The Phil Phorce is a fictional periodical featuring my favorite characters from my own writing. It comes out in episodes, once every three months or so. To find out more and to read previous episodes, please go to these two pages: About the Phils and the Phil Phorce. Please, enjoy.
The little man shifted nervously. His day was going badly.
“You’re sure you don’t know of any cures?” asked the black statue on the right. His hands were buried in the pockets of his grey greatcoat, probably fingering lethal weapons. The doctor disliked sharp objects unless he wielded them himself. Stuck to the front of the statue’s Victorian waistcoat was a red sticker reading, “Hello, my name is: Percival.” His walking stick, propped against the arm of the couch, had a blue sticker reading, “Hello, my name is: Stick.”
“I’ve told you, I don’t have a cure for a thingy…”
“Skin condition,” offered the statue.
“…such as yours. In fact, I’ve only seen such things on TV… Have you tried picking the stones away?”
The black statue pried a stone out of his nostril. “We have to take stones out to breathe and hear and sometimes to see, but they always reappear. I don’t believe the infection goes deeper than the skin, however.”
“Can you pull one off your hand so I might examine the epidermis?” asked the little man. The black statue obligingly pulled a stone from his wrist. The doctor leaned forward and hesitantly took the statue’s arm, probing the hollow with a finger. “Fascinating,” he said. “You’re right; the stone does indeed stop above the epidermis. It doesn’t even seem to be embedded in the skin, in fact—it only covers it.” He flicked the stones on the statue’s arm and hurt his finger. “They’re quite hard as well. If it didn’t block the airways as you described, you could live with this as long as a normal human. You are human, are you not?”
“Of course,” said the black statue. “The curse only affects humans, as far as we can tell.” He glanced at his dark green friend, who nodded.
“It hasn’t affected the dragon so far.”
The doctor stared at the green statue, whose name tag said he was ‘Head Phil’. “Dragon?”
“And the fairy is similarly unaffected, as is Steve,” continued the statue.
“Steve is human, though?” The little man could handle himself if they stayed on the topic of humans.
“Steve is a ping pong ball,” said the black statue, pulling back his arm.
The doctor laughed nervously. “I see, it was a joke. Just a joke…”
“A talking ping pong ball,” added the green statue. “And you can see the dragon just outside that window.”
The doctor didn’t want to look. “May I see your wrist again, please?”
The black statue nodded and offered his arm again. A new stone had already appeared to replace the stone the statue had removed.
“The disease is quite fascinating… How hard are the stones, exactly?”
“Well, Feiron guillotined me during my nap yesterday… How long did the mark last?” The black statue turned to his friend.
“A few minutes at most,” said the green statue. “The blade didn’t pierce the stone layer.”
“I didn’t feel a thing,” said the black statue. “The sound woke me.”
“As I said, if it wasn’t hazardous to your breathing, this would be an enormous blessing in some circles. Surgery would be a bore, but when is it not?” He laughed nervously.
“Indeed,” said the green statue. “Thank you for your time, doctor. Though it was a pleasure, I wish you had a cure for us.”
“Perhaps you should see a geologist,” said the doctor, trying to make one last joke. “Or a stonemason.” His laughter died in his throat.
Standing, the black statue opened the door. The little man avoided his eyes. He hated the feeling of telling someone they couldn’t be cured. Usually the nurse did that and saved him the trouble. That reminded him… He turned back to the black statue. “How do I get back? I was blindfolded when you brought me, so I don’t know the way. Is it far?”
“Pretty far, but it shouldn’t take long,” replied the statue. “Sebase will take you.” He pointed to a purple statue walking toward them. There was something black between its hands, which it kneaded restlessly.
The little man thanked the black statue and turned toward the purple one. The black shape in its hands was a bag. The little man frowned.
“Keep your face like that and it’ll freeze,” said the purple statue as it quickly pulled the bag down over the doctor’s head. He knew nothing more.
“No cure… again,” said Percival. He threw himself on the chair the doctor had just left, but quickly stood up again. “This chair is soaked with sweat!”
“He must have been scared out of his skin,” said Liam. “Do we really look that bad?”
“He’s a dermatologist; he’s used to this stuff.” Percival tested another chair and sat.
“He’s used to rocks covering the skin but leaving it unharmed?”
Percival glanced down at himself. “I think I look good as a statue.”
“It’s not about looking good,” said Liam. “He’s never seen a condition like this.”
“That’s because it’s a curse,” said Percival. “It’s supposed to be incurable. If we could cure it ourselves, the Castle wouldn’t have used it.”
“Quite right, Mr. Aardvark,” said the Castle from the door. “There is no cure, I assure you. Once the curse has taken effect, there is no remedy but death.” His jade face twitched. “In fact, as the infection spreads, your limbs will stiffen until they are immobilized and utterly…” His twitching face forced him to stop speaking.
His face cleared abruptly and he rotated his jaw. “It feels good to be back in control of something,” said Quirk’s voice.
“Quirk, you—“ began Percival.
“I don’t have much time,” said Quirk as the Castle regained possession of the upper half of his face. “Yesterday, he wrote to his brother for some extra-strong curses, none of which are harmless. He wants to do something special to Steve, Feiron, and Gologer since they were unaffected by the first curse.” The Castle’s eyes glared at his rebellious mouth as he fought for the rest of his face. “Considering the amount of money he paid the special messenger,” continued Quirk, “those curses will be here today or tomorrow. I suggest you get out of here before then—“ Quirk’s voice raised as the Castle got his tongue. “He won’ delay bethore puthing thothe to uthe, tho wath ou’! Fly, you foooo—“
“—Oops,” finished the Castle, back in control. “I apologize. I was unprepared. I beg you, pay no attention to his ramblings. They’re completely nonse—“
“Castle, can Quirk hear me?” interrupted Liam.
“He can, unfortunately,” said the Castle. “If you want to say anything insulting to him, I’d highly approve.”
“Sure,” said Percival.
“Make sure he can hear me,” said Liam, speaking over Percival. “I am hereby stripping Quirk of his title of Vice-Phil. He is henceforth responsible for none of our actions, nor does he have more say than any other Phil. He is reduced to the ranks, as it were.”
“Who’s the next Vice-Phil, then?” asked Percival.
“That is a pity,” said the Castle. “I chose this body specifically for the position of power it held. It lowers morale quicker than the average possession might, you see. Now that I’m here, however, you strip him of his responsibilities and me of my leverage. Nothing remains but to kill him and possess someone more important.”
“But who’s the next Vice-Phil?” asked Percival again.
“I was thinking you might like the post, Percival,” said Liam. “But if you want me to keep it open for a vote…”
“I’ll take it,” said Percival. “Thanks.”
“I must go,” said the Castle. “There are things I have to attend to—someone is tramping through the basement. I’ll have to check on them.”
“That would be Phume,” said Liam. “He’s looking for supplies for a project.”
The Castle opened his mouth to say something, but stopped. He smiled slightly and nodded to Liam and Percival. As he turned toward the door, he shook his head violently and shouted, “Really! Just because you aren’t Vice-Phil anymore… I know that. Keep your emotions under control.” His voice faded into silence.
Percival looked at Liam. “Are we…”
Liam nodded. “We’re leaving today.”