Adventure to Ugg

New story! Hope you enjoy this one, in all its spontaneity and insanity!

Katherine sat absolutely still in her desk, mouth slightly ajar and chin propped up by her arm, her eyes gazing forward toward the front of the classroom. However, she saw nothing of the front of the classroom. Everything before her fell into a black hole, leaving nothing for her eyes to see. Had she come to her senses and looked around, though, she might have found that the other students were in similar states, though perhaps more attentive to the teacher’s instructions than she was.

That said, it took her by complete surprise when the door to the classroom burst open. She jumped, holding onto her desk for dear life as her heart raced faster than an Olympic track star. She stared at the doorway, eyes wide as dinner plates as the strangest man she had ever seen rushed into the room.

His beard stretched down to his belts, one of which held up his cargo pants, and the other of which completed his lilac bathrobe. He then wore a suit and tie, and also goggles over his eyes.

“Quick, Katherine!” he said. “We need you to save the wooooooorld!”

He dashed back outside, arms flailing like noodles as he went.

Katherine looked around, to see how any of the rest of the class had reacted to this sudden intrusion. But no one seemed to have noticed a thing. The teacher continued in the drawling voice that had rendered her comatose in the first place, and the students stared forward like corpses. Katherine stood. No one stopped her. And then she ran out into the hallway.

“You came!” exclaimed the eccentric. “Now quick, put these on!”

He held out a pair of goggles identical to his own. Katherine took them tentatively.

“But wait – who are you? What’s going on?” she asked.

“Why, I’m Walt, Master of All Magics and Galactic Wizard.” As he said this, his voice suddenly grew deep and his eyes burst into flames. But the next instant he was back to normal. Or, at least, whatever he was before his eyes started burning. “We’re going to the Land of Ugg to defeat the dark sorcerer who has taken over! Quick, put on the goggles!”

“Okay,” said Katherine shakily, doing as she was bid. “What do we need these for?”

“To protect us from the Tarmukuls,” replied the old man, grabbing her hand and raising his free arm. “Now let’s gooooooooooo!”

He leapt off the ground and hurtled through the air, dragging Katherine right behind him. They crashed through the school roof and soared out into space. The void shimmered with all kinds of colors, from the white of stars, to blue and red clouds. The farther they went, the more colorful it became, until the black disappeared entirely, replaced by gold and red and blue and white. Katherine held on to the eccentric’s hand for dear life, and he seemed to be enjoying this whole thing.

At last, though, the flight came to an end. They landed in a field of grass and rolled across it after they hit the ground. Katherine lay in the grass a moment, catching her breath, looking up toward the sky. She frowned. The sky was pink. In fact, looking around, all the colors were different. The grass was red, there were trees in the distance that were blue, and the clouds were yellow. Katherine had never taken any psychedelic drugs, but she imagined that this would be what the world would look like.

“Come on!” said Walt, who had already sprang to his feet. “We’re needed at the castle!”

“What castle?” Katherine asked as she stood up, looking around. “Don’t you think you could have landed us any closer to it?”

“Of course! But it’s invisible! Only the true of heart may find the entrance to the Castle of Uzuglimakatopoppopridumnislestafeeeeeeeeeeelingsrodan.”

“Right, I’m sure.” She stepped forward, but something suddenly and abruptly stopped her from moving. Bap! She fell to the ground, rubbing where her goggles had pressed against her face.

“You found it!” Walt declared. “You’ve found the Castle Uzuglimakatopoppopridumnislestafeeeeeeeeeeelingsrodan!”

Katherine was just about to ask why it had such a weird name, but everything else was so weird about this trip that she figured it was best not to question things too much. Instead, she just got back to her feet and felt her way along the wall, until she found the doorknob. She turned it and pushed and walked inside.

It looked like an old temple, with columns on both sides and a long walkway in the center. At the very back, on the top of a dais, stood a stone basin that contained a blue flame, the only light in the room. A group of ugly, rotten soldiers stood at the base of the dais, and the most diabolical man that Katherine had ever seen stood at the top of it. He was thin and robed in black, and he turned to her as she entered the hall.

