DeepSeaElkFish

I make and play games! Let's talk about them.


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55. Wonderland

A bright blue sky shone down over Davy and Olivia.

They had found a door in one of the buildings near the outhouse. They were now in what looked like a European countryside. Green, rolling hills extended in every direction. Davy could see an extravagant castle coming out from behind a nearby hill. It was made up mostly of white stone with prominent deep red accents.

Olivia nudged Davy with her elbow. “Call it a hunch, but I think we should head to that castle there,” she stated.

Davy didn’t have any reason to argue. This place looked far less dangerous than the research station or the jungle. “Sounds good,” he replied as they began to move.

They walked towards the castle and approached a hill. Davy looked at the foliage around them. There were trees, but they were bent and curled at unnatural angles. Bright colored fruit that Davy had never seen before hug from their branches. The trees looked almost whimsical.

As they reached the top of the hill, Davy could see something down in front of them. There was a small pond at the base of the hill with a round stone table near the shore. Two creatures were sitting at the table. Sitting between them, eating a pastry was Connie.

She laughed jovially as she saw Davy and Olivia approach. Davy looked at the two creatures. To Connie’s left was what looked like a griffon. To the right was a seven-foot turtle. Instead of a normal turtle’s head, it had the head of a calf.

“Hey guys!” Connie called out cheerfully. She gestured at the hills around her. “Look, I’m in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I can say that. It’s public domain; I can definitely say that.”

She held out a plate of pastries to Davy and Olivia. “You want an eclair?” she asked. “They’re delicious.” She suddenly put the plate down on the table. “Oh, sorry,” she said. “Let me introduce everyone. This is the Gryphon.”

The winged creature bowed. “How do you do?” it said.

Connie pointed to her other side. “And this is the Mock Turtle.” She leaned I towards Olivia and whispered excitedly, “He’s where mock turtle soup comes from!”

“What’s mock turtle soup?” Olivia asked with a smile.

“No idea!” Connie replied. “Something old British people see to eat, I guess!”

Davy sat down at the table. “Is this where you got taken when I opened the curtain?” he asked.

“You bet,” Connie answered. “I was in that room with the rest of you, then suddenly I was here. I met these two and it’s been a blast. The Mock Turtle over here was asking me about the school I used to go to and I was telling him about it, and he got all confused, then he told me about his school, and then it was me couldn’t follow what he was saying! And then—here’s the twist—we realize we’re talking about different kinds of schools! Like I was talking about a school as in the place where you go to learn, but he was talking about a school as in a school of fish!”

She took a bite of an eclair. “It was just delightful.”

The Mock Turtle nodded politely. “Miss Consuela here is certainly a pleasure to be around.”

Connie leaned back on her seat. With a mouthful of eclair, she asked, “So where did you guys end up?”

Davy reached for an eclair. “I was in an abandoned research station in Antarctica, and Olivia got brought to a jungle with dinosaurs.”

Connie shrugged. “This sound pretty cool too.”

“I beat up a T-Rex,” Olivia added before stuffing a handful of eclair into her mouth. “It was enriching.”

“So how did you find each other?” Connie continued. “And how did you get here?”

“Yes, do tell, friend of Ms. Consuela,” the Gryphon chimed in.

Davy put the eclair he was holding back on the plate. He wasn’t feeling too hungry. “Well, I found a door in the research station that looked like it didn’t belong, and it took me to the jungle where I found Olivia,” he answered. “We found another door that took us here.”

“We have reached the conclusion that doors take us places,” Olivia chirped.

“And I believe I would be correct in saying that you haven’t found Steve yet?” Connie asked.

“Yeah,” said Davy. “I think we need to find another door to get to him. But they’ve all been attached to buildings so far. And the only building I see right now is that castle in the distance.”

Connie looked behind her. “Oh, that castle belongs to the Red Queen. My friends here aren’t fans.”

“She likes to cut off people’s heads,” the Gryphon added.

“So if we start snooping around there trying to find a magic door…?” Olivia began.

Connie shrugged. “Yeah, she’d probably capture us and cut off our heads,” she said. “Kind of nasty, right?”

Davy rubbed the back of his head. “There’s gotta be something else we can do,” he said. “Sneaking into the Red Queen’s castle sounds like a whole drawn out detour that I don’t really want to do. Like it doesn’t feel necessary in the context of what we’ve been doing at all.”

“I’m with you, buddy,” Olivia added. “I kind of just want to get this Iron League thing wrapped up.”

“Yeah, I’m ready to just move on to the next thing,” said Connie. “Any ideas?”

The Mock Turtle perked up. “I believe I may be of assistance,” he said. He stood up and turned around, facing away from the rest of the group. Embedded into his shell was a blue, metal door.

“Well would you look at that?” Connie exclaimed, delighted. “The door was here the whole time! Unexpected and convenient! And so weird!”

The Mock Turtle turned around again. “Are you quite sure you do not want to remain here just a little while longer, Ms. Consuela? The Gryphon and I were about to conduct a performance of the Lobster Quadrille.”

Olivia laughed and turned to Olivia and Davy. “It’s a song they like to do,” she whispered. “I have no idea what it’s about! What is a quadrille anyway?”

She turned back to the Mock Turtle and shook her head. “Sorry champ,” she said. “Gonna have to ask for a rain check on that one. My friends and I need to take care of an evil gang devoted to reference humor. You understand.”

The Gryphon patted Connie on the back. “It was wonderful meeting you Ms. Consuela,” he said. “We wish you luck I your future endeavors.”

Connie laughed. “Same to you guys. You’re the best.”

