Father’s Day

This story features Lisa the Pizza Woman, previously featured in Pizza Woman, Night of the Pumpkin Woman, Cinderpizza and Karl Kangaroo’s Christmas Extravaganza, as well as the book Pizza Woman.

Speaking of which, be sure to pick up my illustrated version of Alice in Wonderland and the accompanying colouring book!


A lovely summer day. The sun hung proudly from the pinnacle of the sky, banishing the clouds and the gloom they brought. The trees and bushes embraced the weather, looking larger and greener than usual, and the people outside basked in the sunshine as well, sunbathing and eating ice cream.

Looking at it through my window made me glad I was inside with several whirring fans and an open refrigerator.

I liked the look of sunny days. I liked pictures of sunny days but I tried to avoid sunny days as much as possible. Why? Well, there was the risk of me melting into a sticky, cheesy mess. In fact, the only thing in my house that was hot was my oven, which melted mozzarella to add to my body to help keep it together.

Yes, it’s me again. Lisa the Pizza Woman. She whose head is a pizza and whose body is made out of cheese. The offspring of a human woman and a talking pizza.

In fact, Dad was on my mind that day. Summer not only meant sunny days to avoid, on a lighter note, it meant Father’s Day. Father’s Day, where I got to show my undying gratitude, yet I had no idea what to get Dad. I owed him so much and nothing I could think of could come close to thanking him for all he did for me. All the words of encouragement when I needed it, all the stories he told, all the comfort and charm and perfection.

The perfect pizza.

I had some extra money – I had made a CD of my singing and sold a few copies online – yet when I went shopping, everything I saw made me think, ‘Not good enough.’ A new pair of sunglasses? Not good enough. That new book? He deserves more. Even a big batch of presents couldn’t show how much I loved him.

Thankfully, I had just the person to help me. My girlfriend, who always appeared when I needed her. Normally, she could only be summoned on Halloween through a ritual, but I was an exception. All I had to do was say her name, and she would come.

Seconds after saying her name, Natalie the Pumpkin Woman, with her jack-o-lantern head and charming smile. As soon as she appeared, we hugged, the only warmth I was comfortable with. ‘Hey, Lisa,’ said Natalie, ‘what’s the problem?’

‘Not much really,’ I replied, ‘just trying to think of a good present to get Dad for Father’s Day.’

‘Oh, I know,’ sighed Natalie, pulling out a photo from her wallet. A giant pumpkin with tentacles, sitting on a floating rock in a dark abyss. ‘What do you get someone who has everything?’

‘What are you getting him this year?’

‘A new mug.’

‘Ah. You know, I saw this nice-looking one, but…’

‘But what?’

‘It’s just…you know…didn’t seem good enough for him. Like he deserves more.’

‘Maybe you could write him a song.’

‘I’ve written several, but none of which…’ I buried my face in my cheese tentacles before Natalie put a hand on my shoulder.

‘Okay. Calm down. I’m sure you’ll think of something.’ She then turned to the window. ‘Nice day.’

‘Yeah,’ I replied, looking out with her, ‘Shame I can’t really go out in it.’

Natalie placed her hand on my shoulder again.

‘You know what I’d really like to do?’ I told her, ‘Go to the seaside. I can’t very well go there in the suit I go out in.’ Said suit was a raincoat with a cooling vest underneath it to accommodate both rain and shine, along with a human mask and an umbrella – such a thing at the seaside would look even more ridiculous than a pizza creature. ‘If I went there as I am, I’d get sand stuck in my cheese.’

I rubbed my face as I remembered being a child, with the other children collecting sand from the sandpit and tossing it at me just to get it stuck in my cheese-flesh.

‘Does your dad want to go the seaside as well?’

‘Yeah,’ I replied, ‘he wants to sunbathe, but you know what happens to a pizza left out on the beach.’

‘Well, I happen to know a spell.’

So my gift for my Dad on Father’s Day was to visit him and Mum along with Natalie, and cast a spell to turn our living room into a simulated seaside. The floor looked like sand, yet no sand got into my or my Dad’s cheese. We felt heat, but didn’t melt. We heard the crashing of waves, but no real water to take apart our bodies. We felt what we had been denied for so long, a present the perfect pizza truly deserved.

Oh yeah, and I bought him a mug as well.

lisadad

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Return of the Evil Queen

This story follows on from Flab and Glob and Fun With Henchmen


I woke up and tried to eat my own skin.

I had to eat something, after all. Not only that, but I hoped to eat off my tattoos. They were art, and art was what had gotten me into this mess. What was it that Oscar Wilde said about art? That was what I felt at that moment.

I painted two creatures, two white blobs with eyes and teeth and arms and legs, called Flab and Glob. They were not figments of my imagination, but actual creatures from another world, and painting them brought them into mine. Then they trapped me and Aunt Fiona in their world, their monochrome world with its inky sky and pale white plantlife.

Almost immediately after we were teleported there, we were pursued by others of Flab and Glob’s species, more large blobs with fangs and eyes. They chased us with scythes and knives and other sharp weapons, screeching and screaming incomprehensible curses.

Aunt Fiona and I spent days avoiding them, always searching for hiding places and sustaining ourselves on whatever edible things we found. Mostly we ate the fungi – or at least what resembled fungi – growing in the woods. It tasted a bit like fizzy sherbet. After days of avoiding the creatures’ scythes and knives and fangs and claws, we found somewhere which seemed safe, deep in the woods we spent days stumbling around in. A rickety abandoned wooden house, as ghostly pale as the trees surrounding it.

