DeepSeaElkFish

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59. Bench

Davy, Connie, Steve, and Olivia sat next to each other on a bench in front of the Very Dairy Ice Cream Factory. Their excitement for ice cream earlier had been suppressed the moment they remembered that Consecration Tony owned the ice cream shop and was likely feeding them undisclosed neural agents. None of them felt like eating ice cream, but they hadn’t reached the point where they felt like getting something that wasn’t ice cream. So they sat on the bench indecisively.

Davy could see the river from the bench. He watched as one of the tour boats floated by. The tour guide’s voice was faintly audible from this distance.

“…and no trip to Sangre Dios is complete without a visit to the Very Dairy Ice Cream Factory.”

Davy felt like the world has certainly become a lot stranger in the last few weeks. He wouldn’t argue if someone told him that he found law school boring and that maybe he was looking for a way out. But he never would have predicted that this way out would have taken the form of a magic door leading to a possum lady. Or that the aforementioned possum lady would send him on a quest to save the world from an evil corporate alligator.

Or that his journey would take him through an underwhelming, yet still somewhat endearing Hideous House of Horrors; a city currently under siege by a cabal of outrageous super villains, including a librarian, a narwhal man, and a crazy lady who believed nuns to be the epitome of high fashion; and into an odyssey through his own mind as part of a plan to thwart a gang of deluded reference humor fanatics.

He also never would have expected to be joined in his quest by his oldest friend who was still insisting to everyone that he was actually an astronaut, a multi-million-year-old superhero who could generate and manipulate her own biological structure, and whoever Connie was. Davy realized he still didn’t know much about her, but he did recently learn she could use a sword, which was pretty cool.

He also hadn’t expected that he would live in a world where a city he once knew well was now apparently being brainwashed by an ice cream parlor owned by an anthropomorphic lizard who somehow was also one of the good guys.

Davy smiled to himself. This was more interesting than law school, that was for sure.

He felt his phone vibrate in his pocket. He pulled it out and saw a text message from an unknown number.

LAdy guT piossun heRe

Comeinside ICE crewam pRlor

Davy shrugged. “Guys,” he said to the others. “Lady Gut Possum wants us to go inside.”

“You got it, buddy,” Olivia replied, jumping to her feet. The four of them got up and entered the Very Dairy Ice Cream factory.

The parlor was empty once again, except for Lady Gut Possum who stood behind the counter. She didn’t waste any time as she saw the group arrive.

“Do you know your city called Bowie?” she asked Davy.

“The state capital?” Davy replied. “Yeah, it’s not far from here. Maybe about an hour’s drive to the north.”

Lady Gut Possum nodded. “We believe your next artifact is there,” she said. “I have learned that there is some kind of exposition that will be taking place there.”

“You mean Cloud Connection 20XX?” Steve interrupted excitedly. “That’s one of the biggest tech expos of the year! All the tech companies will be there! And I guess they do movie and music stuff too. But most importantly, I did read that WorkLyfe will be there!”

Lady Gut Possum didn’t seem to understand or necessarily care about any of what Steve said. “Your friend is likely correct,” she said. “But please exercise caution. The next artifact is apparently there, but it’s nature eludes us. We are not familiar with this artifact, nor with the form it takes or what powers if bestows to its holder. We do have reason to believe, however, that it is currently in the hands of an agent of the Grumblegator. We also believe that Grumble Industries Incorporated itself may have a presence at this exposition.”

Connie appeared to think this over. “So just so we’re clear, you’re basically asking us to attend one of the premiere tech/media events in the country and to keep our eyes open for an artifact and probably the Grumblegator?”

Lady Gut Possum nodded. “Yes,” she answered.

Connie laughed. “Lady Gut Possum, you can count on us,” she replied.

“This sounds exciting,” Olivia chirped. “I don’t think I’ll have been around so many people before.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Steve confidently responded. “These are my people. I can lead you all to the next artifact, no problem.”

“I hope your confidence does not waver,” Lady Gut Possum stated. “Your task will only become more challenging. But I believe the four of you have what it takes to persevere.”

