(Audience) One of Those Things

It’s one of those things.

It’s one of those inevitable things.

You know?

I mean, there was a happy ending, and that’s great, but consequences unfurl—

Like they do—

And now, a coupla decades later, the whole world has lost its meaning. I mean, all the stuff is still there, and the processes, but none of it means anything.

Is it a growing pain? Is it a side effect? Is it something else?

Enter the Qwik Club, an extraordinary league of children who like to drink Qwik and read the collected volumes of _Hitherby Dragons._

“I’d like things to mean something,” says the head of the club.

That’s how it starts. That’s the first fragile thread of the rebuilding. But what will things mean?

Time for the Qwik Club to leap into action!

(Here are the rules:

You can post legends of your own in response to any post marked (Audience).

It’s recommended that you use them to think through the implications of a guess you have about what’s going on in Hitherby Dragons! Like “the legend where Martin is an angel” and “the legend where Martin is something fundamentally new.”

I won’t steal your ideas, but I get to if I want, and I’m definitely allowed to be inspired if you happen to inspire me. Or even just if I want to make an amusing parallelism between the work and the audience-told legends. I’m also allowed to just skim the legends rather than read them in depth. Or even ignore them! These are all basically legally necessary things.

Hitherby Dragons characters that show up in your legends aren’t Hitherby Dragons characters—they’re being played by members of the Qwik Club!

You can develop your own character set and names set, or you can share them with other legends posted in response to an (Audience) post. You can also start (Audience) threads in the forums on maps.

That does mean that you shouldn’t get offended if someone else posts featuring one of your Qwik Club characters.

For reference: why, yes, the concept of the Qwik Club restoring meaning to the world is inherently a legend form of a story yet to be told, although it is not currently a story I actually plan to ever tell.

If no one posts, then I won’t do this again. ^_^)

18 thoughts on “(Audience) One of Those Things

  1. In the neighborhood are many trees. In some of the trees are treehouses. In others are treeschools, treeshops, and treebusinesses.

    Martin quite possibly sits in one of these treehouses, drinking a Nestle’s-based beverage while he contemplates the nature of suffering.

    Possibly.

    But we don’t know for sure because Martin’s treehouse is not the treehouse we’re in today. Ours is the treehouse of the Qwik Club.

    Members of the Qwik Club are nervous. They pace the long wooden planks and check their digital watches. They have not seen their leader since the Thursday before Easter.

    Their worry is justified: the leader of the Qwik Club is a chocolate bunny.

    “Maybe we should start without him?” suggests Jane (No Relation). That is the identity on her official Qwik Club membership card: first name Jane; last name Relation); middle name (No.

    “Start what?” asks the new kid. He doesn’t have a name because the Qwik Club has not yet issued him an official membership card.

    Jane (No Relation) glares. “Before our leader went underground for Easter, quite possibly literally, he suggested a search for meaning.”

    “Meaning?” asks the new kid.

    “Meaning that we should…I don’t know…search?” Jane (No Relation)’s arms flail in the air as she speaks. She is frustrated. To her it seems pointless to search for meaning in the unmapped chaos. Also, she craves chocolaty milk but only the leader knows where the straws are kept.

    “Aren’t you…Jane?” asks the new kid. He looks at her through squinted eyes.

    “(No Relation)” she tells him.

    “Oh, sorry. Still, I’m confused. Don’t we already know that the meaning of everything is related to the enlarged size of beehive architectural features?”

    Jane (No Relation) blinks. “You mean…honeycomb big?”

    “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” the new kid agrees.

    “It’s not small?” Jane (No Relation) inquires.

    “No, no, no,” the new kid states.

    Jane (No Relation) sighs. “You’re in the wrong clubhouse. You want the one on Maple Drive, and turn left at Andre the Giant.”

    “Oh, thanks,” says the new kid.

    “No problem. And say hi to Martin for us.”

  2. The Bees

    (all text in italics is taken from _The Silver Stallion_, by James Branch Cabell. If you wish, you can imagine one of the Qwik players reading it from offstage.)

