DARIA AND THE FALL OF ASGARD
By Atomius August 2007
Part One- The Decision
''And now, let us commence this meeting of the gods from all corners of our dimension'' spoke the voice of the speaker of the assembly. Mutters were spoken by those assembled that sounded somewhat like ''Eh''. The assembled sat with the sound of a thousand bodies hitting the wooden chairs and slumping, seemingly without a care. The speaker seemed the only one who appreciated the significance of the event. ''Deities, Asgardians, Countrymen... It is with great pleasure that i bring into session the one hundred and fourtieth grand meeting of the gods and goddesses of our dimension. And now, if you will, Jupiter, the first topic for discussion'' Jupiter arose from his seat and leant against the timber wall which surrounded the inner area, at the bottom level of a hundred or so similar benchrows which encircled the arena like room. Jupiter, in his usual wise but sometimes quick acting manner, spoke ''Thank you speaker. The first topic for debate is the inhabitants of the middle dimension- er, i mean Midgard... ahem... yes, the topic in question is whether we should punish them accordingly for their wicked deeds and decadent acts. All those in favour?'' A well heard jeer arose from the assemblage. Shouts of ''Ha! Go back to your times!'' and laughter was easily discernable to Jupiters ear and he sat, humiliated for not the first time since the 'glory days'. The speaker, gathering together some papers with what seemed unnatural enthusiasm, provoked by his desire for a quick session and lunch and also his hatred of Jupiter, having been punished unfairly by him, or so he thought, some time ago, stood and adressed the gathered once more. ''Very good. Odin, since Jupiter seems wishing for a rest, i shall put to you the honour of calling for a vote'' ''As you wish'' said Odin, not standing up but merely looking at his fingernails, dirtied and worn, and then whistling a tune rather loudly. Yet another cheer arose and the speaker realised the rebellious young gods and goddesses were against continuing a conservative system of debate, so, being one who 'goes with the flow', he adressed yet again the crowd, this time not bothering to stand. ''Very well. As speaker i think it fit we should make some changes to the system. It appears the old rulers are getting tired and are in need of rest. All those in favour of a election say 'I''' ''I'' came row upon row of seated deities, all seemingly in perfectly unwavering agreement as to this choice. ''Very well, let it be so. Jupiter, Odin- remove yourselves to the backbench with the other old-timers'' This did not please Jupiter nor Odin and they looked at one another from either side of the room and nodded. In an instant, in a flash of light, in what seemed like a bolt of lightning yet what also appeared to fill the chamber, a great crash, a great explosion, but unlike anything ever witnessed before. Clearly the two old rulers felt upset. What with Thor's retirement last year and the rebellious young gods and their ideas of a 'democratic' leadership of Midgard, they had had enough. After a while the dust cleared, the smoke had vanished. The particles set upon the benches and the chamber floor was covered in a layer of sootlike debris. No god or goddess was present. But what had become of them? especially of Odin and Jupiter? This shall be explained.
Part Two-An Odd Encounter
''That's the fourth time this month the price of coffee has risen! I demand to speak to whoever is in charge'' said a respectable sounding voice. Daria and Jane turned their heads to the angry customer. He had been demanding for some time now. ''I want to see the manager! I want to see the manager by television!'' Just as the angered man was looking like he would gladly pick up a chair and throw it hurtling through the glass window of the coffee house a staff member arrived to see what the commotion was about. ''Now look here sir, we don't want no trouble from- Mr Jargel? But... what are you doing shouting in such a vulgar way?'' Jargel didn't seem to hear this. ''You look here you scurvy vile insect! I want to know why the prices have risen. Last week coffee was a dollar twenty five cents. This week it's a dollar thirty! Am i to take it you haven't noticed this gross outrage?'' The waiter sighed and led the complainer within. Jane turned to Daria and said, holding her own coffee, ''Well, it's like a scene from a soap opera!'' Daria agreed, ''I suppose he'll end up having a fine row and then he'll go to prison for an hour then return and have a fine row and then he'll go to prison for an hour and then he'll have a fine row'' ''Perhaps he has a point though. Don't you think the prices are on the high side?'' said Jane, gazing over her shoulder at the price list, a fresh glossy poster on the glass window to the house. ''Perhaps. But after all, there's no use complaining. He'll just waste time doing that. After all, if he wants cheap coffee he could always make it himself. It's a dollar for a pound at the grocers'' said Daria. ''Well you're right... but still... i can't help thinking we're just numbers to the manufacturers... they could at least acknowledge our purchase in some manner to reassure us we're buying at the right caf'e'' said Jane. Daria drank some coffee and said ''Oh, they do that allright. Look, the cup even has a logo on it that