s r e d n o W Year of MIRUS
YEAR of WONDERS
1: The World Turned Upside Down STORY
DAVE MORRIS ART
LEO HARTAS COLORS
NIKOS KOUTSIS LOGO
Mirabilis ÂŠ 2010 Leo Hartas, Martin McKenna & Dave Morris All rights reserved. Leo Hartas, Martin McKenna and Dave Morris assert their moral rights as creators of Mirabilis. No portion of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the express permission of the copyright holders. Names, characters, incidents and places featured in the story are used fictitiously and/or are products of the authorsâ€™ imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons (living or dead), events, institutions or locales, other than with fictitious or satirical intent, is purely coincidental. An earlier version of the first two chapters of this work originally appeared in the DFC.
Mirabilis is represented by Stephanie Thwaites at the Curtis Brown Group, London. Special thanks to: Mike Toris, John Freeman, Tom Fickling.
Fonts by Blambot
January the first...
And the whole world looks so different that sometimes you have to pinch yourself to make sure you’re not dreaming.
I don’t have to tell you about an English winter puddles are panes of glass, the trees as bare as standing stones...
Now that’s not something you see every day.
it’s just the steam, Jack. There are leaks in the hothouse windows.
That’s how that tropical flower can survive the cold. You can be a real spoilsport, Gerard...
if I were you I’d forget about sniffing the flowers. You’re going to be dodging bullets in a few minutes.
Don’t take all the mystery out of it.
Speaking of which, we mustn’t be late. it’s something of a regimental tradition, after all...
...Pistols at dawn.
Good luck, anyway. Heaven knows, McNab needs somebody to take him down a peg. Shake?
Gerard is a good friend. But shaking hands - it’s like saying goodbye...
Er... Mind if we pass on that? Call it superstition.
And that’s not the way you need to feel when you’re about to fight a duel.
“...And I don’t even know her .”
it seems so daft, Gerard. Unreal. it’s not that I’m not scared - of course I am. But mainly I just think it’s crazy...
The thought that I might get myself shot and killed - all because of a girl...
Right. I quite understand. We’ll leave it till afterwards.
P P UM L UM K L K We’d better get our skates on. Hmm. Did you drop something?
it’s not mine. Looks like it’s been there a while.
it’s stuck fast. The ground’s hard as iron in this frost.
Estelle! it’s nearly daylight. What are you doing, young lady?
A coin, eh? You can use it for your fare home.
I’ll get chucked off the bus if I do…
I think it’s really old. Maybe even pre-Roman. And it’s got a head on both sides.
Does it now? That gives me an idea. Let me borrow it.
Rise and shine
Stiffer every time No sire
it gets harder ever
The lock gets rustier
The hinges heavier
The way is steeper
Lieutenant Ember, Lieutenant Sime it’s too cold to be kept waiting, gentlemen.
Big talk, Ember. You won’t have to stand around long. We’ll get this over quick.
But you know what they say. Pride comes before a fall.
Huh? What the devil - ?
Telescopes are for boys, not for young ladies. Blast it, Estelle. Are you up on the roof again?
Look what you did! You made me drop my best telescope!
You have plenty of others, Estelle. How many telescopes does a girl your age need?
You go to bed. Old people need more sleep.
I won’t stay to be insulted.
You should be in bed. You had a very late night. And you’ll catch your death dressed like that.
You can’t tell me what to do!
Good morning, Lord Deerdand. Your daughter is a barbarous young harpy.
You’re not my mother! You’re just the hired help.
Er... Morning, Miss Bodgkiss.
Our mortal guises the latest fashion?
Does it cut a dash?
Oh sire you look so human
What theyâ€™re all wearing up top
Begone from my sight
The coin is near
No more insolence Come - We have much to do
The year of wonders has come round again
And this time
Our return to the mortal world is close at hand
I sense it just above these roots
Weâ€™re never going to leave
Lieutenant Ember, as the challenged party you get to pick first. Funny old pistols, Dougy. They only hold one bullet.
