On a cool and still night at UCSB, the Gnome Studies department located in a little closet office at Gervitz Hall, hatched a plan to relocate to the large and spacious Campbell building. Earlier that day, the gnome community concluded that if left quarantined to their tiny and insignificant stairwell hovel, they would all go mad. To the typical human passerby, the difference between the sane gnome and the insane gnome, is of no regard, but for the gnomes, the difference is of the utmost significance. The mad gnome loses all pleasurable sensations and all happiness gained from drinking the multitudes of liquors and wines they intake daily. The entirety of gnomish culture revolves around alcohol, to not drink is blasphemy. It is no mere coincidence the gnomes chose UCSB to begin their department. The last gnome who went mad, Elgor Downwell (Rest in Peace), drowned in a chalice of Tito’s trying to regain any semblance of that special gnome delight.
(Side Note: To learn more about the phenomena, register for GME 137: Gnomish Idiosyncrasies: Cultures of Depression and Madness.)
On the night of planning their relocation, the heads of Gnome Studies sat around a hand-crafted oak conference table, at least three feet in length. The table was littered with charcuterie and various types of aqua vitae. From largest beard to smallest, those at the table were Grimble Thimble, Telerokus, Javelin Jones, Quotidious, and Dave — Dave being the only human in the department and liaison to the non-gnome world. The heads decided that they must strike quickly in order to take Campbell. Gnomes aren’t known for their fortitude in combat, and their rotund stature, short legs, and long beards dampen their agility. They could easily be overtaken by the adroit raccoon, the gnome’s sworn enemy, going back to the time of the first kingdoms, when the trickster raccoon king, Taflan, pissed into the crystal goblet of the beloved gnome leader, Alan. They have reason to believe a raccoon conquest of Campbell is imminent, as the raccoons have always complained that they lack official university respect, and may use Campbell as a symbol of the power they wield. The raccoons have advantage in this race, as their base of operations is between the gnomes and Campbell. The gnomes must also worry about their own race against time, as the department heads had witnessed the stress of quarantine seeping into their community, They know their people won’t survive the long campaign needed to circumvent the raccoons. The quickest way to reach Campbell is to go straight through the raccoon base. The gnomes must move at day, when the raccoons lay to rest, and hopefully sneak past undetected.
The Gnome Studies department packed lightly and efficiently for their mission, only bringing bottles with the highest alcohol content-to-liquid millilitre ratio. To be honest, the gnomes had an easy time packing as the department doesn’t have many things. This appears to be the only benefit from being the most underfunded department on campus. In the morning, one by one, they exited their little closet door, climbing down the staircase and making loud thuds with each stair-step they clambered down. Bottles clanked on their backs and beards dragged along the ground, though most of the women had the good sense to tie up their beards before the journey. In the dark of the night, they looked much like raccoons themselves, dressed in black hoods and cloaks, stooping low to the ground with their little hands and feet, driven by the desire to have a good drink. Not to say, some of the gnomes weren’t drunk already. Those driven by paranoia, who believed they could feel the madness forming, drank an absurd amount the night before, fearing their drinking pleasure would soon come to an unpleasant end. Dave fell in rank with the rest of the paranoid gnomes, claiming he could feel madness setting in, despite being human. Some say that he was merely pretending to be mad, in order to further assimilate into gnome culture, but others like to think that Dave understands gnomes so fully that their culture has deeply affected his nature.
The gnomes exited Gervitz, left the Arbor, and then journeyed through that random patch of dirt in front of the mountainside part of the library. While traversing the dry area, the gnomes witnessed a strange vision. Maybe it was dehydration setting in from the barren landscape — which, even on this opulent campus, felt the equivalent of the vast Sahara to the gnomes. Maybe it was general madness, a bad trip, a mirage, the pattering of feet going “click-cluck-click-cluck” rang incessantly through their heads, but what it all meant they ultimately could not understand. The mad gnomes saw the vision with greater detail, their drunkenness made it easy for them to see many things at once, and this mirage felt multiple and singular, two faces in one. This vision did nothing other than walk slowly through the dirt desert, with what seemed like echoes behind its misty frame. Whatever the image was, it seemed passive, as if its presence were simply passing through without purpose. The drunk gnomes could relate.
At 9:00 A.M, the gnomes reached the central raccoon force as they lay asleep in the high hollows of trees, “their grubby hands dangling from the branches,” chided Dave, hoping to impress his department. Most of the gnomes shook their heads, though he got a few nods from some of further gone gnomes in the mad bunch. One of the department heads, Quotidious, was elected to lead the charge into raccoon territory. Quotidious was the everyman gnome, who all could relate. Quotidious was also the everyday gnome, lacking any distinction and leadership skills, a deadly trait for a military leader.
The Battle of the Raccoon Tree (2020) was quick and brutal. The gnomes began with a stealth operation, lightly brushing through the grass in hopes of sneaking past the tree and avoiding battle all together. However, due to Quotidious’s inability to manage his troops, the mad gnomes began singing a glorious adventure song, which to the sober ear, sounded like a mishmash of syllables and spittle. At first, the raccoons could not hear their mad ruckus, but once Dave joined in, his booming lungs rudely woke the whole raccoon tree. With surprise still on their side, the gnomes sprinted toward Campbell Hall. Although initially caught off-guard, the raccoons ultimately had the high ground and leapt from their trees, onto gnome heads. Dave sacrificed himself to shield the department from the raccoon launchers, while other casualties were the result of beard tripping and alcohol poisoning. In the end, the gnomes suffered 13 casualties (5 dead, 8 with booboos).
The gnomes reached Campbell and settled in their new and grand housing, and to honor the lives of those lost in the campaign, a sad party was thrown in their honor and a song composed for Dave:
Dave pretended to gnome a lot
Dave began the air assault
Dave gave the raccoons halt
Dave in you, a gnome you’ve got
(Side Note: It was later discovered that Dave was part gnome. A descendant from the first gnome ruler, Alan.)