Phil Phorce: The Fall

Excerpt from Liam’s journal

It was like a wedding, but with less crying people.  And no flower girl.  (Quirk had offered, but it was with a unanimous decision that I turn him down.)  Percival the Aardvark was like the priest, standing at the end of the aisle at an altar cleverly disguised as a bright orange tent.  I was like the father, giving the bride away, leading Phoenix through the crowd of family members—in this case, an angry army, unified against a common enemy.  The rest of the Phils had stayed behind in the Castle, except for Captain Phume.  He trailed behind us like a very imposing bridesmaid, acting as a bodyguard of sorts.  After the sacrifice, who knew what the Aardvark’s army would do?

Phoenix tapped me on the shoulder and whispered, “Hear that?”

I listened.  Music was playing as we marched.  “Do you recognize it?”

“March to the Scaffold, by Berlioz.”

“Talk about not good for the morale.” I turned to Phume.  “Find the musician and kill him.”

“I never thought I’d hear you say that,” said Phume.  He disappeared into the crowd as we continued our march.

The music stopped with a horrid screech as we stopped before Percival, slightly lacking in the horrid screech department.  Phume rejoined us as Percival described with florid speech the point of our little parade.  Personally, I didn’t need to hear how many different synonyms for sacrifice Percival could come up with on short notice, but I suppose the army liked it.  They roared in approval every time Percival stopped for breath.  I got rather annoyed with it after a while.

Eventually, as I was wondering why we hadn’t bothered to furnish the Cloud with outdoor seating, Percival finished his recital and gestured toward the edge of the Cloud.  The army moved as one toward the precipice.

Percival, Phoenix and I walked side by side.  Percival had a brotherly arm around Phoenix’s shoulder.  He told us what he had done in the past, and cleared up a few questions for me.  It seemed that Percival’s apartments had been used for a few days as quarters for the Aardvark’s army; Percival had spare keys for each hidden in various typical places around the buildings: under the flowerpot, on the lintel, under the carpet on the fifth step.  He led the army to the Cloud, keeping them going with the promise of a sacrifice.  They didn’t need food; they were just as immortal as Percival had been, being out of their right times and all.  Hopefully the army would go back to their own time peaceably and without annoying the medieval Phils anymore.

“You know, you really shouldn’t let this sacrifice business get you down,” said Percival after a small silence, smiling blithely at his surroundings.  “Liam told me your plan to get to Earth safely.  You should be far enough away by then that they won’t see you.”

“But will it work?” asked Phoenix.

“Oh, I’m sure it will.  I haven’t really tried it, since I was immortal the last time I fell from this kind of height.  But don’t worry, don’t worry!  You won’t feel a thing, I promise.  Well… I didn’t.  But I was immortal, so…”

“Percival,” Phoenix interrupted, “Do you chatter when you’re nervous?”

“Chatter?  What?  No!  I don’t chatter, I don’t chatter at all.  Am I chattering?  Because I never chatter.  And I’m never nervous anyway, so I don’t chatter.  Not at all.  Am I chattering?”

“Glad to know someone is concerned,” said Phoenix.  She glared at me.  I was walking with both hands in my pockets, looking absently at the Earth above us.  I turned and looked at her.

“What do you want from me?  You want me to show nervousness, too?  Because nervousness means that I am not absolutely sure that you’ll survive.  I am sure you’ll survive, actually.  I’m also sure that showing nervousness would do nothing for your composure.  The other option would be for me to jump up and down and clap my hands idiotically, showing how happy I am that you’re going to come out of this all right.  Somehow, I don’t think that would help either.”

“Seeing you do anything idiotic would help me a lot right now, actually.  It would prove that you were wrong to sacrifice me now.”

“It wouldn’t, actually,” said Percival.  “It would prove that he can be wrong some of the time, and that there is a greater chance of him being wrong now.  But you’re right; anything that could take Liam’s self-esteem down a few notches would be welcome right now.”

We were nearing the edge of the Cloud.  I turned to Phoenix.  “You have the phone we bought for you,” I said.  She nodded.  “Percival will call you as you fall and tell you when to switch directions.  Make sure you do what he says.”

“Ah, does that extend to after the execution, or just through today?” asked Percival.

“Just today.  After today, Phoenix will be just as sarcastic toward you as she is toward me.”