    They tell how Martin was one of the Leshy, born to a people that was neither human nor immortal

    The Leshy are not immortal, nor is their end fated, but they have a fixed doom. Martin and Jane lived in the Gibbelin’s Tower, where one day Martin was looking intently through his goggles at a strange cross made of black stone, held in a vise on a small table. Three small bees, appearing to be made out of solid ice, crawl slowly about the surface of the cross. An open window behind Martin overlooks the chaos. Next to him, looking on complacently, is the sleek figure of the demon Ninzian.

    Jane enters.

    “I came in to dust!” says Jane, holding up a rag in one hand. “Really I wanted to play with the dust bunnies. But who is this?”

    Martin points at the “no girls allowed” sign on the door, then sighs and gives up. “This is Ninzian, a demon. I wrote him a letter and asked him to come here.”

    Ninzian bows urbanely to Jane but does not comment.

    “Hi!” says Jane to Ninzian. She starts to desultorily thwap the rag against the top of the cot in the corner as she looks around. Martin has gone back to staring at the cross intently.

    “Ninzian fetched me this cross out of the land of Assyria,” Martin says. “It has the bright bees of Toupan! I’m trying to get them off of the cross, but nothing I’ve tried so far has worked.” Martin gestures with his left hand towards a pile of levers, electromechanical waldoes, genetically engineered bee-attractant flowers, and other junk piled to one side of the table.

    Jane giggles. “It’s easy”, she says, swooping forward and brushing one of the bees off of the cross with her rag. “Sometimes I wish that you could see simple things like that!” The bee flies out through the ceiling to join the Pleiades.

    Martin looks up in shock. The band on his goggles breaks and they fall off. His eyes, revealed, are strange and appear to slightly blur the vision of anyone looking at them, and can not clearly be made out. “Jane”, he says, “those are wishing bees! And you just used one.”

    “Well, you might have told me” says Jane.

    Now when the bee had joined its fellows in the Pleiades, Jacy, the first of the servants of Toupan, was released to his former estate in the moon.

    all plants and trees everywhere were withered, and the sea also lost its greenness, and there were no more emeralds. And the Star Warriors and the Wardens of the World were troubled, and they cried out to Koschei who devised them.

    Then Jacy whispered to Toupan: “Now is the hour of thy release, O Toupan! now is the hour that Koschei falls. For among the things that are there stays no verdancy anywhere, and without green things no one can keep health or strength..”

    Toupan answered: “I am diminished. “ He pauses. “When yet another bee is loosed, I shall stir my soul”.

    At that the Star Warriors and the Wardens of the World cried out yet again to Koschei.

    Then Koschei answered Them: “Have patience! When Toupan is released I perish with You. Meanwhile I have made all things as they are.”

    Jane and Martin can’t see that anything has changed outside, because the window overlooks chaos. The genetically engineered flowers have wilted, though. Martin seems a bit dizzy, but he steps forward and takes the rag from Jane. “I’m going to use a wish for what I intended, before something else happens”, he says. He brushes another bee from the cross. “I wish that the monster was moved to the middle of next week!” he cries.

    Ninzian raises one eyebrow but otherwise is silent.

    Jane looks surprised and disappointed. Martin looks at her, with a smug expression fading a bit as his eyes start to focus and he sees her face. “I don’t believe in accepting my doom”, he tells Jane quietly, “I want to win! And I know the monster can’t just be killed, and he can’t have never existed, or I would never exist. This was the best way of getting rid of him. Otherwise”, he pauses, “it would have taken a sacrifice to bring him down.”

    Jane had grown more and more grave as Martin speaks. “The sacrifice has already been made, Martin. I would rather that the monster had never existed, but he does now. Don’t you know that there are people in the middle of next week?” She shakes her head. “I don’t think that I could go on making plays, knowing that he was always a bit ahead, with everything unfinished. We’ll have to close down the Tower and dismiss the players.”

    Martin studies Jane with his new vision. He sighs again.

    (to be continued! later in the day)

  3. The Bees (part 2)

    Now when the second bee flew through the ceiling and into the Pleiades, it was Gauracy that was released.

    the worlds in that part of the universe were dislodged and ran melting down the sky. It was Gauracy who swept all the fragments together and formed a sun immeasurably larger than that which he had lost, and an obstreperous mad conflagration which did not in anything conform with the handiwork of Koshchei.

    And Gauracy shouted friendlily to Toupan that now was the hour of his release.

