Hippopotholemess sits in the ambiguous territory between bestial deity and mythical beast. In the celestial pecking order they rank somewhere between Gods and Gremlins.
Many historians will try to tell you that the Romans never really made it into Scotland. They are not quite correct. The Romans made one ill-fated attempt to build a road across Scotland. They selected a typically straight route from east to west coast. During the construction, some poor hapless civil engineer disturbed the rest of a great primordial snake lying dormant beneath the green glen floor. Hippopotholemess awoke, and thrashed in ire. Destroying the engineer, the foundations of the road and the Legio IX Hispania. The writhing also gouged out great cavities in the earth which were filled by the ample rains to form a line of lochs. Then the great dragon sank beneath the waters and vowed eternal vengeance on all road makers everywhere.
When all was still once more, the terrified locals crept out to survey the destruction. Lost for words, they could only exclaim “Och! Mess!” Over time this became corrupted to the present day Loch Ness. Loch Ness is, in truth, the largest, longest, deepest and oldest pot hole of all, and Hippopotholemess is today known by a corruption of their original nick name “Messy”.
In pursuit of their vendetta against road builders, Hippopotholemess began to reproduce asexually. Dividing again and again to produce trillions of identical clones. Each one journeyed out to find its own spot under a busy carriageway somewhere. Here they burrow around and around as they grow and divide, until the road surface above collapses. Then the Hippopotholemess are released to move on to another spot. With the right climate conditions exponential reproduction could occur. Soon all the Ancient Britons were left with was some dangerous stretches of road surface between the abyssal deeps. Some think that the Romans left Britain as a result of rebellion and the actions of Constantine III. In fact they just couldn’t keep up with the repairs. As the occupation receded, the scourge of Hippopotholemess spread into mainland Europe and beyond.
Hippopotholemess is still very much with us today. Perhaps more so than ever. Whilst most sects associated with a deity praise, laud and promote their god, the only official cult associated with Hippopotholemess seeks to either bind or destroy them. The priest hood of the “Via Imperium Propellente” are very important priests. They watch over the highways and seek to thwart Hippopotholemess at every turn of their coils. They may be the only directly government funded religious order. Sadly, they number too few and are woefully ill equipped with just a rusty shovel and a bucket of tepid asphalt between them. The sigil of the Via Imperium Propellente is a black silhouette of a man opening an umbrella on a white back ground, framed by a red triangle. They always erect a sign baring this sacred sigil when they are out and about in the community undertaking their holy works. The priesthood can be recognised by their fluorescent orange weatherproof robes and cranial protection birettas.
A ritual to neutralise a Hippopotholemess goes as follows;
– On arrival at the site where a Hippopotholemess has been discovered, the first priest to arrive will bless the earth by scattering many blessed orange and white plastic cones all around the area.
– Then he or she will erect metal signs baring ancient spells to bind the wyrm. These are written in mysterious arcane tongues, such as “When thee reed lyte shineth, tarry herre”, “Clausit Viam” and “Die Version”.
– The senior priest will then arrive to ignite the sacred lamps at the north and south sides of the circle. Each of these lamps contains a red candle, an amber candle and a green candle. The lamps contain an automatic shutter mechanism to reveal the colours in turn. (This mechanism usually breaks down – so no change there then).
– Next the protective inner circle is cast to bind Hippopotholemess. This is done by erecting yellow plastic barriers which are specially designed to fall down at the first breath of wind.
– At the climax of the rite all the priests present will form a circle, leaning on the barriers. They will watch one lone priest attempt to dig out and destroy the serpent within. There various methods employed, but the most common is to give the beast a neuralgia with a numinous pneumatic drill before digging it out and drowning it with bitumen.
– The hole is then filled and lightly patted down with the rusty shovel.
– When the priests finally depart, they always leave behind a few stray signs and cones. This is so that when the tarmac blows out again a week later, you can reassure yourself that you were not imagining the whole thing. The priests really were there.
A visitation by the Via Imperium Propellente can never be predicted reliably. You might logically assume that they would target the worst Hippopotholemess infested streets first. However, somehow it always seems to be the streets with the houses in the highest tax band. Even though the terrace lined streets are literally holier than the tree lined avenues. Another reason to be slightly suspicious of this cult, is that they also run a chain of auto body shops called “Wreck Amended Repairers”. They may, in fact, have a vested interest in never completely vanquishing Hippopotholemess. On the plus side, they have produced an online guide to help pedestrians avoid pot holes in pavements. It’s called Trip Advisor.
In remote areas which the Via Imperium Propellente never get to, people have had to learn to love their long standing gaping chasms, and have even found creative uses for them. For example, there is a marvellous new Wetlands Reserve, right in the middle of the fast lane of the A630. Bitterns have even been sighted in the reed-beds on the pot hole shores. In Whipsnade, a particularly deep pothole has been pressed into service as a giraffe habitat. A pot hole which opened up on Her Majesty’s private golf course at the Balmoral Estate has been turned into a private gin palace called “The Hole in One”. Meanwhile, in Tunisia, an particularly spectacular ancient pot hole was preserved as a tourist attraction after it was used as the filming location for the Great Pit of Carkoon in Return of the Jedi.
There are whispers of a lost, water filled, “Schrödinger’s Pothole”. This apparent puddle is simultaneously two inches and four hundred meters deep. You cannot know until you drive through it.
There are some informal and superstitious attempts to appease Hippopotholemess by the lay population. Such as a distinctive weaving folk driving style, thought to guard against vehicular damage (but not against getting pulled for a breath test). A common act of sacrifice to Hippopotholemess is to pour a pint of beer over a road surface whilst consuming one for yourself. This is the origin of the old saying, “An ale please Landlord, and one more for the road!”
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