by Max Barry

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The Great Bountiful Empire of
Moralistic Democracy

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1

The Speakeasy Song: Spirits With Friends in Silence


Stepping into the seedy cellars, obscured passageways, and secret clubs of TurtleShroom's underground nightlife is a rite of passage for edgy TurtleShroomers, committed Gothics, rebellious kids, social drinkers, and Asians searching for "a little something something from the old home".

As with any nation that has ever attempted the "Noble Experiment" that is Prohibition, be it of alcohol or a drug in moderation, TurtleShroom's commercial sectors and crime dens are always under a game of cat and mouse between the Ministry of the Enforcement of the Prohibition and the ubitiqous speakeasies in the Empire. If you know where to look, you can't go to any town with a few thousand creatures in it and not find one. The fanaticism about temperence and moderation in TurtleShroom generally means that few speakeasy patrons ever get drunk. Moderation in all things and "drinking as Jesus drank" continued in the underground.

"A victimless crime", they say! Police reply with billy clubs.

In a nation where prostitution doesn't make much money at all compared to booze, and where drugs without the capacity for moderation are seen as ghastly, the simple luxuries of alcohol, tobacco, and old-timey, pipe-smoked opium draw a crowd and have left a lasting impact on TurtleShroomian culture and society.

No greater cultural icon in TurtleShroom says "speakeasy" like the signature piece played in every speakeasy ever established. Its universal recognition practically demands its inclusion in any live band at a speakeasy, and up to nine out of ten songs played are that same song.

Known simply in as the "Speakeasy Song" in TurtleShroom, its real name is "Spirits With Friends In Silence". Almost everyone else in Nationstates knew it as "LinkSubstitute Jiji", which was a remix.

Although most famous for its use in an Oriental soundtrack for an obscure Asian movie, the actual melody and song originated from TurtleShroom, dating back to the early nineteenth century. Its use in speakeasy culture was almost perfectly timed with the introduction of the upright piano in TurtleShroom, and indeed, it was actually composed as a demonstration of its use, and equal quality towards a "proper" grand or baby grand piano. LinkIn its original version, it was slower and "heavier", played with more pressure to the keys and on a slightly lower scale.

The version universally played in modern times comprises the piano, triangle, theremin, and an acoustic, stringed instrument (with balalaikas being the most common). This one was the first to bear the name "Substitute Jiji". It first came to TurtleShroomian speakeasies in early 1995 AD, four years after the piecemeal isolation and case-by-case diplomacy and trade practices were ended, and two years after the sitting Chancellors of that time died. It was delayed.

In 1989 AD, during the course of what was expected to be a rubber stamp of a new Disney movie, the Board of Censors entered into an all-out brawl with Disney officials and the movie animators' Oriental officials during the review process. The fight broke out after the Disney and Oriental officials mocked the Censors when they raised the issues of depicting witches, witchcraft, and sorcery "in a positive light". Minutes from the meeting report that the conference table was broken in two after a Censor suplexed a Disney official backwards for insulting his mother.

The film was ultimately banned from TurtleShroom, but a copy of the soundtrack had been swiped by a low-ranking staff member cleaning up the damaged conference room.

The initial shock that a film depicting witches as heroes had used a TurtleShroomian cultural treasure without consent was suppressed by the more tolerant-minded recipients of the smuggled sountrack. The song was later "reverse engineered" by those who could read sheet music and released without fanfare in the TurtleShroom underground. It was considered a better version than the original by most bands that played in speakeasies.

The rest is history.

"Spirits With Friends In Silence" and "Substitute Jiji" are two names for a song every TurtleShroomer knows and every policeman looks for. In every opium den, at every whiskey bar, for every pipe smoked and shot thrown back, this song, synonymous with alcohol, drugs, and crime, echoes in the night, informing every cynic and true, hardcore libertarian that Prohibition "doesn't work".

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