brightens our days with it's colourful design. Now if that aint acknowledging our purchase i don't know what is'' At that moment normality began to change. The complaining customer was taken outside, his clothes stained with coffee, and he went on his way muttering foul words under his breath. At the same moment a new customer was entering the house. He appeared rather different to the usual populace of Boston in that he wore rather old fashioned clothes. His clothes were reminiscent of something from the eighteenth century and his hair was combed in an equally old fashioned manner, though lacking the wig generally attributed and associated with the aforesaid era. He came out with several biscuits in a brown paper bag and a styrofoam cup of steaming drink and, passing the girls, stopped and turned to face them. It was then Daria noticed his teeth as he smiled and said ''Good day''. They were crooked and partially blackened. As if his hygiene lagged behind that of the modern American. His boots were stained with what appeared centuries old markings and several of his buttons were reminiscent of a different age altogether. ''Fine weather we're having. That strong breeze should help on the voyage, shouldn't it?'' he said. To this Jane replied ''Yes, good weather. Are you a sailor?'' The man laughed and said, coming closer to the girls, ''Nay, but i travel with such men as ye speak. Listen- i don't know whether this be intrusive or not, but have ye ever considered travelling?'' Daria looked sideways at Jane. There was certainly an air of mystery and suspicion about this odd fellow. Jane spoke ''Well not personally. Er, neither has my friend here. But we are attending the college'' ''Oh, yonder institution 'pon the horizon?'' asked the man to which Jane nodded. The man's smile widened. ''Aye, i have heard of the excellent work carried out there and the miraculous and marvellous feats therein carried out by the men of science'' ''Then you really are from another era'' said Daria. The man turned to her and said ''Oh, ye've noticed that 'bout me have ye? I realise my apperance harks back a touch but no doubt ye've read some scientific manuscript that explains... ah... you've not experienced time travel yet have ye?'' Jane smiled and said ''No, but i was planning to'' To this the man nodded knowingly and said ''Aye, i thought you were one who looked rather primitive for that sorta endeavour, such a mighty task to travel in time. And of course it be impossible for your sort to do such'' ''Who do you define as our sort?'' inquired a curious Daria. ''Oh, y'know, your time... the moderners. The... listen i must be boring you. Will ye join me on my voyage to t'east or not?'' ''We'd love to but we must do our college duties'' said Jane. ''Aye, i reckoned as much. Well, fare ye well good Americans'' said the man, who went on his merry way down the street towards the port. ''Fare ye well?'' mouthed Jane to Daria who shrugged.
Part Three-An Investigation
Two days after this strange encounter Daria and Jane found themselves once again in the company of the stranger. It was a rather cold day and a light snow had begun to fall across the city. Ships were lined up at the docks and one of them, it was obvious, has out of place. The two, having the memory of the stranger still fresh within their minds, set about finding out more about the curious fellow, for there was nothing much else to do, for it was a Sunday. The vessel appeared of the old fashioned variety, of wood and with sails and masts rather than a motorized engine. It had no name written on it, which was surprising. It had two masts, with a total of six sails, three per each mast. It's bow was rather newer looking, as though it had been replaced lately, and a few rather out of place modern devices were visible, such as what appeared to be a satellite dish on the roof of the bridge. Apart from this bridge, more of a canvas covered platform raised above the main deck level, it appeared all other rooms were below deck. The two stood staring at the ship in wonder for some time. Doubtless one of it's occupiers was the odd chap they had chanced to meet previously. After a while a figure appeared from below deck and waved to them, before coming to the dock and greeting them. It was indeed the odd chap. ''Hello. Why if it isn't those charming ladies i met what was it... two or so days ago. well, have you changed your minds about joining me on my voyage then? I do hope ye have'' he said hopefully. Jane spoke ''No, we've come to find out more about you and your vessel. It interest us, we wish to know a little of it's purpose and of you and your crew and theirs'' To this the man smiled and jumped down the plank with an air of agility. He said ''Ah, i see. Well my crew does not exist'' ''You mean it is a motorized vessel?'' asked Jane, curious. ''Nay'' said the man, ''but i need not the help of others in it's operations. For you see, my vessel is a very fine ship. She has qualities ye'll nay find 'pon others. Come aboard and i'll show ye'' The girls followed the strange man into the old ship, curious to see more of it and it's bowels and workings. How could one man sail a two masted ship that looked like it hailed from the seventeenth century? They climbed down the ladder into the dark depths of the ship's cabins. They found themselves in a dimly lit chamber which filled all but one cabin of