Percy and Katie

butterflies

For once in my life, I woke up before my wife. Well, perhaps “wake up” wasn’t the correct term to use; I wasn’t fast asleep, yet my eyes were closed, I lay down, and I was thinking about the dream I just had. Not quite awake, not quite asleep. I didn’t get up as quickly as Katie did, so I preferred to savour this rare state of mind.

It only lasted a few minutes before Katie sprung up and said, ‘Wake up!’ like a child on Christmas morning. ‘I am awake,’ I replied as I stretched my appendages, making the stalk we were on bounce slightly. Still I lay, but Katie leapt up in the air, showing off her bright green wings.

‘Come on, lazy bones,’ she said, ‘let’s go!’

‘Go where?’ I said, stretching again.

‘Well, out!’ replied Katie with a laugh, ‘Where else?’

‘Oh, not this again…’

‘Percy,’ sighed Katie, landing back on the stalk, ‘come on. We’ve been in this garden forever. I want to go somewhere else. I want to expand my horizons!’

‘Katie,’ I said, ‘what’s wrong with this garden? It’s safe, it’s beautiful, and it’s so nice when the humans come out here for tea.’ Indeed, on hot summer days, the humans that owned this garden came out onto a table, where they’d have a cup of tea, discuss their world, and sometimes they would lie down in the shade and read books. Katie and I would sometimes flutter over to them and see if we could sip some tea out of the cups. It didn’t bother the humans; they either just commented on how pretty we were, or just ignored us.

‘That’s just it,’ replied Katie, ‘Haven’t you listened to what they talk about? All the places they’ve been to, all the things they’ve seen, all the things they read about in those books. Like, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a pig before. I’ve heard the children talk about them, but I’ve never seen one.’

I stretched again, tapping my head just to help me think more clearly. ‘I’ve heard them talk about things out there, but some of them sound really dangerous. Like just the other day they were talking about a creature called Mr. Owl, who ate a metal worm. If he can devour a worm made out of metal…’

‘I heard that too. They also mentioned something about “Palindrome”. Maybe that’s where Mr. Owl lives. If we avoid that place, we’ll be fine.’

‘Still, there are some things out there that want to eat us. Their cat batting at us is annoying enough without going around facing more creatures.’

‘Well, what about their dog? What about…what do they call him…Duke? You like landing on his nose and looking at him, don’t you?’ I do, as well, but I didn’t say that. ‘Maybe there’s more creatures like Duke. Well, not exactly like him, similar in some ways but different in others. What I’m trying to say is, there is a variety of animals and places out there, and if we just stay in this garden, we aren’t going to see them.’

‘But what’s wrong with just staying here? There’s good food and it’s relaxing and the humans here don’t have nets! Did I tell you they make nets for the sole purpose of catching us?’

Katie sighed, before flying up into the air again and even performing a somersault. ‘We aren’t caterpillars anymore. We aren’t helpless.’

‘I’m sorry, Katie,’ I said, ‘it’s just…I like it here.’

‘Every time we have this conversation,’ replied Katie, ‘we end up staying here. Well, if you’re not going out, I’m going by myself. See you soon.’ And off she flew.

I couldn’t help but fly off after her, with a ‘Wait for me.’

Both of us beat our wings as hard as possible, reaching higher and higher and higher. Katie pointed down and said ‘Look’ and I saw our garden. Our tiny little garden, nothing compared to the great big garden nearby, not even attached to a house. Nothing compared to the fields that seemed to stretch on indefinitely, making our garden’s house seem just a white speck in comparison.

Katie dove, and I dove after her. She soared over the fields, over the roads, then through the buildings. I tried to do as she did, but I never had her energy, so as she explored the streets, I plopped down on a hedge to catch my breath.

‘Come on, lazy!’ She quickly found me. ‘We’ve got more stuff to see!’

We flew past several gardens, all smaller than the one we lived in, but each offering us little snacks. After I said to Katie that those snacks replenished my energy, she challenged me to a race around the town. Even though she didn’t have a finishing place in mind and I knew she would win if she did, I accepted. Through the houses and through the people we weaved, with me flapping my wings even though they ached.

We flew away from those buildings and towards different buildings, ones taller and greyer. Well, not completely grey. When Katie landed on a dustbin and said, ‘I win’, I noticed walls covered with colourful artwork I couldn’t turn away from. I pointed them out to Katie, and we sat on the dustbin for hours, staring at the pictures. Places we had never been and creatures we had never seen, and of course, it made Katie want to travel more.

Through more buildings we went, searching for more artwork. Onto the roads we went, sitting on the cars as they drove by. When night fell, new lights appeared; some in the street, some illuminating the buildings. They were as soothing as sunlight, just in a different way.

What attracted Katie was a building bathed in blue light, which several humans were lining up to go into. We perched on the shoulder of one human going in, and entered a world of dreams. Beams of heavenly light of all colours, the chequered floor flashing, the room surrounded in mist. All the humans here danced, so we danced along with them, nodding our heads along to the music. No-one noticed us; it was like we blended in with the lights.

After a while of that, we fluttered outside to sit on the roof of the place, to get a good view of the town. ‘Well, aren’t you glad you came out with me?’ Katie asked.

‘Sure am,’ I replied.

‘So shall we go back to the garden?’

‘Oh, can’t we stay here? The tea at the garden was nice but nothing compared to the orange foamy liquid they have at this place.’