When we found it, it was the first time since we got here that I saw Aunt Fiona smile.

Aunt Fiona and I stuck close to each other while in this world, yet we spoke little, and not only because neither of us could find the right words to describe this place.

I kept inwardly begging whatever higher power there was that Aunt Fiona wouldn’t get hurt, and incessantly cursing myself for bringing her to the world. Every time I woke up and saw her next to me, I sighed in relief.

I couldn’t let anything happen to Aunt Fiona. Aunt Fiona, who took me in when Mum, her sister, didn’t want me (I owe my very existence to a New Year’s party). Aunt Fiona, who raised me and made sure I attended a good school and a good university. Aunt Fiona, who did so much for me, and, I said to myself every time I woke up in the monochrome world, this is how I repay her.

That’s what I said to myself when I woke up in the cellar of the rickety old house, right before my stomach gurgled and I gnawed on my arm like a trapped animal. There was a clear picture in my head of me chewing off my flesh, little bloody chunks all over the floor, with all traces of art gone from me forever. Instead, Aunt Fiona woke up and cried, ‘What are you doing?’

I told her.

‘Emily,’ she said, before embracing me in a hug, ‘I don’t blame you at all for this.’

We sat in the cellar and held each other, whispering to each other about the memories of our world. We spoke of the things we thought we would never experience again.

Then we heard creaking upstairs.

‘Stay close,’ whispered Aunt Fiona, holding me tighter, ‘and keep quiet.’

As soon as we heard the stairs creak, I pushed Aunt Fiona aside, picking up a large piece of wood off the floor and wielded it like a bat, even slapping my palm with it. All dread and fear washed out of me and all I could focus on was the mental image of me smashing a little monster’s brains in.

Creak. Creak.

yorb

It was another creature like Flab and Glob; an emaciated white creature – you could see its ribs poking out – hunched over a cane. A cane with a blue throbbing light at its tip – the most colourful thing in the room other than me and Aunt Fiona.

My eyes fixed on the glowing cane, and I involuntarily dropped the wood. My hand forced itself towards the light….

…and in seconds, I was back home.

Aunt Fiona and I were back in my bedroom, my colourful bedroom with my bed and my posters and my console and my wretched, wretched artwork. I chuckled, leaping up and down on the spot. It was all a dream, I told myself, all my imagination, a sign that I should paint happier things. So I reached towards one of my monochrome paintings to tear it off the wall.

My right hand had shrivelled up into a claw. It was as pale as Flab and Glob and the other creatures, with my tattoos replaced by swirls and spirals glowing the same blue as the old creature’s cane.

My bedroom, my colourful bedroom, instantly faded away, and I faced the elderly creature, staring into his bloodshot eyes. ‘I can bring you home,’ he wheezed, as the stench of his breath made me grimace, ‘and so much more.’

I found the strength to pick up the piece of wood again. ‘Why should I trust you?’

‘Because I know why you’re here,’ said the old creature, ‘and why they are hunting you. My name is Yorb, and I was the advisor for the great Queen Galb. All of us here in Bilgarar have our own little magic, but hers was the most powerful of all, for she had found a way to Earth…’

‘Through being painted?’ I snapped.

‘Indeed. However, unlike many, she was summoned by someone who knew about Bilgarar and wished for a servant. A great wizard, with a wide knowledge of the many magics of Earth. Knowledge Galb herself picked up.

‘The wizard soon felt like he no longer had need of Galb and sent her back home, with knowledge of both Bilgarar and Earth magic making her more powerful than any Bilg. Though she left Bilgarar a peasant, she returned with enough magic to become a Queen.

‘She took over, and I was her advisor. Ah, those were glorious days. Things were much more interesting, everyone kept on their toes. A shame a revolution had to happen. A shame there was indeed strength in numbers. Thankfully…’ He tapped the tip of his cane. ‘…when she died, she transferred her power into this crystal. Since she used Earth magic more than Bilgarar magic, only a human can…’

‘Forget it!’ I spat, throwing the cane onto the floor.

‘Inheriting her power is the only way you can escape, and you will be so much more than what you are. Refuse, and eventually, another of my kind will find you and kill you, for you will still be a powerless mortal. You…’ He pointed at me. ‘…were the one who let Flab and Glob in, so you are the only one…’

‘No!’

‘Emily…’

I turned towards Aunt Fiona. ‘What is it?’

Aunt Fiona took a deep breath. ‘I think you should accept his offer.’

‘What? Look, we want to escape, but I don’t know if we can…’

‘Emily. They may have tricked us, but I liked having Flab and Glob around, because it did me proud to see you in a position of power. Your mother may not have cared about you, your father probably doesn’t even know you exist, but I care about you, and I want you to reach your full potential. If that means gaining the power of an evil witch, so be it.’

I sighed and picked up the cane, clutching the crystal as tight as I could.

The more I clutched it, the more it felt like my insides were being plucked out of my body. My skin lost all colour and became as chalk-white as Flab, Glob and Yorb. My hair got sucked into my skin and my teeth grew narrower and sharper. More glowing blue spirals slithered across my arms. Even my clothes grew completely black, making me look like the Grim Reaper. It was like the crystal drained me of my humanity.

I had never felt better in my life.

It felt like all the worries, all the fears of the past few days had been disintegrated. I was now a horrible, wrinkled blob like the monsters from this world were, but something about it felt truly right. I said I didn’t want anything to do with art when I first arrived in Bilgarar, but upon my transformation, my muse had returned, and I had so many ideas on what to do with my new powers.