that level. It appeared to be a combined mess hall and sleeping area, with an entertainment table with a packet of cards and an oil lamp, giving the dim light. ''This'' said the man, ''is my own private cabin. It contains a desk and such things as i need, i but i warn you, do not enter, for it contains many a secret not for the eyes of such as you'' Jane said ''You mean we aren't allowed in there? What are you hiding?'' The man said ''Just important workings of the vessel. Without that cabin it would require a crew of at least te! n men to sail. Now... this is my card table. Note the brilliant colour of the aged mahogany. This was a gift from my old friend Odin... now-'' ''Did you say Odin?'' asked Daria. ''Yes, an old friend. Now-'' said the man, but Daria interrupted ''You mean the norse god Odin?'' The man seemed a little frustrated and said ''Er... an old friend. Now. If you don't mind, i'll show you the lower quarters. That's where provisions and ballast is kept. You'll note the provisions include replica powder and shot'' ''Why, is this a museum ship?'' inquired Daria. ''No, because... Oh, allright, it's real- i have a passion for old weaponry. Now, down here...'' Daria felt a sudden chill and wished she had brought a coat. Jane felt a similar chill, though her legs were covered unlike Daria's. The man showed them the various lockers for storage and they noted the old jars and casks. ''That'n's full of rum. Finest grog ever made. But i wouldn't drink a teaspoon with ladies such as you aboard'' sai! d the man. To this Jane said ''Oh, we aren't staying aboard. Didn't we tell you we were just having a look?'' The man seemed slightly annoyed, though not angry, and said ''Er... quite. Now... ah, this is the one cabin i haven't shown you. It's actually where i keep my journal. I have written quite a long one, i should get one of those computers you have now'' This statement locked it in. He had to be mad, thought Daria. 'You have now' certainly didn't sound that modern. And his age wasn't that much either, probably less than thirty. ''Well that was a fine tour, but we must go. I've got a sculpture to make'' said Jane. Daria joined in with ''Yes, we must go or we'll be late for our favourite game show'' ''Well, which is it?'' asked the man. He obviously sensed they were lying. ''Do you think me a suspicious stranger who is to rob thee of your purse? For that is not my intention. I am just a lonely traveller who wishes for some company. If you wish not to join me, that is completely your choi- Oh my! What was that?'' Just then a horn had sounded. The man, seeming quite worried, ran up the ladder muttering curses that sounded very old. The two girls followed, eager to find out more about this curious man, and, at the same time, rather wishing to be in a more open, safe place whilst in his strange company. But this sudden horn sound had stirred up a spirit of intrigue within the girls, and before they knew it they had forgotten their wary thoughts and felt rather more afraid of a rather more imminent danger. It appeared the ship had somehow loosened from it's bonds and drifted from the docks by a kilometre or so. Another ship, a cruise vessel of considerable size and strength, was racing fast towards them at many knots. The man hurriedly went back down the stairs, and this time the girls followed unaffected by fear of the man, this time they felt that their lives were in his hands. The man ran to his private cabin, found a key in one of his pockets and quickly opened the lock, muttering more ancient curses as he did. Inside was something incredible. It appeared like some sort of projected map, yet when the girls turned their heads they saw no projector as they suspected. It was just sitting perfectly still on the wall. The map was lit like a electric image and showed active objects such as ships, including the one charging for the one they were in. The man was quickly making some kind of frantic adjustments to some kind of machine for controlling the vessel and the girls turned to this machine in awe. it had various dials and buttons and switches, but seemed entirely without a connection to anything, resting on four wooden legs. The only thing they noticed as the ship moved, according to the map, was a mild glow in the wooden legs of the machine/table. No sound of an engine was heard, instead the billowing of wind filled sails was heard, with flapping every now and then like a fierce gale was upon them. Yet, with curiosity, both, seeing the imminent threat had passed and had been averted by the man, climbed back on deck and looked on in wonder. The sails were filled with wind yet around them everything was as still as it had been. A light snow was even alling, unaffected by the wind. This extraordinary phenomenom provoked a certain madness, a certain rebellious lack of rationality, within Jane. As the man came back on deck she began asking questions to which he would answer with rather surprisingly straightforward yet seemingly impossible answers such as 'by magic of course' and 'cos the great Osiris made it possible in 300 B.C'. Meanwhile, miss Morgendorffer felt rather let down by science. yet at the same time there was that feeling of discovery, of exploration, of experimentation, that need to find out and to answer, that had filled the minds of so many Victorians in their eager search for new ideas and inventions.