I used your old Roman coin, or whatever it is, for the toss-up. You’ll be standing at the west end of the lawn.
That’s all I’ll need.
They look like they used to belong to Dick Turpin.
Well, as the sun comes up it’ll be right behind McNab, won’t it. What if it dazzles me?
I’m over the moon. Um just remind me why that’s an advantage?
What if it
Pop it in your breast dazzles me? pocket. That way, if he aims for your heart, the coin will save your life.
The seconds must now leave the field. Remember to conduct yourselves with mutual respect as set out in the duelling code.
Thanks, Gerard. By the way happy New Year.
Have you wet your pants yet, Ember?
Oh, go fly a kite, McNab, you pompous sack of wind.
Just shoot at his silhouette. Chin up, old boy. This is your lucky day, remember.
That’s the spirit. it’s going to be a fantastic New Year, Jack.
Gentlemen - when I drop my handkerchief, you may fire at will.
Thatâ€™s not something you see every day...
So, did you have a nice time at the ball?
it was okayâ€Ś
…I was going to dance with a boy, but Dougy McNab challenged him to a duel.
Can you see anything through that thing? I mean, it’d be better at night, wouldn’t it?
You know, Snowdrop, no-one will ever take the place of your mother. And if I were to remarry - well, obviously it couldn’t be to a servant like Miss Bodgkiss. That who just moved into the mill cottage, on the other hand...
A duel, eh?
Boys are such idiots! Daybreak is the only time you can observe the Morning Star. Although of course it’s not actually a star, it’s the planet Venus, which -
Gosh! A comet!
Um... is that my whisky?
I need it as invisible ink for my astronomy notes. You don’t mind, do you, Dad?
Did you see it too, Dad? That green comet isn’t even listed Oh, you’ve got it pointing at the ground. That’s no good. The sun’s going to be over the trees in a couple of minutes. Might as well pack up.
I’ll be jiggered and jammed in a jar! I could’ve sworn...
Dad? Don’t forget your whisky.
No! Er - I mean, you keep it, dear. For your invisible ink.
I’ve rather gone off the stuff just lately. And besides...
“…it’s bad for the health.”
On my signal -
The moment of truth...
But maybe I sensed it even then...
Life or death...
As soon as I saw the green comet, I knew...
The very worst time to let your mind wander...
Everything was going to change.
Do you feel it?
The magic has come back
I suppose that proves it’s a genuine antique -
Yiiii - !
Jolly bad luck about the misfire. McFabulous wins again!
Oh no! it’s a dud!
Huh? Now what - ?
Jack! Jack! Pull the trigger!
Ahhhh - !
And where is this?
isn’t there anything else you can do, Doctor?
…and pray. I’m sorry, Mrs Ember. it’s out of my hands.
Now we can only wait…
His Fever has reached crisis point.
Very Profound. ...This can’t be real. it’s just a dream.
Tell you what, I could use a paddle more than poetry right now.
Perhaps it is. But You know what Tennyson said... “We live in dreams.”
Relax. Think of this as a taste of things to come.
Talking of which, take a look up there.
Are you the voice of my conscience?
But the guilt isn’t in the lying, is it? it’s the people you leave behind.
“…up until the night of the .”
This tablecloth is the Gaugamela plain…
Need to get something off your chest? That you lied about your age to get a passport out of nowhere? Piffle. You’re not the first to do that.
if you mean signing up for the army, I don’t regret that. it was working out fine...
Alexander put his best cavalry - that’s the salt cellar out here on the left flank.
Thank you, Ember.
Excuse me for saying so, sir, but Alexander deployed the Companion cavalry on the right.
He’s right, you know. Confound it, Griffin! I won’t be corrected by one of your jumped-up little corporals!
Between the fish knife and the cruetstand. Colonel Griffin, a letter for you, sir.
Hmm. Well, that’s easily rectified…
...Ember, you are now a lieutenant. Collect your uniform from officers’ stores in the morning. For now, take That officer’s coat. Oh, and Ember... Yes, sir?
Thank your lucky star it’s New Year’s Eve.