Percival sighed.  “I feel like a Phil again, being ordered around by you two.”

“We two?” I asked.  “Phoenix doesn’t order you around; she’s of the same rank as you.”

Percival exchanged a glance with Phoenix.  “And yet she does,” he said eventually.  “But now it’s my turn.”

“Okay, Phoenix,” I said as we reached the edge of the cloud.  “You ready?”

“Why do you keep asking me that?”

“Because you aren’t exactly oozing self-confidence right now.”

“I’m just happy not to be oozing at all.”

“Well, I’m glad you’re happy.  Time to go.  See you later.”

Percival and I watched as she walked to the edge of the cloud.  She looked back once and Percival gave her a cheery little wave.  She turned away and tensed, then fell—straight up.

We watched her fall for a little bit, then Percival took out his phone.  “Now, what’s her phone number?”

“Oh.  I think it’s something like…  Well, we bought it in Austin, Texas yesterday.  Their area code is…”

“512,” supplied Percival.  “What’s the rest?”

“Something like 3917 something or other.”

“You don’t know?”  Percival glared at me.

I started to get defensive.  “No, how could I?  I barely had time to memorize it!  I didn’t have materials to write it down!”

“So now Phoenix, the favorite Phil of both of us, is falling to her death because you forgot a phone number.  Good going, Head Phil.”  He looked up at the Earth again, looking for the red speck that was Phoenix.  “Let’s take Gologer after her.”

“Broken wing.”

“Do we have a glider anywhere?”

“Feiron might have one up his sleeve, but it’s still too far back to the Castle.”

“His sleeve?”

“No, he himself.”

“Then I’m going after her.”

“No you aren’t.  This army needs to get home and you’re the only one who knows how to do that.”

“Then you’re just going to let her die, I suppose?”

I sighed.  “Nope.  I’m going.”

“You don’t know how to do the timed stops either.”

“I’ll do my best.”

“Well, here’s to hoping that you don’t end up as a splat on the pavement.”

“Thanks for the confidence.  You’re in charge of the Phils while I’m gone.  Phume can back you up—“ the Captain nodded— “but if anyone argues, you’re still the Aardvark, which trumps the Vice-Phil.”

“You didn’t have to tell me that; I would have figured it out anyway.”  Percival grinned and I smiled back.  There was nothing like a good arrogant joke just before you fell to your possible death.

“See you soon, Percival,” I said, then jumped.  At the apex of the leap I convinced myself of the extremely scary presence of gravity, and started falling headfirst toward earth.  I soon saw why skydivers usually wore strange suits, helmets and, most of all, parachutes; shorts and a T-shirt aren’t very suited for falling quickly.  My eyes were forced shut by the wind, but I held them open a crack to look for Phoenix.  Where was she?

Suddenly a flash caught my eye.  It seemed to be a comet…  That was Phoenix.  She was upset and on fire.

Not good.

I angled myself toward her.  I had never skydived—or was it “skydiven”?—before, but I knew enough about it to know how to steer.  Sort of.  It wasn’t exactly the most precise of methods.  I wove erratically down through sparse clouds toward earth, keeping Phoenix in sight as much as possible.  She got bigger and brighter as we fell.  She was getting very scared, waiting for Percival’s call that wouldn’t come.

At last I grew level with her and tried shouting over the wind.  “Phoenix!  Extinguish!” was all I could manage.

She didn’t extinguish herself, but she heard something.  She looked over toward me, trying to keep me in sight as she turned wildly.  The fire flared brighter.  Seeing me only made her more angry.

“Extinguish!” I yelled again over the wind.  I could barely hear myself, and couldn’t tell if she could.  I didn’t get any sign of acknowledgment, but I did my best to get near her.  One of her hands punched me in the face.  It felt like a hot meteorite.  At that moment I envied screen actors their stunt doubles.

When another of her limbs grew close, I grabbed at it, but immediately let go.  She was burning hot.  “Cool down!” I shouted again.  “Please?” I added for good measure.

The flame turned white and almost invisible.  The heat shimmers that had enveloped her body before were gone, but she was still spinning like a rotary dial operated by an angry gorilla.  I grabbed for one of her arms and missed.  I got kicked in the head again.

If ever I wanted to curse, now was the time.