Reflections

This story includes Dana, a character from my earlier story Jenny and the Monster’s Christmas, (this story takes place before that story) as well as a character from Even More Nightmare Rhymes.


danamirror

‘You’re pathetic.’

She looked in the mirror and told that to herself. Part of her daily ritual, a reminder to herself to be better. There was no pinnacle. There was always room for improvement in body and mind, especially in a vocation like this.

She always had to be better. She couldn’t take any chances. She couldn’t let something like emotion get in the way of her work. Too many depended on her.

‘You’re pathetic.’

She said it again, her saliva splattering all over the mirror as she spoke. She said it again because she meant it. Her reflection made her stomach sting, her own face as atrocious a sight as those of the humans.

‘You’re pathetic. You’re disgusting.’

That thing in the mirror was a pathetic, revolting, disgusting creature, she said to herself. She said it inwardly, but she knew that wasn’t enough. It had to be said as loud as possible, and the more it hurt her throat the better.

She was pathetic, as loathsome as the politicians and common criminals and humans. The only difference between them and her was that she actually tried to be better.

‘You’re…’

Dana pressed her head against the mirror and sighed. Couldn’t bring herself to finish the sentence. Couldn’t bring herself to finish the job.

All of a sudden, Dana remembered her family. Her father. The words he had told her about always having a positive attitude and never giving up on one’s dreams. Her sister.

Her sister, Doctor Henrietta Hubbard. A biomedical scientist who decided to expand her horizons, as it were. Once she tested medicine on animals, then she decided to create her own animals. Creating new species was far from frowned-upon in Abnorlia; that was how Dana got her precious Lix with which she performed her duties. Henrietta’s method for creating animals, however, was an unorthodox one: taking the corpses of animals and sewing them up.

It actually worked. All she had to do was sew the bottom half of a Danta onto the top half of a Gupfor, and she had a creature with large fangs that could hop great distances.

Henrietta got greedy though. One of her colleagues was a scientist looking for universes other than theirs and the universe of humans, who had been trying to modify those remote controls the bedhiders used to enter the bedrooms of human children. Henrietta helped with her colleague’s research, but she also went into the universe of humans, abducting their animals. One thing every monster knew about humans was that they had these creatures called dogs, and they couldn’t get enough of them.

So off Henrietta went on creating the perfect dog, going into human pet cemeteries and unearthing what she saw as the best body parts.

She knew full well there was a chance she’d be discovered. She knew full well that actions like this would begin legends and ghost stories. She knew full well there was a chance the humans would kill her like they did so many of her kind. Like her father.

She just really wanted one of those dogs.

It was a dedication to her work Dana found admirable. Still she was told she couldn’t take any chances. Still she was told that, just like the bedhiders, anyone with any contact with the humans had to die.

Dana didn’t do it. She had used a Lix on her sister – one that knocked her unconscious, not a lethal one – and took her somewhere. When Henrietta came to, Dana told her to run. She received a new name, some money from Dana’s last job and a map to the furthest place Dana could think of.

‘Pathetic.’

Dana thought that would simply be a one-off occurrence. This was her own flesh and blood, after all, and she thus told herself not to do it again. Yet just the other day she was tasked with killing a bedhider, as well as the child the bedhider was planning to scare.

When she came through the same portal as the bedhider, she remembered her father. Like her sister, he had an interest in the human world. He wasn’t a bedhider but he knew one, and used the bedhider’s device to bring his daughters unusual gifts.

A human saw him. A human shot him. Apparently at the time he was picking roses.

He wasn’t the first to have something like this happen, nor was he the last. Poor Margaret Munchester, dying in the world of humans while out with her son. Her body had been found, but her son was missing.

That she kept in mind as she crawled towards the bedhider, the monster that went into the bedrooms of human children to scare them, to help “build character” or something like that. Whatever it was, it was nothing worth risking the safety of monsters over. In seconds, she fired a lethal Lix at the bedhider and he collapsed.

Dana snatched the bedhider’s device and created a portal back to their world, so she could drag the corpse there. Then she returned to the human’s bedroom, leaving the Lix behind. Humans had to be killed with human things, so in went Dana with a kitchen knife.

She had done this before. She had done it several times and she had never been caught. Last time she did it, a clown got blamed.

Over the human child she lunged, clutching the knife in her hands.

The child smiled at her.

Then Dana froze.

‘You actually froze?’ the present Dana asked her reflection, ‘Just because she liked you? Pathetic.

Path…’

She needed to talk to someone.

After she fed her precious Lix, with even a little ‘Mummy has to go now’, she left the flat and slithered towards the train station. Before she paid for her tickets, she took a quick look at her identity for the day – Brenda Mumbles.

The train didn’t take long to arrive at her destination, or at least the station closest to her destination. There was still a long slither to follow, but it was worth it.

The old castle in the woods. Just where she told her to go.

‘Hi, sis! Something bothering you? Well, they say stroking a dog relieves stress and I’ve just made a new one!’

A Duck, a Snake and a Ghost

This story features Anne the Duck, who previously appeared in A Duck and a Turtle.


annetheduck

‘Having falsely been accused of murdering his wife through forged confessions, Lawrence ran to this bridge and leapt off from it, ending his life. It just goes to show what a terrible thing forgery can be, even if it involves writing wrongs.’

Most of the crowd chuckled at that line, yet Anne the duck couldn’t help but feel a little pang of guilt that she was listening to someone make light of a death like that. She attempted not to cringe or show any visible distaste, so she forced a smile.

