A Very Neovian Election: Part Four
There was a gentle knock at the door. Prigpants the tailor opened it carefully.
“Good morning, fellow townsman.” Mayor Thumburt positively beamed. “I am your local experienced Mayoral candidate; can I take a few minutes of your time?”
The Lenny yawned.
“It is only just past dawn, Mr. Thumburt,” he said sleepily.
“Politics never sleeps, Mr. Prigpants, of that I can assure you. Should you re-elect me into office, I can promise that I will be up at the crack of dawn to fight for your rights!”
“Which rights?” Prigpants asked.
“Which ones do you want?” Thumburt enquired.
“It’s far too early to talk about politics, Mr. Mayor; maybe if you come back later I can talk to you, once Mr. Swolthy and I have opened the shop?” Prigpants suggested wearily.
“Excellent idea!” Thumburt laughed. “In the meantime, can I give you one of my supporter’s rosettes?”
The Bruce brandished a green rosette at the Lenny. ‘Vote Thumburt’ was written in gold upon it.
“Why would I want this?” the tailor asked.
“It shows solidarity with other Thumburt supporters,” the Mayor said wisely.
“Doesn’t voting do that?” Prigpants asked.
“Yes... but you see...” Thumburt hesitated.
“It’s not even a particularly nice colour. Black, now that would go with anything,” Prigpants considered.
“It’s not a very optimistic colour, though,” Thumburt told him.
“Fashion, my good man, is not a matter of optimism,” Prigpants said firmly, closing the door.
Thumburt sighed. If he didn’t get the businessmen of Neovia on his side, the election would be hard fought.
He turned to make his way to the next house, but met Reg running towards him.
“The Crumpetmonger’s already up, sir,” he said gravely. “She’s making batches of ‘Vote Desmond’ pastries. They seem quite popular.”
“I can count on your support, can’t I, Reginald?” Thumburt asked.
“Of course, sir; we need someone with experience in the job, sir,” the Lupe replied.
“You’re not just saying that?” the Mayor pressed.
“No, sir, and for what it’s worth I know Bruno and Gilly are going to vote for you. Mum and Dad will probably as well, and half the town,” Reg explained.
“How can you be so sure?” Thumburt asked.
“Because the Crumpetmonger’s supporting Desmond,” Reg said casually. “Everyone loves her pastries... but her... that’s a different matter if you know what I mean.”
“But last night, everyone seemed to be against me,” Thumburt lamented.
“Oh yes, they always do, but a good night’s sleep often changes people’s minds,” Reginald told him. “Oh, that reminds me; Sophie said that while she’s away checking on Oldnose, we need to make sure the statues don’t break free.”
“Could you ask Bruno to do it?” Thumburt suggested.
“I already have, sir,” Reginald replied.
“This is a ridiculous idea, Reginald,” Thumburt snapped.
“You need all the votes you can get sir, and technically they’ve been in Neovia longer than anyone,” the young Lupe replied, handing the Mayor a megaphone.
“But they’re not actually alive, Reginald; how can they vote?” Thumburt whispered, aware that his prospective voters might be listening.
“By proxy, I’d imagine,” Reg told him with the air of someone with a plan.
He stood back, taking care not to tread on any graves.
“People of the graveyard,” Thumburt announced through the megaphone, “Lend me your ears... or whatever it is you use for listening.”
There was no response. Thumburt cleared his throat.
“Things of the graveyard, I am your experienced Mayoral candidate, and I am seeking your votes for re-election tomorrow. My opponent is young, and has no idea what the job entails,” Thumburt continued. “Under my expert guidance, you have seen the graveyard become larger, and the policy for cleaning up the crypts and removing graffiti from the tombstones was personally signed by me. Should you vote me back into office, I will fight for the rights of the living-impaired all the way to the top!”
Some of the tombstones began to sway gently, haunted blue eyes opening in the stonework.
“We will support you!” the sentient stones moaned.
Doors to crypts opened, and coffin lids lifted.
“Show that young whippersnapper who is boss!” zombies that were centuries old groaned.
Reg might actually be right; he might be able to win.
Thumburt’s mood continued to improve as the day went on. He returned to Prigpants & Swolthy and had a very positive conversation with them about free trade agreements with Neopia Central, and then proceeded to make his way around the rest of the shop owners in the town. He took special care to avoid the Crumpetmonger’s bakery, though, which seemed to be getting more custom than usual.
As the sun began to set, he finished up the last of his door-to-door campaigning and returned to the town hall. Ahead of the voting the following day, there would be debates between the candidates, and everyone was sure to be in attendance.
