Long ago, when people still thought of money as a commodity instead of a symbol, among the Klausians a cult grew up which was dedicated to the celebration of midwinter. It began in this northern province of Stupi as a natural and reasonable ritual in order to prevent the downward slide of the sun continuing into extinction and everlasting darkness, but long after this fear was shown to be groundless, the Klausians persisted with their midwinter festivities. Their whole lives revolved around the point at which the sun was at its lowest ebb, and they lived in order to celebrate it. During the second half of winter, they would mourn the passing of the celebration in a state of emotional flatness and physical discomfort. In the spring they would compare the weather unfavourably with the coldness of midwinter, and begin their preparations for the next winter. In the summer, they would hide themselves from the glare of the sun, and dream of darkness. In the autumn, they would devote themselves to a frenzy of preparatory business, during which nervous breakdowns and suicide became more and more common as the festivities drew nearer.

"Preparations" consisted of progressive stretching of the stomach by eating more and more food on a daily basis. Although this might seem a fairly straightforward activity to the uninitiated, to the Klausians it was an art form and a way of life. Daily television and radio programs were dedicated to the finer points of stomach expansion. All newspapers included at least one article on the subject in each issue: "How to eat more in less time" "How to fill your whole day with eating" "Queen appetite lost shock - doc" and, from the broadsheets "New insights into the enigma of the Roman Vomitorium". Specialist magazines were devoted to the subject, and books and videos on eating were so popular that in the end people simply gave up writing about anything else. There were of course the dissidents and malcontents, but their critical researches, although intellectually rigorous, were universally discounted by the entertainment industry on the grounds that their authors lacked bottom.

The Klausians were of course phenomenally fat. Sumo wrestlers from the pre-Stupi era would have appeared slight in comparison to the average Klausian. In fact a form of Sumo wrestling persisted in some rural parts, in which two male Klausians rolled down opposing sides of a small, grassy valley to cannon into each other at the bottom. Each was wired up to an electrocardiograph, and the one whose heart stopped beating last was deemed the winner. The sport died out in the end on account of the difficulty in clearing the valley of the mortal remains of the contestants.

Health was a problem in Klausia. Diabetes and hypertension were endemic, and 98% of the population over the age of six years were on some kind of medication to prevent upward regurgitation of the stomach contents. Gastric surgery was highly evolved in the region: general anaesthesia was out of the question because of the impossibility of persuading patients to fast pre-operatively. Eventually, an ingenious valve was invented which could keep the stomach contents in place. At first this was inserted under local anaesthetic, but later developments meant that the patient had merely to swallow the contrivance. Most patients had no difficulty with this at all. The manufacturer of this device became immensely wealthy, and died in the course of a banquet to celebrate the success of his company. The inventor on the other hand, died in impecunious misery.

Running the economy was also problematic given the unsuitedness of the citizens for physical pursuits such as water management, food growing, house building, energy production and waste recycling. This problem was resolved by importing fit people from the South to do any work that required more than vocalisation or hand movements. This employment policy led to a balance of payments crisis, which was solved by positioning Klausia as the financial capital of the whole of Stupi. All financial deals were struck in Klausia, and no deals were struck outside of that region. Every transaction made money for Klausia, whose citizens became immensely wealthy despite their inability to move and their high death rate. They not only held the stocks of money for other countries, but also persuaded them to pay handsomely for this service. Even when the transactions caused whole national economies to come crashing down, even when it was plain to everyone who was not a stakeholder that the system was absurd, it still took some 300 years of debate to begin to apply some control and regulation on the financial system. First a transaction tax was imposed on financial deals, with the tax returning to the countries whose money was being traded. This stabilised the world financial market, and signalled the long gradual climb towards civilised economics, but it hit the Klausian economy to such an extent that the Klausian Swit became almost without value. Unable to pay their workers, the Klausians began to starve. Unable to bury their dead, disease became rampant, and the mode of their extinction is best left untold.

© 2001 R. Lawson This page was last updated on 13.11.04