‘He thought in death he would find peace from the constant accusations, but while it was later proved he was innocent of the murders, the true murderer has never been found. So people say they have seen a ghostly dog walking the bridge, probably attempting to solve the mystery himself. Don’t know how he’s going to solve it wandering about though.’ Norbert the snake tour guide laughed at his own joke, even wiggling the tail that made up his body as he did. His son, Harry, laughed too, but no-one else did. No-one else except for Anne, her titter out of politeness.

Anne had met Harry the snake during one of her Friday night outings, when Melissa had convinced her to go down to The Jungle nightclub. When she walked up to the dance floor, Harry slithered up beside her and danced with her. After they had tired each other out, he bought a round for the both of them – without her even asking him to – and they went up to the smoking area to have a chat. They met at the club again the next week, and then they shared phone numbers and Facebook pages.

harrythesnake

Harry attended the same university Anne did, so they often stopped by each other’s dorms for help with each other’s work, or just to get to know each other better (yes, in every sense of the phrase). One thing Anne learned about Harry while in his room was that Harry was an aspiring horror writer, with shelves full of King and Barker and Halloween decorations when it was nowhere near October.

Anne had read a couple of his short stories, and thought them well-written, if not what she would call tasteful. One such story was about a serial killer who beheaded people and displayed their heads in his cellar. He had beheaded a giraffe and the scene where he cut off bits and pieces of the giraffe’s neck so it would fit on the display was described in too much detail.

Despite his interests, Anne did enjoy spending time with Harry, so when he invited her to spend the weekend with him in his hometown, she agreed. Catterville, considered one of the most haunted towns in England, with the gift shops displaying ghouls and goblins on their windows, and a ghost tour conducted by none other than Harry’s father.

‘And now we come to the street where the Slithering Snake Spectre is supposed to lurk…’ He then described a boa constrictor serial killer who crushed his victims to death before he was captured and hung for his crimes. It sounded like…something that Harry would write, in fact.

‘It’s said that his ghost still wonders these parts, continuing his killings,’ said Norbert, turning away from the tour group, ‘but we all know it’s just a story…or maybe the Slithering Snake Spectre…is right here!’ Norbert turned around, revealing his eyes were now a fiery red. Everyone in the group sighed; even Anne only flinched when Norbert took out the contacts, as it reminded her of the time she tried out contact lenses.

‘Thank you for coming,’ said Norbert to the group, ‘that concludes our tour, be sure to visit many of our fine establishments.’ The rest of the group disbanded, yet Anne stayed with Harry and his father. ‘And thank you for coming, Anne,’ said Norbert, ‘I hope you enjoyed the tour.’

‘It was…interesting,’ said Anne, ‘I can see where your son gets his inspiration from.’

‘Yeah,’ replied Norbert, ‘we’re hoping he writes the next big bestseller. Maybe he’ll even include you in his next story.’

Anne knew that remark was a joke, yet she couldn’t help but imagine herself as the victim of one of Harry’s many serial killers, her severed head rotting in a dark basement.

‘Yeah,’ said Harry, which actually gave Anne a brief chill before he added, ‘Anne, how would you like me to write a story where you’re a vampire hunter? Can you imagine yourself going down into the crypts with a stake in one hand and a gun that shoots silver bullets in the other?’

Once that mental image replaced the one involving her severed head, Anne smiled widely. There she was, making her way down the stone staircase illuminated by flaming torches, pausing when she saw the coffins. It was just like those fantasies she had when she was a duckling, what she’d imagine during playtimes. The vampires would rise and bear their fangs, and Anne would raise her gun…

‘Don’t you use silver bullets on werewolves?’ Anne asked Harry.

‘They can be used on vampires too,’ replied Harry.

‘Well,’ said Norbert, ‘vampires aren’t real, so you can really do whatever you want with them. Anyway, we better get back home, dinner should be ready.’

With Norbert and Harry’s talk about death and ghosts, it was surreal to see Margaret Hepford, the matriarch of the family, be a bright green snake in a pink dress. ‘Well,’ she said as she took off her husband’s top hat, ‘did you lot see any ghosts tonight?’

‘No, we didn’t, thank goodness,’ laughed Anne.

‘Well, I bet these two were disappointed,’ replied Margaret, pointing to her husband and son with her tail.

‘A little,’ said Norbert, taking off his greatcoat.

‘Well, for dinner, we’re having stew, and here’s some bread for…’

Anne gulped. ‘I’m sorry, I really don’t like bread. Do you have any seeds or anything?’

They did not, so Anne had the stew on its own. ‘You know,’ said Anne, looking at her bowl ‘this reminds me of a story my mum told me about what happened to her friend. He was a crane, right, and he knew a fox…’ After she told the story, she changed the subject herself, ‘You know, part of me kind of did want to see ghosts tonight. It’s like, you know, when you’re a kid, and you’re looking at the flowers to find fairies…’

‘Maybe we’ll see a ghost when we go out later,’ said Harry, for he and Anne had planned to go see a movie after dinner.

Margaret sighed. ‘You’re not going to see that new House Party Horror movie, are you?’

‘No,’ laughed Anne, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy, actually.’ She remembered that Harry didn’t even suggest a horror movie; Guardians was his first choice as he said it seemed like the only film on both of them would like.