As the voters piled into the meeting hall, Thumburt adjusted his suit in his office mirror. His green rosette had pride of place over his left pocket.
This wouldn’t be too hard. Thumburt had solid policies, and he’d convinced the townspeople to elect him once before. Reg was right; he could win this.
He made his way down to the meeting hall, and up towards the stage. The crowd of gathered voters were all sitting neatly in rows; curiously silent considering that it was a prime opportunity for gossip. Desmond was already waiting behind a podium on the left hand side of the stage. Thumburt took his position opposite the Kougra.
Reg clattered up on the stage and cleared his throat.
“Welcome to the official debates for the Neovian Mayoral election,” he announced. “Today’s candidates are local baking assistant Desmond Brooks, and Mayor Thumburt, hoping for re-election. We will start the debates with Mayor Thumburt.”
The audience rustled quietly, pastries and treats from the Crumpetmonger’s shop being passed down the aisles.
“Mayor Thumburt,” Reg continued, “what are your plans for taxation, should you be elected?”
Thumburt smiled pleasantly.
“I’m glad you asked that, young Reginald,” he said, letting the rehearsed speech take over from his brain. “Taxation is a matter that is close to my heart. It is true that under my watch, taxes have risen in Neovia, but this was a short term solution to the cost of rebuilding Neovia after the... incident with the Spirit of Slumber. Now that the town has been restored and is fighting fit, I plan to cut taxes significantly. Not only will there be a drop in income tax should I be re-elected, but export and import duties will also be cut to better help our hard working businessmen and women.”
Thumburt leaned back from the podium slightly, expecting a cheer. Instead, none came. The audience was sat there, staring stony-faced at the stage. There was still the rustle as the pastries were passed along the aisles. In the front row, the Crumpetmonger seemed to beam triumphantly at him.
“Thank you...” Reg said while staring slightly nonplussed at the crowd. “What are your plans, Mr. Brooks?”
“I will remove all taxes,” Desmond replied simply.
The Kougra had barely finished talking when the audience erupted into thunderous applause.
“What!?” Thumburt spluttered.
“You would remove all forms of taxation?” Reg asked.
“No citizen will ever need to pay tax again if I am elected,” Desmond repeated. “No one will need to work, and there will be no need for paperwork.”
As his voice finished echoing, the audience cheered again.
“Well, that’s just ridiculous!” Thumburt objected. “You can’t run a town on dreams! Things don’t pay for themselves!”
The cheers still rose from the audience.
“You can’t expect to win an election by promising Good Times and Free Pastries!” Thumburt shouted.
Desmond looked at him mockingly, and Thumburt was struck by the age of his eyes as they focused on him. They were not the eyes of a young baker’s assistant. They were far older, and far more powerful.
“A Vote for Desmond Brooks is a vote for Good Times and Free Pastries!” he shouted over the ever rising din of the cheers.
The crowd surged forwards and picked up the young Kougra, carrying him outside on their backs.
Thumburt was left alone with Reg in the hall.
“Please tell me this is a dream,” Thumburt muttered.
“I’m afraid not, sir,” Reg told him. “Something’s wrong here. People in this town are suspicious if the sun rises a minute earlier than usual... yet here they are throwing their full support behind someone who has nothing but empty promises.”
“They must really hate me,” Thumburt observed.
Reg shook his head. “No, it’s more than that... we were doing so well earlier; people were actually convinced...” the Lupe mumbled.
Thumburt moped off the stage.
“Whatever it is, the people have spoken... they’ll decide my fate tomorrow,” he said dejectedly as he made his way out of the hall.
Sophie stirred her magical brew with a long spoon, her Meowclops looking on eagerly.
“What could they want with Neovia?” Sophie muttered to herself. “They made a deal with Edna... this isn’t her territory...”
She lifted a small spoonful of the mixture out of the cauldron and poured a drop over a lump of bronze metal she’d recovered from Oldnose’s shack. The metal glowed blue for a moment.
“Still not strong enough to break the enchantment,” Sophie sighed. “What was Oldnose thinking!?”
She continued to mutter to herself as the Meowclops watched. Eventually, he gave up hope of any free food and walked over to the door that led back out into the swamp. He pushed the door open a fraction with his nose. The door was at once blown open, and battered against the wall of the shack. The wind coursed round Sophie and her stew, chilling her to the bone.
She walked over to the door and slammed it shut before kneeling down to tend to her Petpet.
“A foul wind is blowing from Neovia...” she told her Meowclops. “If I don’t find a way to dismantle those statues soon, things are going to get a whole lot worse.”
The Meowclops, understanding the profound danger of which Sophie spoke, gently licked his owner’s face.
To be continued...