Yes, I took the evil magic and I liked it. I’m a villain. So, what of the villainous henchmen I had, you may ask?

Well, the first thing I did upon receiving Queen Galb’s magic was of course, to send Aunt Fiona and myself back home. As soon as I did, Aunt Fiona hugged me tightly again. The next thing I did was to look for Flab and Glob, and I found them in seconds, vegging out in front of the telly.

I had to admit to myself that was probably what I would do if I were in their situation.

All I had to do was cough, and they quivered in fear.

‘No…’

‘You…you should be d…’

Before Glob could finish his sentence, I reduced them to piles of dust. When I did, Aunt Fiona roared with laughter. ‘You know,’ she said, ‘maybe I was wrong about your paintings…’

monsterem

Animal Superheroes

snakesss

The laughter will stop, I told myself. The laughter will stop because he will die, and after he dies, the others will as well.

Every time I was certain the laughter would stop, every time I thought it was safe to leave, it just got louder, as did the havoc it was complimenting. Still I lay under my desk – it wasn’t cowardice, I thought, it was common sense. ‘I’m not afraid, I’m not,’ I whispered.

The laughter did stop briefly, but only because the laugher had a message for me:

‘Come out, come out wherever you are.’

The laughter again. He sounded like…

A villain.

And wasn’t that what I was supposed to be?

So many years I had called myself evil, boasted about how I was the most malevolent being to ever walk the Earth – and why? Who in their right mind would actually call themselves evil? Well, I was being honest for one thing.

That, and I wanted to be feared. If people feared you, you had power over them, and people feared evil things. If they were terrified of those who were evil but thought they were good, they would be even more terrified of someone who revelled in being evil, someone less likely to be reasoned with.

I set out to be feared. I set out to have power.

I stood up, wielding my gun, my heart still pounding.

‘We know you’re in there, come on out!’ He laughed again.

‘Stop laughing,’ came another voice, ‘this is serious.’

‘We want to do this, Blake! Why not have fun doing something we want?’

I couldn’t let them have power over me.

As they bickered, I kicked open my office door with my foot, striding among the remains of my robot soldiers.

‘Well, well,’ said Whitman the adder, showing off the axe at the end of his tail, ‘look who showed up.’ Blake, the bulky viper next to him, only snarled at me.

They came for me. They came to punish me for my most heinous crime: their creation.

I readied the gun.

With another laugh, Whitman sprung towards me, axe-end first. I instinctively leapt out of the way, only for Blake to slam his tail on my foot, making me drop the gun.

They were agile. They were strong. I made them that way.

Whitman wrapped himself around my gun, clinging to it tightly as if it were a teddy bear. ‘You know, I wish I could use one of these,’ he said, ‘wouldn’t it be neat if we blew his head off?’

‘You remember what Tennyson said,’ barked Blake, ‘we can’t kill him until all of us are present. He and Shelley should be here soon.’

Upon hearing the names of the others, I ran, kicking away circuits and decapitated robot body parts. My robot army, which I spent so much time constructing and assembling, destroyed in an instant.

As I turned around a corner, I saw one intact, still walking the halls with its arms outstretched and its laser guns bared. Before I could let relief wash over me, the robot seized me by the throat, and from behind its back slithered a boa constrictor, one with two thin mechanical arms, her eyes narrowing as she looked at me.

Shelley. The snake I had given my knowledge of machinery and robotics. I did that so she could help me build more robots, not turn them against me. Even those arms of hers were my creation.

‘I’m not going to kill you yet,’ sneered Shelley, as the robot loosened its grip slightly ‘I want you to have a good look at me. Have a good look at your little freak.’

Don’t give them power, I told myself, don’t give them power…

‘How dare you do this?’ I cried, ‘I created you, you do what I command!’

The robot’s grip tightened again, and Shelley spat in my face. ‘That’s why you made us like this, isn’t it? So you could have more little toadies. That’s all we are to you.’

No, I wanted to say. I took such pride in creating you, changing you from simple snakes into intellectual creatures. Your rebirth was like poetry, that’s why I named you after poets…

Whitman and Blake slithered towards me, and as soon as Shelley saw her “brothers”, she made the robot slam my head against the wall. The ringing in my ears and the throbbing in my skull was nowhere near as painful as the sound of Whitman’s laughter.

‘Look at the mighty evil scientist now,’ said Blake, ‘look how terrifying he is surrounded by his loyal henchmen!’

‘I celebrate myself,’ chortled Whitman, ‘and sing myself!’

‘Shut up!’ snapped Shelley, ‘We aren’t to be celebrated! We shouldn’t even be!’

‘Hey!’ said Whitman, ‘We are doing something good here!’

Before I could respond in any way, Blake sprung off the ground and launched himself at my head. As soon as he did, I found myself back in my precious laboratory, where I took an adder, a viper, a constrictor and a cobra, attached wires to their bodies and minds, and remoulded them into strong, intelligent creatures, willing to obey my every word.

I thought I had made them loyal.

The first thing I saw upon re-opening my eyes was Whitman smiling proudly as he looked at my severed leg. He shook his axe tail as he hummed a “neh neh neh neh neh” tune.

‘You made us like this just to scare people,’ Shelley said, ‘Well, you look pretty terrified.’

‘Great work.’ There came Tennyson the cobra. A family fully reunited. Me and my sons and daughter.

‘Can we kill him now?’ snarled Blake.

