April 1st – Banana Day

The City of Buentoille has been stuck in a monumental game of one-upmanship with an Outer Ocean trading company for seventy three years, a game that has caused the docks to be lumbered with thousands of crates of bananas on every first day of April since. There are far too many bananas for the City to reasonably eat before they moulder, and whilst many are frozen for the year ahead, there is usually a considerable surplus. Thankfully, folks have found a variety of less conventional ways to use the fruit.

There are various cooking competitions that take place across the City today, trying to find some new recipe that can use the bananas up. Many of these recipes involve an element of disguise; unsurprisingly, many Buentoillitants get sick of bananas very quickly, yet free food is free food. Milkshakes, cakes and pancakes are a very popular options, and in recent years a vegan food company has devised a way to make milk from them, although it is yet to catch on. Banana alcohols are often made but seldom drunk. Green bananas are sometimes pickled, though again this strange concoction usually sits in larders gathering dust. In 1989 a competitor at Angor Dilim’s Banana Cooking Competition invented a curry paste that had bananas and chillies as the primary ingredients, and it remains one of the most popular banana-based dishes to this day, probably because it somehow doesn’t taste like bananas.

The whole debacle first occurred in 1944 when a slightly overenthusiastic member of the Food and Nutrition Working Group (FNWG), Hamish Salinger, former lover of bananas, filled out an order form incorrectly and accidentally ordered fifty million bananas. Since the revolution the City sources most of its imported foods collectively, to increase bargaining power. The small mistake, an added couple of noughts, could have easily been rectified when he handed the form to the trading company and the clerk raised his eyebrows, ‘are you sure?’ Not one to lose face, Salinger replied, ‘yes, of course I’m sure!’

When the crates arrived at the start of the next month, everyone was taken aback, yet once again Salinger didn’t want to appear foolish in front of the trading company, whose sailors were quietly laughing at his expense. ‘You didn’t bring enough!’ He blurted, almost despite himself. ‘Next year you’ll have to bring more.’

‘Next year?’ Asked the merchant, looking highly amused, ‘what about next month?’

‘We won’t be having the festival next month,’ said Salinger, getting into the swing of this lying business now. The merchant knew of the City’s strange penchant for festivals, and suddenly it made a lot more sense. He nodded sagely to Salinger and promised to come back the following year with more. The following year yet more bananas were requested, and then more the year after. It seems that once the lie had started nobody wanted to lose face and reveal it, especially not to an outsider. Eventually the company found out, after which point they started adding on a few hundred each year, on top of the extra that FNWG officials request (now out of a sense of duty to tradition, more than anything else). ‘Free of charge,’ they say, revealing the extra crates, which are accepted with forced glee by the FNWG officials, neither side willing to own up that they know the other side knows. This year something in the region of one hundred million bananas are expected to land on the dock.

Of course, as most of the fruit simply cannot be eaten in time, it is used in a variety of other ways. In the most spectacular of these an estimated two million bananas are used as projectiles in the annual Banana Street Battle. Banana Street, named because of its curved nature rather than after the fight held there, was the obvious location of choice for this festival that was invented by the Union of Children (also known as The Guild of Children or Children’s guild, once two separate ‘gangs’ of children who eventually decided that they were stronger together) but now attracts Buentoillitants of all ages. The fight is clearly extremely messy, and fighters are warned to wear plastic overalls or clothes they would happily discard, as the banana paste goes black and hard, staining clothes once it oxidises. When the fight ends, the discarded bananas and skins are piled up in the streets and dived into like disgusting snow drifts by youngsters.

Practical jokes involving banana skins have become so tiresome that there are have been several suggestions to ban them outright, but this doesn’t stop a select few ‘jokers’. A more popular modern option is to leave a skinned banana on a person’s chair, bed or desk, naked and disconsolate. Even if the person on the receiving end of the joke does not sit on the mushy flesh, the mere placement is often considered funny in itself.

Today and the following weeks can by trying for those who dislike or are allergic to bananas. For this reason the Council of Logistics organises a number of nature retreats this week, as a matter of public safety. Concerns have been raised in the past surrounding potassium poisoning, and in response the MHS has issued very clear guidance that bananas cannot be eaten in great enough quantity to cause any health issues.

Other festivals happening today:

  • NO BANANAS HERE – A March to Repeal the Trade Deal
  • Intelligent Human/Computer Interface Research Day

April 2nd – The Earthing Festival

There are five trees in the City that are thought to be greene men and women, oaks one and all. Today these alleged mythical creatures are subjected to a yearly ritual, The Earthing, in an attempt to keep them in their tree form. Each tree is well over three hundred years in age, but two of the trees are an estimated nine hundred years old. There were once seven of these trees in the City, but one was burned down and another simply disappeared.

The festival is short, spread out over a number of locations in the City, but it is considered an important event in the calendar for occultists and folklorists, who make a point of carrying on the tradition. The ritual around which the festival is centred is in essence very simple; a handful the first leaves that begin to poke out of their buds in spring are removed from the tree and buried beneath the tree roots. Whilst most oak trees in the surrounding countryside do not begin their leaf burst until early May, trees in the City are affected by the higher average temperatures and light pollution, so leaf earlier. As such, the festival date varies on the weather each year, and buds are closely observed for the first few weeks of spring.

