They looked like big, good, strong hands.

Built on the story
Of a stone, angelic quarry.
Carving through construction time
As all yours become mine.

Raised up, the tower goes
Deadened end and twinkle toes.
Raising a cherubic fist
Punched down in tantrum throes.

Diaper check the understudy
He swallowed his building buddy.
That’s yours, your DNA
Mine, mine, mine, all day.


Rhyme and Riddle

Poople scooted back slowly from the door. “What?”
“Dragon treasure door, reporting. Got any good news you’re hoarding?” The door kept smiling.
Quill nodded at the door. “Pleased to meet you, we have no information for you but we do have business to attend to on the other side of you.”
“Business have you? Well then riddle battle me to get through.” The door’s face had formed from the door - like someone had shaped it out of a brick of clay.
Poople drew her sword and stabbed at the door. The sword bounced off, nearly hitting Quill.
“I suspect your efforts at forcing the magic portal open are doomed to failure.”
“Oh she can open me.” The door said. “By decoding word puzzles, you’ll see.”
“Stand back, Quill!” Poople shouted. “I’m going to smash this stupid door!”
Quill moved out of the way. Poople stepped back several feet and then ran full speed at the door. She hit hard with her shoulder, and fell onto the ground. The door laughed. “Nope. No hope. Use of force is a dead horse.”
Poople rolled around on the floor, groaning and holding her shoulder.
“Very well, the..” Quill said. “Can you explain the rules of your game?”
“We trade until you or I fade?” The door smiled even bigger than before.
“Alright. So what happens if you can't answer my riddle?” Quill asked.
The door giggled. “You win and slide past me like a shark fin.”
“And what happens if I can't decipher your riddle?” Quill asked.
The door giggled. “Your defeat means I get your feet.”
Quill paused. “You go free?”
“Yep! I become you and you become me! I'm free.” The door winked.
“I will be transformed into a door if I fail?” Quill frowned. “Very well. I accept your challenge.”
“So brave, you foolish knave.” The door closed its eyes for a moment, took a deep breath, and then blinked. “I'm sometimes full, but I never overflow. What am I?”
Quill paced back and forth. “Full but I never overflow. Interesting.” He paused and tapped his foot on the hard floor. “So you're not a cup, because cups can be full but they can most certainly overflow. You're not a bowl, either, for the same reason. In fact, you're not any sort of regular container. This is a linguistic trick. The answer must be an expression we use in which we call something full but it isn’t actually holding anything.”
Poople stood up slowly, still rubbing her shoulder. “What about your stomach. That's sometimes full, right?”
Quill nodded. “The stomach is a biological container. Someone who eats too much cake vomits.”
Poople shrugged. “I've heard people say their hearts are full. Is that it?”
The door smiled. “Is that your answer, word dancer?”
“No. We're still thinking. I'll tell you when we've got our answer.” Quill said. “But the more I think about that expression, the more I think people's hearts can overflow. They get so full of emotions they cry. Keep thinking, Poople.”
Poople stomped her foot. “Who cares about some stupid riddle? We're here for the moon rock. Let's just find a way around this blabbing door.”
Quill froze. “That’s it!”
“That's what? You figured out a way around the door?” Poople asked.
“No, no! The moon! Sometimes it's full but it never overflows. The answer to the riddle is the moon.” Quill said.
The door grinned a wide wooden smile. “Final answer, sentence prancer?”
“Yes.” Quill nodded.
“You’re right. Now let’s continue the fight.” The door said, still smiling.
“Why do you love riddles so much?” Poople asked.
“It’s not love, but my only glove. It’s not a choice, but my only voice. It’s not a horse, but my…”
Poople frowned and interrupted the door’s rhyming spree. “Whatever. Don't you have to let us through now? We answered your riddle so open up, buddy. Swing those hinges for us and get out of the way!”
“Remember the rules, fools. To swing past me, you must stump me.”
Quill started walking back and forth, looking at the floor. “Do you have any good riddles, Poople?”
“Uh, sure. Why did the chicken cross the road?” Poople asked.
Quill laughed. “No! Not jokes. Riddles.”
“Well, I mean, there is a right answer.” Poople said.
Quill shook her head. “Really? And what is the right answer?”
“Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the other side!” Poople laughed.
“Right. Ok, well why did the chicken cross the playground?” Quill asked.
Poople wrinkled her nose. “The playground? What the heck is the chicken doing at a playground?”
“Playing, probably. Give up?” Quill asked.
“Uh. Heck. Yeah. I give up. Why did the chicken cross the playground?” Poople asked.
“To get to the other slide!” Quill laughed.
Poople shook her head. “That's terrible. It just rhymes with side. That's not funny.”
Quill giggled. “Yeah well, I think it is.”
“I love a rhyme, anytime!” Said the door, smiling as always. “But the game is not for joke comedians but riddle encyclopedias.”
Quill nodded. “Very well. I go in and around the house but never touch it. What am I?”
“No touching but certainly rushing.” he door said.
“Or instead of rhyming you could answer a riddle.” Quill said.
The door laughed. “In my own time, the answer will be delivered in rhyme.”
“I think we have stumped him, Poople.” Quill said.
“I have an inkling, but am still thinking.” The door replied.

