Phil Phorce: The Commercial

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.

“Are your dungeons empty?  Are your rats and spiders dying off without anyone to torment?  Are you tired of waiting for justice to deliver prisoners to your empty cells?  Wait no more!”

“This commercial almost makes me want to get a dungeon, just so it could be filled,” said Steve.  “But what’s the use of a dungeon if you could kill people instead?”

“What if someone had valuable information that you wanted, but they wouldn’t tell you?” asked Percival.  “Where would you put them to think things over?”

“The lounge.  Might as well make them comfortable if you aren’t going to kill them right off.”

“The point isn’t to make them comfortable, or they might think you’re a pushover.”

“I’m not a pushover!”

Phoenix casually pushed Steve off the table.

“I’ll kill you for that, you evil red person!”  Steve caught his breath on the floor.  “Someone pick me up.  I can’t see the TV.”

“Some prisoners are spoiled by years of neglect and poor breeding.  Ours are the best of the best, kept right here at Morgannen Cemetery.  By living beneath the tombstones, they get a wonderfully bleak outlook on life!  No optimists, no happy thoughts, no holiday cheer from these folks.”

“Old lady, do you know where Morgannen Cemetery is?”

The old lady frowned.  “Isn’t that where you tried to bury me when I slept too deeply last week?”

“That was a different one,” said Percival.  “I can’t remember the name.”

“Crotchety Acres Cemetery!” said Steve happily, quoting the brochure.  “’Where old folks can rest in obscurity!’  I almost forgot about that place.”

Percival ignored the old lady’s glare.  “Does anyone know Morgannen Cemetery?”

Isaac perked up.  “No, but I know what a cemetery is!”

“Good for you!” said Feiron.  “Here’s a gold star.”

“No, honestly, I have enough gold back home.  I’m a prince, after all.”

“I was kidding.”

Percival turned.  “Phoenix!  Google it.”

“What does that mean?” asked Isaac.

“Magic,” said Feiron.

“I have a street address,” said Phoenix.  She wrote something down on a notepad.  “They even mention some catacombs.”

“Who wants to go rescue Sebase?” asked Percival.

Phume’s hand shot up first, quickly followed by almost everyone else’s.  The old lady did nothing, and Feiron had to hold Isaac’s hand up.  Gologer snorted through the window, filling the room with a fishy smell.

Percival plugged his nose.  “Where’s Quirk?”

The old lady pointed upstairs.  “Sleeping.”

“What, again?”  Steve implied shaking his head.  “You poor humans—so afraid of death you simulate it every twelve hours to appease the gods.”

“That’s it, then,” said Percival.  “We’re going without him.  Pack up—we leave in ten minutes.  Phoenix, give me that pad.”

He ripped off the address and a blank sheet, laying them side by side on the table.  Taking a pen from his greatcoat, he copied out the address.  Beneath it, he began a note to Quirk.

The address above is for Morgannen Cemetery, where Sebase is being held.  I have taken the Phils to rescue him.  Remember our agreement, and consider yourself spited.


Quirk’s room was missing a wall.

He stared at it drowsily, trying to figure it out.  Something blue and white and brown was whizzing around outside.  It was windy in his room, all his papers blowing about, including…

He jumped out of bed and tried to grab his story binder as it blew over his head, pages flapping and ripping in the wind.  The wind tried to pull him out into the open air, but he hooked an elbow around a bedpost and reached for the binder with the other hand.  He swatted the binder.  It kept flying around, but as it came in reach he caught a page.  The page held for a moment, then ripped free.  The binder tumbled out of the gaping hole where the wall should have been.  Recognizing the page in his hand as Liam’s letter, he shoved it in his pocket.

Using the bed to support him, he pulled his way to the door.  He lunged for the door just as the bed fell through the hole, which now extended through the floor.  His room was disintegrating.

He grabbed the doorknob and held on, trying to pull the door open.  Gusts of wind alternately sucked him away from the door and pressed him back into it.  It was hard to breathe.  His ears popped every few moments as the pressure changed.  A detached part of his mind wished he had a barometer, just to see if it would shatter.

In one gust of wind, he was able to pull the door open.  The old lady flew through the doorway toward the hole in the wall, screaming at him.  He grabbed her hand.  Another gust slammed the door shut, bringing them both against the wall.

“Sorry to wake you!” shouted the old lady over the wind noise.

“No problem,” shouted Quirk.

“Did you have a nice rest?”

The wind sucked them backwards again.  Quirk’s grip on the doorknob slipped as the door jerked open.  “Grab something,” he shouted.

The old lady grabbed a broom that was whirling past above his head.  Why there was a broom in his bedroom, Quirk didn’t know.  He hated cleaning.

The wind slammed them back up against the wall, but the old lady slipped the handle of the broom between the door and the frame, keeping it from closing.  Quirk forced the door open.  They slipped inside.

It was quieter inside the hallway, but Quirk could still hear noises: roaring, whistling, and Frank Sinatra.

“I thought you had slept long enough,” said the old lady.  “Something’s wrong with the Castle.”

Quirk nodded.  “Yeah—why is Frank Sinatra playing?”

“That isn’t what I meant,” said the old lady, leading him toward the conference room.  She took the stairs instead of the elevator, which seemed odd until Quirk noticed the lump of twisted metal blowing through the shaft like in a pinball machine.  He followed her down the stairs.

“The Castle is falling apart,” said the old lady, leaning heavily on the railing.  Her knees were nearly audible.  “It started with the cloud, then went to the walls.  It interrupted my music appreciation time.”

“You appreciate Frank Sinatra?”