The burying of the leaves by the tree’s roots is thought to trap the greene man or woman in their oaken body for another full year, for reasons that are not entirely clear. Famous folklorist Graham Yerbal theorised in his 1999 documentary about the occult, The Dark That Dwells So Near, that the ritual could be ‘focusing the world’s attention in the tree’s roots, rather than the renewal that the branches are experiencing, thereby negating the energy the greene man is trying to funnel into a more wholesale renewal.’ Whatever the reason, the ritual seems to have been successful so far in eliminating the possibility that the tree might transform and walk off into the forests.

A greene man or woman is said to be a forest spirit that is extremely affected by thought and symbolism. When seen by a human, the green person turns into a tree for its own self defence, as in the form it cannot be so easily manipulated by thoughts directed at it. Unfortunately for the green person, other people have devised a method of keeping it trapped in this way. Many people think it cruel to keep another being trapped in this way, but are too afraid of the punishment the woodland sprites might mete out for their years of captivity, and so keep them trapped despite themselves. Another common excuse is that the Earthing actually has no real effect, but that it is the constant presence of human eyes and thoughts that keeps the green people trapped inside their woody prisons.

Whilst humans are not able to exercise any direct thought control over these mythological creatures, there are some who believe that control may be taken through influencing the creature’s dreams. These cabals of occultists and sometime witches believe that there is a body sleeping within the woody exterior, in a perpetual dream state. Throughout the year they attempt to modulate these dreams with circles of salt, music, tinctures applied to the roots and wafts of acrid smoke into the canopy. They do so in the hope that they can leverage the being’s ‘magical powers’ and grant themselves longer lifespans, summon woodland familiars, cast spells or curses, and gain a greater connection with the earth. There is little evidence other than oral testimony that any of the occultists were successful, but that doesn’t seem to discourage any of them.

The festival had become somewhat unpopular in the late seventeenth century, when there were still six of these oaks in the City. According to one unverified tale, often bandied about by occultists, one of the oaks was little known by the population on the whole, as few wanted to be associated with witchcraft for fear of persecution; one of the trees had already been destroyed as a reactionary response to allegations of witchery. When the elderly couple who had steadfastly been ‘earthing’ the sixth oak for many years died in a house fire, nobody else remembered that it needed to be done that year. A few days later from the festival (that year performed on the 19th of April) was a violent localised thunderstorm, driving folk indoors. When it cleared, the tree was gone.

The question, if one is to accept the assertion that these entirely normal-looking oak trees are actually woodland spirits, is why are they in the centre of a city in the first place? How did they come to be here? Have they stood there, for hundreds of years, originally on the edge of woodland where a human spotted them, watching the City slowly close about them? Or did they have some purpose traversing a place so patently dangerous for them? Did they tire of life, wanting to sleep through the next thousand years? Are they like those foolish humans, who ventured too far into the primordial forests, where they did not belong?

Other festivals happening today:

  • A Soulfulness That Sinks Deep – A Festival for the Memory of Redine Clithero
  • The Festival of Polishing and Shining
  • Is It Too Early On In The Year To Barbecue? LET’S FIND OUT!
  • The Festival of Viewing The Necklace of True Wonder

April 3rd – The Union of Sawyers’ Museum Expansion Festival

Somewhat surprisingly, the Union of Sawyers’ Museum is one of the most popular museums in the City. Today, outside the long wooden cabin beside the miniature forest (which only has one hundred trees) in northern Buentoille, hundreds of visitors will come to see the unveiling of the new exhibits, and the (often dramatic) sawing display.

Trees change so quickly at this time of year, and people’s thoughts are drawn to them by the springtide blossoms. Perhaps this is part of the reason that the day’s festival is so popular, but most likely it is because of the strangeness of the exhibits and the excitement of the sawing display. The Museum has two exhibits: the first is a small side room, barely looked in on, in which a number of historical wood cutting tools are held. Of interest to the specialist, perhaps, but not so much to the general public. The second exhibit is officially called the Forewoman Danielli Collection (so named after Tinye Danielli, who was the first to gather the items exhibits together), but most often referred to as the Collection of Weird Things Found Inside Trees.

Whilst the Museum has been around for much longer, the festival is relatively new. In 1868 Foreman Danielli first gathered together five items to make the exhibit: a ceremonial sword, a metal box full of newspaper clippings, a cannonball, a metallic ‘duck’s-head’ umbrella and a small corkscrew shaped like a pig. Each item had been somewhat damaged in its journey out of their tree’s innards, from where they had been extricated with much confusion by a band or circular saw. All the items had come from trees in different forests, and were originally in the private ownership of other sawyers. Danielli herself found the corkscrew, a find strange enough for her to seek out similar examples with fellow Union members. It wasn’t until 1920 that the later exhibits started to arrive.

The oldest tree in the one hundred tree forest is one hundred years old, and will be felled and sawed into planks today. The youngest is a sapling that will be planted shortly after. The forest was originally planned to be a teaching device, where new sawyers would be shown the proper way to saw a tree as part of their initiation each year, but in 1920 this changed. In 1920 people started finding things in the trees, strange metallic objects that had no right to be there. First was a bust of an old Buentoilliçan king, his face now obscured by the marks of the band saw, the second was a trumpet, and the third was a small brass plaque that read: ‘I imagine by now you may have noticed that something is up. I’m sorry, this is going to wreck a lot of saw blades, but I’ve attached an object to the side of thirty of these trees, which by the time you cut them down should mean the tree has grown over them nicely. Happy hunting!’ On the back side it was signed ‘T. Danielli’.