Daria did not join in the quickfired questioning but certainl! y listened to the impossible, unexplainable answers with some amount of attention. Just as Daria felt it would be time for her to ask some more constructive questions Jane asked ''By the way, mister, you haven't told us your name yet?'' ''Hmm?'' ''Well, what is your name? Mines Jane by the way and this is Daria'' ''Oh, mine's... Captain Nosrepnommoc''
Part Four-The Voyage
Captain Nosrepnommoc was very glad to hear the girls had decided to join him on his voyage. When, after a week, they were seated at the card table, which appeared also to be a dining table, having dinner (biscuits, cheese sandwhiches and cola), Jane asked the man ''Where do you come from, Captain Nosrepnommoc? What land are you from?'' Captain Nosrepnommoc sighed as if beginning some deep reminiscence but then said rather alertly ''I come from Asgard. It's a nice little place that don't exist nay more'' ''Why, what happened?'' asked Jane. ''Well'' said the man, taking a bottle of rum from a pocket and drinking it whole (though after it was perfectly full), ''it all began- nay that's too clich'e... it all started... it began with a rebellion. You see, for thousands of years the Asgardians, in their various guises, alter egos and groups, have rules without a falter. Our system was thought indestructible. We never considered one, or more, of our own could be responsible for it'! s downfall. Our internal bickering was welcomed so long as it led to a decision. Unfortunately, for a few hundred years now, there has been an underground, and lately not so underground, movement against the old order. The one thousand and third order to be precise. we had ruled since ancient times in your calendar. The human form gods, the personified ones, are but the tip of an impossibly old timeline that stretches back many trillions of years before your dimension was created. You see we achieve form based on requirement. All gods can assume any shape, and we assume human form to interact and try to incourage and punish those beneath us, those at our mercy. The Asgardian human gods had been the most successful, if not the longest running, order in our history. It began with the ascension of Osiris, our first king, who ruled until his death four hundred years ago. Then Jupiter and Odin split our government into a two party system. That's when chaos began to reign. You see, without a single, unified, order behind us, we began to fragment. Decisions began to take more time, we let down our guard. Meanwhile on Earth, ironically, things were progressing alarmingly. You invented... well you'd know about that... skscrapers, automobiles, what have ye... a rebellious youth movement formed during the formation of the two party system and has since taken over Asgard's loyalty with the exception of us older gods. Oh, yes, i may look young to ye, but i happen to be excactly five billion.'' ''Happy birthday'' said Daria with a smile. ''-yes, indeed. An odd coincidence. Well, technically we weren't born as such we were created by an interdimensional timespace falt spark. Terrible, really. we're the creations of imperfections in perfection. Well anyway, but a few days ago things came to a climax. During a rather loud meeting, attended by but four of us old time gods, most having died in underground killings by the youth movement, Jupter and Odin decided enough was enough. If Asgard was to be ruled badly it would not be ruled at all, or exist. The entire dimension was imploded. Or at least i think it was, because i can't return. i haven't seen any of my fellow four old timers, or the young gods... and i've lost much of my power. Still, at least i do survive. That's like saying it's good my malfunctioning computer can still process a text game. It just doesn't work nowadays to be so weak.'' ''So... you're stuck in your ship then? With what little magic or whatever you have left?'' asked Jane. ''Yes. It's not magic, Jane. Magic is the unexplainable or impossible, that can not exist. In Asgard what you deem magic is possible, so to us it is perfectly plausible science. So, using our portal we can override your physical laws'' ''I wish i had that power when i was doing my math at school'' said Jane. ''Well, anyway, i must go to bed. Good night. Ah, i sleep in my cabin you see. Safe, in case of a similar event as this morning was had. Tommorow we shall set sail for a group of islands i know well.'' ''Did you spend time there?'' asked Jane. ''I created them''
Part Five-The Islands