And with that, Lady Gut Possum seemed to disappear in thin air.

The door behind the counter opened and Consecration Tony poke his head out. “You look like you require sustenance,” he stated. “Enjoy some ice cream for your delight!”

Lady Gut Possum promptly reappeared and shoved Consecration Tony back through the door and locked it. She looked at the four. “I am afraid I must ask you to refrain from eating any more ice cream on your journey,” she said. “Consecration Tony may be aiding our efforts, but frankly, well, I don’t like the bastard.”

And in another moment, she was gone again.

Davy turned to his friends. “Okay,” he said. “That was a lot of information. But I guess we know where we’re going.”

Olivia seemed excited. “We’re going to the big city!” she exclaimed.

“Olivia, you are going to have the time of your life,” Connie added. “I cannot wait to see what kind of antics we get into next.”

“And I can’t wait to meet the geniuses behind WorkLyfe,” Steve said. “I know for a fact that this is going to be awesome.”

The three of them looked to Davy. “So what do you think,” Steve said. “You ready to go?”

“Yeah boss,” Connie added. “We’re right behind you.”

Davy was caught a little off guard. His friends were looking to him for guidance. Had he really grown into a leader? Davy didn’t feel like a leader, but they were still in the early stages of their quest, maybe if he pretended he knew what he was doing, he would eventually learn how to actually be a leader.

“Sure,” he answered. “I’m ready to go.” It was difficult, but Davy also tried to speak from the heart for a second. “And I can’t think of a group of people I’d rather have travel with me than you guys.”

Olivia smiled as her eyes went wide. “Aww Davy,” she said. “That’s so cheesy.” She gave him a hug. “But that’s why we love you, buddy.”

Davy was feeling weirdly optimistic about whatever experiences stood ahead of him. He had accomplished a lot already, and was feeling good about himself. He had friends who had his back and together, they could achieve anything.

The group’s feel-good moment was interrupted by pounding on the door behind the counter. The door shook as Consecration Tony began hitting it from the other side. Davy could hear Consecration Tony shouting through the door in his unnervingly loud and friendly voice.

“ICE CREAM! YOU ALL APPRECIATE THE ICE CREAM!”

Davy didn’t want to be in this building anymore. “Let’s get out of here, guys,” he whispered.

“Yeah, this just got really creepy,” Connie replied.

The four of them snuck out of the Very Dairy Ice Cream Factory as the reptilian owner of the establishment continued to pound away at the door.

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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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39. Insects

Olivia awoke to the sounds of singing. She excitedly leapt out of her bed in the log cabin. In no time at all, she was promptly dressed in her blue sweater and jeans. She looked at her hooded cloak hanging in the corner of the cabin.

“Your time will come again, old friend,” she said to the cloak in a mock gravelly voice. She turned to a table behind her and looked down at Mother Martyr’s veil. Davy had previously asked if she wanted to take it for herself and make use of its lightning powers. Olivia had declined. Her powers were cool enough already, and she wasn’t too keen on having to carry some crazy lady’s nasty old hat around everywhere anyway. It was probably better for them to keep it in the cabin for safekeeping. She smiled and picked up a plate before going out the front door.

She was in a bright, green forest, a vivid blue sky shining overhead. She bounded down the dirt path in front of her as colorful insects flew up to greet her, singing in perfect harmony.

It’s such a wonderful morning!

Sunshine all abound!

There’s no way I can lose my smile,

When I know that you’re around!

Olivia blushed as she approached the nearest tree. She held up her plate and three slices of sizzling, freshly cooked bacon plopped down right on top of it. As she continued down the path, Olivia struggled to imagine how anyone could not immediately fall in love with a meat forest.

She passed Mandy the spider, who gave a friendly wave with one of her eight appendages.

“Good morning, Olivia,” Mandy said. “You are rockin’ that sweater, girl!”

“Thanks,” Olivia replied graciously. “Did you have a good night?”

Mandy gave Olivia a wicked grin. “You could say that,” she chuckled. “Terrence and I had some fun with some friends.”

“Oh you two,” Olivia laughed. “Hope you stay out of trouble.”

