Word of the Day: Minerva

 

March 8, 2018: Minerva \ mi-NUR-vuh \  noun;

1. A woman of great wisdom.
2. The ancient Roman goddess of wisdom and the arts, identified with the Greek goddess Athena.

The sun was low in the sky, and the fields were beginning to clear as the other farmers and shepherds made their way back to their humble homes. But not Byron Perkins. He sat a little longer under the tree with his flock, watching the sun sink towards the horizon and his sheep curl up together to sleep.

“Big day tomorrow,” a farmhand from one of the outlying farms called to Byron as he made his way back into the village by the light of the dying sun.

Byron smiled and nodded amiably at the younger boy, who waved excitedly at him and picked up his pace to a run so he wouldn’t miss his dinner.

“Big day indeed,” Byron murmured quietly, patting his favourite sheep, Flora, who had curled up next to him. She snored contentedly, and briefly, Byron wished for the easy life of a sheep. Eating clover and dozing in patches of sunlight and enjoying the occasional haircut.

He smiled wistfully at Flora and gave her one last pat on the head before he got to his feet. No use wishing for things that were impossible. Tomorrow, he’d be 16, and he’d have to see the Minerva.

*     *     *     *

The next morning, his mother wrapped him up in a new scarf that she and all of his sisters had all knit for him. Even his youngest sister, Emily, had knitted a bit — it was the scraggly, half-unravelled pink bit near the end that he immediately decided was his favourite. She beamed when he told her so.

And then he kissed each of them on the cheek, and started the long walk to the city. He knew it would take him most of the day, but he still stood outside the door of their little house, down towards the fields, and wished a little more to be a sheep.

“Off you go, Byron,” his mother said kindly, pushing him gently towards the road that ran through the village and off towards the city. “It’s a big day,” she added with a smile.

Byron only nodded and started mutely on his way, which he should have known would worry his mother.

“It isn’t anything to worry over, Byron,” she called to him. “Only stop thinking about it so much. Whatever you decide to ask, it’ll be just right.”

Byron turned to nod at her, and returned the soft smile she was giving him. “You’re right, mum. Thanks.”

And with that, he was off.

*     *     *     *

As he walked through the village, people poked their heads out of windows to wave at him, and wish him luck. A few of the younger children ran up and formed a small circle around them, demanding to know what he would ask. He just laughed and stepped over their heads, and they pouted in his wake.

“It won’t change nothing, Byron,” said the baker’s son Tom, his smiling cheeks dusted with flour. “So don’t worry none.”

‘Thanks Tom,” Byron said quietly, and gave him a friendly wave.

“He’s right, you know,” the butcher’s son, Ollie, said, falling into step next to Byron.

He had gone to see the Minerva two months ago, full of excitement, but despite what he said, Ollie had come back drained of all enthusiasm. He hadn’t left his room for three days.

So Byron didn’t say anything, he just gave the boy an awkward smile.

“It doesn’t matter because you’re just a shepherd,” Ollie explained, shrugging a little.

Byron wasn’t sure what he meant, so he still didn’t say anything.

“What kind of question could a shepherd or a butcher hope to ask that could make any kind of difference?” Ollie asked, kicking a rock into the brush on the side of the dirt road. “I only found out after. In the city, they get classes about it. About what kinds of things people have asked before, and what great thinkers wonder, now that they’re older.”

Byron hadn’t heard that before, but he supposed it made sense.

“I thought I had a good question. I had thought about it for months,” Ollie said, staring off in the direction of the city as they walked. “But I’m only a butcher. So I suppose I couldn’t help but waste my question.”

“I’m sure you didn’t–” Byron began, but Ollie cut him off abruptly.

“Just don’t feel badly when you waste your question. In fact, use the walk to get used to the idea,” Ollie told him, and then turned back towards the village. “You’ll thank me when you get back.”

Byron watched as Ollie jogged back to the village, and tried to calm the butterflies fluttering madly in his stomach.

“As well wish you were a sheep,” Byron mused softly.

Then he shook his head, and started off towards the city.

*     *     *     *

The sun was hanging just above the horizon when he arrived in the city and checked in with the guards. They examined their list, and glanced at the sky, gruffly telling him that he was cutting it close, and he apologized quietly.

They walked him over the bridge into the city, and through the still bustling streets towards the castle, and Byron tried to distract himself from his butterflies by memorizing all the details in the city. He hadn’t realized it would be so busy here, that you could fit so many people into one small place. So many people that he couldn’t begin to guess what all their jobs might be. Things were much simpler in the village–most people you saw were probably farmers or shepherds–life here looked about as different to him as a sheep’s life did to him. He smiled and wondered if any of the people he passed wished they could live a simple village life sometimes.

Before long, they were at the doors of the palace, where the city guards passed him off to another set of guards, who lead him inside. If the city had been a shock, the castle was beyond comprehension. It was huge and grand, and almost as bustling in here as it was outside. And all for just one person, the Minerva.

The guards led Byron through a maze of hallways that seemed to him to go on forever until they finally reached a huge audience chamber. The room was filled with people, and suddenly Byron’s butterflies had their own butterflies in their stomachs. The ones in armour were easy–guards, here to protect the Minerva from harm. So was the beautiful young woman sitting atop a gilt throne–she had to be the Minerva. Most of the others must have been nobles, and those great thinkers Ollie had mentioned, and they were all staring at him.

“Step forward, Byron Perkins,” a young woman next to the Minerva’s throne called, her voice reverberating throughout the hall.

Byron took a deep breath, and started making his way towards the throne, the nobles and great thinkers stepping back like a tide to make way for him.

“On this, the first day of your sixteenth year, you are entitled to come before the Minerva, possessor of divine wisdom, and ask her one question. Your question and its answer will be recorded in the Great Book of Wisdom,” the young woman motioned towards a great leather tome behind the Minerva’s throne as she spoke, “so that no wisdom will ever be lost.”

“Should you ask a question of great value, the Minerva may ask you to stay here, and serve her in her pursuit of wisdom.” Byron thought the young woman would motion to the crowd now, but instead she pointed up, towards a balcony he hadn’t noticed, were four people sat, staring curiously at him.

Byron blinked. Three of them were old. Beyond old, the two wizened men and the tiny woman were ancient. The girl sitting with them couldn’t have been more than twenty, though.

The young woman waited for Byron to look at her again before she resumed, “take your time, Byron Perkins. The Minerva will answer only one question–the first to pass your lips. Be sure it is the question you mean to ask.”

Byron nodded nervously and the young woman stepped back behind the throne to take up a quill pen and stand ready in front of the Great Book of Wisdom.

Byron’s mind raced. It was only now, standing in front of the Minerva, that Byron realized he hadn’t actually thought of a question. He had known it was important, but he hadn’t realized it was this important. A question of great value? What did that even mean? Maybe he should ask her that. No, that would stupid, anyone who thought they were halfway clever had probably asked that already. That and “what’s a question even you can’t answer?” Ha.

What did he need to know then? He wracked his brain, but he came up blank. He knew everything there was to know about herding sheep and looking after them, and he rather liked it now that he was thinking about it. Having seen the city, he realized that he already had the simple life he had been wishing for–the only thing getting in the way of that was this silly question that people had been building up for the last year of his life.

“You get to ask a question! Any question you want!” they had told him excitedly on his fifteenth birthday, and then they had started telling him how important it was to think of a good one. Byron had sort of pushed it to the back of his mind, figuring he would think of something, and it had only been a sort of vague uneasiness until now when he found out that they were going to make a big fuss out of it, recording his question and “preserving his wisdom.”

