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 and critique if possible.
Sweat dripped from Quirk’s green nose as he skidded through the halls, trying to find a Phil. He slid across linoleum, tripped on shag carpeting, and earned several bruises crashing against the walls. Why did the Castle like slippery socks so much?
Something red flashed down the hall to his right. He spent three and a half seconds simply trying to stop and another two trying to go the other way. By then, the glimpse was long gone, but Quirk pursued it anyway. He ran down the hall, slid around the corner, and chased after the red Phil. It was Phoenix. The combination of bright red stone, bright red hair and bright red clothes made a lasting imprint on Quirk’s retinas.
“Phoenix!” he shouted. “Wait, Phoenix!”
“Quirk?” She turned.
“Don’t worry, the Castle’s gone—I need to talk to you—“
“Where is the Castle, then?”
“He’s possessing Liam, but that’s not important.”
“Not important?” shrieked Phoenix.
“I need to get all the Phils together. We need to leave the Cloud now.”
“But what about Liam?”
“I’m sure he’s fine. For now. I’ll explain when all the Phils are here. Where are they?”
Phoenix blinked, visibly struggling to convince herself that the Head Phil was unimportant. “Um, I think Percival is on the second floor. He’d know where the rest are. Oh, Gologer’s outside—“
“I figured,” said Quirk, starting to run. “Go to the conference room now!” He skidded into the stairwell and slid three floors down the bannister. He burst out into the first floor and ran into Phume coming out of the elevator. “Go to the conference room!” Phume looked at him strangely and pushed him away. “What are you doing? Go to the conference room!” shouted Quirk.
“Why?” asked Percival, silhouetted in a window. He walked toward Quirk. There wasn’t much difference between his silhouette and his real image.
“Because Liam’s possessed, I know where the antidote is, and we have to leave now,” said Quirk breathlessly.
Percival’s eyes flicked over Quirk. “The Head Phil is possessed?”
“Yes; the Castle left me,” said Quirk, as if rephrasing it would make it clearer.
“And what about an antidote?”
“I want to tell everyone at once,” said Quirk. “Can you call a conference, Vice-Phil Aardvark?”
“I can, but that doesn’t mean I will,” said Percival. “What proof have I that you’re not lying?”
“What proof? Why do you need proof? It isn’t like anyone could have messed with my mind—the Castle has a top-notch mental security system.”
“That’s reassuring,” said Percival.
“Look, would you shrug off another Phil if they asked? I need a conference!”
Percival glared at Quirk. Quirk did his best not to blink—Percival picked strange times to have staring contests.
Finally, Percival picked up the intercom. “All Phils to the conference room immediately.” His voice echoed over the PA system.
“Wait,” said Quirk. “If we use the conference room, the Castle can listen in.”
Percival sighed and picked up the intercom again. “Correction: all Phils outside the gates of the Castle immediately.”
Quirk hunched his shoulders against the biting wind as he walked across the Cloud. His pink T-shirt was too thin to keep him warm. Why did the Castle enjoy dressing him in impractical clothes? The stones covering his skin didn’t help either.
Walking less than a foot away was Percival. He always wore his greatcoat, but even he looked cold. The new Vice-Phil turned toward Quirk and mouthed something.
“What?” shouted Quirk.
Percival nodded, satisfied with whatever he had heard. He shouted something else. Quirk put a hand to his ear and Percival came closer. “This is useless. Why doesn’t the Castle follow us?”
“He has business inside the Castle,” shouted Quirk. “If he wants to keep tabs on it, he has to stay inside.”
Percival nodded again. “What kind of business?” he shouted.
“I’ll tell you with the others.” Quirk looked back toward the Castle. Behind them, the rest of the Phils straggled along in their wake.
“Is this far enough?” shouted Percival.
Quirk looked back again. “I think so.” He waved his arms above his head. “Hurry up!” he shouted to the Phils.
In a few cold minutes, all the Phils but Sebase and Liam had assembled. They huddled together like penguins, trying to stay warm and out of the wind.
“Where’s Sebase?” shouted Quirk. Even with this much shelter, he couldn’t hear himself.
