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You Gotta (Fraggle Rock, prequel fic)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by mereii, Jul 15, 2013.

  1. mereii

    mereii New Member

    Hi guys, just thought I'd try to add my own shortish fic to all the quality writings on here. It's a sort of prequel, featuring Gobo's Great-Uncle Gobo. Second part to follow in a few days.

    *

    “Oh, you’ll know it when you hear it, Gobo,” his best friend tells him, one day. They are sitting on a mossy ledge in the Great Hall, high above the Pond. The moss is studded with pebbles, water-worn and delicate purple, and she is dropping the pebbles on her side of the ledge into the water, plook, watching the ripples spread. “It’s wonderful. It’s like a… a voice in your heart, saying you’ve gotta go-”

    “Go where?”

    “Why- anywhere! And when you hear it, well…”

    “Well what?” Gobo is being pedantic on purpose, making neat piles of the pebbles by his feet, sorting them by size and hue. They are quartz, he thinks, although he won’t be sure until he can study one properly through the clear flat facets of his treasured making-things-look-bigger stone, itself a crystalline mystery. He weighs one in his palm, trying to grasp in its cool heft some small corner of the ages, the mountains of time and the ancient floods that tumbled it smooth.

    “Well… you just gotta, that’s all.” Her bright white-yellow tail curls in a question-mark, the darker tip frizzing out in a peachy cloud. She tugs the kerchief from her neck and twists a handful of pebbles up in it, for skipping later. “Oh, I can’t explain it, you’ve just gotta hear it. Haven’t you ever heard anything like that?”

    “No,” says Gobo, firmly. He closes his fist around the pebble, trying to squeeze into its daunting time-heavy chilliness the warmth of his small square velvety palm. He doesn’t like the sound of voices in your heart- or anywhere else for that matter- telling you to do anything. The only voice he generally listens to is the one located firmly inside his own head, and that voicesays that wandering off who-knows-where at a moment’s notice just because something that you can’t explain tells you to is a terrible idea. Gobo is a careful, sensible little Fraggle, firm in his own opinions, and he is quite sure that Fraggle Rock is the best of all places to be. “Certainly not.”

    "Oh." She looks crestfallen, but soon brightens up. She always does, her moods always leaping up towards a bright giddy apex like the puddle-creatures that sometimes fall from nowhere and drench the ground in the highest tunnels, fleeting fever-warm pools of burnished gold.

    “Well, maybe you will, one day,” she says, kindly. And before Gobo can explain that he’d rather not, she tosses a final pebble, bounces to her feet and pitches herself headlong off the ledge after it, stretching into a perfect dive. Through the clear water of the Pond her small body is an arrow, a rippling gold-straw streak below the surface, winking in and out of sight between the splashing yelling rainbow colours of the other Fraggles.

    Gobo tucks his own pebble securely into his pocket and dives after her, a little exasperated but oddly gladthat the subject has been dismissed. It feels- dangerous, somehow, and better left alone.

    *

    There’s a word for his best friend. It’s explorer, three syllables that embrace a world of strange thoughts and great deeds, all leading right back to that voice in your heart that says you gotta. Young Fraggles are told that there have always been explorers, all the way back to the Ancient Fraggles, songs and stories and legends left behind in the pictures their ancestors carved right into the Rock. Ever since their Time was new there have been explorers, Fraggles born with you gotta woven right into their hearts,born to wander and bring back knowledge of the Great Beyond.

    For Gobo, explorer is a word for the odd, distant look that creeps into his best friend’s eyes as the years pass, like she’s listening to a song Gobo can’t hear. She disappears for days on end, comes back bubbling over with stories of the wonderful things she’s seen, like a wellspring that can’t be stopped up. Everyone else seems to think this is a great thing. Quite sure that Fraggle Rock is the best of all possible worlds, they’re still enthralled by stories of the wider universe.

    Gobo is sceptical. He’s not quite grown-up yet, and he grudgingly admits that there are still some things beyond his understanding, but he still can’t see anything particularly attractive in wandering for wandering’s sake, whether it’s for the good of Fragglekind or not. He’s glad she’s happy, but sometimes he wishes that this so-called voice in her heart was was set on something a little more sensible, a little more normal and Fragglelike. Something about swimming, for example, or rocks.

    He’s noticed that nobody really seems to care about rocks like he does. When the time comes to choose a job, he appoints himself Official Rock-Studier, which means that he spends his thirty-minute work-week bustling about the Rock following up reports of rockslides and cave-ins, monitoring and drawing maps and diagrams of fissures and weak ceilings and unusual cracks. To the other Fraggles it often seems as if he has a sixth sense, a knowledge sometimes verging on the spooky side of lucky.

    “Nonsense,” he says. “Rocks have a lot to say, if you just listen.”