The Mock Turtle gave a shy smile and turned around again. Connie grabbed the handle and pulled the door open. “Come on,” she said to Davy and Olivia. “Let’s got find Steve.”

Davy saw Connie leap through the door and quickly followed.

“I’m walking through a door into the back of a giant turtle,” Olivia said to herself. “This day just keeps getting better and better!” she exclaimed as she leapt through the door.


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54. Jungle

Davy had wandered for a few minutes through the jungle before he found a road. He shrugged and decided to follow it. It could lead him to one of his friends.

Or it could lead him to a member of the Iron League.

Or it could lead him to another potentially dangerous creature like in the research station.

“There’s like, a one in three chance this road will take me somewhere not terrible,” Davy reasoned to himself. Those weren’t really horrible odds, all things considered. Davy decided to continue following the road.

Davy thought about what it was he was supposed to be doing. He had been directed to sneak into the Iron League’s secret base by his mind therapy, but he still didn’t know what he was supposed to be looking for. Was it the next artifact? Was it the key to defeating the Iron League? Were they the same thing? What was their endgame here? Should he have made more of an effort to think this through beforehand?

Davy tried to put these questions out of his head. But what replaced them was the memory of this final words that Davy saw in his mind.

YOU DO IT WRONG

Those words made Davy uncomfortable. “I’d actually rather obsess over those other questions than think about that,” Davy mumbled. He decided to put those words out of his head as well and focus on finding his friends.

Davy ran into an empty jeep stalled in the middle of the road. The headlights were still on, and some of the Windows had been broken open. What really caught Davy’s attention, however was the giant metal fence behind the jeep. It looked to be at least a hundred feet tall, made up of gargantuan cement supports and metal beams. It had also been shorn open; an immense hole, about thirty feet wide stood in the middle of the fence. Sparks shot out of the broken metal beams.

“That can’t be good,” Davy stated. He stood still for a moment. He didn’t hear or see anything that could be dangerous like he had heard in the research station. He cautiously decided to keep moving.

He turned a corner not far from the jeep and saw an outhouse. Davy was normally not one to examine outhouses too closely, but he noticed that not only was the door closed, but he noticed the sign above the door handle currently said “Occupied.”

Someone was in there.

Davy nervously held his head against the door. He could hear someone breathing. Possibly against his better judgment, Davy lightly knocked on the door.

“Hello?” he said softly.

There was no immediate response. After a second, Davy heard a click and knew the door was unlocked. He slowly pushed it open.

He saw Olivia sitting on the floor in front of a toilet.

“There’s a dinosaur out there,” she whispered.

She motioned him inside. “Close the door, buddy,” she continued.

Davy did so. The outhouse was pretty cramped but Davy managed to awkwardly sit down in the remaining free floor space.

He looked at Olivia, who seemed to be pretty on edge. “So when I pulled back the curtain and you all disappeared, did you all get taken to different places?” he asked quietly.

Olivia nodded. “I guess so,” she answered. “One second I was in that curtained room with the rest of you, the next second I was in this jungle.” She lowered her voice. “With a T-Rex…”

Davy figured that was probably what broke through the fence. What he didn’t completely understand was why Olivia was holed up in an outhouse. “Not to put you down or anything,” he said. “But why are you in this outhouse?”

Olivia sighed and gave a nervous grin. “I’ve had bad experiences with dinosaurs.”

“Huh,” Davy grunted, somewhat dumbstruck. “You’ve seen dinosaurs before?”

Olivia thought about how to replay for a second before answering with a simple, “Yes.”

Davy wondered if he should probe further. “How old are you exactly, if you don’t mind me asking?”

Olivia’s grin grew wider as she shrugged. “About sixty-seven million years old, as best I can tell.” She leaned forward to Davy. “But let’s maybe just keep that between you and me.”

“Okay,” Davy said. “But I’ve seen you take down way bigger bad guys than a T-Rex.”

“Oh, I know,” Olivia replied. “I just needed a minute to collect myself. Dinosaurs were not on my list of things I expected to see today.”

Davy felt the ground shake and heard a series of deep rumbling noises. Something huge was walking up to the outhouse and Davy didn’t have to guess what it was. He then heard a loud roar just outside the outhouse that confirmed that Davy’s hunch was completely accurate.

Olivia stood up. “Hang on just one second, buddy,” she told to Davy. “The Night Retcher’s gotta fight off a Tyrannosaurus Rex.”

“Do you need any help?” Davy asked. He thought he could do something a little more useful than sit on the floor next to a toilet.

Olivia grinned. “Don’t worry about it,” she answered. “Just don’t get the pretty face of yours eaten,” she said in a amicably mocking voice.

Davy pushed himself against the wall of the outhouse as Olivia pushed her way to the door. As she stepped out, she turned back to Davy with a manic smile. “I’ll be right back,” she said. “Don’t do anything cool without me.” She laughed to herself. “Who am I kidding. I’m about to fight a dinosaur; you can’t get cooler than that.” She paused. “Unless the dinosaur was in space…”

Olivia realized she had trailed off. “See you in a second,” she said to Davy before she closed the door.

Davy sat on the floor and listened. He could hear the muffled shouts of Olivia through the wall of the outhouse.

“Hello fake dinosaur!” she shouted in her heroic voice. “You shall not cause harm to any innocents on this day! The Bight Retcher will not allow it!”

Davy heard another roar.

“Very well,” he heard Olivia say. “You have made your decision. Prepare yourself for the consequences of your actions!”