“Heh, don’t worry. We will,” Mandy chortled as Olivia continued down the path. Olivia had failed to notice the cluster of feathers stuck to Mandy’s hairy mandibles or the ripped black tank top at Mandy’s feet.

Olivia finally reached a wooden picnic table in front of a large tree. Sitting at the table, not yet completely awake, but eating a bowl of cereal was Davy.  Olivia sat down next to Davy as the insects encircled the two of them, still singing about sunshine and smiles.

“Good morning,” Davy said.

“Good morning, buddy,” Olivia replied. She began to tear into her bacon. “How could you guys ever not love this place as much as I do?” she asked.

“It used to look kind of different,” Day answered. “The first time we were here, everyone was trying to scare us. Things are a little different now that Steve owns the place.”

A door opened up in the large tree and Steve stepped out. He was wearing a robe and holding a cup of coffee and was clearly not happy to be awake. A group of butterflies flew up to him and continued to sing.

“Honestly, I think I liked it better when you were screaming at me,” he said to the butterflies.

A shiny blue dragonfly wearing a miniature top hat flew up to Steve. “But we were just acting then,” it sang to Steve in a comically high-pitched voice. “We love to sing, and we love you, Steeeeeeve!”

Steve grumbled and swatted the dragonfly away. He sat down at the table across from Davy. “When are we going to do something?” he asked indignantly. “It’s been like a week.”

“Yeah,” Olivia interjected. She looked up at the forest around her in wide-eyes wonder. “A week of magic!”

Davy understood Steve’s agitation. He had a feeling that once he came back home to Bayou City, he would receive some sort of sign on where to go next. But Steve was right. They had been back a week, and there had been nothing. Davy needed something soon. He needed an excuse to keep not going to his law school classes, though he would never say that out loud.

Davy looked up from his cereal bowl and saw that Lady Gut Possum had appeared out of nowhere. She was wearing the same pink frilly dresses that she wore the first time they met. It still looked like it desperately needed to be washed.

“Lady Guy Possum!” he shouted. “You’re back!”

Lady Gut Possum nodded. “I don’t have much time, Steward,” she said. She sat down next to Steve, who didn’t seem thrilled to have a rancid possum lady right next to him.

Olivia held her hands to her face excitedly. “You’re real,” she gasped. “And just as amazing as I imagined!”

Lady Guy Possum looked at the three of them. “I see you’ve found two of your companions,” she stated. “You have done well.”

Steve leaned back in his seat. “Thank you,” he replied. “I look to think of myself as a valuable addition to the team.”

Lady Gut Possum looked Steve in the eyes. “You certainly do,” she said.

Davy figured this was the time for some questions. “Uh, Ms. Gut Possum,” he began. “I spoke to Mother Martyr. And this alligator in a suit. They told me things, about this quest.”

Lady Gut Possum appeared to have pulled a cup of tea out of nowhere. She took a sip. “I imagine what they told you is true,” she stated. “Your destiny is to collect these artifacts, so that the Endocrine may use them to stop your world from being conquered by the Grumblegator.”

“His name is the Grumblegator?” Olivia asked. “That is both really stupid and really cool.”

Lady Gut Possum took another sip of her tea. “The Grunblegator intends to use the same artifacts to bring about the destruction of your world. He currently possesses the remaining artifacts and has entrusted them to his subordinates in order to wreck chaos. You must take these artifacts back from him.”

“But where did the Grumblegator come from?” Davy asked.

Lady Gut Possum paused. “He is from another world,” she answered. “Another realm of existence. As am I.”

Another realm of existence. Davy felt like this was probably a major scientific revelation, likely undermined by the fact that he was at the center of it. “Is there anyone else from your realm that is in our world now?”

Lady Gut Possum had finished her tea. She extended her long tongue and ravenously locked up the remaining tea from her cup. When she finished, she said, “Yes, there are others. Including the previous owner of this residence. The man formerly known as Barnaby Willacre.”

Davy’s stomach sank. “So is he really dead then?”

