Phil Phorce: Not Living, Not Dead

It’s about time I started on the rest of this Phil Phorce episode, so here you are.

“What are you doing with those mice in the Elimination room downstairs?” yelled Phume, getting right into Ralph’s face.  Ralph was tied to a sofa in his sitting room, his sister sitting in an easy chair opposite him.

“Should be obvious,” said Ralph.

“We’re taking control and shutting your operations down,” said Phoenix matter-of-factly.  “Those mice will be set free, no thanks to you.”

Ralph shrugged.  “Makes no difference.  I didn’t need them anyway.”

Phume roared and struck the lord across the face.  The old lady spoke up then.  “Phume, stop.  We need him for later.  Save it for the interrogation.”

“Yes, ma’am.”  Phume stepped back and noticed Sebase leaning against the wall near the doorway.

Phoenix noticed him too.  “Is Percival still in there?” she asked.

Sebase shook his head, looking at the floor.

“Where is he?” asked the old lady.

“He disappeared.  That machine in there took him.”  Everyone stared at him.

Ralph looked up at this.  “I didn’t…”

“You didn’t what?” asked Phume.  “Didn’t think the machine would actually work?”  He hit the lord again, and this time the old lady didn’t stop him.

“That’s not the way to do it, Phume,” said Sebase.  “Percival and I found out a weakness he has.  Music gives him pain.”

It was clear from her face that Phoenix couldn’t understand that.  “How could music give him pain?”

“Sing,” said Sebase.  Phoenix hummed something unfamiliar and they saw Ralph’s face tighten up in a scowl.

“Stop…” Ralph whispered.  Phoenix sang louder, and the lord screamed.  She switched to something quieter, but more intense and fast, and the lord screamed even more loudly.

The old lady summed it up.  “Intense music hurts more than gentle music, and loud more than soft.”

“Indeed, ma’am,” said Phume.  “I wish all my enemies were like this.  I could just sing them to death.”

Sebase grinned half-heartedly.  “You can’t sing at all, Phume.  They’d probably try to kill you.”  He turned to Phoenix.  “Percival said to tell you that Beethoven’s 7th would probably be best for an interrogation.”

“He’s right.”

“Those were his last words?” asked the old lady.

Sebase hesitated.  “Not quite.”

“Last words?” asked Sam.  “You mean, he’s dead?”

Silence.  It was obvious that no one wanted to admit it.  At last Ralph spoke up, his voice even more hoarse than usual from the screaming.  “The jester said ‘gone’, not dead.  That’s a time machine in there, and if he disappeared, all of him, it means he’s gone back in time.”

“Is there any way to get him back?” asked Sebase.

Ralph shook his head.  “Not unless you knew the exact time he was taken to, it would be extremely hard.”

Steve swore.  The old lady smiled.  “Thank you, Steve.  I was just about to say that.”

Phume swore too and pounded on his leg with his fist.  “He can’t be gone!  He’s our leader!”

Quirk, who had been inspecting a solid gold set of dishes over in the corner, lifted his head.  “Hey, I’m your leader!”

Steve snickered.  “Percival was our leader, Quirk, like it or not.  And when he wasn’t there, Phoenix was the one in charge.  I don’t think you were ever our leader.”

Quirk stood with his mouth halfway open, blinking.

Phoenix looked at Ralph.  “Do you have a sound system?”

Half an hour later, Ralph was doubled up in pain and telling them all he could gasp out between beats of the music.

.

Liam sat at the table in the Phil’s warehouse, his head resting on one hand as he spun a quarter with the other.  Isaac sat opposite him and Feiron lay stretched out in the middle of the table, snoring loudly.  After lying still for so long, his nose had moved from the front of his face to the side of it, crowding out the ear.  Eventually Liam flicked the coin too hard and it rolled off the table into a large rack of multicolored mops.

Over the crash of mops falling, Liam heard the roar of Gologer.  “He says they’re back,” he told Isaac.

The blind prince nodded in the wrong direction and prodded the space around him until he found Feiron’s body.  “Feiron, time to wake up.”