Miss, you dropped your handkerchief...
I say, Dougie chap over there’s got your overcoat on.
Enlisted man, too. Bally thieves the lot of ‘em.
Would you like to -
is he bothering you, Estelle? You bounder, take that!
I was about to clout him, then Gerard stepped in. Explained it was a matter of honour. Pistols at twenty paces...
Er... Who’s there? That’s my line.
is that it?Am I dead?
GUS. Gus who? Knock knock.
Don’t gawp like a landed fish, Ember. Give me a hand.
Call me if there’s any change.
There’s a handle here.
Glub! That should do the trick. Listen, this is important. the coin you found -
Jack! You’re awake!
Gran… What happened to me?
Gran, I’m sorry... The regiment, now this ridiculous duel... I know I’m a worry to you.
Hush now. A nasty big wasp stung you across the eyes, Jack. You’ve been in a fever for… Well, I had to take down the Christmas decorations. it’s the second week of January.
KN O KN CK OC K
About your regiment, Jack, I have to tell you -
KN O KN CK OC K
Yiiii - !
Oh, you get dressed and I’ll see who that is.
I have come a long way to see your boy.
He took something that belongs to me
I want it back.
Gran, did you find a coin in my old tunic pocket?
I’ve been -
! RING ING! R R R BR RRRRR B
Well, yes. I -
Woke up just now, sir. I’ll get it. Yes sir! Right away, sir.
Gran! I’ve got to Run an errand for the Colonel! Jack? Oh dear, he’s gone.
Waiting isn’t a problem...
SL A M
I should Be Back in An Hour or two.
I’ve got all The time in the world
Something you’re not born knowing you have to learn it as you get older -
Other people don’t go away just because you closed your eyes...
Here’s one in the Suffolk Enquirer…
“…A courting couple walking down a country lane at dusk found a trapdoor in the ground.”
“The man lifted it and, seeing steps, descended.”
It existed before we did. It’ll go on existing long after...
While we sleep, the world keeps on turning...
“A man in Nuneaton found a packet of cabbage seeds inside an old vase. He planted them in his greenhouse.”
“His fiancée waited until night fell but he did not come back. She went to fetch her brothers but they could find no trace of the trapdoor.”
The number of stories of this kind is increasing day by day…
And that’s when life can really start to surprise us.
When we see that we’re a part of something much bigger...
“Hearing whispers in the night, he found the seeds had grown into green brains that seized him with the power of their intellect. They said they had come from the planet Pluto to conquer Earth.”
...then we’re not babies playing peeka-boo any more.
“But as the sun rose, the brains cried out, ‘What is this ball of searing flame?’ and shrivelled up...” ‘...Which was strange,’ the man told our Daily Argus reporter, ‘as there was quite a frost that day. it’s what you’re used to, I suppose.'
Ah, this’ll be the lad Griffin sent to help us out.
Hmm. So that’s what a light dragoon looks like.
He’s dreadfully young to be an officer.
Don’t be flippant, young man. I don’t know how much you overheard just now, but there have been some pretty strange goings-on recently. it’s just you, is it?
Reports from up and down the country… Fairies raiding dustbins. Livestock operating farm machinery. All manner of oddities.
The Colonel said I had to do a job for you. He didn’t say bring a platoon.
I’m sure there’s a perfectly rational Explanation for that stuff.
That, young man, is what the Royal Mythological Society exists to find out.
we’ve had word of an entropic anomaly on the south coast. The accident Rate has gone up five Hundred percent in the last twelve hours...
Namely, you three aren’t the only fruit loops on the loose.
“…We’d like you to go down there and look into it.”
Mr Massey? I’m Jack Ember.
Thank you for coming,Lieutenant.
Bit early in the year for net practice,isn’t it?
Oh, this? No, this is just stuff I’m clearing out. You see, I’m curator of the local museum. We’ve got the room over the cricket pavilion here.
Seems like it’s my day for museum visits.
it’s just curios and bric-a-brac.
Well, we don’t lay claim to anything fancy…
Except for this…
The original door Knocker off the village hall.
