Phil Phorce: Of Parties and Problems

The Phils escaped an hour after the Blanks left the Cloud.

Ten minutes after noises from the Castle and tower stopped, Percival began kicking his shoes off, hindered slightly by the fact that his shoelaces had been tied together, as had those of every other Phil possessing feet.  Twelve minutes after the Blanks had left, Percival had his feet free.  Fifteen minutes after the Blanks had gone, with Percival’s help, Sebase too had freed his feet.

Percival and Sebase hooked their feet into Phume’s elbows and pulled hard, pushing against the Captain for leverage.  The process caused Phume a lot of pain, but his hands came apart at last.

Phume untangled his own shoelaces and stood, swinging his arms.

“Why did you do that?” he asked Percival.

“So you could do the same to me.”  Twenty-five minutes after the Blanks had gone, Percival’s hands were free.

Phume and Percival went around the room untying shoelaces and separating glued hands.  When they were finished, the Blanks had been gone for fifty-five minutes.

“Now,” said Liam.  “Who can pick a lock?”

Sebase raised his hand.

“No you can’t,” said Percival.  “Remember when we were first imprisoned in the Castle?”

“Oh.  Well…  I’ve had practice since then!”

“I can vouch for him,” said Phume.  “It’s my room he’s been breaking into every day.  He steals things.”

“I don’t!  I’m borrowing!”

Percival produced two needles after rummaging around in his coat, and exactly one hour after the Blanks had gone the door was open.

“We should check if the Blanks are really gone,” said Percival.

“No,” said the Head Phil.  “Ralph first.”

“Why?”

“Ralph first.”

Ralph still occupied the Quat-house, though as a prisoner more than anything else.  Three times a day, the old lady brought him his food, which consisted mostly of goulash and various outlandish casseroles.  Since the Phils’ imprisonment, Ralph ate less food than a fasting monk.  Thus, it made perfect sense that Ralph greeted the Phils with a rousing chorus from the Oliver Twist musical.  He stopped halfway through the verse and rubbed his throat.

“You ought to sing opera,” said Percival.

“Really?” said Ralph hoarsely.

“No.”

“Oh.”  Ralph looked around at the Phils and frowned.  “Why are so many of you here?  You only missed five meals.”

“We need to know how the Castle flips upside-down and vice versa,” said Liam.

“Oh, that.  I thought the ping pong ball would have told you.”

“What?”

“I already told one of the ping pong balls,” said Ralph, pointing at Steve and Sam on Phoenix’s head.  “I can’t remember which.”

“When?” asked Percival.

“Two days ago,” said Ralph.  “The morning before the Castle flipped and you stopped bringing me food.  What happened?  Did the oven break?  I don’t think its warranty has expired yet.”

“The oven didn’t break,” said Percival.  “We were imprisoned in our own Castle.”

“I can’t imagine,” said Ralph.  “To be imprisoned in the selfsame rooms you spent so much time in…  How long has it been?  Two months?”

“Six weeks.”

“I thought I had counted wrong,” said Ralph.  He glanced at the wall, which was covered in tally marks.

“How did the ping pong ball get up here?” asked Percival.  “As far as I know they aren’t capable of movement other than their mouths.”

“Your second-in-command was carrying them,” Ralph told the Head Phil.  “Quack, or something like that.”

“Quirk?”  Percival and Liam looked at each other.  Percival turned to Phoenix—or rather, Phoenix’s head.

“Who helped Quirk help the Blanks?” demanded Percival of the ping pong balls.

“You’re accusing us of treason?” asked Steve.

“I’m insulted!” said Sam.

“You’ll get used to it,” said Percival.  “Which one of you did it?”

Both ping pong balls claimed they hadn’t done it.

Sebase spoke up.  “I know an easier way to find out.  Ralph, did the ping pong ball swear a lot or was he really nice?”

“He swore like a blue streak,” said Ralph.

“But… they’re white.”

“Never mind that, Phume,” said Percival.  “Steve, you’re coming with me.”