    Toupan answered: “The hour of my release is not yet come. But this is the hour of my overlooking.”

    Now the eyes of Toupan went among the Star Warriors and the Wardens of the Worlds, and Toupan regarded them one by one; and wheresoever the old eyes of Toupan had rested there remained no world nor any Warden watching over it, but only, for that instant, a very little spiral of thin sluggish vapor.

    And those of Them who were not yet been destroyed cried piteously to Koshchei.

    And Koshchei never lifted a finger, but said: “Have patience! For I made all things as they are; and I know now that it is my safeguard that I made them in two ways.”

    Back in the Tower, Martin is still looking at Jane when Ninzian steps forward. “What will you do now, Martin?” he asks. “You can use the remaining wish to make everything right. Simply wish that Jane forgets the whole matter. Your doom will be avoided, and the two of you can settle down here to a quiet life. You can even continue to put on plays, if Jane is amused by them. You will overlook the world, here, and form it as you will.” He smiles genially.

    Martin glances at Ninzian and looks dubious. Jane scowls.

    Ninzian says softly “Isn’t it better to accept this chance that the world has brought you?”

    Martin looks back at Jane, then answers Ninzian. “If I had to dispose of a brother, I could. But Jane is real, and she is my sister.” He raises the rag once again and brushes the last bee off the cross. “I wish for everything to be put back as it was.”

    The third bee flies in a wide circle, and returns to the cross. From the middle of next week, the monster, who had been looking at a calendar and adjusting his tie, sees the calendar’s electronic digits flicker and change. The band of Martin’s goggles is whole once again.

    Just so did life reawaken in all else which had perished in that hour. Gauracy’s baleful sun was gone, and the dislodged and incinerated worlds, with all their satellites, were revolving trimly in their proper places, undamaged. The Old Ones sank back into their sleeping; things, for the while, stayed as they are; and even Toupan now seemed harmless enough…

    And the Star Warriors and the Wardens of the Worlds said to Koschei:

    “Your weaving holds, sir, assuredly: yet you do not rejoice, as we rejoice.”

    “Why, but,” said Koshchei, “but I do so hate flat incivility! And after overlooking my handiwork, the fellow might very well have said something intelligent. Nobody minds an honest criticism. Just to say nothing — and in that rather marked way, you know — is stupid!”

    For Koshchei also, they relate, was, in his fashion, an artist.

    About the black stone cross were now buzzing fretfully three bees, who now had no luster and no power to grant wishes to anybody.

    Ninzian bows to Jane and Martin and leaves the room. Jane smiles at Martin again, who is frowning as he readjusts his goggles once more over his eyes. “It’s a good thing that I came in to dust!” she says brightly. “You could barely see anything in here anymore!” Martin grimaces.

    Outside the window, chaos has formed a bright new bee, which flies in a beeline through the window and towards the restored flowers.

    (The Qwik Club players break up the production and leave, as one of them, with the air of one continuing an old argument, is saying that he’s been boycotting Nestle over their child formula and that the whole play-writing business isn’t quick and that they should change their name. The others ignore him.)

  4. Scott leafed through the Central Employee’s Handbook. “Hmmm… Right… Interesting… Ah, but only on Thursdays… Wait. ‘Question pie to achieve their goals’? What?”

    Melanie didn’t look up from her computer. “If you have to ask, you’re not ready to know.”

    “Oh.”

    Melanie sighed, and rolled her eyes. “Look. Can you really think of an explanation for it that wouldn’t be a disappointment? After a set-up like that?”

    Scott rubbed his chin, and muttered to himself a bit. “Well, there’s the potentially lovecraftian… no… using the holographic principle… no… violations of the laws of caus… no. Hmmm. No, you’re probably right.”

    “Of course I am. Now get back to work. Those puppies aren’t going to torture themselves.”

    Scott rubbed his chin again. “That’s a good idea, actually.”

  5. Roger hurries to the Qwik Club’s secret treehouse. He’s late! He didn’t mean to be, but he had been displaying boundless love for all the creatures of the universe, and that can take longer than you think. Being a little late is all right, but if he’s too late, he’ll miss all the stories, and there won’t be any Qwik left! He isn’t sure which is worse.