A shoe once worn by our first mayor.
that sort of thing.
it’s called a witch bottle.
The stopper came loose when I was cleaning it. And I suppose that’s when the witch got out.
In wi this tch bo be set h , an ttle a er d the po fr if re tta ee yo be ge the u d a o’ re’ o tro ll ub le.
Witches… Bottles… “Entropic anomalies”..! Has everyone gone daft?
But you didn’t actually see that? So possibly An old tramp lady just Happened by at roughly the same time.
“…Just follow the trail.”
Mum! The milk’s gone sour!
No loaves today?
HMm. You can judge That for yourself if you find her. it shouldn’t be hard to track her down...
Funny time of year to see a banana skin. if I didn’t know all this hocus-pocus talk was nonsense, I’d start to wonder…
Sorry, missus. The dough wouldn’t rise. Blow it. Where did I get That puncture?
So much for sprained Ankles and broken mirrors. Sunday afternoon nastiness, I call that.
But now - what ‘ave we here..?
crisp clear day, ‘at’s right enough.
Excuse me. GERROFF!
You sure it’s safe, Dad?
Damn yer eyes, don’t you know better than To sneak up on a girl when she’s laying a hex?
Safe? As houses! Not a cloud in the sky.
But Weather can be a fickle ol’ beast… An’ I mark the gamey stink o’ tragedy on this wind, I do.
That old trick?
…See for yerself.
Tell you what, ‘ere’s a better idea…
if you can really do magic, you ought to be able to get inside this little bottle. Maybe if I humour her, I can lead her back to the local nuthouse.
Malacha wisht, malacha wizop!
What - ?
iT’S NOT POSSiBLE... BUT... I’m trapped inside the bottle!
Sea spray won’t do to wet my whistle…
Blow, winds, fit to burst a vessel!
Lightning, burn a scar Across the sky!
I’m craving the salty savour of blood…
I long for the smack o’ grieving tears!
Disbelief is healthy. It keeps us from setting too much store by those one in a million flukes...
A flower blooms in winter. Turns out there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation. A wasp makes its nest inside an antique pistol. Curious, but not impossible. Dreams as vivid as a slap in the face are still only that. Dreams.
Then something happens that you can’t explain away. Bang. Disbelief staggers, shot through the heart.
Thum Thupm p
Who am I kidding? There’s nobody to Hear - and how would they Free me if they did?
This must be how a butterfly feels in a killing jar.
Talking of which What crawled in here and died?
it’s worse than an open drain clogged with rancid compost. On the hottest day in summer.
She took those off…
This would make perfect sense in a Brothers Grimm story…
Here we go again.
So it’s probably the Most logical thing I Can try right now.
Clouds, cast keenly yer cold upon that sea! Sleet, come sharpen yer teeth on mortal flesh! G’won you know you want to.
She���s not Really somebody who’s going To listen to reason… Oh - now handy.
Phew! I’ve never Been so grateful for a gulp of fresh air.
Let’s ‘ave them waves a bit higher… C’mon! Call this wheezy puff an ‘urricane? I can belch ‘arder than this!
Dad! We’re Being blown onto the rocks!
Hang on for dear life, son!
I think we got off on the wrong foot before.
Did you forget about the get-out clause?
These CLAWs -
‘ow did you escape?
She dropped Her wand... Abra Cadab No, that’s not right. I mean…
…Malacha wisht, malacha wizop!
Gotcha! The wind dropped. Just like that…
that was amazing, dad. Can we do it again?
You know in your heart when you’ve crossed the line into uncharted waters.
Clinging to old ways of thinking becomes dangerous. It’s like a raft that could all too easily break apart under you...
Then it’s better to just let go. See where the current will take you. Face the future with eyes wide open...
...and accept that nothing will ever be the same again.
First letters page goes here.