“Ah, Katherine. I thought you might be joining us soon,” he crooned.

“Who are you? What’s going on?” she asked.

“Why, I am the villain. I am … Π. I’m here to steal the Golden Flame and conquer the world. Aren’t you here to stop me?”

“I guess.” She shrugged and walked down the aisle toward him, hands in her pockets.

“Stop!” Π snapped. “One step further and I will unleash my powers upon you!”

Katherine frowned, but stopped. “So how do I stop you, then?”

“By answering my very simple question. But beware! For many have tried to answer it, and none have succeeded! Tell me, Katherine, what is … π?”

Katherine wracked her brains. Despite years of education, she couldn’t think of a good answer. All she knew were the first two digits, and she had the feeling that those would not constitute a sufficient answer. But then a thought occurred to her, and she grinned.

“Pie is a baked dish where the baker uses pastry dough to cover a special ingredient, which is often anything from fruits to nuts.”

A look of fury crossed Π‘s face, but not for long. He pointed his finger at her.

“Curse your puns! Katherine, I swear that you will –” but then he was gone. In his place was a chocolate pie.

His minions let out a shout of glee and dashed forward, quickly devouring the poor pastry. Katherine smiled again, more broadly. She was beginning to enjoy this whole thing. Maybe she’d stay here and figure out this weird world before returning home. Or maybe –

There was a long ringing that caused Katherine to jump just a little. Blinking bleary eyes, she realized that she was lying on her desk, and the class period had just ended. Shoot. And the dream had just been getting good.

The Rainstorm

Although this was admittedly written spur of the moment, I’m starting to wonder whether I should continue with this story. Hope you enjoy!

The rain roared as it rushed to the earth from black clouds covering the night sky, soaking the dirt and the grass and the two men, sitting stoically across from one another, an intricate circular pattern carved into the earth between them. The trench was already filled with water, and now it bounced with the ripples of the raindrops. The men seemed to take no notice, though, as each gazed unblinking into the other’s eyes.

Neither wore a shirt, but rather left his thin and bony torso exposed to the elements. Lightning flashed in the distance, reflecting briefly off one’s bald head. The other’s long hair fell straight, his bangs plastered against his face. It didn’t swing as his face turned toward the lightning and then back to the other, who had reacted similarly.

Both retrieved a thin vial from the recesses of clothing and poured the contents into the water. The particles fell through the water, disturbed only by the raindrops cascading on the surface. Several seconds later, thunder drowned out the rain, setting the trenches of water quivering. At once the particles in the water rose from their resting place on the trench floor, rocketing all over the intricate design.

There was a second lightning strike. The two men added another substance. When the thunder pealed again, this too dissolved over the whole design, which now began to glow faintly

A third fork of lightning. And then a fourth. Each time, the men poured a new substance into the trench, and every time the accompanying thunder rang, the substance hurried to fill the entire network. The glow intensified with each addition, and it slowly changed colors. It started faintly white, but then grew violet, then blue, then green, yellow, orange, and finally red.

By now the thunder accompanied the lightning in perfect unison. As soon as the last element was added, a fork of lightning arched through the sky, landing right in the center of the design. At the end of the split second that the lightning existed, it glowed red like the water, before the shock wave rippled out, tossing the one man’s hair back, though both men sat, as though statues riveted into the ground.

The thunder blasted their ears, and the water in the trenches leapt out in terror at the noise and the power of the lightning. But rather than slop over the sides, the water rose, still glowing, through the air, emptying the trenches as it sailed in strings up and then around to the center, where the lightning had struck. There, it collected in a single orb, like burning sun, hovering ever so slightly off the ground.

Only now did the two men stand, each producing a new vial, this one larger than any they had yet used. They stepped forward, over the remains of the trenches, toward the orb in the center. The vials passed through it, collecting it in part. Then the vials vanished back into the mens’ clothing.