    Roger gets to the treehouse, but there’s no one there. He’s too late! Roger starts to leave, but he notices a wogly lying on the floor. It’s not like the other woglies, though. This one doesn’t hiss, and it doesn’t have any winky eyes. In fact, in all the time that Roger watches it, not once does it turn to the left. How inconsiderate! Roger puts on his homemade enlightenment goggles so he can observe the wogly more closely. It’s not a wogly anymore, though. Now it’s a jelly doughnut! Roger ponders for a minute, then eats the doughnut. It’s nice and fresh, with strawberry filling. Strawberry’s his favorite kind! Now he doesn’t feel so bad about missing the meeting.

    Roger walks home, whistling bits of a tune that was old when the universe was young.

  6. An excerpt from Gods, a Spotter’s Guide.

    At present, a bewildering array of gods can be found throughout the world. The enterprizing theozoologist can easily locate dozens of wildly disparate specimens, and every month new species are found. The causes of this are currently undergoing debate*, but the results are undeniable.

    Despite this richness of contemporary theomass compared to recent historical periods, there do appear to be central unifying principles that the species currently observed tend to follow.

    First: Gods are the result of the actions of humans or other gods, either directly or indirectly. The most common examples of this are gods drawn from human beings in a state of emptiness (most commonly monsters or their victims**), and gods (most commonly angels or heroes, though other examples can be found) who were formerly humans or humanlike beings. In addition to these two primary categories, there appear to be gods that have origins that are less clear, such as the notoriously difficult-to-classify Martin. Currently scholars are divided on this issue, although the more popular opinion is that those difficult-to-assess cases will prove to have been produced by humans or gods in some manner.

    The vast bulk of the gods that have been observed by modern theozoologists have been connected in some way to human beings with divine ancestory. The two most common strains of such beings are the often-entangled djinn lines of the People of Salt*** and the House of Atreus***, although others have been observed. Whether it is possible for humans without at least a trace of divine ancestory to produce or become gods is currently unknown. Two possible indications of this are known. The first is that some individuals are known to have become or produced gods without a known ancestral link to nonhumans, although it is possible that those links will be found in time. The second is that if it is impossible for humans without divine ancestory to produce gods, and gods can only be produced by humans or other gods, then a potential infinite regress may be the necessary indication. Whether this is a fatal flaw in the theory is not agreed upon, however, due to the somewhat loose relationship that gods appear to have with causality and time.

    Second: Gods nearly always possess some degree of human-type intellegence. They are not always particularly bright, but the sample of gods who utterly lack capabilities such as language and reasoning is at best vanishingly small at the moment. Indeed, it is entirely possible that the handful of examples of seemingly unintellegent gods are just shy. Now, two possibilities exist, given this apparant trend. Either it is intrinsic to godhood to possess at least limited sapience, or there is a factor at work with the current crop of gods that leads towards the exceedingly strong tendency towards sapience. As nearly all of the gods known have human-based origins (see above), it is possible that intellegence in gods is in some manner inherited from their sources and progenitors, and that the gods of either other species or which occur naturally (if this is possible) would not possess this trait. All of the known gods of obscure origins possess fully human mentalities, however. Still, the chance exists that nonsapient gods exist, perhaps without being recognized as such.

    Third: Gods derive both their personal qualities and their modes of interaction with external forces from their internal definitions. Most known gods can have their essence boiled down to a sentence or two at most, which describe both their function and their capabilities. Some gods are known to exist, however, which appear to have more complicated natures****, although the possibility exists that the simple key to their natures merely has yet to be discovered.

    Still, whether simple or complicated, each god appears to be both enabled and constrained by the act which gave it birth. When a person becomes a god by making a promise*****, they are thereafter enabled to keep that promise, even if this would normally be impossible. Likewise, gods that were not formerly human tend to possess capabilities (often, although not always, supernatural) that they would not otherwise possess by nature of the manner of their birth. While the Monstrous Arts are not currently fully reliable, a moderate chance of success seems to exist for a practitioner to draw forth a god that meets a given set of criteria. Even those gods which are not particularly useful seem to be so because of an unfitness of their natures for the tasks one might put them towards, rather than an inability to carry out their natures.

