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.
Quirk fell, spinning as he went, the wind filling his ears with an emotionless roar, and all he could wonder was whether falling from clouds was a requirement for being Head Phil.
Then he realized he was falling to his death. That was odd. Perhaps he should scream. Oh, but which scream should he use? Battle cry roar? Surprised in the alleyway shriek? Full-blown girly squeal?
What the heck, he thought; I’m falling to my death and no one can hear me. Might as well be indulgent.
He went for the girly squeal.
Tumbling through the air, he contemplated the earth, spinning around the edges of his vision. What a big planet. So big, so colorful—green in places, brown in others, even orange.
He wasn’t scared. Yes, he was plummeting to his death thousands of miles away; yes, he didn’t have a Castle or Cloud to go back to; and yes, Percival had stolen his Phils. But he didn’t care, for Gologer would surely…
It hit him. Percival had taken the Phils—all of them. To get off the Cloud, they must have used some sort of transportation. The Castle had given them an aircraft. They had never found where the aircraft had been hidden, but there could be more. If they didn’t find those, however, they would use Gologer. That meant Gologer wasn’t here, which meant…
Quirk decided it would be a good time to scream again.
He suddenly recalled the old lady’s words: “splatter art on the great canvas of the world.” He was well on the way toward that. He imagined the news report the next day. “A man, travelling at speeds exceeding 120 miles per hour, crashed through a warehouse roof. The scraps of clothing found around the site suggest that he was not in fact wearing a parachute, or any sort of skydiving gear, making it very difficult to stop. The DNA gathered from the blood has been proved to be human, ruling out the possibility of extraterrestrial invasion. The DNA has no matches within civilian records, and too little of his body remained for a facial identification. The police suspect suicide.”
The world kept flipping past his eyes. He had no sense of direction, though he knew he must be falling towards the earth. He felt dizzy enough to throw up—another unique type of splatter art for the forensics lab waiting below.
The world was bigger now. If he really tried to focus on it, he could see tiny cracks in the land where rivers lay. Perhaps he would hit a river or an ocean instead of land or a building. But it was said that hitting water at high speeds was like hitting concrete, so it might not matter—he’d still be dead. There would be less for news stations to report on, though. Quirk decided that if he had the choice, he would die in the water.
He tried to extend his arms and legs like he saw skydivers do in movies. His right arm was ripped around, slamming against his hip, while his left arm collapsed and punched him in the face. His legs fared little better, the knees buckling and flailing. If he survived this, he would have a small army of bruises.
The world rushed up on him. A spot of black seemed closer than the rest, growing rapidly bigger. It was square, and had a tail. A purple tail.
The black square flipped over, revealing a dragon covered in purple and orange, like a sunset. Quirk only knew one dragon, but there surely couldn’t be more than one with that coloring. There definitely wasn’t another dragon who wore galoshes.
“Gologer!” he shouted, wind ripping the name away before it even began.
The dragon had seen him, even if he hadn’t heard. He flipped again and spread his wings slightly, gliding into Quirk’s path.
I want wings, thought Quirk jealously.
He was still falling quickly. He hoped the thing strapped to Gologer’s back was soft—if not that, he hoped it covered up the spikes along the dragon’s back. He didn’t want to impale himself on his rescuer.
He tried again to slow himself down with his arms and legs, locking them into position as well as he could. It worked this time, keeping him from somersaulting. He still spun, but the earth was always below him.
Even at this speed, however, that thing on Gologer’s back could still kill him. It didn’t matter if it was a pillow a mile thick—he didn’t want to hit it without slowing down a bit more. But how? He had no jacket to use as a parachute—no scarf, no hooped skirt. The next thing he would do as Head Phil would be to make parachutes part of the uniform.
When Phoenix and Liam had fallen off the Cloud, what had they done? They had been swallowed by a dragon, after coming to a near standstill as they both pulled in different ways—one affected by gravity, the other by centrifugal force. He didn’t have another person to pull against, but he could change directions.
Closing his eyes, Quirk concentrated on centrifugal force. It was hard. He hadn’t done it in a while—after he had turned the Castle right-side-up again, they had always pointed the same way, whether on the cloud or on the earth. He liked gravity! He liked jumping and coming down again. He didn’t like zooming up toward the ceiling and turning the world upside-down. That disconcerting feeling of seeing the earth hanging in the sky was the reason he had turned the Castle around in the first place. Centrifugal force disagreed with him.
He opened his eyes. Gologer was far too close now. He had to do it now, or die on Gologer’s back. He squeezed his eyes shut and convinced himself he was diving through the water and just needed to swim back to the surface.
Suddenly his stomach went the wrong way. His legs, braced against the wind coming from below, snapped forward as he rocketed back up, away from Gologer, who snorted in confusion. Somehow Quirk had expected the change in direction to be slower, a loss of momentum and a brief moment of hanging still in the air before going back up. Obviously not.
He convinced himself of gravity again. This time, the process was slower—gravity must have a hard time taking hold. As he started his downward fall again, Gologer flapped twice, bringing himself and the big thing on his back only a few meters away. Quirk fell, reaching out for something to hold.