The bald one reached down and put his hand into the remaining sphere. When he retracted, the orb came with it, collapsing so that it formed a sort of liquid glove on his hand. The two stared at it for a moment in evaluation, and then the bald one turned, pointing his now gloved hand at a tree several yards away. A red spark burst from the end of the glove, rocketing through the rain as it bounced from raindrop to raindrop, till at last it reached the target. The point of contact exploded, and the tree crumbled under the weight of the blast and the loss of balance.

The two turned to each other and smiled in dark satisfaction.

The Art Class

This is an interesting attempt at a sort of Shaggy Dog story. I’m not quite sure how well it worked, but I hope you enjoy it!

Jim and Carl had no idea why the public school system forced them to go through the tedious and tiring class curriculum that furthered nothing in their education and only deterred them from what they would rather do: baseball. Both boys were pitchers on the team at their high school, and were best friends and rivals as a result. When they weren’t in season, they would train by playing catch to keep up their skills and their muscles.

Have you ever been in a war zone where both sides were making excessive use of artillery? That’s a pretty good idea for what their practicing would look like, though I think it doesn’t quite get across quite as much of the noise and speed that Jim and Carl were able to accomplish. Seriously, when Jim threw, it was like a rocket ship blasting through the atmosphere wreathed in fire. And when Carl threw, it was like one of those fancy magnet trains, where some lunatic had grabbed the controls and removed the brakes.

But enough about my silly rants on their throws. This is about art class.

I think you know the standard procedure for art classes. A unit on drawing, a unit on watercolor, a unit on sculpture, and a unit on acrylic paint. Not necessarily in that order. But Jim and Carl had gone through most of these in that semester, and they had now come to the painting unit.

“I guess we’re painting today,” Jim said to Carl one morning as they walked through the halls to art class.

“Man, I don’t know why they bother making us go to art class,” Carl replied. “I mean, who’s going to actually use that skill? The five anime nuts? They’re so good, though, that they don’t need the class. I mean, I’m going to play baseball in college – I’m not going to paint after this class.”

“Well, I just hope she doesn’t make us use The Bin for the next assignment. I want to do my own painting.”

“Yeah.”

If you haven’t had an art class, The Bin is the arbitrary pile of images, largely composed of calendar photos and National Geographic magazines, that art teachers distribute among their budding Picassos as bases for their art pieces.

“It’s too bad there’s never anything sports related in the bin,” lamented Jim as they entered the art classroom.

They sat down shortly before the bell rang. Their teacher, Ms. Fucens, stepped up before the class, where she stood only a little taller than the students slouching in their seats. She lectured on painting for the first half of class, demonstrating for them, before she sent them off to work on their own.

“For the painting assignment, you’ll need to choose one of the pictures in the bin over there,” she said, pointing to The Bin. Jim and Carl groaned. “So make sure it’s different from the practice pictures you do. The painting assignment is due next Friday, so you have this week to practice and figure out what you’re doing, and next week to work on the painting.”

The two friends joined the rest of the class gathering supplies and sifting through The Bin for adequate images to copy. Jim, finding a hawk, and Carl, finding a green house, then sat down to begin. They didn’t get much done, since they talked most of the time.

“That’s a decent hawk, Jim,” Carl said near the end of the period.

“Yeah, they look hard, but I guess they’re okay.”

“I think I’m going to try one tomorrow.”

“Sure, man.”

“Don’t forget to turn in your practice paintings,” Ms. Fucens reminded the class at the end of the hour. “So that I can grade them.”

The two of them did birds for the rest of their practice pieces. However, when it came time for the final painting, Jim decided to do a house. Though it was slow going, they managed to finish their paintings on time. Sure, they didn’t do anything spectacular, but I imagine high school art teachers have low standards for people who don’t care about their skills in creating art.

That said, Ms. Fucens did talk to each of them a couple days about the whole painting experience. As they worked on the drawing unit, she went around the classroom and talked to each of the students. When she came to the pitchers, she talked to them together.

“You had some interesting paintings,” she said as she lay the final pieces and the practices on their table, complete with red letters marking grades. “They seemed rather one note. Not that I was surprised.”

“What do you mean?” asked Carl.