Dear Prof Bromfield and Dr Clattercut, I have been having trouble with something at the bottom of my garden. My wife is in the habit of leaving milk out for hedgehogs, but lately we have been getting up of a morning to find the saucer washed up in the sink. On top of that, the bottles of milk have been taken from our larder and we find them scattered around a little grassy hummock in the field behind our house. What do you advise? Sincerely, Benjamin Pandercote Esq, Tilford Dr Clattercut replies: My goodness me, it sounds like you have an infestation of fairies. Prof Bromfield: Fairies? Pesky little blighters. Get a shotgun and... Dr Clattercut: Well now, let’s not be hasty. It’s true that fairies can be vexatious, but they can also be helpful. Very often the deciding factor is how a person treats them. You’ve got off on the right foot by leaving out a saucer of milk, and the fact that they washed it up is typical of the sort of useful chore a fairy might be willing to do for you. With their magic, peeling a hundred potatoes or repairing fifty pairs of shoes can be accomplished with ease, and so it is very likely to be the kind of service they would consider an almost negligible payment for a little bowl of milk. Prof Bromfield: Get a grip, Clattercut. It’s not just the one bowl, is it? Chap says here that they’ve cleaned his larder out. It’ll be eggs and flour next.
the field by night, and might consider it a great jape to leave you wandering helplessly until dawn. If that should happen, the simple remedy is to turn your coat inside out. That will break the spell. Also, fairy illusions have beguiled many a man who may go chasing off for hours, days or even years after gold coins, a winsome girl or a plump pheasant – only to have their goal revealed as a mirage disguising autumn leaves, a pig, or a scrawny blackbird. The precaution in this case is a paste made of St John’s wort and four-leafed clover. This, rubbed upon the eye, allows you to see through fairy glamours. Fairies, like vampires, will not pursue you across running water. As a protective charm, a daisy chain – Prof Bromfield: Never mind this tomfoolery, Clattercut. Defence never works in warfare and, make no mistake, when man and fairy are neighbours then war is never far off. You’ve got to take the fight to the fairies. That grassy hummock in the field, that’s their home – a bru, it’s called, or sometimes a knowe or sithein. Get a set of tongs from beside the fire. You can grab a fairy with those, especially if you get the devil by his big toe. Fairy magic has no defence against cold iron, you see. When you’ve got him howling, say you’ll let him go if he tells you his true name. The true name gives you power over him, you see. But before you do release him, give the wee blighter a sock on the nose for good measure. He won’t forget you in a hurry.
Dr Clattercut: Indeed he will not. To which I can only add, good luck to you, my dear sir. You have both our advice. As to which you should act upon, your good judgement must guide you. Amen.
Dr Clattercut: Eggs and flour? I don’t see – Prof Bromfield: For fairy cakes, man! Dr Clattercut: Very droll, I’m sure. Well, be that as it may, I suppose it is worth adding a word of caution. Fairies are known for their pranks, but their prankishness does not conform to our mortal ideas of humour. They might, for example, cause you to go astray while crossing
My dear sirs Last night we had quite a storm, lightning spitting like fireworks and rain going in any direction the wind cared to take it. In the midst of it all came a titanic crashing noise and I ran out in my dressing gown in fear that the steeple had toppled. I could see nothing, but this
morning I sent up Mr Jardyce, the verger, and he brought down a large piece of stone that had lodged in the church roof. Any thought that this might be what is popularly known as a meteorolith was soon dispelled by two curious features. The first of these: that it is not a roughhewn fragment of rock but most definitely a piece of worked masonry. The other remarkable matter is that it bears part of an inscription in hieroglyphics of some sort, possibly Sumerian cuneiform, and this inscription is quite intelligible. It reads: “Placed here by order of the emperor Nimrod, in the seventeenth year of his reign.” I perhaps should add that I have Greek and Latin, but not a word of cuneiform, and Mr Jardyce struggles, in all frankness, with the Queen’s English. Our ability to read the inscription is therefore the most baffling puzzle of all. I wonder at the provenance of this curious block of stone, and whether you would wish to exhibit it in your gallery at the British Museum? (I am afraid I would need to reverse the postage, as Mrs Villiers at the post office informs me that sending it to London would incur a GPO charge of thirty-two shillings and sixpence.) Faithfully, Rev Fitzwilliam Hallpike, Chalfont St Giles
them abroad upon the face of all the earth.” Nimrod was of course the ruler of Shinar, who was said to have ordered the construction of the tower. Prof Bromfield: Hang on, though, Clattercut. It doesn’t really seem to add up. I mean, if the blessed tower fell over all those years ago, how can a bit of it have ended up dropping through the Reverend Mr Hallpike’s roof?