When dinner was done, Harry escorted Anne out of his home, and Anne actually felt a little freer now that she was away from Harry’s parents. Anne was about to suggest they hold hands, but then she remembered what Harry lacked (he tapped out his stories with the end of his tail). Harry was happy just slithering close to Anne while Anne put her wing around him.

Anne had to admit that action movies always did make her feel more energetic. When she walked to the cinema with Harry, she wondered if she would fall asleep in the theatre, yet when the movie was over, she and Harry ran out – or Harry did his equivalent of running. She had been reminded of the fantasy she entertained earlier, and suddenly Catterville became catacombs, and all around her were opening coffins. She even found herself going ‘Pew, pew’, not caring that she was acting like a duckling.

So when Harry suggested they both go into the street where the Slithering Snake Spectre apparently lurked, she accepted.

That energy she had, those fantasies of fighting evil, they all vanished in an instant when she ran down that street. When all the people of Catterville seemed to fade away into darkness. Where were the streetlights? Where were the lit windows of the takeaways and the shops? All of a sudden, Catterville was empty and dark, with Anne and Harry as the only people there.

The only living people.

‘Hey,’ said Harry, close to Anne as he had been when they went to the cinema, ‘where did everybody go?’

Anne’s stomach sank. This sudden solitude she thought was simply her imagination, the same imagination that made her a vampire-hunting heroine. Silly Anne. No, she actually was all alone with no-one except Harry, standing on the streets of Catterville…no, it didn’t seem like Catterville anymore.

All the buildings seemed to twist and stretch, bending over Anne and Harry as if they were prey ready to be devoured. The sky had turned a complete pitch black with no moon and not a single star. There was soon light though, as all the buildings were soon bathed in an ethereal blue light.

Anne tightened her beak. As the light burned her eyes, she closed them and tried to think of her earlier fantasies. Of her other nights out. Of Terry the Turtle.

Her eyes forced themselves open. Down the street floated a gigantic glowing snake, manoeuvring its way through the bending buildings. It had hollow sockets, yet it seemed to stare right into Anne and Harry, and as it did, it grinned widely, revealing teeth like broken shards of glass.

slitheringsnakespectre

Harry, the same Harry who wrote of bloody murders and actually sought the supernatural, quivered on the spot, looking like his body was filled with water. The Spectre neared him.

‘No!’ cried Anne. She kept her eyes wide open, even giving her glasses a quick clean to make sure she could see the ghost clearly. After that, she tightened her fists, imagining the stake and the gun with the silver bullets in them. All her saliva had dried up, yet she attempted to force words out of her beak.

The Spectre turned to her.

She slapped it across the face.

The Spectre spoke.

‘Huh, no-one’s ever done that.’

The giant snake spectre shrunk into a little glowing globe, which then reformed itself into a deer in a tattered dress.

deirdre

‘Who are you?’ asked Anne.

‘I’m the Slithering Snake Spectre,’ said the doe, ‘and the falsely accused murderer, the headless chicken, the cyclops dog. I’m the only ghost in this town that’s real; all the people who died here went on to the afterlife. I’m just staying on this plane to give this town the ghosts it wants.’

‘Well,’ said Anne, ‘well…’ She swallowed. ‘Certainly a ghost deer should be…impressive enough…’

‘I don’t exactly have an enthralling backstory. Nothing for the tours.’

‘Um,’ replied Anne, wringing her wings, ‘my friend here…’ She pointed to Harry. ‘…his Dad does the tours. Maybe…maybe he’ll let you be a part of them…’

‘What are you doing?’ snapped Harry.

‘Um, and he’s a horror writer. Maybe…maybe if he writes a story about ghosts you can give him some advice.’

The ghost looked at Harry and then back at Anne. ‘Why are you saying this?’

‘Well, maybe…maybe I see a bit of me in you…or something,’ she laughed, ‘Maybe we could be friends.’

‘Maybe,’ said the ghost, ‘Oh, my name’s Deirdre by the way.’ She held out her hoof for Anne.

‘Anne.’ They shook what they had for hands. ‘Harry? Wanna welcome our new friend?’

Harry fainted.

The Day Frollo Took Over Wonderland

Once I had a dream where Wonderland got taken over by Frollo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame so I decided to write a story about it.


teacher

When I got home one evening, I said to myself what all teachers must have thought at least once: ‘My students are idiots.’ As soon as I said it out loud to myself, I imagined saying it out loud in front of said students. I probably won’t have been the first teacher to do such a thing, I thought, but it probably wouldn’t make them any less stupid.

What made me say those things, you might ask? Well, I am an English Literature teacher, and one thing you learn in that position is that children these days don’t appreciate a good story.

Certainly everyone who has ever taught English Literature has had those moments. When you had to tell your class that Frankenstein was the monster’s creator, not the monster, and the monster doesn’t have a square head. When you had to tell your class Romeo and Juliet wasn’t really supposed to be romantic. When you had to tell them there was more to the story than what popular culture told them.

It was that day I had been teaching my class about The Hunchback of NotreNotre Dame de Paris. I asked my class if they knew anything about the story. First person I pointed to, Billy, all he said about it was that it was “the story about the hunchback”. It had more than just a hunchback, I told him, and then Jenny – one of the few students who actually wrote poetry in her free time, not that the poems of hers I’ve read are anything exceptional – elaborated on Billy’s point. ‘Yeah, Quasimodo his name was, I think. And…he had to live alone in the belltower, just because he looked different. I think that sucks.’

