An excerpt from

Welcome to Earth

Miles Gibson

Extracts from The Book of Numbers:

First Impressions

The Earth is a small blue planet in a solar system governed by a yellow dwarf star. The Earth appears diminished from the surface of its moon, shrinks to the size of a sequin seen from the mountains of Mars, and beyond the shores of Neptune the Earth makes no impression at all.

The Two Kinds of Biscuit

1. Those most often eaten in anger, including the brazen Ginger Nut and the gaudy Brandy Snap, also the grumbling Garibaldi, the sinister Bourbon, the gritted Fig Roll, the anaemic Arrowroot and Petit Beurre; the Viennese Whirl and recalcitrant Wafer.

2. Those eaten more in sorrow, most especially the ominous Custard Cream and Raspberry Shortcake, the malevolent Malted Milk, the spiked Iced Gem and the cindery Oreo, also the pimpled Lincoln, the ghostly Peek Frean Marie and bumbling Petit Ecolier.

The Three Kinds of Pope

One: Those who can levitate
Two: Those who raise their skirts and dance before a mirror
Three: Those who dream of the circus

The Four Severities of Remorse

The First Strength: Called the Slight or Passing. Symptoms include yawning, sighing, flushing, fidgeting and foreboding.

The Second Strength: Called the Bumper or Grinder. Symptoms include sobbing, shrieking, palpitations, blurred vision, vertigo.

The Third Strength: Called the Cruel Vice, Iron Fist or Crippler. Symptoms may include hallucinations, demonic possessions, levitating, talking in tongues.

The Fourth Strength: Called the Widow-Maker or Night Butcher. Symptoms include manifestation of ectoplasm, insidious flatulence, spontaneous combustion, patricide in women, lactation in men.

from The Six Animal Kingdoms

The First Kingdom:
Those beasts with the ability to dream inhabit the first kingdom and they include the dog, the snail and the buffalo.

The Third Kingdom:
Those maddened by their own reflection belong to the third kingdom, including in particular the giraffe and the dromedary, the porcupine and the giant clam.

The Fifth Kingdom:
Animals that dread the future distinguish the fourth kingdom, especially the elk and the forest elephant, the walrus and the manatee.

The Nine Kinds of Shadow

One: Shadows that cling to ceilings
Two: Shadows that dance with one another
Three: Shadows that possess their own shadows
Four: Shadows that assume the shape of birds
Five: Shadows that glow in the dark
Six: Shadows that whisper to strangers
Seven: Shadows that stalk one another
Eight: Solitary shadows
Nine: Shadows with evil intentions

The Twelve Positions for Sexual Congress

One: The Churning Swan
Two: The Captive Saddle
Three: The Chattering Scissors
Four: The Devil’s Strappado
Five: The Pestle Surrenders
Six: The Quarrelsome Goldfish
Seven: The Cruel Postillion
Eight: The Hissing Cockroach
Nine: The Anvil’s Regret
Ten: The Insistent Blindfold
Eleven: The Rampant Windlass
Twelve: The Silken Executioner

Extracts from The Bestiary:

The Cuttlefish

Pity the three-hearted cuttlefish, that green-blooded privateer, knobbly as a scrotum, so shocked at the sight of her own appearance, that she fled, a fugitive from herself, a master of disguise, employing her eight tangled arms to assume the attitudes of rocks, corals and miscellaneous crustaceans.

The cuttlefish is a nervous creature, prone to blushing and weeping ink. Her bundles of black eggs are called sea grapes by those who eat them.

Aristotle was fond of cuttlefish.

The Pig

The pig has been told of her fate and confidently broadcasts her many elegant plans of escape. There is no cause for alarm. She is fearless, a prize fighter, a blonde behemoth. When the moment arrives she’ll be prepared to evade the blade.

But something always seems to happen. Time after time. Swine after swine. Generation after generation. There are too many distractions. The sweet smell of fermenting apples. Acorns. Truffles. Yams. Potatoes. She grunts and shovels the earth in excitement, her buttocks twitch like a wanton matron. And so it continues. The days of feasting. The night of knives.

Extract from The Anatomy of Man:

The Kidneys

1. At the rear of the Abdomen, beneath the ribcage, within the embracing paravertebral gutter, dwell the two Kidneys, twin beans, rulers of the Phlegmatic Temper, each roughly the size of a clenched fist.

5. The diarist Samuel Pepys, upon his death, was found to have harboured a nest of seven stones in his left kidney, which had caused him great discomfort. It is honestly reported that the master surgeon, Thomas Hollier, had earlier in the patient’s life, removed a stone from his bladder the size of a tennis ball.

6. Stones are said to generate dark and violent Humours in those afflicted. Caesar Augustus, the Roman Emperor, suffered great torment from the movement of his stones. Herod the Great, son of Antipater the Idimaean, ruler of Judea, was crippled by crystals obstructing his kidneys, Peter the Great of All the Russias was enraged by them and Napoleon’s kidneys - having filled with gravel - eventually poisoned him.

Extract from The Taxonomy:

7. The Bathroom

A spate of razors
A ditty-box of bandages
A dawdle of soaps
A flight of toothbrushes
A parliament of combs
A stupor of towels
A cupidity of gargles
An upstart of shaving brushes
A lechery of mirrors
A rumpus of hair pins
A protestation of pomades

Extract from The Miscellanies:

from The Interpretation of Dreams

Dreams containing lame beggars, cockroaches, comets, blizzards, concubines, beehives, famine, drowning, hunting, flying machines and suffocating:

A palace official is plotting against you

Dreams containing jugglers, fire-eaters, skeletons, mermaids, porpoises, flails, nails, strapados, velvet gloves, elephant cavalry, musicians and wolf hounds:

You will be robbed by ruffians

Dreams containing graveyards, goldfish, porcupines, pantry-boys, flies, pin cushions, pike, dung, church bells and Belgian lace:

You must guard against poison

Dreams containing pepper, pearls, knife grinders, organ grinders, vagabonds, mechanical birds, serpents, silk ribbons and starfish:

Mean nothing

Extract from The Book of Numbers:

from The Twelve Signs of the Zodiac

Luctator - 20th January - 18th February.
The sign of the Wrestler. Ruler: the large intestine. Element: soot. Birthstone: alexandrite. Colour: nankeen. Personality: exasperation. Strength: the ability to play the trumpet. Weakness: dread of casement windows. Those born under the influence: Jacques Prevert, Claes Oldenburg, Francois Rabelais, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Jules Verne, Lewis Carroll, Kim Jong-il, Pol Pot, William Henry Harrison, ninth president of the United States.

Cocodilus - 23rd October - 21st November.
The sign of the Crocodile. Ruler: the oesophagus. Element: salt. Birthstone: obsidian. Colour: deep grey. Personality: hyperventilation. Strength: the gift of talking with statues. Weakness: paranoia. Those born under the influence: Roy Rogers, Pablo Picasso, Joseph Goebbels, Leon Trotsky.