When the next arm came around, I grabbed and held it.  It twisted both of us around, but I held on, sort of.  After I had gotten a hold, Phoenix had grabbed back and was now clinging to both of my arms with a death grip.  “Spread yourself out and don’t mind me,” I shouted in her ear.

She shouted something back, but only the wind heard it.  It had obviously been pretty insulting, because an enormous gust almost ripped us apart.  I got both arms around her from behind and gripped her tightly, then switched to centrifugal force.

It took a while for us to stop moving, since Phoenix was still pulled by gravity.  We eventually slowed down enough that the wind wasn’t too bad.  It was still extremely loud and was blowing us around like papier-mâché models in a whirlwind, but it wasn’t so strong and gusty as before.

Gravity and centrifugal force obviously agreed that hugging Phoenix wasn’t proper for a young man my age, and was set on pulling us apart.  We still fell, but gently.

“Why didn’t you call?” Phoenix screamed over her shoulder.  “I was waiting forever!”

“Lost the number,” I replied in an equally loud voice.  “Sorry.”

Phoenix, without the comfort of bursting into flame, ranted at me for a few minutes.  Eventually, the high altitude stole her breath and she grew quiet as she tried to get it back.

“If it helps,” I said when she was finished, “I don’t know Percival’s phone number either.”

“So we can’t call him and ask him to pick us up?”

“Exactly.”

“It doesn’t help.”

“Indeed…”  I shifted my grip on Phoenix’s midsection and looked around them.  We were over land, but I didn’t know what continent.  “Did you get a look at where you were falling?” I asked.

“No, I was too busy waiting for you to call.”

“Always be aware of your surroundings,” I said, beginning one of Percival’s favorite sayings.

“…Otherwise a wild gopher will jump out of nowhere and bite your head off,” finished Phoenix.  “I know.”

“I can’t see any distinguishing features,” I said, looking over Phoenix’s shoulder at the earth below.  “There’s a coastline over to our right, so it’s a safe bet that we aren’t in Kansas anymore.”

“Were we ever in Kansas?”

“No.”

“Then why say it?”

“Because it’s— What’s that?”

She followed my eyes over her left shoulder, toward the horizon.  “Plane?”

“Perhaps.  But would a plane have beating wings?”

“Large bird?”

“It could be.  But it’s very far away and we can still see it, so it would have to be a very large bird indeed.”

As the thing got closer, I could make out more of it.  It wasn’t until I made out the coloration that I started to have a bad feeling.  A few wingbeats later, I was sure.  I gave myself to gravity for the second time that day and we fell.  We fell extremely fast, since gravity had rather jealously been tugging at Phoenix all the time since we had slowed down.  We fell fast, but when I looked over my shoulder it hadn’t been enough.

That look was the last I got of the world before the huge brown dragon swallowed us whole.

.

Percival was mobbed as he appeared in the doorway of the tower.  Everyone was happy to see him, except Quirk.  The old lady momentarily forgot the loss of the library, Feiron forgot to insult Isaac, Isaac forgot that every other word spoken was one he didn’t know, and Steve didn’t even say a bad word.  For the first few minutes, that is.

Once they all had calmed down and Percival had recounted his tale, they let him through the lobby to the elevator.  Only Sebase went up with him, however.

“I thought I had killed you,” said the joker when they had passed the third floor.  “You looked so agonized.”

“I think I was agonized, actually,” said Percival.  “But then I was blissfully free of agony.  It was actually quite fun.  And of course, having the outfit helped enormously.”  He took a moment to admire his greatcoat.  Then he looked back at Sebase.  “You didn’t do anything wrong.  I wanted it to happen.”

“I know you did, but—“

“You wanted to protect me from something I wasn’t exactly sure of?  What are you, my mother?  No.  Just think of how boring life for the Phils would have been if I hadn’t showed up with my army of immortal gorillas with halberds.  All in all, I think I did a pretty good job giving you something to do.”

The elevator door dinged as it opened.  “Couldn’t we have that fixed?” asked Percival.  “It shouldn’t ding; it should quack.  Or bark.  Or oink.  Some sort of animal noise is needed there.”  He walked through to the Quat-house, navigating through the hallways into the former torture room.  All of the torture implements had been removed by the Phils and stored in the basement, but the time machine still stood there.  Percival programmed the machine for the time he wanted and stood inside the machine.  “Would you be so kind?” he asked, gesturing toward the button.  “I’ll be back momentarily.”

