It had been seasons since most of them had seen the sun. For years, the MacFarlanders and the Parkerstoners had waged war while The First Decadian Simpsonites huddled in their cave, hoping the bloodshed would soon end.
All they could do was wait — wait and listen. Every Primetime hour, after the daring foragers returned with the day’s provisions, after they had fed and duffed, after the maggies were pacified, the Youngers would sit and the Oldest and Wisest of the Elders, Elderlisa, would tell stories of the past.
Her eyes were white and she could no longer see. She said it was because she had sat too close to the glowing screen as a child. The Youngers had never seen a glowing screen, but they knew she had seen it.
But before telling stories of the fool Homer or the trickster Bart or the wise Lisa for whom she had been named, she said, “Youngers, tell me. Why do they fight?”
The Youngers fidgeted. It must have been the High Holiday of Sweepsweek, if she was to recount history. None of them dared to speak: they knew this was a question she herself would answer.
“Not long after the Simpsonites, there appeared two deities in one, Parker-Stone. Perhaps the deities were brothers, perhaps lovers, perhaps just co-creators.” Parker-Stone had ruled from a stream called Cahmehdee and spoke plainly to the people, often in the avatar of several young boys. “They spoke of freedom and invisible hands,” The Elderlisa said, “and all who disagreed would be sentenced to death by public ridicule.” Their followers were fierce and loud and had once been abundant in villages called “forums”.
Then came the MacFarlanders. They were not as fierce as the Parkerstoners, nor did they have the strength of beliefs. What they did have, was their speed, their stamina, and their talent for distraction. One would lob a popular cultural artifact at a Parkerstoner, and the other would ambush him. “They were pillagers,” the Elderlisa said. “That has always been their strength: searching through the catacombs for anything they might use to delight and torment others.” On occasion they might change their strategy, chanting or screaming, or fight with a large fowl for several hours before returning to the front.
Some say they worshipped a large man named for a mythical ancient beast. Some spoke of a small vengeful maggie spirit who would one day grow to kill the large man and his red-haired consort. Others spoke of a creature from beyond the stars or a well-spoken man covered in white fur or of a wicked water-dweller. “This is not what matters to them,” Elderlisa said. “What matters is what they had done with what they pillaged, and the control they yield.”
“Now, why did this happen?” she said. “Why do they fight?”
The Youngers all looked to the youngest to answer, as was the custom.
“It was The Fox,” said the youngest, barely older than a maggie. “The Fox did it!”
The Elderlisa nodded. “He gave the MacFarlanders too much power.”
They continued in the Sweepsweek tradition. The Elderlisa spoke of Gray-ning, the Creator. She spoke of the benevolent many-faced Ullman, and of Conan, a man of immense size, who was led astray by a peacock. Castellaneta, who gave voice to the creatures. Cartwright, who was both a woman and a boy.
But as a Younger was reciting the names of the word-spirits (“Meyer, Swartz-weld-er, Cohen, Jean, Oakley…”), the youngest forager, his hair as fiery as the legendary Conan’s, burst through the entrance to the cave.
“Elders!” His eyes burned bright. “I have spoken with the Latter-Day Simpsonites. They want us to join them!”
All eyes went to the Elders. The Latter-Day Simpsonites were the First Decadian Simpsonites’ sworn flanders, idolators who had betrayed the creators with their worship of gueststars. On quiet days, the First Decadians could hear their cries of “Yvan eht Nioj!”
“We cannot,” said the Elderabe.
“But what other choice do we have?” Yelled the fiery-haired forager. “Join the Futuramanians?”
The Futuramanians were a small but devoted migratory clan. They were last heard to be living near the Parkerstoners’ channel, but it was rumored they had once again been forced off.
“There are rumors of other communities near the stream–” began the Elderabe, but the young forager interrupted him, “We are as good as dead without the LDS!”
The room erupted into shouts and screams. Some cried “it’s the only way!” while others yelled “blasphemy!” Duffs were thrown, Maggies wailed, all was chaos until the Elderlisa belched for attention. It was a blessing some said she had learned from Homer himself.
“Tell them… tell them they can…” the Elderlisa said. Suddenly, she reached out to steady herself. A stronger elder put his arm on hers, offered his strength, but she whispered “no.” She very slowly pulled herself up, and up more, and a murmur went through the crowd: they hadn’t known she was still able to stand on her own. What would she do? What would she say?
She puckered up her mouth, and she spit in the fiery-haired forager’s direction. Then she broke into a smile.
“Eat my shorts.”
(Special thanks to some Twitter people for inspiration. I believe @thesearesongs and @DeusExJuice were involved, but let me know if you were, too, so I can credit you.)