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.
“We are approaching the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. We will be landing shortly. Please stay in your seats until we land.”
“Why does it keep saying that?” asked Phume.
“Perhaps because you’re not listening,” said Quirk. He sat in the small aircraft’s pilot seat, playing with the controls.
“Sit down, Phume,” said Percival. “It could be a rough landing.” He had reluctantly taken the copilot’s seat after a long spat with Quirk.
“But I’m worried about Sebase,” said Phume.
“And pacing will change that, obviously,” said Quirk, pressing an enormous black button. The words “Self-destructing in ten minutes” scrolled across the screen.
“A while ago the Head Phil said that running in circles generates energy, so I figure walking back and forth in a straight line should do something like it.”
“The Head Phil was in eighth grade when he wrote that,” said Quirk. “And it was fiction.” He pressed another button and the aircraft plummeted.
“Technically, all of us are fictional,” said the old lady. “Except me, perhaps. I might actually exist.”
“Existentialism has no place here,” said Percival. “That’s for 1860’s literature.”
“What if Sebase can’t find us?” asked Phume.
“Then he’ll probably be safe from the Castle’s brother until we can find the cure,” said Quirk, pressing another button. The aircraft tipped upward and stalled.
“Would you quit it?” snapped Percival.
Quirk pushed forward on the joystick and the aircraft dove.
“Please remove your hands from the controls,” said the automated voice. “Sit down and fasten your seat belts.”
“Why did we leave Sam behind?” asked Steve. “He’s dangerous if we leave him with the Castle.”
Percival shot a look at Quirk, who ignored it. Neither of them had mentioned the Blanks’ infiltration or Public’s death to the Phils. Their failure to avert Manfred’s capture still hurt.
The group had shrunk. That morning, Isaac and Feiron had left for Isaac’s world. The Castle still possessed the Head Phil. Sebase hadn’t yet returned from his mission the day before, and Sam had escaped with the Blanks. In low spirits, the remaining Phils had left the Cloud in an aircraft provided by the Castle. Gologer flew behind them, choking on exhaust. Only Quirk seemed to be without any apprehension.
Percival was unsettled by all the events the day before. He had become Vice-Phil in the worst possible circumstances. When Quirk was Vice-Phil, his responsibilities consisted of locking the front door at night. Now that Percival was Vice-Phil, the Head Phil was out of action, almost half the Phils were missing, and the rest of the Phils were discontent. This job was harder than it looked.
Percival was startled out of his thoughts by Quirk’s gasp.
“That’s no moon, it’s a space station!” said Quirk.
“I have a bad feeling about this…” said the old lady.
“Quirk, I think you’re flying too high,” said Percival.
“So that’s why I saw a Sputnik.” Quirk put the craft into a dive again. “Look, there’s the Castle! Everyone wave as we go by!”
Percival waved before he could stop himself. “Let me drive,” he said.
“No, I’ve got it. England is north of Russia, right?”
“It’s south of Russia,” said the old lady. “I read about it in a book once.”
“And Switzerland looks like a boot, I remember that much,” said Quirk.
“Please remove your hands from the controls.”
“No,” said Quirk. “This is fun.”
“Please remove your hands from the controls.”
“No!” said Quirk.
“Initiate motivation techniques.”
Quirk dissolved into laughter. “Stoppit! Stop! I’m serious, stop!” Writhing, he fell out of his chair.
“Thank you. Please sit down and fasten your seat belts.”
When Quirk stopped gasping, he sat down again. This time he kept his hands off the controls.
“We are approaching the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. We will be landing shortly.”
The earth flashed by beneath them. Percival focused on the horizon; watching the ground was nauseating.
The craft suddenly turned upside-down. Only Percival was strapped in; the rest of the Phils fell to the ceiling.
“What did I tell you?” said the automated voice.
The craft touched down and slid a long way. Eventually it came to a stop.
“It is safe to disembark.”
The bubble cockpit popped open, forcing the body of the craft into the air and creating an exit ramp. The Phils slid down. Percival unstrapped, planning to make a graceful exit, but fell to the ground painfully.
Above them, Gologer circled uncertainly. He roared a question.
“No, you don’t have to land upside-down too,” shouted Percival. “Go and find somewhere else to stay.”
Gologer roared again.
“No, you can’t feast on the villagers and imbibe their fluids,” said Percival. “I don’t think they’d appreciate the gesture.”
Gologer snorted and winged away toward the mainland.