He tried not to glare at the Minerva, who was gazing patiently at him, but who did she think she was? This possessor of divine wisdom. Inviting people into her castle to answer one stupid question and no doubt making most of them, like Ollie, feel stupid for asking whatever they’d asked. How did she even become the Minerva? He’d never really thought about it, or asked, he just knew that it had always been that way–turn sixteen, go ask the Minerva a question. A really important question, apparently.

It was ridiculous, when he thought about it. What did it matter what he asked when she apparently knew the answer to every question she was ever asked anyway. And, he realized, he was perfectly content with his life, with being a shepherd and looking after Flora, and with looking after his mother and his sisters. There wasn’t anything this woman could tell him that could change any of that.

So instead he looked up at her defiantly and asked, “what makes you so smart anyway?”

The audience chamber was filled with gasps for a brief moment before utter silence fell. Byron could feel the eyes of the entire room on him, aghast that he would have the gall to be so rude. The Minerva was staring at him curiously, taking in Byron’s crossed arms and his obstinate stare.

And then she started laughing.

And the two little old men and the little old woman and the young woman on the balcony started laughing.

And then the people in the audience chamber started laughing nervously, and Byron glanced behind him to see that people were shooting confused glances at each other and shrugging helplessly as they tried to fathom exactly why the Minerva was laughing.

“Byron Perkins,” the Minerva said between giggled, and took a deep breath to try and get her laughter under control. Her eyes still sparkled with it though, as she beckoned him closer, “come here.”

Byron stepped nervously up the steps towards the throne, glancing around to see if this was how things were supposed to go. Judging by the scandalized looks on peoples’ faces, it definitely wasn’t.

Byron stopped awkwardly a few feet in front of the Minerva’s throne, and she started giggling again.

“No, come here,” she said, motioning next to her.

Byron’s eyes went wide and his mouth went dry, as the guards nearest her shuffled uncomfortably. Had he offended her? Was she going to have her guards gut him?

She was still motioning though, so there was only one thing to do. He stepped up next to her throne, and she crooked a finger at him, still grinning madly. He crouched down awkwardly, and she leaned over to whisper in his ear.

“You know, it’s been ages since anybody bothered asking me that,” she whispered.

Byron didn’t know what to say, so he just said, “oh.”

She was giggling again, so Byron glanced towards the room where everyone was holding their breath and trying to lean forward as subtly as possible. They stopped when they noticed Byron and the Minerva looking.

“And it’s the first really smart question anyone has asked me in a long time,” she continued. “I usually find though, that the people who ask it, although they’d probably be the most help to me, would rather just get back to their lives.”

Byron gave her a surprised look, and then nodded. “Well, yes.”

“Then off you go, Byron Perkins. But you’re welcome here any time,” she said and smiled. The Minerva gave his hand a quick squeeze and then got up from her throne, starting off towards a door in the back of the audience chamber.

Byron blinked and started making his way back down the stairs and into the audience chamber when she spoke up again, so he turned.

“If you do ever have any questions, be sure to come back. I’ve no doubt they’ll be really good ones,” she grinned.

Byron just smiled, and nodded, and continued out of the audience chamber, eager to get back to his family and his sheep.

 

Note: I don’t think this one quite turned out the way I wanted, but you can’t win them all? Or something? I tried the ending a different way at first, but I found that the more you explain exactly how clever you are, the less clever you sound. So here’s this ending instead. Be gentle with me, dear reader. 

Word of the Day: Ufology

 

February 28, 2018: ufology \ yoo-FOL-uh-jee \  noun;

1. The study of unidentified flying objects.

 

The restaurant was nice enough, the server was friendly but not overbearing, and the food had been delicious–Grace had ordered a maple dijon salmon filet that she regretted eating as quickly as she had–the atmosphere was nice too. But her blind date…

“You’d be surprised how many closed-minded people there are out there,” Jason said and flashed her what she had to admit was a beautiful smile. And he was really good looking. From his dirty blonde waves to his piercing blue eyes, no one could have said Jason wasn’t attractive. He even had dimples. And that cleft in his chin that made Grace melt. And his lips. He had perfect lips! But what was coming out of them…

“I mean, there’s so much evidence,” Jason was saying.

Grace moved the last crumbs from her salmon around with her fork and mumbled a non-committal, “mmhmm.”

“And I should know. I’m one of the countries foremost ufologists,” Jason said and practically puffed up with pride.

Grave was about to give him another soft “mmhmm” when the word ‘ufologist’ registered with her and she stopped fiddling with her fork to stare at him with a quirked brow. “You’re a what?”

“A ufologist. I study ufology,” Jason said with another dazzling smile.

Was that a sex thing? Grace wondered, but just stared at him blankly.

“It’s not a sex thing,” Jason said defensively when she just kept staring at him. “Ufology. Like UFOs. Unidentified flying objects. I study them,” he finished quickly.

“Mmmmmmhmmmmmmm,” Grace said as noncommittally as she could manage.

“No, really, it’s completely fascinat–“Jason began, but was cut off by one of the other diners at the table next to them.

“My god!” he said, standing up from his chair so abruptly it fell over with a clatter. “What is that, up there in the sky?”

“It… it looks like a UFO,” another diner said from a different table near the window.

Grace narrowed her eyes suspiciously at Jason. Did he plan this?

My god!” the first diner said again, and Grace wondered if people actually said that outside of bad science fiction movies. “It looks like it’s headed this way!”

Grace was still staring suspiciously at Jason when he gave her an apologetic look and stood up from the table. “I’d better go take a look.”

“Mmmmhmmmmmmmmm,” Grace said, one eyebrow quirked again and her lips pressed together in a thin line.

She watched as he made his way over to the window, along with several other diners and a good portion of the wait staff. They all peered out the window, and Grace watched as expressions of awe and horror dawned on their faces.

“That can’t be of this world!” one of the waiters exclaimed, staring bug-eyed out the window.

“Calm down everyone, I’m a ufologist,” Jason said authoritatively, and a few people actually breathed a sigh of relief. Grace stared at them in disbelief. He must have planned this.

“Thank goodness!” another waiter replied. “What do you think it could be, doctor…?”

“Hopkins. Dr Jason Hopkins,” Jason replied, and a few of the diners began murmuring to each other as if they recognized the name. “This craft is clearly some kind of saucer, which would suggest to me it’s piloted by aliens we ufologists typically refer to as ‘greys,'” Jason explained.

“Aaaah,” said the waiter as if he understood perfectly.

“Mmmmhmmmmm,” Grace said skeptically, wondering what was wrong with all these people.

“These beings aren’t typically seen in such populated centers though, so I can’t imagine what they’re doing here, unless…” Jason stopped and began stroking his chin thoughtfully. The restaurant was suddenly silent as if everyone were holding their breath, waiting for his next words. But the silence was swiftly broken.

“My god!” the ridiculous diner said again, and Grace rolled her eyes. “The saucer! It’s touching down!”

“Everyone, get away from the windows!” Jason said urgently, and the diners and wait staff began making a beeline for the back of the restaurant. Grace remained in her seat, wondering exactly how Jason had planned something so elaborate and why he would bother for a blind date.

“What do we do, Dr Hopkins?” one of the diners asked, clutching at her pearls. Grace didn’t think she’d ever seen someone actually clutch at their pearls.