“You may not no this, but my brother is also a baseball player. He does some art as well, and his is just as uniform as yours. I guess it’s not for nothing that they say a pitcher paints a house and birds.”

Clementine

A story about high school shenanigans. Hope you enjoy!

“Yo, Tiny, how are things down there?”
Clementine stopped, her foot in midair as she did so. She let it fall to the floor with a tense thud. The words felt like that extra shovelful of coal that a smith’s apprentice ineptly threw in, accidentally sending hot surges of fire to consume the building. No, too small. The sudden anger in her heart was more like the discovery of gunpowder. Except that it wouldn’t help the discoverer any.

She twisted around toward the sound of the voice. No one, absolutely no one, called her Tiny. Sure, Clementine was a mouthful to say, but of all the nicknames to use, Tiny was the worst. Sure, she was rather vertically challenged, but she thought she had taught most of the kids in the school not to call her such names years ago.

Sure enough, Clementine didn’t recognize the tall, beefed gangster standing before her. Really, he was the epitome of the high school tough guy. Cap backwards, giant basketball shoes, low jeans, and heavy jacket that hid his muscles. If he had any. She sized him up, wondering how long it would take her to get him in a headlock. Probably longer than she wanted, what with the two goons on either side of him.

Around them, the streams of students paused at the brewing confrontation, especially those among Clementine’s class who remembered why people had stopped calling her Tiny.

“What ya just call me?” she asked, her brow lowering like a knight’s visor.

“Tiny. Cause ya are,” he replied. The goons snickered.

“Ya know my name’s Clementine, right? Clementine Brown? I know it’s a lot to say, but can ya say it with me? Cleh-men-tine. Now you try.”

“Girl, I know what your name is.”

“Then why’d ya not address me by it? Kids these days.” She rolled her eyes. Already, a circle had formed around her, the gangster, and the goons.

“I’m just saying, you’re short.”

“Here we go,” said someone in the crowd.

Clementine stepped forward. “Yeah, and you’re skinnier than a giraffe on a diet. And you look as good. Why do you care?”

The boy shrugged. “I don’t.”

“Yeah, ya don’t,” she replied, rolling up her sleeves. “Cause you’re just trying to get a reaction in order to prove you’re better than everybody. But not me. Ya wanna hear my other nickname?”

This other nickname happened to be Napoleon, which was a bit of a misnomer. First off, Napoleon was never actually that short, but most of the students didn’t know that, and those that did didn’t care. Secondly, Clementine never lost (though she had been sent on several “exiles” in the past), even against the Russians. Seriously, there were two of them on the football team, and they learned in Freshman year to fear her.

“Nah,” said the boy in answer to her question. “I got class to get to.”

“I ain’t gym, is it? Cause I can teach you right here, right now.”

The gangster and his goons grinned. “Sure. What sport?”

“No sport. More like those examinations they do at the beginning of the year. How fast can ya get the other person in a headlock?”

“Alright. It’s on.”

They leapt at each other like a pair of snarling lions, each ready to tear the other’s heart out.

* * *

About a minute later, the principal came running down the hallway, joined by half a dozen security guards, who were also calling for backup as they ran — not necessarily because they feared her, but because they knew it would take quite a few to pin her down. They pushed through the screaming crowd in the center of the hall, to find Clementine administering a headlock to a Freshman boy. Several in the crowd were using stopwatch apps on their phones, and they were the most enthusiastic about the fight. The principal peered over one student’s shoulder to see the time on it: fourteen point six two seconds. That must be a record for her.

Forest Hunt

New post! I hope you enjoy this one!

Tomil and Rhaeso stalked quietly through the forest, bows at the ready as they weaved among trees and bushes. Their quivers pressed against their backs, as well as their spears, which they had brought in case their prey came too close for comfort.

They were hunting the vicious Vargath beast. It was a great, red furred, creature with sharp claws and foot-long fangs and could crush a bones in a single snap. These things were massive, reaching up to ten feet in height without taking any of their four padded paws off the ground. They were a danger for a dozen men, even without counting their impressive speed and their deadly tail.