Most of what she said wasn’t wrong, but I told her that he didn’t live alone, he had been adopted. ‘Oh yeah,’ she said, ‘it was the bad guy, King Rollo or something.’

Oh, that was it. I not only corrected her about Frollo’s name, I told her that he was more than just “the bad guy”. He did evil deeds due to his lust for Esmerelda, but he did adopt Quasimodo of his own will and he did tutor Pierre. The class only saw him as “the bad guy” because that’s how Hollywood portrayed him, because of how the story had been simplified for mass consumption.

It reminded me of something I heard – I think it was from Jenny, even – about how people often rewrite Alice in Wonderland into a horror story. Someone rewrote it so that Wonderland was a monochrome wasteland ruled by a faceless demon version of the Mad Hatter. Some people.

I remembered my youth, when I read the works of Lewis Carroll, and liked the books the way they were. After reading them, I went out into the garden on those sunny summer days and looked for a rabbit hole myself. Those memories dominated my mind as I marked the day’s papers, so I only gave them half the attention I usually did. Not that it really mattered.

Each paper I looked at, I thought about the student behind it and wondered if they ever did read a great classic that wasn’t assigned to them. They didn’t have the imagination or intelligence I had when I was their age, they just lied around playing those computer games all day, their understanding of the work was basic at best…

All of a sudden, I lost all interest in marking. There was something else that deserved my attention.

Down the hall hopped a giant white rabbit. Not just any white rabbit, The White Rabbit, complete with jacket and waistcoat. The very character I had been hoping to see running through my garden as a child was running down my halls, and seeing him made me a child once again. While I knew I should have been taking a picture or alerting the public about the existence of a fictional character, I found myself chasing after him, watching him hop outside my front door.

When he leapt down that giant hole that had suddenly appeared in my front garden, I leapt down myself without a moment’s hesitation.

I fell down a hole, yet there didn’t seem to be much of a fall. I know that Alice fell and fell and passed by several objects on the way down, and yet for me, there was no transition between diving into the hole and landing among some wet weeds.

Whatever images the word “Wonderland” conjured up for me, this place had none of that. It looked more like I was in the garden of an abandoned home than anything from Lewis Carroll. The sky was shrouded in dark grey clouds, as if a storm was coming, and I stood in an overgrown garden filled with weeds and dead flowers, shuddering from the harsh breeze.

The White Rabbit took a look around and sighed, shaking his head. ‘It’s been like this ever since Frollo took over.’

My childhood dream had turned into a mockery. I swore I even saw Jenny in the garden – dirty blonde hair, checkered shirt and all – laughing at me. Just when I think I’m entering the world of my childhood, I instead enter a world full of literary perversions. Any sense of excitement or wonder I had drained from me instantly, and I could only clutch my fists.

I almost didn’t notice the White Rabbit hopping away towards something that actually did seem to come towards a fairy tale – a giant castle, decorated with hearts on its walls, and towers that resembled red licorice.

Again I followed him, all the while trying to make sense of what I had just heard. Frollo only did the evil things he did because of lust, and he was an archdeacon; he certainly didn’t seem the type for taking over a fantasy world. Did he think Esmerelda would love him if he ruled Wonderland?

As I ran through the garden, I accidentally kicked a can into the air, and when I looked down, I saw another, along with other modern rubbish.

The modern world had invaded Wonderland. It had probably invaded Frollo’s Notre Dame as well. If Frollo knew about modern junk food, he probably knew about the adaptations of his story. His psyche was unstable enough without having to learn there were films made that portrayed him as eviller than he actually was. He had been driven to hang someone, now he had been driven to embrace popular culture’s perception of him.

Now this was my chance to be a hero, like those I had read about. Not only would I free Wonderland, I would finally put my wide knowledge of literature to good use. All would finally recognise my genius. Certainly it was no accident the White Rabbit came to me; certainly he knew that there was no-one as wise as I.

The White Rabbit ran into the castle. I would have ran in after him if not for a certain figure approaching the door. A certain bald figure in priestly robes.

Something told me this was Frollo, and all of a sudden, I fully realised where I was and what I was doing. This was the realm of my childhood, the sky and grass and ground and trees and dead plants springing from the words Carroll wrote. Here before me was a character from the lugubrious works of Victor Hugo, one driven mad by lust, no less. A figure I thought of as wholly fictional, now flesh and bone before me, staring at me in a way that made my blood cold.

frollo

Yet still I cried out to him, ‘Stop!’ He narrowed his eyes and grimaced, yet I continued, ‘I know what this is,’ I continued, ‘I know what they’ve done…those stupid…you’ve been portrayed as evil….overly evil by…you did this to Wonderland because of…how they didn’t understand you. I know you’re more complex…you don’t have to…you don’t have to…’

His response was to laugh. A laugh that stung my ears and paralysed my muscles; were it not for that, I would’ve hit him in the face right there and then. He laughed and laughed, probably how he laughed when Esmerelda was hung.

‘You think I did this?’ Frollo said, looking back at the castle, then back at me, ‘Ah, they said Frollo took over, but they didn’t say which Frollo.’

I didn’t answer, but I couldn’t tell if it were out of fear or confusion. As soon as he said that, the thought entered my mind that if the literary Frollo could come into existence, one of his cinematic counterparts could as well.