“Maybe a spider.” The door said. “That wiggles and jiggles inside her.”
“No.” Poople shook her head. “Because sometimes they fall off their webs and touch the ground. You know when you like walk into a web on accident and the spider is all ‘aaaah!’ and hits the ground running.”
“We shouldn’t be dispensing hints, right Poople?” Quill asked.
Poople shrugged and looked at the floor.
“The wind comes to mind.” The door grinned. “From front door to back door it could wind.”
Poople looked back up. “No, no, no. Because the wind pushes all the bits of paper around and makes them fly around like crazy airplane and they are all like ‘aaah! Stop this crazy wind from pushing me around.’ So yeah, definitely not wind.”
Quill cleared his throat. “Poople. Stop helping.” He put a hand on Poople's shoulder. “Remember, That we want to win. If we offer assistance to the door, it is more likely to get the riddle, and then it gets to ask us a riddle and we might get it wrong and then instead of us getting the moon rock, I get transformed into a door.”
“Oh, right. Sorry. I guess it's because I don't even know the answer so I'm trying to guess too.”
The door started humming.
“Give up yet?” Quill asked.
“Nope, don’t worry. There is still hope.” The door said happily.
A few minutes passed. “Is there a maximum time in which to guess the answer?” Quill asked.
“Never played that way before. Why, do you find me a bore?” The door asked.
“Yeah eventually our arch enemy Stylus is gonna be here at some point .” Poople said.
Quill froze for a second. “Correct. We don't wanna be here bantering riddles when the villain comes strolling in with an army.”
“Villain? I could listen to that story, if the tellers are willin’.” The door smiled.
“Not enough time, so just hurry up and answer the dang riddle.” Poople crossed her arms on her chest.
“In a polite game, being rude makes you lame.” The door said, it's smile diminishing for the first time.
“Stylus a chronic liar and a thief. He kidnapped our friend Feather’s kid. He lied to our friend Percy, told Percy that we had burned down his village and killed his sister. He built a giant wooden frog and stuffed a dwarf lizardman in the hollow head so the lizardman could sneak out at night, open the gate, and burn down the castle of our friend the Empress.” Quill explained.
The door smiled wide again. “An epic tale! Back to the game, I shall not fail!”
“Yes, fail or succeed, let’s move forward.” Quill said.
The door laughed. Three more minutes passed.
“Perhaps a flashlight, is that right?” The door asked.
Poople started to respond but Quill slapped his hand over her mouth. “Remember, Poople? No helping.”
The door grinned wider. “Your hand on her mouth means your riddle has gone south! Flashlight is my guess, I can already picture myself running in a dress!”
“Incorrect!” Quill said. “The answer is the sun. It rises and sets around the house, and the light shines through the windows but never actually touches anything inside the house.”
The door laughed and opened. “A door I remain, so goes my refrain. I will see your villain, and slay him with riddles if he is willin’.”
“Why would he be willing to be slain?” Quill asked.
“Willing to play, I meant to say.” The door explained.
Poople smiled. “If you could turn HIM into a door, that would be super helpful.”
They stepped past their riddling friend and into a huge, brightly lit chamber. Poople wasn’t sure where the light was coming from, but she was sure it was nearly blinding her.
“Ack!” She yelled, and shaded her eyes with her hands.
Quill squinted. He saw giant piles of gold, heaps of diamonds, and a sleeping dragon. “I believe it would be in our best interest if we were to keep quiet.” He whispered.
Poople sighed. “Yeah? Why?”
The door slammed shut behind them. Poople, caught off guard, shrieked. “Aaaaagh!”
Quill put his hand on Poople’s shoulder. “Calm, my friend. There is a sleeping dragon in the room.”
Poople jumped. “What? Where?” She shouted.
Quill calmly pointed to the enormous snoring monster lying on the mountain of treasure. “There.”
Poople screamed. Quill slowly gave her a hug and shushed her. “Try to focus on breathing. In through the nose and out through the mouth.”
Poople gulped in a few breaths. “I’ve just never seen a real dragon before.” She looked at Quill. “Have you?”
The dragon, without opening its eyes, spoke in a slow voice. “It’s been a long time. I don’t really remember what they look like. It might be nice to talk to a dragon.”
There was a banging on the door.
The dragon opened its giant yellow eyes and frowned. “Now who could that be? So many visitors. I’m hungry. Do either of you two have any food? I could go for a meal right about now.”
Quill let go of Poople and looked through his backpack. “I’ve got a couple of rice cakes.” He extended them toward the dragon.
The dragon snorted and a puff of smoke exited his nostrils. “No thanks. I’m a carnivore.”
The pounding at the door got louder.
Poople clenched her fists. “Well you’re not going to eat us!”
The dragon moved closer to Quill and Poople. His breath smelled like a campfire. “Oh, really?” He said carefully. “And why am I not going to eat you?”
Quill patted Poople on the shoulder. “He won’t eat us. He’ll eat Stylus.” He turned to the dragon. “You won’t eat us because we can serve you a bigger meal.” He bowed. “I will open the door, and you breathe fire through the opening. Then, we will fetch you your food.”
The dragon nodded. “And what will be on the menu?” He paused and looked at his claws. Each one looked like a white curved sword.
“Lizardmen and a six horned demon.” Quill said.
The dragon smiled. “I love eating lizard!”
A mighty pounding came from the other side of the door.
“Sounds like your meal is getting anxious.” Quill turned the knob. Poople and Quill hid so that they could not be seen.”
On the other side stood Stylus and five lizardmen soldiers.
The dragon took a deep breath. The lizardmen froze. Stylus turned and sprinted away. Fire leapt from the dragon’s mouth, through the door, and engulfed the paralyzed soldiers.
“I think Stylus escaped!” Shouted Poople. “Let’s get him!”
Quill held Poople back. “No. Wait. Let’s trick him instead. Let’s give him a fake moon rock. If we fight him and win, surely he will kill Feather’s daughter. But if we give him a fake, we might be able to rescue the girl.”
Poople frowned. “How the heck do we give him a fake rock?”
The dragon sighed. Smoke came out of his nose. “Give me my food and I’ll tell you.”
They dragged the crispy lizardmen bodies into the dragon’s treasure room. The dragon delicately and slowly devoured them one by one.
The dragon gave Poople a necklace and a rock. “Here. This is the real moon rock and a magic amulet. If you ever need my help, you can summon me with that amulet.”
The dragon gave Quill another rock. “Here. This is the fake moon rock. Give this to your villain.”
Poople shrugged. “But we cant go out there and just give it to him. He’ll kill us for it or not believe us. It will never work.”
“I will go out there disguised as a burned and wounded lizardman. I will say that I barely escaped with the moon rock. He will take it from me and flee.” Quill said.
“If he is a true villain, he won’t try to help you, even if he thinks you are truly one on his soldiers.” Said the dragon.
Poople nodded. “I’ll wait here for an hour and then meet you outside, just to be sure.”
Quill transformed himself into a burned and bleeding lizardman. He limped out the door and gave a thumbs up.