    This is about as metaphysical as Gobo ever gets. He’s happy studying and classifying, naming new specimens, writing conscientious and detailed (if slightly self-important) new entries for the Fragglepedia. He can talk about rocks for hours on end, although everyone always seems to remember urgent things they need to do whenever he really gets going on the subject. It’s irritating, although he has to admit that rocks are a tricky subject to sing about. It’s hard to find anything that rhymes with ‘igneous.’

    She never makes him feel like he’s boring her, with his rocks or with anything else, but with time her hikes off into the Great Unknown become more and more frequent. Gobo still doesn’t really understand why she goes, but at last he admits that he doesn’t much care, either- he’s fed up with being left behind.

    When he finally gives in and asks her where she’s going this time, she laughs and flings out an arm, sketching distant vistas in one of her plentiful, extravagant gestures that are so hazardous to other people’s noses and furniture. Uncertainly at first- and then again and again- he goes with her. All through that season she returns from their trips with her eyes full of stars and her head full of memories, of the sights and sounds and smells of new places, and Gobo returns with his notebook bulging and his pack full of crystals and ferrous ore, weightless pumice like clouds of motheaten grey lace and a stone so eroded by time and water that it sounds a perfect series of thin, reedy notes when you blow into the right holes.

    She never bothers with souvenirs. “It’s enough just to see it,” she says, when Gobo tries to sketch the way a spiny seam of phosphorescent cobalt twists the length of a tunnel, spiralling over their heads like blue fire in the darkness, or plants himself and his damp notebook on a slippery rock to try and catch in charcoal how a waterfall plunges from a tunnel-mouth over their heads and whips itself to glittering fog on the stalactites a hundred feet below, rainbows spanning the haze in great arcing shards and running into frosted beads that drip off the end of his nose and blotch his work. She dances through the mists until she’s glittering too, the water gathering in her fur like brilliant tears. She laughs at Gobo’s attempts to sketch her on his blurring and spreading paper, and pulls him half-complaining but secretly pleased off his skiddy perch. Together they sing a water-song that grows in a round like a swelling river, sweeps up a whole chorus of inkspots and rockhummers and carries them with it all the way back home. It fills Gobo’s head even as he goes to sleep, his packful of damp treasures a mossy cool note in the warm cave, spread out to dry and to catalogue in the morning.

    *

    They are the best, the greatest Fraggle explorers of their generation. They work so well together, she leading, wandering wherever her keen dreamy intuition takes her, he lending shape and good sense to the journey, steering them away from danger, mapping, always mapping, making sure they can find their way home. They range through the outermost tunnels, nibbling away with pick and brush and pen at the Great Unknown. Through fields of moss and plains drifted with mist, through volcanic chasms that bubble liquid fire and black deep-down places where creatures glow like pale torches, through high bright tunnels with shaking roofs that rain sandy earth and thunder with a sound like giant’s footsteps, through high arched vaults worn into cathedrals of spiralling stone where the slightest whisper echoes like a symphony and mushrooms grow from the walls in great velvety blue scallops bigger than a Fraggle, they bring their voices, her guitar, his stony flute, warmth in the darkness.

    They are the only Fraggle explorers of their generation, and perhaps the others think they’re a tiny bit mad as well as great and brave and heroic and all the rest of it, but Gobo decides with magnanimity not to mind what the others think, as long as he can follow where she leads and know that the Rock will still be there to go back to at each journey’s end.

    For a long time it is nothing but wonderful- his friend’s most favourite word- but as time goes by, Gobo starts to feel more and more uneasy. They have been going further and further away from the Rock with every trip, and while he’d never, ever admit it to her, the further from home they go the more uneasy he gets. A new feeling starts to grow within him, a twanging anchor of panic weighing in his stomach, a thread attached to their home being pulled painfully taut. He feels it dragging tighter and tighter with every step, and if he can’t shake the conviction that if he goes too far it could snap and then-

    He’s still never heard her you gotta for himself,not once in all his years of trying. Sometimes, looking at her, he can nearly, nearly hear it, like the notes of a chord repeating just too far away to hear. A young lifetime of it has shaped her face into something open and hopeful and keyed to some ever-shifting faraway horizon, always a little wistful, dazed with wonder. It’s as if she can’t open her eyes wide enough to see everything she needs to see, all at once. Looking at her, Gobo knows that no one trip, no single great journey will ever be enough, that she won’t be happy until she’s seen everything, everywhere.