“In a manner of speaking, yes. Transmutated into tungsten. And no, I do not understand why tungsten, of all possible substances. My people have found him and taken him in, but we are not hopeful.”

Davy wasn’t thrilled to hear this. After Barnaby Willacre and Vulcan Hephaestus, was anyone else going to die? Davy didn’t think he was important enough for people to die in his name.

Lady Gut Possum sensed Davy’s apprehension. “This just demonstrates why we need you. Collecting the Artifacts of Rebisome is the only way to stop the Grumblegator from hurting more people.”

“So what do we do next?” Olivia asked. “What kind of wacky hijinks are we getting into now?”

Lady Gut Possum stood up again. She looked at Davy. “You must go west. To your city called Sangre Dios. You will meet your final companion upon arriving there. You will also meet a league that will be a malevolent counterpart to your own group. They are aligned with the Grumblegator. Stopping them will lead you to the next artifact.”

Lady Gut Possum’s already serious tone became more serious. “But be cautious, Steward,” she said with narrowed eyes. “This league. It is very annoying.”

Lady Gut Possum dust off he dress. She was preparing to leave. “Do you have any questions?” she asked.

“Yeah,” Steve snapped. “Why did you wait a week before getting back to us?”

Lady Gut Possum thought for a second. “I was busy,” she said. After a moment, she added, “I also thought you would enjoy spending some time with these wonderful singing insects.”

A butterfly flew up to Lady Gut Possum and landed on her finger. Lady Gut Possum looked at it and smiled, right before she shot out her tongue at the butterfly like a frog and swallowed it whole. “They are wonderful,” she beamed.

“Gross!” Steve exclaimed.

“Cool!” Olivia exclaimed.

And with that, Lady Gut Possum was gone. Davy was watching her the whole time, but couldn’t pinpoint in his head how Lady Gut Possum actually left. She just seemed to disappear.

Davy reached his spoon into his bowl and took a final bite of his cereal. He looked to his friends. “So I guess we’re going to Sangre Dios,” he said.

“I’ll pull up the bus schedule,” Steve gleefully chimed in. “One step closer to a new cappuccino machine.”


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3. Steve

Davy was not surprised to see the mysterious door had disappeared. He made it back into the library, closing the door behind him. He had turned around to see it was gone. Davy thought about his classwork and figured he’d been productive enough today. He got a lot of reading done at the library. Also, he found out about his destiny. It was probably okay to pack up and go home.

As Davy began packing his books, he remembered Lady Gut Possum’s mention of his companions. There were supposed to be three, right? And one was waiting for him nearby. He looked around the library; no one else was in sight. That was probably good. Davy wasn’t sure that he wanted to deal with another law student on his quest to find whatever these relics were. Still, Davy wondered what kind of people were waiting for him. He assumed that when Lady Gut Possum said companion, she meant companion as in cohort or ally, and not companion as in stately-euphemism-for-courteous-night-lover. Davy was sure the latter would just be uncomfortable for everyone. If no one was in the library, though, Davy figured he should probably head outside.

As he made his way to the exit, Davy decided to change. He had always assumed the worst about any situation and that things would always go poorly for him. He had often refrained from doing things that were interesting, because as soon as he had an idea, he would immediately come up with a thousand different reasons why his idea would fail. Ultimately, his expectation of failure and his assumption that everything would always go poorly kept Davy from doing anything worthwhile with his life. He was in law school, because it was something that everyone else told his was a safe way to go, not because he particularly was drawn to the subject.

But a possum told Davy he was special. It may be difficult, but Davy decided he could take some risks, and maybe things don’t have to go badly for him. He was going to be more open-minded and optimistic from now on, even if it killed him. Davy was finally feeling confident and self-assured, a feeling that immediately disappeared when he saw Steve Sharma waiting for him outside.

“Davy! Good to see you again” Steve shouted enthusiastically.

Davy was taken aback; he hadn’t seen Steve in a few years. “Steve! What are you doing here?” he said.

Steve grinned. “Just got back in town and wanted to see my best friend,” he answered.

“But what about your job? Aren’t you still supposed to be up north for another-”

Steve interrupted him. “Nah, it wasn’t working out. Besides, I’m actually working here now. I got a new job. I’m an astronaut!”

