The Art of Complaining | Jade Green

I woke up to another shitty day in the Kingdom of Magic. The first shitty thing that happened was that I was out of my favourite breakfast cereal, Enchanted Pebbles, and had to wait around for six whole minutes for a new box to be spit out by the Have Whatever You Want Shoot. And the note that came with it, telling me I deserve supreme happiness, was slightly less lovely than the note I got last week with my double order of Euphoria Swirls. I’m starting to think the Council is conspiring to have me kicked out or something. I mean, why else would I get such a shitty note?

The next terrible thing to happen was that while I was waiting for the bus to take me to work, one of the fluctuating balls of energy from down the street – I forget which number – came and sat beside me and started trying to have a conversation. About how beautiful the sky looked. Can you believe it? I couldn’t either. I’m just sitting there, minding my own business, looking out at a perfect landscape of trees and water and yes, an admittedly beautiful sky, but do I look like I want to discuss it?

When the bus came (three minutes late, by the way), I sat as far away from that annoying blip of energy as possible. Luckily I saw my best friend, fluctuating ball of energy no. 764, sitting on the back seat. We’ve been working together at the Bureau of Satisfaction for a while and usually I feel as if I can tell them anything, you know, really be myself. But something was different today.

For starters, when I sat down, no. 764 said: “How are you today?”

How are you today. What the heck, right?

Flummoxed, I replied: “I’m fine.”

And no. 764 said: “Are you sure?”

And then I said: “Well no, actually, I’m doing kind of shitty.”

Then no. 764 just looked at me, glowing all different colours like a rainbow, and I started to get really uncomfortable. I said: “What’s with you? Normally we totally get each other.”

“I’ve changed, no. 381,” they replied with a long exhalation of radiant air that almost made me vomit it was so pure and beautiful, “I’ve realised the truth. The Kingdom of Magic is divine, and I am grateful for all it has to offer.”

“Oh, shit,” I said, “you’ve been to see the Enrichment Officer, haven’t you?”


“So, don’t you know what they say about those freaks?” I lowered my voice, “They brainwash fluctuating balls of energy like you and me into thinking all sorts of wild things.”

“Like what? Life here is good, and we should enjoy it?”


“I don’t know, no. 381. Frank has some interesting theories.”

“Who the heck is Frank?”

“The Enrichment Officer. You should drop in some time; I could put in a good word?”

“Urgh – no, thank you.” We rode in silence for a bit, no. 764 undulating beside me as a procession of perfect landscapes passed by the window. Then I said: “so, what, you and Frank are like best friends now? What about me?”

The bus stopped, and no. 764 wafted away from me.

“Frank has just helped me to realise some stuff. We’re not best friends. Don’t worry so much!” No. 764 was almost off the bus, their voice dissolving into the surge. “Please get help, no. 381. I love you!”

So, yeah, that was like the fourth shitty thing to happen to me that day. I decided right then and there that I wouldn’t be meeting no. 764 for lunch anymore. Really the whole incident just proved my theory that you can’t trust anyone but yourself.

At work I spent the whole day checking in with clients to measure their levels of satisfaction with the Council’s service. Seven of them were 100% satisfied. One requested greener grass in the parks, for which I put in an immediate request. And another asked if they could book a tour of Enlightenment Palace. Fluctuating balls of energy are so predictable.

When I got home my housemate, fluctuating ball of energy no. 197, was waiting to present me with a message from the Bureau of Enrichment. I met them near the entrance portal to our living quarters, glowing all yellow with excitement. “Here,” they said, floating right into my energy field as if they’d never heard of the concept of personal space, “Open it! I’ve been dying to find out what it says.”

I couldn’t be bothered to tell no. 197 how stupid they were, so I just opened the thing and watched as a sparkling mass of pure joy erupted in front of me. After, like, an annoyingly long and colourful demonstration of joyousness the mass finally shifted to the point: an invitation to meet with an Enrichment Officer the next morning. I immediately suspected no. 764 as having something to do with this, and doubled down on my scorn.

“Wow!” said no. 197, wafting all around me, “usually you have to be referred by a friend to snag a meeting with an Enrichment Officer! You’re so lucky, no. 381!”

That was when I got really mad. Channelling all my strength into enveloping no. 197 in a hurricane of explicit rage, I shouted: “I! AM! NOT! LUCKY! BECAUSE! THEY! ARE! GOING! TO! BRAINWASH! ME! YOU! STUPID! IDIOT!”

Then before I could even see no. 197’s reaction (which was probably crying and whining) I entered the portal to our living quarters and went straight to my room.

As hard as I tried to think of a way to get out of this meeting, I knew it was futile. The Council would be all over me like a putrid rash if I didn’t show up. The next morning, I found myself in the lobby of the Bureau of Enrichment, and was directed to an office on the second floor. The office belonged to Frank, aka no. 764’s new best friend in the whole Kingdom.

