Brainwash People

“Why was he smiling?” Elle asks.
Kinzie shrugs. “People are weird. who cares”
There is some shouting over by the food stall. Two purple shirts are shoving around a young man dressed in rags. Elle keeps eating.
“How long have you been deaf?” Elle asks.
“What if I told you I was born this way?” Kinzie frowns. Elle looks over at the purple shirts, who are now dragging the man away. “That seems wrong.”
“Bold words, angel.”
“You talk. Cedric doesn't. Did he teach you how to sign?” Elle asks.
“Looking to join the grand church of questioners?” Kinzie asks.
“Is that really a thing?” Elle asks.
/No./ Elle signs forcefully.
“I’m just trying to figure out what is happening.” Elle says.
They walk for a while down main streets. Elle examines every building, scans every face. Kinzie walks next to her, silent. A group of teenagers peer down at them from a rooftop. Elle looks over at Kinzie. Kinzie shrugs. The group disappears from view.
“Oh, you’ll like this one.” Kinzie points at a pink building up ahead.
As they approach, Elle can see that the building is not just pink but orange, red, and yellow as well. The colors make patterns: concentric shapes of all varieties and wandering spirals.
“It’s like the scribbles of children.” Elle observes.
Kinzie giggles. “They love stories.”
“Children love stories?” Elle asks.
“Yes and so do the idiots that go in that building. Magic stories about how you’re not really alive until after you’re dead.” Kinzie points at the door. “Should we go in?”
Elle looks at the door and then back at Kinzie. “What do they do in there?”
“Brainwash people.” Kinzie makes a scrubbing motion around her head. “Same as all the other believers.”


Elaborate Nonsense

The guard walked Stylus through the marketplace and up to a one story building that was painted blue. There was a sign on the building that Stylus couldn't read. “Stupid lizardmen can't even use the regular alphabet. How do they expect a royal visitor like me to navigate this illegible swamp hole of a town?”
The guard stepped through the front door and up to a desk. Stylus followed close behind. There was a verbal exchange between the guard and another guard who sat behind the desk. Unable to understand a single word,Stylus started sweating. Then the guard walked over to a door and went inside a small room where there was yet another lizardman sitting behind a desk. He was wearing the same uniform as all the other guards, but there were more patches and medals pinned to his shirt.
“You must be the captain of the guard.” Stylus said quietly to himself.
The guard croaked. The captain stood up and croaked. The guard stepped aside and the captain walked right up to Stylus and waited. On the desk, Stylus saw a red crystal necklace and a stack of blank paper. He grabbed a piece of paper and drew a picture of Poople, Noople, Donut, and Quill. The two guards watched patiently.
Stylus put his hand on the captain’s shoulder. “These people are villains. They destroyed my village, killed my sister, cut off my hand, and plucked out my eye. Now they are following me and will destroy your town. Protect me.” The green ring glowed. The captain’s face went neutral. The captain croaked, presumably repeating what Stylus had said in lizardman language.
The guard saluted the captain, took the piece of paper, and walked out the door. The captain sat back down and opened a drawer in his desk. From that desk, he took a key and handed it to Stylus. Stylus looked at the key and then the captain. The captain croaked. Stylus shrugged. “Man I am sick of not being able to decipher what the heck you hideous reptiles are barking about.” He put his hand on the captain’s shoulder. “You're going to give me that crystal because you want me to understand what all the lizardmen are saying.”
The captain’s face went flat, he made some noises. He then handed the crystal to Stylus.
Stylus hung the crystal around his neck. “Now what is the key for?”
“There is an apartment in the basement with a guard that stands outside. You will be protected from your enemiesl down there.” The captain said. “The door to the basement is right behind me.”
“Don’t forget, they aren’t just my enemies. They are everyone’s enemies. They live to destroy and ruin.”
The captain nodded.
“Is there actual food down there? Like not bugs or swamp water but real food I can eat?” Stylus asked.
The captain nodded. “I just put some chicken on a stick in the fridge.”
Stylus smiled, unlocked the door and went down into the basement. There was a small hallway that led to a door with a lizardman guard standing in front of it. “The royal tenant has arrived, step aside.” He waved his key and the guard stepped out of his way.