“He is escorting the doctor back to his home,” said Percival. “He won’t be back for another few hours at least.”
“Why are we here?” shouted the old lady. “The Castle was warm, and my bones are freezing in this wind.”
“If we stayed inside the Castle, the Castle could listen in,” explained Quirk and Percival at the same time. “And apparently, this is important,” added Percival.
“It is,” said Quirk. “First off, I think it’s obvious that I am not possessed anymore.”
Feiron looked around. “If you’re expecting congratulations, I think you’ll be disappointed.” His voice carried well through the wind, the bucket amplifying it like a megaphone.
“So I see,” said Quirk. “But, since I’ve been inside the Castle’s mind, I know his plans.”
“But who has the Castle possessed now?” asked the old lady.
“I’ll get to that later,” said Quirk.
“What? I didn’t hear you,” shouted the old lady.
“I think the most important news will be that I know where the cure is,” said Quirk.
“The cure for the rocks?” asked Phume.
“No, for the common cold,” said Quirk. “Of course it’s for the curse!”
“What is it?” asked Percival.
“It’s officially called gravelpox. It’s a skin disease that takes all the minerals it can from your food and forms them into a type of rock, mostly calcium, which is then pushed out of the skin.”
“No, the cure.”
“Ah. Well. That’s the thing,” said Quirk, biting his lip. “First I think I have to tell you something else: the Castle wants to drop us off on an island off the northeastern coast of England.”
“And my guess is you don’t want us to agree?” asked Percival.
“My guess was that you wouldn’t agree anyway.”
“True enough,” said Feiron. “You should have phrased it differently, though. I like England.”
“This island is inhabited by the Castle’s brother, who happens to be evil. Very evil.”
“So then we definitely don’t want to go there,” said Percival. “That’s decided. Now what’s this cure?”
“As I said, that’s the thing; the only person who knows the cure—“
“Is the Castle’s brother!” finished the old lady.
“Exactly,” sighed Quirk.
“Wonderful! Do I get a prize?”
“No,” said Percival. “Because, as Quirk just said, this is a bad thing.”
“Oh. I didn’t hear that.”
“Do you have any more bad news, Quirk?” asked Percival.
“Unfortunately, yes. Some of you might have put two and two together and figured out that since the Castle left me and we’re all here except Sebase and Liam, and since Sebase is off-cloud, the Castle has possessed Liam.”
“What? I didn’t hear that,” said the old lady.
“The Castle is inside the Head Phil,” Phume shouted into her ear.
“Oh! Speak up next time. Why is he there?”
“He wanted morale to drop by possessing the leader of the Phils. He used to think that I was enough, but since Percival was made Vice-Phil, I no longer am.”
“Percival is Vice-Phil?” asked Phoenix. “When did that happen?”
“Earlier today,” said Percival. “The Head Phil promoted me.”
“Was this before or after the Castle possessed him?” asked Phoenix.
“Before,” said Percival. “And he knew what he was doing.”
“I have something to say,” said Isaac almost inaudibly.
“Speak up!” said the old lady. “You’re standing right next to me and I can’t hear you!”
“I—Me and Feiron—Feiron and I—We’re leaving the Phils today.”
Phoenix turned to Isaac. She looked like she had experienced too many shocks today.
“We’re leaving when the Phils leave the Cloud.”
“Wait, we’re leaving the Cloud?” asked Phume.
Percival rubbed his forehead. “I see none of us know everything that’s happened today. The Head Phil gave the order to leave the Cloud this morning—and yes, this was before the Castle possessed him. According to Quirk, the cure is in the hands of the Castle’s brother, on that island in England. Also, the Castle’s plan is to get us to that island, presumably to achieve unhealthy results. On top of this, I assume the Head Phil gave you and Feiron permission to leave us today?” He turned to Isaac.
“Are you talking to me? Yes, he did,” stammered Isaac.
“Is everyone filled in?” asked Percival.
“What did you say?” asked the old lady.
“I’ll take that as a yes. Inside again, everyone, and don’t repeat anything of what we’ve just talked about. If the Castle asks, however, say that Quirk told us about his offer and we’ve decided to accept. We’re going to his brother’s house.”