“But I didn’t do anything!” shouted Steve as Percival plucked him from among Phoenix’s hair and tied him in a handkerchief.  Percival left the room with the bundle.

“Thank you for your help, Ralph,” said Liam.

“Does this merit my freedom?”

“As soon as I can arrange it,” promised the Head Phil.

Suddenly the Castle rang with an enormous cry.

“Is that Percival?  Did Steve attack?” asked the old lady as everyone else ran past her to the elevator.  Several moments were wasted as Phume tried to threaten the button into bringing the elevator more quickly.  By the time the Captain decided that force was necessary, the rest of the Phils were already in the stairwell moving down.

“He’s probably in the conference room,” said Sebase.  “We had a disintegrator there.”

“He was going to disintegrate Steve?”

Sebase shrugged in midair, in the process of skipping two steps.  “Even if his story won’t let him die, it’ll probably be painful.  I heard him talking about that kind of torture a few days ago.”

“That’d be it, then,” said Liam.

The Phils burst into the conference room to see Percival’s stricken face.  Steve was still wrapped in the handkerchief on the table.  “What happened?” asked Sebase, panting.

“They stole the letter…”

“What letter?”

“The invitation.  The Blanks are going to the party in our place.”

“What party?” asked Liam.

“The Fantasy Fiesta,” said Sebase.  “We got an invitation.  It starts tonight, I think.”

“There’s a note,” said Phoenix suddenly.  “’Gone to assassinate someone, be back soon’,” she read.  “Signed Public.”

“We’ve got to stop them,” said Percival.  “And even if we don’t have to stop them, we still have to go.  That party is not to be missed.”

.

Stating Quirk’s first sensation as he regained consciousness would be difficult.  He didn’t feel like someone abruptly wakened, but rather as someone being gradually dipped into the being he had been.

In other words, he was slow to wake.

Once he had been fully immersed in himself, it became more difficult for him to ignore the pains in his body, and the two ice-blue eyes shining fiercely from the darkness.  Quirk deemed the former sensations more important than the latter, and he nursed his bitten fingers gently.

“Attend to me!” boomed a voice from all directions.

Quirk started and looked up.  “Who’s there?” he shouted into the darkness.

“It is I, the—“

“Well hello, ‘I’,” said Quirk, turning back to his fingers.

“Attend to me!” the voice boomed again.

Quirk lifted his head and stuck out his tongue.

“Insolent!  You shall not leave this chamber alive!”

Quirk tutted over a torn fingernail.

A hand shot out of the darkness and took Quirk by the throat, lifting him effortlessly from the ground.  The blue eyes blazed as the voice asked, “Why do you not attend to me?”

“I can’t see you, you aren’t using your inside voice, and your idea of good hospitality is sadly lacking,” croaked Quirk.  “And your breath stinks.”

“I do not deal lightly with those who take me by force,” said the voice menacingly.  “That is why I didn’t brush my teeth this morning.”  The hand flung Quirk to the floor.

“I don’t think your dentist would buy it,” said Quirk.  “But who are you?  I haven’t taken anything by force.”

“You and your companions entered my realm weeks ago and took ownership of me without my consent, imprisoning the man whom I had personally appointed as my Lord.  Soon afterward, a large body of men more stinky than my breath could ever be took up residence just outside my domain, pounding on me incessantly until, three days ago, they stopped and disappeared.  I allowed you to stay within me this long, but once you began to tamper with the correct order of things, I took action.”

“Who are you?” asked Quirk again, this time in wonder.

“I am the Castle Under the Cloud.”

“You’re the Castle?  The Castle is alive?  You sent the little plastic ponies?”

“Yes.”

“Why am I here, then?”

“Are your ears full of kitchen appliances that you do not listen to me?  You are here because you have invaded me, taken unlawful possession of me, and turned me on my head!”

“…Oh.”