“Leave this to me, I believe I can communicate with them,” Jason said, taking a step towards the doors of the restaurant.

Abruptly he stopped and glanced back at Grace, and Grace supposed he must think he looked very heroic, but mostly she thought he just looked stupid. “Grace, please, I’d feel terrible if anything happened to you. Please go with everyone to the kitchens while I handle this.”

“Mmmmmmhmmmm,” Grace said sarcastically, leaning back in her chair and crossing her arms over her chest.

The rest of the diners in the restaurant were busy following Jason’s instructions, scurrying into the kitchen, while Grace wondered exactly how much this had cost Jason. This many actors couldn’t have been cheap. Then again, they weren’t very good actors.

“Grace, please–” Jason said again, but was interrupted as the doors to the restaurant exploded. Before he could say anything more, four diminutive grey beings with impossibly thin limbs and oversized heads made up mostly of two almond shaped eyes burst into the restaurant.

“ÛćðçµŕĦƐŞŞ!” one of the alien creatures yelled, pointing what looked like a bad sci-fi ray gun into the restaurant.

“Mmmmmhmmm,” Grace said, staring flatly at the group of ‘aliens’ wondering exactly where Jason was going with this.

“Please! We mean you no harm!” Jason said, holding his hands up in surrender.

“ƤƀŧěěƦƨƥŏŏ!” the alien said, looking into the restaurant and pointing at Grace.

“No, no!” Jason said, an expression of horror on his face. “Please don’t take her, she an innocent woman!” he protested, moving to stand in the alien’s path.

“Mmmmmhmmm,” Grace said. Innocent. Right.

“ƤƀŧěěƦƨƥŏŏ!” the alien repeated, pointing at Grace. Two of the other aliens pointed their ray guns at Jason and shoved him out of the way, as the other moved towards Grace’s table.

“ƛƢŭĿĿōĜ!” it said, motioning with its gun for Grace to get up.

“Mmmmmmhmmmm,” Grace said, rolling her eyes as she got out of her seat.

“No, please take me instead!” Jason pleaded, but the two aliens jabbed their ray guns into his sides and he didn’t dare make a move towards her.

“ƛƢŭĿĿōĜ!” the alien next to her yelled, jamming its ray gun against her back and motioning towards the restaurant’s entrance.

“Mmmmmhmmmm,” Grace said flatly and began making her way towards the entrance.

Once she exited the restaurant, the alien pointed towards the saucer. “ƔĻƨĕƩŋŋŊ,” it said.

She had to admit, the UFO did look pretty realistic. The lights were pretty cool, and she appreciated the smoke effect. It still seemed like a lot of effort to go to for a first date, but maybe that wasn’t a bad sign after all. Maybe it meant Jason was eccentric and rich.

“ƔĻƨĕƩŋŋŊ!” the alien said again, jabbing her sharply in the ribs.

Grace shot him a perturbed look and entered the craft, glancing back towards the restaurant and waiting for Jason to follow. But he didn’t. He just looked at her helplessly from one of the windows as the other three aliens joined their compatriot in the space craft, and the door closed with a hiss behind them.

They pushed Grace into a seat and took their own as the saucer began to hum, and Grace let out a perturbed sigh, wondering how long it was going to take Jason to burst in and save her and exactly what he would expect from her after he did. Not a sex thing. Right.

But then the humming intensified, and the craft began shaking, and suddenly Grace was being pushed into her chair with a force greater than she had ever experienced before. After a moment, it was over, and the aliens got up and began milling about the cabin. Grace gave them a suspicious look as she stood up and moved towards one of the craft’s windows, expecting to see Jason there grinning at her and giving her a thumb’s up.

What she did not expect to see was the Earth, far below her, on a backdrop of stars and empty space. She didn’t expect to see the moon just beyond it, and beyond that, the Sun, and she didn’t expect them all to start growing smaller and smaller as the ship moved away at impossible speeds.

Grace turned to the four aliens, all now staring at her with their huge, black, almond-shaped eyes, and blinked.

“Wait. Whaaaaaaat?” she asked.

“ŹěđĝęƦƍƍū,” one of the aliens said, and they all laughed.

 

Note: Ufology. What a great word! I think if I had to give this story a title, it would be “Mmmmhmmm” but that’s probably a little too on the nose. Anyway, ufology! Yeah!

Word of the Day: Goldilocks

 

February 27, 2018: goldilocks \ GOHL-dee-loks \  adjective;

1. Not being extreme or not varying drastically between extremes, especially between hot and cold.

 

“Goldilocks,” the page read, “adjective. Not being extreme or not varying drastically between extremes, especially between hot and cold.”

Okay, that was just unfair. And patently untrue! She varied! She varied often! Sometimes in the extreme!

“It’s, um, not super flattering,” was what Goldilocks said instead, looking up from the dictionary in front of her to glance around the table. Hansel and Gretel were both avoiding eye contact, and Little Red Riding Hood had her red hood pulled down over her downcast eyes. Jack was flirting with the barista, and Hans was looking at her apologetically with those beady little hedgehog eyes in a way that was almost worse than being ignored. Thumbelina, however, who was standing on the definition and pointing at it, was livid.

“Not very flattering?” the diminutive young woman demanded. “Not very flattering?” she asked again.

Thumbelina was right! She should be absolutely outraged! Here she was in the dictionary and she was essentially just a synonym for average and boring! She would not stand for this!

“It could be worse,” she mumbled lamely, trying not to look at Thumbelina.

“Goldi!” Thumbelina shouted, stomping her tiny foot on the word ‘adjective’ in a fit of rage.

“Well, I mean, the temperature bit is right. I’m mostly lukewarm,” Goldilocks said, putting a hand against her forehead to demonstrate.

Yes, that’s exactly what it meant, you twit.

“Lina, give her a break,” Hans said quietly, scratching nervously at his quills as the other patrons in the coffee shop started to turn and look at the tiny girl currently ripping chunks out of the dictionary page with a war cry.

“Yes, you’re causing a scene, Lina,” Gretel said stiffly, adding another shake of chocolate shavings to her extra large, double sweet caramel macchiato.

Hansel grabbed the shaker and began vigorously shaking it over his own macchiato, “as she has every right to. One of us finally ends up in something respectable like the dictionary and that’s what they say? I’d be mortified.”

I am mortified, you chubby little idiot!

“I’m just happy to be included,” Goldilocks said quietly and took a sip of her honeyed tea.

Hansel and Gretel snorted in unison, and Red Riding Hood hunched down further in her chair.

“You know we can’t let this stand. You know what we have to do, don’t you?” Thumbelina said, having torn most of the definition out of the dictionary and scattered it into tiny confetti.

“Get over it?” Hans asked hopefully.

Thank goodness for you, Hans. Thumbelina is a bloody maniac.

“Hans, they’re ticketing your rooster,” Jack called over from the front counter, pointing outside at Hans’s giant riding rooster and the meter maid currently trying to figure out how to attach a ticket to the bird.

“I swear I put enough quarters in the meter!” Hans shouted, dashing out of the door, along with Goldilocks’s hopes of making it out of this conversation unscathed.

“What exactly do you propose, Lina?” Gretel asked, picking up the conversation, and the sugar shaker, without missing a beat.

You would want to see how bad this gets, you homicidal maniac.

“Well, the easiest way to prove them wrong is to make Goldi the antithesis of this definition here,” Thumbelina said, nodding thoughtfully as she looked Goldilocks up and down.

“The book’s already printed though,” Goldilocks mumbled ineffectually.