Inside his new apartment, Stylus immediately invaded the refrigerator. “Chicken sticks!” He grabbed a container full of chicken sticks and opened it with his hook hand. As soon as the lid came off, a dozen flies buzzed out. “Oh come on! What is with these reptile freaks and their bugs!” He threw the container to the floor and then kicked it, sending the chicken sticks flying across the room. “So hungry and there is nothing but bugs, bugs, BUGS!”
There was a knock at the front door.
Stylus walked over and opened the door. The guard peeked in. “Everything okay? I heard screaming.”
“Fine. Everything is great. Nothing to eat except insect infested poultry and I am just about starving but yeah, everything is fine. Great, actually.” Stylus slammed the door in the guard’s face. He walked back to the chicken stick mess and began picking it up. “I guess if I cook it that will get rid of the bug germs.” He put the sticks on a dish and popped them in the oven.
He closed the oven door and explored. In addition to the main room that was a living room/kitchen, there was a bedroom, a bathroom, and a library. He scanned the book titles. “How to Catch a Thief”, “The Worst Kind of Criminals”, “The Policeman’s Guide to Weapons”, “Criminals, Criminality, and Crime”, and so on. He grabbed the one on weapons and read a little bit.
There was a pretty neat section on an exploding arrow that when it exploded could release magic smoke, like a sleeping gas, or a poisonous gas, or whatever. Stylus noticed that the chicken was starting to smell good. There was another knock at the door. “What! I'm fine! I'm reading a book.”
The knock repeated.
“Argh!” Stylus ran up to the door and opened it. “What!?”
The guard balked. “I just received word that some of the people you identified as a threat to you are inside the city.”
Stylus shrieked. “What! Who? Which one of my mortal enemies has arrived?”
“The two that look like cats, sir.” The guard said quietly.
“Poople and Noople! Have them killed. Decapitated would be great but set on fire or dropped off a cliff is fine too.” Stylus said. “Wait. No. Have them captured and put in jail. I have a plan.” He handed the guard the book on weapons he was reading. “Take this book and make these exploding arrows. Have it filled with sleeping gas. Shoot them with the arrow and then put them in separate jail cells. I'll tell you more later.”
“But I'm just a guard, sir. I have to stay here.” The guard looked scared.
Stylus put his hand on the guard’s shoulder. “You won't get it trouble. Just do as I asked you to do.”
The ring glowed and the guard's face went neutral. “I won't get in trouble and I will do as you asked me to do.”
The guard left. Stylus turned around to see that he had left the chicken too long in the oven and it was on fire. “I'll never get anything to eat!”
Stylus rushed over to the kitchen. He grabbed a pitcher from the fridge, opened the oven, and threw the water inside. Smoke came bellowing out.
“Great. Now I have wet, crispy chicken sticks. Worse than bug infested? Better.” He pulled the pot out of the oven and slammed it on the counter. “Still hungry. Still nothing to eat. This swamp hole of a town hates me and I hate it back. As soon as I get my total revenge on those flea infested cats, I’ll burn this place to the ground.”
He walked back into the library and pulled a random book from the shelf. It was all about how to pretend to be a criminal when you were really a police officer so you could trick the bad guys. He looked at the title: “The Undercover Officer”
There was a whole chapter called “Voice Lessons” about how to copy other people's voices. There was another chapter called “Disguises and Deception” on how to look like someone else. At the end of the chapter they even talked about how to make a fake dead body.
There was a knock at the door. Stylus jumped. “Argh! I'm reading!”
The knock happened again.
Stylus stood up and ran to the door. “This better be good.”
The guard nodded, “We've captured the two cats, sir. They are asleep in a prison cell.”
Stylus clapped. “Excellent! Have them put in separate cells. Dark cells. Chain them up and put an officer in the cell with them… also chained up.”
The guard started to speak. Stylus interrupted. “And bring me some chicken sticks with NO flies!”
The guard gasped. “Chicken sticks without flies? That sounds horrible, sir!”
Stylus slammed the ground with his foot. “No, it sounds edible, you idiot. Now go do it!”
The guard ran away.
Stylus took a shower then headed upstairs. The captain greeted him. “I'm afraid what you ask is impossible, friend.”
“What do you mean, impossible?” Stylus asked.
“No one makes chicken sticks without flies.” The captain made an apologetic face.
Stylus frowned. “Fine. Whatever. I'll starve. Just take me to the prison where the two flea bags are at.”
When they arrived at the prison, Stylus was very busy. He had to train two guards to copy his voice. He had to help make two fake dead bodies that looked like him. He had to teach four guards to pretend to be dead when Poople and Noople punched them. It was exhausting work and he had to give Poople and Noople several more doses of sleeping gas, keeping them unconscious for 2 entire days. Lucky for Stylus, he had access to a good library and the neutral faced ring.
He also finally got some chicken sticks without flies. When he ate it, he found it to be super boring. He was so hungry he ate it anyway but it was like chewing cardboard.
“Try it with flies!” The captain handed him a chicken stick that was swarming with bugs.
Stylus shrugged, grabbed the stick, and took a bite. “Woah! Delicious.”

