Odd World

Act I

Across the wide-open skies of Impar, the odd world, there happened upon a deciduous dogwood leaf gliding through a pristine sky. Now, typically this is a good indicator for the coming of winter, but this leaf was alone and not at all winter colors. It had, in fact, been flying for an uncountable amount of time, as it was just a leaf.

“Uh, excuse me?” A peculiar voice, like the vibration of a low E chord on a nickel-plated string, it permeated from the leaf, “My momma calls me Bill, my dad calls me William.”

He stammered here, a bit. Almost like the sound a woodpecker creates, resonating that low E pitch, “I’m not just a leaf, mister man in the sky. And its actually been nineteen hours.”

Now, this leaf. Our one and only, Bill…

“Uh, excuse me?” Like the beginning of a song that never starts, that leaf spoke again, “I’d prefer to be called Billiam, just a suggestion mister.”

Billiam.

Whom until now, didn’t expect his next adventure to begin…

Landing on his midrib, that long vein running the length of the leaf, Billiam felt the papillae of that plush ground brushing against him. It was not grass, nor sand, but something entirely different, something similar to a synthetic fabric. Standing on his petiole, that stalk that usually connects the leaf to the stem, Billiam drew in a deep breathe, he spied an unlikely trio in the distance. With a great breath, from wherever it was inhaled, or perhaps reading the magnetic field, little Billiam lifted off in one great stride. If Billiam were an Olympic gymnast he would have no equal, executing turns, pikes and twists with ease before landing gracefully on his petiole before the imposing figure of a large Highland bull.

“Why are you here?” Resonating from Billiam, his voice engulfed all around, “Right here, right now?”

“Here we go,” groaned a man who stood a couple feet taller than the bull.

A shocking, haunting and appalling noise followed, like a bat screeching after inhaling sulfur hexafluoride. It came from the mouth of a Great potoo perched on the head of the bull, “Meteor! Bright Light! Great Hole!”

With a twitch of his caudate apex, the top of his head, the little leaf nodded at that frightening bird. Billiam expected as much, the last nine times he saw those three they had been closing interdimensional space-time holes that threatened to rip apart Impar.

“Seems like the popular activity for you.”

“Why not join us today little Billiam?” That bull and the basso profondo of his voice washed everything in a soothing calm, “It would be nice to have you around for longer than a minute.”

“Oh, golly no! I wouldn’t dare. It’s much too,” If you could imagine a leaf thinking, this is where you would, it was the most peculiar thing, “oh, what is that word. Much? Yes, that is it. I really shouldn’t. Thanks for including me Mel, I really mean it. But I have to go where the wind takes me.”

With those parting words our little friend Billiam departed west with a light gust of wind which ruffled the hair and feathers of the unlikely companions.

After a second the man, not wanting to seem rude to little Billiam, could no longer resist asking. “He is a leaf, right? Where is his mouth?”

A deep, guttural laugh escaped Mel, “I was trying to find it Kenneth, I really was.” Looking up and past his straight black bangs Mel tried to spot the bird, perched on his horn, “Sir Eugene Maxwell, did your eyes see something ours missed?”

It was as the bird, Sir Eugene Maxwell, was going to answer their question that he began the trance that had over taken him so many times before. That Great potoo stretched his head with an almost robotic movement; upon opening that black hole of a mouth he produced the most peculiar sound, like someone unwinding a toy train. It was both magnificent, and oddly grotesque to witness.

It was here that the story really gets emboldened.

That meteor ripped through the outer dimensions of this odd world on a collision course for that perfectly knitted heliosphere. With a great gust of wind and an existential tremor that meteor stopped short of crashing, pulling out a pair of clippers it cut a hole. That meteor jumped through the barrier between dimensions and turned into a falling stone.

Snapping out of his trance, that Great potoo rode the depressurizing current to that hole in the sky. With his keen eyes Sir Eugene Maxwell spotted the antagonist of the story, a small black ferret. A paper white band across his face, and beady red eyes gave him away. Riding atop that ferret’s head, gripping four strands of black silky fur, was an even smaller creature, a flea.

Dashing through the knitting needle grass, it was hard to spot a flea jumping from the head of a ferret. It was even harder to see the silhouette of a flea against a knitted sky backdrop. But the hardest thing of all was hearing what such a small creature was shouting; I believe on its adventure through the air it hollered something similar to a cowabunga. Now being that we are here, in this odd world, I know that nothing is what it seems and that little flea was about to ruin more than just a great day.

As those two objects, the wily meteor and that itty bitty flea, were headed toward each other it seemed to be the most dramatic thing in existence. I myself almost expected the meteor to explode, so you can imagine that when it seemed as if nothing happened and that little flea fell back toward that soft ground, I was a little dissatisfied.