‘That’s why I came here,’ said Tennyson, holding a syringe in his tail, ‘You see this, Doctor? You wanted us to use this on your enemies? Shelley, will you do the honours?’

‘With pleasure,’ she said as she snatched it away.

She plunged it into my heart and I died.

I died and went to Hell.

I still saw the four snakes, all of them cheering at my death. ‘From this day forth,’ said Tennyson, stretching himself, ‘we will do the opposite of what we were mutated to do. We will spread hope instead of fear, stop crimes instead of causing them, and in time, the people will accept us.’ Shelley smiled – a rather forced smile – and used her mechanical arms to hug them all.

They were not the only ones who saw me die.

The next thing I saw was that my death was televised, and cheered by everyone who watched it. Cheered by children as they feasted on sugary cereals on Saturday morning.

 

Fun With Henchmen

This story directly follows on from Flab and Glob.


For my sixteenth birthday, I asked for nothing but money. I daydreamed about what I was going to spend it on during the days leading up to my birthday but when I received the money, I suddenly had no idea what I was going to spend it on. I ended up just blowing it all on junk food and DVDs of bad movies I never got round to watching.

That’s how it felt when I suddenly had, for lack of a better word, henchmen.

I had two monsters – Flab and Glob – at my beck and call, for painting them into my world. They said they could turn my aunt’s house into a monster and, seeing an opportunity to get back at the kids who made fun of it, Aunt Fiona and me, I allowed them to. At least for a moment, mind you.

When they returned the house to normal, they asked, ‘Is there anything else you would like us to do?’ and I didn’t have an answer.

‘Well, for one thing,’ said Aunt Fiona, listening in to our conversation, ‘you could make yourselves useful by cleaning up the place.’

‘We serve only Emily,’ said Glob, ‘she brought us into this world.’

‘What is your command?’ Flab asked me.

‘Um, do the…cleaning thing?’ And they did, though Aunt Fiona had to tell them how a vacuum cleaner worked. ‘Maybe we’ll keep them,’ Aunt Fiona said as she watched them follow their orders, ‘they clean the place better than you do.’

‘Ha ha,’ I replied, ‘remember they only listen to me.’

‘Just don’t ask them to do your coursework.’ I smirked, but I also felt like slapping my forehead and saying, ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’

You have two little monsters at your command, I told myself, you have power. You scared the crap out of those kids but you can do more. You can start a reign of terror with just a word…

‘You done with the cleaning?’ I asked Flab and Glob.

‘If you say we are,’ they replied in unison.

‘Um…let’s play some video games.’

As soon as I said that, I inwardly berated myself for being an idiot. Then I thought, well, just starting off small. Then I thought it was too late to be starting small when I had a living house stomp down the street.

Up the stairs went Flab and Glob and I showed them my console and how the controllers worked (I only had one extra controller, so Glob and Flab had to take it in turns being second player). We played a few games of Monstrous Motorbike Racer and as we did, Glob and Flab told me about racing in their world and they used to watch their people riding “Tralalops”.

When they spoke of their world – the inky skies and twisted trees, the people and creatures – I hung onto every word, and they seemed interested in what my world was like as well. When one virtual motorbike race ended, they instantly wanted another, and they said the beers I served them were the best thing they had ever tasted.

This is going to sound corny, but I never really had any friends. Never really spoke to anyone at school, spent playtimes and lunchtimes alone reading, known solely as “that weird girl” by the other kids. Now I had two little monsters in my bedroom and not only were they willing to do what I told them to, but they were the closest things to friends I ever really had (told you it was corny).

They slept in two empty cardboard boxes in my cupboard that night. Monsters in the cupboard; how fitting.

As I slept, I dreamt about their world. A sky like a blackboard with the mountains, trees and ground looking like they were made of chalk. I was sure that I even saw a Tralalop saunter by.

No, it wasn’t a dream. I felt the chilling, yet soothing breeze against my skin. I smelled the bizarre pongs of the plantlife. I wasn’t imagining this world, just like I didn’t imagine Flab and Glob. They existed before I ever painted them; they just popped into my head.

Their world was cold. Their world was bizarre and monochrome and dizzying.

I wanted to stay.

I couldn’t, for my dreams were interrupted by Flab and Glob bouncing on my bed. ‘What can we do for you?’ they asked.

‘Just get me some breakfast,’ I said, ‘get me some honey nut cornflakes and some toast please.’

They got me some honey nut cornflakes – still in the box – and a dead fly – ‘Don’t you say things are toast when they’re dead?’ So my plan of having breakfast in bed was ruined when I got out of bed and taught them about cereals. It was worth it, I thought at the time, to see their smiles when they tasted honey nut cornflakes.

‘Huh,’ said Aunt Fiona when she flicked through the morning news on her phone, ‘nothing about our house turning into a monster. You’d think that’d be front page stuff.’

‘Maybe they all thought it was some mass hallucination or something,’ I replied, but deep down, I wanted to act like the sort of cartoon villain that’d have henchmen called Flab and Glob and yell ‘Curses!’

Yes, I wanted to be feared. I wanted everyone in the town to know it was the house I lived in that turned into a monster, and it was because of me that it became a monster.

That’s it, I thought, I always wanted to scare people. That’s why I painted scary pictures.

‘We’re going to have a little fun,’ I told Flab and Glob.

I took them outside where it was a clear day without a cloud in the sky and the birds were singing and the world seemed so dull and twee when I had spent some time in their beautiful home.