Davy heard another roar, only it got cut off partway through. Davy heard some strange thumping noises, a few squishy squelch sounds and finally a thud off in the distance.

After a moment of silence, the door opened again and Olivia stepped in. She closed it behind her and shuffled past Davy and sat back down on the floor where she had been previously.

“Where were we?” she asked calmly.

“I guess the T-Rex is gone?” Davy replied, fairly sure he already knew the answer.

Olivia gave an exaggerated laugh. “Oh, that thing?” she asked markedly casually. “It won’t be bothering us anymore.” She stretched her arms above her head and yawned. “So how did you find me anyway?” she asked Davy.

Davy thought back on how he got here. “I was brought to a different place when I opened the curtain,” he answered. “But I found a door that looked like it didn’t belong where I was. When I went through, I was taken to this jungle.”

Olivia thought this over. “Huh,” she grunted. “So if we find another strange door, it might take us to Steve and/or Connie.”

“That’s what I was thinking,” Davy replied.

The two of them stood up and made their way out of the outhouse. Davy looked down the road he had been following. He could see the roofs of some concrete buildings further on down through the trees. “There’s some buildings down there,” he said. “The next door is probably that way.”

“Nice,” Olivia chirped. “I’m ready to go if you are.”

Davy nodded as the two of the continued down the road.

Olivia looked to Davy. “So where did the curtain take you?” she asked. “Before you got here?”

“I got brought to what looked like an abandoned research base,” Davy answered. “I think it was supposed to be in Antarctica.”

This seemed to strike a chord with Olivia. She looked down at the ground with a grimace.

“What’s wrong?” Davy asked.

“I guess you could also say I’ve had some bad experiences with Antarctica too,” she replied sheepishly.

“Wait, you’ve been to Antarctica?” Davy asked incredulously.

Olivia shrugged with a nervous grin. “In a manner of speaking, yes.” She leaned in closer to Davy.

“But let’s just keep that between you and me, buddy.”


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52. Moonlight

Davy, Olivia, Connie, and Steve sat huddled behind a bush. It was the same bush they hid behind when they formulated their last plan against the Iron League of Reference Humor.

Davy looked up at the night sky. The moon looked exactly like it did in Davy’s head. He didn’t know how his mind would have been able to predict what the moon would look like tonight, but he had more important things to think about at the moment.

He looked through the bushes at the campground. There was no sign of the Iron League. There was only the tent. Davy pulled out his phone and checked the time. It was 3:37. He breathed a sigh of relief as he put the phone back in his pocket.

The plan was going well so far. The Iron League was likely asleep within the tent. Davy looked at the tent again, and felt uneasy about the strange light shining through the translucent canvas.

Olivia nudged Davy with her elbow. “You said you met a penguin-dad in your mind,” she whispered. “Was it Gary von Jackolantern?”

Davy nodded. “Yeah,” he answered. “He also wanted me to tell you hi for him.”

Olivia’s eyes went wide. “Cooooool,” she whispered excitedly.

Steve nudged Davy with his elbow rom the other side. “I might be having second thoughts about his, guys,” he whispered. “That tent isn’t that big. How are we going to sneak around in there without drawing any attention?”

Davy thought about this, but Connie interrupted his train of thought.

“This looks like their secret base, right?” she said. “I kind of get the feeling that with their crazy reference powers and whatnot, that we’re probably working with one of those bigger-on than-inside-than-it-looks kind of deals. If it doesn’t end up looking like a massive labyrinth in there, I’ll buy all of you guys lunch tomorrow.”

Steve was quick to reply. “Okay. First, I’m never one to turn down a free lunch, but you just brought me to my second question. This is their secret base. We know what kind of wacky surprise powers they can pull out of a hat when they’re outside the tent. How do we know the whole inside won’t be like that? We have no idea what will be greeting us when we walk inside.”

“Hopefully some kind of massive labyrinth,” Connie added with a sly grin.

Davy had to agree with Steve. He had no earthly knowledge of what would be on the other side of that entrance flap. But he knew this is what he had to do. If that mind therapy was going to have any purpose at all, he needed to follow through.

“I get it, Steve,” he said. “But I think I’m still supposed to go in there. I really don’t have a problem if you want to hang back.”

“Are you kidding?” Steve replied, almost shouting. “What if there’s something really cool in there? I don’t want to miss out on anything. If you’re going, then I’m going.”

“Yeah, I’m with you all the way,” Olivia added.

“Me too,” chimed Connie. “This has all been way too interesting to pass up.”

Davy was not expecting the sudden show of support. Being looked up to was still something Davy was not used to.

“Okay,” he said. “Follow me.”

The four of them got on their feet and quietly made their way to tent. Davy heard a low humming sound as they got closer. When they reached the entrance flap, Davy felt another nudge from Steve.

“Hey, look at this,” Steve whispered to him.

Davy saw Steve pointing to a tag attached to the tent there was text printed on it. Davy read over it closely.

Imagination Tent by Grumble Industries Incorporated

If You Can Dream It, Why Not Put It in a Tent?

“Of course,” Davy mumbled sarcastically. Davy figured they were going to deal with the Grumblegator at probably every turn from now on before this was all over.

The four of them looked at the entrance to the tent.

“All right, bring it in!” whispered Olivia. She turned towards the others and held her arm out in front of her, her palm facing down.

“What?” Davy asked, confused.

“Oh, I was thinking we could do that thing where we put our hand on top of each other, say ‘Go Team!’ or something then lift our hands up at the same time.”

“Uh, sure,” Davy answered. He put his hand on top of Olivia’s. Connie and Steve followed suit.