Poople woke up to find herself in complete darkness. She was cold. She was hungry. She was handcuffed to a cement wall. She was anklecuffed to a cement wall. The last thing she could remember was running down an alleyway chasing Stylus. Something had happened. She pulled her arm forward, testing the strength of her binds. They held firm.
“So, you’re awake.” A voice called from the darkness.
“Who is that?” Poople said.
“Who does it sound like?” The voice said.
Poople thought for a moment. “Stylus?”
“That’s right.” The voice said. “We got shot with sleeping arrows.”
“Why?” Poople asked. “Who shot us?”
“The lizardmen. They hate us all.” The voice said.
“Where are we?” Poople asked.
“No idea.” The voice replied. “But we’re stuck together. Want to escape?”
Poople snorted. “I don’t trust you, liar. Don’t even try to trick me.”
The voice fell silent. Poople waited. After a time, she heard snoring. She fell asleep. Or maybe she didn’t. It was hard to know, in the darkness so complete, if she was awake or asleep, if what she was experiencing was real or a dream, or if it was half of one and half the other.
The sound of metal scraping interrupted the darkness.
“Food is here.” Another voice said.
Poople felt her handcuffs come off. She heard a bowl being set at her feet. She scrambled and found a spoon. She smelled something. Chicken? She dipped the spoon in the bowl. It was chicken soup. Something odd in it. Bugs? Flies, maybe? She didn’t care. She was too hungry. She ate, then collapsed and fell asleep.
She woke up, chained to the wall again. She tried to move her feet but the chains held.
“Awake again?” Stylus’ voice rang out through the room.
“You again. Hey. I have an idea. Don’t talk to me and I won’t talk to you, how does that sound?” Poople asked.
“Sounds like you want to be trapped here.” The voice said.
“Like you really want to help me? Right. You’ve never said a true thing in your entire life, probably.” Poople said.
“Suit yourself.” The voice said.
The silence and darkness enveloped her again. Then there was the metal grating noise. Her hands were unchained again. Another bowl appeared.
“Food is here.”
Poople searched and found a fork. She grabbed it and ate the strange, flavorless meat chunks. She laid down and fell asleep, clutching the fork.
When she woke, she was chained to the wall again. She pulled at the chains.
“Awake again?” Stylus’ voice appeared.
Poople noticed she still had the fork in her hand. She smiled and set to picking the locks around her wrists.
“What are you doing?” The voice asked.
It took her an eternity, but she finally opened one of her handcuffs. There was a satisfying popping noise as her wrist flung free from the metal.
“What was that?” The voice asked.
It was a short time to pick the other handcuff. Once again, the satisfying pop echoed through the room.
“What is that sound? Poople? Is that you?” The voice asked.
With both her hands free, it was short work to pick her first anklecuff. Once again, the metal gave a clack as it released.
“What is happening? Is that the door?” The voice asked.
The final cuff sprang open.
“What is it? What is going on? Is it food time?” The voice asked.
Poople walked over toward the voice. She searched with her hand and found the face. She felt the six horns on the top of the head. She wound back a punch and delivered it straight to the nose. There was a loud snap, of the nose breaking, and then a shout. Poople punched again, knocking Stylus unconscious.
“What was that?” A voice shouted. Poople recognized it as the guard who delivered the food.
Poople ran over to his shackles and made it look like he was chained up again. There was a bright, blinding light. Poople squeezed her eyes shut. The scraping metal noise came and went.
“What happened to Stylus?” The guard said.
Poople leapt from her pretend bonds and punched the guard in the back of the head. There was a thump as the body hit the ground. Poople grabbed the guard’s torch and ran out the door.
She found herself in a hallway full of prison cells. She blinked and then saw Noople, holding a torch, come running out of a cell.
“What the heck?” Poople asked.
“What the heck?” Noople asked.
They heard voices approaching.
“Must be more guards.” Noople said. She pointed down the hallway. “Let’s go!”
They ran down the hallway and opened a door. That led them to another corridor that turned left, then right, then dead ended in a door. Noople opened it and ran through. They heard voices.
Noople slowed to a walk, and Poople followed. The voices became clearer and they could start to make out the words.
“...villains? Nay, they are pure evil! They burned my home, killed my sister, and chased me to the ends of Clefton!” It was Stylus’ voice.
Poople turned bright red and ran towards the voice. She found herself face to face with a six horned demon, who looked and sounded just like Stylus. She punched him right in the ear and he fell to the ground like a brick.
There were screams. Hundred of screams. Poople turned and saw she was standing on a stage, in front of a crowd of hundreds of lizardmen and frogmen. They were shouting, pointing, and moving toward her.
Noople grabbed her hand. “Run!”
They ran to the exit of the theater, which led outside into a cold, moonlit night. Shouts followed them. Noople steered them to the left down an empty street, then right through a busy marketplace. Shouts followed their every step.
“There!” Noople shouted. “The town gate!”
Two guards stood in their way. Poople looked at Noople. Noople nodded. They jumped over the guards heads and landed on the other side of the gate. Poople slammed the gate closed. Noople jammed a fork in the lock, ruining the mechanism and leaving the lizardmen unable to open the heavy iron structure.
The two friends fled into the night.
The crowd dashed into the sealed gate, then slushed about, shouting and wandering about.. Some of them banged at the closed gate. Some of them yelled at the guards. Others just stood, waiting and gawking at the scene.