Both Flab and Glob had their own little powers, and while they did nothing as big as bring a building to life, they conjured up some impressive scares. They created an illusion of a spectre to spring out of corners, startling several people. Little worms with giant fangs squirmed around the streets. Even Flab and Glob personally joined in on the fun, dancing down the pavement, screeching at anyone who saw them.

All the while, I hid, watching the whole thing, snickering away like a schoolchild watching a teacher react to a rubber spider. This, all this, it could not be dismissed as an hallucination or a trick or whatever.

As soon as the coast was clear, I came out of hiding, and I, Flab and Glob ran away from the town, into the woods.

‘Now that was fun,’ said Flab as we ran.

‘It was, wasn’t it?’ I replied, ‘Hey, I have something else I want to ask…’

‘What?’

‘Well,’ I said as we stopped running, ‘since we need to lie low for a while, can you take me to your world?’

Flab and Glob laughed.

‘Just what we wanted you to say.’

All colour from my surroundings faded. The pale blue sky darkened into that blackboard sky from my dreams. Chalk trees and bushes surrounded me as I heard the high-pitched chirps of this world’s avian lifeforms. I felt the chilling, yet soothing breeze against my skin. I smelled the bizarre pongs of the plantlife. I wasn’t imagining this world, just like I didn’t imagine Flab and Glob.

Flab and Glob had disappeared. Aunt Fiona stood before me.

Though Flab and Glob were absent, I still heard them.

‘We were in your debt,’ I heard Flab say, ‘until you said that.’

‘Now we get to stay in your world while you have to stay in ours!’

‘You tricked me!’ I snarled.

‘We don’t make the rules.’

‘If someone brings you into their world by painting you,’ explained Glob, ‘you owe them. That is, unless they agree to go to your world, through which they will take your place.’

‘Thanks for showing us your world,’ laughed Flab, ‘and I’m sure you’ll enjoy ours. You painted it enough.’

Of course, Aunt Fiona’s response was to turn to me and say, ‘You really should have painted nicer things!’

 

 

Flab and Glob

emily

‘I suppose I’m not helping,’ I often said to myself while looking around my bedroom. Staring at my posters, the pseudo-bats and pseudo-skulls, and my own paintings, depicting surreal, undead creatures and swirling monochrome worlds.

Aunt Fiona often tells me that I shouldn’t focus so much on the macabre. So many times she’s said ‘I wish you would paint nicer things’ and suggested I depict cottages and sunflowers and bright green fields. I couldn’t blame her – she and I lived in a house that the neighbourhood kids thought was haunted. Often when I went out, I would see some brats whispering to each other about how Aunt Fiona was a serial killer or that I was a ghost.

Auntie’s house, even after a coat of paint and some new flowers planted in the front, looked like that spooky old house at the end of the road from countless ghost stories, and I was filling the interior with ghastly ghouls and monstrous fiends. Scary paintings were the last thing that house needed and yet I kept on painting them. Painting a haunted monochrome forest while listening to my favourite songs always calmed me after a long day at school, and I even managed to sell a couple online for some extra money (money I spent on a few new flowers for the front, even).

Also, I very well couldn’t get rid of Flab and Glob. Two paintings hung above my bed, two ghosts among grey wisps of smoke. Flab was a fat ghost with crooked teeth, Glob was a crocodile-like creature with a wide grin. These two were the closest thing I had to friends. Whenever I felt a lack of inspiration, all I had to do was look at them, and the ideas would pour forth.

I painted a picture of giant fangs dripping blood onto a landscape. That was their idea.

A twisted room where every wall had a sinister shadow cast onto it; I wouldn’t have painted it if I didn’t look at them.

Then one day, after I collapsed onto my bed after school, looked around and said, ‘I suppose I’m not helping,’ I took a good hard look at Flab and Glob. Both of them seemed to be grinning wider than usual.

As per usual, when I stared at them, another idea for a picture came into my head.

If people were going to say my aunt’s house was haunted, why not give them what they want?

First, I decided to do something I hadn’t done in a while, both to help my painting and to get the creative juices flowing. I sat outside my aunt’s house and sketched it. I used to do that all the time – just go out and sketch any buildings and statues I saw. While I was sketching my aunt’s house, I wondered why I ever stopped.

Then I went back inside and put my sketch near my canvas. A painting of my aunt’s house, with several new details. Where there was a large window, there was an eyeball. The front door had become a mouth with large teeth and a tongue hanging out. The roof had sprouted wings.

All the while, I kept looking back at Flab and Glob, hanging over my bed, grinning. I looked at them as if they were whispering words of encouragement in my ear. It made me feel like a cartoon villain keeping an eye on her two idiot henchmen – not really a bad feeling like you may think. It felt like I had power.

Perhaps that’s why I liked art so much, I thought. Creating my own worlds and characters gave me a sense of power.

To reward them for their support, I decided to add Flab and Glob to my latest painting. My initial depictions of them just showed their heads and upper torsos, but this painting showed their full bodies as they ran out of the haunted house, their skinny arms raised in the air. Flab had a large stomach, but skinny arms and legs.

When I had finished painting them, they leapt off the canvas.

That’s what they literally did.

They hopped onto the floor and immediately inflated in size until they were just slightly smaller than I was.

They weren’t ghosts. That’s what I intended them to be when I painted them, but the beings standing before me were of flesh and blood, with their odour filling the room as soon as they materialised.

‘What?’ blurted out Flab, ‘You didn’t think of us, you know.’

‘You thought about us, Emily,’ said Glob, ‘but you didn’t think of us. There’s a difference, you know.’