    It begins to frighten him, not least because in the face of that confounded you gotta in her eyes he feels completely overlooked. Compared to the vast astonishing (wonderful) wide world, the tiny corner of existence that is the Rock- and himself within it- is surely too small for her to even see. He’s only one Fraggle, just one small pumpkin-orange blip on her map. He can tell her why soapstone feels soapy or what makes the Singing Caverns sing, he can touch his tail to his nose and hold his breath underwater for more than three minutes and make her laugh with his aggrieved heartfelt pomposity whenever someone pokes fun at her stories or his rocks, but he can’t compete with the Universe.

    He wants to tell her all this, but he can’t. He turns it over and over in his head, but no matter how he tries to put it, it just comes out sounding like what it is; I’m scared and I want to go home. It won’t do, so he locks it up tight under his tongue and keeps it there until at last-

    They are a week away from the Rock, traversing a smooth green spine of stone at the mouth of a huge cavern full of greenish fog and slow-sighing breezes. Her song and his harmony lift and mingle a warm pathway through the mists, but when he looks down into the great cloudy lonely nothing below them, the words tucked under his tongue flood up, fill his mouth and choke him.
    He stops in his tracks. Alone, her song trails away and she turns back, half-laughing, reaching for his hand.

    “Gobo? Where’d you go?”

    “Let’s go back,” he says.

    She blinks at him. A breeze blows cool around them, fluttering her kerchief like a pennant and lifting her punky puff of hair, riffling it gently like underwater grass.

    “What for?” She points an eager finger. “See, we can make the other side of this cavern in a day or two, and the Marshes of Endless Night are right on the other side. They say the water’s completely black, even in broad daylight- and if you look at your reflection, you can see-”

    Gobo makes a short, cross dismissive movement, pulling his helmet down over his eyes. Rock-collection isn’t always the safest of hobbies, and he’s learned the hard way to keep something solid between his skull and the sky. The bewildered little breeze is tugging at his grackles, which with adulthood have crept up around his jaw and over his beaky pumpkin nose like wispy candyfloss. They get tangled easily, get in his mouth, and make him irritable.

    “We’ve seen plenty of marshes before,” he says, and then, before he can stop himself, “We’ve seen plenty of everything, if you ask me.”

    The moment the words have left his mouth, he sees that he’s hurt her much deeper than he meant to, but instead of regret he feels a reckless sort of satisfaction. Good. It’s out, he’s freed it, whatever it was in the first place, that guilty niggling selfish fear- it can’t sit under his tongue and eat at him any more.

    “It’s not that far,” she says, quietly. “It’s just one more cavern.”

    “It’s always just one more cavern! Or just one more tunnel- or just one more- one more- something no Fraggle in their right mind has any business traipsing all over in the first place!”

    She looks into the distance, into the deep-green mist. From here, the path dips steeply, winds down between high-stacked stone columns into the plunging valley of the cavern floor.

    “You can go back, if you want to,” she says. “I’m going on.”

    For a moment, he’s startled clear out of his anger. He at least expected her to argue. “What? On your own?”

    She shrugs, looking out into the mist. In this sickly submerged light her fur is pale like the centre of a buttercup, shaded dark under her eyes. A scratch traces a fine white line down her rounded snout, a relic from a tangle with a flowering Deathwort when they were both too young to know better. Some souvenirs come unasked for, and stay.

    “I gotta.”

    “Why?” He explodes. “What’s so important? What in the world are you looking for out there, anyway? Why does it matter?”

    Stung, she flings out an arm towards the mist. The gesture, so familiar, infuriates him, seeming as always to sketch far-off horizons he can’t even begin to see. “It- it just does, that’s all! Why- why do your dumb old rocks matter?”

    They stare at each other. This is painful new territory for them both- of course they’ve fought before, but never about the things most important to them. Up until this moment, their closest, dearest subjects and secrets have always been sacred, safe in each other’s hands.

    “That’s got nothing whatsoever to do with it!” His voice is strange and harsh in his own ears. ”I’ve followed you all over the Rock- why can’t you just follow me for a change?”

    “I didn’t make you come!” She’s close to tears. “You never understood, ever! You’d be happy to sit in the Rock your whole life and never know what’s beyond your front doorstep!”

    “Well- well, maybe I would! Yes! It’s certainly a better idea than waltzing all over the back of beyond trailing after you!”

    She looks at him, blank hurt in her eyes. He can’t bear that look, so he swings round and grabs his heavy pack and starts to slip and clatter back down the slope. Furious and embarrassed, he refuses to look back- not once, not even when he thinks he hears her calling his name.

    He walks for hours, following his map. At any moment he expects to hear her behind him, running after him, wanting to make up. Half a dozen times he almost turns back himself, no longer sure how or why he got so mad at her- but his prickly pride and the memory of the contempt in her voice- dumb old rocks- keep him headed miserably homeward.