Inside another theater the mayor was watching a play at the festival. None of the actors in that play had been punched by a cat person. One of the guards passed him a note: “There's a riot outside. A couple of plays got disrupted by two escaped prisoners and now the people of the city are demanding vengeance.”
The mayor excused himself from the theater as quietly as he could and walked outside. He spotted the noisy crowd immediately. He climbed on top of a one story building and stood up on the roof. “People of Lizardtown! We must have calm!” But no one heard him over all the shouting.
The mayor leaned down and spoke to two nearby guards. “Hey. I need you to make a bunch of noise and draw everyone’s attention over here.”
The guards nodded and ran inside the house, looking for something to make noise with. They came outside with a metal table and threw it on the ground. A few people looked. Then one of the guards started hitting the table with the flat part of her sword. It was crazy loud. Everyone stopped shouting and looked over.
“People of Lizardtown. Let us have calm so that we can solve this problem together.” The mayor raised his hands up high. “Let us sort this out so that we can return to our annual theater festival and enjoy all the fabulous acting our wonderful city has to offer.”
“Those dirty cats punched our people!” Someone from the crowd shouted.
The mayor nodded. “I understand that two criminals escaped from prison and caused some problems but we are not going to make things better by running amok. I will have a contingent of heavily armed guards leave the city, find these criminals, and return them to justice.”
The crowd began to settle down, and most of the people began nodding their heads in agreement with their mayor.
The mayor smiled. “Thank you for your patience, people of Lizardtown. Now let us…”
“Who is that up on the roof with you?” Someone from the crowd interrupted.
Before the mayor could turn and look, there was a hand upon his shoulder and a voice in his ear. “Tell them your good friend Stylus is here to say more about the criminals.”
The mayor’s face went neutral. “My good friend Stylus is here to say more about the criminals.”
“Now get out of my way.” Stylus said.
“Now I will get out of your way.” The mayor said, stepping back as Stylus stepped forward.
“A small group of guards is not enough, people of Lizardtown! We must raise an army and crush these criminals!” Stylus shouted to the crowd.