‘This world has been taken over by my brother, Jehan,’ sighed Frollo, ‘Can you believe in more than a century since this world was formed, he was the one who introduced them to alcohol? They liked beer so much, they made him the new King.’ Frollo gestured towards the garden I stood in. ‘That had nothing to do with me. The people here just don’t do as much gardening as they used to, and as for the sky, well, Wonderland has rainy days like your world does.’ He took another look at the castle. ‘I came here to talk to him about this. At least he doesn’t ask me for money anymore.’

He noticed my silence and continued, ‘Oh, do you not know my brother? Have you not read my…’

‘I have, I have!’

‘If the long descriptions dissuaded you, I won’t hold it against you…’

‘No, I have, I know how your book has been…’

‘Well,’ said Frollo, ‘in relation to an earlier point, you were half right. This is because of my story’s prominence in popular culture. You see, despite my…actions, people constantly approach me, asking me to sign copies of my book as well as the film adaptations, Quasimodo too, yet Jehan, while adapted often, never quite got the cinematic fame I have. Some adaptations of Hugo’s work are fine works in their own right, but don’t include him. That’s one reason he went and did what he did here.’

Sure enough, the front door of the castle opened again, and out came a man with unkempt blonde hair holding a tankard. Following him were several playing card men, each holding tankards of their own, stumbling out of the castle. ‘Hello, brother,’ said Jehan, for that was who he was, ‘you’ve brought a friend. Have some.’

Another tankard was shoved in my face. After all that I had seen, this was exactly what I needed.

As soon as I guzzled it, I suddenly found myself back in my home, a paper stuck to my face with saliva. Of course, the logical answer to this was that it was all a dream, yet that childlike part of me awoke again and told me it was real.

The White Rabbit had to have come to me for a reason.

I took a look inside my fridge. All my beer was gone, white fur in their place.

The Chocolate Egg

I suddenly awoke at 3:00am on Easter Sunday. My pyjamas and my duvet reeked of sweat, and my throat throbbed and stung, demanding hydration. I knew I had to stand up and open the window, I knew I had to go downstairs for water, but I couldn’t. My brain begged I get up, yet my body remained still. Only my head moved, just to look at the window that needed opening, and the alarm clock proudly displaying the time and date. 3:01am Easter Sunday.

Well, the clock didn’t actually have the phrase “Easter Sunday” on it, but that’s what came to mind when I saw the date. In fact, thinking about Easter was what actually gave me the strength to stand up and open that goddamn window. Today, I thought, today I was going to meet up with Margo, and we would give each other a big chocolate egg, complete with personalised message, and then we’d go out and have dinner. I had made the reservations, I remembered, and just before they were entirely booked too.

So I had something to look forward to that day. In order to enjoy that something, I needed to be well-rested. I couldn’t be well-rested if I was hot and thirsty. I had already opened the window, and let its refreshing breeze waft into my bedroom, so now all I needed to do was get a drink of water.

As I went downstairs, I remembered Easters past, where I woke up almost as early as I did on Christmas morning, and quietly solved the clues the Easter Bunny had left and collected my eggs. I didn’t eat them right away, but saved them until the time I was actually supposed to wake up. I couldn’t remember if it was out of respect for my parents or just so the eggs could be my trophies for a few hours.

There was another chocolate egg. A big, unwrapped chocolate egg sitting on my kitchen counter. It wasn’t the egg I was going to give Margo, nor was it any egg I had bought or had been given. I couldn’t help but stare at it, forgetting my dehydration. I made sure not to touch it and told myself to call the police immediately, yet my inner child couldn’t help but chime in with a “The Easter Bunny’s been!”

Well, no matter what my inner child thought, I walked over to the telephone, but just before I could dial, I heard a thud right behind me. Instinctively I turned around and there was the egg in the hall, now sporting spider legs and sharp teeth.

chocolateegg

I no longer cared that I was dehydrated. I no longer thought about calling the police. All I could think of at that moment was help.

‘Help!’ I screamed. ‘Help!’ I yelled until I was hoarse, in a tiny hope that someone would hear me. Nobody came, but the egg still clattered along the hall. At that point, I leapt towards the front door, pulling at it furiously with futility, for I had temporarily forgotten the concept of “locking”. Just as keys came back into my mind, the egg pounced, digging its legs into my back, making my veins burn.

I tried to scream in pain, but all that came out was a gasp. I fell to the ground, and the egg leapt up into the air, landing on my stomach. It walked towards me, each of its legs clicking as it did so, and looked me over as if deciding which part of me would be the most delicious.

Again its legs dug into my skin. Again my veins seemed to scream.

Then it stood still.

It made not a movement.

I saw my chance and I crushed it.

Now what lay on my stomach were nothing but pieces of chocolate, what you’d expect if you broke a regular hollow Easter egg. No legs or eyeballs or teeth. You’d expect a creature that looked as hungry as it did to have organs, but nothing.

I ate it. I don’t know why I did it, but I ate it.

I had bought an egg and forgotten all about it. That’s what I told myself. I bought myself a chocolate egg and had thought so much about the dinner it had completely slipped my mind. The egg being a monster was all a dream. Dreams always feel real. It’s like when you wake up in the morning, then go back to sleep and then have a dream about getting ready for the day and you think you actually have gotten ready only to suddenly find yourself in bed.

I suddenly awoke at 4:00am on Easter Sunday. I needed to have a shit.