Poople thanked the dragon and ran outside. The moon was out, half full, and bright white in the sky. She jogged over to Quill’s still form on the ground. “Did it work?”
Quill stood up and transformed back into himself. “Perfectly. He took the rock and departed immediately.”
Poople nodded. “Excellent. Now where are the others?”
They heard some shouting not too far away.
“Is that Noople shouting?” Quill asked. “That certainly sounds like her.”
Poople didn't answer but instead ran toward the noise. As she got closer, she heard more voices raised in anger.
“...you think you can stop me, little cat-girl?” Stylus was yelling.
Quill grabbed Poople by the shoulder. “Slowly. Don't bolt straight in. If we sneak carefully around the side, Quill will think we were with the bigger group the whole time. If we run straight in, he might get suspicious and start thinking we had split off on our own.”
“So?” Poople said, starting to move forward again.
Quill stopped her. “Remember, we want Stylus thinking he's got the correct moon rock.”
Poople inhaled slowly. “Right.” They snuck around and quietly joined their group of friends. Feather saw them and her eyes opened wide. Quill made a shushing motion with her finger. Stylus was standing in the middle of three lizardmen and Grok, his tiny yet powerful sidekick.
“Well, there’s no point in talking to you idiots. I’ve got the moon rock and you’re officially of no use to me whatsoever.” Stylus shouted.
Percy landed on a nearby tree branch. “You're outnumbered, Stylus.” With the flash of a wing, the owl shot a fireball toward Stylus. The fireball dissolved upon impact with his magic shield.
Stylus laughed. “I don't need numbers to defeat you weaklings!”
Grok, the lizardman dwarf, drew a nasty looking axe from his backpack and began to swing it around his head. The three lizardmen soldiers drew their swords.
“It’d be nice to already have Sun-hop here.” Poople muttered and charged into battle.
The Empress and the Ant Queen hid behind a tree. From there, they could hear the sounds of fireballs, lightning bolts, swords, and axes. The Empress looked around quickly.
“What are you looking for?” The Ant Queen asked.
“Something to throw.” The Empress said.
“How about those?” The Ant Queen asked, pointing at a pile of rocks on the ground.
The Empress ran over and grabbed a couple of rocks the size of her fist. The Ant Queen followed along. They snuck around to the side of the battle. Poople was fighting Grok. Noople and Quill were fending off the three Lizardmen soldiers. Percy and Stylus were locked in Wizard combat. Doughnut and Zoughnut were flying above the battle shouting out warnings and encouragements to their friends.
The Empress stepped slightly to the left, getting a good angle on Grok. She tossed a rock at his head, hitting him right in the temple. He hit the ground hard and didn’t get back up. This freed up Poople, who rushed over to help Noople and Quill fight the soldiers.
Now, the Ant Queen snuck around from behind a tree and threw one of her rocks at a lizardmen. Thwack. Down he went. Now that the fight was three against two, Poople, Noople, and Quill quickly cut the remaining Lizardmen to bits. Everyone advanced toward Stylus, their weapons flashing in the moonlight.