Bedtime story beginnings

Poople and Noople were sitting around the table at the witch’s house. Strewn across the surface were figurines of all different kinds. Some were made of plastic, some made of cardboard, and others that were little strips of paper. All were clearly involved in a full scale battle
Poople picked up a skeleton figurine and waved it in the air. “Swords don't work on me! I'm all bones and no flesh so there’s nothing to cut!”
Noople grabbed a piece of paper with a lizardman drawn on it. She made circles around the skeleton Poople was holding. “Lizardmen! Ditch your swords and use your hammers. Those nasty skeletons are immune to sharp edges. Don't cut their bones, smash their bones!”
Poople tried to skewer the piece of paper with her toy, but Noople kept swerving out of the way. “Skeletons! Gather around me. Let's all attack at once. Everybody go after Noople. If we take our their leader, they won't be able to fight!”
The two friends chased each other around the table until Noople dropped her paper lizardman. Poople stomped on it victoriously and laughed.
Noople grabbed a plastic scorpion off the table and made a hissing noise. “Wait! What’s this? It’s Quill, transformed into a giant scorpion, come to save the day!” She started knocking skeletons off the table with the plastic stinger.
Poople ran over to a stack of paper with pencil in hand and quickly drew a beaver on the top piece of paper. “And the king beaver joins his friend Quill, smashing through the panicked legions of lizardmen!”
Noople grinned. “Cool, we’re on the same team now?”
Poople gave her friend a gentle punch in the shoulder. “Of course. Quill and the beaver king versus the lizardmen and skeletons!”
“Yeah! And Stylus should be the leader of the lizardmen and skeletons!” Noople said.
Poople nodded and looked at the plastic scorpion. “I wonder how Quill is doing?”
Noople grabbed a piece of paper and drew Stylus behind the bars of a cage. “I wonder how Stylus is doing, locked up in the dungeon of the castle. Guess he can’t lead an army of bad guys from there.”
Poople nodded again. “Good!”