The screaming and monsters and bad dreams forgotten, I made my way to the toilet and plopped myself on my little throne, letting it loose.

I heard cheers.

As soon as I stood up, several little chocolate eggs hopped out of the toilet and ran out of the bathroom.

Daryl and Denise – Epilogue

‘Typical.’ Denise shook her head, smirking, as Daryl rose from the temple floor. ‘Didn’t kill Aosoth, couldn’t kill the little bugger there.’ Turning around, Daryl saw the creature Aruff had created for him to fight: a small round thing that almost resembled a miniature Spartypuss. It chuckled in a high-pitched way that reminded Daryl of an especially annoying cartoon character used in an advert. Were it that or Denise’s expression he wasn’t sure, but right afterwards, he got back onto his feet and kicked away the little thing, allowing it to bounce off a wall.

‘Very good, Daryl,’ said Aruff, slowly clapping. ‘Maybe next we can move you onto goblins.’

‘Still,’ said Denise, ‘It’s a start.’

Rubbing his head, Daryl took another look at the creature he kicked, and then back at Denise. ‘How long did it take you to get as good as you are?’

Denise sighed, rubbing her forehead. ‘Oh, don’t mind that. Anyway, I think that’ll be enough training for today. Now then, Daryl, do you still want to go back to your old village and get reacquainted?’

‘Of course,’ said Daryl, straightening out his tweed jacket, his vest, his tie. ‘It’s been yoinks since I’ve been there…’

‘Yoinks?’

‘A word I picked up from a book. Anyway…’ As they usually did, a thought suddenly popped into Daryl’s mind without warning. ‘They m-might not like me though.’

‘Of course they won’t,’ said Denise, folding her arms, ‘But don’t worry. I’ll talk with them about it.’

‘Okay,’ said Daryl, similar to the way a small child may reluctantly agree to his mother’s demands.

‘Hey!’ said Aruff, his voice echoing throughout the temple. ‘Do you want to atone or not?’

Turning away from Denise, Daryl nodded. ‘Yeah, sure do!’

‘Good.’ With that, Aruff created an elephantine blob that reached to the ceiling, with no facial features save for a mouth lined with fangs. Daryl charged, and ended up swallowed by the creature, swimming in slime.

Denise rolled her eyes. ‘Oh, this is going to be fun.’

Daryl and Denise – Chapter 25

darylanddenisetalk

Letting the chair clatter to the ground, Denise collapsed to her knees, staring at the spot where Aosoth had vanished. She took a moment to collect herself, tiny flames emerging from her mouth, before she felt a hand on her shoulder. Spartypuss, his bright smile regained.

‘Well,’ said Denise, chuckling to herself. ‘Just be glad your brother wasn’t here. I don’t know how he would have reacted to seeing how you heroically defeated Aosoth’s army.’

‘But that mean old witch’s gone now,’ said Spartypuss, raising his arms. ‘And it’s all because of you and Daryl!’

‘Yes,’ said Denise, actually feeling herself filling with a sense of confidence, ‘but Coover did his part too. Which reminds me…’

Springing off the road, Denise flew to the building where she put Coover, and took him back down to Earth, cap and all. ‘What is this sorcery?’ cried Coover. ‘What was I doing atop a building? Especially when I should be down there fighting the mistress of evil?’

‘The fight’s over,’ replied Denise, ‘Aosoth is gone. She’s given up.’

‘Of course!’ said Coover as he set foot on the ground. ‘She knew better than to deal with me, after all. Even in this ridiculous outfit, I was still too much for her to handle!’

‘Anyway,’ said Denise, turning to Spartypuss, ‘Aosoth is gone and can’t overpower you, so can you use your magic to rebuild this town?’

‘Of course!’ said Spartypuss, pointing to the air, ‘but first!’ Using his magic, he made balloons of several colours materialise from the ground, followed by an endless table filled with sweets, cakes, fizzy pop and just about everything that made up Spartypuss’ diet. ‘Hey, everyone!’ yelled Spartypuss, pushing Denise and Coover forward towards the freed humans. ‘These people helped save us!’

Cheering.

People were cheering for her. She had done her part in fighting Aosoth, and she was getting her reward for doing so. These people didn’t scream at her appearance or try to attack her. They only wanted to congratulate her, her prize for all her years of training.

‘Oh, you’re a dragon!’ came a voice from behind Denise. There stood a rather portly young man, with a bad case of acne and a t-shirt with a wizard that resembled Gangrene. ‘Oh, I love dragons! And you’re a girl one too!’ As the man sighed, Denise turned away and looked upwards.

‘Excuse me for a minute,’ she said, before taking to the air once again. Wearing these clothes made the flying a little more disjointed than usual, but she still beat her wings as quickly as possible, trying to navigate this alien world. Sometimes she would see buildings that reminded her of Kirkalanian architecture, but she found herself wondering why anyone would want to live in a giant white cube.

Soon enough, she came to some fields that would be like those of Kirkalan were they a different shade of green and if they didn’t have that big curve piercing them. Just being in a place that wasn’t the native home she had made her feel a little dizzy, and made her circle about twice before she gently landed to regain her bearings. As her head grew more solid, she told herself that she had seen a certain green and brown figure land somewhere, and tried to remind herself where it went. She flew again, but not too far from the ground, and soon enough found Daryl sitting by himself among the grass.

‘Oh,’ he said, lifting his head upward, ‘It’s you. I’m…I’m sorry I didn’t kill Aosoth.’