Davy was not surprised to hear Steve say this. “An astronaut?” he began. “Aren’t you supposed to have years of training for that?”

Steve looked to the side. “Um, yeah. I trained. So many years of training,” he replied.

“When?” Davy asked.

“In college, don’t you remember?”

“You majored in public relations.”

“Yeah,” Steve mumbled. “But, uh, during the summer I also studied … astronaut-ics.”

“Astronautics?” Davy asked.

After a pause, Steve replied. “Yes.”

Davy decided it was probably better not to push the subject. “So you’re back in town,” he said. “That’s great.”

Steve regained his prior enthusiasm. Davy thought of this as Steve’s default mode. “You know it!” he exclaimed. “So what have I missed? Anything exciting happen while I was away?”

Davy figured he might as well tell Steve. “Well, I met a possum lady this afternoon, and she told me about my destiny.”

“What was she trying to sell you?”

“Nothing, I don’t think,” Davy replied. “But she told me that it was my destiny to help some little kid save the world from an impending age of darkness.”

Steve shrugged. “Wow, that’s kind of cool,” he stated.

Davy wasn’t sure how to respond. “Kind of?”

“Yeah, I mean, it’s kinda contrived, isn’t it?”

“Maybe, yeah,” Davy conceded, though he still wasn’t clear on where Steve was going with this.

Steve continued. “I mean, you’ve got, like, a Joseph

Campbell, Hero’s Journey type of deal going on.”

“Well, I didn’t want to just call it out like that.”

“But you’ve got this Obi-Wan Kenobi type telling you that you’re destined for some great destiny,” Steve said authoritatively. “Did she say that there was a prophecy or something?”

Davy shrugged. “I think so, yeah.”

Steve sighed. “So this possum lady says you’re important, because this nondescript prophecy says so. You haven’t shown any indication that you’re important. You’ve just been told you’re important, which somehow means you actually are important.”

Davy frowned. “That kind of hurts,” he said.

“But it’s just kind of a lazy way to set up a story. And it’s been done a thousand times.”

“I’ll be sure to tell her that her prophecy is a cliché next time I see her,” Davy replied.

“I’m sorry,” Steve chided. “I’m just not crazy about how this was set up, it feels like bush league writing.”

Davy wasn’t thrilled about being told his destiny was bush league quality. “But I’m not sure you can just call it out like that,” he said.

“What?”

“I mean, this whole set-up, it may be cliché,” Davy began. “But it’s still happening.

“Sure,” Steve admitted.

“So, calling it out is fine, I guess,” Davy continued. “But if I’m supposed to stick with my quest and stuff, doesn’t it feel like by criticizing the situation but committing to it anyway, it’s like I’m having my cake and eating it too?”

Steve shrugged. “I guess.”

“I just think I’d be a hypocrite if I did that.”

Steve seemed to understand Davy’s point. “But what if I want to call out the narrative shortcomings of your quest?” he asked.

Davy thought to himself. “I dunno,” he said. “Go for it, but I guess someone else might call you out for calling the quest out.”

There was a moment of silence. “That sounds really confusing, Steve finally said.

Davy didn’t disagree. He was still trying to wrap his head around what he had just said. This conversation was getting stupid.

Steve rubbed his chin. “So, Davy,” he began.

“Yeah?”

“This quest of yours…”

“Yeah?”

“Can I come?”

Davy figured this was coming. “I think you’re supposed to,” he answered. “The possum lady said I’m supposed to have three companions.”

Steve scowled. “Not like, stately-night-lover companions though, right?”

“I don’t think so,” Davy replied. “But she said the first companion would be waiting for me out here, and I guess that’s you.”

“So, I’m in the prophecy?” Steve asked.

“Yeah.”

Steve tried to stifle his smile. “…that’s cool,” he admitted.

“You think this will get in the way of your, uh, astronaut gig?” Davy felt obligated to ask.

Steve laughed. “Nah, the guys at the astronaut, um, place offer pretty flexible hours. Actually, they totally told me just before I saw you that I could just come in whenever I want, and they’d be cool with that.”

