Glump, of Gloom

Glump lived in the mud.

Once, the mud he'd lived in had been known as "Gloom". No one really came by anymore and so there was no one to call it anything, but Glump still thought of it as Gloom. Had he ever travelled out of the mud, he would have introduced himself as "Glump, of Gloom."

But no one new visited the mud and Glump never left, and so he never had cause to call himself Glump, of Gloom. Instead, he spent the days and years glomping around the mud, eating swamp-flies, and never introducing himself to anyone.

It wasn't until Glump's mail-person failed to arrive three Thursdays in a row that he suspected something was up. He never got any mail, but it was nice to have someone to talk to every Thursday, and Pip the Postie was good company.

Glump would always invite Pip to have a seat and some marsh-tea. She would decline the seat and accept the tea, and Glump would learn what was happening outside of the mud. It was never anything that affected him at all, but Glump felt that he should keep up to date with the goings-on of the world.

Pip was never late, let alone absent, and so after the second week, Glump started to grow a little concerned. "Maybe she's slipped on a piece of mud, and his body is decomposing underneath the ooze," he swamped to himself.

"Or maybe I've been mixing her tea incorrectly, and over the years I've slowly been poisoning her. Maybe humans just shouldn't drink marsh-tea. Maybe she's died, and her replacement doesn't think it's worth coming out here when I never receive any mail."

"Maybe no one noticed that she was dead, and the mail has all been piling up inside the post office. Maybe there's so much mail that it's going to explode, and it will rain letters and envelopes for a year."

After the third week, Glump's imaginings had grown concerning enough that he decided to trickle out of the mud and head towards the village. Glump's body was largely mud, so to make sure he wouldn't dry up and crack when he got to the road, he cooked up a thermos full of marsh-tea and carried it with him on his journey.

Glump couldn't remember the last time he'd been to the village. He knew that he'd been at least once in the last few hundred years, because he had a souvenir spoon from the village gift shop (it was great for mixing flies into the marsh-tea) and he recalled smiling at a small girl who had offered him a lollipop.

But Gloom (or the swamp once known as Gloom, at least) had been where Glump had lived his entire life, however long that was.

The village was new, compared to the swamp. The swamp had always been there - Glump remembered back when he had been the only thing living in it, before the flies and the fish and the frogs* and even the weeds.

*Glump had seen the fish and the frogs catching the flies, and tried it himself - he had quite a knack for it, and soon the fish and the frogs got frustrated fighting him for food, and fled.

The humans had arrived much later. They'd tried to hunt and eat him; after learning that was their first reaction to almost everything that they met, he didn't take it personally.

Finally, the village had arrived. The mountain visible from Gloom only when the fog was thin and the sun was bright was, apparently, an important mountain. Full of metals and jewels that couldn't be found anywhere else, and - it seemed - desired by all.

The village was initially full of miners. Then, when they ran out of things to mine, hunters. Once they had killed and eaten all the deer and the dodos, the hunters left, and the village was filled with fishermen and farmers.

Glump had decided, once they stopped trying to kill him, that he enjoyed the humans and their ways and so he'd registered with the post office. He'd only received two pieces of mail since sludging into the village to sign up: an offer for a credit card, which he'd ignored, and a birthday card from the Mayor. It was clearly intended for someone else, but it brightened up Gloom's day every time he looked at it.

When the fisherman had first moved to the village, they had regularly made their way to Gloom to fish, but the rare fish that they managed to catch was too depressing. As the decades passed, they fished there less and less, until the only one to call it Gloom was Glump, and even then only to himself.

So on the third week of no visitors Glump filled his thermos with tea, trudged out of the glop, and headed out to the road to the village.

He passed a few corpses on the way, which surprised him. Humans, he recalled, weren't typically the sort to leave their dead lying around on the road for anyone to find. He recalled the postie before Pip dying; Pip had said that they put him in a box and buried him in the ground. The way she'd spoken about it made it seem like the standard procedure.

Glump considered doing the same with the corpses that he found, but realised that he didn't have a box to put them in, only a thermos that was already full of tea.

He tried to ignore the bodies, even as they grew more frequent the closer he got to the village, but after a while it became an inconvenience to get past them. They were so thick on the ground that Glump had to start shifting them out of the way just to get through.

Some of them had large, pointed sticks sticking out of them, others had holes where humans typically had eyes, and a few had their heads a fair distance from the neck where Glump would normally expect to find them.

None of them were Pip. Many of them were dressed in similar outfits - but red instead of blue. Glump didn't quite feel sad, looking at them - he had learned long ago not to get too attached to humans. Like fish and flies and frogs, they spent a bit of time flitting around the world enjoying themselves, and then invariably a bit of time dying, and then a very long time dead. Glump spent very little time enjoying himself, and correspondingly no time dead.

He didn't feel sad, but the sight was still disturbing. He had never seen so many humans at once, and their lifelessness seemed wrong to him, as if they had their time enjoying themselves cut short and their time dying lengthened, and their time dead far too soon.

When he reached the village, he was surprised by its size. The first time he'd visited, it was no more than a handful of huts. The second time he'd visited (to sign up at the post office, buy his thermos, and reject the offer of a lollipop), the village had expanded to at least a few dozen houses; more solid than grass huts, each able to contain at least three or four humans.

Now it was almost the size of Gloom itself (or the piece of mud formally referred to as Gloom, anyway). Glump tried counting the houses, but after the first few hundred, gave up and started counting the houses that were on fire instead; at least half of the houses were alight, and the ones that weren't looked like they had been at some point.

Fire, Glump had discovered when some hunters cooked and ate some deer just outside his mud-pile, was something that didn't agree with his constitution. He'd tried approaching it back in Gloom, but discovered that it made his dry up quicker than a dirt road on a sunny day, so walking through the village, Glump avoided getting too close to any of the structures that were currently ablaze.

But even worse than the fire was the quietness of the village. The last few times he'd visited, even though the size was less than a tenth of what it was now, there had been a sense of bustle around the place. People moving from one place to another, horses being bridled, children playing on the street.

The only noise that Glump could hear now was the crackling of the fire and a low, persistent, throbbing hum. There were no humans, no children laughing, no horses braying. Nothing alive at all.

Glump gloshed through the village, looking for life. He didn't know much about human culture, but he was pretty sure that buildings being on fire and the entire population of the village being dead wasn't a standard state of affairs.

It took several hours, and almost a quarter of his thermos to keep him moist, but Glump eventually found the post office, and the last remaining survivor.

"Hullo Glump," Pip said, lacking his typical cheeriness. He was lying underneath a counter in the back room, which was unfortunately not where his arms or legs were.

"Hullo Pip. Alright?"

Pip shook his head sadly. Glump suspected that if he still had limbs, he would be much more cheerful.