Behind the dumpster

“How do they do that?” Elle asks.
Kinzie looks at Elle and shrugs. “Do what?”
“Brainwash people. How do they do that?”
A frown creeps across Kinzie’s face. “Same way everyone does it, with love, lies, and fear. They invite you in, hug you, and give you food. Then they feed your head full of stupid stories and rituals. Then they starve you, beat you, and scream at you.” She stops talking and looks at the building for a moment. “Oh yes. And all the while insisting that your suffering, your blood and tears, are for a higher cause. Bullshit.”
“How do you know so much about it?” Elle asks.
“Do your questions ever stop?” Kinzie walks away. Elle follows. They turn into a winding alley full of trash cans and dumpsters. Elle steps over a pile of blankets, only noticing the sounds of breathing coming out from under it after she has past. She taps Kinzie on the shoulder.
Kinzie turns and immediately begins signing. /You go there. Watch./ She points to the far end of the alley.
Elle hesitates.
/Go!/ Kinzie signs.
Elle jogs to the end of the alley and then turns around to see what her friend is doing. Kinzie is rummaging through the dumpsters. Without stopping her scavenging, she turns and signs with one hand. /Watch for purple. Not me. Out there./
Elle turns immediately and looks out from the the alley. She sees blue, not purple. Thaxton. Elle slides down the wall and tucks herself behind a garbage can. She picks up a rock from the street, turns, and throws it at the dumpster Kinzie is in. The deaf girl drops everything, sprints, and squats next to Elle.
They both breathe shallow, quiet breaths. As silently as they can, they crouch next to one another. Barely leaning forward, Kinzie scans the street. She looks at Elle and stands up. /Nothing there. None purple./
/Blue./ Kinzie signs.
/Angel hunters? Don’t care./ Elle signs and walks back to the dumpster.
Kinzie doesn’t want to stand. She doesn’t want to see Thaxton again. Doesn’t want to imagine stabbing him again. Doesn’t want to run again. He’s turning. This way. His eyes meet hers.
It’s not him at all. It is a purple shirt. It is a man. He has a necklace with a wooden wheel on it. But it is not Thaxton. His eyes signal no recognition, only curiosity. She frowns. He turns away.
“We’re done here.” Kinzie says from behind her.
Elle jumps and squeaks.
“For someone who supposedly has hearing, you’re not very good at it.”


Eventually, enough editing.

I’ve edited this story enough times. Go read it. Tell me what you think. Catch some spelling and grammar errors for me.

The link to the google doc is here.


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.