Timopia

Timothy was not a brave man. He didn’t have any specific phobias as such. He wasn’t terrified of clowns, or horrified at the sight of water, or any of the other rare or common phobias listed in psychiatric manuals. It was a nervousness of everything in general that gently haunted his days. He had a mild case of omniphobia, so that he staggered through life with a permanent worried frown etched on his face. He would jump at the sound of a car horn a block away. He would give the sky an anxious glance, whether it threatened heatstroke, hypothermia or drowning. He avoided eye contact with muscled young men and little old ladies with equal anxiety.

He was an accountant, a job that allowed him to control a near pristine environment and one that positively discouraged social contact. It was true that he lived in constant dread of accidentally bringing forward a non-deductable item from the previous fiscal year, but this was a minor hiccup against the background noise of all the terrors the universe brought.

Unsurprisingly, he lived alone.

When someone lives such an isolated life, it is quite common for them to find a hobby to fill the void between the end of one working day and the start of the next. Often this hobby becomes an obsession. It might be stamp collecting, or breeding canaries, or surfing the Internet for photographs of scantily-clad young women bathing in custard. It is a poor substitute for real life, but it is usually better than staring at a wall for eight hours at a time.

Timothy had a hobby. It filled the vacuum that would have been filled by, say, a wife, had he not been so scared of talking to a member of the opposite sex. It filled the long evenings during the week, and occupied each and every weekend. It was a hobby in the same way that other people considered, for example, breathing a hobby. Whilst he deducted taxes from billable items he daydreamed of it. When he travelled to and from work he thought of it. When he slept his dreams were filled with it. And every second of his free time was occupied with it.

Timothy was supreme architect and beneficent dictator of an entire world. Without him Timopia would just be a lifeless ball of rock.

Do not rush to a telescope, or search learned papers. You won’t find it. Timothy considered Timopia a perfect world, and as we know, perfection is not to be found in our small, imperfect universe.

He would, approximately once a year, upgrade the hard drive on his home computer. A world needs a lot of bytes to live in. Covering an entire wall in his study hung a detailed map of the world, the continents laid out in perfect proportions. No point was so far from the sea it was arid, yet so wet that drowning might be a reasonable risk. Each continent was joined to another by a narrow land bridge, so travel by sea or air was not necessary. (Do you know how many people die every year on the sea or in the air? Timothy did.)

Another wall was covered with a complex hierarchy of plant life, offering an inhabitant an endless, varied and above all safe diet. They multiplied by asexual division, so no biting insects nor allergenic pollen was necessary for their cultivation. All plant life on Timopia was edible, though none had such a strong flavour as to risk stomach upsets.

On the third wall, between the bookcase and the window, hung a picture of Timopia’s only animal. The timephant was a nervous herbivore, which spent its days munching pathways through what would otherwise be a jungle. It carefully buried its droppings, and slept high in the treetops, so the only evidence of its existence was the many pleasant paths that criss-crossed the land. It fled at the merest suggestion of another creature. How it bred was a mystery, even to Timothy.

On every other surface lay pictures and scenes from the planet in painstaking detail.

Day after day, night after night, Timothy built the world. He explored every corner, every eventuality, finding questions and anachronisms and solving them. How, for instance, did a timephant climb a tall tree? Claws would be unthinkable. The tree had a smooth, polished surface of course, and the timephant had evolved large but non-threatening suckers on its feet. Thus it was that day by day Timothy honed his world, a world where there was nothing and no-one to fear. A perfect world.

+++

“Is he in trouble?” Mrs Henderson had never had any contact with the police, and a detective arriving at her doorstop was a thrill undreamt of. “Only he was always very quiet. Never no trouble. Paid his rent regular. Of course, it’s always the quiet ones, isn’t it? Did he kill anyone?” She was filled with salacious excitement and concern over the cleaning of bloodstains in equal measure.

“No, Mrs Henderson. He’s just missing, that’s all. Not turned up at work. Does he have any relatives?”

“Not that I know of. No visitors. Very quiet. Spent all his days locked up in there. Paid a month in advance. Will I have to give that back?”

The detective shrugged. “Not my concern. Do you have a key to his apartment?”

Mrs Henderson produced a large keyring, sorted through the keys and indicated one to the detective. The two of them climbed the stairs and approached Timothy’s door. The detective turned the key in the lock, but the door remained steadfastly closed. The detective tested it with his shoulder and after a couple of attempts the doorframe splintered under the insistence of the detective’s even sturdier frame.

“Bolted,” said the detective, examining the door. “From the inside. You might want to stay here, Mrs Henderson. If he locked himself in and hasn’t been seen for a week, it might not be very pleasant.”

“Okay,” said Mrs Henderson, but crept after the detective anyway. If she was going to confront a body, she preferred to be in the company of an officer of the law when it happened.

The apartment was empty, much to Mrs Henderson’s disappointment. No bodies hung from the light fittings and no butchered women filled the bath. The windows were all locked shut. The detective frowned.

“I give in,” he said. “Door bolted from the inside, windows all locked. How the blood and sand did he get out?”

Mrs Henderson shrugged. “So it’s all right to rent his room out, do you reckon? After his month is up, I mean.”

The detective shrugged. “Not my department,” he repeated. “You wouldn’t have a picture of him or anything? So we can put out a missing person report?”

“No,” said Mrs Henderson, idly leafing through a stack of printouts in the vague hope of exposing Timothy as a purveyor of Internet porn. “Oh, wait. Look here. This is him.”

She showed the policeman a picture. Surrounded by lush vegetation a large herbivore strode along a beaten path. Mounted on its back, dressed in a pinstripe suit, sat Timothy. His worry lines were replaced by a contented smile.

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About snodlander
Snodlander is the nom de plume of Bob Simms. He is an IT trainer, but it's not as glamourous as it sounds. When he's not enthralling classes with adventures through SQL Server, he writes, draws and drinks his own home-brew. Buy his novel on Amazon Kindle at The Young Demon Keeper, It's 74p, for crying out loud!

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