Sebase nodded and pressed the blue button, looking away from Percival’s pained expression as the machine sucked him into the past.

.

It was a strange experience for Percival to arrive at Thoris’s Phildom a second time and have no one recognize him.  He walked toward the great hall and barged in, startling the Head Phil in the middle of a conference with Tom.  The hermit didn’t look at Percival, he just backed out of the room with his hedgehogs.

As Thoris asked what his business was, Percival thought and tried to decide what to say.

“Hello, King Thoris,” he said a few dozen peanuts later, bowing.  “My name is Percival Tospockingtonham, and I have some things I need you to do for me.”

.

I realize that this was an enormous post, but it was the end and wouldn’t be split in two.  Thank you for reading Phil Phorce, Episode Two: The Aardvark.  I have absolutely no idea when the third episode will be available, and thank you for your patience.  I hope you enjoyed the episode, and please comment if you have anything at all critical to say about my writing, because I’m getting a little bit tired of “I love it!”  Not that I don’t like those comments.  Anyway, thank you so much.  I had a lot of fun with this, and I hope you guys did too.

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33 Comments

  1. Liam wasn’t writing in the third person? *gasp* WHAT IS THIS WORLD COMING TO?!

    Aaanyway, after that lovely scream of horror, I’d say that this was a nice ending to this episode. Although, I wish you would have picked a prettier color for the dragon other than brown. Brown is rather…dull. But then again, you’ve been known for not wanting to go crazy with neons and pastels.

    So. Well done. I look forward to later episodes.

    Reply
  2. Charley R

     /  August 4, 2012

    Hehe, I enjoyed this – lovely twist at the end. My only complaint is the confusion that ensues when we switch from Liam’s diary to the third-person with the Phils again. It all gets a little tangled and I’m pretty sure I lost a few details of things in translation (which is unfortunate, because most of your details are hysterical).

    Personal highlight: Percival’s favourite phrase. Gophers are sneaky little cretins, aren’t they?

    Reply
    • Ah… Indeed. I was hesitant about sticking that part in at the end of this scene, but it wouldn’t work as well if it was separate. Sorry about that. I’ll see what I can do…

      Indeed they are. Of course, you know his history with those things?

      Reply
  3. What?! You leave us with “That look was the last I got of the world before the huge brown dragon swallowed us whole.”? Well, that wasn’t the actual end, but still, AGH!

    Reply
  4. DLiz

     /  August 10, 2012

    As a latecomer to the Phil Phorce fanbase, I am happy to say that this installment has held to my new standard of your writing. I have gotten a bit confused lately because of the time travel aspect. It seemed as though the story got a bit broken up. This blog has become one of my favorites because of the Phils and your exellent posts. So, how does the inside of a dragon feel like?

    Reply
    • Have I seen you around before…? I’m sorry, I’m a bit scatterbrained today.

      Thank you for the compliments. Indeed the story was broken up between the past and the present, but the past scenes were the ones containing Percival, and when Percival factored into the present scenes I had tried to have done with the past by that time. Apologies, but time travel is always confusing.

      The inside of a dragon…? Squishy. More on that later.

      Reply
  5. Robyn Hoode

     /  March 5, 2013

    I assume you wrote this “in your journal” after said events… so … logically speaking…you lived. Right?
    March to the Scaffold? How morbid!
    You forgot an important element of a wedding, Liam. You’ve got said bride, priest, bridesmaid, altar… can you guess what I’m thinking is missing from your description? I don’t know what it would be, but it’s still missing. And for a wedding, it’s crucial.
    You did well on carrying the element of Gologer’s broken wing through to the end of the story.
    So, has Percival changed his number since the last episode? Or you just never memorized it?
    Yikes! Why would a dragon just swallow someone? While he was flying? Sounds like a good way to choke! 🙂
    Did Percival return the army?
    I think what Percival wants for that elevator is for it to be connected to a See-and-Say. 🙂

    Good job.

    Reply
    • I’m not going to answer anything because it’s all rather obvious. Okay, I forgot the groom– I forgot!

      Reply
      • Robyn Hoode

         /  March 5, 2013

        I’m glad to hear that my assumption that you lived is correct.
        You have to admit that the groom is kind of important in a wedding.

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