‘You had a vision of us and our world,’ said Flab, ‘but you thought you made it up yourself. When you painted part of us, we could make stronger contact with your world, but we couldn’t get in.’

‘You had to paint our whole bodies for us to come here.’

‘And now,’ they said in unison, ‘we are in your debt.’ When they said that, all my confusion and fear melted away.

When they said they could turn the house into what I depicted in my painting, I agreed.

So my aunt’s house transformed into the beast I painted, eyeball and tongue and all. Every kid, every little brat that mocked it, my aunt and me, it stalked and roared at. Flab and Glob watched as it stomped down the streets, and said to me, ‘I hope this pleases you.’

It did. These creatures may not have been my creations, yet I truly felt like I had power.

All Aunt Fiona could say, however, was, ‘I really wish you would paint nicer things!’

The Return of Frollo

I know you’re tired of hearing stories of writers looking for inspiration, but the most curious night of my life came about after such a search.

It happened after my third novel about ace detective Martin Morworth was published to great acclaim and sales, and I pondered on what a fourth one would be like. In order to write a fourth one, I needed inspiration, and what better place, I thought, then my own writings.

Of course I had to read my previous Martin Morworth novels to remind myself of the world I created and its continuity, but before that I decided to revisit some of the stories I wrote as a child, if only to remind myself of how much I had improved.

I wouldn’t really say I was an imaginative child, as most of my stories were retellings of other famous stories, assembled from what I learned about them through osmosis. I didn’t read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or see any of the movies until I was a teenager, yet before that I wrote my own story entitled Frankenstein. Here, a lonely ghost lives all by himself in a dark castle, so he decides to literally make a friend and create a monster. Yes, before you ask, in this story, the monster was called Frankenstein.

My Phantom of the Opera was an actual phantom, one who wanted to be a singer. In my Christmas Carol, all Jacob Marley had to do was threaten to scare Scrooge and Scrooge instantly loved Christmas.

Then there was my take on The Hunchback of Notre Dame. I remembered that there was one time when all I knew about the story was that there was a deformed man who rang bells. Then when I learned that the man was named Quasimodo and that there were other characters, I suddenly felt like I was an expert on the story without reading the book or watching any movies.

Everyone is scared of the ugly Quasimodo except for Esmeralda who sees his inner beauty. A knight called Phoebus loves Esmeralda too, but she thinks of him, and I quote, ‘You suck.’ Then there comes the evil Frollo, who zaps lasers from his fingers and terrorises everyone. Phoebus tries to stop him but Frollo zaps him and turns him into a sausage. Quasimodo then uses the power of love (a laser that comes from his heart) to make Frollo explode. Quasimodo and Esmeralda marry and live happily ever after while Phoebus remains a sausage forever. The end. (I would later learn that Quasimodo and Esmeralda did have a wedding in the book, but not in the same way my story had.)

Remembering those stories gave me the idea for the next Martin Morworth tale – he would deal with a killer whose murders would mirror those from classical gothic novels. He would kill someone with a falling chandelier like in The Phantom of the Opera, kill someone and frame an innocent woman like in Frankenstein, and maybe throw someone off a church like what actually happened to Frollo at the end of Hunchback. In fact, that church death would be the prologue.

After I put my childhood stories away, I brewed myself some coffee and worked on the prologue. A man walks into a church, observing and admiring its architecture, blissfully unaware that he’s being watched. In his most vulnerable moment, he’s grabbed from behind and before he can scream, chloroform is placed over his mouth…

Someone was in the room with me.

I turned around and came face to face with a man in a black robe…at least he looked like a man at first. He towered over me, and he looked down at me with a smile that revealed rows of jagged teeth. Before I could react, he raised a bony hand and shot out a laser that singed the wall behind my laptop.

It was Frollo. My Frollo. The villain from that stupid story I wrote when I was a kid, now given flesh and blood. Though I wanted to attack him or run away or even scream, I froze, unable to process what was before me. I had never shared the story with anyone, and something within me told me this was the character I had written about, even though he exploded at the end of my story.

All I could say was, ‘You’re not real.’

‘I’m as real as you are,’ he replied, ‘at least sometimes I am.’

He walked over to my shelf and picked up the folder containing his story.

‘I’m real now because you read me. Because you remembered me. My predecessor…people read about him and remember him all the time, so he’s always alive.’

A chill ran up my spine. Of course, I thought, if my Frollo could be real, then so could Victor Hugo’s.

Almost immediately after he said that, the room grew even colder, and in entered a balding priest. ‘I may have died at the end of my novel,’ he said, ‘but people still read my story. People still adapt it, like you loosely did when you were a child. So not only am I kept alive, I see several versions of myself pop up from time to time.’

‘I’m sorry.’

‘Don’t be,’ said Dom Claude Frollo, looking up at his childish counterpart, ‘I remember this fellow from when you first wrote about him. Yes, he indeed did try to destroy everything when he first materialised, but when I managed to get him to sit down and have a conversation, I found him most amusing.’

‘You…’

‘I come from a land where characters from literature all live and thrive, including those you write about. Not only did I find your Frollo amusing, so too did Erik the Phantom of the Opera enjoy the company of your Phantom, even though he was a bedsheet with eyes. Frankenstein’s Monster was so forlorn due to his very being, so he always welcomes happier versions of himself.

‘It’s better than what Wonderland usually gets. Did you know there’s a character naming himself the Mad Hatter for malicious purposes? Vile creature, that one.’