“Four thousand years I have been floating happily upside-down,” ranted the voice.  “Four thousand years!  Except for those few years about three hundred years ago when Jonathan Swift insisted I turn on my head to give his illustrator an idea of what Laputa looked like.”

“So if you allowed it once before, perhaps you could allow it this time.”

“I never allowed it!  I caused him to go mad after that!”

“…Oh.”

“But he lived twenty years too long,” said the voice.  “You and your fellow scum will die immediately.”

“Scum?”  Quirk drew himself upright and stared straight at the two glowing eyes.  “I can insult you, and you can insult me, but you do not insult my friends.  The Phils are honorable…”

“Thieves!”

“Trustworthy…”

“Conniving manipulators!”

“And above all else, they keep from hurting people that they know to exist.”

“Turner-on-headers!”

“When I turned you on your head, I acted alone.  None of the Phils had a hand in it, and none even had an idea of what I was doing except one.  If you need to punish someone, punish me and be done with it, but do not hurt my friends.”  Quirk gave a firm nod at the end of this speech, and then he looked away from the eyes and blinked rapidly to rid himself of the glowing afterimages.

“Nevertheless,” said the voice, “they invaded me without my consent and overthrew the—“

“I understand that,” interrupted Quirk.  “Give me three days to get them out of the Ca—I mean, you, and I’ll return and go mad or whatever.”

The voice paused.  In the sudden silence Quirk’s breathing seemed like that of a dragon with bronchitis.

“I consent,” said the voice.  “Three days, and afterward I will kill you or you will go mad, whichever comes first.”

Quirk inclined his head in agreement as he sank through the floor.

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36 Comments

  1. Anna

     /  October 18, 2012

    Ha!

    Reply
    • I suppose that was the response this post intended to elicit… Would this be Anna from YWP?

      Reply
      • Anna

         /  October 18, 2012

        Well actually I don’t know what YWP is… it must’ve been the potion they slipped in my cup when I wasn’t looking, that’s why I’m so forgetful lately.
        But, no. Alas, it is not. Sorry to burst your bubble.

      • Whoops– I thought you were someone I know from NaNoWriMo. My apologies.

  2. The way they figured out which ping-pong ball it was…that was well-played.

    The dialogue was as amusing as ever, especially when Quirk was talking to the Castle and I was reading it oddly. For some reason I thought he said, “Honorable thieves…”

    On another note, I’ve finished The End of Infinity. I didn’t think it was quite as good as book 2, but it was still quite good. I found several typos in the book, though. Little things like “a” instead of “as,” but could’ve caused misunderstanding none-the-less. There was also a time where they said someone was doing something with Jazen instead of Midknight. I might add that Jazen was not present at the time and it was therefore impossible for him to be flying an airplane and playing chicken with someone. The plot twists were nicely placed, too.

    Reply
  3. First of all, I especially like how you kept referring to the time in the beginning of this episode. Secondly, I also especially liked the phrase “being gradually dipped into the being he had been,” which is brilliant. And thirdly, I nearly died laughing during Quirk’s dialoge with the Castle. I’m pretty sure I liked this Phil Phorce episode the best so far 🙂

    Reply
    • And for that, I am very happy. It’s definitely the most complex I’ve done, with the most new characters. (That horde of not-so-black knights from ep. 2 doesn’t count.)

      Reply
  4. Charley R

     /  October 21, 2012

    The pingpong ball . . . I did NOT see that coming.

    Nice with the Castle being embodied there! Ralph is somewhat random, however. I feel we really ought to have met, or at least heard of him, sooner. The dastardly plan of the Blanks sounds like it’s going to get exciting though!

    Reply
  5. Robyn Hoode

     /  March 15, 2013

    Leave it to Quirk to be smart-aleck to the person interrogating him…

    But good old Quirk! Admitting to be in the wrong alone! Saving his friends! Admitting that they are friends at all! If he dies, I’ll probably be upset like I was when Boromir died.

    That’s it. Not much a critique for this one. I still think you should have to use superglue remover to at least get it off after you’ve pulled all the hands apart.

    Reply

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