When they read this, a number of Union members went into the little forest and more closely looked at the trees, and lo and behold, there were a number of metallic objects strapped or nailed to the side of the trees, high up hidden by branches or surreptitiously planted in little nooks and crooks, many partially subsumed by the tree. They held a meeting before leaving the forest, deciding two things: that they would tell nobody and make no record of what they had seen on the trees, and that they would build a fence around the forest into which nobody could enter except on official business. The items they had already found were added to Danielli’s exhibition, and a new item was added to a twenty year-old tree, ready to be grown over with woody callouses. The modern festival was born.

The yearly festival sparked City-wide interest in these odd artefacts, and soon additional donations began to be offered to the Museum, requiring an expansion of the original building to house them all. Each item is in its own cabinet with a small bit of information about where it was found, in what sort of tree, often with a piece of wood from said tree placed beside it. There is a cabinet that houses fifty six spiles (taps for extracting sap from a tree), sixteen axe-heads, a box of over three hundred nails, and twenty five musket balls. A similar cabinet holds eighty-six unidentified pieces of metal, including what is presumably a good deal of shrapnel. More exotic finds, from both the one hundred tree forest and the wider world, include a small anvil, a large pram, a gravestone, the casing from a firework that went off mid-cutting, automobile engines, a green meteorite, three throwing knives, an ornate gatepost and a metal garden flamingo.

The sawing of today’s tree will be performed with a portable sawing machine, behind a protective toughened glass wall, due to the potentially highly dangerous nature of the activity. As soon as the sparks begin to fly (to great celebration from the gathered masses), the machine is shut down and a group of skilled sawyers prise out the object, holding it aloft for the public to see. The item, whatever it will be, is then cleaned up and placed in a new cabinet in the Museum, alongside any new finds from the wider world. A vote will then take place, as to who can enter the one hundred tree forest and place there a mystery item for an audience eighty years in the future.

This year there are rumours that another dark pot will be added to the collection. These ceramic artefacts, almost metallic in appearance due to the high shine of their black glaze, have been found in a few ancient trees. They seem to occur in the central rings of the cross-section, and invariably contain the bones of a small, unidentified primate. Despite extensive scientific study, nobody is quite sure who placed the pots in the trees, or why.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Feisty Festival of Fire Swallowers
  • The Festival of Good Garden Sheds

April 4th – The Festival of Testing the Tonal Infrascope

The full extent of the caverns and tunnels beneath Buentoille is unknown, and new offshoots from the known underground causeways are often discovered, even now. A few maps of the fathoms below have been made; they are horrible, obfuscatory confusing documents; a writhing mass of overlapping lines that disincentivise the casual observer in their complexity. Despite the detail that they showcase, they are by no means comprehensive. Here is the brain-like cluster of the Hidden Library, yes, and there the tendrils of the Unfathomed Archive dip into the darkness, but what of these offshoots, where do they lead? And is there anything in this solid, unmarked space here? Cartographers often call Buentoille the Iceberg City.

Hundreds of treatises have been written on those winding pathways beneath the City, on the difficulty of accurately measuring their length and width, on the way that compasses turn like weathervanes and passages seem to lead to different places on different days. Some of it is clearly fanciful nonsense, excuses for incompetence or attempts at warding off would-be competitors, yet there is clearly some force at work disrupting the work of undercartographers. Almost every treatise contains some reference to the Tonal Infrascope, a desperate longing for the information it could gather.

Today many engineers and other scientists, including a contingent from the Guild of Cartographers, will descend the three hundred and twelve steps beneath Yunsan Tower. The doorway on street level leads into a spiral staircase that travels from the top of the Tower right down to the main machinery of the Tonal Infrascope, a mass of copper piping and electrical cables, tangled and imposing in its obvious complexity; those maps of the ways beneath the City could just as easily be a technical diagram for this machine. A group of workers with anti-static clothing will be making last-minute adjustments to the angle of the piping, degaussing old monochrome monitors and twiddling dials. Hands will be shaken as the guests arrive, and a few nervous glances will be exchanged. In an open space by the machine, a roughly spherical mass in the centre of an oval room, a number of plastic chairs are set out each year, the kind you get in school canteens, and the guests will take their places there, notepads and pens at the ready. Down there the sodium lamps flicker slightly, for what reason nobody knows; they are too focused on the Tonal Infrascope.

The Tonal Infrascope was first built by a husband and wife team, Irving and Haita Yunsan, who also designed the building (or ‘casing,’ as they referred to it) that surrounds the Infrascope. When it was finished, the couple tested it for the first time, and achieved fantastic results, printed out on carbon paper. Haita was in the process of studying these when she suffered a catastrophic heart attack and sadly died. Irving, always known to be a passionate man, was destroyed by the loss. He tore up the print outs from that first test in a fit of rage, railing at the folly of a project that he believed had taken his wife.