“What, you mean like make her extreme?” Hansel asked between gulps of his sugary drink.

“Hmmm, extreme, yes,” Thumbelina nodded, her look taking on an appraising air that Goldilocks didn’t like.

“I’m not sure what you mean by that,” Goldilocks said quietly.

“Extreme, Goldilocks! Like jumping out of a plane and getting a tattoo and, and, wearing no knickers!” Hansel said excitedly.

That sounds like someone stupid’s idea for an extreme cartoon mascot for kids. How is this getting even more ridiculous?

“Oh. I’d rather not, thanks,” Goldilocks told him and retreated back into her tea.

“No, no, this is good stuff! We’re going to completely rebrand, you Goldi!” Thumbelina said gleefully.

“Are you into any extreme sports, like mountain biking or skateboarding, or street luge?” Gretel asked curiously.

“You think that’s extreme?” Little Red Riding Hood asked, her voice barely a whisper emanating from the depths of her hood. Suddenly, everyone was quiet. “Extreme is finding yourself and your grandmother inside a wolf’s belly. Extreme is a suffocating world filled with nothing but darkness and death until suddenly it’s cut open in a spray of red and you’re hauled out, barely clinging to life. Extreme is wondering what to do with yourself once you’ve already faced your own mortality, once you’ve already come to terms with your own death, once you’ve looked the Grim Reaper in the face and given him a firm handshake. That’s extreme.”

Red Riding Hood stared at them all with hollow eyes and no one said anything for a very very long moment.

“Maybe not that extreme,” Thumbelina said timidly.

“Oh, okay,” Red shrugged and resumed sipping her tea.

Everyone took a deep breath.

“So. I’m thinking face tattoo, I’m thinking motorcycle stunts, I’m thinking run-ins with the law,” Thumbelina said excitedly, clapping her little hands together.

“What if Goldi tries to rob the dictionary publisher?” Hansel suggested with a grin.

“Ooooh, that would definitely get their attention!” Gretel agreed.

What the hell am I going to steal from a dictionary publisher? I think I’d rather dig my way out of wolf, thanks.

“That’s an interesting idea,” Goldilocks said into her tea.

“Did I miss anything important?” Hans asked breathlessly as he rushed back in and flopped into a chair.

“Goldi’s going to street luge and get a face tattoo and stick up the Webster’s people,” Hansel said excitedly.

“Oh,” said Hans doubtfully, turning to look at Goldilocks. In fact, they were all looking at her.

No! This is absolutely ridiculous! I am not getting a face tattoo! I am not taking up an extreme sports! And I am certainly not robbing a dictionary publisher of their staplers and three-hole-punches just to get them to change my definition in the dictionary!

“Um, sure,” Goldilocks said quietly with a shaky smile.

“This is going to be great!” Thumbelina cheered, and the crew began planning the heist of the century while Goldilocks silently screamed and sipped her tea.

 

Note: My first idea was a literal one. And since I always go with my first idea, I… went with my first idea. And here it is. In all its literal-ness. I do really like PTSD Red Riding Hood, but that’s probably because I’m secretly a little bit terrible. 😀

Word of the Day: Messan

 

February 16, 2018: messan \ MES-uh n \  noun;

1. Scot. a lap dog; small pet dog.

 

It chaffed, being here, like this. Especially with all the others. Especially since he had been the first. They were, in some ways, his fault after all.

When he had first heard the tale of Lady Elspeth of the Black Wood he, like all of them, he supposed, had felt a sense of duty, of destiny. A beautiful laird’s daughter, kidnapped and held hostage in a high tower in those woods by an evil enchantress. It was the sort of thing faery stories were made of.

He should have known better. They all should have.

But instead Rory had geared up his horse, kissed his mother goodbye, and gone off to find his fortune.

And he had to hand it to the enchantress. It really was like a faery story. The Black Wood lived up to its name–it was impenetrably dark, even at the height of the day, and it was impossibly quiet, as if nothing could bear to live in such a place. It was the perfect setting for a heroic quest.

And not a day into his journey inside, he had found an injured doe in a small clearing where just enough moonlight had found its way through the dense foliage to reflect off her pale white fur. He had known exactly what to do; he tended its wound and brought it water, and before it had left, it had laid its head in his lap and cried a single tear, a single tear that had become the bright, clear crystal he still had on a leather thong around his neck. It was perfect, and magical, and the very first step towards his doom.

A few days onwards and he met a little old woman in the wood, trying desperately to start a fire. He smiled, and started it for her, and he shared the last of his food with her, because that’s what heroes did in these kinds of stories. Heroes didn’t suffer from gnawing hunger, like he did now. They were rewarded for their generosity with directions straight to the tower, and a warning to stay away. A warning he had laughed away then. A warning that had been more enticing than any invitation anyone could have given.

And he had reached the tower three days later. Not even a week into his quest, but he was starting to get so hungry that he wasn’t quite thinking straight. Or maybe he was just that naive. He wasn’t sure anymore.

The tower had no door, and was made of some kind of shining white stone that was almost slick to the touch, so there was no question of climbing it. He circled it for another day, and hacked at it with his sword, and made up magic words, but nothing touched the tower.

Until one night it started raining, and the white stone started flaking away, and Rory chipped at it with his sword until he made an opening into the pitch darkness of the tower. That’s when the doe’s tear started to glow, and Rory smiled triumphantly, because this was exactly right. Through kindness and generosity and patience he had made his way into the tower, and now he was going to save Lady Elspeth and be rewarded by her rich laird husband, and they would marry and she would father him strong sons who would be heroes just like he was.

He hoped the ones who had come after him hadn’t been quite so foolhardy. So that when they realized it was all wrong, it hadn’t stung quite so badly. Only, they were surely more foolish than he was, because he’d been the first to chase the legend of Lady Elspeth, he’d chased it when it was fresh. How could this beautiful young woman still be stuck in a tower so many years later? Why did they still come? She hadn’t even changed the story, he knew that because she laughed about it. Especially to him. Her favourite.

He charged up the steps of the tower. Well, at first he had charged. And then as the steps continued, his pace slowed a little. And the steps continued. Impossibly high. Higher than the tower could have been from the outside. But that had to be a mistake, he was just tired, and hungry. He pushed ahead, the light from the tear flickering fitfully as he finally found a door. He pushed it open just as the tear winked out and there, in the moonlight, was Lady Elspeth. And she smiled at him.

And his breath caught in his throat. Only, it wasn’t because she was beautiful. The cord around his neck was tight, so tight, and getting tighter. He clawed at it, but the tear was a searing coal against his hands–he would have screamed if he could get any air in his lungs. He fell to his knees, and the woman laughed.

“You’ve come so far, don’t give up now,” the enchantress said lightly, watching him with fascination as he clawed at the leather cord.

“Stop… this… you… monster…” Rory choked out, his vision growing dim.

“Monster? Why, I thought you came all the way here to see me?” Her face, the picture of innocence, was the last thing he saw before he blacked out.

When he woke up, he was curled up on a bed, with his head in a warm lap. Looking back, he hated himself for the rush of relief that had gone through him at that moment. He had actually thought things would be okay. But when he looked up, it was the enchantress’ face he saw. He opened his mouth to speak, tried to lurch from her lap, but all of his muscles betrayed him.

“Shhh,” she cooed, petting his hair. “There, there, no need to fuss.”

His eyes had darted around the room, then. Looking frantically for the Lady Elspeth. He still had to save her. He still had to be the hero.