To Percival, the island looked far too inhabited for the Castle’s brother. For the Castle, three was a crowd. This island appeared to have many more than three people.
A town covered one corner of the island: modern-looking buildings clustered near the coast. The rest of the island was covered with farmland. Their craft had landed in one such area.
“How do we get rid of the ship?” asked Percival.
“I suggest we stand clear,” said Quirk.
“How will that help?”
“Actually, I suggest we run. Scream if you like.” Quirk ran and screamed.
“Wait, Quirk!” shouted Percival, running after him. The rest of the Phils figured they should do the same. Phoenix and Steve cooperated; she ran and he screamed.
Quirk had just stopped to catch his breath when the aircraft exploded.
“Did you know it was going to do that?” gasped Percival.
“Of course,” said Quirk. “I told it to self-destruct precisely ten minutes ago.”
As they caught their breath, Percival examined the town beyond the burning wreckage. “Do you think the Castle’s brother lives in the town?”
“Nope, too crowded.”
“Nothing to inhabit.”
“Of course not.”
“Lindisfarne Castle, perhaps,” said Quirk.
Percival turned around. A large pale castle rose out of a hump in the land. The castle looked uninhabited. “That would work,” he decided.
“We could always ask someone,” said Phume.
“They might try to kill us first,” said Steve.
“Well, what do you think we should do?” accused Phume.
“We should kill them first and ask later.”
“I don’t think they’ll kill us,” said Quirk. “This guy looks friendly.”
A largely unformed yellow statue approached wearing nothing but a very large grin.
“That guy doesn’t,” said the old lady, pointing to a farmer running toward them as he waved angrily at the smoking ship.
“Hello, Phils! I’ve been waiting for you,” said the statue.
“Then you’re the Castle’s brother?” asked Percival.
“Please, call me Erik. But before we fully introduce ourselves, this good man doesn’t look friendly.”
“What do you suggest?” asked Percival.
“I suggest we run. Scream if you like.”
They ran up the cobblestone path toward the castle, screaming.
“To answer your question, yes, I am Mafunzalo’s brother.” Erik grinned at Percival and Quirk, scratching his nose. His grin never seemed to die.
“Mafunzalo?” asked Percival. They sat facing each other on the outer wall of the castle. Percival liked watching the ocean.
“The Castle’s real name,” whispered Quirk. “He tried to hide it from me, but…” Quirk shrugged.
Erik smiled wilder. “We’re brothers.”
“So you’ve said,” said Quirk. “But you can’t be brothers in the human sense.”
“No, no,” laughed Erik. “We’re just so alike we call ourselves brothers. We’ve worked together for thousands of years, until this millennium.”
“But what are you?” asked Percival.
“We’re spirits inhabiting domiciles,” said Erik. “We can’t go anywhere we don’t own a house.”
“Then how do you inhabit people?” asked Percival.
“People are interesting because they’re almost organic half-houses. We can inhabit both a house and a person at once, or we can just inhabit a house. But we can’t inhabit just a person.”
“And statues work the same way, obviously,” said Percival, nodding at Erik’s body.
“Oh, this isn’t a statue! This is a man infected with the same curse you two are,” said Erik. “You’ll notice that the stone has built up so much that he seems shapeless, but there’s a human somewhere in there. I keep him limber enough to move, but his mind is quite dead.”
Percival and Quirk exchanged glances. Erik seemed cheerful, but he was not friendly.
“I suggest you speak to your friends before they do anything rash,” said Erik, pointing along the wall. Phume was walking carefully as close to the edge as he could, but he looked about to fall.
“Deal with it, Quirk,” said Percival. “I have some more questions for Erik.”
“Wonderful,” said Erik.
Quirk ran to Phoenix’s side. “What is he doing?” he asked.
“He’s walking,” she said.
“Steve dared him to do it.”
Quirk climbed to the wall top and pulled Phume down. “No dare is worth your life,” he hissed.
“This one is,” said Phume. “Steve said he’d kill me if I didn’t kill myself first.”
A scream pierced Quirk’s ears. He turned toward Percival and Erik and saw the statue sitting calmly while Percival writhed on the ground, smoking. Quirk stayed where he was; whatever this was might be contagious. “I think we have to leave,” he told the other Phils.
“What about Percival?” asked the old lady.
Quirk watched as Percival slumped over, his stony skin completely melted away to reveal pale skin beneath. Erik sat up, shook himself like a dog, and waved to the Phils.
“Percival might not be alive,” said Quirk.