“Okay, on three,” Olivia began.

“Wait,” Steve interjected. “What are we saying? Are we just doing ‘Go Team’?”

“I guess so,” Connie answered. She looked at Olivia. “Did you have something else you wanted?”

“I really didn’t think that far ahead,” Olivia replied. “‘Go Team’ works for me.”

“Okay, let’s do it then,” Steve said. Olivia counted to three and he four of them said the agreed-upon phrase.

“Go Team!”

Steve felt a rush of relief. “Wow, I was feeling kind of antsy about going into this tent just a second ago, but that actually made me feel a lot better. Maybe we are a team, guys.”

“That’s the power of positive feeling,” Olivia gloated. She gave Davy another nudge and whispered, “Let’s get in there.”

“You got it,” Davy replied. He slowly unzipped the tent flap. Once it was open, the four of them stepped inside.


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51. Awake

Immolation Zebra stared at Davy with apparent apathy. “He took longer than the others,” she said in a flat voice. “The revelations of his personal sojourn may likely prove the most fruitful.”

Davy looked around him. He was sitting on a chair in the front room of the Institute of Mind. Lady Gut Possum had been right in his face when he woke up and had since backed off. To one side stood Olivia, Steve, and Connie. Immolation Zebra and Consecration Tony peered at him with curiosity on the other side.

“Your mind has been awakened,” Consecration Tony stated. “Share your experience!”

Davy rubbed his forehead. “Was I really out longer than everyone else?” he asked.

Steve chimed in. “Yeah dude,” he said. “We woke up after about twenty minutes. You’ve been asleep or whatever for almost two hours.”

“So the rest of you guys went inside of your minds too?” Davy asked.

“You bet,” Olivia chirped. “And it was awesome! I got to hang out with Admiral Moustachepants and Sunglass Butt! Like, the real Admiral Moustachepants and Sunglass Butt, or at least the ones that exist in my own head. We played board games, and I won all of them! Though I think Admiral Moustachepants let me win a few. She’s such a noble lady.”

“That sounds pretty cool,” Davy replied. He turned to Steve and asked, “What about you? What happened inside your mind?”

Steve hesitated for a second. “Uh, nothing all that weird,” he muttered. “I was just a pig for some reason and a bunch of clowns were throwing rocks at me and laughing and the clowns were also on fire the whole time.” Steve’s face went blank as he recalled the experience. He snapped back and gave Davy a forced casual grin. “Nothing that crazy or anything. I’m good. We’re all good.”

He quickly turned to Connie. “What did you see?” he exclaimed.

Connie shrugged nonchalantly. “Not much,” she answered. “I just sat in front of my TV and watched a cooking show. I learned a nice recipe for chicken kebob with a serrano chimichurri. We should try it sometime. My brain said it was great for a summer barbecue.”

“Your brain is acute!” Consecration Tony interjected. “It knows the correct ways of food!”

Lady Gut Possum ignored him. “None of that sounds helpful for your current situation,” she said, worried.

“Well what about you, buddy?” Olivia said to Davy. “What did you see?”

Davy thought back on everything he had experienced in his mind. He decided to give the condensed version. “Well my penguin-dad told me I needed to believe in myself,” he replied.

“A penguin-dad is almost always a source of sage advice,” Immolation Zebra stated. “Its teachings should be taken with optimal seriousness, like azure water from a dilapidated cistern.”

“Okay sure,” Davy responded, brushing off whatever that was supposed to mean, if anything at all. “I also was pointed to that tent the Iron League was hanging out in. I think we’re supposed to go in there.”

Steve didn’t appear happy to hear this. “Why?” he asked. “Won’t they just beat on us again?”

Davy thought back to when he saw the tent in his mind. He remembered seeing the moon above him.

“In my head, I was there at night,” he continued. “I think, maybe if we sneak in there in the middle of the night, we can find whatever it is we need while they’re asleep, or doing whatever it is they do in the middle of the night.”

“A revamped sneak attack,” Olivia said. “I like it.”

Lady Gut Possum looked surprised. “Tony’s therapy usually doesn’t provide epiphanies on such concrete terms,” she said. She smiled at Davy. “You should consider yourself lucky, I was expecting the answers you were looking for to be far more abstract. Was there anything else?”

Davy didn’t want to bring up the words he saw in the white space just before he woke up.

YOU DO IT WRONG

He figured sharing this message would do little to inspire confidence with the rest of the group.

“No, not much else,” he said. “I got stuck in a hole for a while, I guess. And I saw a sea monster or something, but none of those seemed as currently applicable as seeing the tent.”

Davy felt that Lady Gut Possum could tell he was leaving something out, but she didn’t push the issue. “Very well,” she replied. She addressed Davy and his companions as she began to head for the door. “I believe your path has been illuminated for you. I wish you luck in your next steps.”

Connie followed Lady Gut Possum. “It should be fun,” she said, grinning. “I bet we’ll find something in that tent that will take down the Iron League. They’ve had their fun long enough.”

Olivia followed as well. “They’re about to finally taste the sweet scent of justice,” she added. “For real this time.”

Steve helped Davy off his chair. “I don’t know about you, but I’m really feeling like some ice cream right now.”

“No ice cream for now,” Lady Gut Possum interjected, glaring at Consecration Tony. She paused a tool a breath before addressing the lizard who was smiling back at her.

“Consecration Tony,” she began reluctantly. “Thank you for your help. You have likely been instrumental in helping the Steward save this world.”

Consecration Tony tilted his head. “Mind therapy is always an answer!” he exclaimed. “I appreciate the recognition you have given to the mind. Always pay it heed!”