‘You really should have, Daryl.’

Standing up, Daryl replied, ‘It’s what she wanted me to do.’ Upon saying this, Daryl covered his face with his hands, scrunching it up. ‘I felt bad about…’

‘Yes?’

‘Never mind. What she was trying to do was make sure that I couldn’t live up to my father.’

‘I know, Daryl,’ said Denise, walking towards him. ‘Your father was a great dragon. He was the best of us.’

‘You told me that,’ said Daryl, with a slight growl in his voice. Taking a deep breath, he asked, ‘Did he really kill Aosoth’s father?’

‘What else could he do?’ said Denise, grabbing Daryl’s jacket. ‘You bloody well think…’ She slowly let go of Daryl, hanging her head.

‘I just thought…I just thought there’d be another way.’ Sighing, he added, ‘But if you want to kill me, go ahead, I guess.’

‘I don’t want to kill you, Daryl.’ Denise put her hand on Daryl’s shoulder. ‘You had no choice in the matter, did you?’

‘No,’ replied Daryl.

Denise’s eyes widened. ‘What did she do to you, Daryl? Tell me.’

Daryl described everything he could remember. All the torture and the verbal and physical abuse hurled his way, and of course, his earliest memories of his old village.

‘No dragon should have to go through that, Daryl,’ replied Denise.

‘Oh, well, thank you.’

‘I want to help you, Daryl. I know how you can be trained to have a stronger backbone against your foes, how you can be more like your father was. The way you fought Aosoth reminded me of him a little.’

Daryl’s eyes shifted back and forth. ‘I don’t know.’

‘I’ll help you go back to your village. I’ll reintroduce you to all the other dragons and…’ She shook her head. ‘I don’t know either.’

‘No, no,’ said Daryl, ‘I think it’s a good idea.’

‘So, you want to go back to Kirkalan then?’

‘I want…I want to redeem myself. I really do.’

‘I understand,’ said Denise. ‘I’ll bring you back to Kirkalan, and I’ll help you get the training you deserve.’ She put her finger to her chin as she thought it over.  ‘I know this really good trainer.’

‘I’d appreciate that a lot,’ Daryl nodded.

‘Thank you.’ Denise looked to the sky, beginning to beat her wings. ‘Now, if you’d like to join me, Spartypuss is holding a party.’

‘Okay,’ was all Daryl said before joining her.

The two dragons flew back to the street where the party was being held, and it certainly was in full swing. Speakers that were almost as tall as the surrounding buildings now stood where Aosoth’s throne used to be, letting frantic and ferocious music pound across the area. These sounds made Denise lose her sense of balance and spiralled right into a building. After she pulled herself out, blaming both the music and the general feel of her clothing, she turned around to see a smiling Daryl dancing away to the ungodly sounds emanating from the speakers.

‘You actually like that?’ Denise asked, hands on hips.

‘It took me a while to get used to it,’ said Daryl as loud as he could, ‘but it grows on you.’

‘What…’ All of a sudden, Denise noticed her body moving on its own accord. Her tail swayed back and forth, her wings opening and closing randomly and her legs moved about in several different directions. Due to the discordant nature of her legs, she once again lost balance and, her arms swaying about as much as her legs, Denise almost hit the ground. Before she could do that, however, Daryl grabbed her by the arm and brought her back to her feet. ‘That happens,’ he said.

‘Thanks,’ replied Denise, brushing herself off. The music having lost its hypnotic effect on her – those things never last – Denise walked past the people in hopes of finding Coover and Spartypuss, just to have a chat with them about how things ended up. For a minute, she stood and looked at the many people dancing and enjoying themselves – and those who were covering their ears and yelling – and noticed that they noticed her. Some waved to her, some just seemed to ignore her, but they weren’t attacking her, nor were they accusing her of any wrongdoings or anything like that.

As she looked away, though, she saw none other than Aruff speaking with Spartypuss. Though it was still hard to hear anything with the music pounding away, Denise still found herself able to overhear their conversation. Probably because they were gods, really.

‘Ooh, brother,’ said Spartypuss, ‘Did you see me against Aosoth’s army? I lasted a full hour without breaking into tears!’

‘I bet you did,’ said Aruff, ‘Still, it’s nice that you tried something new.’

‘Punch?’

‘Brought some boar’s blood,’ replied Aruff, making a stein of said blood appear before guzzling it down.

‘Aruff!’ said Denise, and when she appeared, Spartypuss used his magic to turn down the volume of the speakers slightly. ‘Do you think you’re ready to take on another student?’

‘Oh really?’ said Aruff, raising an eyebrow. ‘It’s not that Daryl, is it?’

‘Well…’

‘Because I’d be happy to take on one of Aosoth’s own!’ Aruff grinned, spilling some of his drink as he raised out his hands as if he were going to give Denise a hug. ‘It would be interesting, and Kirkalan could certainly stand to be more interesting. Where is Daryl?’

Speak of the devil, Daryl showed up. A disposable cup of Ribena in one hand, he turned to Aruff and shuddered. ‘Your brother?’ Daryl asked Spartypuss.

‘Oh no!’ Aruff slapped his face. ‘You’ve been listening to what my brother says, haven’t you? You really do need my help.’

‘What?’

‘You said you wanted training to help redeem yourself,’ said Denise, ‘Well, here you go.’

Daryl shrugged. ‘I don’t have anything better to do.’