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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution

The Essay
Show #541
The Sixty by Sixties
David Gunn

When he took off his shoes, Billings Beadle measured just a skosh under fifty meters in height. His internal clock had recently ticked off the forty-fourth year; thus, based on the Kundar Anatomic Dimensional Chart, he was a bit tall for his age. But other members of his family tended to grow up fast -- his father, Meptang, was already thirty-seven meters high when he entered First Degree School, and he required a special student simulation desk extender -- so Billings thought his few extra fathoms were no big deal. However, when he put on his shoes (the inflatable Florsheim elevatoids with gas rudder directional stabilizers), his height shot up to nearly a hemifurlong, and he towered over everything, including towers! On the other hand, his hive sister Capsicum was fifty meters wide, and her girth did present challenges. All of the entryways in the Beadle hivehold, for example, were forty meters from hinge to hasp, the standard measurement for dwelling chambers. So Capsicum had to clamber over those portals, which was hardly a ladylike way to enter a room. As the two siblongs progressed through larvalhood into maturedom, their growth rates decelerated, briefly reversed themselves, then finally ceased altogether. From head to toe ring, Billings was an even sixty meters; breadthwise, Capsicum measured precisely sixty meters. So when they attended social events together, which was often, given their lofty rank in the local Octothorpe Guild, they were introduced -- not unkindly -- as the "sixty by sixties."

One such affair was the Contraphonic Elysian Death Gargle, which pitted one hundred eleven transmogrified gargoyles and buoys against each another in a one-dimensional pool filled with liquid proglottid. Dozens of hive hierarchs watched with interest, occasionally extracting nectar from a colossal trough that demarcated both the south and northeast ends of the pool, as the contestants spat oily globules of fauxjolais high into the air. It was rare for any of the eructations to actually result in death -- it had occurred only eighty times since the entertainment began earlier that morning. Nevertheless, the possibility kept the onlookers avidly looking on. In a ceremony rife with incorporeality, Billings and Capsicum had been crowned Lade and Lordy Contraphonia, retrospectively. This entitled them to an extra helping of protactinium on toast as well as front row seats to the Elysian action. Due to her extra girthage, Capsicum required two seats, which irked more than a few of her svelter hive-consorts.

The forty-ones arrived simultaneously in a welter of weightless caissons. All thirty-two of the forty-ones belonged to the Guild of Molten Rock Hounds, an organization of considerable magmatude. For reasons lost in an apocryphal history, each member was surgically enhanced to stop accruing height at the forty-one-meter mark. By itself, the uniformity in altitude was little reason for celebrity in the hive society; however, each forty-one was an innately proficient canapé maker, and that talent was revered deeply.

A great garboil suddenly erupted in the center of the pool, beckoning the spectators. Many spoke in tongues. Those who had had their larynxes enhanced also spoke over their tongues. Because Billings and Capsicum were so tall and wide, they blocked the view of many would-be observers, one of whom was the chair of the powerful Kundar Dimension Commission. No matter that the commotion in the pool turned out to be a normal reaction between some spilt protactinium and the liquid proglottid, the administrator was irked enough to forthwith issue the now infamous Contraphonic Death Fiat: "No hive dweller or visitor thereto shall accrue a length, height, breadth, width or worth of greater than forty-eight meters." Those twenty words effectively ended the Beadle siblongs' societal activities and forced them to seek accommodations outside the colony. (In contrast, Meptang's over the top stature was conveniently disregarded, thanks to some friends in hive places.)

No one knows what happened to Billings and Capsicum. One day the "sixty by sixties" simply vanished -- not an easy task when you're so much bigger than your counterparts.

Time passed. Civilizations rose, collided with the protactinium, and fell back into the primordial proglottid pool. Then one day, late in the Middle Octothorpe Period, the sixty by sixties returned. However, they looked nothing like their forebears. They were, in a word, short. Not in terms of height or length, but rather durationwise. Each lived a life that lasted only sixty seconds, or less. And, there were only sixty of them in any given hive. These two strictures were imposed on them by a 1¾-meter high human named Ivory Beso, who had artificially created himself out of a Brooklyn College music algorithm. Beso didn't see himself as an omnipotent god so much as an impresario, while others didn't see him because he tended to fade into and out of incorporeality. And so the hives entered the Golden Age of the Sixty by Sixties. Life was good, guilds were gargling, the fauxjolais was flavorful. But then some smart aleck with too much time on his hands created the sixty-one by sixty-one paradigm. Straightaway, confusion reigned. The additional units were simply too much for hive society to embrace, and it began a downward slide into the proglottid pool, where it sadly remains to this very day.

By the most amazing of coincidences, Ivory Beso is an anagram of Rob Voisey, the big daddy of the 60×60 Project, whose denizens bear an uncanny likeness to the sixty by sixties of the Middle Octothorpe Period. Continuing this pattern of happenstance, the Exalted Mr. V. is one of today's featured guests in the house of Kalvos & Damian. The portal is now open, so step inside. Just please don’t squeeze the protactinium.