It was more shocking to witness the meteor change its velocity. On its own adventure toward the ground that meteor clipped that luminous rock that lit Impar for what seemed an eternity. It executed a magnificent five-hundred and forty degrees around the pivot of a single thread. As that thread snapped the amber stone fell. Behind it, a menacing polished chunk of obsidian.

Like someone shaking a rug the world rippled, and with that ripple the world of Impar was changed. Storms apparated under Sir Eugene Maxwell. As he reached his talons out toward that knitted sky, the ripples pushed that woolen fabric into his claws. That once woolen baby blue sky changed to a matte blue-black twine. Sir Eugene Maxwell shouted a real frightened squawk as arms reached out, entombing him in the twine. Other arms appeared and stitched the hole created by the meteor, a self-repairing world. As they finished stitching that hole, those hands grabbed poor Sir Eugene Maxwell by the throat and stuffed him unpleasantly inside of an iron birdcage.

A great flash of light lit the sky, and a bolt of lightning struck on either side of that scrawny ferret now overlooking the valley where Mel and Kenneth stood, they watched as Sir Eugene Maxwell was tossed toward the ground in that iron prison. From where that lightening struck there came an army of candleflame soldiers wielding a variety of common household items as weapons. They traveled across the land purging the world of anything that resembled culture, the land was set ablaze.

As that rebellious flea scurried back to the head of his ferret overlord the two made their way to Mel and Kenneth as they were being surrounded by those fiery soldiers. Bounding over the wall of fire the ferret coughed having accidently inhaled some smoke.

His voice was hoarse and his thick accent made others question what he said, he spoke just as that iron birdcage crashed into the soot covered ground, “Mel. Kenneth.” He paused here, mostly out of spite for his feathered nemesis, “Bird brain. Looks like the dey is mine. Ignis shawwld be here soon and the wawrld will be awwrs fawr teh next millennium.”

“Hello Rufous,” That basso profundo pushing down on the little chest of the ferret, “You broke the day.”

“Dat is perspective! I see a wawrld dat fixes whawt is broke! We’ve been waiting a lawn time faw dis! A lawn time!”

At this time those clouds, looking like swollen eggs, began to sag in the sky; they burst open. One at a time, like a baker cracking eggs, those swollen clouds unleashed their water in a single dump.

Now that, is pouring.

Billiam who had not been taken far by the wind was just looking up at a new Impar, one he had not seen before in his lifetime. That nervous little leaf who took all precautions, in all things, was about to be washed over by a great wave of water.

Mel, the bull, and Kenneth, the man, were knee deep in inky black water, it smelled like a wet fireplace. Sir Eugene Maxwell struggled to pushed his cage onto its base. Rufous, that scoundrel, was doing backstrokes as the little flea danced on his belly. Mel and Kenneth were being anchored to the ground by those nipping and gripping fabric arms.

Wading away from the three friends Rufous shouted, “Dis is time faw Regis and I taw get sawme R and R.”

Watching as that apocalypse played out it was easy to wonder, could little Billiam swim? It was as I pondered this that the water washed over the little leaf, his petiole holding firm onto that ground. As it gushed around him, he bent at his midrib until his caudate apex tickled the ground. It was at this instance something extraordinary happened.

Billiam began to absorb all the water into his little leafy body, he swelled up with every fluid ounce of water. Now, our little Billiam was big Billiam. His midrib touched the zenith of that blue-black twine sky shrouding it in a midnight green. All over Impar the piercing gaze of those candleflame soldiers fell upon that mystic leaf in the sky that had consumed everything. With the water having receded to nearly ankle depth Kenneth pried his legs from the grip of the arms and opened Sir Eugene Maxwell’s iron prison.

With a thankful shriek the Great potoo stepped out of the iron cage and the three friends walked to the infernal ferret, whom was backstroking toward his den. Rufous didn’t noticed as the water level sank and Billiam shrouded the sky, it wasn’t until his head hit a stone that he even sat back up. Mel and Kenneth with Sir Eugene Maxwell on Mel’s crown looked down at Rufous and Regis, the apocalyptic fire a fitting backdrop for our upset friends.

“Have you meet Billiam?” Kenneth pointed in the wrong direction.

Stammering backward Rufous looked in the direction Kenneth pointed, “Whawt is dis, yous being a wise guy?”

Mel sighed, that low voice nearly drowned out by the crackle of fire in the background, “Let us tell Rufous where he needs to look.”

Using his horn, the Highland bull pushed Kenneth’s finger skyward toward Billiam whom cradled the sky like the Egyptian goddess Nuut. A strong wind ripped through the air threatening to grab the three companions, this strong current of air extinguished the flames and big Billiam swallowed the remaining water with his breathing apparatus, wherever that may be.