“Hmm, my sweet boy,” the enchantress said, smiling softly. “You’ll figure it out soon.”

She had to be here somewhere. Maybe she had been transfigured into a piece of furniture. Or she was invisible. Or…

“Have you come to save me, my sweet boy?” the enchantress asked, her nose crinkling as she smiled.

Rory’s eyes flicked from the enchantress back to the room. No, no, she had to be here somewhere.

“But where are my manners! You already know my name, but I don’t know yours,” she said, with a pleasant, quizzical look.

Again, Rory opened his mouth, but nothing came out. To his eternal shame, he had begun crying.

“Oh my sweet boy, it’s all right. I’ll look after you! I’ll even give you a name!” She stopped and thought for a moment. “I know! Messan. You are my sweet little messan, aren’t you?” She had laughed then, and it was the cruelest sound he had ever heard.

And of course, new heroes came to save the Lady Elspeth from the evil enchantress, only to find themselves in the same state he had. Or they didn’t pass Elspeth’s little tests, and were killed by the white doe, or the little old woman, or died trying to find their way back out of the woods. Rory wasn’t sure which she liked more, when they succeeded, or when they didn’t.

For a few years, as the heroic youths kept coming, Rory hoped she would forget about him. But he would always hold a special place in her heart. On cold nights, she would curl up in front of the fire, and pat her lap, and he would come and rest his head in her lap, and she would pet her sweet little messan until he fell into a dark and dreamless sleep.

 

Note: These slang words really throw me off. Hopefully the Scottish names and my very learned use of the word “laird” set this enough in Scotland that the whole “messan” thing wasn’t too incongruous. Either way, it’s nice to finally write something a little more fairy-tale-y which will always and forever be my favourite genre. Also, just try and talk me out of naming our kid Elspeth now, husband! Such a great Scottish name. <3

Villager of the Day: Alice

It’s time for Alicea totally adorable koala, and probably the cutest villager I’ve drawn so far (although Agent S is pretty great too. We were pretty heavy on the abominations there for a bit though).

Alice’s catchphrase is “guvnor” so I guess she’s supposed to be British? Whatever you say, guvnor.

My favourite thing about Alice is her freckles. All Animal Crossing villagers should have freckles. Everyone should have freckles. Freckles are like cheat codes for cuteness. Freckles forever!

Next time, a super badass alligator lady that I kinda love. <3

Word of the Day: SOS

 

February 15, 2018: SOS \ ES-oh-ES \  noun;

1. Any call for help.
2. The letters represented by the radio telegraphic signal (· · · – – – · · ·) used, especially by ships in distress, as an internationally recognized call for help.

 

Captain Carson Bradley, sun-kissed auburn hair tousled perfectly despite the lack of breeze on this alien planet, surveyed the battlefield. All six of the junior ensigns he had brought along on this mission lay dead in smoldering heaps on the ground, and while it presented the perfect opportunity to break out his patented and very sexy tragic hero look, he had kind of been counting on at least a couple of them to help him turn the tide of this battle. Now all he had was his second officer, who was very unhelpfully shooting him that annoying evil look he did every time he got a junior ensign or two killed (that’s what junior ensigns were for, wasn’t it?), and his ship’s doctor, who had been screaming since about three minutes ago when one of the junior ensigns was incinerated a foot away from him.

With eyes squinted sexily against the harsh alien sun, Carson stared across the field at their ruthless enemy. The Krull had been making his life difficult ever since he had tried to unsuccessfully seduce their Grand Matriarch in an attempt to speed up peace talks between the Krull and the Cosmic Alliance. After all, talk was cheap and his abs were amazing.

But now the Grand Matriarch herself stood across the battlefield, firing her neutron blaster straight for his head any time he peaked over the rock he was heroically hiding behind.

“I think we’re going to need a few more junior ensigns,” Carson said, pulling out his communicator.

“Don’t you dare!” First Officer Sebastian Hook yelled. “I forbid it! I forbid you!”

“Forbid me?” Carson asked with a hearty laugh. “I’m your commanding officer, Sebastian.”

“Which is why I only screamed impotently as you ordered six junior officers to ‘rush the front lines, no trust me, it’ll be fine, I’m the captain, I’ve done this a million times before, just run in there guns blazing.’ But this is it. It’s mutiny time,” First Officer Hook said grimly.

Carson paused. It wasn’t the first time Sebastian had used the ‘M’ word, but this time seemed different.

“Were you having sex with one of those ensigns, you dog?” Carson asked with a wide, sparkling grin.

“WHAT?” Sebastian demanded, eyes wide with disbelief, hands buried in his hair. “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?! THOSE WERE HUMAN LIVES!”

“I think one of them was a Martian, actually,” Carson chuckled. He was renowned for his cutting humour in the face of death. He was hilarious.

“OH MY GOD! WHAT ARE YOU?!” Sebastian demanded, clearly impressed with Carson’s cavalier attitude.

“I’m the dashing hero who’s going to get us out of this mess,” Carson assured him with a wink. “As soon as I call down a few more ensigns.”

“No. Nope. This is it. I’m done.” Sebastian was shaking his head vehemently. “Spencer? Spence. Stop screaming for a second,” he said, yelling over the captain’s head to finally start doing his job. The screaming was getting annoying.

“I KNEW HIM!” The ship’s doctor, Spencer Green screamed, still staring at the ashy remains of one of the junior ensigns. “I ATE BREAKFAST WITH HIM! HE HAD SCRAMBLED EGGS!”

“I know, bud. It’s okay. This isn’t happening anymore. It’s mutiny time,” Sebastian said calmly.

Carson chuckled. “What a tactic, Sebastian. Faking a mutiny to get our dear doctor to pull himself together and see if he can harvest any useful parts from those ensigns. Genius.”

Spencer had been about to stop screaming, but upon hearing the word “harvest,” the screaming only gained in intensity.

“OH SHUT UP, CARSON!” Sebastian yelled, shooting him that look again that Carson didn’t quite understand.

What happened next was even more incomprehensible. Sebastian threw his blaster over the rock, raised his hands in the air, and stood up. And no one shot him. If someone had at least shot him, this could be opening Carson needed to deftly roll across the battlefield and get behind enemy lines, where he would take the Grand Matriarch into his arms and seduce her into a ceasefire. But no one was shooting!

“Madame Matriarch, my name is Sebastian Hook. I’m the first officer of the Cosmic Alliance vessel Thrustforce.”

Why was Sebastian talking to these people? Why did he cringe when he said ‘Thrustforce’? It was the coolest starship name in the cosmos. Carson knew — he had named it himself.

“You’re not making me want to shoot you any less,” the Grand Matriarch said icily. But she and her honour guard of sixteen of the finest and most beautiful Krull warrior women still had their neutron blasters pointed squarely at the rock Carson was hiding behind.

“Distract them better so I can roll heroically over there!” Carson hissed at Sebastian, who rolled his eyes.

“Look, we both have the same problem here,” Sebastian said, pointing a thumb in Carson’s direction. “That guy.”

“I’m listening,” the Grand Matriarch said, arching a perfectly sculpted brow to glance at Carson with what some would have called disdain, but with what he knew was repressed lust.

“I don’t blame you for shooting our ensigns, I saw those warning shots. But with Captain Idiot screaming ‘GO GO GO! THROW YOURSELF UPON THE KRULL’ you didn’t have much choice,” Sebastian said for some reason. What kind of ploy was this? A terrible one, obviously. Captain Idiot indeed.