    *

    Seven days go by, slow as treacle, and then an eighth, and she doesn’t come back. By the ninth day, he’s worried sick. By the tenth, he’s frantic. He rounds up a search party and bullies and hectors and leads them out towards the smooth green spine of rock, but it’s too far and too strange and one by one they start to turn back. They all turn back- except for Gobo, who hurries on in terrified silence, races on alone into the slow watery mists.

    A week- two- three- andhedoesn’t come back. The others worry in hushed voices and fill the Rock with what-ifs and told-you-sos, four long weeks come and go, and at last, Gobo returns, alone. Or, at least, part of him does.

    He’s fine- he looks fine, all in one piece, unhurt, unscathed- but all the same something got lost out there in that vale of green fog, of that there can be no doubt, and it’s taken most of the Gobo Fraggle they knew with it.

    Nobody knows what to say to him, nobody even knows how to start, but everyone knows that something has to be said. In the end it’s Grey, who always makes a point of acting like he knows two and a half times better than everyone else, who’s pushed with his heels dragging right up to the hole and forced to knock, alone, coughing uncomfortably through his silvery grackles.

    The cave, which has always been cosy and cluttered, has become a dark, hollow space, muffled and empty and horribly quiet. Stepping inside gives Grey a dangerous, fragile feeling, like the whole room is balanced on a fine point, teetering above a terrible drop. Only a certain background shuffling, a flurry of sharply-hushed whispers at every window and ledge and lookout, hints at a hidden audience.

    “Now, Gobo,” says Grey, awkwardly, pitching his voice kindly at the stony scoop of the nearest bed, the heap of blankets trailing a drooping, motionless tail. “I know how you feel.”

    There’s a pause. Gobo lifts a corner of the blanket and looks at Grey with dull, half-open eyes.
    “You do?”

    His voice is a dried-up croak, scraping in Grey’s ears like rusty old leaves kicked into a corner. Grey, who has no idea how Gobo feels and doesn’t want to imagine, pushes his glasses up his nose with a nervous thumb and forges bravely onwards, leaning authoritatively over a heap of multi-coloured rocks stacked on the table.

    “Uh- well, yes, of course! But- but you can’t go on like this. You can’t- mope, you know... she wouldn’t have wanted you to.”

    Gobo lets the blanket drop back over his head. “How do you know?”

    It’s a good question. Grey flounders.

    “She’d want him to be happy,” suggests the nearest curtain. Grey elbows it, sharply, at snout-height, eliciting an oof.

    “I was just going to say that! She would want you to be happy, Gobo. Uh-”

    “Wherever she is,” hisses the curtain.

    “Shut it, Doozer-brain! I mean, wherever she is. Now. Wherever she is now-”

    “Go away,” suggests Gobo, turning to face the wall.

    Unwisely, Grey decides to take one more shot. He draws himself up, adopting his wisest, most no-nonsense, I-am-delivering-a-life-lesson sort of voice. “Listen, kiddo, you have to get a hold of yourself. Nobody wants to see you like this. You know she was always wandering off who-knows-where, you can’t blame yourself-”

    “Will,” says Gobo, lunging suddenly and terrifyingly from the bed like a small orange Fury, his neglected fur bristling like a bottle-brush, voice shaking with rage, “all of you,” grabbing Grey by the grackles and yanking his luckless prompter out from behind the curtain by the snout, “just,” dragging them both bodily up the steps and out of the doorway in a startled tangle of tails and limbs, “leave me ALONE!!”

    The two Fraggles hit the wall of the tunnel outside in a jumbled, painful heap. As the others cluster anxiously around, the would-be prompter picks himself up and pulls Grey up after him, feeling his tender snout as he peers back into the dark cave.

    “I don’t think that went very well,” he says, nasally.

    Grey pushes his spectacles straight, trying to look knowing and annoyed and not at all how he really feels, which is sorry and sad and quite frankly, completely at a loss.
    “Humph,” he says. “Well… we tried. I guess all we can do now is wait and see.”
     
    charlietheowl likes this.
  2. charlietheowl

    charlietheowl Well-Known Member

    I love this story, it's fantastic. You have an excellent way of describing the rock and all the different sights Gobo and his friend see on their adventures, it really creates fantastic images. Plus your description of the feelings of Gobo on the adventures are marvelous, how adeptly you show that he wants to find the "gotta" voice inside him, but the scope of everything out there is a little too much for him right now. Thanks for sharing and I can't wait for the second part.
     
  3. mereii

    mereii New Member

    Thanks! I was pretty anxious about doing justice to Gobo's character, since he's in the show so little, so I'm glad you enjoyed what I've done so far!
     
    charlietheowl likes this.
  4. Slackbot

    Slackbot Well-Known Member

    I think you have a very good start here, and I lok forward to seeing what's around the next corner. Thanks for posting!
     


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