Fragments of those results have been found, but nobody has been able to glean much from them, as there are only three, a centimetre across. Some say that this is because, despite what Irving Yunsan claimed, the machine never worked in the first place. Yet the theory behind the Infrascope’s construction is, apparently, sound. The mass of wires and tubes surround a glass tube, which reaches up to the ceiling of the oval room. Through the glass you can see a huge tall chamber, around the edge of which the spiral staircase presumably winds. At the top of the tower is suspended a huge weight, fitted perfectly to the interior walls of the chamber. This weight, or ‘hammer’ is dropped, creating a huge build-up of pressure that is processed through the machine and forced out into the ground beneath as a specially-tuned sound wave. The Infrascope then uses the reflections of this wave to map out the spaces below the City. The guests will today wait in anticipation for the hammer to drop, their eyes raised towards the ceiling, peering through the glass. When it drops the entire building shakes violently, as does a great deal of the surrounding City.

It was that shaking which drew the Defence Brigades to the tower on that first test. The locals had never trusted it, not once, and the Brigades were alerted quickly; they thought a bomb had gone off inside. Even now, testing can only happen once a year (although the repairs and alterations to the machine occur year-round) for fear of subsidence and property damage. He had detached a large portion of the Tonal Infrascope and climbed into the glass chamber through the resulting hole when they found him. He told them what had happened, but refused to come out. ‘Step back,’ he said, before the hammer fell.

It seemed that he had destroyed the blueprints, too; to date nobody has been able to fix the machine. It sustained a great deal of damage when the hammer fell for the second time that day, the obstruction leading to unusual complications. Of course this doesn’t stop them trying. After the hammer has fallen today, the guests will gather around the old printer, fingers crossed that the carbon paper will contain some kind of useful knowledge. Every year they walk away unfulfilled, traipsing out that little door to street level one by one, placing a flower on each Yunsan grave, dug by the Tower’s foundations, as they pass.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Guild of Conspiracy Theorist’s Presentation on Who Really Destroyed the Tonal Infrascope and WHY (THEY Murdered the Yunsans!)
  • The Nominal Order’s Day of Quiet Contemplation
  • The Glistening of His Eyes: an Annual Film Viewing

April 5th – The Day of Performing The Darkening Sun

Today is an auspicious day for both occultists and actors, it being the deathday of the playwright Maxime Heinbrow, the mother of Buentoilliçan literature and drama. Heinbrow plays are an essential part of the curriculum in the City’s schools, and there are two playhouses named after her: The Heinbrow Circle and The New Municipal Heinbrow Theatre. Along with these stalwart institutions, The People’s Stage is another playhouse that is sure to have at least one Heinbrow play showing at any given point. There are far too many of these plays to list here (to say that she was prolific is a scandalous understatement), but three of the most popular are The History of the Knight, The Bashful Poisoner and Einar and Glicelli. However, for all true lovers of this enigmatic playwright there can be no rival to The Darkening Sun.

Today thousands will gather in theatres across the City, even those that usually specialise in modern works such as Aggressive Annie’s Hall of Dramatic Experiences, all to watch a rendition of The Darkening Sun. The competition is fierce, with the Heinbrow playhouses gathering the largest audiences, and putting on three or four performances each across the day. Whilst there have been some attempts to re-interpret the acclaimed play, these have been limited partly because of the respect that the original text garners through its quality and power, but also because it cannot be fully read or rehearsed on any day but today. Ask anybody in the business of stagecraft (or occultism) why and they will tell you the same thing: The Darkening Sun is a cursed play.

Throughout her life, Heinbrow carried the script of The Darkening Sun with her, constantly making small changes to it until her death. References to it crop up occasionally in her letters to her lifelong friend and sometimes lover Catherine Asquin, often cryptic or obfuscatory in nature; ‘the Sun eludes me still,’ she wrote on several occasions, or ‘I have made some progress on that which lies closest to my heart.’ It seems that Heinbrow was never truly happy with the work, the first and last play that she ever wrote. On her deathbed she clung to the papers, worn and thin with age, with and jealous passion. By this point she had a large group of admirers, eager to share in her fame and wealth, hoping that she would hand this last unknown work onto them in her will. She tried to destroy it once, to burn it in the fireplace, but she could not bring herself to do it. ‘It’s not finished,’ she said, ‘nobody can read it after I die. Nobody. Else they shall have my ghost to contend with.’

If you believe the stories, it seems that Heinbrow followed up on that threat after the play inevitably made its way to the stage three years after her death. The first playhouse to show The Darkening Sun was The Municipal Heinbrow Theatre, and bad omens plagued rehearsals from the beginning. Three crew members were killed in an accident involving the stage machinery on the first rehearsal, and the actors were replaced frequently after suffering debilitating nervous fits. Various essential props went missing or were destroyed in accidents. The costume designer’s measurements were invariably awry, despite being checked by several people, so that eventually the play was performed without any costumes at all. Despite all this, the obvious quality of the play drove the director on, who, according to a popular story about that first doomed enterprise, was often heard to say, ‘I would kill a hundred stage hands if it meant I could touch one heart with the beauty of this play!’ On the opening night the playhouse burned down, killing seventy five people.