“Mommy, I told you today was a Saturday!  There’s no school today, Mommy!”  Feiron rolled over heavily.  “Don’t let Smuckers eat my bacon,” he mumbled.  Then he opened his eyes.  “Oh!  I wasn’t saying anything, was I?”

“Is Smuckers your brother?” asked Isaac.

“Did I say Smuckers?  Who’s Smuckers?  Stupid name,” said Feiron loudly.

“Smuckers is his brother, yes,” said Liam.

“He ate your bacon?” asked Isaac.

“Yes!  He’s terrible!  He ought to be arrested, court-martialed, taken into custody, all that stuff!” yelled Feiron.

The door opened and the Phils filed in.  Sebase and Phume were carrying the bound body of Ralph, the Lord of the Castle Under the Cloud.  He seemed to be unconscious.

“You were successful, then,” said Liam.

“I’d say so,” said Quirk.  “Even though these malcontents have done nothing but whine all the trip home.”

The Phils made no effort to correct him.  Every eye was on the floor, as if it was about to rise up and eat them.

“What happened?” asked Liam.

“Everything went well,” said Quirk.  “The operations of the castle under the cloud have been shut down thanks to torture by boom box, and some leadership problems have been worked out.”

“Problems?” spluttered Phoenix at last.  “You were complaining the whole time about Percival taking charge where you couldn’t, then when he goes and dies, you’re happy!”

Liam looked shocked.  “Percival’s dead?”

“A time machine that Ralph had hooked him up to took him before we could stop it,” explained Phoenix.  She pointed to the lord, unconscious on the floor.

“For the record, I didn’t want to stop it,” said Quirk.

“You said a time machine?” asked Liam.

“It only works backward,” said Sebase.  “It only takes things back in time.  We’ve started the thirteen days of mourning in afternoon required by his culture.”

“Okay,” said Liam, gathering his thoughts.  “Good news and bad news,” he said.  “Bad news is that Percival is no longer living.”  Gasps were heard and Steve swore.  “Good news is that he isn’t dead,” finished Liam.

“That makes no sense,” said the old lady.

“Oh, but it does.  See, when someone goes back in time, their body essentially stops working.  No blood flows, no heart pumps, nothing really happens.  The person doesn’t need to sleep, eat, drink, do anything, because their body doesn’t use anything up.”

“So they’re dead,” said Phume.  “They won’t be able to move.”

“No,” said Liam.  “They just aren’t living.  But yes, they will be able to move.  Feiron, explain to these uncultured folk how fairies move.”

Feiron stood on unstable legs on top of the table.  “As you might suspect,” he began, “fairies have no muscle.”  To demonstrate this fact, he pulled one of his arms off, stuck it in his ear, and another arm grew in its place.  “We don’t have blood.  You might say that we don’t live.  But that isn’t true, because here I am, talking to you.  We don’t move with muscle.  We don’t need food.  But we can move.  How do we do this, you might ask?”  He paused for effect.  “Willpower, my friends.  If we want to move, we move, simple as that.  It’s the same in your own minds.  You want to move, and you move.  It’s just a little bit more complicated with humans, since their willpower is channeled through their muscles.  Take Steve, for instance.  Anyone noticed how he implies movements that he couldn’t possibly enact?  Rude gestures, mostly.”

Steve obliged him and implied a rude gesture.

“See that?  That was willpower.  Steve doesn’t have the body to do it, but it seems as though he actually did do it.  That’s how people without bodies move, and that’s how people in a strange time move.”

“People without bodies?” asked the old lady.  “Spirits and ghosts?”

“No.  Invisible people.  Invisibility is basically a restriction, making the invisible person unable to affect the outside world.  Thus, they can’t touch things, they can’t make sounds, they can’t block light or be seen—they don’t have bodies.  But they can still move, and they do this the same way fairies, ping pong balls, and people who go back in time do.”

“Thank you, Feiron,” said Liam.  “That’s enough.  Now, since time travel is governed by time, every day at the exact same time a portal will open up right next to the person who went back in time.  If he or she isn’t careful, he or she will be sucked back to their own time, exactly as they were when they left, exactly when they left.”