Which, of course, was the reason that the two friends hunted one now. Great glory and honor would be bestowed upon anyone who could manage to slay one, especially with so few numbers – usually parties of twenty or more went together, and even then half of them died.

Tomil pointed toward a spot in the undergrowth where there was evidence of heavy feet – heavy feet with padding and razor-sharp non-retractable claws. He muttered to Rhaeso, “This is stupid. If it takes twenty men to take down one of these things, why are just the two of us out here? We’re risking our lives here – I think we need a better motivation than fame and glory.”

“I agree,” Rhaeso whispered back. “But don’t talk to me about motivation – I don’t even know where we are and where we’re from. You’d think the narrator would take time to establish that sort of thing, but I guess not.”

Well, that isn’t really what they said. What they said was more along the lines of:

“I know! I mean, I guess we come from some kind of town where there are a lot of guys who do this kind of thing every so often, and we’re supposed to want to prove ourselves, but this is a really dumb way of doing so.”

“Wouldn’t it be better for us to go with more people? Or wait until there’s more who are willing to help?”

Alright, now they’re trying to be difficult. Dear reader, I apologize for the misbehavior of the two main characters. I’ll see if I can’t wrangle them in.

“Hey, you!” said the narrator’s ethereal voice into the woods, ringing around Tomil and Rhaeso. “You’re supposed to be looking for the Vargath! Now get going!”

“Who was that?” said Tomil reluctantly.

“It’s the narrator! Will you please start saying your lines right!”

“Make us,” replied Rhaeso.

“I’ve been trying!” exclaimed the narrator. “Will you please go on with the plot instead of complaining about how much exposition I put in a piece? I only have a thousand words or so for this, and that’s almost half done.”

“But there’s no good motivation for us to continue!”

“Ugh. Look, I don’t have to give you dialogue. I could just make you go along in prose – then you won’t have any of this freedom. Do you want that?”

“What I’d like is to figure out where we are,” said Rhaeso.

“That’s it!”

The two friends walked up to the trail, looking carefully through the forest for the next sign of the deadly beast. But anything was hard to find this deep in the woods. The trees were thick and tall, like towers spread over a dark mountain, full of ivy that curled over the branches like silent snakes. There was no wind that could break through into the deep woods to rustle the dark berry bushes or join the noises of venomous insects or cackling birds or – HEY! JUST WHERE DO YOU THINK YOU’RE GOING?

Tomil and Rhaeso looked back toward the source of the narrator’s voice, having attempted to sneak away from the Vargath’s trail as the narrator descended into a description of the scenery.

“Explain yourselves!”

“Well, you were having so much fun detailing the forest,” said Tomil. “That we figured out that we come from the opposite direction of the footprints and decided to try heading home. What are you going to do about it?”

“Well, considering nothing in this universe exists outside the woods yet – at least concretely, nothing.”

“Really? Rheaso, what can you see over there?”

“I see a blue deer, with giant antlers that form the word –”

“Hey! Only I’m supposed to have that power!” shouted the narrator.

“You can only tell,” replied Tomil. “We show. And you know which one is better.”

(Please wait a moment as the narrator takes some time to vent his frustrations.)

(Thank you.)

A dark shadow crossed the field of vision of Tomil and Rhaeso. The two of them froze, hands on their bows as they notched an arrow. Rhaeso glanced in the direction of the deer, and it was gone. They heard the bodiless chuckle of the narrator as another dark flash went past them. A moment later, the deer’s head landed at their feet, bloodied with eyes wide in terror. They jumped back, scanning the treeline for the Vargath that they knew was now stalking them.

The next moment he appeared, standing before him at his full height, even greater than the ten feet previously established. He roared, baring his fangs dripping in the blood of the dead deer. Then he pounced. The two friends tried to fight back, but it was too late. Their blood splattered the forest floor. Serves them right for trying to derail the plot.

Cave-in

As stated last week, I’m going to start posting every five days, rather than every Tuesday and Thursday (which, as anyone following this blog can see, hasn’t happened frequently for a couple months). That said, I hope you enjoy this piece.