Lady Gut Possum nodded as she ushered Davy and the others out the door. “Again, I am thankful for your help,” she said. “And for both of our sake, I hope these four never see you again.”


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50. Gary

Davy couldn’t tell how long he had been in the tunnel. Was it only minutes, hours, or maybe even days? Davy figured that the natural flow of time may not even apply to the inner realm of one’s mind, but Davy also conceded that he didn’t know all that much about the mind anyway, so maybe this idea was nonsense. In any case, it felt like he had been there a long time.

Was he supposed to reach an epiphany here? Maybe if he reached an epiphany, then he would be able to get out. Davy racked his brain for possible epiphanies

“Okay, I’m stuck in a hole,” he said to himself. “Maybe the hole represents something. I’m stuck. Like I was stuck on how to handle the Iron League. Maybe how I get out of here is supposed to show me how to beat them. This is good, I’m getting somewhere. How would I get out of here? I can’t push myself back up, and I can’t go forward any further. Am I supposed to find a non-traditional solution? Think outside the box?”

Davy tried to wrangle his lateral thought process.

“Okay, I just need to reexamine the parameters. Is there some factor I haven’t considered? Is this really stone? Maybe I can actually dig through it.”

Davy scratched at the tunnel wall with his left hand. The tough stone cracked one of his fingernails.

“Okay, that is definitely stone. I cannot dig through that. And also, that hurt.”

Davy struggled to come up with something. He noticed his eyelids getting heavy as his thought process seemed to slow down. He felt like he really needed a nap.

Davy noticed this and started to slightly panic. He knew that suddenly feeling like you are going to fall asleep was not at all a healthy development when you’re stuck upside down in an tight, enclosed space with little oxygen.

Davy wondered if it was possible to die in your own mind, because that would suck. Davy then remembered that he was in his own mind. He should be able to exercise a little more control than this. He wasn’t expecting god-like superpowers over the space around him, but he should at least be able to create some way out of here.

His eyelids continued to grow heavier as he concentrated on getting out of here.

“I will get out,” he said to himself through clenched teeth. “I will get out. I will get out.”

Davy scarcely noticed a slight tug on the tip of his left shoe. He continued to chant to himself. It was getting increasingly difficult to maintain his consciousness.

“I will get out. I will get out.”

The tug grew stronger, now coming from both feet. Davy was pulled upwards, not back through the tunnel, but straight upwards. Davy’s body loosened as the stone walls of the the tunnel slowly appeared to fade from existence.

Davy didn’t notice any of this as he continued to rise. His eyes were shut tight as he continued to chant to himself. The chanting eventually slowed and then finally stopped as Davy fully lost consciousness. The world around Davy had turned pitch-black as he continued to rise.

***

Davy awoke to the crackling of a fireplace. He opened his eyes and saw he was inside what looked like somebody’s living room. Warm red wallpaper with wood paneling surrounded him on every side. He was lying on a soft brown couch next to a window. Davy looked at the night sky through the window. It was snowing.

Davy sat up and saw the fireplace on the other side of the room. In front of the fireplace was a massive armchair, facing away from him. Davy looked down at the couch he was sitting on and was struck by how large everything in this room was. He wasn’t a short guy at all, but he noticed that even when laying down, there was still a couple of extra feet on the couch that his body didn’t cover.

A deep, almost soothing voice called out to Davy from the armchair. “I’m glad to see you’re okay,” it said.

The armchair began to rotate to have him. The armchair had four short, wooden legs, so it didn’t exactly make sense that it was able to rotate, but Davy wasn’t focusing on that right now. Davy was instead focused on who was sitting in the armchair, greeting him.

It was Gary von Jackolantern.

Or at least, it looked mostly like Davy’s old plush penguin toy. He somehow looked to be about ten feet tall, and had a strangely humanoid body. He was wearing a red smoking jacket and holding a pipe in his right hand that was emitting bubbles. He held a newspaper in his other hand. His legs were crossed, and causal loafers hung from his feet. His head, however, looked exactly like the stuffed penguin head Davy remembered from his childhood.

Gary looked down at Davy with a warm smile. “I know it’s been a long time, Davy, but I just want to say that I’m so proud of who you’ve become.”

“Uh, thanks,” Davy said to the unusually paternal penguin in front of him. “I guess I’m still inside my mind,” he continued.

Gary nodded. “Indeed you are, sport,” he said. “If I understand it right, it seems you might have lost your way.”

“Yeah,” Davy answered. “There is this evil group that likes reference humor that we’re acing trouble defeating. I don’t know what to do.”

Gary rubbed his chin. “That’s okay,” he said. “Everyone loses they’re way sometimes. The important thing is that you don’t give up when things get difficult.”

“Sure, but I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be doing,” Davy said. “I agreed to this mind therapy to help me find the answers within or whatever, but I’m don’t know what I should be looking for.”

Gary leaned forward to Davy. “Well, what have you found so far, son?”

Davy looked up at the penguin in front of him. “Well, that I clearly have some unresolved issues with my father or something,” he stated. “But I don’t think I’ve found much more than that.”

Gary von Jackolantern chuckled. “I think you may be selling yourself short there. If I saw it correctly, you were able to escape from that hole all by yourself using nothing but your own willpower.”

Davy shrugged. “I don’t know,” he said. “I mean, this has all been in my own head. It’s not that big of a deal to escape from my own mind.”

This seemed to amuse Gary. “I’m afraid I’m going to have to respectfully disagree with you there, sport,” he said. “In my experience, I’ve found that one of the most difficult things that a person can break free from is their own head. We have a tendency to hold ourselves down harder than any tangible weights.”