Whilst other attempted stagings and readings of The Darkening Sun have been less dramatically catastrophic, superstition soon spread through the world of drama, and even if a theatre wanted to show the play they could find no willing actors. Rumours were rife in the papers of the times that various suicide pacts had been enacted by reading the play aloud from beginning to end in one sitting. Eventually The Heinbrow Circle consulted with The Union of Occultists and Ghost Theoreticians on a possible solution to the supposed supernatural crisis. After much deliberation, divining and a number of seances, the Union decided that the only solution was to perform the play only on Heinbrow’s death day, when her spirit would be distracted by negotiating its continued existence on the mortal plane, and therefore could not cause mischief. Thus today became a municipal festival overnight.

Obviously it is difficult to put on a show in a day without any rehearsals or readings beforehand, so alternative methods of rehearsal have to be reached. All scripts of the play published after the Union consultation are set out in randomised chunks to avoid recognition from Heinbrow’s spirit, and actors are presented with the uniquely difficult task of re-joining these tiny segments into a meaningful whole on the day. Some actors prefer to perform larger chunks backwards, as they find them easier to reassemble this way. Whilst it seems like a lot of effort to go to, the play is thought to be of such tragic poignance that it is considered a worthy toll to pay. An actor knows they have truly made it when they are cast a leading role in The Darkening Sun.

In the past a few folk have tried to disprove the curse, which they invariably referred to as ‘superstitious nonsense,’ by reading it in order in public. However, because of the risk associated, almost nobody attended these readings and as a result they were not believed. Even today, at a time of unparalleled scientific prominence, the contested existence of the curse is one of the most divisive subjects in Buentoilliçan culture, especially after a group of ‘anti-superstition activists’ were murdered mid-performance of the play by a man who claimed to have been ‘possessed by the ghost of Heinbrow.’

Other festivals happening today:

  • Listen To Your Grandmother: A Day of Good Advice
  • Tim Gormant’s Bugle Extravaganza
  • The Snuffing of the Wytchlight

April 6th – The Festival of Awakening the Immortal Snail

For those Buentoillitants who have dedicated their lives to the Order of the Immortal Snail, today is a very holy day; today the Snail is awoken from its winter hibernation and given free range of the Shell, the building in which the Order is based. It will be offered a number of gifts of food it favours by the acolytes, but not before it has replenished its moisture in a ceremonial bath.

The Shell is, as one might expect, an odd sight from the outside, even amongst the relatively varied architecture of Buentoille. It is shaped like a huge conical snail shell, modelled on the shell of the Immortal Snail. The Shell’s coil direction is anti-clockwise (or sinistral), and it is made out of large sections of beautifully glazed ceramics, which have an iridescent sheen that catches in the sunlight. The windows are small, random spots of stained glass that let in a dappled, colourful light to the twisting interior. Each day the acolytes walk the spiral staircase to the top of the shell and back down again, reciting prayers and incantations as they go.

For the winter, the Snail has been kept in an exquisite mother-of-pearl box, along with a covering of hay. It is placed inside the box as soon as it begins to seal itself inside its shell with a protective layer of hard mucus. Precisely six months on from that date (which last year was the 6th of October) the Snail is once again ‘awoken’ from its slumber by being bathed ceremonially, a process which softens and breaks the mucus seal. This bathing process requires three people; two who lift the snail (which is very large and heavy – the shell is about 70cms from tip to opening), and one who slowly and carefully washes it with specially-prepared holy water which contains a mixture of minerals essential for the Snail’s health.

Once it has begun to emerge, the snail is placed in the Grand Terrarium, a huge glass dome in the centre of the Shell which is climate controlled to be as moist and warm at all times. It contains a number of lush green plants that the Snail finds delicious, but today there will be an additional feast of lettuce laid out on its floor as a gift to soften the shock of being so rudely awakened. This is the 324th time that the Snail has been awoken by the Order, although they do not know how long it lived before as it was fully grown when they received it from a group of Outer Sea traders. The traders claimed to be from Dolamon, in the very far south, where the snails (known there as the ‘Giant and Tasty Snail) are eaten as a delicacy, and where the oldest known snail (one half of a breeding pair) allegedly lived to 5692 before it was killed by a parasitic infection.

Extensive research has been carried out by the group, which seems to suggest that the Snail is, as they claim, biologically immortal. There seem to be two stages to a Dolamon snail’s life: the first, growth stage, can last up to sixty years, in which time the snail goes from egg to its fullest size, which is usually similar to the Immortal Snail. After this, the snail reaches sexual maturity and stops growing, yet does not seem to age at all. The Order have observed no slowing of cell regeneration in the Snail, nor have they noticed any other differences in health or appetite in it since it came to live with them. So long as they continue to feed it, water it and keep its environment free of disease or violence, it will presumably live forever. According to the traders, Dolamon snails with dextral (clockwise-coiling) shells seem to only live to eighty years of age.