“What were you saying Rufous? The world will be yours?” That voice was enough to scare the devil himself, that sulfur hexafluoride bat screech, “Come on guys, there is a meteor that needs to get home.”

Act II

Like a red giant hiding behind a celestial storm, a saffron hue shined from beneath a star embossed bottlecap. Muffled bangs resonated from that crushing prison; a pair of miniature boots rapping against its veneered interior. Silvery clouds awoke at the base of the bottlecap as its sharp edge scraped the mangled fabric. Without anyone to hear its perpetual pounding, this trapped creature was left to struggle alone.

It was as I turned my attention toward something else, that a white inspection glove grasped the edge of that aluminum shell. Overtaken by intrigue, I stayed and watched a while. Pushing with increased vigor, maybe born from fear, I could hear the creature huff and puff from this painstaking act of survival. Just as it seemed the creature was giving up, perhaps out of luck, he managed to kick himself free.

As that rich air smothered the layered red marble it sat up and began to dry heave. Like the turning over of an engine, that dry heaving produced smoke that lamented the already tortured ground. All the creature’s glossy, red eyes could distinguish was that bottlecap, spinning in place against the smog filled vale. Getting onto his feet, the little marble shot smoke rings form his mouth. He continued to play as he fumbled around aimlessly, sweeping his boots across the ground to avoid any unexpected obstacles.

When the bottlecap fell, spinning its last spin, sparks shot forth from the eyes and mouth of that odd little sphere. It was thrown back into the ground, the force of those sparks like an igniting rocket engine. As those sparks fell to the damp fabric they fizzled out; the strands of silky, black smoke the last remnant of the sparks intrepid journey. Several times I could hear the muffled screams of that tormented creature behind the shrill hiss of those jettisoning sparks. It was both painful and uncomfortable to witness.

Deep within the little marble, like approaching a distant river, a fierce rumble grew ever louder. Not wanting to spew more sparks, or out of pure instinct, the little marble held his breath. The longer that little ball held his breathe the hotter he grew. Smoke threatened to force his mouth and eyes open. I couldn’t help but laugh at the odd transformation of this creature.

Changing from a dull vermillion to a glowing cinnabar, the little marble was overtaken by a series of implosions.

Oh, what a shame! I thought to myself as that black smoke cleared.

I believed I had witnessed the birth of a new creature, like the birth of Billiam. But, from his non-luminous area to his dark zone, it was, most definitely, a candleflame soldier.

There was something strikingly different about this candleflame soldier’s attitude. Unlike the other flaming marauders, whom had ransacked all of Impar in a manner of minutes, he seemed guided by an unknown duty. Finding a deep maroon stone jutting from the ground, that candleflame soldier scaled its pocketed sides, from its peak all of Impar was visible. Standing vigilantly on that ominous stone jutting out of the charred landscape, he scanned the dark horizon meticulously.

Perhaps he was looking for the broken sky stone? Rufous and Regis, for longer than six centuries, had tried endlessly to tear that amber from its home in the sky.

Content that he had found his target, the candleflame soldier pulled those inspection gloves tight. After checking the laces on his boots, he made his way down the spire being careful not to lose his footing on the aphanitic rock. Turning back to see that star embossed bottlecap that had nearly become his grave, he sighed in relief. From that relief, came satisfaction as he began his well-paced job toward his quarry, away from the destruction wrought by his apocalyptic pals.

Feeling lucky, the man, Kenneth, picked up the hefty, silver scissors; dragging them closer to Mel and the stone meteor, he sighed, thankful that the scissors didn’t fall from this meteor.

Kenneth attempted multiple times to stand the bottom blade onto the soggy, blackened ground. Before the odd world changed, the trio would have had that meteor home in under three minutes. Those gripping and grabbing fabric hands jutted forth assailing the menacing tip on the bottom blade. It was several minutes later, right before the man felt as if he would collapse, that he put the full weight of his bottom upon the bare handle.

Inhaling the excitement as he felt the sharp blade plunge in the ground, like cutting the perfect piece of wrapping paper. Kenneth frantically sliced through the ground, opening a hole just large enough for the meteor.

A hand grabbed Kenneth by his calf yanking at leather laces of his riding boots, he fell backward looking into the sparkling chasm. Those scissors having been retched from his grip fell toward the world below Impar. Like a bioluminescent ocean pounding a rocky beach, that world swirled around its center which seemed to grow eternally. Those scissors having plunged into that sea of stars disintegrated into billions of atomic particles, the light from that expended energy threatened to illuminate Impar once again.