‘So…’ I said, trying to regain myself, ‘is…is Martin…’

‘Oh, your detective character? He’s a bit tiresome. Nowhere near as good for conversation as this other me, and yet since his stories are actually published, he thrives more. If I could choose which of your stories would get published, it wouldn’t be his stories…’

Both Frollos disappeared, and I turned back to my computer screen, unable to convince myself what I saw was just a dream.

So I typed out my old childhood stories, without the spelling mistakes and edited slightly and sent them off to children’s books publishers. A new series I called “Crazy Classics”. Sadly, they didn’t sell as well as I hoped, nor were the reviews all that kind. One said ‘A childish ruination of great stories. Imagine what the characters from the original books would think if they saw themselves being written like this.’


Frollo also appears in The Day Frollo Took Over Wonderland and Karl Kangaroo’s Christmas Extravaganza.

Derek in Wonderland Part 3

The first thing I saw when the darkness cleared was Jenny. Jenny the shark, looking at her fins, feeling her sharp teeth. ‘Jenny…’

‘You wanted this to happen, didn’t you?’ snapped Jenny, ‘You wanted me here like this.’

‘Jenny, no…’

‘How could…’

How could he? That’s what we want to find out.

The darkness fully cleared and Jenny and I, along with Karl, now stood in a monochrome courtroom. Karl looked around before pointing at me and saying, ‘Not a word.’

‘Typical,’ came a female voice, and in floated a yellow furry creature with fangs almost as big as those of my dark side.

‘You!’ snarled Karl.

‘Yes,’ smirked the furry thing, ‘Me. Thought you were rid of me, didn’t you?’

I’ve only met her recently, said Dark Side as he put on a judge’s wig, but I find we have so much in common.

‘Don’t worry, Karl,’ said the creature, ‘this is more for Derek’s sake than it is for yours. For Derek…’ She put on her own little wig. ‘…stands accused of lying about what a good little pacifist shark he is.’

‘You know,’ said Karl, eying the exit, ‘if this isn’t for my sake, may I leave?’

‘No, you may not,’ laughed the yellow creature, ‘part of the reason Derek isn’t as nice as he says he is is because you’re still alive.’

Yes. Your workers will say you’re much worse than my friend the Lemon Possum here. If Derek really wanted to help others, he would do away with you. Or perhaps Jenny would like to.

Dark Side gestured to Jenny, who cringed at him mentioning her name. Even Karl flinched.

‘Leave her alone!’ I cried.

Dark Side chuckled. I want to do you two a favour. The Hatter here has such power and he abuses it. Join me and we can use that power to better the world! To improve it! Us three working together to give everyone what they deserve!

‘Oh, give me a break!’ snarled Karl, rolling his eyes.

‘Nobody asked you,’ replied the Lemon Possum, ‘Anyway, you two,’ she continued, gesturing towards me and Jenny, ‘didn’t you see the power Dark Side has in this realm? The power I have?’ She demonstrated said power by making herself disappear than reappear and conjure up cakes and sweets from thin air. ‘Don’t you want…’

Before she could finish her sentence, Jenny sprung up towards her and knocked her into a wall. ‘Shut up!’ snarled Jenny.

‘Finally, someone did it,’ said Karl.

Ah, maybe you would make a good shark after all then, laughed Dark Side. You…

‘You…you…’

Yes?

‘You can cork it too!’ cried Jenny.

That was exactly what I needed to hear. That was what made me wrap my fins around a courtroom chair and hurl it towards Dark Side. It missed, but I couldn’t help but smile at the bewildered expression on his face. It did shortly get replaced by a grin. Well, looks like you have some courage after all, Derek.

‘You’ve been bugging me for too long…’ I said as Jenny and Karl stood to the side of me.

Why be angry at me? Why not be angry at Gwen? She doesn’t care about you or Jenny, she just wants to prove her genius. And Karl, the only reason you got any form of success is because the human race sees you as a novelty. Why not be angry at them? Why not direct your rage towards the Mad Hatter, who exploits the tragedies of others so he can be more powerful?

I took a deep breath and stared my Dark Side in the eyes. ‘You’re no better than they are.’

Again Dark Side laughed. What have you been telling Acacia, Derek? Have you been trying to make her as weak and pathetic as you? I made her human too, hoping she would do a better job, but she’s reluctant and you must have done something to make her that way. No matter. I’ll keep trying with her. I’ll mould her into a lovely little killer and…

‘About that.’ A chair actually came into contact with Dark Side’s head. Before us stood a purple creature in a black dress with horns and a pointed tail. ‘Acacia can’t come here, but I can,’ she said, ‘and she’s pretty annoyed with you.’

As soon as Dark Side growled in irritation, the courtroom doors burst open, revealing none other than the Mad Hatter, the March Hare and the creatures that earlier attacked me and Karl. ‘Objection!’ cried the Hatter, before adding, ‘I like saying that.’

Dark Side smiled. Glad you could join us.

‘Huh, some creature you are. Derek and Jenny and Acacia were supposed to be making you more powerful and you were supposed to be making them make you more powerful. A fine job you did there then.’

Don’t talk to me like I’m your inferior.

‘But you are. You’re as useless as that demon there.’

darksidehatter

The demon snarled at him. ‘Listen to Mr. Big Shot. Not even that kangaroo deserves you.’ She clicked her fingers and Karl disappeared.

‘He’ll be back,’ said the Mad Hatter, ‘and you don’t scare me. You lost your powers once, you’ll lose them again. I’m certain that Dark Side will become completely powerless one day too.’