    The question must now be asked, do gods have accidential traits? That is, do they have personal qualities that do not derive from their core natures? The answer, at present, appears to be “sometimes.” Woglies tend to be fairly uniform, but most of the more mentally complicated gods appear to have personal traits that are not necessary products of the sort of god they are. Gods that were once human retain much of their prior personality, and even gods without pre-divine lives have shown personalities which do not seem to be direct products of their function. It is possible that those seemingly accidential traits are in a non-obvious way derived from the “seed” of their nature, perhaps in a way analogous to how endlessly complicated geometrical patterns can derive from relatively simple equations, but no evidence for the Fractal Personality Hypothesis exists as of yet.

    ________
    * See Chapter 17 – Theological Proliferation: Ontological Inevitability or Anthropogenic Artifact?
    ** Two categories which seem to overlap to a large degree, making evaluation of the issue more difficult.
    *** See Appendix A – Geneologies of Known Djinn Families.
    **** “Martin is a pain in the butt to theozoological classifiers”, while tempting, is not currently regarded as a complete description.
    ***** See Chapter 21 – Theogenic Promises: The ‘From Weakness’ Debate

  7. See, told you I couldn’t write narrative. Even when I intend to to, it generally ends up as something more like that.

    -Eric

  8. (This legend brought to you by this essay.)

    The monster adjusts his tie and looks out at the audience, breaking the fourth wall into tiny little jagged pieces that cut your feet if you step on them by accident. So watch your step downstage, please! A safe theater is a happy theater!

    He says, “My actions have contributed many gods to the world. They have made it a more fabulous and engaging place. The world would be poorer if not for the suffering of Jenna and others like her.”

    He smiles at the audience, and the footlights reflect blindingly off his teeth.

    “So my existence is justified, really.”

  9. “And to the extent that suffering which ends up producing great art is morally better than suffering that doesn’t, you deserve to live.”

    The monster turns, startled. Speaking these words, entering from offstage, is a man in blue, with a black hood and a red visor; at his left shoulder descends a lightning-bolt emblem.

    “Which isn’t very much at all, really,” continues the newcomer. He raises a gloved hand and points at the monster. “You have been sentenced to death for crimes against humanity.”

    “You can’t kill me!” cries the monster. “You’re not a hero!”

    “No,” agrees the man in blue. “I’m just an executioner.” His hand begins to glow.

    “If you kill me, it won’t be heroic; it’ll just be death. You’ll feel guilty about it for the rest of your life. It’ll stain you.”

    “I have drunk deep of guilt, and I am stained to the bone. But at least the world will have one less monster.”

    The monster runs. There is a flash of light and a whisper of expanding dust.

    apologies to Baron, Rude, and Metal Fatigue.

  10. a whisper of expanding dust.

    And that, boys and girls, is where delicious Qwik-brand milk encocoaing powder comes from!

    Rebecca

  11. (Totally ignoring the reccomended use of [Audience”> entries to transcribe my sleepy morning Hitherby-legend-esque thoughts.)

    There are worlds layered like pages in a book.

    In many of these worlds, Cinderella is not a person, but a role. In one such land, she is their Cinder Queen, born and reborn every century among the ashes, sought out by her Prince-Consort and raised to magnificence and glory. She is their conscience, their angel of compassion, their dove of mercy, but it is her Prince-Consort and his father the Regal who rule this land. She is the guardian of children, and of young women, and she may intercede for them. While she reigns, her command on such matters is law.

    But the exiles are not human, and the Prince and Regal do not listen to her pleas on their behalf.

    They are odd creatures, fragile, with spindly legs. They resemble the sturdy, squat horses of the land, but we shan’t call them ponies… no, let us call them the gossamer. They come from the south, a tired, ragged band, telling stories in the cadenced speech of the fey, of a dark castle and how it crumbled and set them free. Ten lands they claim to have passed through, seeking a home, and in each they were told, “Try the next land, they’re much nicer than we are.”

    “How will you earn your keep? Will you pull for us?” asks the Regal dubiously. “We have strong oxen. I do not think you could compete with them.”

    The leader, flame-red, says, “We are tired and hungry and weak from years of service, Your Highness. We could not outpull your oxen.”

    The Regal rubs his beard. “Well, you’re fine looking creatures. Perhaps you could find service as the steeds of noblemen.”