Davy tried to get his thoughts together. “So you’re saying Im holding myself back?” he asked. “Are you saying that I should stop being afraid and believe in myself and stuff?”

Gary folded his newspaper and placed it on an end table next to him. “I think that it’s not my place to tell you what to do, son,” he answered. “But I do want to ask you, why do you think you were chosen for this quest? Why were you chosen to be the Steward of the Endocrine?”

Davy scratched his head. “A prophecy and poor plotting?” he answered hesitantly.

Gary have a hearty laugh. “Davy, you are far more capable than you know,” he said. ” There’s a reason this prophecy chose you. You have a quality that will prove essential in the time to come. I believe that you will find what it is, and once you do, you can prevail over any adversity that comes your way.” Gary stopped to blow to his pipe, sending bubbles out in to the room. “All you need to do is recognize this quality within yourself.”

Davy nodded. “Okay, so I have the power within me already?” he asked. “I just need to believe in myself?” Davy sighed. Steve was going to have a field day with the generic advice he was getting.

Gray have another warm chuckle. “I know what you’re thinking, Davy,” he said. “I know what I’m saying is probably the kind of thing you’ve heard in millions of movies and books before. Some might even call it cliché. But Davy, sometimes it’s the most obvious advice that we tend to forget the easiest. I don’t want anyone calling me insightful or clairvoyant, because none of what I’m saying is new. But I do believe that remembering the power you already possess can sometimes be a considerably underrated notion. Try it out sometime, and let me know how it goes. Maybe we can play catch afterwards.”

Davy figured the penguin may have a point, but he was also feeling ready to go. “Okay, I’ll do that,” he stated. “I have the power, and believe in myself. Got it.”

Gary smiled. “Don’t worry, Davy. It’ll come to you. But I understand your apprehension. You want to get back to your friends.” He pointed to the wooden door to his right. “This door will take you out of here. Follow the path that will appear in front of you and you will wake up soon enough. Who knows, maybe you might find something that will help you with your current situation.”

Davy got off the couch and made his way to the door. “Thanks, Gary,” he said. “It was good to see you again.”

Gary von Jackolantern chuckled. “It was good to see you too Davy,” he replied. “Come back any time. And when your quest is over, I’m looking forward to taking part in your detective adventures with you and your friend Olivia. Tell her hi for me.”

“Sure Gary,” Davy said. He opened the door and saw nothing but blackness in front of him. Davy took a deep breath and stepped into the darkness. Gary and the living room appeared to immediately dissolve around him. As the last traces of the room faded away, Davy heard one faint final line from Gary.

“Never forget, Davy, that I am so proud of you.”

Davy looked around in the darkness. He saw a faint light in the distance.

“This isn’t much of a path,” Davy said to himself, as he began to walk towards the light.

As he got closer, he could make out the faint shape of a building. It looked like the light was coming from a window. As he got closer, Davy saw that it he building was a house. It was three stories, the light coming from a window on the top floor. Davy realized that he had he had seen this place before. And that this wasn’t a house. It was a tent.

Davy saw he was standing in a ghostly version of that campground where he had been beaten by the Iron League of Reference Humor. A spectral moon hung over him in the sky. Davy looked at the tent again. There was a light shining through the translucent canvas. He approached the tent and unzipped the entrance flap. Bright light splashed out of the entrance onto his face. Davy shielded his eyes, but the light was so bright he couldn’t see anything inside. He slowly took a step into the tent.

The world around Davy dematerialized once more, and Davy found himself in an empty white space.

“Great,” Davy muttered. He was really getting tired of seeing so many empty spaces inside his mind.

Some massive black letters appeared in front of Davy. Davy scratched his head as he read the words they formed.

YOU DO IT WRONG

“Huh,” Davy uttered. That didn’t seem reassuring.

Some more letters appeared out of the air, they began forming the same phrase all around him.

YOU DO IT WRONG

YOU DO IT WRONG

YOU DO IT WRONG

Davy groaned. He had just had this pep talk from Gary von Jackolantern telling him how capable he was and now his brain was insisting how incorrectly Davy was going about his quest?

“I’m kind of getting some mixed signals here,” he whined to the words all around him.

The black letters continued to materialize. They filled up the white space more and more until the white was almost gone. Davy was getting really fed up as blackness filled the space around him. He was about to complain very loudly about having to deal with yet another empty space, but all of a sudden, he saw Lady Gut Possum’s face inches away from his own.

“He’s awake,” she said.


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49. Mind

Davy opened his eyes and was greeted with the color gray. It was in every direction. He was no longer seated in the chair in the Institute of Mind. He was instead standing in a vast, open gray space.

He looked down. There wasn’t even any sort of ground below him that he could see. He was just standing on the same gray that he saw in every other direction.

“Where am I?” Davy asked himself, not particularly expecting an answer.

He got one anyway. “Your mind…” a faint voice rang out through infinity.

Davy sighed. “Okay, I’m not really thrilled to see my mind being represented as a vast, empty space,” he said to himself. “There’s gotta be something here.”

As he said this, it seemed his mind had suddenly remembered the laws of physics exist and that Davy was apparently standing on nothing. Davy’s stomach rose as he began to fall into the total emptiness below him.

Only is apparently wasn’t total emptiness. Davy shut his eyes and felt a rush of cold as he broke through the surface of the water. He continued to sink down, further and further. After a few moments, Davy opened his eyes again. There was somehow enough light permeating into the depths of the water that he could see into the distance. It looked like he was in the middle of a vast ocean that was just as desolate as the gray space he was just in. Davy could not see an ocean floor or any other object in any direction.