The Order of the Immortal Snail believes that the particular shape of the Snail’s shell (far longer and more pointed than a common garden snail) is key to its immortality, along with its ability to be content to remain the same forever. According to them, the Snail simply stopped growing when it reached a size of shell it was happy with, and decided to maintain that size forever. Similarly the Order’s ideology states that to live longer humans must find contentment in what we have, rather than constantly attempting to seek out more. Obviously the Order has not been successful in replicating the Snail’s apparent immortality, but their members do seem to live abnormally long (usually around 120 years). Whether this is down to the lack of stress their lifestyle entails, the magical properties of the shape of the Shell in which they live combined with the daily prayers they make, or some other, unknown factor, is not clear.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Day of Lowing to the Cattle
  • The Festival of Opal Light

April 7th – The Festival of Trigslaw’s Dimension

There several ways to get to Trigslaw’s Dimension. All of them involve a computer made by The Buentoillican Computing and Entertainment Systems Cooperative (BCESC) between 1999 and 2005 with a Dynamic 820 graphics card, but how you progress from there is where the paths diverge. The Dimension was only discovered in 2009, when Kit Matheezor accidentally turned her computer off with her toe during the final boss battle of Twins: Beyond Good and Evil. When the computer rebooted it didn’t take her back to the operating system login screen, but back into the game. Her character was in black space, from which there was no escape. Somehow she accidentally performed the requisite combination of jumps, short sprints and fruitless attacks before rebooting the computer once again. It was then that she saw Trigslaw’s Dimension.

Matheezor, who thought that the strange landscape was a secret hidden part of Twins, raved about the discovery to her friends, who inevitably thought she was lying when they couldn’t replicate the results themselves. She even brought her own particular copy of the game over to try it out in their computers, before she realised that it must have been something to with her computer instead. It took her a further three years to perfect the method of reaching the Dimension, but by that time others had found alternative routes.

In 2010 Class Vindverson walked out to his kitchen to make a cup of herbal tea, leaving what appeared to be a long-outdated word processor (that he had found on a floppy disk in a drawer in his father’s old bureau) loaded on the screen. Whilst he waited for the kettle to boil, his cat walked across the keyboard, coincidentally pressing an extremely fortuitous combination of keys. When he returned to his desk, Vindverson was face-to-face with the Dimension.

By late 2010 rumours had been circulating around the City, popping up occasionally in computer enthusiast’s magazines, of people who had stumbled across a route to the Dimension. Some passed the entire concept off as nonsense, whilst others began searching for similarities between each story in the hopes of gaining entry themselves. Progress was slowed slightly as, unfortunately, some of these stories were indeed fabrications, but as it turned out this didn’t matter; the most popular route in was just around the corner.

Today many people will gather in their homes, libraries, enthusiast’s collections, in fact anywhere that houses a BCESC computer with a Dynamic 820 graphics card, hoping to catch a glimpse of Trigslaw’s Dimension. They have been gathering in this way since 2011, when Guilliame Ugirin eventually decoded the enigma and found an easily-replicable method of entry to the Dimension: he typed the name of the Dimension’s creator, Martineau Trigslaw, where his password should have gone when logging into his computer, on the day she was born. This simple feat was the culmination of three years’ work, in which time Ugirin had understood early on that the Dimension was an integral part of the computers’ construction, hidden on a number of tiny data drives throughout the system, coded to trigger only under highly specific circumstances.

Somehow the Dimension has been so well integrated into the computers that attempting to change the date of the computer’s clock (to enable more frequent access on days other than today) actually locks the user out from the dimension for an entire year. This integration also meant that Ugirin would have to find a non-mechanical way of unlocking its secrets; instead of attempting to locate and hack the tiny data drives, he extensively researched the designers at BCESC, trying to understand who made it and what drove them.

Those who are lucky enough to see the Dimension today will first see a black screen, with the words ‘WELCOME TO MY DIMENSION’ written in white sans-serif lettering. This will then fade away, revealing a first-person view of a house overlooking a beautiful river. The house is small but pretty, with rose bushes and jasmine growing up its sides. A rope swing hangs from a tree in the back garden. A man and a young boy live here, performing small household chores and playing simple games. The boy will occasionally get on the swing and be pushed by his father. They do not react to the computer user, who is given no obvious signs of having a body. Down in the basement a woman types feverishly on a computer. They eat together at meal times, and the man and woman sleep in the same bed when night comes, but the woman seems cut off, separate somehow. It ends when you turn off your computer.

Unfortunately, Ugirin was never able to ask Trigslaw what drove her, as she died of cancer in 2002. Her former partner and son are little help either; they only found out about the Dimension when the rest of the City did. Whilst physically they bear a striking resemblance to the figures in the Dimension (albeit somewhat older), they say that little else about the world compares favourably to their real life together. ‘She was a kind partner and caring mother,’ said her son, Fennik, in an interview with Computer Science Weekly, ‘nothing like how she seems in the computer. Nothing at all.’

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Day of Finishing Lists
  • The Otter and Water Vole Conservation Festival
  • ‘I Will Just Sleep On the Sofa Until She Gets Home’ – A Modern Relationship In Named Pictographs – The Private Viewing

April 8th – The Festival of the Wind-up Birds

In 1302 the Chenorrian ambassador was due to come to the City of an official visit, one which the ambassador’s staff indicated was extremely important, and would decide the nature of the continuing relationship between the City and that great empire. The ambassador, a man called Xerman Amoller, was a great lover of birds, and always made a special arrangements to view the gablelarks returning to their nests in the City in the evening. There was just one problem this time around; for three weeks nobody had seen a single gablelark.