The bad news, unbeknownst to Poople and Noople, was that Stylus had escaped from behind the bars of his cage and was, once again, fully capable of leading an army. It all started when the guard who was in charge of delivering meals forgot to take the fork off of Stylus’ dinner plate. The rules were that Stylus wasn't allowed to have ANY silverware because his captors were afraid that he might use the forks, knives, or even spoons to attack someone. It as a valid fear, but misguided. He didn't use the fork to assault anyone. Instead, Stylus pretended to fall asleep that night. He waited, patiently, for the sounds of snoring.
Once he was sure they were all asleep, he quietly tiptoed over and jimmied open the lock of his cell. Next, he snuck down the hallway, then clambered down into a sewer opening. Down in the dark, Stylus walked with his hands out in front of him, feeling for the walls. A giantrat, mistaking the fingers for a family of delicious, wriggling worms crept up and bit off his left pinky! Yelping in pain, Stylus stabbed the hungry monster in the eye, killing it instantly.
He ripped a small piece of his shirt off and used it as a band aid to cover up his missing finger. Grumbling in pain, he walked the rest of the way out of the sewer. Once out, he saw that there was a full moon, smiled, and made his way into the nearby forest. He knew that soon enough, the guards would wake up and discover he had escaped and they would be out searching for him so he had to keep moving.
As he ran between the trees, it occurred to him that he should have used his books and his pillow to stuff the blankets in his pillow bed. If he had done that, he could have made it look like there was somebody sleeping in the bed and the guards would have thought it was him, Stylus, still sleeping late into the afternoon. Maybe around lunch they would have come in and said “hey, Stylus, wake up, dude! You've been sleeping all day.” And then they would have realized that it wasn't him at all but it was just a pile of books and pillows stuffed in the blanket.
But he hadn't done that. Instead, he had just gotten the heck out of prison, which was much better than still being in prison. He ran through the forest, occasionally getting smacked by swinging branches or tripping on knobby roots, all the time cursing Poople and Noople, as if somehow his misfortunes were their fault.
Finally, the sun came up and Stylus knew that now the guards had figured out he was gone. He grumbled and stumbled further into the forest. After a while, Stylus started to hear other people running through the forest. He figured it was the guards, so he climbed and tree and hid high up in the branches.
Sitting up there, he heard voices get closer and closer and he knew the guards were going to find him. He'd broken too many branches, made too much noise, left too obvious a trail, and had chosen a lousy hiding spot. As these terrible thoughts were about to envelope him completely, an owl flew up and perched on the branch next to him.
“Who… are you running from?” The brown and white feathered owl asked.
“Bad guys. They killed my sister and burned down our house.” Stylus lied.
“Wow. That's awful! Want to hide in my nest?” The owl blinked.
“Yes!” Stylus smiled.
So the owl showed Stylus his nest inside a hole in the tree. Stylus crammed himself through the hole and then, once inside, hid under a pile of sticks and leaves that was sitting in the corner.
From his hiding spot, he could hear but not understand the conversation between the owl and the guards. It seemed to go on forever but then, finally, he heard the retreating footsteps of the guards. Stylus emerged from the stick pile.
“I told them I hadn't seen anyone.” The owl smiled.
“Good. Now maybe you can help me find the village of these people who killed my sister. They live in an old mining town. Some ants helped rebuild the place.” Stylus said.
“I was just about to go to sleep when you climbed my tree.” The owl said. “Shall we sleep the day away and then depart by the light of the moon to find this town?”
“Sleep during the day? That’s absurd.” Stylus said. “What kind of person sleeps during the day?”
The owl ruffled its feathers. “The kind of person who hunts at night. Like me. I take it your people are diurnal, then?”
Stylus coughed. “Di-what? Is that like a urinal but like, two urinals? What the heck is a diurnal?”
The owl’s already giant eyes got bigger. “Diurnal animals are awake during the day. Nocturnal animals are awake during the night. I am a nocturnal animal. I am guessing you are diurnal?”
“Yeah. Usually. I mean I can stay up in the night. You are awake right now and it is morning, right? So we can do whatever we want, really.” Stylus said. “Who cares what kind of animal we are, anyway?”
The owl turned its head back and forth a few times. “Well I am going to sleep during the day. If you’d like my help, you’ll need to wait until sunset.”
The six horned demon shrugged. “Alright. We’ll wait. I guess the night time will be a good time to sneak up on them when they are all asleep.”
“Ah. So these enemies of yours are diurnal.” The owl observed.
Stylus shrugged again. “Sure, whatever. Yeah.”
“Sneak, you said. Who are these enemies of yours, again?” The owl asked.
“Memory snakes. They killed my sister and burned our home.” Stylus said.
“And this tragedy, this loss of your family, is why I will help you… after I sleep.” The owl closed its eyes.
Stylus looked around the room. He strolled over to the kitchen area and started to open drawers at random. The owl’s eyes snapped open. Its head swiveled around to stare at him. “What do you need?”
Stylus froze, his hand deep in a drawer of paper bag. “Nothing. I'm just not used to sleeping during the daytime. I thought I'd make myself some tea.”
The owl closed its eyes again. “I am a very light sleeper. Owls have amazing hearing, you know.”
“I'll remember that.” Stylus made some tea as quietly as he could, all the while searching for a weapon, something more functional than a fork.


