As promised, here is the first scene of the fourth episode of… THE PHIL PHORCE! If you still have no idea what it is, I suggest you read about it in this page and read the thing itself on this page. In case you don’t want to follow those links, the Phil Phorce is a periodical I publish in chunks every three months or so. This episode has been a long time coming, but it’s finally here. I hope you enjoy it.
Dear brother, the Castle Under the Cloud began. He paused, tapping his pen against his chin. Perhaps it wasn’t the best flag of truce he could use. Should he use his brother’s name? No, it was enough that he was writing at all after eight hundred years. He should be thanked. “Brother” should be fine for now. Even “dear” was a stretch.
“You don’t like him much, do you?”
It took him a moment to figure out where the words had come from. It was a cross between a voice and a thought—was it a thoice? or a vought? But it was just the body, fighting back.
He shrugged his shoulders and turned his mind back to the letter. If he ignored it, perhaps the body would allow itself to be conquered completely.
“Never,” said the body. “You haven’t conquered me yet, and you never will.”
He put pen to paper.
Even you would be astonished at the turn of events that has overtaken me.
Too wordy, perhaps? Should he use the word “even” at all? “You” might be enough, instead of “even you”. But his brother was hard to startle, so the “even” was appropriate. Startle… There was another thing. Was “astonish” the right word? “Startle” might be better. “Flabbergasted” was always fun…
“Oh, definitely use ‘flabbergasted’. It sounds like someone flabby broke wind in the kiddie pool. Always fun.”
His body was so immature sometimes.
He crossed out “has overtaken” and wrote “fate has brought”.
“Gosh, you sound so formal. Who really talks about fate anymore?”
“My brother,” he snapped. “Now shut it.”
You remember one of the last letters I sent you, back in the end of the first Millennium Falcon.
He reread his sentence and frowned. Falcon? He hadn’t wanted to write that. And “millennium” was capitalized for no reason. He corrected the mistakes.
To referee your memo pad, I wrote then to ask your advice on another singular occurrence: a strange man and a Herman came and evicted my previous owner, who seemed to be a relative of the strange man. You advised me to hold my pieces then, but you provided me with a curse I could use if the new owner ever got unruly. Unfortunately, we both got coughed up in the hubbub around Y1K and I forgot about the curse. Spoon after that, our correspondence was neglected.
He reread the paragraph. Referee? Memo pad? Herman? Pieces? Coughed up? Spoon? He hadn’t wanted to write any of that. He crossed them all out. “To refresh your memory…” he amended. “A hermit…” he wrote. “Hold my peace…” “Caught up…” “Soon after that…”
“What’s Y1K? Is that like Y2K, but more primitive?”
He ignored his body and began writing the next paragraph.
Since then I have eaten liver in peace with my new owner and his descendants. That is, I did until the day a new group was in vogue.
He muttered under his breath and changed “eaten liver” to “lived”. “Was in vogue” became “invaded”.
This group called themselves Awesomeness Incarnate.
He stopped. Something was definitely not right. He changed the capitalized words to two very much smaller words: “the Phils”.
They used me for Bill’s porpoises. They brought an arm into my front door.
He had planned to be filled with a righteous anger by this point in the letter, but he hadn’t wanted it to come from frequent errors. He changed “Bill’s porpoises” to “ill purposes”, and “an arm into” to “an army to”.
“You aren’t much of a speller,” commented his body.
“I would be doing fine if you didn’t keep messing with my hand!” he shouted.
“And your handwriting—which, by the way, I did nothing to hurt—is horrible.”
“Is it my fault that I’m right handed and the body I’m living in is left-handed?”
“Uh, yes it is your fault. You could have picked someone else. I didn’t ask for the job. I didn’t even interview. And I’ve never even made a résumé, let alone given you one.”
He gritted his teeth and turned back to his letter, determined not to let any more mistakes past.
But on top of all this, they turned me from my happy state of upside-down floating to make me point toward the sky, away from the earth. This was the last straw. I warned them then to leave me or suffer my wrath, but they ignored me. I had no option but to use your curse: gravelpox.
Wait. Was gravelpox the word he had tried to write, or was it his body messing with him again?
“Wasn’t me. Scout’s honor. Not that I ever was a scout.”
He shrugged. Perhaps that was the correct term. It sounded just like his brother to name something that serious something that silly.
It woke purple bees. Though Spock burned, the Ninth Doctor was seasick. Two ninjas worked opposite ends of the windmill’s scuppers. Darth Vader was James Bond’s yak, but Liverpool was sold by alien squid. Xerxes’ flux capacitor was dragooned, Hercules style.
He didn’t even try to correct this one. Concentrating fiercely, he rewrote the paragraph word by word.
I must thank you for such an excellent curse. It was splendid to watch their confusion as rocks popped from their skin. I was slightly disappointed that it didn’t cause more mental strain. I was expecting insanity within a week, but unfortunately none of them have lost their wits completely. Also, the pain only bothers them when they pick a rock from their skin—I was hoping it would be constantly excruciating. I do enjoy their winces as they pick gravel from their noses so they can breathe, however.
Enjoying his success and the obvious pain he was inflicting upon his host, he continued. He didn’t leave any room for error.
In short, the curse has worked well on the humans in the party. Unfortunately, the dragon has lived with scales its whole life—had I mentioned the dragon? It doesn’t seem to feel any difference. It’s almost too heavy to fly, but it doesn’t seem particularly bothered. Also, the ping pong balls. I don’t think this curse was designed for ping pong balls, frankly. Since they don’t have skin, the pox didn’t affect them. I was hoping to see each of them replaced by a smooth stone by the end of the week, but nothing has happened as of yet.
I have also taken to inhabiting the body of the second-in-command of these Phils. He is proving very hard to break. He has stubbornness issues—though I have taken almost all his body, he still manages to fight back and influence parts of it at bad times. I’ve stubbed my toes more than twenty times this week, and he has wreaked havoc on the first draft of this letter.
Considering these things, please send me the formulas for one, two or three more curses that will help me with these problems. Once again, I shall be indebted to you.
Your Affectionate Brother,
The Spirit of the Castle Under the Cloud
P. S. Though I will again be indebted to you, I won’t wash your cat. Never again.