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.
“There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home,” said the old lady, clicking her heels. “It’s not working, Quirk!”
Quirk ignored her, concentrating completely on the beast. Its red eyes stared back at him, watching for movement. Quirk twitched, and the beast moved to the side to intercept him. He twitched again and the beast moved the other way. It was fast.
Quirk stooped quickly and picked up the skull at his feet. It was still wet with the beast’s saliva, but it was completely clean of any flesh. He had no doubt of its former owner’s unfortunate end.
As if it heard his thoughts, the beast bared its teeth, snarling at Quirk. Its breath stank almost worse than a dragon’s.
Quirk threw the skull as hard as he could at the beast, aiming for the head. Both he and the beast watched as the skull sailed far over his intended target to crash into a pile of bones at the other end of the room. The beast turned back to him and grunted, as if thanking him for helping clean up.
In his other hand, Quirk held his torch. He didn’t want to drop it—it might go out or something, and he couldn’t see without it. The old lady had a torch as well, but two torches were better than one.
The beast, tired of waiting for Quirk to try something stupid, reached out an arm. Its four-fingered hand was leathery, each finger tipped with a long, curved claw.
Quirk shoved the torch at the hand, hoping it would burn or something. The beast snatched its hand back. It narrowed its eyes, then lashed out, knocking the torch out Quirk’s hand. It landed in a puddle of something Quirk didn’t want to think about and extinguished.
Oddly, the room didn’t grow darker. Most of the light was actually coming from the four hallways branching off from the room. Each of the hallways was covered in an iron grating, and checkered patterns decorated the walls. As Quirk looked at the hallways, he realized they were filled with people holding torches, pressed up against the gates. They were watching, as if this was a sport.
The old lady waved to the crowd. The movement attracted the beast’s attention and it lunged at her, claws outstretched. Quirk tried to run toward it, to tackle it or the old lady, just to get one out of the path of the other—but it was too late. In a flurry of flying fur and floral patterns, the beast lay stunned on the floor.
The old lady looked just as shocked as Quirk was. Then she flexed her arm triumphantly. “Take that, rheumatism!”
The beast was down. Quirk rushed to the hallways, rattling the iron gates in their housings. “Open the gates,” he shouted.
“They’re actually portcullises,” said one of the men standing on the other side. He was thin, with large round glasses perched upside-down on his nose. When he pushed his slipping glasses back up his nose, Quirk saw his heavily ink-stained hands.
Quirk ran to another gate. A beefy man in a uniform shrugged apologetically. “If we open the gates, the monster will eat us. Sorry.”
“What about us?” shouted Quirk as he went to the next gate. He rattled it, but it was a formality—he knew it was locked. Most of the people on the other side were unfamiliar to him, but one young man stood out.
“I remember you,” said Quirk, staring at him. “You were with the Blanks when they invaded.”
The young man raised his eyebrows. “I’m surprised you care, considering your conundrum.” He gestured to the beast over Quirk’s shoulder.
Quirk looked behind him, but the beast was still stunned. “I’m sorry for your loss,” he said. “Your leader, I mean. General Public, wasn’t it?”
The young man nodded. “His life was complete. It was time for him to move on.”
“Who’s leader now?”
“I am,” said the young man. “General Jordan Public.”
“Pleased to make your acquaintance.”
The beast was stirring. The old lady hit him again on the head, but it just grunted.
“So how’s your group?” asked Quirk. “We haven’t heard much of them since, you know, you invaded and tried to impersonate us and stuff.”
“Wasn’t my idea,” said Jordan. “But the Blanks are thriving without such daredevil schemes. How are your people, your… Phils, is it?”
“Phils,” said Quirk. “Our former Head Phil was killed a little while ago, so I inherited his position. Technically I killed him myself, but he still made me his heir.”
“You’re a lucky man,” said Public.
The beast was standing now, tottering slightly under its own weight. It shook its head, glared at Quirk, and roared. It charged.
“Well, you know, I’ve got stuff happening,” said Quirk.