The End

“He laughed and bent over to pluck the plant but before he did, he was frozen by a haunting melody in an unfamiliar tongue.  Looking up, he saw a singing woman stacking wood next to a small house.  With a grin, he stood up and walked toward her, leaving the flower.”
You look up from the gray ash pile. The old man is staring at the ground. The wind plays a song through the leaves. You clear your throat. He scratches his head slowly. The distant sound of a passing car penetrates the woods.
He looks up and nods. “It is a good telling.”


Transforming Trumpets to Saxophones

As you walk, the fantasy world you lived inside the Ship Wreck recedes from sight and memory. Instead you see waterlogged furniture and broken windows everywhere. Striding by a bruised warehouse that has been converted to apartments, you hear the wailing of a saxophone coming from inside. You stop and listen, trying to place the tune. Nothing. A man in a hooded sweatshirt steps from behind a broken desk. He’s smoking a cigarette.
“Deja vu.” You mumble to yourself and speed up your walk.
You reach the boat, rediscovering your two oarsmen snoozing peacefully on what so recently was the shore of a great urban lake.  The waters have receded in the last three hours, baked by the sun and drained by the recovering sewers.  You lean over Shane's slumbering body.


Poison was the Cure

“The king falls so Haven may rise again.”  The witch doctor takes out a knife and makes a cut in the Cedar’s flesh next to one of the swollen scorpion stings.  Taking out a leather pouch, he carefully catches the dripping black fluid.
The screen fades to black, then shows the king - dressed beautifully in purple robes and a golden crown - laying on a pallet of red roses.  The camera pans back to reveal a funeral procession.  The king is dead, yet the people are celebrating - they have been delivered a cure to the plague. The camera moves again and zooms in on a nearby tent.  There, the witch doctor is standing behind a wooden table, ladling out cups of hot broth from a giant black pot.
A young boy stands before the dancing doctor, holding out his hands.  “What is it?”
“Poison. Poison and cure.”
The boy recoils.  “What?”
“The poison is the cure.  This magic broth contains three of the mighty Scorpion's stings.  It will not hurt you.  It will protect you from the terrible plague that has killed so many.  Your king has died by the sting of the evil scorpion so that you may live.”
The boy cries for his king, his savior, as he drinks his cup.
The reality of how long you have been sitting in a chair hits you hard. Standing slowly, you walk your way stiffly toward the door.  The crowd begins chanting Cedar's name.


Do the Dance

“Alright.  And is he the one who tells you where the caves are, too?”
“No.. uhm... you've got to do tons of stuff before you even find out about the caves.  He just sells you healing potions and tells you about this whistle thing oh and  he does a super sweet dance.  Ever notice how incredible those little pixelated characters can be when they dance?  Amazing, I tell you.  Fucking amazing.”
“Forget the dance, man.  Where are the rest of the quests?”  You spot a two story bamboo house nestled in the trees.  A figure clambers down from the second story on a vine, lands on the ground and comes dancing out towards you.
“All the quests are in the village north of here.  Oh man, oh man.  Check him out!  This dude is so sweet.  God damn!  Scope the way he bangs that stick on the ground and turns his masked head.  And the jumps!  Look at the little jumps he does!  Oh man... the jumps.”
You sniff the air.  “You didn't by chance go get high before coming back here, did you?”
He sits up ramrod straight and scans the room several times.  “Maybe.  I mean... uh... dude?  Is that a problem for you?”
“Other than the fact that it's slowing you down? No.  But I'm wondering if you're aware of the fact that you're talking like a 16 year old from the eighties.”
He clears his throat guiltily.  “Yeah.  So I got a little high.  I was frustrated with the game, alright?  I just need to chill.”
“Alright.  Well chill by continuing to feed me whatever you learned in the first couple hours of play, will you?”
“Sure, dude.  Sure.”
“You're right, though.  That dance is pretty sweet.  I like that he keeps doing it even though he's talking as if he's all pissed off.  There's no way any human being could dance like that and be angry.”  You follow the path north to the village.  “Maybe he's not human!”
“You never know man.  You never know.  Maybe he's the scorpion.”