''Captain Nosrepnommoc'' said Daria, in the doorway to his private cabin. ''That's me name, don't wear it out... unless you're writing me cheques'' said Captain Nosrepnommoc with a smile before turning back to his odd contraption that somehow controlled the boats movements. ''Me and Jane had a talk... and we want to know what you're planning to do with us once we've left the islands'' said Daria. Captain Nosrepnommoc thought for a moment then said ''How would i know miss Morgendorffer? Is it really my domain of knowledge?'' ''It is if you miraculously guessed my last name which i never told you'' said a smiling Daria. ''Ah'' said Captain Nosrepnommoc, ''yes... about that. Well you see us Asgardians know a lot as you'd guess... and... to be perfectly honest the ship itself does too. She's a beaut, this old vessel.'' ''Are you trying to tell me the ship thinks?'' asked Daria, readying herself for a further shock. ''No, not excactly. It's like a computer with a personality. It calculates but it... it... well you could say it doesn't think as much as it talks. Talks using it's actions. Like any device. You just have to listen to it's vibrations and you'll know what's best for it'' ''I see. So, about after the island?'' 'Oh. Well of course you'll be free to leave anytime'' ''In the middle of the ocean?'' ''Er... yes.'' The next day they arrived within eyesight of the group of islands. Daria again, leaning next to Captain Nosrepnommoc on the deck fence, asked a question she knew would be difficult for a non-god to answer. ''How excactly do you explain using your magic to create everything on Earth whilst we've proven it doesn't exist with our science? It puzzles me more than anything ever has. If i'd never met you i would have dismissed it as pure rubbish talk'' ''Well it's complex but i'll try to explain'' said Captain Nosrepnommoc with a 'this is gunna take some time' expression before saying ''Well, try to imagine the two dimensions of Asgard and let's call yours Earth. Now, Asgard's physical laws allow for magic, as you call it, and your Earth's doesn't. Now because that makes our dimension in a way stronger than yours, more malleable, and more ruthless i guess being the term, it means if we can get hold of a portal to your dimension we can overpower it. Do you understand?'' ''Perfectly'' ''Well we did get a portal to Earth and so were able to change things how we wishes, creating a planet for our people. Now before you ask me 'why not build a planet in your own dimension because magic is available there?' let me tell you this. In our dimension if we created a planet of beings, those beings would have the same magic at their disposal as we do, creating a conflict of interest on a monumental scale. Well, because of this, it was decided to create a dimension where it's physical laws were somewhat harsher. You must understand the gods of the time creating your dimension were not us, the so called human gods, for many o! f my order would assume human shape for communication purposes. The gods that created your dimension were called the terrible gods, for they were known for their terrible rule... anyway, wen us human gods assumed power we decided to continue this dimension. There are other dimensions of course, billions of them. Yet for some reason the gods take a liking to a world where hardly anything is possible without magic and magic doesn't exist. Of course by magic i mean extrascientific within the confines of your dimension, for in ours it is pure science. You understand so far?'' ''I do, go on Captain Nosrepnommoc'' ''Well, the way we manage to change things is now clear, as to how we cover up our presence, well, because we come from another dimension and alter yours by way of our portal, we change things without a... signature as such attatched. Therefore you won't have noticed anything. Because instead of changing one object, a few objects or indeed one nation, we change the whole dimension. This means if you were alive and walked past a brick wall one day and the next we had changed it to a stone wall, you would, because we had changed spacetime as you call it, believe it had always been there, which indeed it had! For we use the equilibrium method of change. We must change everything just a slight when we change something to avoid a breakdown or upset to your physical laws. Otherwise the two dimensions would mix and catastrophic events could be had by all. As you see before you, i am the last known survivor of a great explosion created by Odin and Jupiter. I am testament to the destructive nature of our powers if we choose not to change equilibrium but rather a single sector. For that is what they did, miss Morgendorffer. They chose, out of sheer anger of the rebellion, to change but the area within sight of the explosion, thus, because the whole dimension's spacetime was not altered, we still had existed. Therefore when we were destroyed by the magic explosion, extrascientific to you, and the entire dimension too, the portal between our dimensions collapsed, and all those around it went through it. Now i must be lucky, in some ironic way, to have survived, for i came down to Earth safely and without a scratch, even with some of my magic attatched. As you can see, however pathetic my magic is-'' Captain Nosrepnommoc lit a cigar by blowing on it-'' it stll alters everything with whatever small thing i do. So when i make a mountain, a whole history is created to explain this, merging and acceptably conforming to the rest of your history. Do you understand now, my dear miss Morgendorffer?'' ''Perfectly. It'll be time to land soon, won't it?'' ''Aye, that it will''