It’s still not fully understood where the birds went for the five weeks that they disappeared, nor are there any truly compelling theories that offer an explanation. Contemporary sources about the phenomenon offer little but the knowledge that Buentoillitants were equally confused by the disappearance then. The only time that the gablelarks have been absent for any period of time is during the fighting that ushered in the Revolution, when they were scared out of the City by the scale of the noise and violence. Other than these two points in history, gablelarks have been a constant feature of Buentoilliçan life, punctuating each day with their chattering and coiling murmurations as they come back from their hunt on the marshes.

The City’s diplomatic organisation of the time, the Ministry of Inter-Municipal Affairs, was extremely worried that the birds would not come back before the visit, which was planned for the 8th of April. On the 25th of March, after a week of worrying and hoping, they decided to take matters into their own hands; they commissioned four thousand mechanical gablelarks from the Guild of Clock Smiths, ordering every single smith and their apprentice to work night and day on the mammoth task. Some historians have questioned the veracity of the sources in regard to this element of the story; it does not seem possible, they say, to have created so many wind-up birds (a complex design that requires a huge amount of effort) in such a short space of time. Yet, according to all contemporary accounts of that day, they somehow succeeded.

Today, the Guild will reveal their creations for this year’s festival in the same way that they did so many hundreds of years before: they set out to the far side of the marshes in the afternoon, where they will wind up each bird by hand. As the sun begins to set, they will pull a long string out from each bird that sets them going. The strings are tied together in such a way that they can all be pulled at precisely the same moment, ensuring a spectacle for the Buentoillitants and visitors arranged in the City. Since the real gablelarks have returned, the fake birds are set off before the sun as set, so that they do not interfere with their real counterparts.

The fact that the daily return to the City takes place at night made the clock smith’s job somewhat easier, as they did not have to entirely replicate the appearance of the birds so closely, instead focusing on the behavioural patterns that made them move so beautifully. Each bird was made of the very light wood of the cattspine tree, and had a large quantity of feathers attached to the wings and tail to enable more realistic flight. The clockwork heart of the creatures were incredibly complex and each had an individual flight path ‘programmed’ into it, but due to weight constraints were also built from the wood. As such, there is only a single surviving example of the original birds, which is no longer in working condition, kept in the Museum of Traditional Antiquities. The design has, however, been passed down through centuries of guildspeople and those birds manufactured in the last few weeks are almost identical to those originals.

Reports vary about whether the ambassador was fooled by the birds. Some say that they completed their display perfectly, the murmuration being short but very close to the real thing, and for those few moments the ambassador was rapt, his eyes glistening with happiness. Others say that one of the birds didn’t reach its intended destination on the City’s roofs, as it either broke mid-flight or was blown off course by a gust of wind, instead landing at Xerman Amoller’s feet. There are no reports of the birds missing the City entirely because of weather conditions, as there are from subsequent years, so we know that it was not a complete disaster; indeed it seemed that whether he noticed the ruse or not, it had its intended effect, and discussions went well enough that it was decided the event would be commemorated with its own festival.

Perhaps its because they are more visible in the light of the setting sun, or maybe it is because the wind-up birds are shown up shortly after by their feather-and-blood counterparts, but the clockwork birds seem less convincing than they were reported be that day. The gablelarks seem to take a little longer over their murmuration above the City tonight, before they filter down to their nests, perhaps feeling insulted by the apparent need to copy them every year. Most folk will take a little time out of their day to walk up the hills and watch both flocks make their meandering way home, but other than this moment of skyward contemplation the festival has spawned a few other Buentoilliçan idiosyncrasies: a person who copies the work of another is called a ‘wind-up bird’ or ‘wooden bird’, and tomorrow children will have a great deal of fun collecting the birds by knocking them off the City’s roofs with stones. Most will have sustained some damage to their fragile mechanism when they landed, but a few are still set off over the next few days by the children, who often mischievously attempt to aim them into people’s windows.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Cherry Blossom
  • The Festival of Welcoming the Bees
  • Tent Testing Day

April 9th – The Day of Unopened Letters

Not many people remember the name Roland Tressle, but it was his 1928 poem, ‘Letters From You’, from the collection of the same name, that later inspired the cult film Liar’s Regret (1960) by Fermain Jemsire. The festival today first began as a homage to the film by its fans, but has, in recent years, spread across the City.

In the film the protagonist, Hermann Ovili, decides that he is sick of his life and begins another anew, casting off his old name and family. He starts off as a barman in a new city, but soon he becomes bored of this too, and he tries his luck as a miner elsewhere. The cycle continues, with each stage of Ovili’s life being punctuated by short, silent scenes in which his estranged wife attempts to deal with his sudden and unexplained disappearance by penning him letters. In his new lives, of which there are sixteen, he commits a number of fraudulent offences and other crimes, culminating in the heat-of-the-moment murder of another lover who managed to track him down, which he is incarcerated for shortly afterwards.

Somehow, despite his chronic lack of responsibility and objectively reprehensible behaviour, Ovili’s innate charm, likeability and the plotting of the film have managed to keep most of the audience on his side, making the murder all the more shocking. The earlier crimes he commits are of a petty nature and have no clear victims who aren’t positioned as ‘deserving’, and as the film begins with Ovili sneaking out of his home we know very little of the life he lived with his family except for what he tells other characters about it, as a matter of defending his actions. With the murder we are shocked into the realisation that all along Ovili has been an unpleasant man who has managed to trick the audience, just as he did to the other characters, into thinking that he was decent and worthy. One reason for the film’s cult status is how this causes the audience to report an entirely new experience on the second viewing.