Second letters page goes here.
Dr Clattercut replies: How marvellous. What you have there, Mr Hallpike, is a piece from the upper superstructure of the Tower of Babel. Of course, as a clergyman you will be familiar with Genesis, chapter 11: “And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there. And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar. And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children built. And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do; and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another's speech. So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off building the city. Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the Lord scatter
Dr Clattercut: I imagine that the upper parts of the tower would have been fixed to the vault of heaven using cement, to prevent the whole thing from swaying to and fro. Think of how troops are ordered to break step when crossing the Albert Bridge, and that’s a considerably smaller structure. The cement must have weathered over the centuries, and finally a good storm was all it took to dislodge this last fragment from the sky. I admit myself stumped, however, as to how our correspondent and his verger are able to read the ancient text. I don’t find Sumerian cuneiform at all easy to decipher myself, and I’ve studied it for over twenty years.
Prof Bromfield: Ah, now that part of it makes sense to me. Before the Tower of Babel fell, all mankind spoke one language. Then it all got mixed up like cement, you see, by these angels. What one workman called a span, another would think meant a cubit. Like inches and centimetres today, total mess. We can blame Napoleon for that particular confusion, I suppose, though it seems he was only taking his cue from the Bible. Anyway, anything written before the tower fell should be perfectly comprehensible to anybody even today. And that appears to be the case. The same would apply to anything spoken before that date, presumably, although of course there’s no way to verify that.
NEXT iSSUE: THE WRONG SiDE OF BEDLAM
YEAR of WONDERS
Mirabilis is one year. But it's much more than that. It's a whole universe. We came up with the idea of a magical year when everything that exists in story, myth and folktales would become real. A time when fantasy would entwine itself into the realities of the everyday world, where the ordinary would become amazing, and the amazing would become truly legendary. We were never just aiming for the obvious kind of fantasy: fairies at the bottom of the garden, centaurs guarding Buckingham Palace, dwarven pickaxes digging up Piccadilly. All those things are there, and they're fun, but the magic at the heart of of Mirabilis goes deeper.
experience of stepping onto Bifrost, the rainbow bridge, and climbing to the home of the very gods in Asgard is nothing beside the transformative power of the human heart. Think about it. A kiss can change your whole life. An unkind word can inflict a cut that never heals. Friendship, trust, betrayal, love... these things hold the potency of true magic. Fantasy, at its best, is not about mere elves and goblins. It is a mirror that reflects onto the mundane tapestry of logical reality that rich, ennobling, glorious, head-spinning weave that is the essence of the human imagination.
There is so much to tell. We decided to start with Jack and Estelle so as to explore Mirabilis through one story and give a glimpse of just some of its wonders. Mirabilis is a universe, and Jackâ€™s and Estelle's experience of it, like all human experience, is one tiny glimpse of the whole. Even as the creators of this universe, we find ourselves like explorers at the edge of a vast and mysterious territory - a little apprehensive, but brimming with excitement at the Mermaids now swim in the Thames, unknown adventures to come. Venusian ambassadors take tea at the We hope you'll come with us on that Savoy, and a dragon is trying to hatch the journey. It's going to be unforgettable. dome of St Paulâ€™s Cathedral. But thatâ€™s not the greatest of the magic. Even the
At the height of the summer of Mirabilis, we will show you the world as only poets and lunatics see it. Food then has a taste to delight the gods. Music has the power to move worlds. A sip of spring water cupped in your hands is enough to refresh the weariness of old age. The very colors in our world, we decided, would vibrate with enchanted intensity to reflect the high tide of excitement and wonder that flows from the universe of the imagination.
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