The old lady ignored him.  “We’re falling toward the earth right now.  I think the Castle’s death caused all this.  I’m not sure.”

“Why can we still walk like normal?”

“SynGIO malfunctioned,” said the old lady, referring to the Synthetic Gravity for Inanimate Objects.  It usually didn’t affect living creatures.  “It’s pulling down everything, even us.  I’m pretty sure the engine room will disintegrate too, though.”

“When that happens, we’ll just float away, I suppose,” said Quirk.

“No, we’ll be sucked away, kicking and screaming, soon to become splatter art on the great canvas of the world.”

“What a great destiny,” said Quirk.  “For other people, at least.”

The old lady pushed open the door to the conference room—or what was left of it.  The table was sideways, barricading a slowly-widening hole in the wall, just like in Quirk’s room.

“I thought you’d want to see Percival’s note.”  She pointed to a note taped diagonally between the table and the floor.  Lying beside it on the floor was a cell phone.

“Where are they, anyway?”  Quirk squatted down to read the note.  “…Consider yourself spited…?  But… I wanted to lead the mission!”

The old lady shrugged.  “He left the phone so he could contact you, I think.”

Quirk pocketed the phone and peeled the note away from the table.

“Don’t do that!” shouted the old lady, but it was too late.  Quirk pulled the note away and stuffed it in his pocket too.  The conference table groaned.  “That note was holding it in place!” shouted the old lady.

They ran for the doorway, but the conference table slid out of the hole.  Quirk fell to his knees and grabbed onto the shag carpeting.  The suction here was much greater than in Quirk’s room.  A swivel chair rolled past Quirk and out of the hole, spinning toward the ground.

“Grab my hand!” shouted the old lady.  She braced herself against the doorframe and reached for Quirk.  He reached for it with one hand, but his other hand slipped.  Scrabbling at the carpet, he was pulled inexorably backward—then with one final gust the wind sucked him into the sky.

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  1. Well, I did not see that one coming! Though it does make sense that the physical structure of the castle would react to a lack of a host.

    And it was hilarious. I especially enjoyed Crotchety Acres, the Frank Sinatra, and “No, we’ll be sucked away, kicking and screaming, soon to become splatter art on the great canvas of the world.” I’ll be giggling at that for a while.

    • You morbid fiend! I like your sense of humor.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post, and I’m especially glad you understood the reasons for the Castle’s disintegration.

      • Ah yes, my middle initial, M, stands for Morbid. I don’t ever realize how morbid I am until someone points it out. Side effect of growing up on murder mysteries, probably.

        And as you know, I’m rather fond of your sometimes morbid sense of humor as well.

        Glad my moment of understanding was gladdening.

      • Thank you.

  2. I enjoyed the first half better than the second. I think all of my critique is for the second half.

    I don’t understand SynGIO and why it makes it so they can walk normally.
    The old lady said “Sorry, to wake you” and then “I thought you had slept long enough”.
    Quirk has a cellphone. Percival didn’t need to leave one for him.
    The old lady flew through the door, screaming at him– I don’t think at is the right word. It sounds like she’s yelling at Quirk.
    “Recognizing the page in his hand as Liam’s letter, he shoved it in his pocket.”– sounds like he stuck it in his pocket because it was the letter. Would he have stuck it in his pocket if it hadn’t been the letter?
    I had to concentrate harder to read the second half.

    As I said, I liked the first half better. I loved Steve.
    “Crotchety Acres Cemetery!” said Steve happily, quoting the brochure. “’Where old folks can rest in obscurity!’ I almost forgot about that place.””– that was wonderful!
    And having Phoenix pushing him off the table was brilliant!
    I have a question– are both of the commercial italics one commercial?

    • Nevermind about SynGIO. I get it, now.

      • Can you tell me exactly why you didn’t like the second half as much? Pacing? Too much humor? You just didn’t like Quirk enough?

        Good on that. SynGIO wasn’t really explained anyway, just mentioned a couple of times.

      • I’m going to send it to my Kindle and read it that way. I’ll try to figure out what the problem is.

      • Excellent. Thank you.

      • I’m not sure how to explain this.

        When I have the problem in writing that I think you have, I tell Mom it’s “Dick and Jane” (though, honestly, Richard Scarry is closer to the mark). I think it’s either a style or pacing issue. In the Dick and Jane books, things are explained very simplistically and clearly (“Look at the dog. The dog is brown.”). Richard Scarry’s style is a little more advanced.

        “He jumped out of bed and tried to grab his story binder as it blew over his head, pages flapping and ripping in the wind. The wind tried to pull him out into the open air, but he hooked an elbow around a bedpost and reached for the binder with the other hand. He swatted the binder. It kept flying around, but as it came in reach he caught a page. The page held for a moment, then ripped free. The binder tumbled out of the gaping hole where the wall should have been. Recognizing the page in his hand as Liam’s letter, he shoved it in his pocket.”
        I think most of these sentences would be okay if you had an illustration for every one (turn the page and we see the binder flying around, Quirk reaching for it while holding on to the bed for dear life). But you don’t have illustrations. You’re not writing a picture book.

        I think that maybe if the some of sentences were rearranged, it would help. (It kept flying around. Finally, the binder came in reach and he caught a page. The page held for just a few seconds before ripping free. Quirk watched in despair as the binder tumbled out of the gaping hole where the wall should have been.)

        Maybe it’s a variety of sentence structure that is lacking here.

        Have I made any sense out of this?

      • Yes, okay. I get it. Sorry about that– there especially I was trying to vary the sentence structure, but it obviously didn’t work. Thanks.

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