In the final scene of the film Ovili receives all the letters his former wife sent to him, a large stack tied up with brown string. He holds them close, smells them, and studies their exteriors closely. ‘Aren’t you going to open those?’ asks another inmate, sitting on a nearby bunk.

‘No,’ replies Ovili, ‘I read a poem about it once, see? It touched me very deep.’

‘A poem?’

‘Yeah, a good one. It was about letters. It went something like: The letters you sent me loom on the mantelpiece, more beautiful for being unopened, to not be confronted with their mundane reality, but have them forever say, “I love you deeply”’

It’s a little off but Ovili quotes ‘Letters From You’ almost in verbatim. As he says the words, the camera, which had previously been focused on the two inmates, a flip calendar behind them showing the date, pans over to the pile of letters and focuses on the top one, dated to a few days before. The date on the calendar says the 9th of April.

Today folks will set aside any letters they receive and endeavour to never open them, at least until the sender says that they can. It is seen by many as an opportunity to send messages to crushes safe in the knowledge that the sender will remain anonymous whilst still experiencing the catharsis that sending the letter entails. Admissions of guilt are also commonly reported by senders, and whilst of course nobody but the senders knows the true contents of many letters, presumably some are abusive in nature; comedian Hyacinth Reeves often performs a well-known joke in which she writes a hate-filled letter to her former boss, but accidentally sends it on the wrong day.

In 2009 the festival gained official recognition, and now any letters of an official nature which legally require a response or some action are considered null and void if they are sent today. It is a testament to the widespread nature of the festival that the conceptual artist Homoly Jonassor created a performance piece entitled Me Opening All The Letters I’ve Ever Received on April the 9th, which garnered great critical acclaim. Many of the people who celebrate today’s festival will not have even watched Liar’s Regret, let alone read any of the poems from Letters From You. Once the preserve of film buffs, The Day of Unopened Letters is now enjoyed by Buentoillitants across the City.

Other festivals happening today:

  • Holistic Educational Awareness Day
  • The Festival of Misremembered Video Games

April 10th – The 100th Day

There is no central festival today, but a multitude of small celebrations across the City, in different places for different reasons. Today is the 100th day of the year, a day that holds a certain significance to many folks; it is a holy day, a symbolic day.

The most popular tradition associated with the 10th of April is marriage: today more than any other day of the year has the highest number of marriages performed, and bells will ring out from the churches and through the streets constantly until the sun sets. This is partly because the number 100 symbolises wholeness, but also because it is hoped that the happy couple will stay together for 100 days. Blossom from the City’s many trees is gathered in preparation for today, when it will be thrown over couples as they travel across the City, by passers-by and wedding attendees both. This all contributes to a carnival atmosphere across the City today, especially if the weather is any good.

There are two main forms of marriage that can be observed across the City today; those carried out within a church, officiated by religious officials from the Chastise Church and other religious institutions, and river marriages, where a selection of rafts are floated down the Moway with the wedding congregated onboard, which have no officiation (there is no distinction in Buentoilliçan law between married and unmarried folks).

A river marriage is a very ancient tradition, although there is some argument over whether it was invented by the ‘eastern’ Escotolatian tribes or ‘western’ Ancient Helicans. Unlike the City’s other marriage traditions, which are closely replicated elsewhere, river marriages seem to be innately to Buentoilliçan. The river flows slowly, and it takes about half a day for the raft to travel from one end of the City into the bay, the guests and couple revelling as they go. When the raft passes into the bay, the couple are considered married, and they are are encouraged to swim ashore together, before a tug boat pulls the raft back to the docks, where celebrations often continue. Today the river will be full with rafts, to the extent that you can easily step between several different weddings with ease.

In smaller groups and communities across Buentoille, today is seen as auspicious for other reasons. The Doughty Covenant of Goodly Witches considers today the ideal day to prepare beneficial spells and potions, on account of the number 100 being considered whole and pure. The Good Witch Melpha was a great proponent of this consideration, and particularly encouraged the use of blossom and moon slivers, especially on years like this one where the full moon falls on or very close to the 10th of April. The Pickler’s Club also holds a tasting ceremony today, eating pickled eggs and cabbage that were placed in their respective vinegar and brine on the first day of the year; 100 days is thought to be the ideal maturation time.

One group for whom today is particularly holy are the Unforgetting Sect, a cult-like offshoot of the Chastise Church, who celebrate today as the final day of the year. According to these pious Buentoillitants, the years were originally only 100 days long until a group of people the Waylayer had tricked into believing that it was their god had asked it to grant them more time in this world. The Waylayer responded by lengthening the year to 365 days, which the people were very happy with until they realised that it didn’t mean they would live any longer.

The Unforgetting Sect live by their 100 day calendar, refusing to accept this trickery, living life as it ‘ought to be lived.’ However, to make things easier for themselves in a City so obsessed with the Celestial Calendar (i.e. the 365 day year), a City that assigns meaning to each and every one of its days, they decided at some point in the seventeenth century that every fourth year should be only 65 days long.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The House of Night’s Day of Awakening
  • The Swallow Soars – An Ornithological Festival
  • The Eternal Harbinger’s Rest Day