    The leader, flame-red, says, “Our legs are thin, and our strength is not in our back, Your Highness. The weight of grown men would break us.”

    Exasperated, the Regal says, “What do you have to offer, then? We cannot simply take you in out of the kindness of our hearts!” (Though of course the Cinder Queen had insisted they could do just that.)

    The leader, flame red, shakes out her mane and it flows like a sheet of silk down her neck and back. “We have beautiful hair. You may comb it.”

    The Regal snorts. “Off you go, then. I’d tell you the next kingdom is nicer, but there is only the sea to the east, the stone to the west, and the snows to the north. Take your pick.”

    The Cinder Queen goes to the flame red leader and wraps her arms around the gossamer’s neck and leans her head against the gossamer’s head.

    “I’m sorry,” she whispers, and, “My name is Julie.”

    The flame-red leader puts her head over Julie’s shoulder. “I am Kindle. Be at peace, little cinderella. This was no more than we expected.” (This does not make the Cinder Queen feel any better.)

    They choose the snows to the north. Kindle, their flame-red leader, remarks, “Perhaps they will welcome us.”

    “I’m sure they’ll appreciate your long silky hair,” says the Prince-Consort.

    The are exiled from the kingdom during the yearly celebration of the Cinder Queen’s ascension, the green borders of the kingdom sealed against their kind. Julie watches as the brightly colored shapes trudge into the snows, until the colors reflecting from the snow can be seen no longer.

    They walk north. They lean into the wind and snow, and they walk and walk, until at last the butter-yellow one stumbles, and falls. The other stop, and two more fall to their knees: sky-blue, sea-green. “Tiara,” says Kindle. “Robin. Flute.”

    She sighs. “It is time, my gossamer.” The icy wind cuts across them, blowing her words away, and so she shakes out her hair. The others follow, and banner after banner of luxurious silken color is swept out by the wind. Slowly Robin and Flute climb to their feet, and even Tiara rises and the brightness of her hair streams out in the wind.

    And the wind stops.

    As their hair, tangled and wind-knotted, settles into place, their colors reflect from the still snow. They move, tiredly, and their colors twinkle back at them. Then, the sun comes out, and the snow shines. There is a great groan of ice and a tinkling noise and the colors shatter as the snows slide apart and a misty valley appears before them.

    “Welcome,” the snow tinkles. “Be welcome. Be warm, and walk among us, so that we may reflect your beauty. We will eat the cold as you ate the wind. Be welcome.”

    And this is how the gossamer came to Snowshine Valley.

    (Yet To Come: Julie discovers children are vanishing from her kingdom! The Prince-Consort earns a name! The gossamer plant a garden! Details on gossamer variants and where they come from! But does the gossamer hair get untangled? Stay tuned to find out!)

  12. Metal Fatigue: Cool. I wasn’t sure how you’d like me hijacking your scenario.

    Rebecca: Ha! Good one! Although, ewww.

  13. The weather in the City of Ironic Juxtaposition is variable in the extreme. If you’re a citizen and you’ve just lost your grandmother to cancer or your sister has committed suicide, you see only brilliant sunny skies. But if you’ve won the lottery or found true love, it’s storms and rain for you!

    John was a tourist, but as soon as he saw the rainbow crows he knew he had to stay. Now every day he’s out walking, discovering what’s there to see, finding out what’s going to happen next. There’s only one problem: he has no irony himself. He worries that the citizens will notice; every “Hello”, every tip of a hat or thrown pie leaves him at risk of being detected.

    It’s stressful, but at least the weather is always nice.

    One day John succumbs to temptation: he enters an open-air step-dancing competition. He dances second, right after the Lernaean Hydra in the tweed kilt. His dancing is pretty good, but the judges stop him almost at once.

    “Wait, wait, wait,” they cry. “You’re an ordinary human! There’s nothing ironic or surreal about you step-dancing. What are you doing here?”

    The sun bathes John in glorious light as he turns pale. He stammers. He can’t reply.

    “He doesn’t belong in the city at all!” shouts a bare-breasted nun. “Crucify him!” The crowd begins a low, angry mutter. It doesn’t look good for John. What could possibly resolve this situation?