“Please come in,” said Frank as the door to the office opened and I wafted reluctantly inside, “and help yourself to anything from the Have Whatever You Want Shoot. It’s premium-grade, so your order will arrive within seconds.”


I ordered some Celestial Chocolate Scratchings, though, because why not take advantage of the opportunity?

“So, shall we talk about why you’re here?” said Frank, whom I now noticed was shaped like a big star, pulsating with glowing gold specks.

“It’s OK,” Frank continued when I didn’t reply. “Just take your time.”

I tried to focus on a board on the wall, which had motivational sayings on it like “You can shine brighter than the brightest ball of Enlightened energy!” and “Anything is possible in the Kingdom of Magic – all you have to do is believe (in the statutes of the Council of the Enlightened)!”

I wanted to barf, but that might’ve been because I had just inhaled a whole package of Celestial Chocolate Scratchings.

“OK, I’ll start,” Frank said, “most of the fluctuating balls of energy that pass through this office are here because they require an attitudinal adjustment. Is this something you, no. 381, could perhaps benefit from?”


“You don’t think your attitude has been somewhat…coarse since you arrived in the Kingdom of Magic?”

“No, I do not.”

A ripple of contemplation rolled through Frank’s energy field.

“If you would like, no. 381, I could tell you a story which might illustrate my point a little better.”

Might as well kill some time, I thought. “OK. Fine. Do what you need to do.”

“Thank you.” Frank took a pause, settling before a large window overlooking fields of lavender. His gold specks brightened. “Once, there was a young human being named Madeleine. Are you familiar with the concept of human beings, no. 381?”

“I think I remember reading something about them. They consist of physical matter?”

“In a sense, yes. They are made of energy, like us, yet their energy is contained within a vessel which roots them to the ground of their planet. Are you following me so far?”

“Yes, yes, I understand. I’m not stupid.”

“I know. You are an intelligent, brilliant being, no. 381. Never forget that.” Frank shuddered towards me as a sign of recognition. I resisted the urge to shudder back.

Frank continued: “Madeleine was a promising young human entering her prime. Her parents loved her very much and she had a group of close friends. She was two weeks away from graduating high school, receiving top grades in her final exams. To celebrate, Madeleine and her friends went for a drive to the beach. They were going to light a bonfire and dance beneath the stars.”

Frank’s energy darkened, and it was as if a raincloud had floated over the room. “Madeleine never made it to the beach. The driver of the car veered sharply when he saw something in the road, killing himself and his three passengers. The police report showed he had been drinking earlier in the night.”

I found myself growing angry at these dumb human beings, angry at Frank, angry for being forced to listen to this crap.

“I don’t like this story,” I shouted, ballooning to twice my normal size. “What does it have to do with me? Why are you telling me this?”

“Now, 381, settle down. It’s OK.” And although I was still angry, I did what Frank said, because something in his voice was strangely calming.

“I want you to forget yourself for a moment. Imagine that you are Madeleine. Can you do that?”

“I don’t see the point.”

“The point will reveal itself, but you have to want to see it. Do you want to find a deeper understanding of yourself, and your place in the Kingdom of Magic?”

“Fine. Yes. Whatever.”

“Brilliant. You are already making progress. Now I want you to put yourself inside Madeleine, really climb into her physicality, her mind. Become her.”

Something weird was happening. My energy began constricting, coiling itself into the fleshy form of a human being. An invisible force was pulling me to the ground and holding me there.

“Take your time. Tell me when you have merged with Madeleine’s being.”

“I think I’m there. I’m her.”

“Wonderful. Now I want you to imagine the moments following the ending of your chapter on Planet Earth; you are beginning to transition into the next realm. Your life energy is lifting out of its physical form. You are no longer burdened by matter, by mortality. You have been given another chance.”

“Another chance?”

“Yes. A new chapter is starting. You have been gifted with a second life in the Kingdom of Magic, a wondrous utopia where you can have anything you want… so long as you follow the guidelines set out by the Council of the Enlightened. How does it feel?”

“I… uh…amazing. It feels amazing, Frank.” Glittering spectres were dancing around the room, waves of harmonic energy rippling all around us.

“How would you express your appreciation for this second chance at life?”

“I would do anything. Anything the Council asked me. I would be happy, all the time. I would spread the message of joy and appreciation to my fellow fluctuating balls of energy.”

After some time, the waves subsided, and Frank floated before me. “Good. I want you to hold on to that feeling. Express gratitude and dedicate yourself to serving the Council, to showing your appreciation for all beatitude in the Kingdom of Magic. Can you do that, no. 381?”

As Frank spoke, I could feel the spiral of energy at the centre of my being turning in a new direction, the colours in my spectrum glowing brighter than I had ever seen them glow.

Frank was waiting. I exhaled a gasp of radiant air, which lit up the space between us like a flash of firelight.

Jade is a Bristol-based writer specializing in fiction, film criticism and screenwriting, and is currently working on her second novel. She believes in the transcendent power of writing to open us up to other worlds and experiences, exploring themes of love, trauma and authenticity.

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