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 Phil Phorce, Episode 7.
Something scraped outside the king’s door.
He had been lying awake for some time now, thinking. It had been over a year since his son had left, and in that time, the king and queen had received no communication from him. He had probably left to find adventure. Sons of noble households often did that— the king himself had done that before his father had passed on the throne. But for the prince to be absent for so long…
The king reviewed the facts in his head. The prince had been seen leaving the city over a year ago. After that, his progress could easily be seen by the trail of destruction he left in his wake; he seemed to be targeting princesses in particular, and if the king didn’t know better, he might think his son was looking at a career in organized crime. He managed to ruin a lot of lives quite spectacularly.
But then the prince had disappeared. The trail ended in the wilderness at a tower with no door. The scouts sent to make sure the prince was safe came back empty-handed. The tower was empty, and there were no signs of the prince.
The trail already seemed to be cold when the king heard. He did everything he could, short of proclaiming the prince’s absence to the world. The story was that the prince had sailed to another continent and hadn’t sent word of when he would be back. The king almost believed it was true these days, but messengers to the surrounding continents had seen neither the prince nor his apparent traveling partner, the brown blob.
The king sighed. The idea was slowly growing in his mind that his son was dead. He didn’t want it to be true, but a killer could easily have confronted the prince in or near the empty tower and hidden the body. Or that blob could have done him in somehow. It certainly didn’t look threatening, but it didn’t look cuddly, either. It could have influenced the prince to do something that would get him killed. The king shivered. The blob could be after him now.
But that was foolish. It had been a year. But the blob might take its time, oozing all this way…
Another scrape came from the hallway outside. The king raised himself onto his elbow and looked out the window. It was nearly dawn. It was probably the chamberlain outside. The king sighed. He might as well get an early start to the day if he wasn’t sleeping. Soon, though, he would have to confront the truth about his son. Whether he was dead or gone, it didn’t do to lack an heir; he would have to name one of his nephews as a possible choice in case of emergency.
He pushed himself out of bed and crossed to the window. The horizon glowed with orange, but the sun hadn’t risen yet. His son was out there somewhere. He knew Isaac wasn’t dead.
Something knocked at the door, probably the chamberlain. He didn’t usually knock, though. “Come in,” said the king, not moving from the window. The door didn’t open. He turned. “I said, come in.”
There was no answer. Muttering to himself, he went to the door and opened it, but the hallway was empty. Two lines were scratched into the stone floor, as if with a claw.
The king frowned. He had seen scratches like that before. Where, though?
Something hit him in the back of the head. Pain exploded through his skull as he fell forward, landing hard on his hands. He scrabbled to his feet, turning to see his attacker.
The Flit, its lower half still coalescing from shadow, drove its fist toward the king’s head again. The king threw himself backward, but his foot hit something and he tripped, falling backward. He rolled to his feet and tried to run. Of course it had been a Flit. He knew those scratches.
The Flit didn’t chase him, but knelt and scratched two more lines in the stone. The king heard the scratches and almost stopped, but he knew how to defeat Flits. He had fought them before. He only had to hold out until dawn, then it would be no contest.
In the meantime, he had to run. This hallway was long and straight, perfect for a Flit. He watched the air ahead of him carefully, waiting for the Flit to begin reappearing.
There. The torso appeared first, followed by its arm and fist, already swinging. The head hadn’t formed yet, so the Flit couldn’t see— the punch went wild. The king easily dodged it and slammed his own fist into the Flit’s chest. Without anything keeping it in place, it flew backward along the parallel lines it had drawn at the other end of the hallway.
The king reversed directions, running the other way. The Flit couldn’t chase him until it had its legs, and even then, it could only run in that straight line until its whole body had formed. It also couldn’t flit until its moving spike had formed, allowing it to scratch a new direction into the floor and become incorporeal as Flits were meant to.
The Flit’s torso appeared in front of him again. The king cursed. It had reappeared and flitted far more quickly than Flits usually could. The king ducked another blind punch and swerved around it, pushing it in the opposite direction again.
He reached his room, but didn’t close the door. It would be useless. Flits could move through solid obstacles just as well as through empty air, and they were invisible as they moved. There would be no warning that the Flit was inside the room, but with a view of the Flit and what it was doing with its moving spike, the king would have at least a little warning.