Davy again decided not to push the issue. “Sounds like something they would say at the astronaut place,” he stated.

Steve, seemingly trying to suppress his enthusiasm, held his hand to his chin. “Well, what happens now? With the prophecy?”

“I was told to find seven artifacts,” Davy flatly replied.

“Where are they?” Steve asked.

Davy shrugged. “I dunno.”

“Then what do they look like?”

Davy shrugged again. “I dunno. The possum lady said I’d

know when the first one shows up.”

Steve was getting mildly agitated. “So we’re just supposed to sit around and wait until the relic just shows up?” he asked.

Davy decided to shrug a third time. “I guess.”

Steve was silent again. Finally, he said, “Yeah, whatever. Wanna get some tacos or something?”

“Sure.”

This seemed to satisfy Steve. “Cool,” he said. “Also, do you know where I could find a place to live?”

Davy was not surprised to hear Steve ask this. Everything Davy heard Steve say just now was completely in line with the Steve he had known for years. Still, it would be nice to have his company on this quest. They left to go get some tacos. As they walked away from the front of the law school, neither of them heard the disembodied voice that quietly filled the air where they were previously standing.

“LDFS DLHFUE HFUEWOFINV IJDSJVND JKLAVBGRUI LNHELIV HALDUIHGA BOON BOON BOON!”


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2. Cave

The door shut behind him, and Davy now saw that he was in a cave. Davy didn’t spend any time thinking about how he could be in a cave; he had spent enough time wondering how a door could appear in front of him out of nowhere, that trying to rationalize this any further just felt redundant.

The cave was fairly narrow and looked almost like a hallway. Davy considered walking on ahead, but realized that he knew nothing about what he would find. There could easily be some animal that would not hesitate to eviscerate him. On the other hand, someone clearly went out of their way to specifically get Davy in this cave, and unless this person was extremely evil or extremely bored, there would be no reason they would just let him die. Besides, Davy had finally committed himself to getting in this cave, and didn’t want to have to re-shift his focus again. So Davy started walking.

Eventually, Davy reached a corner. By this point he had managed to work up some enthusiasm for his cave adventure, that he made the turn without an additional prolonged thought process as to whether this was a good idea. So naturally, we walked right into a monster. Davy didn’t have time to react; one second he was walking, the next second, his entire front side was met with a mass of fur and skin, and now Davy was on the ground looking upwards at this giant, monstrous shape.

Davy was feeling kind of stupid. He thought this might happen when he first entered the cave, but he pushed the thought aside and started walking. He knew he could run into something deadly in here, and he knew it would be a good idea to go back or at least do something to prepare for this possibility, but honestly, he just didn’t want to. So now there was something in front of him that would probably kill him. He couldn’t see it very well. It stood on two legs. It was covered in fur. It had claws. It also probably had sharp teeth, because why not? Davy could also tell that the monster was looking at him, but before Davy or the monster could act, the cave was suddenly engulfed in a bright light, which forced Davy to cover his eyes with his arm.

Davy opened his eyes, and the monster was gone. The light had substantially subsided, but had now covered the cave in a soft glow. The monster was gone, but further down the cave, Davy could see another humanoid figure. Davy got back to his feet and walked closer.

The figure was wearing an ornate dress. Someone more knowledgeable about fashion could describe in more detail, but to Davy, he could tell it was pink and had frilly stuff on it. This figure was also wearing a large brimmed hat with more frilly stuff, and she was holding a white parasol in her right hand. The end of the parasol was glowing; it was the source of the light. Davy figured that this was the person who created that door but didn’t know how to approach this elegant woman. This was partially because she was a possum.

She stood up straight like a person. She was the same size as a person. And she wore clothes like a person. But as Davy got close, he saw that her face was a possum face. She had a possum tail, and she was surrounded by a horrible stench like a possum. For reasons Davy did not like to talk about, Davy knew what a possum looked like, and this was a possum.

The possum spoke. “My name is Lady Gut Possum, and I am here to help you.” This immediately validated Davy, and reinforced his confidence in being able to identify possums, a skill that would never come in handy again.