“We indeed regret the loss of life,” the Grand Matriarch said, further confusing Carson. What exactly was going on here?

“We appreciate that. And we also need to apologize for the actions that started this entire mess — our Captain’s actions at the peace treaty,” Sebastian said, lowering his hands. Carson waited for him to get shot, but he still wasn’t being shot and it was getting really frustrating.

“And we appreciate that. Understand that we are not an unkind people, but we cannot understand why you choose to follow that buffoon,” the Grand Matriarch said, shooting another glare filled with barely hidden sexual desire in Carson’s direction.

“I can’t give you a good answer for that, Madame Matriarch. The Cosmic Alliance has some ridiculous rules in place, and for too long we placed those rules above common sense, above sanity, but it’s cost too many lives,” Sebastian turned to stare at Carson. “Plus, right now we’re on a remote alien planet and if something were to happen to the Captain we could lie about it and avoid having to be branded mutineers.”

Carson stared at Sebastian, perfect pouty lips hanging open.

“WHAT?” Carson demanded.

“What are you suggesting, First Officer Hook?” the Grand Matriarch asked, completely ignoring Carson.

“Me and Spencer here are going to throw the Captain out into the middle of the battlefield, and then we’re going to turn around. After that, we’ll have a brief memorial for our former captain’s heroic sacrifice on our newly renamed ship, and then her new captain will take her back to your home planet where we can resume peace talks, thanks to Carson Bradley’s noble actions,” Sebastian explained calmly.

Carson stared.

“WHAT?!” he demanded for the second time, a little shrilly this time. But still really sexy.

The Grand Matriarch turned to her cadre of beautiful warrior women to discuss the proposition and for a moment, Carson was sure this had been the plan all along. But when he stood up to start rolling across the battlefield, a neutron blast missed him by less than a hair’s width and he quickly ducked back behind the boulder. Sebastian definitely wasn’t trying to distract them. Almost totally definitely.

“You are clearly a man of good sense, Captain Sebastian Hook,” the Grand Matriarch said with a small smile and a nod, as she turned back to face the crew of the Thrustforce.

That sounded bad.

“Thank you, Grand Matriarch,” Sebastian returned the nod solemnly, and began making his way towards Carson.

That was when Carson noticed that Spencer had stopped screaming, and was advancing on him too. Frantically, he pulled out his communicator. “MAYDAY! MAYDAY! SOS! SOS!” he screamed into the communicator.

Sebastian and Spencer grabbed him forcefully and began dragging him out from behind his rock. The Grand Matriarch and her cadre began approaching.

“MAYDAY! CREW! YOUR CAPTAIN IS BEING TURNED ON! IT’S A MUTINY!” he continued to scream, but stopped when he heard a cheer from the other end of the communicator.

“Sorry Captain,” Spencer said quietly as he dragged Carson towards his impending doom.

“Spencer, thank god–” Carson began, but was cut off before he could continue.

“No Spence, I’m sorry. If we’d just listened to you, we would have done this a long time ago, and saved a lot of lives,” Sebastian replied.

Carson stared at them both in horror. This wasn’t right. He was the captain! He was the one who seduced the leaders of alien cultures to get them to join the Cosmic Alliance, sometimes. He was the one whose shirt was currently ripped to artfully display his sexy abs. Dammit, he was the only who looked good in the stupid gold uniforms they made captains wear!

“Guys? You’re not really going to do this,” Carson begged, trying fitfully to struggle out of their arms.

“Carson,” Sebastian began as they stopped in the middle of the battlefield. Carson stared up at him hopefully.

“GO GO GO! THROW YOURSELF UPON THE KRULL!” Sebastian yelled with a grin, and shoved him towards the waiting alien beauties.

 

Note: I’m still pretty sure “SOS” isn’t a word, Dictionary.com. But on the other hand, I got to write about my favourite kind of character, so I guess I’ll forgive you. You were too awesomely stupid for this world, Carson Bradley. I’ll write some of your other adventures someday, I’m sure.

Villager of the Day: Alfonso

Here’s Alfonso, who turned into a very sad alligator, although I think he’s just supposed to be kind of tired. Sorry Alfonso.

Why yes, that is a Super Mario Bros “M” on his shirt–his catchphrase is even “it’sa me” although I think his quote on the Wiki is way better– “We’re friends, so I won’t gnaw on your legs, even though I’m starving.” That’s a true alligator friend.

Next time, a brief koala intermission before we return to alligators. And only 20 more A’s to go!

Weeeee!

Word of the Day: Ship

 

February 14, 2018: ship \ ship \  verb;

1. To take an interest in or hope for a romantic relationship between (fictional characters or famous people), whether or not the romance actually exists.

 

Five girls sat squished together on a plush sofa, breath held and attention rapt as they stared as one at the scene unfolding on the television in front of them.

“There’s something I have to tell you,” the darkly handsome lead said, staring dramatically into the distance instead of at the person he was speaking to–a pretty young woman with green eyes and blonde hair who was looking at him in much the same way the girls on the couch were.

“He’s gonna do it!” Shelby shrieked from the couch, and was instantly assailed with a barrage of pillows and loud “SHHHH!” noises.

“You’ve been with me through it all, you know. Me turning into a vampire, and then being cured, and then being bitten by a werewolf, and being cured again, and then my transformation into some kind of swamp creature, and also being bitten by a werewolf and a vampire again.”

The girls on the couch swooned at the pained look on Richard’s face. He was so tortured. So tortured and so hot.

“I’ll always be there for you, Richard,” Annabelle said, putting a hand on his leather-clad shoulder.

“Good luck, Annabelle, Richard is in love with Helena!” Shelby yelled, and this time only one pillow hit her directly in the head. The rest of the girls on the couch just gave knowing nods, which further infuriated the pillow thrower–Peyton.

“Helena is terrible for him! Sure she liked him when he was a vampire, but when he was a werewolf she complained about all the hairballs, and she wouldn’t even look at him when he was just a swamp thing!” Peyton argued, and this time received a loud chorus of “SHHHHHH”s of her own.

On the screen, Richard was smirking. “And you’ll always be a dear friend,” he said, and the emphasis on the word ‘friend’ had the girls on the couch shrieking again.

“HE’S GONNA DO IT!” Shelby shrieked, even louder this time, and this time, no one stopped her.

“But I’m in love with Helena,” Richard said, and everything after that was drowned out by a chorus of screams.

Peyton could only watch in dismay as Annabelle’s hand fell from Richard’s shoulder, and she nodded sadly. And then the screen faded to black, and some woman started telling them about the benefits of probiotic yoghurt.

“I knew it! It KNEW it!” Shelby yelled triumphantly, standing tall on the couch and then collapsing onto the other girls with a giggle.

“Helena is just so cool!” April agreed, clutching a pillow tightly, still staring dreamily at the screen.

“I heard that the actors are dating in real life,” Cassidy said knowingly, and everyone gasped appropriately.

“Well I still ship Richard and Annabelle!” Peyton said loudly, and suddenly the woman talking about her digestive tract was very loud.

Everyone on the couch stared at Peyton.

“But… why?” Cassidy asked, side-eyeing Peyton hard.

“Yeah, Helena is way cooler,” April said, clutching her pillow a little tighter.

“Are you serious? Helena has only ever been there for Richard when he’s been hot!” Peyton said in disbelief.

“Look, Helena is a monster hunter first, and a woman second,” Lacey said firmly.