For a moment, Nico feared that he’d gone blind. But as he jolted up from the place where he had just lain, he realized that he felt no pain in his eyes; and anyway, even if he were blind, it wouldn’t matter. Not after what had transpired to leave him in this state.

Wherever he was, blackness covered his vision like a colored swimming pool – deep, dark, and suffocating. It pressed on him with the combined power of the claustrophobia and agoraphobia that resides in the hearts of all humanity, planting him in a box that at once was only a couple feet wide and also stretched to the horizon. He felt the ground around his position, touching the rough stone and the loose rocks of various sizes that had dislodged with those that had imprisoned him in this place.

At least he hadn’t suffered any serious damage. He could feel a stickiness on his arms and legs and head, but there was only a little pain now in those regions – enough for him to ignore, enough not to hinder movement.

He rose steadily to his feet, looking all around him for any hint as to the way out. But the darkness wrapped everything in doubt, and there wasn’t even a reflection of light to help him. He would have to rely on his position when he came to.

He had turned to face the rock slide as it closed behind him and he had fallen backwards, so his best bet would be to turn around and go to the back of the cave with the hope that it would come out somewhere.

Turning around, he began to walk forward, one small step at a time, hands defensively out in front of him. He shuffled on, his boots knocking against small rocks and shifting over the uneven terrain, causing him to stumble frequently.

After what seemed like hours, his hands finally pressed against something solid. He stepped closer to whatever it was, either a wall or a pillar or just a large, flat rock, and moved his hands over its surface. It was taller than him, and it seemed to stretch on to his left. To his right was a corner. He followed this corner with his feet, feeling his way along with his hands as well. It was definitely a wall – or, more accurately, he discovered as he stretched out his hand into the space opposite the wall, a tunnel.

So he followed this tunnel, the smooth, cold, stone twisting and winding. As he walked carefully forward, his ears picked up what appeared to be the distant sound of rushing water. His heart leapt with hope, for a river might just mean a way to escape this black prison. His steps quickened, regardless of whatever danger may lie on the black floor.

At last, the tunnel opened up into another void. However, unlike the silent, suffocating, blackness of the previous chamber, this one was loud and roaring with the sound of a river. The water threw light jubilantly on the ceiling and the walls, reflecting it all in its bubbling, glassy, surface. Light – certainty of an escape. Niko nearly shouted for joy.

This chamber was more of a long hall, accompanying the train of water as it marched gradually downhill. Around it, spectating pebbles watched it as it flowed, making up a thin bank that grew taller near the walls. Niko hurried along the bank, crunching the loose stones like echoing claps, or ringing coins, as he followed the water to its destination.

When he first saw the light in the distance, he had to pause to squint his eyes at it. All it was was a white dot on the horizon, yet his eyes were shocked by its presence, having become accustomed to the total darkness of the previous chamber. Nico’s eyes hurt with the adjustment, and the pain continued as he went onward, until he entered the light and walked out into a red canyon.

The river flowed down the middle of the canyon, leaving on the thinnest of banks to either side. These quickly stretched up into great red walls, towering up toward the sky, capped in the green trees that marked this part of the wilderness. Nico took a deep breath, taking in the cool air in contrast to the stuffy stuff that pervaded the cave behind him.

Now he could take a look at himself. Overall, there wasn’t much damage. The rock slide had given him a number of cuts and scrapes, but he washed these off easily in the river before he continued any farther.

The canyon walls were far from flat or smooth. In fact, loose rocks and stones jutted out everywhere on their surfaces. As Nico walked along the canyon, he searched the nearer wall for any place he could climb up to the top. Finding one after several minutes of walking, he reached up, grabbing hold of the canyon wall, and began the climb.

Several more minutes later he pulled himself over the top. He rested a moment in the light of the afternoon sun, relishing the adventure, despite the damage and the danger of the rock slide. He smiled. All he needed to do now was walk back around to where he had found the cave. And then all this would be a story for his friends. He’d like to see them top it.