    There comes a flapping of wings, a gleam of gold, a chorus of heavenly singing, an aroma of incense. A glorious chariot descends from the sky. The crowd gasps and gapes. The man inside makes a graceful gesture at one of the judges. With a voice like tinkling bells he says, “I am Indra, king of the gods, and it is my karma to turn you into a rose.” And just like that, the judge is a rose. “And to turn you into a daffodil.” The Hydra is a daffodil. “And you into night-blooming jasmine–”

    “AR-RET-TEZ!!” A mighty shout fills the square. “Arrêtez! Stop that!” A man in a suit strides in, thin-faced, sharp-nosed. It’s Marcel Duchamp! “‘Ow many times must I tell you beings, no di ex machinis in my city!”

    Indra looks sheepish. “I merely — ”

    “I don’t care what you merely! Go away! Out! Out! Out!” Indra’s chariot departs.

    “Now,” says Duchamp, “just what brought ‘im?”

    The remaining judges point at John. “It was this man, Big Dada,” says one of them. “He’s an interloper. He has no irony!”

    Duchamp looks at John. “It’s true,” Duchamp says. “He has not. You know, person, that we all here are beyond the real. We have no time for plain reality. This is a city of ironic juxtapositions! How can you be here?”

    John says, “Isn’t it ironic that I’m here without any irony?”

    Duchamp sneers. “We are exploring the depths of the human subconscious! If you wish to be ‘meta’ take it to the City of Mathematicians.”

    Tears come to John’s eyes. “Please — I love it here. Can’t I stay?”

    Duchamp relents. He looks at John with something like pity. He ponders. He mutters to himself. “Given….1. The waterfall. 2. The illuminating gas….”

    Then he smiles. He says to John, “Remove your shirt!”

    “What?”

    Duchamp doesn’t ask twice! He grabs John’s shirt. Rrrrip! Then he whips out a marker and to the cheering of the crowd he signs John’s bare chest!

    “I give you a title,” says Duchamp. “I entitle you…Monster.”

    Thunder crashes overhead. John’s tears mingle with the raindrops as he realizes that at last he’s home.

  14. A-Ko, B-Ko, and C-Ko are members of the Qwik Club. They’re also shadows! The Qwik Club is non-discriminatory. Shadows exist to reflect the truth of the world, and to read Hitherby Dragons collections.

    “Ah!” shouts A-Ko. “We sisters three are being hunted by a monster!”

    “Let’s split up!” suggests B-Ko.

    “Splitting up always increases survival probabilities in monster movies!” C-Ko agrees.

    So the three go their separate ways, fleeing down diverging paths in the forest. The monster comes upon C-Ko first. She draws a sword of starlight from the chest of a conveniently colocated maiden.

    “Stand back, monster!” she cries. “I can become a hero, and it is the nature of heroes to destroy monsters!”

    “RAR!” cries the monster.

    And so C-Ko transcends her mortal boundaries and takes hold of the power she needs to fight the monster. But she finds that all her attacks are turned back, and wound herself as much as the monster. Finally, both collapse and die. C-Ko disappears, and a new monster rises from the shadow of the old one and moves off through the forest. Eventually, it finds B-Ko.

    “Although the divinity of my line was lost thousands of years ago,” B-Ko admits, “I still have something of the divine in me. Thus, I can create gods and store them in small red-and-white spheres, and then call upon them to defend me. Aresaur! Poseidemon! I choose you!”

    “RAR!” cries the monster.

    And then B-Ko reached out and seized her power and turned her gods against the monster. But no matter what her gods do, the monster finds some way to turn it to his advantage. She feels herself becoming empty as she seeks a power that can answer the horror that faces her. Finally she is reduced to tatters by the monster’s power and disappears, and her gods with her. The monster moves on, hunting A-Ko.

    Even though A-Ko does not know what has happened to her sisters, she knows their natures, and reflects on their probable choices.

    “C-Ko attempted to use her own power to battle the monster, and B-Ko attempted to use the power that sprung from her emptiness to answer the monster. But monsters desire power above all other things, and as they are denied divinity, they are masters at using the power of others to their own ends. As I stand alone within the world, a being whose nature is to have power and be pursued by monsters, I have no hope.”

    A pink-haired girl with a noble heart closes her locker door, and A-Ko bends over as if straining against a sudden wind. “So redefine your nature.”

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