“Yeah, she never planned to fall in love with Richard. It was really hard for her to go against her code,” Shelby agreed.

“She tried to kill him when he was a werewolf and when he was a swamp thing! She only tried to date him when he was a hot vampire and a hot whatever he is now!” Peyton yelled in exasperation.

“You’re reading too much into things, Pey,” Lacey said, shaking her head. “She’s the strong woman Richard needs.”

“She brings out the worst in Richard! He’s a callous dick when she’s around!” Peyton yelled.

A collective gasp filled the room, followed by an icy silence.

“I know you didn’t mean that, Pey,” Shelby said through clenched teeth.

“Richard only has sexy flaws,” April agreed, her knuckles now white on the pillow.

“I’m sorry, you’re right. That came out wrong,” Peyton said hastily, wishing she hadn’t chosen to sit in the middle for this viewing of their favourite television show. “I just think that maybe he needs someone who helps him focus on his humanity.”

“But he’s not human,” Shelby said, rolling her eyes at Peyton.

“Human boys are boring,” April mumbled into her pillow.

“Look, it doesn’t matter anyway, because he just confessed his love for Helena,” Lacey said with a satisfied smile.

Peyton sighed.

“Yeah, I guess. But I still ship Richard and Annabelle.”

And suddenly the show was back on, and the couch was silent again, but Peyton wasn’t really watching the screen. Maybe she was wrong, maybe the show hadn’t been hinting that Richard and Annabelle were perfect for each other all these years. Maybe Annabelle was just a friend, and that’s all she’d ever be, because she wasn’t some hot lady monster hunter who occasionally tried to kill Richard, which she supposed was more exciting television than the heart-to-heart talks Richard had with Annabelle. It was just too bad.

“I understand, Richard,” Annabelle said quietly. She was staring at her feet when she continued, “I’m happy if you’re happy.”

There was a long pause, long enough that Peyton turned her attention back to the screen to see what was going on. Richard was staring at Annabelle with an awed expression, as if an epiphany had just struck him squarely in the face.

“And I’m happy when I’m with you, Annabelle! I was wrong! It’s you I love!” Richard exclaimed, taking Annabelle in his arms and spinning her around.

“Wait, what?” Six girls said — five on a couch and one in a handsome monster’s arms.

“I was so blind, what I really need is someone who’s always been there for me, someone who can help me focus on my humanity!” Richard said, setting Annabelle down on the ground, but still holding her tight.

“Wait, isn’t that way Pey said…?” Shelby asked, and suddenly, four pairs of eyes were all boring into Peyton.

“Um, Richard, that’s wonderful, but I thought you loved Helena?” Annabelle asked, clearly confused at the abrupt about-face.

“That’s not possible,” Cassidy said quietly.

“She tried to kill me when I was a werewolf, and when I was a swamp thing!” Richard said incredulously.

“I didn’t think you’d noticed,” Annabelle said bemusedly.

“That’s exactly what Peyton said,” Shelby said, her eyes going even wider.

“Besides which, she brings out the worst in me,” Richard said, shaking his head. “I’m sorry, Annabelle, for what a callous dick I’ve been whenever she’s around.”

“WHAT DID YOU DO?!” April shrieked, clutching the pillow so tightly it popped and stuffing exploded around the room.

“I didn’t do anything!” Peyton protested, whipping her head from left to right, holding her hands up to try and placate the four fuming girls on either side of her. “This is insane!”

“Guys, stop it. Peyton doesn’t have magical powers over the television,” Lacey said, taking a deep breath.

“Right! Thank you!” Peyton said, giving Lacey a thankful look, which quickly withered away when Lacey addded, “and we’re going to prove it.”

“Prove it?” Peyton asked.

“Say you ship Helena and Richard,” Lacey said with a shrug.

“What?”

“That’ll prove this has nothing to do with you, and that the writers have just gone out to lunch,” Lacey said, glancing disdainfully at the screen where Richard was currently nuzzling a very confused looking Annabelle.

“Okay…” Peyton said, and took a deep breath. “I ship Richard and Helena.”

Immediately, Richard stopped nuzzling Annabelle. He stared at her, pushing her away with both arms.

“What am I even saying? Of course I love Helena!” Richard said, looking profoundly confused at his own certainty.

“WHAAAAAAT?” Five voices shouted from the couch.

“Richard, are you feeling okay?” Annabelle asked, staring at Richard with concern.

“OH MY GOD, DO IT AGAIN!” Shelby yelled, bouncing up and down on the couch.

“I ship Richard and Annabelle?” Peyton asked.

“Yes! Yes, I was just so confused. But it’s you, Annabelle, it’s always been you,” Richard said, abruptly pulling her back to him and crushing her against his chest.

“This isn’t possible,” Cassidy said again, staring in shock at the television.

“PUT IT BACK!” April yelled shrilly.

“No. Wait,” Lacey said, turning to Peyton with a mischievous grin. She leaned over and whispered in Peyton’s ear, and it took all of Peyton’s self control not to burst out laughing. She bit her lip and snorted violently instead, nodding emphatically at Lacey.

The other three girls just stared at her as she took another deep breath.

“I ship Richard and that telephone pole.”

Richard immediately rushed to the telephone pole and began running his hands up and down it sensually. Annabelle stared at him in abject horror. Five girls on a couch grinned.

This was going to be fun.

 

Note: I’m not sure this will make a ton of sense to people outside fandom but it’s totally a commentary on the current situation created by the internet where fans have too much say into what happens in their favourite shows, especially when creators try too much to give in to these demands and the damaging effects it can have on storytelling.

Haha, just kidding, I just wanted to write about a dude sensually rubbing a telephone pole.

Villager of the Day: Al

I’m so sorry for this. Al. Maybe it’s not his fault — he’s a gorilla, and they’re all terrifying (except maybe Hans, who is just sort of hilarious looking).

His catchphrase in City Folk was “hoo hoo ha” but I guess they thought that was as creepy as I do, because they changed it to “ayyeeee” in New Leaf, which is what I say when I see him.

Horror. Show.

An adorable alligator tomorrow! Thank goodness!

Word of the Day: Sisyphean

 

January 26, 2018: Sisyphean \ sis-uh-FEE-uh n \  adjective;

1. Endless and unavailing, as labor or a task.
2. Of or relating to Sisyphus.

 

Plort stared up at the parallel slats of wood crossing back and forth mere inches from his face and sighed. Above those slats were a mattress, and above that was a fitted sheet and on top of that was a monster. A real monster.

Shifting uncomfortably, Plort glanced over at the glowing red numbers on the bedside table’s clock. It was almost midnight. Almost time. His stomach tensed anxiously as the little red 57 turned into a little red 58 and he wished he hadn’t eaten so many dust bunnies earlier that night.

Closing his eyes, he slowed his breathing, perking up his long black ears, waiting. All he heard was the soft wind outside the window, the whir of the room’s ceiling fan, and the soft, shallow breathing of the monster in the bed. It definitely sounded like it was asleep, but Plort knew better.

Watching the red 58 blink into a 59, Plort closed his eyes again, this time trying to control his breathing just so he wouldn’t throw up. He had given up feeling guilty about how anxious this made him. It was his job, sure, but it was a never-ending nightmare. It was a Sisyphean task filled with agony and torment and–

Something had moved. His long ears twitched. He was sure of it. Something above him had moved.

His red eyes flicked to clock again. Still 11:59, but something had definitely moved. His forked tongue flicked out to moisten his dry lips, but his whole mouth had gone dry now, because he knew, it was about it begin.