He slammed into Gologer, immediately sliding toward the edge as his momentum carried him on. Gologer tried to tilt the big pad the other way, but Quirk’s weight messed with his balance. Quirk’s legs went over the edge. Hands scrabbling for something, his torso slipped over as well—then his hands grabbed a rough cloth loop sewn into the pad. He jerked to a stop.
Quirk hung there for a moment, trying to catch his breath. He was safe.
But he wasn’t, not yet. Gologer still struggled to get back upright. His wings flapped, but he was flying at an angle, falling rather than soaring. He roared back at Quirk, but Quirk couldn’t understand him. He had inherited Liam’s old translator, but he didn’t know where he had put it. It could be in his room, which had probably disintegrated by now—or it could be in his pocket. He hadn’t washed these pants in weeks. He didn’t want to let go of the loop to check, though, even with one hand.
Gologer flapped again and he almost lost hold. He had to get into the middle of the pad. If there were more straps or loops like this one, he could tie himself on. Gologer’s weight might even out as well.
He pulled himself up with both hands, then let go with one hand to reach for another loop. His other arm buckled and he missed, almost jerking away from the loop. He swung his arm over his head and grabbed the loop with both hands again. Muscles screaming along with the wind, he pulled himself up until the loop was even with his forehead. Perhaps if he could stretch his head a little farther, he could grab the loop with his teeth. He immediately decided against it. He liked his teeth.
Gologer pitched slightly, giving him a little momentum as he gave one last tug upward. His hand fell on another loop and he pulled his torso onto the pad again. The loops were scattered across the pad, too far away to climb up easily, but he managed to get a foot hooked securely enough to push himself completely onto the pad. He turned carefully until he was lying on his stomach, staring down Gologer’s horns.
The dragon’s flight evened out. They were much closer to the ground than before—Quirk could see clusters of grey and brown where cities and towns lay, connected by webs of roads. Every so often he caught a flash from tiny cars driving along the highway.
Gologer flapped desperately, wings straining against the wind. He came out of his dive, still going extremely fast, and pointed his nose toward the horizon. Quirk breathed a sigh of relief in the thin air. Shoving a hand into his pocket, he searched for the headset. It wasn’t there. He couldn’t talk to Gologer, then.
“Take me where you took Percival,” shouted Quirk, hoping Gologer would understand, or at least hear.
Gologer snorted and looked back, then sighed and pointed his nose upward. Quirk followed his eyes and saw another dot, quickly descending.
“The old lady,” he shouted. “She’s still up there!”
Gologer rolled his eyes and snorted. Quirk had a feeling the dragon wasn’t saying anything complimentary toward him. Gologer flapped several more times to gain height, then positioned himself in the old lady’s path.
Quirk stuck both his feet through two of the loops but kept his arms free. He really didn’t know what to do—should he try to catch her, or just wave as she went by?
As she came into view, Quirk noticed her frequent stops and starts as she switched from gravity to centrifugal force every few moments. She was so much more graceful with it than he had been. He really needed to practice.
Gologer held himself in place as the old lady floated gently down, controlling her fall carefully until she landed, feet-first, on Gologer’s pad. She dropped to her knees and grabbed a loop, holding herself on.
“That was thrilling,” said the old lady. “I like flying.”
Quirk grunted. “Have you seen this pad before?”
She nodded. “Percival made it for Gologer.”
Gologer grunted, and she nodded again. “Gologer says he thought it was a personal raft for sunbathing on the water, but Percival used it to transport the Phils. We’ve all used it, in fact.”
“You were asleep when we tested it. Sorry.”
“S’okay,” said Quirk, shrugging. “How can you tell what Gologer is saying?”
The old lady tapped her ear. “I found your earpiece in your pocket when I washed some of your clothes. You didn’t seem to want it, so I took it. Do you want it back?”
“Keep it,” said Quirk. “Tell Gologer to take us where Percival landed.”
“He can understand you,” said the old lady as Gologer snorted. “But I don’t think we should do that. We need to find a place to stay, to regroup once Percival comes back.”
“One of Percival’s apartments could be good. Gologer, where are we?”
“What did he say?” asked Quirk.
“We’re near New York City. We can stay in his place there for now.”
“How do we get in?”
The old lady jingled Percival’s key chain. “It’s amazing what people leave in their pockets.”
Quirk’s pocket buzzed. “Speaking of which…” He pulled out the cell phone Percival had left and answered it.
“Quirk!” shouted Percival from the other end. There was a lot of noise around him. “It was a trap! Phume is wounded and Phoenix captured. Steve is flying around here somewhere, but he’ll be subdued soon. I’m hiding, I think, but they’ll find me.”
“Wait a second. You only think you’re hiding?”
“Never mind,” said Percival, almost drowned out by the noise of someone angrily shouting, “I’ll kill them all!”
“That Steve?” asked Quirk.
“Yep.” Percival paused. “They’re coming. Don’t try to rescue us—you don’t have a team. It’s not worth it. We’ll find another way to get out.”
“Who’s behind all this?”
“I don’t know,” said Percival, his breath sounding short and sharp in the phone. “He’s got resources. I think—“ His voice disappeared and Quirk heard an explosion, followed by an inhuman roar.
“Hello?” said a strange voice.
“Sorry, wrong number,” said Quirk, and hung up. He looked at the old lady and sighed. “They failed.”