As Mel struggled to push the awkward meteor, he respectfully informed Kenneth that the hands were attempting to unfurl his hard world. Getting up, onto his knees, Kenneth wiped sweat from his brow. More sweat dripped into his eyes, blinking away the mild irritant he felt for the hands. One after the other Kenneth pried the fingers loose, he held the pinching and scratching arms to the ground with his protected legs. Feeling a sharp snap of air slap against his pants, he imagined that silver needle rising into the air ready to sew its first stitch.

Sir Eugene Maxwell beat his wings with an urgency only matched by a hummingbird as he rose from his perch. His haunting shriek alone caused a few pairs of hands to retreat into the very fabric of Impar. It was as that needle was barreling toward the surface, to begin its restoration cycle, that the Great potoo latched on. Using his leg muscles and wings in tandem Sir Eugene Maxwell vied to give Mel and Kenneth a few more seconds.

Mel’s sooty hoof prints created a nice contrasting piece of art on the surface of Impar, as they dotted the tan line etched into the ground by that massive meteor. Managing one last shove the well-groomed Highland bull hurled the meteor toward the hole, feeling the light gush of wind from that boulder Kenneth dived from its path. As Mel watched the meteor crush the arms around the hole, his head danced in excitement and his eyes lit up. Falling into that interdimensional hole, the composition of that universe engulfed the meteor in a stream of ice and gas.

Sir Eugene Maxwell eased his grip on the needle allowing it to continue its much-needed sewing project. A moment of silent relief fell upon the three heroes, as the needle stitched together the fabric of Impar.

“Hey!” deeply inhaling each breath, his tone still managed to stay as curious as ever, “You said something, to the ferret, that I didn’t understand.”

Mel nodded emphatically, a typical human gesture; his pure depth of voice soothed Kenneth’s aches, “We’re in the time and space of something that has to happen, but hasn’t. We call it Encara, up until now, everyone forgot it was real. I wasn’t around when the Harpy Eagle placed the amber over the obsidian, neither was Sir Eugene Maxwell.”

From his peripheral Mel spotted that weaponless candleflame soldier jogging toward the southeast, toward the edge of the world. Before Sir Eugene Maxwell flew back to Mel’s horn, that candleflame soldier appeared in the hawkish gaze of the Great potoo. With fervent interest Sir Eugene Maxwell gained altitude until he was a stealth jet against the blue-black sky, he watched as the soldier jogged farther away from where the cultures of Impar once thrived.

A fulgurite shard ricocheted off a ruined wall on the outside of ancient structure, the first of many completed after that amber lit Impar for the first time. The pitter patter of rodent paws smacking against the sullen fabric stopped at the base of the now ruined building. There once stood a statue of an echidna at the top of the monument, it was carved from a yellowish green mineral. Fragments of that once proud guardian littered the area; their iridescent hue hone a radioactive green under the blue-black light of Encara. Rufous stooped down, he grabbed a shard of that radioactive stone; its glow was hypnotic to the white banded ferret.

An itch on his head snapped Rufous back to reality, he tossed the shard back to the ground; looking up at the ruined statue the ferret reminisced about its construction. He had watched it every day, the strange human toiling away endlessly to shape the mineral in the visage of his mentor, the echidna. Showing little remorse the ferret snickered at his own memory of the event, “Membaw dat? Cawving away fawn so lawn to just die. Whawt a putz!”

Though he couldn’t hear Regis, Rufous knew by the itching from his scalp that his little friend was laughing. Having spotted that fulgurite shard Rufous bounded to it, like a dog playing fetch. Kicking that tubular stone with his foot it sailed through the air, it glanced off a strange triangular prism jutting from the ground. Intrigued by the strange object Rufous pranced toward it, rubbing his little paws together as if he found some priceless treasure. As he approached the object, and from his peripheral, he spotted that candleflame soldier jogging toward the ruined area, only he recognized this particular harbinger of the apocalypse.

Primis.

Rufous mumbled that name before reciting a poem, a poem he heard perhaps eons ago from his Lord Ignis; his voice monotonous, his accent absent.

Spilt glass

Throwing fast

Twisted wood, bent mast

A ball, strings attached

A sliver, a divider

An arch undone, to make a sun

A sword in ground

A sliver, a divider

To depths unmet, I sink this net

Sacred bound, that trident down

To that arch undone, which made that sun

Finishing that poem Rufous’s heart raced, his breathing heavier than ever; he knew deep down that maybe, just maybe, there was hope for Lord Ignis after all. With a renewed vengeance, that crafty little ferret raced toward that candleflame soldier hollering his name, “Primis!”

________________________________________________________________

Anthony Strang
2021

I want to create stories that drive the imagination to new heights.

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