Part Six-Captain Nosrepnommoc goes Missing
After spending three days on one of the islands, Captain Nosrepnommoc informed the girls he would be going on an expedition to the other side of the five or so kilometre wide isle. They bade him fare well and he left with a gun, some powder and shot, apparently to entertain himself shooting some fowl bird. After a whole day had passed and Captain Nosrepnommoc had not returned, the girls began to consider what might have happened to him. Making their minds up to go to the other side of the island and find him, they set off with the provisions granted them by Captain Nosrepnommoc when they arrived, ten daysworth of food and such. ''Hey Daria... do you think Nosrepnommoc survived?'' asked Jane as they punched their way through some thick growth. ''I don't know. How should I?'' said Daria. They came at last to an escarpment overlooking a small crater which had, since the time of impact, become
filled with bushes and trees, and at the bottom a lake had formed. The girls descended the cliff by way of a barely visible rabbit or such beast's path, until they had come to the lake at the centre of the crater. It was full of muddy water and reeds grew. The flowers atop lillies were bright and if this wasn't an expedition to find a lost person it would have been a picture postcard scene from some tropical resort advertisement. They called for Captain Nosrepnommoc with loud voices, knowing the island was not a social place so quiet talking was not neccessary. Finally Daria, after hearing something move in the bushes before her, entered the cluster and said ''Jane, i think you'd better see this''. Jane came forth and opened her mouth. There, strewn like a rug over the grass beneath the cluster of bushes, was a layer of some jelly looking substance, boiling and bubbling most ferociously. ''What is it? A geyser?'' asked Jane. ''I know of no geysers that emit orange and purple coloured jelly, Jane. That's got to be magic, some leftover from some odd task Captain Nosrepnommoc did. It glows such as only magic could, it looks such as could not have it's origins on our planet... where is Captain Nosrepnommoc?'' They searched for hours but to no avail. They searched the shore near the crater, though this was but cliffs and so after a while they gave up hope there. It seemed the Captain had vanished altogether. ''This is absurd. A person can't dissapear into- Oh, of course... the magic... Daria... do you think... well, when he said all sitting about the bench where pulled through the portal... and only he survived it well... do you think perhaps... they all came to Earth? I mean where else would they go if the portal went here? Even with the portal explosion... i reckon Captain Nosrepnommoc suffered the same fate the other gods did. Why would but a small amount of his magic have survived and none of the other gods? I think we'll never know why he survived for longer but... i reckon they all died like him'' Daria then spoke ''Yes, that's possible. Maybe that odd jelly... maybe that has something to do with his dissapearance'' They went back to where the jelly was lying under the bushes but found nothing but burnt grass and a horrible odourous gas cloud floating about. ''Do you reckon that was Captain Nosrepnommoc?'' asked Jane. Daria seemed not to know but then said ''Pehaps it was what he turned into. Perhaps, as you suggested, that is the fate of all the dead gods and goddesses of Asgard. Perhaps we'll never know what happened to him''
The college students all went to their dormitory rooms when darkness descended upon Boston. Daria and Jane stayed up together talking about various things, and, after some while, they came to the subject of Captain Nosrepnommoc. ''Daria... do you think Asgard was destroyed with Jupiter and Odin's explosion? I mean... what Nosrepnomoc said about it not affecting all of his dimension... do you think perhaps it was just the gods and the portal which didn't survive?'' ''Perhaps, Jane. We shall never know. If Asgard did survive then there'll be new gods. And i don't want to know what plans they have in store for us pathetic Earthlings'' ''You're right, Daria. Let's go to the coffee house. I hear they've finally lowered the price, so we'd better go early or it'll be crowded''