The room had grown brighter, but the sun hadn’t risen yet. Dawn, he needed dawn. Why couldn’t the sun rise when you needed it?
The Flit began appearing in the center of the room. The king pushed at it, intending to send it back along its lines of motion, but the Flit had grown wiser. Its legs had already formed. Although thin as twigs, they still kept the king from pushing it out of the room. It stumbled back a few steps, but no more.
Hurry up, dawn, thought the king as it punched and kicked at the unformed Flit. The room was growing lighter, but not quickly enough. The Flit fought back as it grew arms and stronger legs, but its head didn’t form as quickly as the rest of him. The king concentrated his attacks on the torso and legs to make the Flit concentrate on getting those areas developed first. The undeveloped portions of a Flit were more vulnerable, but the more they developed, the stronger they became.
The king began falling back toward the window. He was having trouble landing his attacks as the Flit’s body grew more defined. It grew confident, pressing its own attack. The king retreated another step, then feinted at the Flit’s torso with one fist. As the Flit raised its arm to block, the king threw his other fist at the yet undeveloped head.
It connected. The Flit’s head snapped back painfully, forming hastily as the Flit realized what it lacked, but the damage had been done. Its neck hung at an awkward angle.
The king grinned in triumph. Perhaps he hadn’t needed the dawn after all.
The Flit’s fist swung at him, inhumanly fast. The king blocked it, falling back a few steps in shock. The creature’s neck was snapped— it couldn’t have survived. No, he corrected himself, no human could have survived. As much as this creature looked human, it wasn’t.
The Flit locked one eye on him as it advanced, head lolling as if it were asleep. It swung again, and again; although it still seemed to be forming, the blows were heavy. The king managed to block the first few, but they were getting far too close.
The moving spike appeared, always the last part of a Flit to form. The Flit immediately stepped back and crouched, gouging its two parallel lines of motion into the stone. The spike cut the stone easily.
The king ran forward and kicked at the Flit, hoping to catch it before it had completed the lines, but it vanished in an instant, sending him staggering, off-balance, into a bedpost. At the doorway, the Flit began forming again, neck straight. If the king had caused the creature any pain, it didn’t show.
The king leaned against the bedpost, breathing hard. He didn’t have a way to kill the Flit, with what he had now. When the dawn came, however…
There! The ambient glow sharpened into distinct light and shadow as the sun shone through the window. The king felt himself growing, stretching.
The Flit attacked, already nearly complete. The king bellowed and swung a fist, at least twice the size of a moment before. The Flit tried to dodge, but it was still developing, locked into its lines of motion. The blow connected and it was lifted off its feet, flying back through the doorway into the wall. The king stomped toward it, barely squeezing through the doorway.
Strange, thought the king. This time, it felt good to be an ogre in the morning.
The Flit, now fully developed, scrambled sideways as he made it out of his bedroom. For the first time since it had attacked, the king saw emotion in its eyes: fear. That was good to see.
The king gave the Flit another blow, and without lines of motion to restrict it, it bounced down the hallway like a rubber ball. It came up in a crouch, trying to use its moving spike, but the king closed the distance in two steps and lifted it off the ground. He briefly considered saying a few words, but the punishment for attacking the king was obvious. The king squeezed back into the room with the Flit in tow. It tried to touch its moving spike to the ground, but the king shook it until it hung limp. The king punched through the window, holding the Flit over the open air. It began to struggle, but weakly.
“You’re a Flit,” said the king, shaking it. “Now fly!” He began to open his fist.
“Where are we?” a voice asked from within the room. The king turned its head.
Impossible. How had he gotten in?
“Isaac?” the king began to say, as the Flit dug its moving spike into the king’s fist. The king roared and shook the Flit, but it wriggled out of his fist and stabbed him again in the arm. The king waved its arms, trying to catch it again.
“Wrong time, wrong time,” shouted something beside Isaac. The king caught sight of the brown blob in Isaac’s arms, stumpy but slightly humanoid. The king frowned, but then the Flit dug its moving spike into his neck.
The king pitched forward as the Flit knelt, locking eyes with him as he slipped away. The king didn’t want to see the Flit, though— he wanted to see his son. But the only glimpse he got was the prince and his blob disappearing back into the mirror through which they had come.
Then, locked in his killer’s gaze, the king died.