He felt like he was continuing to sink for some inexplicable reason, but he also felt grossly disoriented. He had no idea which way was up or down. Davy realized he he needed to breathe; he had been holding his breath since he went underwater. Strangely enough, it he felt more and more like he needed air, but at the same time, he didn’t feel like he was drowning. He was just sort of floating in this empty ocean.

He felt the water quake around him. The quaking was shortly followed by a low rumbling noise. Davy noticed a dark shadow far off in the distance coming from below—or at least what he thought was below. The shadow grew larger and larger; it eventually began to form a vaguely humanoid shape. Davy was struck by just how gargantuan the shadow had become. He felt like a helpless speck floating in the presence of this shadowy figure. He wanted to swim away, but he also knew that he was small enough compared to the figure that no distance he could travel would likely put him out of its reach. Davy simply had to hope that this creature wouldn’t notice him.

The creature looked directly at him. It was still nothing more than a silhouette to Davy, but. Ow there were two glowing yellow dots on what looked like the creature’s face. They were pointed directly at Davy.

Davy wondered why his mind would make him out as a feeble speck, drowning in the middle of an endless, empty ocean while being stared down by an ambitious monstrous shadow. Davy realized there was probably all sorts of subtext here that he was resisting addressing. If this was a high school English class, Davy could probably sit down and work his way through this symbolism. But before Davy could ruminate on this any further, the creature began to swim away. It looked presumably upwards towards the surface, spread its arms and soon enough, it was gone.

Davy was alone again.

Maybe I feel lonely, Davy thought. It feels like that’s the subtext I’m getting. I’m lonely and have a fear of the unknown? That sounds like a strong takeaway. Or maybe I’m just subconsciously scared of sea monsters.

Davy noticed that he was getting pulled by a current. He felt his body move in a circle. After a second, he felt like he was also slowly dropping, and Davy realized what was happening. The ocean was draining.

He would have figured that a body of water that appeared to extend infinitely in every direction would take a long time to fully drain, but in no time at all, Davy found himself lying down on a cold stone floor, small puddles of water scattered around him.

Standing up on his feet, Davy also noticed he was completely dry. He took a look around him. There was this dark brown stone floor, which was a welcome development, but nothing else. The floor extended indefinitely into that same grayness in every direction. Davy was getting tired of this perpetual emptiness, when he spotted a hole in the ground a few feet in front of him.

He approached the hole and looked down. The opening was fairly narrow, just wide enough for him to barely fit through. The hole went straight down a foot or so and then turned about ninety degrees, running parallel to the surface of the floor he was standing on.

Davy stood looking at the hole in front of him? Was he supposed to go in there? He didn’t particularly want to go in there. He looked around him in every direction again. There was still nothing. Davy sighed. I guess this is all supposed to be in my head, Davy thought. None of this is supposed to be real. Worst case scenario, I find something bad in there and I just wake up.

Davy paused. Or worst case scenario, whatever I find down there drives me insane.

Davy sighed. As much as he didn’t want to admit it, he had a growing suspicion that nothing was going to happen until he crawled into the hole. He looked up at the blank gray sky. “You’re the worst, mind,” he muttered to nobody. He got on his knees and stuck his hands into the opening. Arms out in front of him, he began to crawl headfirst into the hole.

He saw a narrow tunnel in front of him. “Okay, maybe this won’t be so bad,” he said with cautious optimism. He began to shimmy through the tunnel, the wet stone felt slimy, but also helped propel him through the right space he probably would have otherwise struggled to fit through.

The tunnel seemed to get even narrower as he continued to move forward. He felt like was starting to get a good rhythm going when he slid over a drop. It was only a few feet; the tunnel took a ninety degree drop straight down, his feet directly above him. Davy found himself upside down. On the plus side, his head had landed on his arms, cushioning his fall. On the downside, Davy found his arms were contorted against each other and could barely move them. The palm of his right hand was smushed up against his face, covering his eyes.

Davy wiggled his feet around. With his right foot, he could barely feel the ledge he had just fallen off of. He had dropped far enough that there was no way he could lift himself back up the way he came.

Davy struggled to move his arms to feel if the tunnel continued in any direction. To his dismay he only felt the cold, slimy stone on every side. Davy took a deep breath and exhaled.

He was stuck.

Stuck upside down in a dark tunnel with solid stones reading against him on every side. Unable to move virtually any part of his body. Unable to see anything, since he had a hand pressed over his eyes.

It was not a great situation.

Davy felt an itch on his nose. He was able to extend the pinky finger of his right hand and scratch the itch.

“Well, at least I was able to do that,” Davy mumbled to himself, trying to focus on the one silver lining.

Davy felt another itch on the bottom of his foot.

“Shoot,” Davy added.

Davy began to wonder what insanity would be like.


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48. Therapy

Davy heard screaming through a door he passed on the way to the therapy room. Davy could barely hear it, but he could make out the words “The Burning” come up repeatedly.

“Ignore her,” Consecration Tony snapped, still maintaining his goofy smile. “Her screams are unending, and she is thoroughly unpleasant to talk to.”

Davy went up to Steve and whispered, “Are you still feeling good about this?”

Steve’s stomach growled. “Honestly, I’m more focused on how badly I want more ice cream,” Steve whispered back. He gestured towards Consecration Tony. “Was this guy really putting brain stuff in there?”

“That’s what Lady Gut Possum said,” Davy replied. “And now we’re letting this guy access our brains directly.”