Davy finally realized he should say something back. “So, um, what am I doing here?”

The possum didn’t seem to hear him speak. Instead she said, “You should come with me.” She immediately turned around and began walking deeper into the cave.

Davy figured he should follow. He had met two creatures in this cave, and Lady Gut Possum was the only one who had not tried to kill him yet. Also, this was starting to get really weird, and Davy was getting more interested in seeing where this was all going. The possum lady was walking quickly, so Davy had to maintain a brisk pace in order to keep up. He tried to make conversation with the possum.

“So is the ‘Possum’ in your name spelled with the letter O in front of it? Sometimes it’s spelled that way.”

“Yes, my name is spelled with an O in front of Possum. O-P-O-S-S-U-M,” replied Lady Gut Possum.

Davy was feeling pretty good about getting a reply from Lady Gut Possum. This was before a giant insect fell on top of him. It was heavy enough to knock him off his feet again, but light enough that Davy was able to push it off and stand up again. There were maybe three bugs that had fallen from above. They looked like cockroaches, only they were about three feet long. They looked at Davy and Lady Gut Possum. Davy looked back at them. They looked disgusting.

Lady Gut Possum turned to Davy. “Are you skilled in combat arts?” she asked.

Without having to think twice, Davy confidently answered, “Nope.”

“Wait here,” ordered Lady Gut Possum. She raised her parasol and ran towards the cockroaches.

Watching from the sidelines, Davy would have liked to think that she would unleash some elegant flurry of martial arts madness. What he got was a stationary woman beating a bunch of bugs with a stick. Davy was starting to feel like he may have overestimated how dangerous these insects were. After all, these are giant bugs. Don’t they have pincers or something that could bite you? Maybe they have claw-type things at the ends of their legs; those could be dangerous. But these cockroaches just seemed to scuttle around the floor mindlessly, until they could no longer endure the beating from the possum lady, and they all just rolled over and died.

Lady Gut Possum returned to Davy. “I’m so sorry. Those vermin are just so vile,” she said as she also began gnawing at some matted fur on her arm. Davy thought it was best to give her a second to finish. “We should keep moving,” she finally said.

The two continued to walk in silence. Davy thought about trying to bring back the conversation, but he figured it would be better to focus on not throwing up instead. Lady Gut Possum reeked when he first met her, but it seemed like the smell was getting worse. Finally, Davy looked ahead and saw a light in the distance. When they reached the light, Davy found himself in what he presumed to be the Gut Possum’s lair. It was still a cave, but there was a bed, a table, a couch, and so on. It looked ragged, but also like Lady Gut Possum tried her best to make it look fancy, similar to how a 19th Century English aristocrat may decorate their manor home, if the aristocrat could only find furniture from under a bridge while high on methamphetamine and while also suffering from a crippling case of leprosy.

Davy felt like he should have noticed the boy sooner. He was sitting on the Gut Possum’s couch, staring straight ahead at the cave wall in front of him. He had a serenely joyful look on his face, not the kind of look you would expect to see in the home of a possum lady. He looked fairly young, maybe about twelve-ish. The boy turned towards Davy and smiled.

Davy felt pressured to say something to the boy. “Hi. How are you?”

The boy didn’t answer. He just stuck his hands in the air like a goofy shrug and turned back towards the wall. Davy found there was something enviable about this kid. Being content to stare at a cave wall indefinitely seemed like a peaceful existence, except for the fact that you would be alone in a cave with a possum lady staring at a wall all day. Actually, the more Davy thought about it, seeing this kid in an enviable light made no sense. Davy was confusing himself, so he turned back to Lady Gut Possum.

“So, what am I doing here? Can you tell me now?”

The possum lady finally looked like she was ready to talk. “Yes, I brought you here to inform you of your destiny,” she replied.

“My destiny?” Davy did not like the sound of that. There were only two kinds of people who would bring up someone’s destiny in conversation. The first kind was the elderly mentor figure who plans to teach you how to save the world but then meets his or her demise before the training is complete, leaving you to discover the ultimate lesson on your own, usually during a climactic moment. The other kind was salespeople. Davy didn’t think Lady Guy Possum looked that old, so he began to mentally formulate excuses about why he couldn’t afford to buy anything at the moment.