He steeled himself, curling all four of his clawed hands into fists and began shimmying out from under one side of the bed. He took a deep breath, ready to let out a horrible hissing screech he had been working on that he was sure, he was so sure, would work this time, but–

“BOO!” the monster shrieked from behind him, and Plort jumped on top of the bed, letting out an equally shrill shriek himself.

This was bad, this was very, very bad.

Burrowing quickly under the blankets, Plort squeezed his eyes shut. Maybe it hadn’t seen him jump onto the bed–he really wasn’t supposed to be on top of the bed, it was sort of a basic rule, but what was he supposed to do when the little beast had infiltrated his domain–and held his breath. Maybe if he was quiet enough–

“BOO, I SAID!” it yelled again, ripping back the covers, and wrenching another shriek from Plort.

He leaped from the bed and paused for the briefest moment to try and find a safe place to hide. Under the bed was out, it had been compromised, and nowhere else in the room was deep enough in shadow to hide his slick black fur from the monster’s piercing gaze. But then he saw it–the closet. Perfect. Without another thought, he dashed for the closet, pulling the door closed behind him and–THUNK.

* * *

When Plort woke up who knew how long later, he found himself trapped under a laundry basket, with what must have been a bowling ball or two balanced on top, because he couldn’t seem to move the flimsy human contraption, and so much plastic wouldn’t have caused the bump he could feel forming on the top of his head.

“I have caught you, monster,” the voice came from outside his prison in the closet, and Plort narrowed his red eyes at the source. The blue eyes of his charge stared gleefully back at him, and Plort felt his shame rise anew as he took in all three feet of Eleanor Brown.

He growled at her, but she didn’t even blink. He made a try at his hideous hissing screech, and she only quirked an eyebrow at him. He gnashed his teeth, and clawed at the laundry basket, but she didn’t even fidget.

It was useless. He could have ripped the laundry basket to shreds if he took a moment or two, but what was the point when six-year-old Eleanor wouldn’t care one way or the other? So instead, he fell back onto his rump, and sighed.

“Finally given up, monster?” Eleanor asked, the slightly whistle on the ‘s’ because of her missing front teeth sending another stab of shame straight through him. She didn’t even have all her teeth and he couldn’t best her.

“I’m not the monster here,” Plort grumbled quietly, hunching his shoulders and refusing to give her the satisfaction of looking at her while he talked to her.

“What did you say?” Eleanor asked, her voice high with awe and wonder, and Plort realized he had never actually talked to her before. Not once in the six years he had been hiding beneath her as she slept.

“I said you’re the monster, Eleanor!” he said, glaring at her from inside his pathetic cage, not allowing his shame to stop him from relishing the look of shock on her face.

“What?” she asked, staring wide-eyed.

“I’ve been under your bed for six years, Eleanor Brown. Six years. I’ve emitted the most frightening noises, cast horrible shadows on your walls to fill your nightmares, I’ve even stared at you from dark corners with my blood red eyes. I’ve done all that for six years, and you know what you’ve done?”

Eleanor blinked questioningly. He let the question hang in the air a moment longer before he began yelling.

“You’ve ignored me. Or worse, you’ve giggled. You’ve waved at me from underneath the covers and smiled.” Plort shook his head, “so I ask you, who is the real monster?” he spat. Reciting the litany of his shame was just too much. Especially in front of her.

When Eleanor didn’t say anything for a long time, Plort finally looked up only to see she was doing it again. She was giggling. Sure, she was trying not to, she had her little hand pressed over her mouth, but she was staring at him and shaking with mirth. She truly was a monster. When Plort grunted, Eleanor actually burst out laughing, and his humiliation was complete.

“If you’re going to kill me, just do it,” Plort said miserably, hunching over further in his cage. That would be the best outcome. He couldn’t go back to the office after this. What would he put on his report?

“Kill you?” Eleanor asked, as her giggle fit abruptly stopped.

“Please,” Plort agreed flatly.

“I’m six. I’m not going to kill you,” she said.

“You monster,” Plort said in defeat, letting his head fall to his chest, and waited to see what worse fate she had in store for him.

He heard movement then, but he didn’t care. It didn’t matter. None of it did. Not the shuffling feet, or the little grunt of effort, or the laundry basket rising off of him…

He blinked.

She had taken the laundry basket off of him.

Plort stared at her in confusion as she took a step back, giving him a clear exit from the closet, back to the underside of the bed. But it had to be a trick. And he wouldn’t fall into it so easily this time.

“You think I’m that foolish, monster?” he snarled at her, a little of his pride returning now that he wasn’t trapped under a laundry basket.

Eleanor heaved an especially heavy sigh, especially for a six-year-old.

“Look, this has gotten kind of out of hand,” she said.

That wasn’t what he had expected her to say. He wasn’t sure how to respond to that.

“I only wanted you to see what it was like getting scared all the time so maybe I could ask you to stop. I didn’t mean to break your brain or anything,” she explained.

Plort narrowed his eyes at her.

“So you were scared?” he asked, trying to keep the hope out of his voice and not quite succeeding.

“Oh no. You just keep trying all the time. And it makes it hard to sleep,” Eleanor said.

Her hands shot up in front of her when Plort visibly crumpled. “N-not that I was never scared! You were really scary a few times! Like, a lot of a few times!”

Plort groaned. This was even worse than before.

“Well, I mean, you look kind of like an unwashed bunny,” Eleanor said apologetically.

Plort groaned even louder.

“I mean the claws are good!” Eleanor reassured him.

This time, Plort just sighed. And for a very long time, they both sat there, not saying anything at all, very awkwardly trying to avoid looking at one another. Finally, Plort broke the silence.

“I don’t know what to tell you. This is my job. My only job is to scare you,” he explained quietly.

Eleanor nodded thoughtfully at that, and began chewing on her lip.

“Well, maybe I could help you?” Eleanor said finally, after a few more awkward moments.

“Help me?” Plort asked, quirking a questioning brow at her.

“Yeah, like I could tell you things I’m actually scared of. Like, not bunnies,” she said.

Plort furrowed his brow. “Why would you do that?”

“I was thinking maybe if I helped you, you could help me,” she shrugged. She was chewing on her lip again.

“Well, what do you need help with?” Plort asked warily, worried all over again that this was some kind of trap.

“I… I get a little lonely,” she said quietly.

When Plort didn’t say anything, she continued.

“My mom and dad both work really late most of the time. And my big sister is supposed to babysit me, but she usually just leaves me with a pizza and tells me not to burn down the house. And I don’t have a lot of friends. Or any. So, maybe if I let you scare me sometimes, you could come and have pizza with me.”

Plort stared at Eleanor for a very long time, watching her chew on her lip and avoid eye contact with him. He looked down at himself, at his slick black fur, and his long black ears, and his sharp claws, and thought about the fact that this fearless little girl wasn’t scared of him at all. And he thought about going back to the office and explaining this whole situation, and all the paperwork he’d have to do. But mostly he thought about how monsters didn’t even have families, and what that must be like, to have one but sort of not.

And finally he grinned with all of his sharp, pointed teeth and said, “I have always wanted to try pizza.”

 

NoteI came really close to writing a story about myself staring at the word Sisyphean and that trying to write a story about the word Sisyphean being a Sisyphean task, but I think this turned out better. I’m kind of really into the idea of monsters under the bed, and might maybe have an idea for a short story collection? Maybe this could be polished and go in there? Maybe I just mostly like the name Plort.