“But it’ll probably look so funny,” Olivia cut in. “Big, goofy, smiling, lizard poking at our brains and stuff. I want a poster of that to hang on my wall!”

“But what about the risk of going insane part?” Davy asked.

“Pssh,” Olivia replied. “I only grew myself a brain pretty recently. I can always grow myself a new one. Besides I went along for however many million years without a brain at all and did just fine.”

Steve’s jaw dropped slightly. “However many million years?” he said incredulously. “How old are you.”

Olivia realized she may have said too much. “Don’t worry about it,” she said quickly.

Connie came up behind them with a sly grin. “Davy’s got a point. He’s a sharp guy, just like the rest of you. But sometimes, it feels like life’s really too short to worry about whether or not you have gone insane as a result of indeterminate brain therapy conducted by a two-legged, smiling lizard.”

“You’re an awfully relaxed person, you know that?” Davy chimed.

“I just like not having to worry,” Connie responded casually.

They had arrived at the end of the hall. Consecration Tony stood in front of a black door and opened it. He beckoned to the group. “Enter this space,” he ordered. “Begin your mind opening.”

The group proceeded into the room. It was dimly lit from blinking fluorescent lights on the ceiling. Rows of metal chairs with worn-down leather padding stood in front of them, arranged in rows like in a movie theater. In the front of the room was a blank white screen hanging down from the ceiling.

“You must sit,” Consecration Tony declared. He pointed at the chairs.

Davy and the others looked at each other and shrugged as they shuffled to four chairs next to each other in the front row.

After they say down, Consecration Tony went up to Connie. He pointed to an armrest on the chair she was sitting on. “Your arm goes here,” Consecration Tony said, still smiling.

“You got it, boss,” Connie chirped as she placed her arms on the armrests.

Consecration Tony pulled out a leather strap from the right side of the chair and fastened Connie’s right arm down to the armrest. He did the same thing with her left arm. He then bent over and pulled out leather straps from below the chair that he fastened to Connie’s legs. She was now completely constrained.

Connie wiggled her arms and legs. The restraints were tight enough that she couldn’t break free. “Heh,” she laughed. She looked down the row at the rest of the group. “Looks like I’ll see you on the other side fellas.”

Davy ruminated to himself about how weirdly relaxed Connie had been about this whole thing. He wondered if this was unusual for her, before he realized he knew nothing about her. Davy noted that maybe he should make more of an effort to get to know his prophesized companions. Of course, that all depended on whether he was going to still have a functional brain an hour or so from now.

Consecration Toby moved on to Olivia. He pulled out the straps and restrained her the same way he restrained Connie.

“You know I can shapeshift, right,” she asked with a grin. “Like, I could get out of this chair easily if I wanted to.”

Consecration Tony looked directly at Olivia with his wide smile. “You have the ability to escape,” he admitted. “But you will not exercise this option. Mind therapy is engrossing. Remember this fact.”

As Consecration Tony finished restraining Olivia and began to restrain Steve, Steve looked to Davy. “Okay, I admit, I am getting a slightly bad feeling about this,” he said, visibly worried. “I don’t like leather straps,” he continued. “They chafe.”

Consecration Tony finally reached Davy. “How exactly does this kind therapy work?” he asked nervously as Consecration Tony applied the restraints.

“You will watch and then you will see,” Consecration Tony answered. “You will see the mind and all its acute fabrications, a laser light show of resplendent implications.”

This dos nothing to answer Davy’s question. Davy would have asked for clarification, but he figured any furthers answers would be just as nonsensical as the one he just received.

In another moment, all four of them were restrained to their chairs. Consecration Tony proceeded to the space right in front of the screen.

“Prepare your brain for abject penetration,” he stated. “Direct your eyes to the images; do not deviate from this course. You will be interwoven into the heart of your mind. Seek the truths from within; do not make a failure of your life.”

He held up a small electronic device and pressed a button. The lights in the room went off as Consecration Tony walked to the side of the room.

Steve’s voice meekly rang out in the dark. “Uh, so I just realized that I kind of need to go to the bathroom.”

Consecration Tony did not respond as the first image appeared on the screen. It was a blurry, black and white photo of a tree, sunlight pouring through from between the branches. Davy didn’t have time to soak in all the details, because the image of the tree was promptly replaced by a new blurry image, also on black and white. It was a small dog sitting on the floor looking up at the camera. Was it a poodle?

A new image promptly appeared on the screen. A fried egg sitting on a frying pan. Then a new image, then a new image, all in black and white and equally blurry.

A solitary basketball sitting alone on a concrete floor.

A dirty toothbrush lying in a grimy sink.

A tarantula crawling through the dirt.

The images began to cycle through more and more rapidly, almost rhythmically. Davy noticed what sounded like a bass drum, heavily distorted with what sounded like feedback from a poorly functioning speaker. The drum was barely audible in the back of his perception, pounding away in time with the flashing images.

A plastic chair sitting in a landfill.

A tornado ripping apart a wooden shed.

A crying baby.

The drum was getting louder. Its tempo picked up as the speed of the flashing images continued to escalate rapidly. Soon, the beating was too loud for Davy to handle. He wanted to get up and leave, but the restraints held him in place. Davy heard a new sound over the drums, a cacophonous roaring as if a running jet turbine had been placed right behind his head.

Davy clenched his eyes shut. Whatever was happening, or whatever was supposed to happen, it wasn’t working. The drum and the roaring were even louder now; Davy felt like he was about to snap. He couldn’t take the noise any longer.

And then it stopped.