“So we just have to wait until Percival gets sucked back?” asked Sam hopefully.

“Unfortunately, Percival is a fantastic person, in the literal sense of the word.  He’s a fantasy guy.  He’s happened upon this opportunity to live in a different time, and he probably won’t come back until he wants to.  And when he does want to, he’ll appear back here exactly when he left.  Unfortunately, he’ll be in a different place, depending on the place he chose to be sucked back at.”

“So when he traveled back in time,” said Phoenix slowly, “he arrived in exactly the same place as he left?  In the time machine in the castle under the cloud?”

“Unfortunately, no.  He’ll arrive miles above the face of the earth, most likely falling straight up.”

Phoenix paused, then said, “Ah.”  It was clear she didn’t entirely understand.

“So say he decides to come back while he’s in China or something,” said Sam.  “He’ll pop up there immediately after he left the time machine?”

“Yes.”

“Cool!” said Feiron.  “I wish I had a time machine.”

“Well, since we’re taking over that castle of Ralph’s,” said Liam, “the time machine comes with it.”

“Can I go back in time first?”

“We aren’t going to send anyone back in time unless necessary,” said Liam.

Feiron groaned.

“The funny thing is,” said Phoenix, frowning, “that Ralph says he didn’t press the button on the machine before we took him away.”

“Was there anyone in the room with Percival?” asked Liam, frowning.

“Sebase was.”

All eyes turned to Sebase, who was looking at his feet.

“Sebase, you aren’t yourself,” said Phume.

“He’s himself,” said Steve.  “He just isn’t acting like it.”

“You and Liam ought to be best friends,” said Phoenix.  “None of us can understand either of you.”

“Our friendship was ruined after Steve tried to kill me,” said Liam.

“It was self-defense!”

“Quirk isn’t himself either,” noticed Feiron.

“I haven’t heard his voice much,” said Isaac.  “And I’m glad,” he muttered to Liam.

“Quirk thought he was the leader of the trip,” said the old lady.  “Percival was, wasn’t he?”

“Actually, Quirk was supposed to be, but sometimes leaders become figureheads,” said Liam.  “You didn’t have anything to do with Percival disappearing, did you?”

All eyes turned to Quirk, who was looking at his feet.  “No.”

“Sebase, you didn’t see anything?”

“I saw Percival disappear from inside the machine, that’s all,” said Sebase.

Liam looked at him closely.  “You’re sure?”

Sebase nodded.

“Did I hear correctly that we’re moving into the Castle Under the Cloud?” asked the old lady.

Liam nodded.  “We’ll sell the warehouse and move up there.  More room for Gologer, I should think.”

“Good!  This place isn’t smelly enough!” said a roar from outside.

“I miss Percival already,” said Feiron.  “He was a jerk most of the time, but he was a good friend.”

Everyone nodded, even Quirk.  Everyone looked at him until he shrugged self-consciously and said, “I was agreeing to Percival being a jerk.”

“But Percival is already back,” said Liam.  “He’s just somewhere else.  If I know him, he’ll be in the United Kingdom right about now.  He will have used his time outside of time to help us here, probably setting up things for us to tear down.  Time paradoxes and such.  What we’ve done was made possible by what happened before—and for us, after—what we’ve done, by Percival.”

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14 Comments

  1. Okay, sending Percival back to create time paradoxes was brilliant! I can’t wait to see what happens!
    And this was hilarious, as usual.

    Reply
  2. Robyn Hoode

     /  March 2, 2013

    You would have to spin that coin REALLY hard to knock over a rack of mops.
    The part about “Mommy, it’s Saturday” is a bit silly.
    So… did Percival go back in time to do something that the Phils would need done when they took the castle? Is that what the last sentence said?
    I think it was well ended. You tied up the important loose ends yet not all of them so that we want the next episode. Well done.

    Reply
  3. Robyn Hoode

     /  March 2, 2013

    *assumes she’s right, then goes to start CTRL-C, CTRL-V episode 3 so it can be put on Kindle*

    Reply

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