Once upon a time there was a village nestled amongst thickly forested hills. This prosperous, bustling village was inhabited by a queer folk. Of course, every different sort of folk is a bit queer in their own way, and certainly all the queerer to an outside observer, but this folk in particular, all the other folk would agree, was especially queer. Having done away with the tediousness of gods, goddesses, angels, greater and lesser deities, demons, djinns, genies, ghosts, ghouls, goblins, shades, specters, and various spirits that plagued the rest of the world, the people of this village were devoted to just one thing (if it can be called that): Time.
The village bustled so as to be prosperous. When they managed to reach prosperity, which was a while back now, they found that Time kept marching onwards, and so, shrugging, onwards they bustled. Bustling, in fact, became the default way of life in the village, and anyone found not bustling was severely and swiftly admonished for wasting time. It got to be so that every moment of every day was allocated to this task or that, and one no longer had any time for oneself.
Towering over the village square was a colossal Daily Planner, constructed of interchangeable pieces of wood, used to direct individual villagers to bustle this way or that and for how long. Every hour, Horace, the village Timekeeper, clambered up the ladder leaning against the Planner and, pursing his fat lips, blew into the bugle until his cheeks were red and spittle dribbled from the corner of his mouth.
On this day, one such sputtering bugle blast woke the peacefully snoring Biff from a nap under his favorite hawthorn tree. He grumbled, yawned, stood up slowly, stretched, and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. Ambling into the village square, he was immediately spied by Horace from atop the ladder.
“BIFF!” he shrieked, scrambling down the ladder. “You’re late! Again!”
“Yes,” said Biff, shielding his eyes and glancing at the Daily Planner, which informed him that he was, unequivocally, late. Biff, unlike the rest of the villagers, wasn’t born here and as such was having some difficulty conforming to the whole Time thing (if it can be called that).
“Well - well - well,” sputtered Horace, “You mustn’t be!” The village, you see, operated on a strict schedule, with groups of people tending in turn to the crops, the animals, the woodcutting, the bricklaying, the food preparation, infrastructure maintenance, and various other duties. As has been mentioned, they bustled.
“Hm. No, I suppose I mustn’t,” Biff said, sticking his hands in his trouser pockets. He watched villagers rush by, dark circles under their eyes and lines creasing their foreheads. “Hang on, why’s that again?”
Horace’s eyes widened. “WHY?! I’ll tell you why. Time is all-powerful, a fixed constraint imposed upon the universe. We are each allowed a finite portion and we must use it carefully. That is why we have the Planner—it keeps us from wasting any time. Well, most of us, anyway,” he ended with a piercing look.
“Right, well, Horace, I gotta tell you—all this bustling about, it tires me out something fierce. It’s well nigh impossible to snag a moment’s relaxation around here. Howsabout giving me some time off?” Biff asked sweetly.
“Time … off?! You cannot take time off! Time is the only thing keeping everything from happening all at once! You must adhere to the schedule, and strictly!” Horace’s voice grew increasingly high-pitched, and the redness in his cheeks from the bugle-blowing spread to the rest of his face. Biff’s gaze followed Horace’s shaking finger towards the Daily Planner, and an idea blossomed in his brain.
“Fine, fine. Thought I’d ask. Back to work I go! Woodcutting for me, right?” He spun and began walking quickly towards the forest.
Horace, looking back at the Planner, howled, “What! No! You’re to be cleaning and gutting the fish! The FISH!” But it was too late; Biff had disappeared into the trees.
Back at his favorite hawthorn tree, Biff was, for once, bustling about. He lit a candle and placed it at the base of the tree. On either side of the candle he placed a leaf containing a small amount of sugar. He gave the tree a big ol’ hug, pressing his face into the bark and giggling. Then he sat cross-legged in front of the small shrine and closed his eyes, breathing slowly and evenly. After about five minutes he heard the fluttering of dainty gossamer wings and smiled, opening his eyes.
“Fairy Friend! So glad you could make it,” he said to the pint-sized feminine creature shoveling tiny fistfuls of sugar into her mouth.
“Mmhmph,” the fairy responded. Biff waited patiently as she emptied both leaves. Finally sated, she flew to Biff’s eye level and giggled. “You spoil me!” she said, tossing some good-natured twinkles in his face.
Biff blinked away the twinkles and smiled a winning smile. “No trouble at all! So listen, Fairy Friend, I’ve got a favor to ask of you. I need you to put all the night watchmen of the village to sleep tonight so I can do what I need to do undisturbed.”
“Easy peasy! Consider it done, sugar. Oh, and bring more sugar next time. I can’t get enough of that stuff!” And with that, she flew up into the branches of the hawthorn tree and was gone. Biff rubbed his hands together gleefully, realizing he had time for another nap before dark.
When the sun rose over the village the next morning, it had its work cut out for it piercing the unusual haze. Horace, always the first to wake, came upon the square and his jaw dropped. The Daily Planner and his ladder were burnt to ashes—the source of the haze—and all that remained was his once-shiny bugle, now blackened by the flames. And there, standing proudly among the ruins, was Biff! Biff, of all people.
“BIFF!” he shrieked. “What have you done?! The - the - the - what - what - wha - ”
“I have liberated you!” Biff proclaimed. He raised the bugle to his lips and blew a few tuneless tootles. The other villagers were streaming into the square at this point, sleepy and curious. “For too long you have toiled as slaves to this Master of your own creation,” he said, gesturing to the ash heap where the Daily Planner once stood, “and it is high time you cast off the chains and lived, not according to the Timekeeper’s wishes, but according to your own.”
“Does this mean I can go back to sleep?” ventured one brave villager. The rest of them looked to Horace, who was standing, shoulders slumped, shaking slightly.
“I’m … so … tired,” he croaked. “I … don’t know what to say.”
“Say yes,” said Biff, smiling broadly. He approached Horace and embraced the poor man, who began to sob.
“Yes!” he cried through his tears. “Yes!”
“Hang on,” ventured another brave villager. “I rather enjoy cleaning and gutting the fish. Can I still do that?”
“YES!” Horace yelled.
The villagers cheered, and lived happily ever after, working out the kinks as they went.