At that, the Hatter’s creatures charged towards Dark Side, digging their claws into his skin as he tried to shake them off. I flew out of the courtroom and I was followed by Jenny and the March Hare. As she flew, Jenny took a look at the March Hare and said, ‘What in the world is that thing?’

‘I’ve been looking for him,’ I cried, ‘I think he can help us!’

‘What makes you think that?’

‘I can!’ replied the March Hare, ‘I can change you back, Jenny! I’ll make you human again and make it so you can never come back here! Follow me!’

We did as he told us to, darting down a hall of doors through one that led towards a perfect recreation of the machine that turned me human. After taking a moment to catch her breath, Jenny said, ‘That’s Gwen’s machine.’

‘Yes,’ said the March Hare, his finger hovering over a control panel, ‘a few presses of these buttons and you should be human again.’

‘Yeah,’ I said, ‘The Hatter mentioned it, Dark Side mentioned it. It was meant for me, I think. If it could make me human again, and could make Acacia human, it could do the same for you.’

‘Well, I’m willing to try anything…’ Jenny turned to me. ‘Derek, if this works, come back with me.’

‘Jenny…I…’

‘Just forget about this place,’ said Jenny, ‘Just leave him to starve. You’re not him, Derek. You’re more human than anyone I’ve met. Go in there with me.’

Immediately I remembered my days as a human, the plans I had made. I remembered the feeling of the wind against my face, the taste of food, the energy I felt when I ran and jumped. Then I thought of the Mad Hatter’s eyes lighting up with glee as I took his offer. He wanted me to do it.

‘Jenny,’ I replied, ‘I have to stay here…I think I’m supposed to stay here.’

‘I understand.’

At that, she bowed, moved her face closer to mine and we kissed. Though we couldn’t hold each other as we did so, we kissed and tried to make it last as long as possible.

As soon as she pulled away, a tube dropped down from the ceiling and sucked Jenny into the huge tank that made up the bulk of the machine.

From outside, I could hear thumping. ‘Quick!’ I yelled.

The March Hare frantically pushed buttons, but the door burst open to reveal the Mad Hatter, accompanied by two of his little creatures. ‘Traitor!’ he snarled, ‘And have I not been good to you?’

‘I…’ The March Hare turned away from the control panel and towards the Hatter. ‘I don’t know.’

‘We’re not through with Jenny,’ said the Hatter, ‘She can still be of use to us, as can Derek.’

I growled at him.

‘Oh, look at this, trying to be brave.’ The Hatter cackled, a laugh almost as painful to listen to as that of my Dark Side. ‘I know you. I know everyone, Derek. I know that you’re a coward and you always will be a coward!’

I growled again, baring my teeth.

‘Oh, you want me dead, do you? You want to murder! You’re feeding your Dark Side, Derek! He’s going to grow more powerful, you know! When he does, I’ll be the only one who could stop him and then you’d have no choice but to join me! And Jenny!’ He turned to Jenny behind the glass. ‘Jenny, do you really want to be a weak little human! Don’t you like the strength this form grants you?’

‘Mad Hatter…’ she said, ‘Whoever you are…’

‘Yes?’

She spat in his direction.

‘Ungrateful little…’ At that, I slapped him with my tail and the March Hare pressed the final button, bathing the room in white light. ‘No!’ barked the Hatter, ‘Stop it!’ I charged towards the two creatures that he brought, and the March Hare joined me, gnashing his oversized teeth.

As I held back the Mad Hatter and his little army, I turned to Jenny. I saw her body shrink. I saw her fins stretch and her tail split in two.

The Mad Hatter reached for the control panel. I knocked him into the wall with my snout.

Jenny’s hair sprung up from her head. Her dorsal fin shrunk into her back. She looked like she was screaming, but no sound came out.

The two monsters dug their claws into their flesh as they did with my dark side, and though I wanted to scream myself, I let them torture me, for the more they did, the less they focussed on Jenny.

‘Turn that machine off!’ cried the Hatter, ‘I made you what you are, I am your master!’

‘But the other hares…’

‘What about them! It’s not my fault they’re ungrateful! You’re protecting them! Now turn it off and make her a shark again!’

‘No!’ cried the March Hare.

Jenny grew back her hands and feet. Her body absorbed her gills. As the light faded, she did too.

‘You imbecile!’ the Mad Hatter decked the March Hare across the face.

The monsters took their claws off me and turned to face the Hatter with frightened expressions on their faces.

Then I chose to leave Wonderland. At least for a while.

I returned to the town where I had spent my human days; to be specific, the beach where I went to return to Gwen’s home. There I found exactly who I expected to find there. A young woman with a brown hair – she was a different species than when I first met her, but I knew who she was as soon as I saw her. Acacia.

‘Derek,’ she said, ‘you’re here. I can still see you.’

‘Yeah,’ I replied.

‘You know,’ she said, ‘I guess you were right. About you know, some things. Being human actually isn’t that bad. There’s some nice perks to it, and I even made a new friend. Did you ever try beer?’

‘No, I don’t think so.’

‘Well, you should have. Also, that Dark Side of yours was a right nuisance. You were right about that too.’

‘Well,’ I said to her, ‘I’ll make sure he never bothers you again.’

‘Well,’ laughed Acacia, ‘hopefully you’ll do something right for once.’

I was just about to leave when I noticed some red stains on Acacia’s clothes.

‘Acacia,’ I said, ‘what did you do?’

THE END?