Lady Gut Possum did not notice any of Davy’s reservations. “Yes, your world is embarking on a new and dark age from forces of evil beyond your comprehension, and only you have the power to prevent this,” she solemnly stated, but not solemnly enough to keep her from also hacking up a hairball afterwards.

“I’m supposed to save the world?” Davy was not ready to latch onto this. For one, the notion of a dark age was awfully vague; what kind of bad things were supposed to be happening, and why? Who were these forces of evil? Could they not generate a more discernible threat than ‘a new and dark age?’

The gut possum replied. “No, you will not be the one to save your world.” She pointed at the boy on the couch. “The Endocrine will save the world.”

“Endocrine?” Davy responded. “You mean like the endocrine system? The parts of the body that do, um, gland stuff?”

“No,” said Lady Gut Possum. “I mean the other kind of Endocrine.”

The boy raised his hands in the air. He gleefully shouted, “I’m an Endocrine!”

Lady Gut Possum walked over to the boy and dispassionately tousled his hair the way someone may pet a dog they clearly don’t like, but they feel they might look like a jerk if they don’t.

“Yes, you are the Endocrine. And you will save the world from an eternal age of darkness,” the possum stated.

Davy was now even more confused. “So what I am doing here then?”

The Gut Possum looked back to Davy. “You are the Steward of the Endocrine. He cannot fulfill his destiny until you fulfill yours.” The possum walked to the table and lifted up a scroll. As she looked it over, she said, “The prophecy states that the Endocrine cannot unlock his power until his steward locates and acquires all seven ancient Artifacts of Rebisome.” Lady Gut Possum turned the scroll to Davy. There was writing in a language that Davy did not understand. There was also a sizable stain of what looked like possum vomit. Davy decided he should take a shower as soon as he got out of this cave.

“So there’s a prophecy that says I need find this stuff so that this guy can save the world,” Davy said, pointing at the Endocrine.

“Yes,” the possum replied. “You must prepare for the Endocrine’s destiny. He is the most important person in this world.”

“So, that makes me the second most important person in the world,” Davy responded.

The possum nodded. “That is correct.”

Davy thought about it for a second. “I’m okay with this,” he concluded. Hearing a possum woman call him the second most important person in the world was the kind of self-confidence boost that Davy really needed. Davy also decided that the fact that this was the boost he needed was something he shouldn’t think too much about.

“So, um, what do I do now?” Davy asked.

Lady Gut Possum gestured back towards the cave darkness from where they came. “You must go back to your world. The first signs of darkness will become apparent soon; as will the location of the first artifact.”

“How will I know what the artifact looks like?” asked Davy.

“You will know.”

Davy nodded. He was just about ready to leave. He didn’t want to deal with that cave again. He had never experienced possum hospitality before, but he had decided it probably wasn’t for him. He was also getting the impression that the possum lady was not planning to come with him back to the door. He also didn’t exactly know how to wrap up this current conversation either.

“Okay,” he said. “Um, bye.” He walked pass the Endocrine. “Uh, see you later,” he tried to utter politely.

“Bye Davy!” the kid shouted, waving his arms.

Lady Gut Possum also shouted to Davy. “You will not be alone in your quest. There will be three companions. Find them. The first will be waiting for you upon your return.”

The last Davy heard of the cave dwelling was the Endocrine shouting he was hungry, followed by what sounded like the noise of exorbitant possum regurgitation. Davy contently decided not to piece those sounds together and briskly walked back through the cave.

He never considered himself to be important before. He still wasn’t convinced that he actually was important. Just because he met a six-foot talking aristocratic possum in a cave, it didn’t mean he should believe everything the possum said. At the same time, the possibility that he could be important excited him. He hadn’t felt excited about anything in a long time, so the fact that he was excited got him even more exited. He was so excited, that he didn’t even notice that furry monster from before was silently following close behind him the entire walk back to the door.