on the table between us. I looked at the book, then back at Cat.

“Did you take this from the library?”

“That’s not important.”

“Only, I was trying to read it the other week for my lit. essay and they said…”

“They said what they were trained to say! This is just like you, Rosamund M. Danny. A real problem comes up, something that will affect all of usforever and change our lives irreversibly and all you care about is bulking up your essay’s bibliography.” Cat seemed genuinely vexed, so I apologised for my selfishness and asked her to explain what was going on.

“Think of it this way, Rosamund M. Danny,” explained Cat, “everything in the world happens because everything that came before it happened. Do you see what I mean?”

“No.”

Cat rolled her eyes. “Here’s an example. Try to keep up. You came here for a pie because you were hungry and it’s Friday. But Pie Day Friday would mean nothing to you if you had never been born. Agreed?”

“Stands to reason.”

“I happen to know that your parents got together at their summer job in Butlins,” she continued. I blushed, regretting my transparency in my recent interview with Who’s Pie and Pie’s Who magazine. “And Butlins was founded by Sir William Heygate Edmund Colborne “Billy” Butlin. Billy Butlin was born in South Africa. So if it weren’t for British Colonialism you wouldn’t be here today. You see?”

“…Alright.”

“I’ve been thinking a lot about what’s happening and how fragile it is. We’re doing pretty well right now but if small things in the past changed – who could say where we’d be? What if Hannibal hadn’t crossed the Alps – would we still have Coca-cola? What if the Nazis had won World War Two – would zips be allowed? Everything we know depends on all those things that have already happened – Pie Day Friday included. Who knows how close we came to having Pie Day Thursday, or, even worse, no Pie Day at all?”

“Right,” I said.

“Not right, Rosamund M. Danny. Not right at all.” Cat leant across the table, eyes bright, slightly breathless. “How can it be right? How can you be fine with the fact that we might have come this close” (she held her fingers very close together) “to not having Pie Day Friday at all? How can you just sit there and accept that if a bullet had killed someone else or a telegram had gone astray, well, you might not even be allowed to eat that pie or run your so-called blog?”

“What do you want to do about it?” I was seriously concerned. Cat Fences was a fanatic, sure, but she generally chose causes within our sphere of existence. This was alarmingly metaphysical.

“I don’t know,” Cat admitted. “But we need to go to the very top. The government has a responsibility to protect us from the past. We need assurances that the past won’t change, not even a little bit, or the world as we know it could be destroyed.”

“…I don’t think the past will change, Cat.”

“You didn’t know anything about this until just now, Rosamund M. Danny, so I don’t appreciate your input. Of course the past changes – that’s why it was OK for me to like Rolf Harris until his past self changed from a lovable Aussie to a sexual deviant.”

“…”

“I’m going to draft a petition, Rosamund M. Danny, and I expect you to sign it. Otherwise I’ll change your past to make you a corrupt founder of Pie Day Friday,” Cat said. “Oh wait, you already did that by having no mandate to lead us.”

“…I didn’t -”

“You didn’t what? Allow free elections? I thought not. It’s a good thing I support your ideology, Rosamund M. Danny, or Pie Day Friday would be Toast.” I winced, remembering Cat’s brutal protesting of Toast Tuesdays. Cat Fences, apparently pleased that her threat had hit its mark, swept out of the pie bar, hastily shoving her dark glasses back on and turning the collar of her coat up.

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