“Yeah, you’d better… yeah,” said Jordan.
“See you around.”
Jordan waved just as the beast’s head crashed into the gate beside Quirk’s head.
Quirk yelped and pushed away from the gate, running toward the fourth tunnel, the one through which they had entered the room. It was locked, but only one person stood behind it: the torch salesman.
“Help me,” said Quirk as the beast crashed into the wall, trying to change directions. It saw him and lowered its head to charge again.
“I can’t open the gates,” said the salesman. “However, if you aren’t satisfied with your purchases, you can request a refund.”
“Consider me unsatisfied!”
The salesman nodded. “Would you like your refund in cash, or in credit to my torch shop? Oh, what am I thinking? You won’t be alive to enjoy credit! Here’s cash.” He thrust his hand through the bars. Quirk took the refund. It was a single coin, not one of the quarters the old lady had paid with. Silver and shiny, it looked oddly familiar…
It was the coin, the one from his past! Turning away from the salesman, he shook the coin, trying to make it turn into a weapon. It wouldn’t do anything. The beast roared again, then charged. Quirk ran to the side, but tripped on a bone lying on the floor. He fell, bruising his hand, and scrambled out of another unmentionable puddle.
He felt the beast’s breath on his neck. He turned his head slowly. A string of saliva hung mere inches from his nose. Scrambling backward, he swung his fist, the one with the coin.
It stretched and grew heavier in his hand, becoming a large silver sledgehammer. His blow took the beast in the side of the jaw. Nevertheless, a drop of saliva fell on Quirk’s shirt, which smoked. The saliva burnt straight through the cloth and into his skin. Quirk let the hammer fall to the ground and got to his feet, wiping at his shirt.
The beast glared at him with its red eyes, but it didn’t charge as quickly this time. It reached out slowly with one long claw. Quirk narrowed his eyes, trying to figure out what it was doing. As the claw approached, he took a step back. That was the opening the monster needed. It swiped at the ground instead of Quirk, knocking the hammer out of his reach while he was off balance. As it skittered across the floor, the hammer shrank back into a coin.
Quirk dove forward, trying to get to his only weapon, but the beast swung its claw again and backhanded him across the room. He hit the wall and slid to the floor. Stunned, he could only think of how hard it would be to get the smell out of his pants.
His eyes closed and blinked open again slowly. The beast was attacking the old lady. She had the coin, which was now a broadsword. Its choice of forms seemed odd. The old lady could barely lift the giant sword.
His head sank down onto his chest again, but something caught his attention. Directly in the middle of the floor, a hole yawned open. A man stood in the hole, only his upper half visible, watching the fight. As the beast stumbled back at the old lady’s latest attack, the man ducked out of sight and swung a trapdoor into place.
The beast stepped forward again, lunging inside the old lady’s reach. Quirk watched the trapdoor. It opened slowly, then fully. The man sprang out, kicked the beast in its tail area, then jumped back into the hole and disappeared, greatcoat flapping behind him.
Quirk had seen that greatcoat before, but he was too tired to think about it now. Stone was surprisingly comfortable when you were exhausted.
He saw the trapdoor open once more, and the man looked around the whole room this time. His eyes widened when he saw Quirk, and he ducked back inside. Soon afterward, both he and another man were dragging Quirk by the arms into the trapdoor.
“Wanna sleep,” moaned Quirk.
“You can do that later,” said Percival as Sebase lowered Quirk through the trapdoor into waiting arms. Percival waved to someone, and he and the old lady followed Sebase through the trapdoor. The door closed, the beast roaring angrily outside.
“Welcome to our imprisonment,” said Percival, as Quirk looked groggily around the room beneath the trapdoor. All the Phils were there, except Gologer.
“Yay,” said Quirk, almost falling over. “We aren’t getting eaten anymore!”
“You are tired, aren’t you?” Percival sat Quirk down on one of the low beds. “The only entrance and exit to this room is through the monster’s cage above us. You really shouldn’t have come.”
“Consider yourself spited,” said Quirk, and passed out.